Thursday 4 July 2013

June 2013 Results

The Tree Sparrows  (TS) are doing better each year at the Clifton Tree Sparrow Recovery Project, our only known breeding site for the species in Calderdale. Several boxes (about 11) have TS nests. We've noticed this year that they are now using some of the boxes on the two large oaks, one of which is above the fishing-pond, and one on the near side of the pond when looking from the road; a new observation. The box on the big oak in the lane, furthest away from the cottages (box 1) has again been used by TS as usual.
One very low box only a few metres from the feeders in the hedgerow was used successfully by TS this year, though one juvenile died at the RF (Ready to Fledge) stage.

Other species using the boxes are Great Tits Parus major and Blue Tits Cyanistes caeruleus, (3 of each.) There are about 55 boxes, mostly numbered, though the numbers are not always visible. The highest boxes on one of the oaks are not numbered.

On 23rd June four boxes in a row on trees in the cottage garden had occupied TS nests. The young were at various stages from FS (feathers on wing short) to FL ( feathers long,) and brood sizes were two of 4, one of 3 and one of 5. They are very likely to have two or more broods in the season.

Tree Sparrows are in the eves at another group of cottages in the area, just over the fields, (Mike Stead), but the residents prefer not to have bird watchers peering up at their windows.

House Sparrows have been seen at the site, and it looks like they have bred there this year, as two fledglings were huddling together on the lawn on 23rd June. They are unlikely to use the boxes, as they prefer a bigger hole, but may be ousting TS from the holes under the eves. 

We noticed that at least one Rook Corvus frugilegus  had learned to cling onto the feeders, so Jane Uttley deftly fixed plastic garden mesh round, which lets small birds in. Jane orders large sacks of golden or golden/white millet which, surprisingly to me, is grown in UK. Our initial grant for the project ran out some time ago, and Calderdale Bird Conservation Group are now paying for the seed. We have a rota to go and top-up.

This encouraging news about TS numbers has been heard from various parts of the country. Yorkshire Naturalists Union Bird Report for 2011 says there has been a 58% increase in England since 1995.

Other sites at which TS used to be seen were at Cromwell Bottom Nature Reserve, and at North Dean Woods (breeding in the old quarry - the late Frank Murgatroyd ) and in the railway viaduct over the River Calder at Salterhebble ( 1 nest in the early 90s - SB.) So they might reappear here soon.

(Jane Uttley and Steve Blacksmith  - Calderdale Bird Conservation Group and Halifax Scientific Society.)

A female House Sparrow (right) at the fat feeder with Tree Sparrows
(Passer domesticus and Passer montanus.)
Male and female Tree Sparrows have no plumage difference.

Two recently fledged House Sparrows. (Juvenile Tree Sparrows have some of the head-markings of their parents.)

Tree Sparrows Passer montanus

Thursday 6 December 2012


About 50 Tree Sparrows by the feeders at Jayhouse this dinnertime .

Wednesday 12 September 2012

Tree Sparrows ringed by Sean Gray

This is a link to a pic of tree Sparrows at Jay house lane being ringed by Sean gray.It would be good to know if there are any bids around still with rings on.Im sure Sean can tell us how many he ringed.??

Monday 10 September 2012

Monday 10th sept

A newly fledged juv Tree sparrow was on the floor underneath the feeders this evening,flew into cover as i approached.15 Lapwing in the field opposite.and 2 Swallows over

Sunday 9 September 2012

Survey: What other species might be using the feeders put out for the Tree Sparrows ?

This took place on 2nd September, last Sunday. We were concerned that though volunteers were filling up the feeders with red millet most days of the week we didn't know to what extent the seed was being eaten by other species. Some doubt was there that we might be feeding carrion crows and grey squirrels, which to most concerned birders and naturalists, would be a waste of seed and volunteers' time.

We staked out the feeders and watched in shifts from about 60 metres away from a small hide, designed for one person around a folding chair, lent by Jane Uttley, (except for Andy Cockroft, who used his usual fishing umbrella arrangement.)

The results were that we need not have worried - by far the most regular feeding species, and the only one in any numbers, on 2nd September 2012 was Tree Sparrow. We also got a good estimate of the size of the flock at the colony, two of us independently estimating it at up to 40 Tree Sparrows.
This is up 100% on last winter when typical counts were in the 20s. They must have either had a good breeding season or attracted some wanderers. (Tree Sparrows with rings have been controlled after crossing the whole of England.)

These were the results of our Sunday watch:

Observer and times

Andy Cockroft 06.30 - 08.30

Maximum count of TS at feeders 27
Greenfinch 3
Robin 2
Great tit 2
Blue Tit 3
Dunnock 1
Chaffinch 1
Andy said it was an interesting and worthwhile excercise

Steve Blacksmith 08.30 -10.30

Max TS at feeders 11 (but c.30 in hawthorns around the feeders at the same time.)
Robin 2
Great Tit 1
Greenfinch 1
Blue Tit 1
Steve pointed out that there were several dog walkers and joggers passing the other side of the hedgerow during his watch but agreed it was revealing and interesting to see the different use made of feeders away from a garden.

Jane Uttley 10.30 - 12.30

Weather :- Mainly cloudy but mild, occasional light drizzle

Tree sparrows were by far the most common, up to 20 on the feeders at one time and many more (15+) waiting in the bushes. They came in groups at a time,  fed for about 15 mins. then flew off to return in about 30 mins I am not sure if they were the same ones but I suspect they were.
10.50 - 11.10 up to 12 feeding at a time
11.45 – 12.00 up to 20 feeding at a time
In between just 2 – 4 feeding
Other Birds
1 blue tit and 1 great tit twice but did not feed
1 chaffinch and 1 greenfinch ate for a few mins
2 robins fed for a very short while.
Other birds in bushes (heard not seen) Great spotted woodpecker, dunnock , wood pigeon, collard dove and wren. Rooks and Jackdaws in fields but not near feeders. So obviously we seem to be doing well with the tree sparrows though not sure what will happen in the winter when other birds ‘run out’ of food

Dave Sutcliffe 14.30 - 16.30

Tree Sparrow feeding – and using the feeders in equal measure
20 + from 14.30 till 14.37
2 from 14.37 till 14.45
18+ from 15.01 till 15.15
10 from 15.15 till15.25 and 2 House Sparrows with them
27 in the top of a nearby bush with another c18 on the feeders at the same time (12 together in one feeder) all at 16.10 till 16.15
None after 16.15
In between – 1 Gt Sp Woodpecker very briefly on the feeder at 14.35 may have been put off by the model aircraft and did not stay long
1 Great Tit put in 2 very short appearances on the feeders at 14.37 and 16.00
No other species used the feeders while I was there though Goldfinch and Greenfinch and 1 Linnet were nearby

Saturday 1 September 2012

Sunday 2nd tmrw

Hi all Im starting things off tomorrow at 6.30,I have all my own stuff so dont need a hide will record everything using the feeding station.

Monday 27 August 2012

The colony's extent

It is centred around the the two cottages in Jay House Lane, but extends (for winter feeding at least) as far as Bailiff Bridge. Birders are not welcomed at the group of cottages set well off to the right going down to Bailiff Bridge, but there are some public footpaths near there on the Ordnance Survey Map that we can legitimately use.

In the past I have seen TS on the land now occupied by the golf course. Also near the Armitage Arms pub at the beginning of Clifton Village, associating with House Sparrows there around a racing pigeon loft, which is possibly gone.

Maybe other birders have seen them further out?