Wildlife Column: The season is right for the baby birds
As June merges into July and then August begins to creep in, the birdsong of spring has died away. Soon there will just be a few late blackbird songsters with the year-round dunnocks and robins.
However, the song is replaced by the frenzied calls of demanding young birds and their over-anxious parents. My local jackdaws, rooks and magpies are still very vocal and the woodpigeons perpetual cooing seems unending. Overhead, the local common buzzards are frequent and noisy but no sign as yet of their young ones.
Nevertheless, the most obvious youngsters in and around my wildlife garden are the baby blue tits, great tits and coal tits. These all look basically like the adult birds but with an overall yellowy hue and the markings all blurred. They seem especially fond of the area around my larger pond as they settle on the trees and shrubs nearby and then drop down to drink.
During the hot weather then animals and birds need water and so a pond becomes a favoured haunt. Maybe the abundance of small insects is another factor as the pickings are easy for baby birds with voracious appetites.
A very large common brown hawker is a big dragonfly that actively hunts both around ponds and also further afield. The one flying strong and direct across my garden looks almost large enough to take one of the vulnerable baby coal tits. Well maybe not, but it was a big brute and they are active predators. I would love to have seen one of the prehistoric dragonflies with a two-foot wingspan! Now that would be impressive.
Evening visitors to the garden have included both noctule bats and pipistrelles; though neither as abundant as most years. At night the local tawny owls have been very vocal and I guess the young birds are now out and about. Like badgers, tawnies often feed on large earthworms on back-garden lawns and dry spells can be a problem for them. However, in the garden, a hedgehog has been noisily bustling through the dense vegetation presumably after my abundant slugs and snails.
Professor Ian D. Rotherham, of Sheffield Hallam University, researcher, writer and broadcaster on wildlife and environmental issues.