Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Encouraging signs ; Final update

I knew it would happen, but it was still a disappointment when it did.

I came home from work today to see a couple of recently fledged Blue Tits sitting on my bird food stand looking forlorn. No visits were being made to the box situated on the back fence. My Blue Tits had fledged and for another year I had missed it! Two of the young did have the decency to hang around for a while, but they soon got fed up and flew into the trees never to be seen again. I will never know how many young managed to fledge, but hopefully however many there were, they will live long enough to become adult birds and themselves continue the species.

Monday, 30 May 2011


I received a phone call from Mike Weedon this afternoon to let me know that there was a Sanderling present at Maxey GP. These birds do pass our PBC area on migration and May is the traditional time of year for this to happen. The drizzle that was present today `forced` this bird and 6 Dunlin down onto the mud of Maxey where it proceeded to feed.

This bird is number 159 on my PBC list for 2011, just one behind Mr. Weedon!

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Feeding time!

The Blue Tits are still feeding their young, but with increased frequency. The young have now taken to sticking their heads up at the hole on the nest box, apparently impatient for their next feed, they wait and wait, for all of 10 seconds and then their parents come with a juicy aphid or piece of fatball to relieve their hunger pains!

I am assuming that these young will fledge in a few days. The weather forecast is not too great for tomorrow, so it will probably be in the middle of the week when I am at work!

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Spotted Flycatcher

All photo`s digiscoped using Canon Powershot A640 and Kowa TSN-883 x30

The Spotted Flycatcher is one of the last migrant birds to arrive in this country with most returning in late May, before leaving in July and August. A pair of these lovely birds have bred in the churchyard at Elton, a village just outside Peterborough, for the past few years and have returned this year to try again.

The bird is the size of a House Sparrow with a long dark bill, a rounded head and long wings and a tail. The upperparts of the bird are grey-brown with off-white underparts with streaks on the breast and crown.

They feed on flying insects, especially large flies and also butterflies. They hunt these from a prominent perch, flying out, chasing the prey erratically, siezing the insect and then returning to the same perch.

The female lays 4-6 eggs and incubates these for 12-14 days. Both sexes feed the young until they leave the nest at about 15 days, but the young remain dependant on their parents for a further 12-32 days. The population of this bird was 120,000 pairs in 1988-91, but by 1998 this had fallen by 78%. The reasons for this are not fully understood, but can be linked to problems at their wintering grounds south of the equator and on the migration routes.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Young birds

The garden is full of birds at the moment and most notable among these are the young birds that are just starting to step out into the big wide world. Some are on their own, but most are still accompanied by an adult which sometimes feeds them, sometimes just looks out for them while they try and work out how to eat a sunflower heart!

The young Great Tits are not the ones from our Sparrow apartment, they are yet to fledge and as yet the Blue Tits are still in their box in the garden. When these young venture out our garden will be crammed full of birds, all eating me out of house and home!

Young Great Tit (Parus major)

Young Blackbird (Turdus merula) Slightly older than the one below

Young Blackbird (Turdus merula)

Young Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) No face markings, but gold wing bars

Young Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Some Insects

Orange-tip butterfly (Male) Anthocharis cardamines
Common Blue (Male) Polyommatus icarus

Cinnabar Tyria jacobaeae

Black-tailed Skimmer Orthetrum cancellatum

Variable Damselfly Coenagrion pulchellum

Azure Damselfly Coenagrion puella

Just a few photo`s of some of the insects seen on a wlk around King`s Dyke NR near Whittlesey. Some others that I saw, but was not able to photograph were Wall Brown butterfly, Small White butterfly, a very worn Peacock butterfly, Brown Argus butterfly, Red-eyed Damselfly, Hairy Dragonfly, Scarce Chaser Dragonfly and Four-spotted Chaser Dragonfly.

All photo`s were taken with my hand-held Lumix FS15.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

A few more Wheatear shots

Digiscoped using Canon Powershot A640 and Kowa TSN-883 x30

This Wheatear has been present at Maxey GP for approximately 2 weeks now and is showing no signs of moving on! The bird seems to be quite happy feeding on the rabbit cropped grass and is almost ignoring me when I walk by, enabling me to get fairly close to her.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

A case of mistaken identity

We have a Sparrow apartment box placed on the gable end of our house that my Father-in-law made, specifically aimed at attracting House Sparrows which are a bit of a rarity in our garden. This box cannot be seen from any window or door of our house, but can be seen quite clearly from our neighbours garden.

A few weeks ago our neighbours told us that they had been observing a pair of Blue Tits coming and going from this box and just recently they told us that they had seen these birds going into the box with caterpillars. I wanted to observe this, but unlike the box in the garden (which I have detailed in previous posts) which can be seen from our patio doors, this one can only be viewed from the back of our garden. Obviously when you step out of the back door all birds in the area disappear, so I hatched a plan! We have a greenhouse situated at the back of our garden, so I decided to sit and wait in there and see if the birds would appear! As you can see from the photos below what I saw were not Blue Tits, but their larger cousins, Great Tits! This species has not nested in our garden before and so this was a very welcome sighting (another Blue Tit family would be equally exciting).

These birds are unaware that they have nested in the wrong box as I have a specific Great Tit nest box situated just round the corner, but this sparrow apartment was obviously just right for them. I wait with bated breath for the fledglings.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Encouraging signs ; Another update

Things went a bit quiet on the Blue Tit front for a while and I began to get worried, but earlier this week I noticed the pair making very frequent visits to the nest box and these visits were made with little caterpillars in their beaks!

The pair are gradually becoming slightly scruffy, to say the least, but are doing a great job in feeding their young. I have no idea of the numbers of chicks and so I will have to wait for at least a week and a half before there may be signs of fledging. Blue Tit young leave the nest when they are between 16 and 22 days old.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Hawthorn Warbler

Digiscoped using Canon Powershot A640 and Kowa TSN-883 x30

Another one of our common summer migrants, the Sedge Warbler is a brown bird with a rather flat head, dark streaky crown and a prominent white stripe above its eye.

They breed in thick vegetation in wet places. They are present in marshes, reedbeds, riverside scrub, damp ditches and nettle beds. They also breed in dryer habitats, including bramble and (as in this case) hawthorn thickets and fields of rape and other crops. Nesting begins in late April, with the female building the nest,laying the 5-6 eggs and incubating the eggs for 13-15 days. The young stay in the nest for 10-14 days and are fed by both parents.

The Sedge Warbler arrives in mid-April and leaves its breeding grounds in July. They move to pre-migrating areas where they build up large fat reserves in order to fly 3,900 km to Africa, south of the Sahara. The oldest known individual lived for 7 years 11 months (that`s a lot of flying!).

There are thought to be 250,000 pairs in Britain, with populations fluctuating annually, with a drop of 45% between 1970 and 1998. The loss of wetland and harsh riverside management has affected breeding success, but much of the variation in population size is related to adult survival which is linked to changes in rainfall in their wintering grounds.

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Early Dragon

Photo taken with Canon Powershot A640

The Four-spotted Chaser dragonfly is supposed to emerge in late May and June, that`s what my field guide says anyway, hence why I was confused when I saw it! The i.d. was confirmed by my friend Brian `The Natural Stone` Stone. Wildlife, however doesn`t read books and will do what it needs to do when the weather and conditions are right.

This dragonfly was present on my recent walk along the Nene Washes and was my first sighting of this type of dragonfly this year.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Common Whitethroat

Digiscoped using Canon Powershot A640 and Kowa TSN-883 x30

The Common Whitethroat is, as its name suggests a common migrant bird to our shores in the summer months. There are over 670,000 territories in the U.K. alone, but the population does fluctuate with droughts in their wintering grounds in the Sahel area of North Africa affecting the numbers.

The bird is similar in size to a Great Tit, with the male (pictured here) having a grey head, white throat and a brown back with reddish brown edges to the wing feathers giving a `rufous` look to the closed wings. The underneath is buff, or slightly pinky with white outer tail feathers; the female has a browner head and is generally duller than the male.

The first birds start to arrive in mid April after a flight that has taken it from Africa to Britain via France, where it returns in the Autumn by a different route, taking in France, Spain and Portugal before arriving in Africa.

They breed in thick hedges, scrub, along woodland edges, in brambles, nettles or gorse and anywhere where there is tangled vegetation. The laying of eggs can start in April with the peak being in mid May. Both sexes incubate the 4-5 eggs for 9-14 days and the young leave the nest when they are 10-12 days old and stay with the parents for up to 20 days. They have two broods.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Poorly Barwit

All photo`s digiscoped using Canon Powershot A640 and Kowa TSN-883 x30

This female Bar-tailed Godwit was present at one of the pits at the Maxey site the other day, an area of the site frequented by dog walkers. She was seen to fly in, but when I caught up with her a couple of hours later she was showing signs of having a damaged wing (you can draw you own conclusions as to how her wing was damaged). This was not hindering the bird as far as feeding was concerned, but I am sure that she would not be able to fly.

The bird was not present the day after these photo`s were taken.