Posts Tagged "magpie"

At the door of autumn – patch walk, 25th August

This is a long overdue write up that I kept on meaning to post! Better late than never…

Its a sunny morning, when the clouds allow and there’s a lovely breeze blowing. For the first time since June I need to wear more than a t shirt. Feels like a little victory.

The streets are quiet, the birds still largely absent. In the copse the crow is king, stomping around imperiously. On into the park and its quiet, really quiet for a Saturday. Not long now until children will relinquish it and hidden creatures will show themselves again.

I walk through the formal garden, enjoying the last of the lavender and head down to the black spruce tree. Still no sign of squirrels, its been 3 weeks now since the last time I fed one by hand.

There’s plenty of evidence that they’re about though, in the shape of cones nibbled to the core. They’re clearly finding food.

Also finding food are the ever-present magpies, woodpigeons and jackdaws.

Jackdaws are keeping to their usual patch and I wander off in their direction, but I don’t make it any further than a multi-stemmed holly tree as a new squirrel is seeking to make my acquaintance! The female squirrel is notable for having four flashes of red on her legs, so I’m going to have to call her Redsocks. She’s eyeing me up before disappearing into the canopy, but a couple of nuts on the ground soon tempt her down. She’s utterly unconcerned that I’m there and still seems unconcerned when a passing dog comes to investigate what I’m up to.

Another squirrel has gathered a bunch of leaves and holly berries and is hightailing it across the grass. Planning to relax at home, perhaps.

Now a robin has come to investigate too, looks like its all happening under the holly tree today.

Things are happening on the tree too, it looks like its going to be a bumper year for holly berries this year, which probably explains the 2 blackbirds I’ve just spotted lurking about. Probably time for me to move on and let everyone eat in peace.

I head out to the quiet corner of the park, to see how the crops of sweet chestnut and beech nuts are doing. Rather small, but they’re both on very large and old trees, so its not surprising. They’re as far from trees grown for crop as you can imagine. The same is true of the other sweet chestnut trees in the park, though the horse chestnuts are already dropping conkers. The hunt for fungi is still yielding nothing. Much more rain is required before they’ll emerge this year I suspect.

Moving back to the black spruce, another squirrel approaches me. Hang on, its Redsocks again! She checks one nut I throw and discards it, but then takes the next and hurries off to bury it. That gives me time to make it to the tree and by the time she comes looking for me again I’m in the right place to teach her the drill. She’s quick as a flash in carefully taking a nut from my hands and then off to bury it.

She’s got smarts, this squirrel, not only fake burying on the way out but on the way back too. Its not enough to outwit a magpie on one poorly placed hiding spot though. As soon as her back was turned it was swooping down to take advantage.

Magpie marks the spot where the nut was buried, you lose this time, Redsocks.

Most nuts she buries, some nuts she eats, until its time for me to head home through the trees, feeling like I’ve made a new friend.

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Making a bee-lion for the park, patch walk 16th August

Alongside the park sits a Victorian building, brimming with the confidence of the age it was made in. A civic building, adorned with cast iron statues that declare self belief.

The bees don’t care about Victorian self belief. They care that the mouth of this lion offers an ideal location for a hive and something in me wants to wildly applaud them for this choice, for making a monument to human folly into something much more real and important. These honeybees are busy indeed as they cover the nearby flowers that remain, unnoticed by almost all. How glorious.

Its glorious getting back into the park too, on a rare quiet morning. The summer club has claimed the park most days so far and really that’s as it should be. Public parks should be used for public uses, lest cash-strapped councils start viewing them as “land resources”. Its undeniable, however, that 50+ excited children playing games don’t always make for the best nature viewing conditions and so I’ve left them to enjoy their summer and spent time elsewhere, knowing that come September that I’ll be back.

Yet on this day they weren’t there.

Waiting to cross into the park and a little drama is unfolding overhead as a pair of speckled wood butterflies do battle. Swirling, tumbling, parting and coming back together until one flees to the safety of the ivy.

Victor or loser? I don’t know, but I feel like I win every time I get to see one of these interactions, staring open mouthed at the side of the road as busy people go thundering past.

Woodpigeons are wandering, magpies are chattering. From hidden perches robins are singing again. There is change in the air.

No squirrels appear at the black spruce tree, they’re all at the other end of the park today, it seems.

One cheeky fellow responds instantly to the shake of the bag of nuts and quickly jumps on to the nuts I throw down, unconcerned that I’m right there. Eats a couple, then its off to bury more.

Sloes are ripening, rowans are heavy with berries. Blue tits and robins call from the overgrown and wild area. By the old bowling green the jackdaws are stamping around, all confidence and power.

Its a curious thing, confidence, I can’t help but reflect as I start to head home. Those who placed statues of lions had it and this jackdaw seems to have it in equal measure. There’s likely a lesson in there somewhere, but I’m far too happy to have been back on the patch today to work out what it is.

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Finding blooms, patch walk 19th July

The only birds singing now are goldfinches and so I’m particularly glad for their cheery tunes as I step out of the door. Get distracted by a little weeding and then head on up the road. There’s a shiny, iridescent black feather at the top of the road, likely magpie, perhaps crow. Either way, into the collecting pouch it goes.

By the top of the road the theme of the walk is set, small white butterflies are everywhere, they’ve really come into their pomp right now. They’re industrious creatures, never really staying still, which makes them more than a bit tricky to photograph. There’s even more of them exploring the hedgerow on the back lane, dancing up and down like a small child on a visit to Disneyland.

The copse is full of butterflies today too, though here the speckled wood butterflies are holding their own against the small white army. Its a perfect habitat for them as they hug the sunniest spots that are just like woodland edges. Pairs of them dance together in pools of light. Singles flit between grass and leaves. Just for a moment its like a perfect patch of summer woodland.

On into the park and its largely quiet. The small birds are once again absent from the robin spot, but there are friendly dogs and I’ve reason to be grateful that I always bring dog treats with me in amongst the wild animals food! Its not long before that bag is empty. No sign of small birds and no sign of squirrels either but there are plenty more feathers for me to collect and lots of cones beneath the scots pine trees too.

The wild area is filled with brambles, which have completely taken over whole patches. They’re fruiting well, but not enough sun to be ripe yet. Soon they’ll be popular with all sorts of creatures. Already popular are the thriving clumps of ragwort, flowering beautifully and covered in insects, just like I was told they would be.

Its the random things you find in the wild area that I enjoy finding most, like a bed of spearmint just besides the path, just waiting to be brushed against and let fragrant and delicious smells loose.

I take a cutting of spearmint and a bit of ragwort too. Well, you never know if they might be persuaded to grow. Spearmint has a shot, ragwort is almost certainly wishful thinking.

Delighted to see that the stand of nettles has been left and the butterflies are making the most of it, especially our old friends the speckled wood. Long may park keeping decisions like this continue.

Disturbed from my nettle reverie by a cawing commotion I look up to see what all the fuss is about. Its a rare park raid by a troupe of gulls! Normally denizens of the nearby playing fields, these Herring Gulls are on a bin raid and making quite a bit of noise about it too, right until a black backed gull arrives and establishes itself as the king of the castle – or the top of the bin at least.

Its a scene that plays out in towns everywhere, but it is no less welcome a sight for that, especially when they’re the only birds I’ve seen all walk. That’ll have to suffice until the next time, its time to head home.

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Patch walk, 13th June 2018

Its a sunny morning but there’s a lovely breeze. Just about perfect weather to be outside in.

Been a while since the roadside grass verges have been cut now and they’re starting to become lovely, rich habitats. Alongside the daisies and creeping buttercup now the clover is flowering in force and the bees are loving it. It seems like the local councillor who tried to use the platform of World Environment Day to complain about the verges not being cut didn’t actually look at the verges closely. Sigh.

Bees are buzzing on the back lane bushes too. Sparrows cheeping, goldfinches singing from unseen perches. More bramble flowers are opening, nettles are forcing their way through and the first bindweed flowers are out.

Shining almost as brightly as the sun that is lighting them, their large trumpets  offer treasure to the brave pollinators who will venture in.

The copse is beginning to fall silent. Nesting is over here, it seems. Woodpigeons are calling, but the woodpigeon nest lies empty. No sound from tits, blackbird, wren or chaffinch. Summer has embraced the copse.

Its different in the park at the robin spot.

Here the robin pair can’t get enough of the mealworms I’ve brought for them, ferrying them back to their nest site and coming back for more. It does the heart good when they trust enough to come close, giving a “Tik!” call to remind me to throw more mealworms down.

Both birds are looking good and I’m full of optimism for this nest. I stand and watch them for ages.

Its good to see a school group using the park today, looks like a couple of classes exploring, but the noise of them in this usually quiet park has sent the wildlife running for cover. I can’t even see the normally ever-present magpies and there’s only one ambitiously amorous woodpigeon chasing an unimpressed female around. Best to head for home I think, collecting a recently moulted woodpigeon feather off the ground on the way out of the park.

Little did I know just how helpful that was about to be. On the bottom road I spy an exhausted and grounded buff tailed bumblebee, almost disappearing into the cracks between the stones. Good job I’ve got that feather! I use it to scoop up the bee, got to do something and fast, she’s barely moving, legs splayed. Its still too far to home, she needs something now. In my head a little voice is saying, in dramatic medical drama tones, “flowers, I need flowers, stat!” as I look around frantically, holding a feather and a bee out in front of me. I remember there’s a bank of flowers just around the corner, in an area abandoned behind a hedge.

Hurrying, I can see the area is full of flowers and also full of bees, so this must be the good stuff. To me it look like they’re dog roses (but I’m dreadful at identifying anything other than wildflowers) and I carefully place the bee on one of the flowers. Instinct kicks in, she tries to feed, but moving very slowly. When she looks like she’s trying to move to another flower I pick her up again, placing her at the centre of the next option. Again and again she feeds, again and again I move her and bit by bit she comes back to life. Now standing on all of her legs instead of dragging them, now rubbing her legs against her body, now her flat-folded wings separating and starting to vibrate.

When she is strong enough to move herself to the next flower, my heart soars. She’s going to make it. I don’t think I’ve done anything even remotely as rewarding for days. Get home with a big smile on my face. Don’t just look up for wildlife, remember to look down too.

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Waiting

Appliance delivery day. Something large and white that says “2 man lift only” on the packaging but one hardened delivery person carries in on their shoulder. Upheaval to the routine. Change. Waiting. Lots of waiting for 5 minutes of action when one white good goes out feet first and its replacement lands. My hands are tied, can’t go out and explore, have to wait.

There’s a sense of the seasons passing as I look out of the window from my desk. While some birds are still parading around with a beak full of food, a whole new generation is already fending for themselves.

Even the presence of a rival male only elicits a half-hearted flapping response today.

The starling juveniles are happily looking after themselves, more accompanied by parents now rather than directed by them.

When they turn up on the feeders its often the juveniles who get there first now, some of their youthful ungainliness disappearing with experience, though their genetic starling clumsiness will never leave them as their parents demonstrate.

Sparrows, whose offspring are already losing their gape and you have to look hard to see which are older birds and which are 2018 edition, carry on regardless on the roadside verge. Or at the feeders, where their presence is always welcome, even when they’re being particularly argumentative and scrappy as they were today.

Blue tit is still busy at the feeders, trying to quell the constant calls of the fledglings in the willow tree. During the afternoon a magpie blunders into the tree, cackling and screeching, prompting loud complaints from the blackbird parents and scattering the blue tit fledglings from their haven. One ends up in the bush beside the feeders, winning the lottery as it gets on with feeding itself on the bonanza. One ends up right below the open window where I sit and wait, giving me my first close-up view of blue tit fledglings this year.

Worth waiting for.

 

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