I’m very lucky to have a large flock of tree sparrows visit my garden, but I have no idea where else they go or where they roost. Today I decided to go looking for them.
I took a walk around the local dog walking field which is a few minutes away from my house. It sits on the edge of the village, overlooked by front gardens. It’s an area of rough grassland surrounded by a ditch and a mix of hedgerow and immature ash trees. I frequently see flocks of small birds using the roadside hedge and some of the gardens have bird feeders. A good place to begin my search.
It was 2.30pm and gloomy bordering on foggy. Lots of birds were singing. I’m not sure if this is because the days are starting to get longer or because the snow is finally melting. Not many of them were singing within polite range of my binoculars though (“no, I wasn’t peering through your window, madam”).
No tree sparrows. Plenty of blackbirds and small numbers of chaffinch, tit, and goldfinch. Some starlings were chattering in a garden tree while below them in a hedge house sparrows doing the same. More excitingly, I could make out a pair of brambling and a female reed bunting. Nothing much else about, so I considered turning back. But no, I thought, I’ll keep going to the end of the field.
Good call: the birds I could see fluttering on the ash branches turned out to be brambling: loads of them. Without my binoculars I’d never have spotted them. One of the males looked like it had an overgrown beak. How exciting – a report for the BTO Big Garden Beak Watch perhaps? But no, it had pulled out the seed from an ash key and was flying around with it in its mouth. In fact, they were all feeding from the ash keys. Or were they holding a ‘best beak extension’ competition?
The field was frozen but slowly defrosting and my feet were starting to get cold. Before I could make the decision to turn round and go back the bramblings all took to the air, closely followed by the slow motion heron that had spooked them. Now the show was over, so time to go home.
I wonder if I’ll see any tree sparrows next time?