Spring birds in the Midlands

A skylark in heather

National Trust places are home to a wide variety of native and visiting birds. Spring is a time of rapid change and activity for birds, and a great time of year to get out and see what you can spot.

In early spring our winter visitors can be seen heading back to their breeding grounds. Look out for the remaining flocks of fieldfares and redwings as they begin to move north and head for their nesting grounds in northern Scandinavia.

Redwings are winter visitors heading to Scandinavia in spring
Baddesley redwing
Redwings are winter visitors heading to Scandinavia in spring

Also, see the flocks of wader birds such as lapwing and golden plover as they leave the open arable fields and head to the nesting grounds in the uplands.

Meanwhile some of our resident birds are busy making nests. You can see rooks at their rookeries and nesting as early as February, closely followed by robins and blackbirds in March. The rookery at Tattershall Castle can be viewed from the top of the keep, about the only place where you can look down on and into a rookery.

Tattershall Castle rookery
Rook nests in trees beside the tower at Tattershall Castle
Tattershall Castle rookery

Summer’s migratory birds also start to arrive at this time of year. One of the earliest is the rare woodlark, which can be seen at suitable places from February. Volunteers at Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire are helping to monitor the population of these rare little birds as part of a national study.

March and April see the arrival of the willow warbler and the chiff chaff – with their distinctive songs and the chiff-chaff’s distinctive tail-wagging movement.

Swallows, swifts and house martins signify summer for many and start to arrive in late spring . They can be seen at lots of your favourite special places. At Croome in Worcestershire, large numbers of house martins and swallows return to their nests at the RAF buildings and the Court each year, whilst the stable yard is the home of choice for swallows at Ilam Park in Derbyshire.

House martins and swallows at Croome
House martins and swallows at Croome
House martins and swallows at Croome

Some of the places we look after are home to rarer birds too. At Longhsaw in the Peak District National Trust staff and volunteers, working with local conservation and school groups, have set up more than 100 nesting  boxes for pied flycatchers as they arrive from Africa.

However, the team found that over the winter resident birds such as blue tits were moving into the boxes, so to keep them free for the flycatchers, the boxes are corked up over winter and then the jobs on to uncork them all just in time for pied flycatchers return in April.

A pied flycatcher considering an uncorked nest box
Pied flycatcher
A pied flycatcher considering an uncorked nest box

The moors of the Peak District or the Long Mynd in Shropshire are amongst the best places to hear the song skylarks and meadow pipits and if you’re very lucky the beautiful bubbling call of the curlew.

The upland heath of the Long Mynd also provides valuable habitat for more specialist birds, such as the snipe. The snipe used to be a regular breeding bird here. However, numbers have dwindled and by 2013 no breeding pairs were recorded.

Snipe are medium sized, skulking wading birds with short legs and long straight bills.
Picture of a snipe as could be seen at Wicken Fen
Snipe are medium sized, skulking wading birds with short legs and long straight bills.

Staff and volunteers are working hard on a habitat management programme to improve the snipe’s breeding grounds on the wet flushes here; key work includes strimming small plots within rushes to create suitable feeding grounds. It’s a little early to say if we can secure the future of snipe in the Long Mynd, but their numbers are increasing, with five breeding pairs being recorded last year.

Help the birds at home

You too can help birds thrive in your own gardens with this make a pizza for the birds kit. Every kit you buy not only helps the birds in your gardens, but you will also be helping support the work our rangers, gardeners and volunteers do to maintain bird friendly habitats across special places.

And don't forget the RSPB when it comes to all things birds. They've very kindly supplied us with some really useful ways we can all help birds at home:

Grow a tree

Open a bird café

Make the perfect bird bath

Grow tasty food for birds