What is happening to the birds?

The Mill on the other side of the weir
I live next to a big river in a fairly wild environment with trees and wild flowers and water meadows on either side. We live with herons, currently two in residence about 20 yards apart, ducks, geese, dippers, wagtails, tree creepers, thrushes, blackbirds, blue tits, wrens, wood pigeons and innumerable other smaller birds.
The heron showing off on the river bank
The old Mill offers a variety of habitats in its crumbling stonework, and the ivy cladding on the cliff behind it harbours nesting birds including the ducks.  I once saw a mother duck leading her newly-hatched brood in a 15 foot tumble through the ivy to the river bank!

At this time of year the river is usually crowded with ducklings in all stages of development and the wilderness that is my garden rustling with young birds still being fed by their parents.  But not this year.
One of last year's broods.
We have had no ducklings.  None.  The ducks usually produce more than a dozen or so each, starting out as small feathered flotillas on the weir and gradually reducing as predators take their toll - ducks are terrible mothers!  But generally three or four per duck survive to grow and thrive.  Not this year.

We have a pair of swans on the weir as permanent residents and last year they raised five cygnets.  This year they reappeared alone.
Last year's swans with cygnets
Summer barbecues always have a backdrop of screaming swifts, dive bombing the water for the clouds of insects that accumulate above the surface of the river.  We have some swifts, but they were late to arrive this year and there aren't so many of them.  Fewer swallows too - my neighbour has had swallows nesting in the porch for as long as anyone can remember.  But this year they didn't return.
Last year's geese
All this is very worrying. We had a mild winter and a very warm and hospitable spring.  Summer is a bit cool and damp, but no more than usual.  But I notice in the garden we have less insects than we normally have and wonder why? Fewer bees and no midges or mosquitoes yet, which is strange.  River levels have been very low because of the lack of winter rain, but nothing desperate.  Perhaps the dearth of baby birds is to do with an increase in predators - we have a lot of crows, a pair of peregrines and some buzzards.
My wild and overgrown garden -  usually a haven for wildlife.
Something has changed.  Is this a one year catastrophe, local to us?  or is this a symptom of something bigger?  I wish I knew.

I'm now on summer holidays - officially!  So I won't be blogging as frequently.  I'm going to enjoy a lazy August - here's wishing happy summer holidays to you all!  


  1. Comment by Carol S
    "I live in a leafy part of NW!. I've just been in the very green Borders for a week. In both places we usually have many house martins and swifts. This year I've seen no swifts and fewer house martins."


Post a Comment

Popular Posts