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Part 9 - The Song Thrush and the Treecreeper

Song Thrush – Turdus philomelos

Having only been in Kingston for 11 years, it’s impossible for me to know how far - or even whether - the dramatic decline in the numbers of song thrushes that has taken place nationally in the last quarter of a century or so has been reflected here. My impression, anyway, is that we still have healthy numbers: I counted eight singing males on 17 January on my daily and hour-long morning dog walk from Bramleys, up to the Downs via The Avenue and back via The Street, all but one of these in gardens. But the sad fact is that thrushes have become almost a rarity in some parts of the country and it hardly seems credible now that only a couple of generations ago, this bird heavily outnumbered that other great songster, the blackbird. Whether poisons in slug pellets are responsible in whole or part for the loss of so many of these wonderful birds is still not known but it seems sensible to adopt the precautionary approach and not to use them while any doubts remain. Certainly, I would rather suffer a few holes in my dahlias than take any chances.

This is a good time of the year to listen out for thrushes since few other species are in voice as yet and blackbirds are still almost completely silent – but make the most of the chance since blackbirds will very soon be tuning up! Song thrushes breed from March onwards (rarely as early as February), the nest usually being made in a bush or tree. The nest is lined with mud – unlike that of the blackbird which normally has a more comfortable grass lining. I’d be interested to hear from anyone lucky enough to have song thrushes nesting in their garden later this year.

Treecreeper – Certhia familiaris

More species of bird move around the country and even from one country to another in greater numbers and variety than many people may appreciate, in the search for food at different times of the year. But it’s surely no coincidence that among the most sedentary species are those preferred habitat is woodland, while those that actually feed from tree trunks themselves rather than on the ground are the greatest stay-at-homes of all. The explanation must be that feeding conditions here alter least, whatever the weather, and that there is therefore just no need to move on. Even so, the tiny treecreeper does leave its woodland home on occasions, perhaps in the search for new territories to colonise, and may turn up in areas with scattered trees like mature hedgerows. In Kingston I saw one in an apple tree in The Avenue several years ago and another on a mature tree on the green at Snednore. My other two sightings have both come in the small wood at the top of the street and I suppose it’s just possible that a pair may breed here, although I rather doubt it.

Treecreepers are only slightly larger than blue tits. They have long, curved bills, a pure white front and a largely brown back. They hunt for small invertebrates including spiders in the crevices of tree bark, where they also nest. Unlike the more colourful and far noisier nuthatch, they move only up tree trunks – never down. Their call is very high-pitched and quite hard to distinguish from the noises made by the smaller members of the titmouse. For some reason I can’t explain at all, I’m always especially pleased to find a treecreeper! I’d like to hear from others who have seen them in Kingston. They do turn up in gardens from time to time, especially those with older and larger trees.



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