Track down some eggs this Easter

LOOK out for the wren this spring. They are tiny balls of energy with a fascinating lifestyle. With an estimated ten million breeding pairs, wrens are Britain's most common bird and their numbers are going up.

LOOK out for the wren this spring.

They are tiny balls of energy with a fascinating lifestyle. With an estimated ten million breeding pairs, wrens are Britain's most common bird and their numbers are going up. According to the RSPB Garden Bird Watch survey their numbers have risen by about 140per cent since 1979.

Wrens live life in the fast lane - even their song bursts forth at a terrific speed and volume, lasting five to six seconds and ending with an energetic 'trill' so penetrating it can be heard over distances up to one kilometre! Just watch a wren as it sings and you'll see it trembling with the effort.

Trying to pin point the source of song can be frustrating though as wrens are secretive birds and spend a lot of the day foraging for food on or near the ground. When they fly, it tends to be in short bursts; a whirring flight, fast and direct.

If you do manage to catch a glimpse of one, you can see them using their thin beaks to probe cracks and crevices, searching for insects and spiders. They rarely take food from a bird table, although in very cold, winter weather they may take a few seeds or a piece of cheese.

During cold weather wrens struggle to find food and their small size means that they lose heat very quickly. They roost in old nests, boxes or tangled ivy to keep warm. If the temperature drops very low, a male wren will find a roost and sing around dusk to attract others to join him. This is called cluster roosting - there may be as many as 22 birds in one place huddled together to keep warm. Once the weather warms up again the birds begin to quarrel and leave to find their own space!

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In spring the male wren builds several domed nests from grass, twigs, leaves and moss about three to six feet off the ground and the female takes her pick. The nests are found in walls, trees, tangled ivy or even in hanging baskets. He perches eagerly on the edge of the nest, tail spread wide and wings quivering as she inspects it. When the female has made her selection she lines it with feathers, hair or fur and lays a clutch of 4-6 tiny eggs.

When baby wrens hatch they are naked and blind and only able to lift their heads and open their beaks to feed. The female looks after them for the first few days keeping them warm, removing droppings and bringing food. As they get older, the male may help. Some male wrens may have more than one mate and family to look after.

Feeding young is a frenetic activity with the number of visits peaking between 500-600 a day as the chicks get ready to fledge. The parents continue to feed the fledglings for about a fortnight, responding to their squeaking calls. Unlike most other small birds, the young are not left to fend for themselves at night but are gathered together and lead to a roost by a parent.

If you find a fledgling on its own its parents are probably close by so only move it if it's in immediate danger eg near a road or a cat. Otherwise put it on a low branch and leave it as the parents are most likely to return. Its best to avoid cutting hedges, trees or shrubs during the breeding season and not to over tidy the garden - leave somewhere for our dynamic little wren to nest and roost.

April 7-8

Mystery Egg Trail. Easter egg hunt and family craft activity at Lackford Lakes nature reserve near Bury St Edmunds. Turn up between 10am and 3pm. £3.

April 8

Family Easter egg hunt 10am-4pm. Solve the mystery trail and claim your chocolate reward at Redgrave and Lopham Fen national nature reserve near Diss. £1

April 15

10am-4pm Spring birds - early migrants is a course for the less experienced birder led by Paul Holness at Lackford Lakes nature reserve near Bury St Edmunds. Bring a packed lunch and outdoor gear. £12. Booking required on 01284 728706.

April 29

10am-11.30am Spring walk - look for signs of spring with an enthusiastic and knowledgeable guide at Carlton Marshes nature reserve near Lowestoft. Wear outdoor gear. £2.50. Booking required on 01502 564250.

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For more details call Suffolk Wildlife Trust on 01473 890089 or see www.suffolkwildlife.co.uk

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