Natures going nuts

21 Mar

I missed last months article as I was on a trip seeing exotic birds and animals such as the Forty-spotted Pardalote, Eastern Quoll and the Duck-billed Platypus – and spring is really getting started with some early warm weather which bodes well for a great breeding season.

Our summer breeding birds are really starting to get into the swing of spring with our resident Rooks taking centre stage. Rooks are one of four members of the Crow family around the village – we also have lots of Jackdaws, some Carrion Crows and a small number of Ravens. Jackdaws are the smallest and are often seeing on top on the houses on the High Street and nest in gaps on roofs or chimneys while Rooks build nests in trees such as those next to the Church. They are very social birds and have a distinct bare patch of skin at the base of the beak unlike a Carrion Crow. There are a number of rookeries around the village and they may move location from year to year with a couple of new ones at the back of Grove Road.

The rookeries we get in the village are relatively small (although you may not think that from the noise) with one in Scotland having some 2,500 nests with rookeries of up to 50,000 nests being recorded elsewhere in Europe. There are a number of collective nouns for Rooks and include building, parliament, clamour and storytelling (great pub quiz question!!)Chiffchaff on Sherston Cliff March 2012

Male Chiffchaffs (see the picture) are already singing along a number of hedgerows and the ones I saw along the Cliff may be one of the few resident birds who are claiming their territory early before the migrant Chiffchaff’s return from southern Europe. The early warm weather has encouraged butterflies as well with a number of Brimstone and Small Tortishell’s along the cliff. Both these species over winter as adults typically in sheds and garages and can be seen on warms days even in January.

Many birds will start to nest in March and April although some birds have adopted a different strategy. Both Wood Pigeons (of which we have lots and lots) and Stock Doves can nest all year round and I found a freshly hatched egg on New Years day!! Our local Herons will be well though the nesting season by now. They are also communal breeders with large nests and typically lay their eggs in February. A heronry is quite a sight and there is an easily accessible one at the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust site at Lower Moor Farm in the Cotswold Water Park – so get along and have a look. Otters are often seen from the viewing hide.

While in Australia I was fortunate to visit Tasmania where there is necessarily a very different approach to wildlife conservation. The lack of any significant predators for millions of years means the local marsupials and birds are easily killed by cats, stoats, rats etc and on Bruny Island, like many parts of Tasmania, they have regular cat trapping training sessions!!! They also have a fascinating concept of Men’s Sheds….. something new to me!!

WildSherston won’t be happening this year as we have other things happening – hopefully a few talks and a joint project with the Bristol and Avon River Trust to improve our local rivers – watch this space..

Spring Bluetit 1


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