Daily Archives: March 11, 2011


Harsh Winter for Wrens by Garth

The winter at the end of 2010 was a  particularly harsh one, starting very early with the first snow on the 26th Nov and the cold spell continuing through most of Dec. On nine days in this period the max at Old Storridge never got above 0C with some night temperatures dropping to -10C.

These conditions put a great strain on the resident birds especially those with the least body mass such as the wren. 

A timely reminder from a resident of Birchwood Lane, just a ten minute walk through the woods, encouraged us to see a phenomena not observed very often. During the last winter he had observed a number of wrens going to roost in a bird box attached to one corner upright of an open barn used as a workshop, and claimed there were at least twenty entering the box. On the evening of the 19th Dec with the daily maximum having only reached -3C that day, I met my sister Cherry  and her husband to see how this activity actually works.

In snowy conditions I arrived at the box at around 3 40pm with no birds to be seen and thought it was too late and they all must be in as it was so cold.

By 3 55 three pairs of eyes were studying the box, when the first wren arrived, hung about for a bit and then went in only to reappear again as if to say I am not going to be the first! This was repeated a few times by more wrens, which had started to arrive. By 4 10 just a few had stayed inside, but others kept on arriving and continuing with this in and out action.

By nature this bird cannot be called a social bird, setting up territories in the spring and defending them against other male wrens, so this winter gathering has to overcome this part of their make up. It is an ingenious scheme all huddling together in a sheltered area, through long cold nights, saving on the loss of body heat. The speculation is how did this evolve?

The numbers going into the box continued to be monitored with the figure rising steadily, but dropping back still as a few birds kept coming out.

The figure of 20 was soon passed and then 30, which we thought quite unbelievable in one normal sized bird box. A figure of 40 was then reached, with more wrens still arriving by the minute and queuing up around the site, so it was speculated we might even reach 50! At 4 30 things went very quiet so the observation was terminated. It is true to say that 50 wrens were seen to go in but two came out at the end and went elsewhere, leaving still an incredible figure of 48 all tucked up warmly inside.

It is also a remarkable fact that there were still so many wrens still alive in the surrounding district with the inclement conditions.

Since this number could not all be living closely around the site, some birds must have flown in quite a distance from their territory. The last question of course is just how all these birds get to know that there is a wren Hilton, where they all gather for the night? Memory must work quite well as it was used last year, but how did all those youngsters from this year cotton on to this fact?

It was a magical 45 minutes watching the wrens performing their going to bed actions, which must be taking place night after night in this long period of intense cold.

Garth   Dec 2010


Isn’t that a magical story.  Amazing.  Garth has been really thoughtful in his writing.

How did the young birds from this year know what to do

How did all the wrens know where there was a warm, safe place to roost

Which area did they all come from as they would not have been together during the day in a small area


Thank you so much Garth.  I apologise for not putting this on before, but the winter was harsh which made more work and I had computer problems and I did not see it until just now. 

It must have been magical for you to be so close to nature.  I can picture it in my head, you write about it so well.

Thank you

If you think this is an amazing story please leave a comment for Garth




Trisha’s Home Site Jottings

 I thought I would make a few home jottings.  This will not just be about birds, but about how these garden birds have become a part of my life every day.

I have been having back ache, neck ache and headache recently.  It is worse in a morning and leaves me really tired.  I can hear the birds chirpping outside the window and I can see them all pecking at the empty feeders – so I  stop thinking about my aches and pains and I turn out and feed them.  I hope they appreciate it.

One blackbird swoops down to the floor of the bush where I put some bird food.  It swoops down just before I put bird food there and looks at me from inside the bush.

I have been trying to find out what is causing this pain in my head, neck and back.  I sometimes get a light headed feeling.  I have read so many books and seen  helpful people.   Some of the possible reasons could be  –

  •  low blood sugar  can be a cause of ‘dizzyness among other things, 
  • spondylosis is wear and tear of the bones, 
  • I just happened to see a leaflet at my dentist about ‘ Jaw problems and Headaches’ and oddly I feel that could be a reason.  It seems jaw problems can be linked to headaches.
  • Change of bed can be a reason

But through all this I have filled feeders, cleaned bird tables, tried to keep pheasants out of the garden, thrown kitchen scraps out to the garden birds and kept this corner of the garden just for them!

I feel better now and hopefully will be hopping and skipping about tomorrow.

The neck, back and headache problems have been one reason I haven’t written on Bird Table News as much and why I have not put another Bird Table Newsletter together .  Computers do not go with back, neck and headache problems do they?



Hi everyone,,I am new here and have thoroughly enjoyed reading all your comments. I am really enjoying feeding the birds in the garden and have blue tits,great tits,long tail tits,coal tits along with gold finches,green finches,chaffinces and a black cap along with others. But after seeing a sparrowhawk fly over a few times 2 weeks ago,,the little birds seem to have .  dwindles drastically. Today for instance I think I saw 2 siskins,2 goldfinches and 1 robin and that was my lot. Is the sparrow hawk the cause of this,and will they return? I do so hope so. Thanks for reading my comment,,hope you can help me.


Hi  Brenda,  Pleased you are enjoying the comments from everyone.  Welcome

You do have a lot of birds – blue tits,great tits,long tail tits,coal tits along with gold finches,green finches,chaffinches and a black cap plus more. 

Yes, I do think it will be the sparrowhawk that is keeping the birds away.  Better they stay away than be attacked.

Songbird Survival  http://www.songbird-survival.org.uk/ is a good website to look at.  Part of what they are doing is researching why Sparrowhawks are increasing in number.  They need as much help and support as they can get.

Where birds gather round birdtables you will often get sparrowhawks gathering there as well.  I suppose it is nature that birds gather where there is food.  Garden birds gather at our feeders and Sparrowhawks gather to catch the birds.

There are things you can do – feed in a caged feeder is one.  Put food inside a prickly hedge is another as Sparrowhawks will not risk damaging their feathers by going inside a spiky hedge.

I hope the sparrowhawk goes and the birds come back.  Let us know what happens.