Friday, 26 May 2017

" Kindergarden "

Its that time of year again when the garden takes on the guise of a kindergarten. Juvenile birds are being brought to the feeders, although they seem more interested in begging for food, but I suspect they will get the idea soon enough and learn where to find an easy source of food.

Blackbirds nesting close by in the Ivy were first to show off their offspring, only two made it to juvenile status, they are still being seen around the garden, and still taking food from the adults despite their size.

Male Blackbird and Juvenile

House Sparrows visit the feeders now with a trailing posse of juveniles, they seemed to have done very well once again with lots of House Sparrows being seen around the garden.

House Sparrow

As I mentioned on previous blog pages, our garden Robins managed to raise five juveniles, they are still being seen around the garden, although I suspect that when those red breast feathers come through they will be chased away.

The demanding Starlng Juveniles have now invaded the garden with there incessant screeching for food.

Juvenile Starling
The last few days have seen a Great Tit family visiting the feeders, suet and sunflower seeds appear to be their favorite food source at the moment.

Great Tit

As you can see " kindergarten" seems very apt at the moment.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

"The boys are out" !!!

After what seemed like a twenty four hour deluge of rain, the last thing I was expecting to see were Bumblebee's, albeit very small Bumblebees, but there they were, at least five Early Nesting Bumblebees drinking up nectar from the flowers of a huge aromatic Umbellifer. possibly Common Hogweed, I'm not sure and must admit to a distinct lack of knowledge when it comes to identifying specimens from this group of plants.

Fortunately the flower heads were at  eye level so photographing this little Bumblebee was made a lot easier for a change. my first impression because of the size, were that these were Early Bumblebee workers, totally wrong, closer inspection reveals a wide yellow band on the shoulders and yellow hairs on the head making these all males.

The Early Nesting Bumblebee is one of the short-tongued Bumblebees, and this photograph clearly shows that, and the yellow hair on the head.

There is another identifying factor, if you manage to get a close view, males do not have pollen baskets on the back legs.

Because this Bumblebee is an early nesting Bumblebee, some literature suggests that this species of Bumblebee may be able to go through two colony cycles in a year, males do not normally appear until the end of a colony cycle.

 Once the males leave the nesting colony they do not return, so seeing these males frantically feeding in the early morning suggests that they may have rested all night under the flower heads for easy access to the nectar at the start of the day, allowing them to warm up.

Sadly this probably means that this colony is coming to the end of its life.

These males now have one aim, and that is to mate, they will patrol a circuit laying down a scent at strategic spots in order to attract a newly emerged queen who will hopefully find the scent so irresistible that she will allow him to mate with her.

I will have to keep a lookout for newly emerged Queens now. 

Any help on the identity of this Umbellifer would be appreciated, if my initial I.D. is wrong.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Gone..... But not forgotten !

The first occupation of a bird box in the garden was a success in the end, even though  the bird box was very close to our conservatory window and the bird feeders next to the pond with many birds coming and going, the Robins totally unphased, got on with the job of rearing their brood.

I managed to get  a couple of long range photographs of the nest box and counted five gaping mouths begging for food, slightly above the normal clutch of four.

So approximately sixteen days after egg laying was completed, I believe the eggs hatched, both adult birds were seen taking food to the nest and occasionally taking away the faecal sac's.

I was hoping to see the young birds fledged, but a city break in Rome meant I missed the actual event, which was disappointing , I'm assuming all went well because the box was empty on our return, with no sign of any juveniles around the garden.

Strangely the female has been bringing nesting material again to the box and built a new nest on top of the other. but she has not been in the box for a few days now.

As I mentioned in my recent blog about the Robins, I have been supplementing there feeding with a few well placed meal worms, these appear to have been gratefully appreciated, things have progressed on a bit now with both adult Robins becoming very familiar and bold.

Female on my wifes foot

Robin checking out my camera  and waiting for a feed. ( phone picture)

This is not the end of the story, I noticed that the Adults were not eating  all the mealworms but flying to the trees at the end of the garden and that's where I noticed a Juvenile fly to the adult and take the mealworm, and there they were, hiding in the trees, the juvenile Robins.

I have been watching closely over the last day or two and have spotted the juveniles in among  the garden shrubs.

And that's a nice ending to this little story.

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

" Gropper "

 I seem to be having a good spell at the moment, seeing some scarcer birds than I usally get to see. The Grasshopper Warbler or "Gropper" as its affectionately called by the more experienced birders, is one of those birds that has eluded me over the many years I have been wildlife watching,  I have heard them on two previous occasions, an unmistakable sound once you know what you are listening to, but actually seeing one, that's been difficult.

 So as I walked through the reed-bed at Rainham RSPB on a short visit recently, I heard the unmistakable reeling call of the Gropper which appeared to be coming from a bush on the other side of a dyke from where I was standing.

I knew that a Grasshopper warbler had been previously reported here, but never expected to actually see it.

Its call had attracted a few other observers who were on the right side of the dyke and in a much better position than me. As I contemplated joining them, I saw the Warbler move out to the edge of the bush,  its reeling call quite loud now. so there it was, on show for about a minute or so before moving back, hidden in the depths of the bush.

It is said that the best time to see or hear these are at dawn and dusk when they reel from their song posts, this one was seen  about 14:30 in the afternoon.

Grasshopper Warbler  Locustella naevia

"Gropper " slinking back into the depths of the bush

 Its taken thirty one years to see this old world warbler, for a view of less than two minutes, but it was nice to put a face to the song.

  At least I have a photograph or two to remind me. Hopefully it will not be so long before another comes my way.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Road Trip to Vange !

Its been a while since I last made the effort to go on a so called "Twitch", but the lure of some Black-Winged Stilts less than thirty minutes drive got the better of me.
They had arrived on a reserve in Essex known as Vange Marsh, a site I have not previously visited so well worth the effort.
I could feel all the nervous tension rising as I made my way there, if the birds were not on view there was always the opportunity to explore this RSPB reserve for future reference,
so not a wasted trip.

Directions to the site were pretty accurate, and I soon found myself at the reserve entrance.

As I walked through the gate, the first Butterfly that I saw turned out to be a Painted Lady, other Butterflies noted were Small White, Green Veined white, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, I should imagine this site would be good for Dragonflies as the season progresses.

There appears to be two main routes to take, a shorter walk out towards a viewing screen, and a longer walk alongside the marsh.

I opted for the viewing screen first and was rewarded with a distant Black-Winged Stilt, a male feeding on a long muddy island in front of the screen.

I watched this fine looking male for about an hour by myself, it seems that the Black-Winged Stilts do not have the same rarity appeal as they used to any more.
And It wasn't till the bird stretched its wings and flew out of sight that another birder arrived, he informed me that there were another two Stilts showing well on the far side of the marsh.

Other birds noted in front of the screen were Oystercatchers, Black -Tailed Godwits and a Green Sandpiper.

After a pleasant walk around the marsh in some lovely warm sunshine I soon came across the other two Stilts feeding reasonably close on the edge of the marsh, the sun was in the wrong direction but I managed to get some more photographs of the Stilts, a male and female.

One attempt at mating in the couple of hours I was watching, and then back to the important task of feeding.
Here's a few photographs of the Black-Winged Stilts, the male with darker markings on the head and neck.

A successful trip with an interesting bird to view and photograph.