It feels like a long time since we moved house, but it’s only been three months. I’ve gone from wildlife-rich to wildlife-poor, but the streets – and roofs – are not as empty as I thought.
While Crook is brimming with wildlife – you’d be hard-pressed to believe that house sparrows are in decline here – the new housing developments are extremely barren. They just weren’t built with wildlife, or even greenery, in mind. Narrow, treeless streets and neat but tiny gardens rule here. Soulless, ugly spaces.
This five-year-old brick, tile and concrete estate cannot deny nature however, even if it wants to. First I noticed a regular blackbird. There have been a few individuals, but there’s always at least one lurking about. Only males so far. Occasionally a dunnock will investigate scraps I put out on the lawn. The real action is reserved for the rooftops.
If you don’t mind staring at bricks (and avoiding staring through the neighbours’ windows) you will see plenty of birds. Corvids and starlings rule, with magpies, jackdaws and starlings regularly cleaning out the gutters. There’s a lack of rooftop paraphernalia – few ariels and no chimneys – and I wonder if this is why there are no pigeons as yet.
I’ve seen several starlings disappear in the eaves of the corner house. They must have found a weakness somewhere to enter the roof space (the builders were careful to leave no gaps for birds or bats to get in). I don’t know if this is a winter roost or a breeding site, but I’m sure I’ll find out.
At the end of the street is a patch of wasteground, and we are only half a mile away from open fields. I once saw a kestrel hovering over this corner of rough grass. I was surprised to discover this morning that they’ve been more than hovering over street corners.
I found this little pellet next to my wheelie bin. I realised at once that it was something interesting – the tiny bones sticking out were a bit of a clue. It was light as a feather and covered in pine needles. Was this significant, I wondered?
Confident that I hadn’t in fact found some fox poo (although that would have been cool too) I picked it up and brought it inside. After taking a few snaps, of course I proceeded to pull it apart. Crushed rodent bones and grey felted fur were the only contents. The pine needles were a red herring – the pellet had been rolling around the remains of the neighbour’s discarded Christmas tree.
Next step – to ID the pellet. The shape, size, felty texture and disintegration of the bones point strongly to this being a kestrel pellet. This means that a kestrel has been perching on the garage roof and felt comfortable enough to disgorge a pellet. And I hadn’t noticed.
There is a lesson here that even in the most barren of places nature will find a way. But how much better would it be if developers made small changes to give wildlife a real chance to move in to our new homes with us? If lack of space means we can’t have tree-lined avenues or large gardens, at least lets do something with the roof space. Green roofs, anyone?