Benefits of Feeding Garden Birds

I suspect that most people get a lot of pleasure from feeding the birds in their gardens, as I do. It’s something around a third of us are involved in, usually on a regular basis, and on which we spend rather more than £200 million a year; a serious amount of money!

Siskins enjoying some sunflower hearts. (M Gray)

Siskins enjoying some sunflower hearts. (M Gray)

Inevitably such a phenomenon has attracted the attention of various social research groups who are interested in finding out why we do it and what the benefits might be. A recent article in the BTO’s Garden BirdWatch magazine Bird Table caught my attention, and I decided to have a read around the subject and see what I could find out.

You’ll not be surprised to hear that different people find different aspects of watching garden birds attractive. For some it is just movement and life in the garden – it’s the number of birds attracted rather than the species that matter. For others it’s looking for something different to tick off on their personal list, and it’s certainly true that the more you look the more you see. Certainly there are many occasions on which a particular bird is only in the garden for a matter of seconds: if you’re not looking at that moment you don’t see it. That in turn makes you wonder what else you might be missing – an addictive circle of curiosity thus forms!

Either way, it would seem that being out in the garden with birds all around you, or just sitting watching them visiting feeders and doing the things that birds do, reduces stress levels and improves mental health and general well-being.

But which birds are our favourites? There seems to be a spectrum, from Magpies and Sparrowhawks which many people hate, to Blackbirds and Robins, the latter crowned as our unofficial favourite, which almost everybody loves, possibly because they interact most closely with us, via Sparrows and Starlings which elicit mixed feelings, being boisterous, noisy and often greedy.

Apparently too, those birds we can name give us more pleasure and have a stronger beneficial effect on our well-being. (Do I hear a chorus of “how on earth do they work that one out” at this point?) Anecdotally it is also claimed that the knowledge needed to identify even many of our better known species is declining. This has a bearing on activities such as the annual Great Garden Bird Watch where anything small and brown is a sparrow – the wee brown jobbies as Billy Connelly probably never called them. Maybe bird recognition should go on the national curriculum!

Another aspect of all this feeding is the effect it has on the birds themselves. Our neighbours in Europe have quite a different take on feeding birds, a matter I’ll come back to in a future article. But there is clear evidence in a BTO study of Blackcap migration using Garden BirdWatch data, which shows that a combination of climate change and garden feeding has caused the majority of German Blackcaps to overwinter in southern England instead of around the Mediterranean as they used to. I’m far from sure that human activities which change the habits of supposedly wild birds can be called positive.

Nevertheless, I hope that you will continue to enjoy your garden birds!

If you find the lives of our garden birds to be of interest, and would like to join in and count the feathered occupants of your garden, please contact me or visit the BTO Garden BirdWatch website (www.bto.org/gbw). If you know of a local organisation who would like a talk on garden birds call: Mike Gray 07596 366342 or gbwmike@gmail.com

Brighter Boroughbridge Striving to make a Difference!

The judges’ comment after the Yorkshire in Bloom Spring judging arrived at the end of May. They have awarded us Silver gilt, just one step below gold!

DSCN0121Everyone who helped should be delighted and the town should be proud of them.
Since the judging we have had a seat installed beside the memorial rose garden and it was sponsored by Charlton’s of Boroughbridge. (Now has its brass plaque in place since the photo was taken). New wooden flowers, from Jennyruth Workshop, have been erected in the circles at Stump Cross, each bearing a bee which is Brighter Boroughbridge’s theme for this year.
Now it is time to try for that elusive gold award in the Summer but we will need help to do this. We were hoping to show the Millennium Garden in the grounds of the Primary school and we have been weeding and planting. We are also working towards a wild meadow area to be finished by the end of June. Our work in that garden is constantly being vandalised, rubbish, concrete blocks, wooden pallets and a chair have had to be removed. This garden is very large and everyone should enjoy it. So we ask the youths that are doing this to please build their dens away from the gate and area we are trying to improve.
If you are able to help, please send an e-mail to John, john@gossonline.co.uk or telephone him on 01423 323123

The Collared Dove

Drab, boring, alien, ubiquitous. These are four words that have been used to describe the Collared Dove, notwithstanding which they have been part of a fascinating story of natural colonisation from India across Europe to the UK. Ubiquitous it is not though, as continued declines in the Garden Birdwatch counts demonstrate.

Now one of the commonest birds in Britain, it first bred here in Cromer in Norfolk in 1955 having arrived via Turkey and the Middle East in the 1930s.

The Collared Dove is smaller and more delicate than a Woodpigeon. It is creamy grey-buff with a black half collar on the back of its neck (in adults). The typical call is a clear and persistent three note coo-COO-coo, plus a harsh loud screeching call lasting about two seconds, just before landing. Their cooing in early spring is sometimes mistaken for that of early-arriving cuckoos and, as such, a mistaken sign of spring’s return.

The spread of Collared Doves across the United Kingdom was very rapid. Following that first report in 1955 they were found breeding in Kent and Lincolnshire in 1957, also being seen as far north as Scotland. Two years later Ireland was colonised, and by 1970 there were probably 25,000 pairs in Britain and Ireland. The BTO Common Birds Census revealed a five-fold increase in their population between 1972 and 1996.

Collared Doves are bigger than Blackbirds and so are quite conspicuous, meaning that they are popular with predators, often being taken by cats and Sparrowhawks.

As an aside, they have very dusty feathers leading to fantastically detailed prints when they fly into a window. They often show every detail of the individual feathers, the beak and even the eyelids, and are best viewed against a dark surface, and can easily be photographed. If not cleaned off the window they can last for several months, as the dust is oily and quite sticky.

There is little evidence available relating to the drivers of their spread but they seem to have been able to fill an empty niche by exploiting the intermittent seed resources available both in gardens and elsewhere.

The collared dove is not migratory, but is strongly dispersive. Over the last century, it has been one of the great colonisers of the bird world, travelling far beyond its native range to colonise colder countries, becoming a permanent resident in several. Its original range at the end of the 19th century was subtropical Asia. In 1838 it was reported in Bulgaria, spreading across Europe to the Balkans between 1900–1920, and then rapidly northwest, reaching Germany in 1945.

Collared Doves typically breed close to human habitation where food resources are abundant and there are trees for nesting. They are monogamous and share parental duties when caring for their young. They are regular visitor to bird tables, and large populations are found around farms with grain stores, or where livestock are fed. They are gregarious and form sizeable winter flocks where there are food supplies such as grain and seeds, shoots and insects. Flocks most commonly number between ten and fifty, but up to ten thousand have been recorded.

The male’s mating display is a ritual flight, which, as with many other pigeons, consists of a rapid, near-vertical climb followed by a long circular glide downward, with wings held below the body in an inverted “V” shape. At all other times, flight is typically direct using fast, clipped wing beats without gliding.

If you find the lives of our garden birds to be of interest, and would like to join in and count the feathered occupants of your garden, please contact me or visit the BTO Garden BirdWatch website (www.bto.org/gbw). If you know of a local organisation who would like a talk on garden birds call: Mike Gray 07596 366342 or gbwmike@gmail.com.

If you go down to the locks today…

You’re in for a nice surprise! The footpath down the riverbank to Milby Lock has never looked better. This is all thanks to the ‘Milby Island Improvement Project’, led by Charlie Merson, a resident of Milby. The project has the backing of local parish councils, the Canal and River Trust and Newby Hall, owners of the land.

While Charlie continues to spend a huge amount of his own time and effort on clearing the undergrowth and flood debris, using his tractor and ‘topper’, he occasionally organises days when volunteers can come along to help. Saturday 3 June was one such day and the turnout of volunteers was very heartening, showing just how much this riverside walk is appreciated by local people. It is one of the greatest assets of the Boroughbridge area and needs maintaining.  Its long-term maintenance is what the project is all about and one of its principal objectives is to reverse the spread of Himalayan balsam. This highly invasive plant grows to eight feet in height by midsummer, obliterating all other indigenous plant life as well as the views across the river.  As a result of the work by Charlie and the volunteers last week new vistas have opened up down to the riverside and across to the other bank and whole swathes of the Himalayan balsam have been cut back or pulled out. But this sort of work needs to be done on a fairly regular basis to prevent the balsam from re-growing and then seeding, so one problem facing the project is how to keep up the momentum.

Photos in issue 52 of LUN show some of last Saturday’s enthusiastic volunteers toiling in the heat, but enjoying every minute!
Any one of you can help, however, by just pulling up a few balsam plants by the root as you walk along the riverbank. It comes up very easily if you pull steadily and slowly by clutching the stem near ground level.  Just discard it to one side and it will rot away nicely.
Do not confuse the invasive Himalayan balsam with the even taller Giant Hogweed. By late summer the latter can reach twelve feet in height. Please see the photos in issue 52 of LUN to help you identify the plants. On Milby Island the Canal and River Trust are taking steps to eradicate this dangerous plant but it is important that anyone coming across it does not touch it since the resulting skin rash can be extremely severe. The giant hogweed is a greater problem on the opposite river bank (the Aldborough side) where it appears to be spreading unchecked.

The date of the next volunteers’ workday will be advertised on notices at either end of the Milby Island walk.Martin Rae, Kirby Hill and District Parish Council (322886)

Queen’s Award for PhysioNet

Local charitable organisation PhysioNet has been selected as a recipient for The Queen’s Award for Voluntary Service 2017. This award was created by The Queen in 2002 to mark the occasion of her Golden Jubilee, recognising excellence in voluntary activities carried out by groups in the community. It is the MBE for volunteer groups.

PhysioNet provides disabled people in developing countries with vital equipment they cannot find or afford, supplying a wide range of disability aids with life-transforming effects.  PhysioNet is based in Lower Dunsforth, and has support centres in East Anglia, Lancashire, South East and the West Country. It was established in 2005 with the aim of providing physiotherapy and mobility equipment for the disabled in developing countries.

During the last few years, the organisation has sent 46 forty foot shipping containers, or the truck equivalent, packed with aids for the disabled, to 21 countries around the world.

The work of Physionet was very much admired by the independent Assessment Committee, chaired by Sir Martyn Lewis CBE, and represents a tremendous achievement. The organisation’s details will be included in a special edition of The London Gazette and they will be presented with a signed certificate from Her Majesty The Queen by the Lord Lieutenant of North Yorkshire. It also means, by using the QAVS logo, that Physionet can hopefully attract significant funding from the large charitable trusts to help expand the operation.

David Kaye, Chairman, said “I am extremely proud of us receiving this award and thank all those volunteers who work quietly in the background to help us achieve so much, packing at the depot, travelling the length and breadth of Britain collecting equipment, loading containers and giving presentations to voluntary and support organisations. Thanks also to the Trustees, past and present, for guiding PhysioNet to where it is today, to our supporters for choosing us as a worthy cause for their donations and to healthcare professionals around the country who find time in their busy lives to make sure their redundant equipment comes to us and not the scrap man. Lastly, and by no means not least, thanks go to Peter Thompson whose persistence and perseverance has resulted in his concept achieving this great honour”.

There were eleven awards across the whole of Yorkshire. Of these, PhysioNet is the only “International” charity, as all of its beneficiaries are overseas.

Minskip Midsummer Family Fete

MinskipFeteCome and join us for a great family afternoon at Minskip Midsummer Family Fete! In aid of St John’s Church, Minskip. Lunch – Barbecue, Salads & Pudding. Children’s Games, Auction of promises, Live Music from The Palm Court Dance Orchestra, Treasure Hunt, Stalls & Bar. Children’s Fancy Dress – Prizes! Tombola. Old photos of Minskip on display. Adults £10, Children £5 (Under 5’s free). Family of 4 £25. For tickets, call 01423 323939 or 01423 322712.

Coast to Coast Ride helps LUN

coastMany thanks to K.J. Pugh for raising funds for Lower Ure News on his Coast to Coast ride. Over three days, K.J. cycled with seven men from Boroughbridge across Lancashire, over the top of the Pennines, and across the Vale of York to the North Yorkshire coast. The ride is over, but you can still sponsor a section. With 13 days left on the Just Giving page, let’s see if we can reach our ambitious £600 goal! You can see how it’s going on the Just Giving page here: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/LowerUreNews

Easter Walking Festival

Myton 3

The walking group outside Myton Hall

Over 350 people enjoyed nine walks during the fifth Boroughbridge Walkers Are Welcome Easter Walking Festival.

The festival had a mixture of weather, but heavy rain on Easter Sunday morning did not deter people from the Marton-le-Moor Parish Walk, which provides an opportunity to look at the area’s past.

Organisers added a map reading training event to the festival for the first time, combined with a short three-mile circuit around Kirby Hill and Langthorpe. Attendance was not high, but there was good feedback from those who took part.

The sun shone for the ever-popular Myton-on-Swale and Battle of Myton Walk on Easter Monday with the temptation of an excellent tea at the end drawing in 75 people. The tea raised £300 for St Mary’s church at Myton.

This four-mile circular walk starts with a brief history of Myton’s Grade II* listed church, which was built in the 13th century, before walkers went to look at Myton Hall, styled on a French chateau, which was the seat of the Staypleton family from around 1693 and more recently the home of the late Sir Ken Morrison.

Nick Ramsden, who owns Myton Stud Farm with his brother Nigel, gave walkers an insight into agriculture on the 1,100-acre estate bought by their grandfather in 1933. It once employed around 30 people but today it is run by three.

The Stud Farm, where trotting ponies were bred, was built in 1870 and has been painstakingly restored. It is part of the Home Farm, which was designed in accordance with plans exhibited at the great Exhibition of 1851. Today the farmland is managed with the interests of wildlife as one of its priorities.

Myton 10

Irene Robinson speaking about the restoration of Myton-on-Swale Bridge and the battle in 1319

The walk ended at the bridge over the River Swale, close to where the Battle of Myton was fought on September 20th, 1319. Irene Robinson, one of the leaders of the successful campaign to have the bridge restored, spoke about that project and gave details of the battle between forces led by the Archbishop of York, William Melton, and Scots raiders under the command of James Douglas and Thomas Randolph.

Three new routes were well received with The Rabbit Hill Walk proving popular with people who wanting a slightly longer, more challenging afternoon, with the opportunity to explore little know valleys to the east of the A168 leading to Marton-cum-Grafton.

Group chairman Barry MacCallum said “Thanks to support from Boroughbridge Chamber of Trade and sponsorship by local businesses, the event gave the town a festive air – particularly with shop windows dressed for the Easter Bonnets competition and treasure hunt clues.”

He also thanked the Hightimers amateur dramatics group for organising the Ghost walk, the Friends of Roman Aldborough for giving a guided tour on the Roman Ramble and the Boroughbridge Lions for stewarding.

Treasure Hunt Winner

treasurehuntHow’s this for a happy little face? Emma’s family won the Town Centre Treasure Hunt at last week’s Boroughbridge & Lower Ure Valley, Walkers are Welcome Easter Walking Festival. They come from Selby so great to see that the Festival is achieving its aim of attracting “out of towners” to our lovely home! Emma’s prize was a hamper full of goodies from a number of shops in the town and it was an absolute joy to see how happy it made her to receive it.

The hamper was made up with kind contributions from Baileys of Boroughbridge, Boroughbridge Hardware, K&G Farrers, ThinkFink, Gilchrists Family Bakers and Tearoom, Issima, Pybus Newsagents and Sweet FINK, but thank you to all the traders in the town who helped to mark the festival throughout the weekend.

From Boroughbridge Chamber of Trade @ChamberOfTradeBoroughbridge