I suspect that long-tailed tits are nesting in or near our garden. They appear about every half-hour for a quick fat-ball snack, then off again. They’ll need extra energy – their nest is an amazing construction, an elastic bag made of moss, lichen and cobwebs, lined with feathers. A keen naturalist once dissected an old nest and found over 2,000 feathers. Imagine the labour involved in collecting and placing these.
My Malhamdale friend is faced with a nesting-time dilemma. Last year the swallows that nest above his workshop had difficulty securing their nest because of the dry weather in April. Keen to help, he provided them with a dampened heap of earth in the yard outside. It was part of the spoil from a newly dug pond, excellent, sticky clay. The nest was built in two days – a fine, strong structure – and broods were reared, fledged and left – a success story. Then, later in the year, he noticed birdlime around the still-sturdy nest. Wrens were using it as a cosy winter roost. Fine – another success.
Then, about three weeks ago, he found the original nest had grown a second storey – an untidy ball of moss and other vegetation. A cock wren had taken full advantage of such a secure and sheltered niche. We now await with interest the swallows’ return. My guess is that they will build another nest nearby – perhaps again with a little help in the provision of materials. Of course, the wren’s nest may not be occupied. The cock wren builds several of these nests and then conducts the female round them. She chooses one, lines it with feathers and there she lays her eggs. Admittedly, the male sometimes installs another hen in one of the spares, which shortens the odds for our friend’s workshop site. We await news!
Meanwhile – the summer migrants are starting to arrive. We heard a chiffchaff singing on the fringe of Middleton Woods behind the Ilkley Lido. He was still in the process of polishing up his song so, instead of the steady chiff-chaff, chiff-chaff, we got the occasional hiccough – chiff-chiff-chaff. Another WNS friend heard several in the Washburn last week, and also some early blackcaps sketching out their songs that will soon develop into that characteristic rich warbling. I shall soon be retracing my usual route on the Moor listening for my favourites, willow warblers.