Making Space for Nature on the Marlborough Downs

Tree Sparrow Villages

Location, location, location!

Like us, tree sparrows have a wish list when looking for a new home. They obviously love the Marlborough Downs as there are lots of them living in the area, but when their families expand and the youngsters move out what kind of place do they look for?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, tree sparrows have pretty much the same criteria for a des res as we do!

  • Most of us don't want to move too far from mum and dad, at least at first, so for our young tree sparrows we need to create new homes near to existing colonies.
     

  • Everyone wants somewhere safe and secure to bring up the kids so we provide our tree sparrows with dense prickly scrub where they can tuck in and hide from predators such as sparrowhawks
     

  • Like us, they appreciate convenience - a 'village shop' where they can pick up essentials quickly and easily.  For tree sparrows this means nectar, fruit and seed bearing shrubs planted in their village that will also attract insects so they don't have to go far to find a snack
     

  • One-stop variety is provided by nearby 'supermarkets' which for tree sparrows come in the form of specially planted mixes that are full of a wide range of seed-bearing and flowering plants that also attract lots of insects

  • The village 'local' is the pub for us but for tree sparrows it's literally a watering hole so we make sure we establish our villages close to an exisitng water source or else provide a new pond nearby
     

  • A good network of routes in and out of the village is also important. For us these are roads and footpaths, while tree sparrows use hedges as corridors and scrubby patches as stepping stones to get around the countryside safely
     

  • And last but not least we all need good neighbours so it's really important to provide starter homes (aka nestboxes) for at least ten new families in each village!

How to create a tree sparrow village

 

Method:

  1. Notch plant all saplings

  2. Support each sapling with a bamboo cane and protect from rabbits and deer with a spiral guard

  3. Bang in 10 wooden posts around the edge of the newly planted clump

  4. Nail nestboxes to posts

  5. Leave to establish, checking regularly for new residents

Once we had our basic 'recipe', students from the Royal Agricultural University, Cirencester, worked with Matt Prior and Jack Nurse of the Wiltshire Ornithological Society to create our first tree sparrow villages in 2012.  And since then we've had various volunteer groups spend time increasing the number of villages across the Downs and, of course, many of our farmers have created their own, with great results!

We're also planting tree sparrow 'corridors', linking villages with nearby resources such as water, bird seed plots and nectar mixes.  Corridors are made up of the same shrubby species as villages and are linear features, planted two or ideally three rows wide.  Once established these will become habitat in their own right as well as providing safe passage for wildlife across the countryside.  Depending on their location, they may also prevent soil loss, reduce pollution and help regulate run-off and prevent flooding.

Ingredients:

  • 10 x tree sparrow nestboxes (28 mm hole)

  • 10 x wooden fence posts 

  • 20 x 6" nails

  • 25 x blackthorn saplings

  • 25 x buckthorn saplings

  • 25 x hawthorn saplings

  • 25 x elder saplings

  • 40 x mixed saplings, chosen from spindle, wayfaring tree, guelder rose, wild privet, dog rose, hazel, dogwood, crab apple, according to taste (and location)

  • 140 x bamboo canes

  • 140 x clear plastic spiral guards

Equipment:

  • Spade

  • Post rammer or sledge hammer (and piece of board to prevent posts splitting)

  • Hammer

  • Volunteers!

Contact Us

Call: 01380 871012

Email: MarlboroughDowns@gmail.com

Project management team:

Black Sheep Countryside Management

Jindabyne

Great Hinton

Trowbridge

Wiltshire BA14 6BT

Get Involved

Website design by Jemma Batten, Black Sheep

Copyright © Marlborough Downs NEP

Registered charity no. 1147925