The general trend in recent years is for the mean egg laying date of most birds getting earlier and earlier. This trend is believed to be caused by climate change, with warmer weather allowing for better food availability earlier in the season. Last year's warm, wet winter provided almost no frosts at all in Sussex, leading to a particularly early breeding season, an anomaly that was opposite to the breeding season of 2013, where a cold winter which held on until April led to very late broods. To give you an example; according to data from the BTO's Nest Record Scheme, the 2013 average laying date for Blue Tits was 12.3 days late (relative to the average from the previous five years) whereas it was 5.9 days early in 2014. It will certainly be interesting to see how 2015 sits in the table, with what has been a typical British winter, laced with cold snaps and warmer periods alike.
The Bullfinches, which had been resident for so long here recently, have moved on, as well as the Treecreeper which hasn't been spotted for a while either. The Goldcrests however are frequent visitors, often spending a long time searching for food in and around the yew tree over the road.
Still the Siskins remain a 'no-show', with just one male turning up on my feeders at home (Staplecross) on a few occassions between late Feb and early March.
On the 27th February we had our highest count ever of Buzzards as 8 graced the blue skies together. The pair of Kestrels have been bonding and inspecting the nesting site in the Church where they have nested in previous years, though we're not sure what stage they are currently at. It's most likely they haven't laid any eggs yet. One Blackbird was spotted this morning collecting nesting material, they are one of the earliest 'garden birds' to breed. We haven't heard them singing yet, though I'm sure they may well have started in the warmer climes of towns and cities. The Chaffinches have certainly started singing, their colours becoming increasing bold too as they attempt to lure a female. As the temperature progressively increases, the feeders begin to quieten down, though there is still a fair amount of activity, especially with the good size charm of Goldfinches. Here's a composite photograph put together with a few snaps of the same feeder in use in our Nature Area.
Just to follow up on the Blue Tit with a deformed beak (see post) spotted on the 27th January, the same bird was back again yesterday afternoon in the Nature Area unfortunately looking a little worse for wear.
Allan had a rather amazing Blue Tit in his garden on the 17th Feb, with a curved lower mandible and highly elongated, decurved upper mandible crossing over. This particular bird looked in pretty good nick given its condition but how it continued to feed one can only imagine!