Marlpit Birds

Birds of Marlpit Community Garden March 2016

We have had a truly spectacular sighting on the Marlpit Community Garden in February, with a red kite spotted flying over on 21st . These birds nearly became extinct in Britain last century, with only a few pairs remaining in Wales, but the population has now recovered and since 1989 birds from Europe have been reintroduced at various sites in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. There are now 1600 pairs in the UK, including some breeding in west Norfolk. It is slightly larger than a buzzard, from which it is easily distinguished by its long, forked tail.
It nests in a deciduous tree, and often decorates the nest with things such as rags and plastic bags (even underwear!).

The lake at the bottom of the site continues to attract interesting birds, with a pair of Egyptian Geese being present in February. These birds were originally from South Africa, and kept as ornamental waterfowl, but some escaped and established a population in Norfolk in the 1960s. They are now spreading west across the rest of the UK, but Norfolk remains their stronghold.

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A heron has also been seen by the lake. It is unlikely to have found any fish as there is no connection to the river, but herons feed on a variety of small animals, including amphibians such as frogs and toads, small mammals, and even birds if they can catch them.

The flock of gulls on the lake has been expanding, and common gulls have now been seen there, in addition to black headed, herring and lesser black backed.

As the year advances, birds are preparing to breed, and a lot of them have been singing. The function of bird song is to attract mates and to warn off others of the species to hold territory. Chaffinches have been singing regularly from the trees and hedges bordering the site.
Chaffinches learn their song partly by listening to others sing, with the basic song pattern inherited but modified by learning. This results in local dialects, so our birds in Norwich sound slightly different from those elsewhere.

Chris Keene