Wildlife Column: Springtime birds now in full swing

All across the region spring has around with a flourish and the songbirds in particular have responded. Busily establishing and defending their breeding territories and competing for available mates, the birds are singing and displaying.

Monday, 8th April 2019, 11:09 am
Updated Monday, 8th April 2019, 11:14 am
Sheffield weather expert Professor Ian Rotherham.

Two species that have seemed to take a bit of a hit in recent years are the greenfinch and the chaffinch but at present both are doing well. I have had them back in my garden this winter as regular visitors and they are now displaying and singing close by. The chaffinch has a loud ‘pink-pink’ call but also a beautiful, descending song usually delivered from a high branch or treetop, which ends with a characteristic flourish.

Research some time back showed how chaffinches (and presumably other songbirds) have different and distinctive accents and so a French chaffinch for example, can be distinguished from a British one. Whilst greenfinches and chaffinches have gone down a bit over the period, two other species have done very well.

Goldfinches have boomed in recent decades and bullfinches have increased too. I had a pair of bullfinches visit the garden perhaps to browse on the cherry-blossom buds that are about to burst open. The male bullfinch in particular is a real stunner and a complete show-off with its bright red breast, white rump, and black cap. Unlike the chaffinch, the bullfinch’s song is soft and non-descript though its quiet ‘heu-heu’ call is easily picked out.

Blackbirds and song thrushes are also busy nesting now and rival pairs seem to be getting rather stressed with their near-neighbours. This is a time when territory is vital and establishing and then holding a suitable patch is the key to success for you and your offspring. In the evenings especially, the blackbirds and thrushes contribute big-time to the rising crescendo of the bird-song chorus.

The calls of the now ubiquitous wood pigeons add to the body of sound and are joined now by collared doves too with their persistent and rather plaintive ‘coo-cooo-cooo’. Other birds coming to the garden feeders still are the great spotted woodpeckers, both male and female, and the nuthatches.