Snakeshead Fritillary On the subject of garden spotting, here’s a selection from my own garden taken of snakeshead fritillaries. “Fritillary” means spotted – it is an ancient term that is also used for some of our butterflies as well. I planted half a dozen of these near the pond in some damp ground over a decade ago, and they are thriving nicely. It’s a rare plant in the British countryside and there has been some recent debate about whether it is a real native or an introduction from the Middle Ages – the earliest records date from gardens, but wild records date back only to 1736! No matter, they are an excellent garden plant and worth a close look if you happen to see them.

I have just confirmed the hatching of blackbird chicks in my own garden today. This is a nest I have been following since 4th March, when I first saw the female rummaging in the spot where she nested last year in our beech hedge. Last year's nest had disintegrated in the winter, and the new nest was just a few basic bits. The nest was completed and lined by 9th March, but the first egg was not laid until the 19th. The long cold spell clearly curtailed their enthusiasm. Last year, we didn’t find the nest until the chicks were about three days old, but back-calculated that she must have started laying about 9th March 2019; it was a much warmer spring. This year, like last, her first clutch is three eggs, and today I noted that two had hatched and one is yet to come.

Female BlackbirdLast year, this same female had a second brood of four in the same nest. She then refurbished the nest for the third brood of five! By the time all the third brood left, the nest was starting to collapse. So she built a new one 10 yards away for the final brood of four! A total of 16 chicks, all of which fledged!

Certain birds are always more productive than others – their dominance means they get the best territories and so on. We had two other nesting blackbirds last year, one reared two chicks and the other three.

Monitoring nests (carefully) is a great way to learn more about our birds and can contribute to general knowledge – please look at the BTO Nest Record Scheme for more details. https://www.bto.org/our-science/projects/nrs

Dr Vince Lea
Head of Wildlife Monitoring 

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