Nature Notes: A hard life? You've got it easy compared to our small birds
SUMMER is on the wane and autumn is just around the corner – and that means it’s time for breeding birds to wind down after months of rearing their young to sustain their populations.
My goodness the energy used up during this time has been colossal. Selecting a mate, nest building, laying eggs and feeding their young has taken its toll.
So now, their bodies are crying out for rest and time to moult. To do this, they hide themselves away in copses and hedgerows.
When they emerge with a new coat of feathers they are fit and healthy to face the rigours of winter. But a bird’s life is not an easy one.
Many will not survive the cold months with conditions sorting out the weak from the strong and making sure only the best will breed next year – one of nature’s way of controlling the populations.
During spring, males come into song to advertise their territory and attract a mate. Many confrontations take place at this time.
Having secured a mate, nest building commences. This, to my mind, is one of nature’s marvels.
For example a bird familiar to everyone, the swallow, constructs a nest of mud, feathers and grass.
Just think how many journeys are made collecting a small beak of mud to construct the main body of the nest, and the energy involved. Humans are not in the same class.
On top of that the female has got to get in prime condition to lay a clutch of eggs and then, after hatching, up to five young have got to be fed until fledging. And finally, after all this they make a journey of up to 9,000 miles to southern Africa to spend the winter there before making the return journey the next spring.
Thinking about nest building, the most complicated structure is constructed by the long tailed tit. It is a bottle shape of cobwebs, moss and hair on the outside while the inside of the nest is lined with up to 2,000 feathers, with an entrance hole in the top part.
It is an unbelievable construction. The way small species of birds build their nests in one of the wonders of the natural world which, for the most part, goes unnoticed. I hope when readers come across a bird’s nest they realised the great skill and effort that has gone into it.
Dave Moore is a wildlife enthusiast from Hutton Magna