Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Badger bridge

I have had a few blank nights with the trail camera recently so this more than made up for them.  The badgers were on a fallen tree trunk which they use as a bridge across a stream.  The camera recorded 12 photos in one night.  Eight were good and worth seeing so here are the rest of them.

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Bird of the week - Snow bunting

This has been our third winter in a row without snow.  Snow buntings have also been hard to come by in recent years so I was very pleased to see one (and it was only one) at Druridge Bay this week.  I think this bird is a winter male.

The last decent view I had of a snow bunting was this female three years ago, at the same place.

This BTO BirdTrack graph shows that snow bunting numbers have been low this winter.

Snow buntings are winter visitors found on north-east coasts or on high ground, mainly in Scotland.  There is a tiny breeding population in the Scottish Highlands.

This is where they breed in Europe.

Snow buntings have circumpolar distribution and are common in North America, breeding in the Arctic and wintering either side of the US-Canadian border.

Thomas Bewick made this engraving for A History of British Birds (1797).

Snow buntings were obviously much more common in Bewick's time (as was snow).
 As usual, he commented on their culinary attributes.

Archibald Thorburn painted a male snow bunting with a reed bunting, both in breeding plumage.

He also painted one in winter colours (L) with a twite (R).

John James Audubon painted this plate for Birds of America.

You can listen to Sir David Attenborough's BBC Radio 4 Tweet of the Day here.

Saturday, 25 March 2017

First mining bee

Yesterday was my first trip of the year to the Spetchells, a WW2 chalk waste dump on the bank of the River Tyne at Prudhoe in Northumberland.  This was earlier than I have been in previous years and when I arrived there were no bees to be seen.  However, as soon as it warmed up a few were out flying in the sunshine.  Almost all were buffish mining bees (Andrena nigroaenea), which is the commonest species there.  First I found a few males, mostly on patrol looking for females but occasionally stopping for a rest (and a photo).

This guy was being watched closely by a spider but didn't get caught.

I saw two mating pairs and managed a brief shot of one of them.

Then I found this female.  I think she was freshly emerged and she moved slowly around the gorse flowers, allowing me plenty of photos.

I saw one other male bee, darker, greyer and much smaller.  I guess it is another Andrena but I don't know which one.

I'll be back there soon as more and more bees will emerge in coming days.

Thursday, 23 March 2017

Blue tit through a macro lens

I don't know what this was all about.  When I noticed this blue tit in the gooseberry bush it was hanging upside down from a branch and I thought it might be trapped.  Before approaching it I grabbed a camera (as you do).  I couldn't see any sign that it was stuck but it didn't fly away as I got nearer.

I went to change the camera for a shorter lens and when I got back the blue tit was the right way up.

I was using a 100mm macro lens and I could get this close.

As it wasn't trapped I just watched and eventually it flew to a nearby perch.  Even then it sat and watched me and didn't seem perturbed.

Eventually it flew away, seeming quite normal.  At one stage I was close enough to use the iPhone although the image isn't quite so good as it was in a shady corner.

You can see from the iPhone videos that the bird seems quite relaxed.

The only other thing that occurs to me is that it might have bumped its head on the window and was recovering, but it never seemed stunned.  Whatever the explanation, it needs to be more alert next time in case the sparrowhawk returns.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Not 100% vegetarian

I noticed on my jar of Marmite® that it is 100% vegetarian.  It left me wondering how something could be, say, 50% or 90% vegetarian.

Here is someone who is less than 100% vegetarian but is putting on a good show.  Foxes will eat almost anything.  I first found them taking apples left out for the birds last winter and recently noticed again.

Here the fox will take apples, peanuts, dog food, eggs, almost anything I leave out for it.  I previously posted photos of the fox with grey squirrel, wood pigeon, or squirrel and stock dove.  Its favourite is a whole squirrel or rabbit, which I don't have very often. The photo and brief video clip below, which I haven't posted before, are from last summer.  If you are 100% vegetarian I hope they don't put you off your dinner.  And, as if that isn't bad enough, they are followed by video clips of a fox running off with a squirrel (while the hedgehog keeps its head down), and another struggling to take away two rabbits at the same time, determined not to leave one for anyone else.  Bon appetit.