The time for birds to pair up

Middlesbrough Herald & Post - - HERALD & POST -

THE rel­a­tively mild win­ter should en­sure that good num­bers of small birds have sur­vived to start rais­ing fam­i­lies.

One of the birds which has been reg­u­larly vis­it­ing my gar­den feed­ers over the past few months is the coal tit, which must have ben­e­fited im­mensely from the seeds and peanuts on of­fer.

This eas­ily over­looked but rel­a­tively com­mon mem­ber of the tit fam­ily re­sem­bles a cross be­tween a great tit and a blue tit. How­ever it is the size of the lat­ter and less colour­ful than both of its cousins.

The eas­i­est way to iden­tify a coal tit is by the ob­vi­ous white stripe on the back of its neck.

The top of the stripe can be seen in this fine photo by Mark Walpole.

Coal tits feed largely on in­sects and lar­vae dur­ing the warmer months and are one of those few birds which store food in a win­ter cache.

They can of­ten be spot­ted among small flocks of tits as they move around wood­land edges and park­land search­ing for tit­bits.

They are busy lit­tle birds and tend not to dwell too long on the feed­ers, just long enough to pick up a seed or two.

The coal tits will be pair­ing up now, along with many other birds.

On a coun­try walk last week I saw lots of fa­mil­iar birds in pairs in­clud­ing yel­lowham­mers, grey par­tridges, mis­tle thrushes and also the notso-com­mon corn buntings.

Some birds, clearly, are still look­ing for part­ners. One of the de­lights of the walk was lis­ten­ing to a song thrush singing his heart out at the very top of a high tree.

It’s the song which reg­u­larly used to wel­come us to a new day when we awoke from our slum­bers in our youth, but sadly it is now heard rarely.

From birds to frogs, and my pond is awash with frogspawn.

I’ve not got as much as last year, cer­tainly at this stage, though there will soon be many thou­sands of new ar­rivals in the pond. At the same time, last year I fi­nally found a method of elim­i­nat­ing the an­noy­ing duck­weed from the sur­face of the pond, by us­ing a small metal colan­der as a scoop.

If the duck­weed re­turns I will con­tinue to re­move it, which means that there will be fewer hid­ing places for this year’s tad­poles.

So I must hope that enough tad­poles avoid the beady eyes of the black­birds in or­der to de­velop into frogs and main­tain the re­pro­duc­tion cy­cle.

Eric would like to hear from read­ers about what they have seen. Email him at­

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