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Discover more about the blackbird

Discover more about the blackbird

Another couple of weeks have shot by in the Abbey and it has again been varied and unpredictable weather wise. On 23rd February we were visited by Storm Doris, and although it was indeed very windy we escaped the full brunt of the storm and so we luckily did not receive any damage to the trees in the grounds save from a few twigs coming down.

The snowdrops are all now... finished and will return next year, daffodils are still not quite in full bloom but hopefully that will change soon. Lesser celandine is now becoming more prominent and the primroses and aconite are still flowering. Tree buds are making the presence shown especially on the malus in the wildlife area and the magnolia, the weeping willow next to the duck pond is starting to change into it's spring and summer plumage of a beautiful hue of green.

Birds are still pairing up and territorial disputes continue as do courtship displays amongst the smaller birds and displaying buzzards and ravens have been seen overhead. Winter thrushes (redwing and fieldfare) have now definitely left us and none have been observed for a few weeks. By far the dominant species in the Abbey at the moment is the blackbird and I thought I would just mention a bit about this iconic birds habits and lifestyle.

The common blackbird (Turdus merula) is a member of the thrush family and is surely one of our most recognisable British birds, present in almost every garden in the UK with an unmistakable song that for many heralds the coming of spring. It is thought that there are more than six million pairs in the United Kingdom and it is the third most populous bird in our isles only just behind chaffinch and wren.

We have a very healthy population in the abbey and it is almost impossible not to see at least one or two on any visit to the grounds whatever the weather may be or time of year. The male blackbird is almost unmistakable with a glossy black sheen, a bright orange bill and eye-ring, the female is less conspicuous being a dull chocolatey brown with a slightly paler brown breast and throat. Blackbirds average in length of about 24-25cm and are a good benchmark to use in comparison with other birds to get a general idea of size. They build a nest of grass, straw, small twigs and other plant material which is then plastered on the inside with mud and fine grass creating a rather deep cup and it is quite a substantial structure. Usually two broods of chicks are reared each year with the average clutch size being of between 3 and 5 eggs.

The blackbird's song of which I am sure most of you will know is a rich melodious tune that consists of several phrases with a short interval in-between, it is quite often able to identify individual birds from their song as they are sometimes very distinct from one another with some individuals preferring to repeat certain phrases. It is one of the most recognisable bird songs of the British avifauna and indeed when Vera Lynn informed us that “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square” it was most likely a blackbird or robin as nightingales have never been recorded in central London.

Blackbirds mostly feed on invertebrates such as worms, snails, larvae and other insects along with berries and other fruits. So there we are the common blackbird.

That covers just about everything for this fortnight, so again until next time have fun out there and keep reporting anything you think might be of interest to us..... Just one last thing, still no butterflies, which is frustrating! But, you never know I might have something to report next time, all we need is a couple of dry and warm days (ever the optimist).

Mark Huntington.



Added: 9th March 2017