Saturday, 23 June 2012

It's Raining Blackbirds!

Male with worm
The persistent rain and wind has had an adverse effect on many of our breeding birds this summer: one only has to think of Little Terns on our east coast, nests completely washed away, not once but twice!

In the garden, I counted 11 Blackbirds patrolling the open lawned area, in all about an acre for them to hunt over.  A quick check revealed that 10 of those birds were males and they kept a discreet distance form each other as they moved over the damp surface.  Worms are easy to locate, being close to the surface after all the rain: so, at least one species is benefitting from the damp conditions! 

Female Blackbird

We have had enquiries from members of the public wondering where the female Blackbirds have disappeared to?  The chances are that most of the female Blackbirds are sitting on eggs, a second brood at this stage of the season.  Brooding the eggs is carried out by females alone, though once hatched the young are fed by both parents.

 Brown female contrasts with sharp black plumage and yellow beak of male

Friday, 15 June 2012

First flight

I received a nice mail and some great pix from my colleague CoilĂ­n Mac Lochlainn, describing  an event that is taking place all over the country about now, but nonetheless is still really special to witness:

"A clutch of Blue Tits in one of my nestboxes flew this morning at 8am; I was lucky enough to see them all take their first flight, five in all. The whole thing took about 10 minutes, certainly no more than 15.

The first one took a good look around, looking left and right as well as forward. It took it about 2 or 3 minutes to decide to go, enough time for me to get my camera. When a parent returned with food, it was
momentarily puzzled to find that the first one was calling from the bushes, but it took the food inside the box anyway.

Chicks 2, 3 and 4 left in quick succession, one after the other, no pushing or shoving, and not looking around as much. It seemed as though the ones inside were giving the one perched at the entrance plenty of
time to make up its mind to fly.

Finally, chick 5 appeared and it was clear that this one was much weaker than the others (see pic above). It was also slower to take off; it finally did, but instead of a bold flight it sailed down to the ground and
hopped into a bush. Luckily a parent was on the spot within minutes and somehow got it away out of danger. I had chased a feral cat out of the garden during all this, in case it tried to catch any of them. I managed
to photograph all five of the birds. The box is empty and silent now and all the activity has moved away."

I was happy to observe a couple of young Blue Tits in my own garden, visiting the peanut feeder with a parent: although there is lots of food options at this time, peanuts are obviously very welcome when foraging becomes very difficult with the disasterous wet weather we have experienced lately.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Helpers with the weeding!

As I write, the downpour shows no sign of easing: you've got to pick your moment to get out and try get some work done in the garden.  The grass and of course the weeds have been the first to bolt and its a game of catch up from here.
So shortage of seeds here

The nestbox is quiet with the Blue Tits fledging and dispersing last weekend.. A wet start for that brood!  The Swallow nest in the downpipe is staying dry so far, but has attracted the attention of a Magpie.. Thats why the nest is usually sited in a building

A pair of Bullfinches gorge themselves

The Bullfinches are quick to exploit my wild (or is it lazy?) garden..  They have been gorging the seeds of dandelion, forget me not and a host of unidentified ones from the borders.. All assistance gratefully received. 

You can see from  the photograph below, how wet the Bullfinch has got in its quest for food.. No sign of any nest in the garden, but I hope to see the much more plain faced young birds soon.

Dandelion seeds: worth the wetting!

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Ready to Go?

Adult alights on the box: note anti-cat defences around the box lid

The Blue Tits have survived the attentions of the Cat and the mixed weather: They are now very close to fledging, but maybe its better to stay another day in the nestbox, at least until the rain clears!  The adult birds are in surprisingly good nick, plumage wise, considering the number of times they are in and out of the box.

Juvenile begs for food

The young birds are beginning to make their way to the nestbox entrance/exit, cheekily calling the hard pressed adults for more food.  There are I think, six young in the nest, but I haven't lifted the lid for fear of causing alarm and an explosion of young birds out of the box. The young birds have a really eye catching lemon wash around the face and note the big bright gape: so effective for stimulating the adults to feed them. 

No Rest! Adult emerges from the box