Songbirds and garden birds

There are 600 species of birds officially recognised as being seen in the UK, of which 330 have been recorded in Berkshire. So it is hardly surprising that there is a wide range of birds that might occur in our gardens or be encountered as we walk the Wild Maidenhead area.

Plants and insects are fascinating and beautiful, but each have their season, and none of them talk to us (apart perhaps from grasshoppers and crickets!). But birds sing to us all the year round, especially our ‘national bird’, the robin. In summer the air resounds with many visiting warblers, cuckoos, terns and aerial performers such as swallows, swifts and house martins.

With resident finches, doves, tits and starlings, house sparrows and dunnocks, there is always something to see in our gardens and as soon as the summer migrants have left, their places are taken by winter-visiting fieldfares, redwings, bramblings and, occasionally, waxwings. The sounds and activities of our birds are amongst the most valuable contributions wildlife offer to our lives.

What’s happening to songbirds in Maidenhead

In recent years, 62% of our UK wild bird species have declined and 38% increased. In local gardens this is typically represented by a 30% loss of starlings and house sparrows, but an increase in great spotted woodpeckers and woodpigeons (which is now our most regular garden species).

In the countryside, the losses have been even more dramatic, but there are still lovely walks in the area where the ‘little bit of bread and no cheese’ of the yellowhammer and the summer chimes of the chiffchaff are still to be found. Winter walk experiences can be heightened by occasional views of glorious bullfinches and dramatic flocks of winter thrushes.

Joining a local group (such as East Berks RSPB - www.eastberksrspb.org.uk/) and going on walks with experienced birdwatchers increases our opportunities for seeing birds, both dainty and dramatic.

What can I do?

Put up a nest box: new and modern houses have few facilities for nesting birds so erecting nest boxes can make a great contribution.

Feed the birds: birds need insect food for their young so Gardening for Wildlife is a productive and enjoyable thing to do (www.wildlife-gardening.co.uk/) and provide winter food in the colder months.

Become familiar with Berkshire's birds, their habitat needs and where to find them, using the Berkshire Bird Atlas (berksoc.org.uk/county-atlas/the-book/ - Special price of £25 from Wild Maidenhead)

Improve your bird identification skills with the latest photographic identification guide, Britain’s Birds  (www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zlk-qdPh_lw – Special price of £15 from Wild Maidenhead)

Make your sightings count by keeping records of what, when and where and send them to the County Bird Recorder to ensure your enjoyment also supports local citizen science (www.berksbirds.co.uk/submitbirdnews.asp)

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