Shared Space

This brief article is inspired by the cover of the February ‘Garden” magazine, which shows a Greater Spotted Woodpecker on a Birch tree trunk. Reminding me that allotment sites are more than just places for people and plants. We do have Great Spotted Woodpecker about the site. More often heard than seen. If you are hearing a sound like the rapid beat of a hammer on wood, that is this Woodpecker. More easily seen is the Green Woodpecker. This one feeds on the ground, usually in short grass. If startled it takes off with a loud ‘laughing call’ flying in a swooping habit into shelter.

3 birds commonly seen on the ground or in flight are Rook, Jackdaw & Magpie. The Rook is the largest and all black with large strong beak. Jackdaws are smaller and compact, with grey head and nape. Magpies are the bold Black&white ones. All 3 are generalists, tending towards scavengers, also gregarious gathering in small groups. In general they ignore people.

In the same family is the Jay. A woodland bird that has only recently moved into built up areas. It is easily startled, and usually seen flying into dense woodland. The Jay is predominantly pink with black and bright blue, with a clear white patch on the rump.

Herons are occasionally seen flying over the site. A large light grey bird with a slow wing beat and trailing legs. They hunt for their foot in water so have no reason to land within our boundaries. Apart from the Heron the largest bird you a likely to see is the Buzzard. If you hear a commotion in the sky and looking up see a large dark bird being harried by slightly smaller black birds, it will be a Buzzard being harried by Crows. Buzzards are also seen roosting, either in shelter when resting after feeding or on look-out posts watching for feeding possibilities. Last year a family party was seen, so there is a breeding pair somewhere local.

The gulls seen flying about the site, come in 2 sizes. The larger ones with slower wing bears and gliding, will be either Black-backed or Herring gulls. (Not easily distinguished from below). The smaller ones with more energetic wing-beats are Black-headed Gulls. All are opportunistic scavengers, that in cities tend to feed on food waste. Thrush family. In the UK there are essentially 4 thrush species. These are medium sized birds, brown in colour with speckled breasts. Song Thrush (Smaller) and Mistle Thrush are resident around all year, and tend to be solitary. Fieldfare (largest) and Redwing are winter visitors and feed in small groups. These 4 tend to ignore people. Our other 2 members of the family Blackbird & Robin do relate to us, the Robin especially. Male and female Robins can only be told apart by each other; but if you see a dull brown Blackbird sized bird around your plot, that is the female.

Small Birds Blue Tits (Blue crowns) & Great Tits (Larger, black-headed) are the commonest, and most easily identified, of the small birds that flit between trees and shrubs in small groups. The small Brown comparatively bold bird in small flocks is a sparrow. Shyer and more solitary is the Dunnock, usually only seen near the cover of evergreen shrubs. Smaller still is the Wren, when feeding it keeps close to the ground, but when proclaiming its territory it sings from a prominent perch. Small and brown, it is often seen with it’s tail cocked rather than straight, All of the above are either neutral in respect to our activities or positively beneficial. The main diet of nestlings is insects. Many of which would class as pests on our plants. Pigeon Family Woodpigeon, Feral Pigeon and Collared Dove. These 3 feed on leaves and grain. The Woodpigeon is the largest of the 3 and especially in the winter has a taste for cabbages and similar. The Feral Pigeon is a city dweller, semi-wild descendants of domestic pigeons. The Collared Dove is the smallest. Pinkish in colour with a distinct dark band around the neck. It is a natural inhabitant of parkland. It is normal to net brassicas against these 3.

This is not a full list of the birds you might see or hear about the site, but the commonest and most easily recognised. In summer there are many more small birds to be heard and possibly seen. These tend to be known as Little Brown Jobs (LBJs}.

When you find yourself wanting to pin down each one, it is time to get a pocket field guide.


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