Arnside and beyond

By gladders


A male blackbird sings in an ash tree in the lane outside our garden. Is it the same bird that was feeding big chick a few days ago? I don't know, there are two males competing for territory in this spot. I can confirm that big chick is alive and well, as I saw it this morning (Tuesday, a day after this was taken), its tail getting longer, and again being fed its father. The males certainly play their role in raising the brood, while still finding time and energy to sing their mellow, flutey song.  

They get off to a quick start in the Spring, the nest built and the first eggs often laid before the end of March. Unlike the ash tree which only now is expanding its buds towards leafing - although it has been showering pollen into the air for a while now. The pollen load explains why I've been sneezing and itchy-eyed the last couple of weeks, with just the occasional touch of coranoia that it could be something else - which would indeed be remarkable in these socially isolated times.

According to the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch results for 2020, the blackbird was the 5th most numerous species recorded in the nearly half a million gardens that took part in the survey. Down from 4th a year ago, and 3rd from 2017. There has been a 46% decline in the numbers recorded since the BGW started in 1979, though that single figure doesn't tell the full story of decline and subsequent recovery. The breeding population in the UK is said to be stable at 5 million pairs. Whatever, they are certainly a conspicuous feature of our Arnside gardens, and it would be interesting one day to try and census how many pairs we have. On the allotment, there is an ongoing struggle between two males. This is a time when they are distracted and vulnerable to predation by cats and sparrowhawks. Last week I watched a large female sparrowhawk very nearly take a blackbird about 20 metres from where I was standing. Of course, I never have the camera to hand when that happens.

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