Birds of Marlpit Community Garden October 2015
Autumn is the time of year when flocks of tits, often accompanied by chaffinches and goldcrests, can be seen in the hedgerows around the Community Garden. Tits flock together in autumn and winter, which helps them avoid predators, as many pairs of eyes and ears are better than one; they also benefit in hunting their prey of small insects and spiders as birds catch food disturbed by their neighbours. Goldcrests are the smallest British bird, and are usually detected by hearing their calls and songs before they are seen, though these are so high in pitch that many older people cannot hear them.
Also to be found in the hedgerows in autumn and winter are redwings, which feed on berries; we heard them yesterday as we tended the Forest Garden. These thrushes nest in Scandinavia and Iceland and spend their winters here. I have yet to see another member of the thrush family which visits us in winter, the fieldfare, but I expect them to arrive soon, so watch out for them.
Flocks of finches, such as greenfinches and linnets, can sometimes be found feeding on the weed seeds around (and sometimes in!) the allotments, whilst bullfinches can occasionally be heard calling in the hedgerows.
We once saw a kestrel hovering over the Forest Garden. These small birds of prey eat small rodents such as mice and voles, and the long grass provides them with plenty of food. Another bird which feeds on the same prey is the barn owl, and although I haven’t seen one of these on the site, they may well appear as I have often seen them further along the Marriot’s Way cycle track towards Drayton.
Herons sometimes fly over the Community Garden making their way towards their fishing grounds on the River Wensum nearby, though I have yet to see a little egret there. However I have seen one a few hundred yards further towards Norwich, feeding in a ditch in the grazing marsh between the chemical factory and the River Wensum, so if you are lucky you might spot one. These small white herons were very rare in Britain until about 15 years ago, since when they have become increasingly common. They are normally found in southern Europe and our milder winters caused by climate change are probably responsible for their spread northwards.
Woodpigeons are very frequently seen here, and they will eat plants such as cabbages unless you net them for protection. Piles of grey and white feathers are evidence that they have been caught by predators, possibly the cats which live on the Marlpit estate nearby and frequently hunt in the Community Garden, or possibly by foxes which are also found there; we recently saw one in broad daylight near the eastern boundary.
Members of the crow family are commonly seen, with jays burying acorns at this time of year and magpies looking for food along the hedgerows. Jackdaws and carrion crows often fly over. I have yet to see any rooks, but keep your eyes open because I have often seen them feeding in the fields further along the Marriot’s Way.
Pheasants are often to be found; we saw two hen pheasants yesterday near the horses’ field and I have had some beautiful views of male pheasants here.
The wildlife friendly gardening methods, avoiding chemicals such as slug pellets, have led to a thriving community of birds living in and visiting the Community Garden; please report any of your own sightings to us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.orgChris Keene