A guest blog by Rebecca Gibson
Discover the intrigue behind three of our most common garden visitors with wildlife writer and previous Wild Intrigue intern, Rebecca.
During these bizarre times, we can’t visit our favourite reserves and wild places. However, we still need our daily dose of nature and there is plenty to see from the garden or balcony window. There is often a need amongst birdwatchers to spot rare or migratory species, but our more ‘usual’ British species can be just as interesting to watch. In fact, common birds are often far more confident around people so it is possible to see some intriguing behaviours up close. Here are three species which have found a home in our parks and gardens and are easy to watch during a lockdown!
Blackbirds are common visitors to gardens, usually seen dashing across lawns and singing from treetop perches. The species is sexually dimorphic, which means males and females look different. While males are solid black, females are speckled brown similar to their fellow members of the thrush family. Despite not being brightly coloured, blackbirds have a beautiful song. The first blackbirds to start singing are males born the previous year – older birds don’t start until later in the year around March. Blackbirds are usually heard singing after rain, when worms are encouraged to the surface. Most blackbirds only live for three years, but a ringed individual lived to over twenty!
Blue tits are easily recognisable, especially since no other British species of tit has blue in its plumage. As well as a blue cap that is slightly brighter in males, blue tits have yellow bellies like the larger great tits but only a few small black markings on their face. Blue tits weigh as little as 11g, which is the same as a AAA battery. Despite their small size, blue tits have large broods. Clutches of up to 18 eggs have been seen by BTO recorders in a single nest. They are diligent parents too – scientists in Norway have discovered that blue tits line their nests with plants such as mint and lavender as a natural disinfectant to kill any bacteria that may harm their chicks. To attract blue tits into your garden, peanuts will often do the trick, and providing a nest box will give them a reason to stay.
Nearly every continent has its own species of robin, and the European variety is very popular in Britain. After only a few minutes of digging, a gardener is bound to see a robin waiting for any uncovered earthworms. Originally thought of as a species of thrush, the robin is now classified as a flycatcher. Robins are extremely territorial and only one will occupy a single garden, unless it is a breeding pair. Despite being resident in the UK all year round, they have long been associated with Christmas because of the red uniforms worn by postmen.
During this uncertainty, staying connected to nature is more important than ever for our physical and mental wellbeing. As well as watching from gardens and balconies, get your wildlife fix from the range of online webcams that are currently live streaming puffin burrows, barn owl nest boxes and everything in between.
by Rebecca Gibson
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