Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Blackbird fledging and defence

I had been watching the blackbirds collecting food for a probable brood over the last few days. My suspicions were that the nest was in the far boundary hedge of our neighbours garden. This morning they seemed very agitated.
When the weather is sunny, like today I like to start the day by having breakfast on the decking in the back corner of our garden. Both the male and female blackbird were in our neighbours Eucalyptus tree next to our fence.

While they did not seem to worry about my presence, other than giving me the occasional look, they directed a lot of attention into our neighbours garden. The male making the warning rattle "chink chink"call while the female made a more subtle "chock chock" sound which appeared to be directed at her young. My thoughts were that they had at least one youngster in the garden. Young blackbirds often fledged a day or more earlier than they can actually fly. Not too surprising if you have ever seen a female on the nest. Her body just about fits in the nest and the head and tail stick over the edge. The young blackbirds literally out grow the nest.
This went on for much of the morning. Mid morning the warning calls escalated. A magpie had flown into the tree. Both birds directed warning calls and agitated wing and tail flicking towards the magpie. The male physically mobbed the magpie until it flew away landing in trees a few gardens away.

However the male continued to mob the magpie until it flew away.

All day the adults collected food. Our at came across the garden and the birds rattled their warning at her. Our cat, too hot and bothered to take noticed carried on and plonked herself down in the shade. The male came right across the roof and shouted at our cat, whom responded by cleaning herself.

After about 5 minutes the male returned to our neighbours garden. Our neighbour found the location of the bird when hey came back from work. It was behind their coal bunker.

We kept our cat in over night as that would be when it was most vulnerable.

The adults continued collecting food until it was too dark.

Friday, 26 June 2009

Nesting sparrows and opportunistic herring gull

On the way to a meeting yesterday I got stuck on Ford Rail Station because of delays.

I noticed a lot of sparrow activity and realised that they were nesting in the apex. There seemed to be several nests.
As I waited I noticed a flock of long tailed tits in the bushes across the track on the other side of the platform. There were also great tits and several sparrows and starlings. As I watched a sparrow flew straight towards me chasing a small butterfly or day moth (couldn't really tell which). The butterfly/moth flew in a corkscrew avoidance flight and pretty soon there were three sparrows trying to catch their intended prey. The moth headed off to my right and back across the track and appeared to make it safely into the bushes. My guess is that it might have been a moth as I have seen such avoidance flying before.

On the way back at Littlehampton Station I watched a herring gull checking out a rubbish bag on the platform.

The bag had been put there by the chap cleaning the train which had just arrived.

It looked like it managed to find an old tea bag but nothing else.

Afterwards it moved over to a bucket of water and had a drink before flying off, no doubt to try its luck elsewhere.

This evening I was treated to another spectacular air display courtesy of the swifts that nest in our neighbours roof. As our bungalow is slightly up hill and our garden is higher than our neighbours they scream low across our garden, the lowest bird often about head height.

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Animal rescue part 2 great tit and Slow worm

I went out to check on the juvenile great tit first thing and found it had got out of the box and was sitting on one of my old trainers.

I carefully picked it up in cupped hands and walked towards the door hoping to get bird back up in the tree where it would be safer. As I got to the door the bird flew from my hands and onto the greenhouse roof.
After struggling about it managed to get a grip of a step of the passion flower.
After a while it moved to the corner of the green house and flew across to the flint wall.

After a couple of minutes it flew away low across the neighbours garden and disappeared and was the last time I saw it.

Later, I noticed a very water logged red tailed bee on a Lily pad in the pond.
I carefully used a grass stem to lift him out of the pond. I put the bee on the pond edge where it would hopefully dry without getting dirt stuck to it. I carefully lifted one of the wings which was stuck to its body because it was wet. The bee disappeared so I presume it dried out and flew away.

Later in the day our cat was calling at the door. Laying on the ground was a slow worm, minus its tail and the tail wriggling a short way away. I carefully picked up the slow worm and put it in a box and waited for the cat to forget about it.
I checked it over and it seemed to only have very minor injuries. People often mistake slow works for snakes but they are actually leg-less lizards. They feed on ivertebrates inlcuding small slugs. They are a beautiful shiny copper in colouration.
I let the slow worm go on the rockery a while later.

By that time, black ants had already food the tail and began their work of scavenging. I moved the tail to the side of the garden.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Blue damselflies and animal rescue part 1

I noticed the first of the blue tail damselflies emerge from the pond today. The blue damselflies always emerge from our pond later than the large red damselflies.

We woke in the night to a commotion outside. When we investigated we discovered our cat with a baby bird. I managed to get the bird away and after checking it over realised it was still alive. It looked like a juvenile great tit, possibly one of the family that had been visiting the garden a few days ago. Maybe our cat had come across it roosting in the tree. I put it in a cardboard box with some bedding and put it in the shed before going back to bed. Dark and quite are what the bird needed if it was going to survive. Many die of shock.

Friday, 19 June 2009

speckled wood

I noticed this Speckled wood butterfly which appeared to be drinking from the pond. I have seen butterflies gathered around a puddle and also feeding from over-ripe fruit.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Great tit and sparrow families, damselflies and kestrel

The great tit family is still visiting the garden. The damselflies are still emerging from the pond and there is renewed egg laying taking place.

The male remains clasped to the neck of the female and they fly around in tandem. Probably to prevent another male from mating. The female settles on the pond weed and dips her tail into the water depositing the eggs a few at a time in various locations around the pond

Yesterday a family of sparrows spent a couple of hours on and around the flint wall looking for insects.
A close look at the beak indicated that they were juveniles and there appeared to be a male and a female.
As I stood out the front garden on Sunday, a kestrel flew through the narrow gap between our bungalow and our neighbours house before swooping back up and headed off towards the west.
I also noticed the first meadow brown butterfly in our garden.

Friday, 12 June 2009

Herring gull behaviour, goldfinch and great tits

There is a lot of bird activity in the garden most days. Goldfinches continually pass through the garden and one or more sing from either the top of the tree or the TV ariel. The great tit family is still visiting.

The seagull activity has stepped up a notch. Now that the various herring gulls nesting in the area have chicks, they are easily disturbed by other gulls flying by and kicking up a commotion.

Seagulls do get a bad press, but they are fascinating to watch. What other bird of its size do we get the chance to get so close to. Seagulls are opportunists and due to the mess and waste we produce, seagulls have moved into towns and cities to nest on our roof tops.

The herring gulls nesting to the back of our house are the pair I can observe the most. The chicks are more mobile and what can start of as a peaceful scene can quickly change if another gull gets too near.

A nearby gull has disturbed the adult who is letting the intruder know its unhappy in its usual raucous manner.

Soon other gulls fly from their nests and come to see what all the noise is about, adding their own voices to the pandemonium.

On cliff tops, this behaviour is more likely to be triggered by a potential threat and this behaviour would focus on driving away the attacker. When gulls nest on roof tops, it is people who are sometimes on the receiving end of this behaviour.

Many gulls from all around join in the "ariel combat" and while the odd gull will swoop at another there is no physical contact between the gulls.

With no real threat to contend with the gulls eventually loose steam and head off back to their own nests and peace rains again for a while.

Thursday, 11 June 2009

Bees, hoverflies, butterflies and blackberry flowers

Sunny morning and the blackberry bush across the track is full of bees hoverflies.
One of many bumble bees (note the full pollen baskets on the back legs)

Bombus Ruderarius resembles a small red tailed bumble bee but can be distinguished by its red pollen baskets. (Red tailed bumble bees have black pollen baskets)

A male hairy footed bee Anthophora plumipes resting on a bramble leaf

Various species of hoverfly. This one is a bit different to the usual ones seen. It is one of the Chrysotoxum species. The larvae of some species live in ants nests and feed on aphids. Also 2 butterflies.

A beautiful small tortoiseshell butterfly
Painted lady, wings open above, wings closed below.