A blackbird in a Christmas tree

IT wasn’t a partridge in a pear tree but a blackbird in a Christmas tree that brought a smile to the faces of residents at the Sue Ryder Centre in Portlaoise recently.

IT wasn’t a partridge in a pear tree but a blackbird in a Christmas tree that brought a smile to the faces of residents at the Sue Ryder Centre in Portlaoise recently.

A nest containing a mother bird and four eggs was found nestled in the branches of the centre’s Christmas tree, despite the fact that the breeding season for the birds is still another three months off.

The discovery was made when the centre’s maintenance man, Martin Hartford went to take down the outdoor tree on the weekend of January 7/8. After removing the decorations from the bottom branches, Mr Hartford had to get a ladder to scale the 20-foot tree and was surprised to see the nest hidden away in the upper branches. Although it was possible to remove the bulbs from the Christmas tree lights, the lighting cable had to be left untouched as it was wrapped around the branch on which the nest was resting.

Manager of the Sue Ryder Centre, Richard Conroy said that staff would keep an eye on the nest and monitor the birds’ progress, with the Christmas tree to remain standing until at least the end of January.

“It’s bad luck to go near a blackbird, so we won’t touch it,” Mr Conroy said. “Although there’s bad weather forecast for this weekend, so the mother might change her mind.”

Niall Hatch of Birdwatch Ireland explained that the normal breeding season for blackbirds is from April or May into the summertime, with between two and three broods produced. Mr Hatch said it was strange to see birds nesting so early and attributed it to the unseasonably fine weather, which could allow for an extra brood.

“Blackbirds are opportunists, so if the conditions look right - if it’s warm and there’s food around - they will act. However, a sudden cold spell could be disastrous.”

Mr Hatch encouraged anyone with any information or questions on the local bird population to contact the Laois branch of Birdwatch Ireland, at birdwatchlaois@gmail.com.

The Laois branch of BirdWatch Ireland is holding its first meeting of 2012 on Wednesday January 25, at the Portlaoise Parish Centre starting from 8pm. Brian Caffrey, of BirdWatch Ireland will be speaking on the subject of recording and reporting bird sightings. The talk will also provide information on using the on-line recording systems such as BirdTrack, and Brian will be available to answer any queries or questions anyone has on the subject. The meeting is open to everyone with an interest in birds, and entry is free of charge.

A Birdwatch walk is planned for Sunday January 29 at Emo Court, meeting in the car park at 10am. On Sunday February 5 the walk will be at Derryounce, Portarlington to visit the newly constructed pond.

Members should meet at the car park on the Cushina road, about 2km after crossing the Spa Bridge.