Well the fact is, I don’t know Neil. He and I have similar interests and as a result he emailed me recently. It’s was a lovely email telling what he had seen lately in the Telford area and in particular on the Weald Moors. But there it was, in the very last line, he simply asked, “Do you get any Tree Sparrows round your way?”, hmmm the sore point!
Well as you know we have three species of sparrow in our English gardens, House, Tree and Hedge. But Hedge Sparrow (opposite) is Sparrow by name only, it does in fact belong to a different family all together, so I prefer to call them by their other name, Dunnock, to avoid any confusion.
I am telling you this particular story because it illustrates my keen interest in Sparrows and their rather fickle relationship with me.
It was winter 2006 and during February we had some very cold weather, hoar frost and snow covered ground for someof the time and it brought many new birds to the garden, desperate for food and water. I cleared snow from the lawn below the apple tree and started ground feeding. Ground feeding is not always to be recommended as you can get problems with rats, so it’s not something we do all year round.
As I write a large white feather has floated down past the window behind the TV. The House Sparrows are in the box. Mid Feb and they are nest building already. I watch and sure enough the cock Sparrow is now sitting on the Three Foot Hedge with a small twig in his beak. He flies up and out of view. Minutes later he has returned (well least I guess it is still him) with a small black feather. It is so small that every time he twiddles it around in his bill, he drops it. Eventually despite the interest of a hen sparrow, now in the hedge, he drops it and flies off.
Anyway, where was I? The ground feeding area attracted much interest, Fieldfares to the apples and now Reed Bunting and Yellowhammers to the mixed seed, splendid. The next day a small group of Brambling joined them and then yes, a small flock of Tree Sparrows! Now don’t think I am making this up, you know, just so I can write this story. I have the photographic meta data to prove it.
There are no Tree Sparrows around here! I would have to drive 15 miles at least to see one. They are very local, very scarce and very pretty. So needless to say I was made up and I wondered how long they would they stay? Well they did stay, all the way through March and into April. So now I am very, very pleased. So pleased that I have put up a few extra nest boxes with 32mm entrance holes. Yes I know, optimistic at this stage but hopeful!
Well the completely unbelievable happened. They started visiting the nest box on the Scots Pine. They also took to the sparrow apartment box that I put up some years earlier, high up on the gable end of my neighbours house. They came to fill up their little Sparrow tummies on the hanging bird feeders, taking millet and sunflower hearts and in the morning, on better days, they carried nest material into the boxes. Then it went it went suspiciously quiet. Was it the sort of quiet that signified that a small group of Sparrows had done an Elvis and left the building/garden? But just maybe it was the sort of quiet you get when a sparrow or two are just quietly sitting on some eggs!
Well, they were sitting. They were sitting on eggs and they hatched them in two nest boxes, fledged their young and sat on some more eggs (in two boxes) and fledged some more young. Now, from a couple of pairs or sparrows we had gone to a little wonderful cloud of my very own home grown Tree Sparrows.
Then they left!