Sunday, 26 June 2016

Garden babies

After a break from the blog for a few weeks I now find myself with lots of catching up to do... So I'll make start with some of the new lives that have been visiting the garden. The first of the avian youngsters to appear were the Starlings, having grown up somewhere in the soffits of our neighbours' house, these bold and cheeky youngsters have been happily eating the mealworms we put out every day. That and a little bit of playing with some pulled-up weeds that hadn't been cleared away...

Juvenile Starling

Young Starling playing
Fledgling starlings have been closely followed by young Robins and Dunnocks. Juvenile Robins are obvious enough from their speckled appearance and lack of orange chest, but young Dunnocks could be easily missed - they are quite similar to adults but more 'streaky' in plumage. A brood of noisy and boisterous Magpies have made appearances as have young House Sparrows.

Young Robin
Young Dunnock bathing


The occupants of a Blackbird nest around the back of one of our hedges are now making an appearance with 3 youngsters visiting the garden. Their Dad has been remarkably attentive and it was very sweet watching the youngsters stood amongst mealworms, whilst still begging for their Dad to feed them to them, which he dutifully did. Things have progressed quickly from a few days ago and they now feed themselves! 

With this abundance of naive youngsters about, and no doubt with chicks of his own to feed, a male Sparrowhawk has been making a regular appearance. The adult male Blackbird has been the one to sound the alarm and send all the birds undercover whilst he has - perhaps foolhardily - vented his fury at times from only a couple of metres away, as well as hot-tailed him out of the garden. Woodpigeons have been busy nest-building so perhaps we will soon see the young squabs in the garden...

Young Blackbird
Causing panic in the garden - a Sparrowhawk

More for the nest... a Woodpigeon

Last but certainly not least for the garden babies, we think we've solved the mystery of where some of our strawberries have been going....

Postscript; the morning after posting and a young Woodpigeon has appeared in the garden. This youngster is a little smaller than his/her parents but the most obvious difference is the lack of white 'collar'.

Young Woodpigeon

Post-postscript; Perhaps a few extra facts would be useful too... As a very general rule for small passerines (songbirds) eggs take around 2 weeks to hatch, and the youngsters a further 2 weeks (give or take) to fledge. Many of these small birds can have 2 or even 3 broods in any given breeding season, though the Tit family are an exception tending to only have 1 very large brood of chicks and only rarely a second. For many waders, birds of prey and owls, the timeframe is very roughly 4 weeks to hatch and 4 weeks to fledge, given the time limitations resulting from longer incubation and chick rearing periods, they tend to only have one brood per breeding season. 

Below is a little bit more detail on some typical numbers of broods and chicks as well as timings for hatching and fledging for some familiar birds, taken from the BTO's nest monitoring guide;

Species Number of
Blackbird 2-3 3-4 13-14 14
Blue Tit 1 8-10  14 16-22
Chaffinch 1 4-5 11-13 14
Collared Dove 2-3 2 14-16 18
Dunnock 2 4-5 11-12 12
Goldfinch 2 4-5 12-13 14-15
Great Tit 1 6-9 14 19
Greenfinch 2 4-5 13 13-16
House Sparrow 2-3 4-5 12 14-15
Jackdaw 1 4-5 21-22 22-28
Magpie 1 4-6 21-22 22-28
Robin 2 4-5 13-14 13-14
Sparrowhawk 1 4-5 35 24-28
Starling 1  4-5 12 21
Tawny Owl 1 2-3 28-30 32-37
Woodpigeon 2-3 2 17 29-35
Wren 2 5-6 16 17


  1. Hi Jan, good to have you back! I'm pretty sure this'll be just me but when looking at the photo of the young starling playing, if you squint your eyes a bit, it looks like a starling version of a pop keyboardist - someone like Chris thingy of the Pet Shop Boys or Gillian thingy of New Order...yes thought it was just me

    1. Thanks Phil, haha kind of... a nice Roland with mic maybe... It looked like fun anyway running around with weeds, whatever s/he was doing. :)

  2. You reckon a Roland, I was thinking more of Yamaha, oh well, everyone
    sees what they want to see when it comes to the whole juvenile starling pop keyboardist thing. How did the Farnes trip go?

    1. Haha, well, I still have an old Yamaha keyboard but always had ideas on a Roland as that's what all the bands seemed to use back in the day... The Farnes trip was fantastic - we went to Inner Farne and Staple island. Incredible wildlife and fantastic to see up so close - eventually I'll catch up and do a post on it!