Tuesday, 12 January 2021

Where Have all the Birdies Gone

 After last week's 48 hour deluge of rain, we had several days of dryer weather, including a couple of severe frosts. Last night saw it rain throughout, although not heavily, and tomorrow and Thursday are forecast to see it rain for much of both days again, so back to square one with some possible flooding.

On the Swale NNR here in Sheppey, where I'm now entering my 34th year as a Voluntary Warden, the water levels look as good as they've been for several years. The ditches, fleets and shallow rills are full, and the grazing marsh is either waterlogged or covered in largish areas of surface water. It looks how it used to look most winters up until several years ago - a good example of a typical winter on the North Kent marshes. Sadly, that seems to be where the comparisons currently end, despite the perfect conditions, recent walks across the reserve have been noticeable for the lack of birds. 

In those "normal" years that I reflect back on, such conditions would of seen bird numbers, at times difficult to count, there were so many. Golden Plover would of been spread out as far as the eye could see across the waterlogged fields, several thousands at times and they would be joined by similar numbers of Lapwings and other wading birds.The large areas of surface water would of been inhabited by all manner of ducks - several hundred Wigeon, Mallard, Shoveler and Pintail. The sounds when a passing Peregrine Falcon or Harrier went by, scaring the huge flocks up, was both deafening and visually spectacular.

Today, as it has been for some time, it was the sheer absence of birds that was so marked. There doesn't seem any reason for walking across deserted, waterlogged fields that once would of been swarming with birds, as I've described. In all honesty, apart from a few hundred Brent and Greylag Geese that feed daily on a neighbouring field of winter corn, alongside one end of the reserve and a couple of dozen Mallard, where are the birds. Where have all Golden Plover gone, everything's right for them. Even the wintering White-fronted Geese, that had been with us since well before Christmas and totaled 230 at the beginning of the month, haven't been seen or heard for the last week or so.

It's a worrying trend and it doesn't seem to end there, gardens around here seem to be suffering the same dearth of birds, unless you count House Sparrows, I had 72 on or around my bird table a couple of days ago and that's fairly normal. But no, I live in a very rural part of Sheppey, both mine and the gardens all round me are full of shrubs, trees and flowers and yet finches coming to bird feeders are a rarity and even Blue and Great Tits are mostly absent -  the count for my RSPB Garden Birdwatch will be sadly depleted this year!

18 comments:

  1. It will be interesting to see the Bird Watch results to see ifthey reflect your observations all over the ountry wont it Derek?

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  2. It will indeed Pat but I feel that others will do much better.

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  3. How strange. North East Scotland. Our Garden Birds seem the usual number. Not sure about our nearest reserve as the lockdown has stopped visiting.

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  4. My garden is full of tits. Perhaps all the tits are here.

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  5. It's beginning to look as though my area might be suffering a tad more than others. I have to say Rachel, that your comment made me chuckle.

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    1. The penis enlargement comment made me laugh more.

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    2. I would of thought that rubbing any cream on would have an enlarging effect.

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  6. I am experiencing the same on the rural edge of Ashford, Derek. My garden feeders seem only to be visited by shoals of starlings and sparrows, plus the regular visit of about 6 jackdaws.

    I used to see tits galore but one glimmer of hope, a bluetit has been investigating a nesting box on a number of occasions.

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  7. On our garden feeders goldfinches are the dominant species, with up to a dozen at a time plus sparrows, bluetits, robin , blackbirds jackdaws and starlings. As the house was a new build it took a few years for the trees and shrubs to establish and for the birds come, so I'm pleased, because our previous garden had lots of birds and I really missed them in those first few years here .
    It’s always interesting to do the Garden Watch and seeing the results.

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  8. Lucky you Dave, I so miss seeing all those birds and I spend an enormous amount of money feeding Sparrows.

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  9. This is worrying news. We've not seen it in my area on this side of the pond. We live along a river and the birds are plentiful. I hope they always are.

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