In the UK our bird population reaches it’s maximum in September when most of the birds hatched this year are still here together with their parents. When the autumn migrants start to arrive, such as Redwings and Fieldfares, its estimated there will be some 400 millions birds here with some 84 millions pairs of breeding birds during the summer. That may sound like a large number but given we have some 62 million people living in the UK that’s just over one pair of breeding birds per person and about 6.5 birds each in the autumn.
The top 20 commonest birds in the UK make up 75% of the total numbers (and I am excluding the chicken here..) and some of the commonest birds may surprise you. Our commonest bird, with some 8.5 million pairs is the Wren. This tiny bird is quite hard to spot as it skulks around bushes and undergrowth and there are a few in Grove Wood as well in many gardens. The Robin, many peoples favourite, is the second most common bird with 6.7 million pairs with the Chaffinch following behind with some 6.2 million pairs although I must admit I haven’t seen many Chaffinches this year. Other birds on the list include the Wood Pigeon (of which we have more than our fair share), House Sparrows
(of which there are some good populations around the village notably on the High Street), Blackbirds, Blue Tits
, Great Tits
, Dunnock and Willow Warbler. While many people may not be familiar with the latter two they do occur in reasonable numbers locally. The remaining birds on the list include the Pheasant, Starling, Greenfinch, Jackdaw (another species we have lots of) and the Chiffchaff.
Many of these birds have declined in numbers over the past 50 years for a variety of reasons, some of which we can do something about, others are much harder. Some birds, such as House Sparrows, are limited by their ability to find a suitable nesting location with modern houses not having any suitable spaces. House Sparrows are social nesters so they need a number of next boxes together or even better – a large one segmented into smaller sections. You can put up special nest boxes under your eaves for House Martin
and Swifts amongst others. Barn Owls can also suffer from a lack of suitable nesting sites. Some birds, such a the Tree Sparrows on Salisbury Plain, have been helped with large scale winter feeding through local farmers proving the poor quality seed at the end of a seed bin for feeding. Other birds, particularly migratory ones such as Chiffchaffs and Swifts, have problems finding good transit sites during their migrations.
Interestingly we still have House Sparrow and House Martin nests with chicks on the High Street.
Last week we had a visit from quite an unusual butterfly – the Clouded Yellow (see below). It’s an uncommon summer migrant to the UK and we had a pair flying along the cliff. Having spoken to Butterfly Conservation they advised this reflects that the plant life there is really good quality!!
The Sherston Museum of Natural History received it’s first (and only) exhibit. A few weeks ago a half decomposed body of a largish animal was found in the river and it’s skull was kept and cleaned up and passed to me for identification. It’s a long time since I had to identify bones (I used to work as a Palaeontologist) and it was really fascinating, for me at least, as to how similar a Rat skull is to a Rabbit or Hare. There are some amazing resources on the web!! The skull came from a Rabbit and it’s being exhibited on my window sill. Thank you to Graham and Caroline.
The suggestion for a WildSherston event in May next year (see last months Cliffhanger) got some very positive feedback so watch this space….