Moving House

It’s Christmas day and it’s much like any other cold winters day as far as the sparrows are concerned. But the sun is up early and ready to play and it is now casting beautiful red and orange waves of light across the dawn sky. The cock sparrow arrives back. If the sun is out the sparrow comes early.

He sings, so I guess it’s time for another sparrow story. My friend Ashley made me a beautiful three hole sparrow apartment many years ago. Yes, a much appreciated Christmas present and that’s why this observation on sparrow life is so interesting. Well at least I think so and hope you will to.

The old sparrow apartment nestbox – far left occupied!

Any nestbox is best placed in view. It must be seen without too much effort, from the house window or easily watched as you go about your gardening tasks. The old box was screwed to the wall on the gable end of my neighbours house and about twenty foot up. Do you know, I just can’t remember if I asked permission! Oh well, this wall just happens to be about a third of the way down our garden and visible from the house, shed and other garden locations.

After the first 9 years it began to look a little sad, unloved and the roofing felt was coming away. It had, however, not only served the nesting needs of a pair of house sparrows in recent years but also seen several successful broods of Great tit and three broods of Tree Sparrow (be impressed because that is very uncommon in my garden and unheard of  here about.)

So I built another, with much love and care. I took the old box down. It was no easy task, up a ladder with a screw driver in one hand and box in the other! Anyway, down it came and up went the new box which was practically the same size and I put it back in the same position.

I must tell you at this point (because it is vital to my tale) that the sparrows, until then had been making their home in apartment 1 (far left). I must also tell you a few well know scientific facts about sparrows. Firstly they mate for life, not necessarily a very long one, but for life. Secondly sparrow nest boxes are visited by their owners all year round and often birds will roost in their box at various times in the year. Finally sparrows are very and I say very faithful to their nest sites. The same pair will use the same nest site year after year. We have lived here for 28 years and the sparrows have used the same nest sites both in the eaves of our house and our neighbours every year.

So having removed the old box I contemplated its fate. Should I knock it apart and burn it on the fire, not a very dignified end for a faithful servant! Then I thought, it’s not in that much of a bad state, I will repair it. So I did. I decided that the rejuvenated box once finished would fit nicely on the gable end of our house. I would carefully position it to avoid ‘anything’ falling on the windows as the birds went about their business, raising a family, courting, feeding each other etc.

In spring, hazel leaves appearing, the cock sparrow sits here to claim his nest site in the box on the wall above his head.

Out comes the ladder. Drill in one hand and box in the other. A precarious process at the best of times because you really need an extra hand to hold on with!!! I was to position it at the same height off the ground because the old sparrows obviously had become acclimatised to this height and it was deemed suitable.

So I watched and I waited. The new box in all its nicely finished glory lay empty! The old box, newly positioned had new residents and where were they? Well, the sparrows had moved into apartment 1 on the left hand side! Maybe the faithfulness of sparrows to their nest sites goes well beyond our initial understanding. jOn

Dawn and its pouring with rain again!!

Its not long after sunrise and the House Sparrows are still in there roost in the hedge up the road. But soon the birds will be back in the garden. The wintering Blackcaps are visiting the fat feeders. I would like to think that’s because I have gone to the trouble of making some extra special ‘home grown’ fat slabs for them. This is a speciality of the house, well actually the garden! But realIy we all know that they back because the weather has been wet and cold. By 10am there are three House Sparrows in the three foot hedge, two males and a female. Typically noisy, one of the males sits and chirrups, just reminding everybody that this is his patch and its in my patch!

The female (hen) found a feather, colour, white. This is very fortunate because I have been telling people who are engaged in our House Sparrow project, that sparrows love white feathers. I sneak to the fireplace and lean out slowly, just far enough to poke my camera round the brickwork and point it optimistically at the Sparrow with feather. The postman walking past thinks I have lost the plot! Several shots later I realise I have nothing to share with my followers but I am beginning to understand why sparrows like Hawthorn hedges, even 3 foot of them. Why? Well because House Sparrows are practically Hawthorn twig colour and very well camouflaged when sitting amongst their branches.

The female drops it and the male picks it up, considers it for a minute or two, twirls it round in his beak as if not sure which way it should be held to best effect. Then the hen takes it back before he has time to decide. So the enthusiasm and interest in this object goes on for a few more minutes before the male drops it and then carries on announcing to the world that this is his territory. So is the nest box on my wall above him and it has has been his for some time.