Where have all the sparrows gone?
House Sparrows have been a most welcome neighbour throughout history for many of us, whether we live in large cities or more rural environments such as our own. But over recent years this dainty ‘little brown job’ has suffered declines, even in those habitats where they have thrived on our feeding stations and nesting features in our house.
More modern housing permits no such access for nesting and gardens are becoming smaller, or non-existent, driving down the numbers of this chattering friend of ours. But to what extent, and where, and what, if anything, can be done to help them? This is what Wild Maidenhead and WildCookham hope to establish through our House Sparrow survey.
Over the last two years we have been gathering as much information as we can from residents across the Borough, essentially finding out where House Sparrows are still in good numbers and breeding, but even more importantly, where they seem to have disappeared. In these latter locations we will next look to see what might be done to re-establish them. This might include encouraging more feeding stations, or the installation of suitable nest boxes.
To date we have been given no less than 517 lines of information from our 40 or so contributors. This has enabled TVERC (the Thames Valley Environmental Records Centre) to create a map of the hotspots for the species which in turn shows us the areas less occupied. Lockdown has of course restricted how much legwork we could add this year so far but there is still a lot readers can do to help. For example, we have very few records for the whole of Cookham Dean; but surely there must be some up there? If you know of any, please email us (to firstname.lastname@example.org).
Equally, many will have seen fluttering youngsters attending food stations with their parents, begging for food (as if they were incapable of feeding themselves!) Do let us know counts at your feeders, and any evidence of young. But many will now be preparing for their second brood. A sign of this is the male sitting alongside the gutter entrance or tile opening in which the nest is sited, and he will be uttering a constant high pitched ‘chirrup’ on and off throughout the day. Please report any such experiences on your house or a neighbour’s to email@example.com.
Let us work together to improve the lot of this iconic garden friend. And, if you're interested in getting involved in this or other surveys, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.