makes friends with some tweeting residents at her new home
Lesley discovers another family living in the kitchen of her new house . . .
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 . . .
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.