OUR GARDEN BIRDS IN JULY
High summer is our quietest time for birdsong and during this last week in July even the blackbirds and song thrushes stop singing. The silence is deceptive though, as bird populations are actually at their highest; the birds are just trying to remain inconspicuous to protect newly-fledged young or are foraging further away from their home territory now they’ve finished breeding.
We’re close to open fields here in Waterfurlong and can still hear the occasional song of the yellowhammers, with their characteristic seven notes 'A little bit of bread and no CHEESE' and the chattering families of goldfinches, flocking to ripening seed-heads and once in a while alighting on our dahlia stakes. Sometimes, we’ll catch the yaffle of a green woodpecker, hopping along searching for ants or calling across the Welland valley. Constant, if unusually quiet, companions at this time of year are our juvenile robins, sitting on the trug as we weed or waiting for crumbs from our sandwiches.
One of the few birds that doesn't pipe down is the wood pigeon, with whom we gardeners enjoy a mixed relationship
at best. Its incessant hoo-HOO-HOO-hoo-hooing, flapping and bustling in the hawthorn and lilac bushes is a reminder of the covetous eye it is casting over almost everything in the vegetable patch. One of our long-standing gardeners, Graham, lost 200 pea seedlings in a single evening when a pigeon got into his greenhouse, and colonies have taken to roosting in the tops of the plum trees, breaking branches and scattering the developing fruit.
By contrast, it's an absolute delight to watch swallows swooping over the land catching insects, sometimes as low as two feet above the ground. Ornithologist Peter Conway describes their cry as ‘like a child’s squeaky bath toy being rapidly squeezed.’ They won't be with us for long so we're enjoying them while we can.