Marlpit Birds

Birds of Marlpit Community Garden January 2016

We are now into the New Year, and more birds have started singing around the Garden. They are beginning to establish territories and looking for mates for the coming breeding season.

One of the first has been the Mistle Thrush, well known for singing in winter storms from the tops of trees, giving it its old country name of ‘Storm Cock’. Mistle Thrushes have been declining over the UK in the last few decades, having lost 45% of their population since 1969. They are named after one of their favourite foods, the mistletoe berry.

Turdus philomelos, Song Thrush

Turdus philomelos, Song Thrush (Photo by Tish, 6/1/2016 at MCG)

Song Thrushes have also been singing, and can be distinguished from the Mistle Thrush by the repetitive nature of the song, with each phrase being repeated several times. Song Thrushes also experienced a decline in population of 50% between 1969 and 2006, but have recovered slightly since then. They are very fond of slugs and snails, so should help to keep the Garden free of these pests. Thrushes are known from breaking open the shells of snails by beating them on stone ‘anvils’, and you may come across one of these surrounded by fragments of shell if a Thrush has been using it. The warm weather has meant no frost, which has failed to kill off the slugs and snails this year; we have just had by far the warmest December since records began, with temperatures in Britain averaging 9.7C, far higher than the previous record of 8.1C, perhaps more evidence of global warming.
Great Tits have also been singing lately. They are the largest member of the Tit family in Britain, and the first to begin singing. They sing a number of different songs, all variations on a two note theme, and it has been found that the more songs they sing the larger the territory they can hold, which is important for influencing breeding success. I look forward to the late spring, when they will be with their young in the hedges alongside the garden.

Chris Keene

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