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Spring Gets Birds Doing What Birds Do

Nest Box finally being inhabotedWhat a wonderful morning here in Fingal, North Dublin. There is a slight chill in the air, the sun is shining brightly, the surrounding countryside looks resplendent and the birds are busy courting and building their nests.

My son, Sean, built this two-storey, double nest box several years ago as part of a Junior Certificate woodworking project. At the time, he put large star-shaped holes on the front and sides and we could not understand for years why birds never nested in it.

Cock Sparrow entering next boxListening to Derek Mooney one day on RTE Radio, I learned that birds would not feel secure in a nest box like this, so I blocked up the two sides and reduced the size of the holes in the front. As you can see, I won’t win any prizes for woodwork or for painting in this case. However, the work has had its intended effects and it appears that at least one pair of sparrows is building a nest in it. Cock sparrow at nextbox
The cock seems to be doing most of the work and then calling for a mate. I’m not sure if this is right, but that’s how it looks to me.

Jackdaws nest in a chimney on an old house in the farmyard across the road from me. I do not know if it is the same pair every year, but there is always a pair there.

Blackbird in the gardenOne of the most common birds in the surrounding countryside is the blackbird and it is always great to see two males fighting in the springtime. This female came rummaging for food and nesting material, of which there is plenty in the garden.

Broody bantamMy flock is doing really well and I continue to get between seven and ten eggs a day. This bantam hen is seriously broody and has been for weeks. I tried every trick to get her out of her broodiness with no success. So I expect I will have to give up on her and let he continue in her broody mood. If you have any suggestions about how I can stop the hen being broody, please leave a comment and let me know. Juat LayingThe other bantam and layer are just in the nest boxes laying … I hope!

The young cock is in his prime now and is lord of all he surveys. He is a fine healthy bird and is full of vigour. If you look closely at his legs, you will see that he has developed quite fearsome spurs, ideal for inflicting severe damage on an opponent. Healthy cockThe older cock steers clear of him at all times, but they seem to have come to some sort of a working arrangement to avoid fighting.

I laugh at the older cock’s trickery in trying to do what cocks do with hens. With the younger cock guarding his ladies, the old boy gets little opportunity to indulge his passion. When he notices that the young lad is away, the old guy takes a run at one of the layers and tries valiantly to have his way with her. Old cockMost of the time he is unsuccessful, sometimes because he can’t catch up with the hen and others because the hen just can’t be bothered to accommodate him. Quite often, the younger cock is not as far away as thought and comes charging up to chase the older lad away. He scurries off chastened and unfulfilled.

I also noticed a few swallows in the air today, which is always lovely to see. I always find it hard to photograph them because they are usually overhead. The sky as a backdrop is inclined to ruin the exposure on the shot. Any hints? Please leave a comment and let me know.

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