Country Corner


Torness nuclear power station may be an unexpected host of wild species, but the management of the site and estate takes nature very much into account.

Take the much declined tree sparrow, the higher of the two birds in this picture, taken at my Torness feeders.

Tree sparrows are a national biodiversity action species, meaning those who still have them should be taking action to assist them.

At Torness that action is year round, consisting of provision of nest boxes in summer and well-stocked feeders in winter.

This has brought about a marked increase in the estate’s tree sparrow numbers.

I have chosen this picture because it shows the tree sparrow and the more familiar house sparrow together. The most obvious difference is the tree sparrow’s white cheeks, each with a black spot in the middle. Also as you can see the house sparrow has a grey crown to his brown head, whereas the tree sparrow has a chestnut brown crown.

As regards nesting habits and habitats the two differ widely. House sparrows are much more urban than the country loving tree sparrow.

House sparrows nest almost exclusively in the eaves of houses and other buildings, even in some of the buildings at Torness due to another bird feeding station outside the main diningroom. Tree sparrowsnest in holes in trees. They will also take readily to nest boxes.

Both species aremulti-brooded, meaning they produce two, three or even more families in a summer, depending on weather and food supply. This is very useful to anyone trying to increase their numbers.

At Torness an expert ornithologist carries out regular counts of the estate’s bird species.