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Miranda Hodgson

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Sparrows, and other birds, return to the garden

Posted by Miranda Hodgson on 08 Jun 2012 at 12:58 PM

In February 2011, just over a year ago, I said that there weren’t any sparrows (Passer domesticus) coming to the garden, but that there were plenty of them in gardens on the other side of the green. I wondered if we didn’t have enough plants to attract them and vowed to plant more. I did plant more, lots more, but as luck would have it, nearby neighbours were changing their planting and I acquired several rose plants which are currently sitting in temporary containers in the courtyard before going to new homes. Some of them had aphids on the flower buds and it was during a period of dithering about whether to spray, squish or wait for the ladybirds to turn up and sort it out that the sparrows came to the rescue. Looking out of the window, I noticed movement amongst the stems and foliage of the roses and, to my delight, realised that a male and a female sparrow were carefully picking off all the aphids from the flower buds and leaves. Good birds!

I’ve been thinking about what has changed, because this year we do have sparrows – not in big numbers, granted, but we see them and hear their cheeps and chirps almost every day. They often gather in the top of a large Cotoneaster glacialis, which has been allowed to increase in size with the idea of it providing nectar, fruit and shelter, and cling to the slender upright stems, from where they can see into this garden and also into next door’s. They have discovered the food and water under the Magnolia and also spend time rummaging about the plants in the borders, which are now starting to fill out with a range of shrubs and herbaceous perennials.



 The north-facing border, just starting to fill out in May


Indeed, as plants have been added, we’ve seen a noticeable increase in birds and insects in the garden. The flowers bring in the insects and the insects bring in the birds. A pair of song thrushes and a pair of mistle thrushes, on the lawn, all at the same time! Blackbirds, sparrows, robins, gold finches, dunnocks, bluetits, greattits, coaltits, green finches, chaffinches, doves, pigeons, jackdaws, not to mention the great spotted woodpeckers who nested in the old cherry tree this spring – they’re all finding the garden and coming back for more. To look out on all that life feels so delightful it’s hard to describe it, so I must borrow a quote from E.M. Forster and say that ‘At the side of the everlasting why, is a yes, and a yes, and a yes!’.



 The south-facing border, just getting started in May.


sue1002 said:

That's a lovely selection of birds visiting the garden :)

on 08 Jun 2012 at 02:27 PM

EvaInNL said:

Gosh that's a lovely border you have there! Even nicer knowing the benefits it provides to your local wildlife, and sparrows can do with a bit of nurturing poor things. Numbers are still in decline I believe.

on 08 Jun 2012 at 05:10 PM

Miranda Hodgson said:

Thanks, Sue and Eva. It's wonderful to see the birds in the garden and we really appreciate it.

Thanks Eva, that border is actually more colourful now and if it wasn't blowing such a hoolie, I'd have taken a new picture. Will do that when the wind drops!

on 08 Jun 2012 at 05:25 PM

Anonymous said:

Hi Miranda.  It's so refreshing to read your posts. If only more people ccould or would share their thoughts, feelings and delights about not just the garden, but also the wonderful world that opens up within our gardens.  Sad to say.  Some eight to ten years ago.  The house sparrow virtually disappeared from my locality. Close to Eltham Palace.  Perhaps modern building practices were to blame. The under eaves of properies being block in.  Nesting sites for sparrows and starlings being destroyed. My late wife and I often would sit and listen to the chirps and chatters of our loft dwellers.  We then also began to notice that the Magpie population was increasing.  As mentioned in a PM.  The Jays are also becoming regular visitors to my garden.  To sum up.  My faithful feathered little friends include.  The odd house sparrow, [first mentioned in the Bible.  The odd Dunnock.  Greenfinch, the odd Goldfinch and Chaffinch.  The glorious Blackbird. No opera singer will ever out-sing this little creature.  Blue tits, coal tits, great tits and longtailed tits. Robins.  Also Goldcrests and Firecrests.These both being smaller than the Wren.  Yes, that sweet singing lillte Wren is also a frequent visitor. Miranda.  Please continue to share your garden with us.


on 08 Jun 2012 at 10:25 PM

richardpeeej said:

I always enjoy reading your nature articles Miranda. I have noticed a drop in the sparrows too in our garden and more recently have noticed that there are not so many starlings either.

on 09 Jun 2012 at 01:20 PM

Miranda Hodgson said:

Thank you Mike and Richard. I forgot to put wrens on the list, though we hear them more often than we see them.

Talking to my dad yesterday and he said they don't have any sparrows. We couldn't figure out why, as they are in a rural village and have a good-sized, well-stocked, organic garden. Strange, isn't it.

on 10 Jun 2012 at 01:08 PM