Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Roosting survey already producing results!

Two/three inches of fresh snow overnight was a bit of a surprise! It came in from the south ( Northern Ireland ) and didn't affect areas a few miles north of here. However, with it falling on frozen hard packed snow from previously, road conditions were treacherous and I only saw two vehicles all day ( a gritting lorry and out stoical "postie", who seems to overcome things whatever, even by delivering the mail at 2000 hours!). My landlord and neighbour called and advised he and his wife were considering using the big tractor to get over to the main road in order to attend the school play in which their daughter was appearing. She had been "evacuated" previously to ensure her involvement!

Birdwise things were quiet here, in terms of numbers, but hectic as far as feeding was concerned. I was interested to read that even the usually aggressive Robin has commenced to be more tolerant of its bretheren ( now there's a Christmas word! ) with up to six being seen at one bird table in Cheshire. The news has obviously not reached the "turf possessive" individual that inhabits this garden who is intolerant of everything!

Similarly, the newly launched BTO ( British Trust for Ornithology) survey of roosting habits of birds in gardens is already producing some surprising results. Wrens are noted as "piling into nest boxes", roosting pouches and even old House Martin nests in order to stay warm and survive the harsh overnight conditions. Records already available show that 26% are roosting in groups of 5-9 and, in Devon, 30-34 roosted together in one nest box.

I was amazed to learn that Blue Tits usually roost alone (63% of records from nest boxes are of individuals ),as do Great Tits. This did surprise me, particularly as one can see parties of titmice collectively moving to roost at this time of year, sometimes having a variety of constituent species within the flocks too. That they all then split up is fascinating. Perhaps they don't always, as I'm sure I've seen some reference to Long-tailed Tits roosting together. It would certainly make sense, as the ability of such such small birds to survive extreme conditions must be very precariously balanced, even to the extent of being on a day to day basis. On this front even House Sparrows appear to have adopted the " you know it makes sense " approach with 42% of records showing 4 , or more, are roosting together.

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