Make sure you follow the whole story! 

My first blog about the blackbirds when I confirmed the first hatching at the start of March! I then spent Easter Friday ringing the chicks. Shortly later, I noticed they had been ultra productive blackbirds!

Vince Lea inspecting blackbird nest 3 with mirrorThe chicks from nest three (image right when I first inspected it for eggs in late May) of our pair of blackbirds fledged yesterday. All four eggs hatched and grew well, we ringed the chicks last week on the 28th May, at the stage where the flight feathers were just erupting from the quills, this being the best size to handle the chicks before they get too jumpy but with big enough feet that the ring doesn’t slip down the leg.

These chicks are numbers seven to ten after the first two nests both had three chicks! 

During the last few days, the adult blackbirds have started raiding our cherry tree for the unripe green fruit. Now, I am prepared to share but not if they are going to start on the crop two weeks before me - the tree usually only has a few fruit but this year has hundreds of cherries so we have been looking forward to them! We spent the afternoon netting the tree – not easy with a 12 foot high tree I can tell you

We put a dish of alternative food out for the blackbirds to choose from. Seems that they have good taste, preferring the cheddar cheese to raisins or chicken pellets. With such dry weather, I think they are struggling to find enough worms for themselves and their chicks, so taking green cherries is a sign that things are desperate - I would prefer it if they took the green gooseberries though. The fledged chicks hopped around the garden calling for the adults to bring grubs and other morsels of food for them.

And in between feeding the fledglings, the female started building a new nest next to our strawberry patch… this story is to be continued!

The new nest site is roughly where they built their second nest last year (2019), we didn’t find that nest until the chicks were quite large, on 18th July after we got back from a holiday. That nest must have been started around the end of June.

Their third brood in 2019 fledged some time also while we were away, so we don’t know if they overlapped or were sequential.

Compared to last year, they are about four weeks earlier in completing the third nest attempt/starting the fourth nest attempt, but slightly down on total productivity as clutch sizes have been smaller, with two threes and a four giving a total of 10 chicks; last year’s three nests were three, four and five eggs, a total of 12.

We might have time for them to produce two more broods of three or one exceptional brood of six which is what they would need to do to match last year’s total of 16 fledged chicks but I think both those scenarios are unlikely unless we get a period of substantial rainfall to increase the availability of worms. The BTO have records of clutches of seven eggs and according to one expert nine eggs is possible! 

Dr Vince Lea
Head of Wildlife Monitoring 

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