The "chattering classes" are back in Dulwich - in my garden, at any rate. They were targeting sunflower seeds in a hanging feeder, chirping away as they played what looked like a game of perch-swapping Musical Twigs.
But were “our” house sparrows really back or was this a false dawn? The prognosis wasn’t good. House sparrows, once a common sight to Londoners, were last year listed, for the first time, on the UK’s Biodiversity Action Plan as being in urgent need of special protection. Luckily, this noisy, healthy-looking young trio of visitors had breeding potential. I was determined to put all available experts‘advice into action to encourage them to go forth and multiply. I was “ticking all the right boxes“, including the category marked nest boxes. Yet a state-of-the-art artificial sparrow terrace (sparrows are highly sociable) made of pulped wood chippings and concrete on the front of our house had remained as resolutely unoccupied as a Dulwich Park Park-Keepers’ lodge, despite the fact that it was only inches away from the below-eaves entrance to a(pre-loft-conversation)sparrow nursery in the roof space.
By the time of the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) Big Garden Birdwatch the following January, I knew that my regular house sparrow grouping had swelled to a regular six-some (although they unobligingly failed to materialise all at the same time in order to qualify for an official recording that weekend). So maybe the bumping up of the bird-feeding regime, making it all-year-round, increasing the number of feeders to three, plus widening the variety of contents to include a special high-energy, no-husks mix from the start of nest-building through to the end of spring had helped?
It was not until I found myself having to raise my voice to counter the racket coming from the pittisporum close to the back of the house, that I realised, last summer, that there was indeed a colony of some considerable size now “hanging out” in my garden.
For the benefit of those among you who would also like to help reverse the alarming trend of house sparrow decline, I have noted the three things which may have contributed to this recent improvement: