Sunday, April 29, 2007

New list started


Earlier today, a Swallow became the first bird to add itself to our 'birds seen or heard inside the house' list. Not one I'd anticipated keeping, but there you go...

I wasn't there to see it, but I'm told one flew in through the open window of the downstairs loo, twittered a bit, and flew out again.

Better keep that window shut for now.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

The Lodge

I went to The Lodge this morning to do some recceing for the Beds bird race team. I failed on that front, but had some photographic successes.

Birds. Yes, I photographed some birds!

Here's one that fledged earlier: baby Blackbird

Another delivery of still-wriggling caterpillars on its way to a Robin nest near you

A tiny Grass Snake swimming in one of the ponds. Whether it was after insects or newts (both plentiful, I'm not sure)

Odonata. Yes, it's dragon- and damselfly time again.

Female (I think) Hairy Dragonfly

Zoomed-in, you can see the hairs

Large Red Damselflies: mating

and teneral (just-emerged)

Lepidoptera (butterflies and moths)

Speckled Wood

Small Copper

Holly Blue (nectaring on holly, appropriately enough)

Green-veined White

Adela reamurella - weird, long-antennaed moths

And now for some leaves..


Rowan (I think)

Oak



Maple


Lime

Horse-chestnut

Bracken

Beech

Miscellaneous bugs:



Bee-fly on bluebell

photos taken with Canon EOS 30D, EF 300mm f/4L IS USM

Friday, April 27, 2007

Add another one...

... another predictable garden tick, in the form of four House Martins hawking over the house along with the usual Swallows. It would be interesting if they decided to stick around, too.

Whitethroat


Spring is a good time to have your windows open. This song of this male Whitethroat alerted me to his presence in the garden. He was actually in the garden, singing from the bird feeder bush, before he moved into next door's shrubbery.

Whitethroats aren't very tuneful but the Red-legged Partridge 'singing' from somewhere nearby is even less so...

This photo was digiscoped through the window glass. I really ought to think about getting a little hide in the garden.

A Pterodactyl

... I mean Cormorant, flying over the back field this morning appears to have been a garden tick. A Rook ventured into the garden itself briefly, which was a bit unusual - they're much less bold than the Jackdaws.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Yellow Wagtail

A bright male flew over the garden, calling, while I was out on the veg patch again. I've been expecting to see one any day now.

Reed Bunting singing from the field at the back of the house, which always has 4 or 5 Swallows hunting over it.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Migrants

Garden ticks are coming thick and fast at the moment. This morning, while I was labouring on the vegetable plot (again), a male Whitethroat came and sang briefly in the ash tree.

And this evening, while I was planting pansies in the flowerbed, a Hobby swooped into our airspace in pursuit of some of 'our' Swallows! I think it was put off when it spotted us standing there watching, but before it departed southwards, we heard the 'whoosh' of its wings swiping through the air. Fantastic!

My money's on Yellow Wagtail to be the next addition to the list.

Walking on eggshells

... literally. Nothing to worry about, though - this is an empty Blackbird eggshell.

The raggedy edge shows that it was chipped open by a chick, using its egg-tooth. Not a real tooth, but a horny tip to the chick's bill which develops specially for that purpose, and then withers away after hatching.

What's it doing on the lawn? The female Blackbird will have dumped it there after the chick hatched. A load of brightly-coloured eggshells lying around the nest would get in the way and also draw attention to the nest. Occasionally, the shells are eaten by the female, as they represent a lot of calcium which might come in handy for the next brood.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Fence-sitters

Red-legged partridge was the first bird on our garden list, when we went to view the house and saw a covey of 12 just over the back fence.

However, I believe today is the first day they've actually been seen in the garden. I was gazing out of the window and could hear some gentle clucking. Couldn't work it what it was or where it was coming from, and I eventually spotted two partridges mooching around in one of the flower beds, close to the house.

When they spotted me, they flew up onto the fence and dropped down into next-door's garden, before scurrying off like two trespassers who knew they weren't really meant to be there.

Not for the easily-disgusted

I found this especially large piece of poo on the lawn this morning. It's nearly two inches long, which led me to wonder whether it was laid there by something other than a hedgehog. After all, we've been told there aren't any hedgehogs around here.

So I am pleased to report that my colleague and poo-expert, Derek, is certain that it is hedgehog poo. This is good news. If you're brave and click on the pic to see the larger version, you may be able to spot the bits of beetle wing-case in the stool.

Click here to read more about hedgehogs and their habits

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Rat(s)

This evening we've been watching a Brown Rat (or Norwegian Rat, Rattus norvegicus) pottering around in the garden.

Surprisingly, it wasn't underneath the bird feeders (where seed gets spilled by Jackdaws trying to feed) but instead wandered around the lawn, finding plenty to eat there instead. Couldn't see quite what it was eating, though - perhaps insects or roots?

As long as it stays outside the house, it's welcome. There must be loads of rats around here...

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Swallows


Up to three Swallows have been swooping over the garden and surrounding fields in recent days. They rest on the telegraph wires in front of the house when they're not busy feeding.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Butterflies and leaves

Brimstone on bluebells

Speckled Wood being territorial - guarding its patch of sunlight

oak

sycamore

beech

Monday, April 16, 2007

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Blackcap

Today there's been a Blackcap singing from somewhere nearby. Also a Swallow over the field at the back of the house, and a Tawny Owl hooting in the middle of the afternoon. Two Kestrels are calling over the road and there are Skylarks singing.

I found what looks suspiciously like Hedgehog poo on the lawn, which is interesting because we've been told there aren't any around here.

Avocets

I like Avocets. Other people don't. Yesterday at Minsmere, Darren coined the word 'chavocet' and I've also heard them referred to as ASBOcets (two modern British social phenomena for you).

These birds are meant to be ambassadors for the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, and yet they spend their time on one of the society's flagship reserves trying to peck each other into submission!

It's true they can be slightly antisocial in their protective behaviour, but you can hardly blame them for that.

Here are some photos of them bickering and fighting amongst each other, just like many human neighbours.









Here, the DSLR gave me more freedom to catch interesting behaviour, whereas with digiscoping, I have a much longer wait between frames and getting shots of any movement is very difficult.

photos taken with Canon EOS 30D, EF 300mm f/4L IS USM, Extender EF 1.4x II