Lesley Dolphin: ‘I’m doing Springwatch at home. Are you?’

PUBLISHED: 14:30 17 June 2020 | UPDATED: 14:51 17 June 2020

Swifts signal summer for Lesley Dolphin enjoying the wildlife in her own back garden in Felixstowe. Image: Getty Images

Swifts signal summer for Lesley Dolphin enjoying the wildlife in her own back garden in Felixstowe. Image: Getty Images

Mircea Costina Photography

BBC Radio Suffolk presenter Lesley shares the wonderful, wild world in her own back garden

Lesley calls swift 'the Spitfires of the bird world' with their amazing aerobatics. Image: Getty ImagesLesley calls swift 'the Spitfires of the bird world' with their amazing aerobatics. Image: Getty Images

Who needs Springwatch on TV if you are lucky enough to have a garden? Well, actually, I’m a big fan of the BBC programme with Chris Packham. But this year I’ve also had a wonderful few weeks appreciating the wildlife on my doorstep.

We don’t have any particularly rare birds visiting but they are all a joy to watch. We have several feeders hanging around the garden which attract tits, sparrows, starlings, robins and occasional finches. The blackbirds Hoover up underneath the feeders along with the pigeons.

I don’t think we actually had any birds nesting in our garden this year but we’ve certainly fed parents as they dashed to and fro feeding their youngsters. In our neighbours’ trees at the bottom of the garden there were magpies nesting which, as well as being smart and large, were very vocal. It was so entertaining seeing the parents feeding one very large, fledged youngster, sitting on our pergola. Fortunately they flew quite early on and disappeared. I really didn’t want to see the carnage they can create when predating other nests.

We are also regularly visited by whole gangs of starlings – parents and youngsters. I hear them coming long before they land and they chatter away, pecking their way around the lawn and flower beds. I’d love to know what they’re saying.

When I was growing up they were really common and taken for granted rather. If you take time to watch them you’ll see they have beautiful feathers that shimmer with the colours of the rainbow.

We inherited a pond with the garden when we moved here to Felixstowe and it has steep sides, so we net it in the spring to stop young birds going for a drink, falling in and drowning. One afternoon a couple of weeks ago I spent a morning shooing young starlings away from the water. We put the net out but, to my dismay, instead of avoiding it a whole family of youngsters used the net as a sort of trampoline, sitting on it and dipping themselves into the pond for a bath. They had a lovely time while I kept watch, ready to rescue them.

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We do have a proper bird bath in the garden which they have since learnt to use. There were ten starlings on and around it the other day. It originally belonged to Mark’s mum who used to love watching birds in her back garden. With the dry weather we’ve been having it’s been a very popular place for all sorts of birds to bathe and drink. She’d be so pleased.

One rather unexpected visitor to our feeders has been a grey squirrel which performs all sorts of acrobatics, dangling upside down, to nibble at the peanuts. I’m surprised it’s worth the visit as the feeder only gives up tiny mouthfuls at a time. The squirrel also sits on the bird to take a drink and one day I watched an interesting stand-off between the squirrel and magpies. . .

I knew summer was here finally when I heard the swifts screaming past. It’s only in the past few years that I’ve been aware of these amazing birds, the Spitfires of the bird world. I’d seen reports on social media that they had arrived here in Suffolk from their wintering sites in Africa so when I heard them screaming past one Saturday morning I was thrilled.

We have swifts nesting nearby and I have put up swift boxes on our house. Apparently I now need to broadcast soundtracks of swift calls to draw attention to these new abodes.

This is just the start of summer. I do hope you too are managing to draw some comfort from our amazing natural world wherever you are.

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