After their usual summer break from my garden, the Dunnocks are back in! From about May to November, both they and my Robins go AWOL, and no matter what I do in my garden, it is only a fraction of the area they need for a breeding territory and they know they’re better off somewhere out in the countryside or in the shrubberies of the local park.For a bird whose name means ‘little brown thing’, I think they’re actually rather special in an understated way. I can remember as a child thinking how difficult they were to tell apart from female House Sparrows, but then you gradually learn that you can look for signs other than just comparing plumage. That nervous little flick of the wings they make with every jerky hop is a giveaway, even when the light doesn’t help pick out the fine bill and the streaky flanks and cheeks.There’s no way either that my House Sparrows would drop down under the bird feeders in the way my Dunnocks do, as if they’re using the hedge like a spiral staircase – hop, turn, hop, turn, hop, turn – and down they go to mop up the spilt fat granules and bits of seed from the mucky Greenfinches. Bravo! And then today one decided to sing – diddly diddly diddly diddly. Love it! Welcome back for Christmas.Here’s a Dunnock that I caught having a wash and brush up at a leaking water barrel on Scilly this autumn.
You’ve just answered a question that has been bothering me. I’ve heard many people say their birds disappear for the summer and return in the autumn, ours never leave and I didn’t understand why. Now I know, we have a large garden with plenty of nesting sites and both Dunnocks and Robins nest and breed here each year.
I have a soft spot for our Dunnocks; they are one of the tamest birds in our garden and always look happy (if a bird can). Definitely not dull.