makes friends with some tweet­ing res­i­dents at her new home

Les­ley dis­cov­ers another fam­ily liv­ing in the kitchen of her new house . . .

EADT Suffolk - - INSIDE -

I DIDN’T need Spring­watch this year to get up close and per­sonal with na­ture be­cause we had a fam­ily of star­lings nest­ing in our cooker hood. We moved to our new house in Felixs­towe a few weeks ago and very quickly be­came aware of their chirp­ing while we were drink­ing cof­fee in the kitchen. When the par­ent bird ar­rived with food they started clam­our­ing for it in the hood just above our heads. We didn’t dare open it up as it sounded as though the young would fall straight out onto the cooker.

Af­ter hov­er­ing by the back door for a while, Mark man­aged to spot that it was a star­ling which was nip­ping in and out of the un­cov­ered vent out­side. For­tu­nately, we were quite ex­cited about their prox­im­ity as it def­i­nitely wasn’t some­thing the ven­dor men­tioned to us. About a week later they fledged – all seven of them. When I saw them hop­ping around the gar­den I couldn’t be­lieve they’d fit­ted in the nest. I re­alised why they’d made such a racket.

Every year there are news sto­ries about birds that nest in un­usual and in­con­ve­nient places. At the BBC we had a photo sent through of a Crow’s nest built pre­car­i­ously on elec­tric­ity poles. I think there is an old say­ing that if rooks and crows build nests lower down it means there is windy weather ahead. I’d love to hear of other ex­am­ples.

It might seem odd that we didn’t mind the prox­im­ity of the star­ling nest, but we had been wor­ried when we moved from Ip­swich that we wouldn’t have as many birds in our gar­den. We’d lived in Ip­swich for over 20 years and were re­ally chuffed with the num­bers of birds that vis­ited our gar­den and the feed­ers we put out for them. They weren’t par­tic­u­larly rare birds, but, bear­ing in mind the dra­matic fall in the num­bers of gar­den birds, we were al­ways pleased to watch spar­rows, robins, black­birds, tits and, oc­ca­sion­ally, a jay.

Our house in Felixs­towe is very near the beach and we were a bit con­cerned we would only get gulls scav­eng­ing for food but from that first morn­ing we found we had all the regulars, so much so we thought they’d moved with us from Ip­swich. One added sight­ing so far has been a green­finch.

Sadly though, there are birds I don’t see th­ese days. When I lived in Long Melford one of my favourite sights was a beau­ti­ful thrush us­ing my pa­tio as its anvil to smash snails. I don’t know whether it’s be­cause I live in a dif­fer­ent area, or whether it’s be­cause there are fewer thrushes around th­ese days, but I fear it’s the lat­ter. I of­ten chat with bird ex­perts from the Bri­tish Trust for Or­nithol­ogy, on my BBC Ra­dio Suf­folk af­ter­noon show, about the ways we can help by feed­ing birds and put­ting up nest boxes, so I’m hop­ing to put up swift nest boxes when we have work done on the roof at our new house.

It’s only re­cently I learnt what amaz­ing crea­tures swifts are. Not only do they fly thou­sands of miles to Africa when they mi­grate, but from the day they fledge to the day they make their own nest – maybe two years later – they do not touch the ground. They feed, and even sleep, on the wing. Sadly there has been a huge drop in their num­bers, partly be­cause there are fewer barns and build­ings where they can nest, so nest boxes can re­ally help. The sound of the swifts scream­ing over­head is one of my favourite sounds of sum­mer. Along with the chink of ice drop­ping into a gin and tonic . . .

Photo: gem­red­ding/ trhink­stock

Above: A star­ling re­turns with lunch to a nest in a roof

Left: The post box on Ged­grave Road in Or­ford was closed due to birds nest­ing in it for two years run­ning.

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