Settling down

An Article by Mike Stentiford, MBE

WHAT with the twin blessings of the longest day and the midsummer solstice around 21 June and Midsummer’s Day on 24 June, it’s hardly surprising that the month proves so important in the yearly calendar.

Mottos that go back hundreds of years are still relevant even today, a personal favourite being ‘Mist in May and heat in June brings all things well into tune’.

 

June, after all, is the month when newborn wildlife takes its very first nervous steps into an unknown world and when trials and tribulations become the order of each new day. For birds in particular, life is now extremely family orientated when, to satisfy a nest full of open gapes, maximum degrees of alertness, skill and unfailing rounds of energy become an absolute necessity. Nowhere are these frenetic deliberations more visible than in and around the garden nest-box where Great and Blue tit parent birds undertake a relentless round of commuting to and from their avian supermarkets.

It’s been estimated that an average brood of ten young Blue tits consumes somewhere in the region of 15,000 caterpillars while still in the nest – quite a challenge for mum and dad when you come to think of it, even on the brightest of early summer days!

With such dubious joys of parenthood now at their height, the strength of birdsong tends to slip away quite noticeably, a not too surprising factor considering matrimonial bondings have now been forged and territories have been won. Despite this obvious period of settling down, there are loud and tuneful bursts of song still to be heard, usually from unpaired males that categorically refuse to accept the reality of bachelorhood. Blackbirds, in particular, generally fall into this unattached category although the word is that such late-season song might be a devious ploy for some avian infidelity.

Either way, it’s still a huge pleasure to hear a blackbird giving vent to strong decibels whenever it has the musical fancy of doing so – agreed?


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