Our Local Songthrushes

We were delighted when, in late February, our thrushes which had been with us all winter, selected the top of a trellis on the patio to construct their first nest. We soon named them the Barratts because, like the building company of the same name, they had the ability to build a house very quickly and in the most unexpected place.

 Material was effortlessly garnered locally and the whole thing was plastered out with mud in no time. And then we just didn’t see them for a week until they began sitting on four eggs. The hen laid an egg a day and began to sit on the fourth day. They seem to keep well clear of the nest when laying and when it is not their turn to sit.

 It wasn’t possible to differentiate between the sexes but it seemed that both shared nest building and sitting responsibilities. They accepted all our activities taking place immediately below them on a well used patio and cocked an ear or eye when we frequently spoke to them. Flash photography, night lights and several large dogs held no fear for them.

 After two and a half weeks they began feeding young but also sitting for considerable periods of time. When feeding the young they would not leave the nest until one of the nestlings elevated his tail end to eject a faecal sac which was consumed by the parent. This continued until they left the nest with very few droppings not accounted for by the parents.

 After 10 days 3 enormous and one small bittern-like beaks would be thrust towards the soffitt board above their heads as one of the parent birds arrived with food. We implored the parents to feed the significantly smaller one but we needn’t have worried as all 4 survived.

 Small worms seemed to form a large part of the diet but the need to fill 4 hungry youngsters drove the parents to clean up after 8 messy puppies and once one parent finished up inside our kitchen and dining room. As the nestlings turned into fledglings the larger ones would pop out of a now bulging nest to preen and practise flying. And so, on Easter Monday, less than 3 weeks after they had hatched, 3 of the 4 were gone followed a little later in the day by the fourth and we have not seen them since.

 Last year a pair of song thrushes, maybe these same two, built 3 nests and in fact, commenced construction of the second nest before the first brood had left the nest. This year’s nest was virtually ruined and I knew that they wouldn’t reuse it in any case because of parasites so I removed it hoping they would use the same site.

 However, they decided to build in a nearby cupressus hedge but some time later a commotion in the garden announced the raiding of the nest by a magpie. A couple of days later my song thrushes built a second nest on top of the trellis and they are now happily sitting on four more eggs. It always amazes me that birds can fairly quickly produce more eggs should they lose a clutch for whatever reason.

Andrew Brown

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