Our PhD student Hugh has successfully published another paper from his Gardens for Birds project.
Great Tit – Parus major – one of the species studied in this project
In this study, Hugh wanted to investigate how the local environment helps determine the materials used in nest construction, how this differs among related species using similar nest sites, or if materials used directly or indirectly influence the numbers of offspring successfully reared.
He found that use of anthropogenic material affects songbird nest arthropod community structure. Specifically, more man-made material used in tit nests resulted in more fleas in the nests.
Clearly, urbanisation may have wide ranging and little studied effects on our urban songbird populations. Hugh’s work identified that nest boxes are ecological communities in their own right; they may be more complex than they first appear, and worthy of consideration for further investigation.
Read the entire paper here.
With bird nesting season in full swing – this is worth bearing in mind to give new fledglings a head start this Spring!
- keep cats indoors at dusk and dawn when wildlife is active
- consider attaching a bell to your cat’s collar so small birds can hear your cat is in the area
- position feeders away from walls and fences, to prevent cats from pouncing onto feeding birds
A charity has urged pet owners to keep their cats inside, while posting a picture of the ‘slaughter’ wreaked by felines on local wildlife.
Source: Cats should be kept inside says charity while pleading for ‘daily wildlife slaughter’ to end
Originally published in the Manchester Guardian on 1 May 1917, this little insight into the sounds of the countryside a century ago makes for an enchanting read.
But there’s a more sombre angle to take note of as well: with the numbers of songbirds declining in the UK, our dawn chorus is getting harder and harder to hear. The sounds of spring today are much less rich than in our parents’ and grandparents’ generation.
SongBird Survival aims to save the dawn chorus for tomorrow by researching the reasons for songbird decline in the UK, and promoting solutions to restore their numbers.
With International Dawn Chorus Day taking place this weekend, Sunday 7th May, now is a fantastic time to get outdoors and hear this wonderful natural spectacle for yourself.
Source: Woods alive to the sound and throb of spring: Country diary 100 years ago | Environment | The Guardian
Next time you’re making a car journey, take a moment to appreciate the humble roadside verge, as you might find something surprising.
Far from being lifeless stretches of faded grass, roadside verges are incredibly valuable for biodiversity. Studies by Plantlife have found that road verges in the UK represent a last refuge for some of our rarest species of plant. However, mowing and management of verges presents a threat to these endangered plants. Plantlife have called for verges to be managed for wildlife to aid conservation efforts.
Plantlife found an incredible 724 species growing on road verges, with some species being found nowhere else. The top 10 threatened verge species are as follows:
Some of these species are now restricted to a single ditch in the wild.
In 2015, SongBird Survival supporter Eddie Bullimore lobbied Norfolk County Council to reduce verge cuts on rural roads to conserve the county’s wildlife, including songbirds.
Verge management such as flail cutting means that haws (hawthorn fruit) and rose hips are lost, and thistles are often cut before they can seed. It also endangers ground-nesting birds such as skylark. Thistle seeds are a favourite food source for goldfinch, whils
t fieldfares eat haws, and field mice, an important food source for barn owls, like to feast on rose hips.
Reducing the frequency of cuts means that plant species, and the other wildlife which relies on them such as insects, birds and small mammals, are able to thrive.
To find out more about good management of verges, download Plantlife’s Good Verge Guide here.
Great article in the Guardian about the Swedish art of gökotta. With International Dawn Chorus Day next month, there’s plenty to get up early for at this time of year!
Swedes call it ‘early cuckoo morning’ – the act of getting up just to enjoy the first birdsong.
Read more here: Source – Sunshine releases all the sounds of spring | Environment | The Guardian
February saw the fourth annual Big Farmland Bird Count (BFBC) organised by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust – see the results here: 2017 BFBC Results – Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust
At the end of January every year, citizen scientists across the UK take part in the the Big Garden Birdwatch.
Almost half a million people participated in this year’s event, spending an hour in their garden or local park recording the birds that they saw. All the data was submitted to the RSPB, and after some serious number crunching, the results are now out.
The top 10 birds this year are:
1. House sparrow
8. Great tit
10. Long tailed tit
Alongside these, high numbers of migratory birds such as waxwings and fieldfares were also reported. Weather conditions in Scandinavia resulted in the berry crop failing this year, which is thought to have caused these species to flock to the UK in search of food.
But the top 10 list above doesn’t tell the whole story; although starlings were the second most commonly reported bird this year, starling populations have actually decreased by a worrying 79% since 1979.
Both chaffinch and greenfinch populations are also down by well over 50% since the 1970s. Tits haven’t fared so well either, with less blue tits, great tits and coal tits recorded than last year.
Citizen science projects such as this give a valuable insight into the health of our wildlife in the UK. They show that our much loved songbirds are in trouble.
SongBird Survival is an independent bird charity working to understand the reasons behind songbird declines in the UK. We raise funds to commission targeted research, and aim to identify solutions to restore songbird numbers, saving the dawn chorus for tomorrow.
To learn more about our work and how you can help, visit our website.