Thursday, 25 May 2017

Amazing garden bird

I am quite used to seeing black and white birds in the garden but they are great spotted woodpeckers or magpies or pied wagtails.  Last night as I was cooking my dinner I glanced out of the kitchen window and saw an oystercatcher on the lawn!

The oystercatcher was doing a pretty good job of catching its own dinner which was just as well as mine ended up a bit overcooked.

In the past few weeks I have seen and heard lots of oystercatchers flying over the garden, often very low below treetop height.  I have heard that they are nesting on the roofs of the grandstands on the racecourse about half a mile away. When I see them I expect they are flying to and from their feeding grounds but I never imagined I would see one land here.

It was interesting to see how easily it pushed its beak this far into the ground.

Eventually it caught one last worm and took off carrying it, possibly taking it back to the nest.  I do hope it will come back.  My neighbour Gill tells me she had one in her garden this afternoon so perhaps it will.

I submit a weekly report to BTO Garden BirdWatch on what I see in the garden but this week I'm not sure they'll believe me.

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Another first

It has been an exciting week in the garden.  My first swarm of the year (and hopefully the last), the first eggs of the year in the camera box, first ever Nomada bee (but no photo), and the first damselfly of the year.  I've seen a few round and about recently but not here until now.  This is a female large red damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula).  She was munching on a tiny fly which doesn't show well on the photo.  I also saw a male but he was camera shy.  I see these damselflies each spring but can't be sure whether they come from my pond or nearby.  I also saw a teneral (newly emerged) common darter dragonfly, earlier than I have seen one here before, but again it was too quick for a photo.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

MalteserCam I

This was a good night for the trail camera.  After my recent success with Maltesers I again baited it with a mixture of Maltesers and peanuts, just a little way along the badger trail from last time.  First on the scene was this fox at about 10pm but it was very wary, as foxes often are.  I expect it could smell the peanuts but also the camera or my scent.

It didn't come closer than this.  Notice two Maltesers in the foreground.

Just after midnight there was another fox, possibly the same one, but again it didn't come close (at least it didn't trigger the camera).

Then at around 2am one or more wood mice  They were mostly interested in the peanuts but you can see one of them has had a bite at one of the Maltesers.  Either they don't like milk chocolate or it was too big to carry.

The badger didn't arrive until after 3.30am but fortunately for him most of the food was still there.

He gradually got closer and closer as he ate his way through the food.

And chomp, he got the two closest Maltesers.

Altogether he was there for 20 minutes making sure there was nothing left.  He had eaten two handfuls of peanuts and half a packet of Maltesers.

And finally a roe deer.  It was too close by the time it triggered the photo, only a few minutes before I arrived to collect the camera.  I expect a roe deer wouldn't be interested in Maltesers in any case.

Monday, 22 May 2017

Eggcellent news

At last.  Today for the first time I can see eggs (two of them) in the camera box.  I have been writing occasional updates on the Nestbox camera 2017 page (tab above) since the tree sparrows moved in on 12th March but there has been very little to write about recently.  The nest was finished weeks ago and although the birds have continued to visit there was no sign of laying.   The structure of the nest is very different from the blue tits which have occupied the box in previous years.  There is a tunnel from the entrance hole to the back of the floor which has meant I have had to reposition the camera several times and the view still gets obscured by bits of nest material.  The birds' activity has increased in the past couple of days but even last night the female didn't sleep in (the blue tits have always slept in for at least one night before laying).  Then this morning she was in the box for a long time and this afternoon I can see this. Whether both were laid today or one was yesterday and I couldn't see it I'm not sure.  I expect the latter is more likely.

There are tree sparrows in several other boxes and in holes in trees in my patch of woodland and some of those have already fledged their first brood.  This was a youngster I photographed this morning that is already old enough to feed itself.

The BTO website says the tree sparrow clutch size is 5-6 eggs and the median first clutch laying date is 17 May so perhaps this pair is not so late.  I expect there will be a few more eggs this week.  Incubation is 12-13 days and fledging is 15-18 days after that so we're looking at the second half of June.  There may well be a second brood to follow.  Lets hope so and that we still have some sort of view into the nest.  Regular updates will be on the "Nestbox camera 2017" page (accessed via the tab above).  I'll also post any major developments, such as hatching, fledging, etc on this main blog.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Green hairstreak butterfly

It is green hairstreak time again.  I first saw these butterflies last year and went back this week for another look.  They are small and brown but diffraction of light by the scales on the underwing produces this wonderful iridescent green colour.  They look brown when they fly but the upper wings are always hidden at rest.  The males hold a territory and defend it vigorously against intruders, often returning to the same vantage point between sorties.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Coral root orchid

This beautiful little plant is the rare Coral Root Orchid (Corallorhiza trifida).  It is found in only a handful of sites in England, one of them being in Gosforth Park Nature Reserve, a mile from here.  Even here there are only a few flower spikes each year.  The plant is tiny and is very exacting in its requirements.  It grows here in damp birch wood in what used to be the lake.  It is a saprophyte - its underground rhizomes derive much of their nutrition from fungus that grows on birch roots - but it also has some chlorophyll and, although it has no leaves, it is capable of photosynthesis.  The tiny flowers at the top of each 15cm stem are mostly self-fertile but limited cross-pollination does occur.  It is in flower just now but the flowers are short-lived and most of the time the plant is invisible underground.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Roe buck

I often see roe deer when I walk in to set or to retrieve the trail camera.  They are fairly tolerant of people as long as they aren't surprised.  If they can see me and can judge my distance they will often stand and watch me, as this young roe buck did.  He looks a bit scruffy as he is moulting from his darker winter coat to his reddish brown summer coat.

A couple of nights ago I saw two mature bucks who were facing off with lots of head lowering, stamping and pawing at the ground but they didn't clash antlers.  I didn't have a camera and the light would have been poor under the trees in any case but it was marvellous to watch.  After five minutes or so they either lost interest or decided between themselves that one was the winner, as they sauntered off in opposite directions.  I did have the iPhone and these are the marks they left in the ground.

The roe deer rut is not until July-August so I think these two were just confirming their territorial boundaries.