Staking A Claim
The first few days of February and already I am gardening in my shirt sleeves. The birds in the garden are marking out their territories. Blackbirds chasing each other through the borders and over the lawn, Song Thrushes singing their hearts out from the conker tree and the ash trees in the hedge. Robins are always the first to stake their claims and they have been fighting since Christmas. I noticed one that looked rather scruffy hopping about by the compost heaps at the beginning of January and now he is completely bald, but he does seem to have hung on to that desirable area which includes the vegetable garden. Although always the gardeners friend, they are very belligerent to each other. If you see two Robins together that are not fighting they are a male and a female! They do seem to come to an arrangement around bird tables, but it is strictly one male at a time and if one stays to long a fight will soon break out. Little Baldy is very distinctive and it will be interesting to watch his progress.
Although Robins pair up in early January, they won’t start nest building until a warm spell in mid February. They do not always choose the best nest sites. A couple of times they have built in our spare flower pots, an easy place for cats to attack. Last year one pair managed two broods from some thick ivy on an old bit of wall. As one pair often raises two broods of five or six young, one would think we might be overrun with Robins, but many perish in the first few days after leaving the nest. It takes them a few days to become competent flyers and as they sit under bushes waiting to be fed they are easy pickings for cats, foxes, owls, etc. They start out with speckled brown feathers as camouflage and do not develop their red breasts until later in the summer, but still only one in six make it.
We are hoping the Buzzards will nest in my wood again this year. They gave us a miss last year, but yesterday we saw three soaring high above Scatterdells Wood in a clear blue sky. Two were flying together whilst the third was being given a hard time by two carrion crows. Eventually it got too high for them, but not until we had seen some spectacular manoeuvres. Evan though the buzzard was twice their size, the crows would not tolerate it on their patch and fearlessly dive-bombed it. They do not want a top predator on their patch but I love to see it on mine! Wendy Bathurst