A Bird for All Seasons: Signs of Spring

(by Robert McDowell, 6 April 2024)

A familiar regular thumping noise coming from the direction of the eaves of my house tells me that spring has arrived!  No, it is not Death Watch Beetle, but Starlings trying to bludgeon their way into the eaves to begin nesting.  These uninvited guests have been annual visitors ever since I moved here, in spite of my efforts to prevent entry.  I don’t mind as long as they confine themselves to the eaves, so long as they don’t penetrate further to the roof space, as they have in the past.  Once breeding is finished, it has become an annual ritual to try to block their entry points.  They keep returning and I will have to listen to their movements once again until their brood has flown. [RSPB: What to do if birds are nesting in your house or roof]

For the last few years, I have succeeded in keeping them from gaining entry to the roof space.  On one occasion, having returned from holiday, I discovered that one bird had come into the roof space and had been unable to find its way out again.  It had somehow managed to make its way through a recessed ceiling spotlight and entered a bedroom, presumably following a chink of daylight.  It had scattered ornaments from a window sill in its efforts to escape.  Having failed by this route, it then tried to exit by several other windows, causing further mayhem by scattering objects in its path. 

To add to the mess, the obviously desperate bird had defecated several times in each room which it had entered.  A lesson which I have learned is to close every internal door before setting off on holiday!  On returning home I found the unfortunate bird dead on the floor of one of the rooms.  It had died either of starvation or stress.

Further evidence of the Starlings setting up home is the mess on the patio at the rear of the house.  They have been rather ambitious with some of the vegetation which they have attempted to cram into the nest cavity.  The patio is littered with lengthy fibrous fronds from a neighbour’s Cordyline or Cabbage Palm which they have been unable to squeeze in. 

In other springtime news…

On a more upbeat note, I have been watching my resident Robin on several occasions feeding morsels of food to his lady-love, in preparation for the nesting season.  My local Woodpigeons are also in romantic mood, as the males are displaying in their characteristic manner, with much wing-clapping and gliding to impress the females.

Elsewhere, Puffins have returned to Rathlin Island, following their winter soujourn in the mid-atlantic and sightings of Chiffchaffs and the first Swallows of the season have been made.  It is great to welcome the incoming birds for the new breeding season, especially as we still have groups of Waxwings which have yet to leave us for northern climes.

Song Thrush (Photo: Robert McDonald)
Dunnock (Photo: Robert McDonald)

In the last few days, I have been listening to the song of Song Thrush, Blackbird, Dunnock, and Chaffinch as well as the guttural croakings of my aforementioned Starlings.