Birdwatch: Survival is a hard game in the wild

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We here in North Lancashire have got off pretty lightly with the recent extreme weather, I’m pleased to say.

We’ve had no frosts to speak of, no icy easterly winds, no snow; in fact, it’s been boringly wet and mild. Oh, and a bit breezy.

As a consequence the winter period so far has been rather uninspiring for many of us birdwatchers, desperately hoping that a severe change in temperature or wind direction might stir things up a bit.

Even my bird feeders have been practically ignored as the lack of ‘hard times’ has meant that many of our garden visitors are finding lots of natural food elsewhere.

In fact many of the conversations I’ve had with people in recent months have started with “where are all our garden birds?”

While it might be bad news for bird seed wholesalers and a little disappointing for those of us who enjoy the daily gathering of hungry sparrows, blackbird, tits, finches and robins it’s actually good news for the birds themselves.

The milder conditions and availability of wild food should ensure a high survival rate for many of our more vulnerable songbirds.

Following a couple of terrible breeding seasons in 2011-12, last summer was actually not too bad for several of our more familiar species.

Assuming that the current spell doesn’t suddenly turn desperately cold there should be good numbers of healthy birds in peak condition when spring finally gets under way.

It only takes a few of days and nights of sub-zero temperatures to kill off significant numbers of wrens, long-tailed tits, goldcrests and the like so a smooth transition into the breeding season would be most welcome for those more susceptible species.

You’ve got to feel sorry for our wild birds. Survival really is a tough game and with all the many obstacles to endure, from climate change to habitat loss, it’s hardly surprising that so many of our native birds are in such serious decline.

I expect that many Visitor readers took part in the RSPB’s Big Garden Bird Watch at the end of January.

If you haven’t yet submitted your counts, however low or high, don’t forget to do it by the February 16 deadline!

The Lancaster & District Bird Watching Society will be holding its annual general meeting on Monday 24 February at Bare Methodist Church Hall. There will be members’ slides, a bird quiz and a round-up of local ornithological news. Newcomers are always welcome. The meeting starts at 7.30pm.