Our house provides nesting opportunities for sparrows on all sides. Somewhat ramshackle, with plenty of holes in the thick walls and under the eaves, it is perfect for the communal sparrow lifestyle. Every year we think of filling the holes, and then to decide not to. The sparrows do no harm. We’d miss them. Here are some chicks in the most easily accessible hole for photography. It is used every year, usually twice. An iPhone is best for the purpose because the flash is right next to the lens.
It has now become clear that the insistent purring noise deep within the nest-hole is not made by the adult woodpeckers singing restful lullabies to the chicks. That was my vivid and homely imagination. It’s the chicks themselves!
By last night the sound had become louder – I could hear it 15 feet away from the tree. And instead of one agglomerated soft churring sound, it had become fragmented, like several very tiny contented cats being stroked simultaneously. There is a great deal of parental activity, and every morning the parents have a good clear-out of the nest. The greenery underneath is covered in debris.
I made another short recording of these new sounds last night, which I uploaded to Xeno-Canto. You can listen to the simple recording or try the Xeno-Canto one below it, which shows the first 10 seconds as a sonogram and gives more information.
RECORDING 1 (20.05.2013 – 19.00)
RECORDING 2 (21.05.2013 – 17.00)
Another 24 hours later, the chicks are turning up the volume, and can now be heard from even further away. Here is another recording made from exactly the same distance – about 6 inches – from the nest-hole as before. Again I’ve put in a simple audio version, with a Xeno-Canto upload and sonogram below for those who might be interested. The sonogram shows the same pulsing effect, but the increased noise registered can quite easily be seen. Tomorrow I abandon the chicks for a few days, and I will report back next week. When the little birds start peeping out of the hole at the world outside, I hope to get some photos.
Chiswick, West London, England, United Kingdom
Two avian excitements today. Firstly, the swifts timed their return to coincide with some morning sunshine. A flock of 10 milled around overhead with their unmistakable cries. They flew very high, fast-moving specks in a blue sky. As I was watching them, I noticed increased activity at the woodpeckers’ nest. The pair were changing egg-sitting duty more frequently. As I slowly edged my way nearer the hole, I could hear very faint cheeping from deep inside the tree – new hatchlings. I’ve remembered that this presages increasingly loud and insistent noise over the next 2 or 3 weeks until the fledglings fly.
The birds have a rather touching takeover ritual. The bird returning to relieve its partner lands close to the hole, and makes a quiet, rapid 3 or 4 note clucking noise. The other bird appears at the hole, looks around, and flies straight off, while the other takes its place inside the tree. The male clearly has a big appetite. Occasionally he leaves the hole and forages briefly in the gnarly bark close to the entrance for insects or grubs, then returns to the hole. As he enters – and despite his mouthful – he makes a soft staccato 3 or 4 note call to the occupants, distinctly different from the parents’ greeting to each other.
THE FIRST SWALLOW OF SUMMER
THE FIRST SWALLOW TO ARRIVE AT OUR HOUSE IN DORSET, APRIL 27 A handful of swallows arrived from Africa on the first day of sunshine for weeks, preened for a while on the wires, then flew round the garden after insects. The next two days have been heavy rain, and they haven’t shown again… We saw the last ones leave last Autumn, so it’s good to have seen them come back.