The silence of a August English garden

No raucous Sooty Terns! No noisily chanting Common Mynas! Christine and I left Seychelles earlier than intended but since our return to UK we have been blessed with sunshine and daytime temperatures close to those we experienced during the south-east trades on Bird and North Islands. After a four-month absence however, my Surrey garden resembled tropical rain forest thanks to a wet May and Juneand remedial action is in progress.

Woodpigeon - the most conspicuous bird in my English garden in August
Woodpigeon – the most conspicuous bird in my English garden in August

During this work the garden and its surrounding woods are noticeably quiet, with few bird calls apart from the loud repetitive cooing of Woodpigeons. The only regular songster is a Robin and we heard a brief half-hearted attempt at song by a Great Tit. Dunnocks, Blackbirds and a Wren occasionally show themselves, but silently. For many birds in southern England this is a time of moult, when old feathers worn by breeding season activities are lost as new ones grow. Missing or only partly grown wing feathers doubtless impair flight capability, which could render affected birds less able to avoid predators.

Wing of a moulting Common Myna. This bird allready has fine new primries ( the feathers with large white bases) and two old primaries, which are browner due to wear and fading. Between these groups of promaries are two that are growing; these create a gap in the wing, possibly restricting flight ability
Wing of a moulting Common Myna. This bird already has five new primaries ( the black feathers with large white bases) and two old primaries on the oiter wing, which are browner due to wear and fading. Between these groups of primaries are two that are growing; these create a gap in the wing, possibly restricting flight ability

The impression in the garden is that most birds are keeping a low profile, giving only fleeting glimpses when they are disturbed and remaining as quiet as possible. This is a far cry from the birds so recently seen in Seychelles, where even Common Mynas undergoing wing moult remain conspicuous in both sight and sound. Common Mynas live in their pairs throughout the year, however, and much of the calling and song appears to be directed towards the mate. In this species frequent calling, with or without complete wing feathers, probably serves to maintain the bond between male and female throughout the year.

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