Posts Tagged "nesting"

Of sparrows & squirrels, Patch Walk 20th June 2018

A soft rain starts to fall as I step out of the door. I could go back in and get a waterproof, its probably the sensible decision, but…no, its a very welcome chance to take a walk in the summer rain. Grasp the chance and go.

Up the road there’s a sparrow trying to hover by a garden wall, trying to pick insects off the wall. Then, it flies up to the eaves of a nearby house and disappears. Hang on, did I just see what I think I saw? I watch a while longer, seeing other sparrows coming and going from the same spot below the roof. Could it really be a sparrow nesting colony? I’ve had sparrows in my garden and on my feeders for as long as I can remember, but I’ve never seen where they’ve nested before. I’m very excited that this might be it! Best of all, they’re nesting in the house where the new occupants replaced their whole garden with astroturf. Nature fights back…

Nature also fights back on the back lane, when the soft rain turns into a sudden deluge. I shelter under a tree for a while, enjoying watching how the rain can turn even the most unappealing looking nook or crannie into something with a dash of magic.

As the rain softens again I head off towards the copse, enjoying seeing some interesting wall decorations along the way. Not entirely sure how this dandelion managed to root itself, but its undeniably impressive work!

In the copse the wind is stirring the trees into wild dances, the leaves acting like giant sails. The sound of it is glorious, but its the only sound I do hear in the copse today. Despite waiting and watching the bushes at the edge of the road for a while all I see today is a pair of drenched woodpigeons.

The rain seems to have emptied the park, I’ve got the place practically to myself. The tree cover is so dense in parts that there’s still no rain on the ground beneath some of them. Very useful when you’re standing and watching wildlife and I expect the robins at the robin spot find it useful too.

Only one parent appears to collect mealworms today and interestingly they’re flying off in the opposite direction to where their nest is located when they’ve collected the food. Could they have already fledged from the nest, or is parent robin flying a deliberately deceptive route today?

Onwards, past singing chaffinch and wren and calling great tit, until I’m at the black spruce tree. A shake of nuts and the squirrels start coming.

Its fascinating to see their different personalities at work. From the bold and the brazen, who know exactly where to place themselves to ensure they get a nut, to the cautious and the clever, who watch for an opening from a distance before sprinting in.

One is almost apologetically polite in the way its little face pops into view to ask if it can have a nut.

There’s at least 5 squirrels taking nuts again today, Autumn can’t come soon enough for these little fellows. Once again they eat every single nut out of my bag and I’m left handing out the shelled nuts left in the bottom, as well as I can do, anyway. Buddy the squirrel soon works out the best way to get them.

The robin from the laurel bush is also being brazen in its efforts to make sure that I’ve seen that they’re there and they want some food. They’re instantly on to the nibbles I throw and swiftly joined by the resident blackbird too.

With the food bags empty, its time to go. Its been good to see the patch in the summer rain.

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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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Patch walk, 9th June 2018

Its cloudy and cooler than I was expecting. Feels cooler than the forecast said, which is all good by me. Just plodding along today. I have time to spend and you can miss so much when you move quickly.

The back lane feels full of life today. Where flowering bushes are overhanging garden walls and fences they are busy with bees. Honeybee, Garden Bumblebee and Tree Bumblebee all spotted.

Tiny flowers on this one particular bush, so the the bees are constantly on the move. This makes photographing them something of a lottery! The garden bumblebees already have leg baskets that are filling with pollen, its heartening to see.

The brambles are starting to flower by the hedge that runs the entire length of the lane. Summer ploughing ever on onwards. At the bottom of the lane, 4 long-tailed tits fly across the lane in front of me, from garden to garden. The first long-tailed tits I’ve seen for months. New birds out exploring the world with their parents? That’s a happy thought.

Chaffinch is singing in the copse and that’s the only good news from there today. The woodpigeon nest is empty again today, with no sign of them. Is it another failed nest in the copse this year? It could well be. The possibility of predation by the sparrowhawk in the park over the road can’t be ruled out. The nest wasn’t in a particularly hidden position.

I can hear the sparrowhawk calling as soon as I enter the park. The collection of feathers is still there at the bottom of the horse chestnut, but so are lots of droppings. This might not be a plucking post, this might be a sparrowhawk nest! I can’t see anything from the ground, the leaf cover is too dense, but I’ll try to work out a way to see from higher ground.

Head over to the robin spot and the resident robin is quickly on to mealworms, but not just taking the one and going – they’re filling their beak up with the lot! Hang on, now there’s 2 of them and they’re both hoovering up all the mealworms I’m putting down. Then they’re both flying off to the same rough area of the park. It has to be a nest. Is this what happened to winter and spring’s highly unusual arrangement of 3 robins in the same very small area? Did 2 of them finally pair up and breed?

Before I can even think about going and investigating further, Buddy the squirrel turns up and he’s making it very clear he wants a nut. He pops up into a yew tree when I tell him but now I’m in a dilemma. I can’t go looking for the nest and and risk Buddy following me and discovering where the nest is, for the safety of the birds. I need something that will temporarily make the squirrels want to be elsewhere in the park…and here it comes in the shape of Bonniedog. No squirrel in its right mind wants to be anywhere near her. She’s a lovely-natured dog, unless you’re a squirrel. Its textbook.

With the squirrels safely elsewhere I can can stalk the robins, looking for the nest. It has to be done carefully, patiently, at a distance. Binoculars required, don’t disturb the birds or the nest site. Move slowly, move deliberately, watch where you’re putting your feet. After about 20 minutes I’ve identified which particular bush they’re nesting in. That’s enough for today, really don’t want to go closer and risk disturbing.

Look at my watch, I’ve spent an hour just feeding and watching robins. So, I head onwards, ending up at the black spruce where Buddy escaped to and Braveheart has joined him there.

“Wherever you go, I shall stalk you for nuts!”

Evidence quickly confirms that they’re both pretty darn hungry. Its not surprising, this is a rough time for squirrels, with all of last years stocks exhausted and not much new food emerged yet. Summer can be a real winter for squirrels.

Keeping them separate by feeding them at different points on the tree I give them their first nuts and they do their utmost to plough through the rest of the bag of nuts.

“Gimme, gimme, gimme!”

I’m there for ages, until they both satiated and starting to run off and bury nuts. Feels like its about time for my lunch now too, so its time to head home from a very enjoyable patch walk.

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Meanwhile, back at the nest. Patch walk, 3rd June 2018.

Bright sun and blue skies today, but the heat hasn’t built up too much in the morning despite there being very little breeze to speak of. The back lane is filled with bird song, blackbird, wren, blue tit, goldfinch and sparrow. Wren is singing in the copse too, but I only have eyes for the nests today.

First stop, great tit nest. Still very active, thankfully, and both parents working hard at feeding. To and fro, to and fro.

I don’t stop long, even though they seem completely unconcerned by my presence. They’re far too busy to care about a nosy birdwatcher. All is calm at the woodpigeon nest, but there’s a hard working nuthatch busy at its nest hole.

Its feeding the little nuthatch face that’s poking out of the nest hole regularly now. How wonderful! Fledging gets ever closer.

Very glad to get beneath the cool-shade embrace of the horse chestnut trees in the park. I’m very fortunate to have such a shady place to explore in the summer. I head straight for the squirrels today, as I know it will be quiet there when so much else of the park is busy with families today. Sure enough it is quiet, and the squirrels are sat amongst the daisies but come tumbling over each other in their haste to get to the food!

Well hello there…

Braveheart and Buddy seem to instinctively take up the same positions as yesterday, before chomping their way through every nut I have with me. I knew I should have restocked before I left. They’re still keen for more, but I have to leave them to it as a busy afternoon beckons.

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Finding nests. Patch walk 2nd June 2018.

Its still raining lightly when I step out, rain that becomes suddenly stronger under the trees when the wind shakes the raindrops from the leaves. Its fine by me, I’d much rather be walking in the rain than in close heat.

Creeping buttercup, daisies and clover are all recovering back to flowering in the verges after their recent buzz cut. Where edges and corners are forgotten on the back lane there are foxgloves coming into flower. Wild finds a way.

It seems as if it may be an unpromising walk in the rainy weather, but getting into the copse soon puts pay to that assumption. It starts with hearing an unusual bird call. That always catches my attention and gets me looking. Once summer is reached so much of birdwatching is really bird listening anyway. Flashes of movement focus me and then I see a Great Tit, going into a tree hole. Its a great tit nest!

Finding the nest makes it already the best patch walk of the week. I watch both parents come and go for a while, they’re being very busy and attentive and making multiple visits in just a few minutes. I don’t want to disturb them though, so move on.

Elated by the nest find, I almost pass by the sweet chestnut tree with the the nuthatch nest in it. That would be double foolish today, as the sweet chestnut has a new resident – there’s another nest in the tree. Woodpigeons have built a twiggy nest in a V of branches.

Its hidden quite well, although I could imagine a squirrel finding it. We’ll see if they make it. The nuthatch parents appear at their nest too and then I can see a little beak begging at the nest hole!

 

How fantastic, the nutchatch chicks are getting closer and closer to fledging. I’m really rooting for this nest to make it, having seen its progress from the resident male calling for a mate to nest building, laying and feeding the young.¬† What a great tree this sweet chestnut is too, supporting 2 nests. That won’t be the only amorous woodpigeon pair I see today too.

On into the park and the difference in the rain to yesterday in the sun is remarkable. Its practically deserted, I see only half a dozen people the whole time. It makes such an impact on how much wildlife I see. Squirrels and blackbirds are feeding on the ground and are unconcerned as I quietly pass by.

At the hedge, having passed another robin at an oak tree with a beakful of caterpillars, I’m optimistic of seeing robin by the hedge. He rewards my optimism, going up and down the hedge a few times before eventually coming down to the ground to get food.

The female robin appears too, going back and forth from Mr Robin to the nest, but the expected food pass never comes before I move on.

Past the deserted play area – deserted other than for the magpies on the cut grass (6 for gold) – and round to the black spruce tree. The squirrels definitely don’t disappoint today.

Braveheart and Buddy both come over quickly and get down to the serious business of eating nuts. I keep them apart, Braveheart on the stump, Buddy on the V between branch and trunk, and it all goes swimmingly. Buddy in particular settles easily today, sitting right in the V of the branch and stump and giving me a really up-close view of exactly how they eat the monkey nuts I give them. Crack open the case, strip off the skin and eat the nut like you’re holding a particularly full sandwich that you don’t want to drop anything out of. I like it! Its such a privilege to be trusted by wildlife like this, to see it up close.

Head home, past multiple cooing and canoodling pairs of woodpigeons on the way. Something has really changed for woodpigeons overnight, love is in the air for them.

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