The Birds in Your Garden


Jill Packenham

I’m sure most of you have noticed more Wrens in your garden this year than for quite a while, perhaps not an unexpected result of several winters without long frosty spells. To confirm this observation, some new BTO research has revealed that Wrens vary in their resilience to winter weather, depending on where in Britain they live. Maybe not too surprisingly they have found that Scottish Wrens are larger than those living in southern Britain, and as a result are more able to survive hard winter frosts.

Perhaps the most extreme UK example is the St Kilda Wren, which is a sub-species of our inland Wren and has only been found on Hirta, Dun, Soay and Boreray islands which lie some 40 miles west of the Outer Hebrides. It is both larger and has a more heavily barred appearance than its mainland cousin.

Altogether there are only a few hundred pairs, making it a great rarity and specimens of the adult birds and their eggs used to be highly prized. The St Kildans themselves even used to gather eggs to sell to collectors. Nowadays they are, of course, fully protected.

Wrens are amongst the UK’s smallest songbirds, and their populations can decline following periods of cold winter weather, due both to the cold itself and to difficulties in finding sufficient insect prey. This new research, in collaboration with the University of East Anglia, shows that Wrens living in regions where winters are more severe have adapted to improve their chances of surviving.

The study used information collected by volunteers participating in the Breeding Bird Survey to show how susceptible Wren populations were to severe winter weather; measured in terms of the number of days with a ground frost. Northern populations were found to be able to cope with winters having up to 70% more frosty days than their southern cousins, showing quite a degree of local adaptation. The results demonstrate how closely adapted Wren populations are to their local climate.

Using information collected by bird ringers, the study also found that Wren body mass was approximately 5% higher in the coldest (eastern Scotland) region than in the warmest (south-western) region. Larger individuals are likely to be favoured in colder parts due to the thermal advantage of larger size and their ability to store more body fat, something that has also been observed in other species of both birds and animals.

The findings of this study add to our understanding of how birds and other species respond to climate change. The work done shows that Wren populations should be able adapt to at least some change in average temperature, and indeed, being short-lived birds they can probably adapt more rapidly than most other species. Ultimately, the ability of any species to cope with climate change will depend upon whether the future rate of warming exceeds their ability to adapt.

Yet again we see that nature can adapt, it always has, but the worry is that the rate of change predicted is so rapid that many, especially longer lived species, simply will not be able to adapt fast enough.

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 (
Mike Gray (


Jill Packenham

Secret Gardens Event – a Great Success

Were you there?  – 280 people were – 21 gardens were open!

sg1Sunday the 14th of August dawned cloudy but warm. It was mercifully windless as all the gazebos were erected in Hall Square for our Secret Garden event. By the time the first people came the tombola tables were laden, the boiler was bubbling on the drink and cake stall and there was a plethora of plants for sale.
By the end of the day nearly 280 people had visited some or all of the 21 gardens and the comments were gratifying. ‘Everyone was so friendly’ and ‘The gardens were so contrasting’ and ‘We had no idea such lovely gardens existed.’ The gardening group at Boroughbridge High School gave time during their summer holiday to open their vegetable garden and to sell their produce. I saw people with rhubarb sticking out of their bags and others delighted to have bought fresh home-grown vegetables.
Brighter Boroughbridge could not have run this event without the help of Boroughbridge Live. They organised so much of it and ensured helpers on the day.
Both organisers would like to thank all the people that gave generously, tombola prizes, plants to sell and scrumptious homemade cakes.
John Goss and the team or ring 01423 323123

Honouring World War 1 Victoria Cross Recipients

On Saturday 1 October, at 11am there will be a service to mark the unveiling of a paving stone for the 100th anniversary of the award of the Victoria Cross to Archie White who was born in Boroughbridge. It is part of a government campaign to honour all First World War VC recipients.

The ceremony will be held at the War Memorial, Hall Square, Boroughbridge YO51 9AN and will be attended by the Lord-Lieutenant, Barry Dodd, several regiments of the Armed Forces, schools, council members, family members, the vicar, Royal British Legion. For more details, please go to  or  see this leaflet on Archie White: The Boroughbridge VC Leaflet

Boroughbridge Short Mat Bowls Club

Boroughbridge Short Mat Bowls Club meets at Coronation Hall on Monday and Thursday evenings 7.15pm – 9.00pm; also, in the winter season, on Wednesday afternoons 2.00pk – 4.00pm The winter season starts on Monday 5th September and we are looking to recruit new members, whether young or not so young, experienced or otherwise, to join us for social bowling, and who knows, maybe play for one of our teams in a league.  Come and give it a try. If you are interested, please contact Barbara Pickles on 01423 324 869

Charity Healthy Coffee Morning

On Wednesday 14th September, there will be a Charity Healthy Coffee Morning held at Glebe Farm, Lower Dunsforth YO26 9RZ, from 9.00am until 12 noon. The event will be raising money for It takes seven for Skin Cancer Research. Treats, nails, holistic massage and much more. Please book in advance 07841 054967.

York Railway Institute Bands

Golden Rail Band - Burnby HallThe three bands of the York Railway Institute, York Railway Institute Band, Golden Rail Band and York RI Development Band, continue to flourish, but are always on the lookout for new players.

York RI Band performs at many prestigious venues such as York Minster, Selby Abbey and Leeds Minster. They also perform in joint ventures with organisations like the famous Prima Vocal Ensemble. One such joint venture occurred last October when the band joined forces with Prima Vocal at York University Central Hall to perform the Karl Jenkins masterpiece “The Armed Man”. York RI Band also perform at a number of Summer engagements in beautiful settings such as Wetherby Bandstand, Howden Minster and the Southport Flower Show.

York RI Development BandThe Golden Rail Band undertake many varied engagements playing in and around the York area and further afield, at venues such as Knaresborough Castle, Boroughbridge Show, Goole Bandstand and Brodsworth Hall. The Development Band also plays at a number of local events.

York RI Band were promoted to Championship Status at the start of 2015 and are now in the same league as the very best bands in the world, such as Black Dyke Band, Brighouse & Rastrick Band, Foden’s Band and Cory Band.  To maintain the standard for the York RI Band to compete at this level requires players of a high quality, who are totally dedicated and committed to the band.

One of the York RI Band players, Ian Scott on Bass Trombone, returned to playing only 2 years ago, following a 22 year retirement. He is now enjoying his playing as much as ever, helping to prove that it’s never too late to return to playing. Anyone thinking of a return to playing might be surprised at how quickly it is possible to return to good standard.

The Golden Rail and Development Bands would also like to recruit new talent. This could be for absolute beginners or again, for returning lapsed players. All three bands provide an instrument and uniform, with free tuition in the Development Band. York RI Band rehearses twice weekly on Monday and Thursday evenings between 8:00 and 10:00. Golden Rail Band rehearses twice weekly on Tuesday evening between 7:00 and 9:00 and on Thursday evening between 6:30 and 8:00. The Development Band rehearse on Wednesday evenings between 6:00 and 6:20 for beginners, 6:20 and 6:40 for level 2 players, 6:40 and 7:00 for level 3 players and 7:00 and 8:15 for the full band.
For more information, please contact:-  Martyn Williams (York RI Band) 0191 227 3287, Les Johnson (Golden Rail Band) 01904 791199 or Pauline Johnson (Development Band) 01904 791199.