Sunday, 28 May 2017

Painted ladies

The first Painted Lady Butterflies turned up in my garden today, feeding on the Hebe and Red Valerian.

This amazing butterfly flies across the channel from the continent to the UK, some travel from as far as North Africa. They lay eggs and produce a second generation.
However recent scientific research and tagging has revealed that the second generation of Painted Ladies don't die during the winter as was once thought, but actually make the return journey. This migration is considered to be as spectacular as the famous Monarch butterfly in the USA. 

Monday, 15 May 2017

Returning swifts

For me, summer begins when the swifts return to nest under the eaves of our neighbours house. Unfortunately we live in a bungalow and it too low to attract swifts.

The swifts spend the winter south of the Savannah in Africa. The return to the UK last week in April or early May. In previous years I have usually seen the first arrivals by 4th May but this year they were a little late.

Swifts traditionally nested in rocky crags, sea-cliffs, caves, hollow trees and even nest holes made by other birds. Now most swifts nest in buildings, which has allowed them to colonise many new areas.

We usually have three pair nest in our neighbours property. Once the chicks have hatched the adults collect large amounts of insect food in the air, preferably at heights over 50 m, collected in a special food pouch.

Their ariel acrobatics area joy to watch and they often sweep low over our garden - low enough to touch (but of course I don't) 

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Mason bees and Moorhen chicks

I spotted these mason bees collecting wet mud from the bank of a stream on the Lewes Railway Land Nature Reserve. Red mason bees make their nest in natural holes, or in man-made tubes such as a bee hotel. Within the tube the bees make cells from the mud, depositing an egg and pollen/nectar. This will be next years generation.
Click this link to see my other blog entries on red mason bees feeding and nesting in my garden
On the same day I also observed a moorhen family on the Leighside Pond (woodland pond) at the Lewes Railway Land Nature Reserve. The average size number of chicks seen at the reserve is four, but this family only had two chicks.

The tiny chicks fluffy chicks are quite independent, often swimming off on their own. The parents are busy collecting food and feeding the chicks which call to the parents when they want to be fed. This is different to ducks where the female leads the chicks to food which they then feed themselves.
Moorhens often have two broods each year and sometimes the grown up chicks from the first brood actually help look after the second brood, which is very unusual for a bird.

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Urban herring gulls nesting

I have been watching again with great interest, they really are fascinating birds and a great opportunity to witness bird behaviour.
While they can cause a nuisance - it is human activity that the gulls have adapted to. Firstly UK herring gulls numbers have decreased in the wild due to human activity and providing (even if unintentionally) our waste and uneaten food for gulls to scavenge on. In the marine environment the gulls part scavenging nature is an important role.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Robin and Long tailed Tit

On a recent visit to Woods mill, Sussex Wildlife Trust Nature Reserve, I witnessed this unusual behaviour from a long- tailed tit.

At first I thought it was reacting to its reflection but continued observation suggested it might have been catching tiny flying insects. Just before the long-tailed tit flew down to the windows, it had been foraging in a near by tree.

Further on around the reserve I encountered this pair of robin. The male robin was collecting food items to feed his mate - known as courtship feeding. The robin showed great interest in my lunch and so I offered some bread crumbs on my hand.

The robin became braver after several visits to my hands and on occasions stayed for a few seconds before flying off. Bread not the best food for birds but the few crumbs won't have been a problem.

Tricky filming and feeding the robin but pleased with the results.

While it is easy to think that this robin is being very friendly - this probably involves a behaviour that goes back to when they were true woodland birds. Robins once foraged around wild boar that unearthed tasty worms and invertebrates while they rooted around for food. In a similar way, some robins have become used to humans a being non dangerous and a source of food.