Baby birds galore

My regular readers will know that I painstakingly (too strong an emotive really) update my phenology calendar to reflect on the natural events taking place in the United Kingdom. So, now that the mixed spring has passed, what effect did it have on nature, more especially our familiar breeding garden birds?

When it comes to young birds, my garden attracts many different species and these are a few examples. Bear in mind, this list is not exhaustive and further additions may become apparent in time.

When I first witnessed a juvenile Dunnock and a juvenile Chaffinch on the 18th May, the weather was still grim with winds from the northeast as can be seen below. 

May 2012 Climatological Summary highlighting May 18th.

Juvenile Dunnock (Prunella modularis)
Juvenile Dunnock (Prunella modularis)

Juvenile Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)
Juvenile Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)

However, when compared to the average, where were these two aforementioned sightings in the scheme of things? The average date for Dunnock, based on 7 records is 25th May and on a smaller sample, Chaffinch would have been around the 3rd June. It seems highly probable that both species took advantage of the warmer end to March and thereby emerged earlier. Moving on to my next two observations, these being juvenile Great and Blue Tits, a more intriguing pattern appears to show itself.

Young Great Tits were seen for the first time on 21st May and with a reasonably healthy sample of 9 years, these birds were well ahead of their average date. My statistics are however, not unusual for Great Tits and they remain a cause for much research into trophic mismatching. The first observation of young Blue Tits was on the 22nd May. Their emergence was only 5 days earlier than would normally be the case. A mere coincidence, these birds were fledging at the start of the heatwave, perhaps? Frankly, the Air temperature hovered at no higher than 10.9c (52f) on the 20th May but by the 22nd had maxed out at 26.3c (79f). Put simply, an amazing transformation of local climate within the space of just 48 hours.

Juvenile Great Tit (Parus major)
Juvenile Great Tit (Parus major)

Juvenile Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus or Parus caeruleus)
Juvenile Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus or Parus caeruleus)

As we were now fully into our heatwave period, the next events taking place were fledglings of Robin and Nuthatch. Both of these sightings occurred on the 29th May and were ahead of schedule, perhaps not surprisingly. The 4th June and 16th June being expected averages from datasets of 10 and 4 records respectively.

Juvenile Robin (Erithacus rubecula)

Juvenile Nuthatch (Sitta europaea)
Juvenile Nuthatch (Sitta europaea)

Moving into June, I have since recorded first fledgling sightings of House Sparrow and Goldfinch at our feeders on the 4th June. These emergences closely match their expected dates of 1st June and 7th June.

Juvenile House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)
Juvenile House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)

Juvenile Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)
Juvenile Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)

Other phenology of note was a very late (12th May) first local Cuckoo for me, in fact my latest on record.  For further details on forthcoming phenology expected from my patch or even your own, please view my calendar link as mentioned at the start of this post.

*all the above bird images come courtesy of Birds of the Western Palearctic interactive DVD

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9 thoughts on “Baby birds galore

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    1. Hi Finn,

      As I said before, I would imagine the UK Phenology Network and other interested bodies would say it was a spring of two halves. To be fair, it has been very different to many of the recent springs, whereby over the last decade, many events had shifted to being well ahead of schedule. However, I would imagine this year would reflect a halt in some of those dramatic shifts, albeit temporarily I suspect. It is undeniable we are in a changed climate, when compared to the past (at least in my lifetime). The main concern for ecologists/scientists is how much trophic mismatching etc. the earth’s creatures can cope with and will we start to see even more adaptations taking place or at worse, mass extinction of others.

      Best Wishes


      1. Hello Tony, thanks for the reply. You make a very important point there: will we see accelerated adaptation or accelerated extinction rates. Or both. I suspect we will see both, but where will the balance lie between adaptation and extinction?

  1. Hi Rosie,

    Not forgetting that some birds start to breed, very early in the season. Nevertheless, of course, this is not always a good thing. I suspect you are referring to birds such as Blackbirds and Robins, which are three, or four times brooded, hence some are very much starting to look like adults by now.

    Kind Regards

    Tony Powell

  2. Hi Tony,

    It’s well out of your region, but you might be interested in the citizen science program the Fairbanks Museum & Planetarium here in Vermont has set-up. They’ve been collecting phenology data for about a hundred years and have recently expanded the data collection process to the community at large.

    All the date is available to the public and covers a select group of birds, plants, butterflies, and weather phenomenon. The link is below.

  3. Thanks for letting me camp out in your blog for a little while today. I had a great time and tried to leave my campsite as good as when I arrived. I’ll be back in a couple of weeks!

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