Wildlife diary: Garden birds

The comings and goings of birds in our gardens can be a constant source of fascination as Caroline Steel has discovered

It’s amazing what you notice in the garden when you have the time. The highlight on 6 May was my first sighting of half a dozen swifts screaming over uphill Lincoln: summer is on the way!

Taking part in the BTO Garden Birdwatch has made me more aware of the numbers of birds using the garden and how they are changing on a weekly basis.

Blackbird with mealworms (c) Caroline Steel

The pond seems to attract blackbirds, so there are often three or four adults in the garden at the same time, but over the last week or so adults have been taking food back to the nest and two fledglings have appeared. They do like mealworms!

There’s also a fledgling robin. The bluetits have been very secretive and I wasn’t sure they were using one of the nestboxes, but they’re now going backwards and forwards with food every few minutes so must have a very demanding brood.

Greenfinch (c) Caroline Steel

A recent surprise has been visits from a pair of greenfinches, seen very rarely over the last few years. Their numbers have gone down drastically, thought to be linked to disease picked up from dirty feeders. Before filling up with sunflower seeds again I’ll make sure I clean the feeder thoroughly again.

Female house sparrow (c) Caroline Steel

Until sometime last year our hedge was constantly twitching as house sparrows jumped around within it, and for a while they roosted in the ivy in front of the house. Then they disappeared and none were seen between November last year and this March. They’re back now, but I haven’t seen more than three at a time. What’s going on?

Goldfinch (c) Caroline Steel

Two goldfinches use the garden frequently. They don’t come to the feeders, but visit the pond and sing from the old television aerial, a spot also liked by starlings and woodpigeons. Goldfinches don’t stay still for long so are difficult to photograph.

The recent rain was very welcome as it filled the water butt and I can now top up the pond, which is suffering from very fast-growing blanket weed: the warm winter gave it a head start. Adding barley straw extract doesn’t seem to be having much effect so I’m pulling it out a couple of times a week. The frogs don’t seem to mind: they watch intrigued and turn to follow what’s going on!

The tadpoles are strong enough to swim out of my way now, but there are various small water creatures to disentangle. I turned my back on the container full of weed for a couple of minutes and a blackbird moved in rapidly: I must have left some animals behind!

Frogs in a garden pond (c) Caroline Steel