Monday, February 25, 2008

Weaver birds

House Sparrows are members of the Ploceidae, the weaverbird family. Time was when you did everything possible to keep them out of the nestboxes which you had put up for prettier species like Blue Tit and Great Tit. But not any more. House Sparrows are now on the RED list of birds of serious conservation concern.
So today I changed the mindset of a lifetime and put up a nestbox for house sparrows. Because weavers are communal nesters, the box is a "terrace" box with three compartments. So I am doing my bit for House Sparrows, although there is still a part of me that hopes the box will be occupied by Blue Tits or Great Tits.
Forty years ago, when I lived in Bournemouth, House Sparrows were such a nuisance that I instituted an intensive trapping regime, and each time when I had caught fifty or so, I transported them to a location twelve miles away. To salve my conscience, I pretended it was a scientific experiment: I marked them to see if they would make their way back to my garden.
The method of marking was original: my wife's scarlet nail varnish daubed on their legs. I never saw any of my sparrows again, but I like to think that my cosmetic addition to their appearance made them more attractive to the opposite sex.

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