IN our front garden we have a Scarlet Firethorn bush – the proper name is a Pyracantha Orange glow.
It is a thorny bush, about twelve feet high, and in the late summer it flowers with a plethora of small orange berries.
Nothing remarkable about that, of course.
But we have been in this house for a dozen years now, and that bush has, up until the last couple of years, been a target for sparrows. More than a target, a meeting place.
On some days in the past, the bush has been a virtual Picadilly Circus of birds. The bush has wobbled and shivered, packed full to the brim of little brown and grey sparrows, chirping away, flying off, but then nipping back to sit and chatter, or feed.
The bush has seemed almost to be alive sometimes, with so many sparrows nestling in it. Some have flown up to have a bath in our gutters, and then shot back again.
But the sparrows have gone.
Not all of them, but now the bush is empty, silent, still. One or two still appear, appearing in pairs to settle and gossip and feed. But never a huge throng of them like there used to be.
Where have all the sparrows gone?
The RSPB on their website say that this is not a new phenomenon. The sparrow population in the UK has been declining for some years now. The reason is apparently that the lack of insect prey during the breeding season has been preventing house sparrows raising healthy young.
Many gardens have been lost under concrete and decking, many hedges and bushes which provided shelter for sparrows have gone and replaced by low maintenance fencing.
The increasing use of garden chemicals has also been a problem for wildlife.
In short, there is not enough food out there, and not enough shelter.
What to do? The RSPB say if you can make sure that your house and garden provides ‘suitable nesting sites, safe roosting places in trees, climbers and hedges, insect food through the summer, seed food through the year but especially over winter as well as places to drink and dust bathe, hopefully you will be able to tempt your house sparrows back in time.’
So there you go. Get those bird feeders out, cut down on the insect repellent – and leave that hedge there!
I want mine back. The place is too quiet without them.