The heat of the Swiss summer has replaced the cold of the winter in conversation. Such contrast – but, surprisingly, a common threat. It’s a really bad year for birds.
We noticed it first when we arrived. Usually the garden would be full of Meisli, demanding sunflower seeds. If you’ve not read before about the fascination of the Meisli, they’re back here.
We put up the feeder, and waited. One Meisli. Maybe two. Or maybe it was only the one, returning. No young ones. The long cold winter and spring full of sudden cold snaps had, it seemed, killed off many of the adult birds – and those that had managed to breed had lost their entire first broods.
Then – ta-da- along with our arrival, came summer. A couple of Meisli, we were sure now, and carrying seeds away: perhaps they were nesting again.
Suddenly the second brood was with us. Frantic carrying of seeds back into the big apple trees .. then the young birds following their parents over to the garden. Imperious peeping, on-demand feeding. Then within a couple of days, the parent birds declared independence day, and the young had suddenly to master the trick of extracting the seeds from the feeder, and cracking them open themselves. The lesson goes… “first find the right-sized horizontal branch. Hold the seed between your feet, while not losing your grip on said branch. Hit seed (not toes) firmly and rapidly with beak. Extract seed. Drop husk, Collect another seed. Repeat.”
Out on the river and the lake, the same thing was happening.
Few young birds from the first fledging – but now a fresh crop racing around, and hitching rides on the adults’ backs when it all gets too much.
And then the next bad news.
The birds breeding now to make up the lost first crop are losing their second or third batch. Too warm! The young birds are piling out of the nest prematurely – the feather bed is altogether too hot for comfort.
We cross our fingers and hope that those who managed to emerge in that brief Goldilocks moment are going to thrive, and be wondrously fertile…. And ensure the population for next year. Climate change deniers? Tell it to the birds!