Tag Archive | birds

Birds in our village

We’ve had a few special bird sightings from our cottage this year, but sadly I can’t illustrate any of them with photos as my camera was not to hand …

The first was a strange occurrence indeed. In the 25 years we have lived here we have only once ever before seen a heron (Ardea cinerea) flying over the village. There is not a lot of water round us: we are on the chalk and a lot of the streams are winterbornes ie they only flow in winter, and the nearest lake is 2.25 km (1.4 miles) away and the nearest river about the same distance. So we were very surprised one morning not only to see a heron flying very low over the gardens near us, but to then see it pitch up on a telephone wire over our neighbour’s garden.

Grey heron (Ardea cinerea). Imagine this, but on a telephone wire … Photo by ErRu.

It perched there, swaying slightly, and it was the most amazing sight: such a massive bird, hanging around the cottages completely unconcerned. For such a huge, ungainly bird we were very impressed at its balancing act. It stayed for a few minutes, and then flew off, leaving us delighted.

The second lovely sighting was earlier this week: a lesser spotted woodpecker (Dryobates minor) on one of the telephone poles (I’m not going to call it a telegraph pole because we’re not living in Downton Abbey times any more), going up and down poking insects out of the drilled holes in the pole, and also banging away at the wood.

Lesser spotted woodpecker (Dryobates minor). Imagine this, but on a telephone pole … Photo by Zaltys.

He flew off and then was back again, scurrying up and down the pole. We’ve seen both lesser spotted woodpeckers and green woodpeckers (Picus viridis) doing this, so there must be rich buggy harvests in all the holes.

The third sighting was last night, and a very exciting one: my first ever starling murmuration over the village. When we moved here we rarely saw starlings (Sturnus vulgaris): maybe one or two every now and then. Chap has been feeding our wild birds regularly for a few years now, and in this time we have noticed various bird species increase (and sadly, decrease – or at least, populations seem to fluctuate). One of the success stories is that of the starlings. In the last year the numbers have increased hugely – we now have a biggish flock that seems to stay around the village all day. This might well be to do in part with Chap putting out vast quantities of dried mealworms as well as sunflower seeds several times a day. The starlings (or stormtroopers, as we affectionately call them, due to their strutting walk and bolshy behaviour) come down in droves and hoover up the worms in no time, and I like to think that this regular supply of protein-rich food throughout the year has helped them thrive and breed and raise broods successfully. We regularly see twelve or fifteen juveniles perched on a television aerial or hanging round on the chimney stacks.

Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris). Adults left and centre front; juveniles right back. Photo by Daniel Plazanet (Daplaza).

The murmuration was so exciting to see. It was at about six thirty – so not near dusk, really, but the sky was very overcast (so overcast that we didn’t get to see the partial eclipse later on last evening, bugger it). I reckon there might have been several hundred birds, and they flew in a long, snaking, undulating group over the houses and perched in one of the large beech trees. Having seen with envy footage of huge murmurations over the Somerset Levels and elsewhere in the UK on the telly, it was magical to see one myself, and from our cottage. I hope this will be the first of many.

A starling murmuration. Photo by David Kjaer.

And here is the most wonderful video of a murmuration. Stick with it: it starts with some photos, and then …

Lucky ladies!

We have found the cheapest place to bulk-buy mealworms is Croston Corn Mill: we buy a 12.55 kg (!) bag at a time and pound-per-kilo it seems to work out much cheaper than other places, both physical shops and online. We get through a bag every two weeks or so ….

Salisbury Cathedral peregrines 2017

Good news: the Salisbury Cathedral peregrines have successfully nested again. The first egg was laid on Friday 31 March, the second on Sunday 2 April, and a third is expected at any time. (9 June 2017: scroll down for updates!)

The peregrine falcon nest at Salisbury Cathedral, April 2017. Two eggs so far …

The Cathedral has set up a webcam of the nest which should be available on this page. The Cathedral also has a Youtube channel, on which there are several videos about the peregrines.

At 18.04 pm on 6 April I can see there are still two eggs on the nest. I do hope she lays more. Last year’s brood had four eggs. (By the way, do use the ‘full screen’ facility for the webcam: it’s a tiny screen otherwise and the details will be barely visible if you don’t enlarge.)

A peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus) on the beautiful stonework of Salisbury Cathedral.

Also great to learn is that one and possibly two other peregrines have been spotted around the Cathedral. These might be the juveniles from last year’s brood.

These good pieces of news follows on the shocking, shameful news that one of first chicks to be hatched at the Cathedral, in 2014, was recently shot and injured. It was found on farmland near King’s Somborne in Hampshire on 11 March, and is being cared for by the Hawk Conservancy Trust near Andover. Hopefully a full prosecution will be brought under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. A peregrine falcon is a Schedule 1 Protected Bird under the law, and injuring or killing it is an offence. The police and the RSPB are currently investigating.

I’ve followed the progress of the peregrines in a 2016 blog post and in a 2015 one, and in a 2014 one.

7 APRIL UPDATE: A third egg this morning, yay!

Three eggs! Morning 7 April 2017.

On the nest, 12.20 Saturday 8 April 2017.

Don’t know when number 4 arrived, but here it is on the morning of Thursday 13 April.

UPDATE 16 May 2017: Five eggs in total on the nest: the fourth was laid on Tuesday 11 April and the fifth on Good Friday, 14 April. So that’s 15 days between the eggs. The first egg last year was laid on 28 March and hatched on 16 May, so we should be expecting some hatching action any day now …

Five eggs. The webcam view on (a wet) 16 May 2017.

Apparently three or four eggs are the norm in the wild, but in urban areas where there is plentiful prey (read: pigeons) clutches can number as many as six.

UPDATE 22 May 2017: I’m not sure when it was born, but there’s a chick in the nest now:

The first hatchling!

UPDATE 30 May 2017: Great excitement while watching the wonderful BBC Springwatch programme last night as they are featuring the Salisbury Cathedral peregrines. The first part is here, starting at 49:25. They are doing a follow-up part tonight. I hope it’s good news: every time I have looked at the the webcam the adult is sitting on the nest, so I have no idea how many chicks there are. I guess I’ll find out tonight.

Beautiful shot of one of the peregrines from the BBC Springwatch footage.

Peregrine on the spire of Salisbury Cathedral, from the BBC Springwatch footage.

UPDATE 31 May 2017: Well, the BBC is keeping us hanging on … another wonderfully-shot update last night on Springwatch, full of beautiful images, but so far no news of any chicks. The second instalment is here, from 24:26. One thing I did learn is that the peregrines are feeding on kingfishers (Alcedo atthis) and greater spotted woodpeckers (Dendrocopos major), among other prey. I guess the kingfishers come from the nearby River Avon with its watermeadows. One of my few ever kingfisher sightings was one darting across the road that enters the central car park by Sainsbury’s in Salisbury: a small tributary of the river runs alongside it.

UPDATE 1 June 2017: Finally we learn from Springwatch that a lone chick hatched, out of the five eggs laid – talk abut stringing it out! This is in contrast to four chicks (only two of which survived to fledge) out of four eggs last year. The non-hatched eggs have been removed from the nest for health reasons, because if the spoiled eggs break the chick could be affected by the rotten contents. The eggs will be analysed to see why they failed: worryingly the spectre of insecticides causing thin shells was raised as a possible cause. The upside is that the lone chick is getting all its parents’ attention and is being fed like a king, with consequent fast growth. The third instalment is here, starting at 49:41.

1 June 2017: the lone chick in its salubrious nest, surrounded by carcasses, shit and flies!

1 June 2017.

UPDATE 2 June: Just a brief update in last night’s Springwatch, with a live web cam view of the satellite-tagged female on the nest and film of the male eating a hapless green woodpecker (Picus viridis). The segment is here, starting at 8:13; it’s followed by a longer segment on some cliff-nesting peregrines.

UPDATE 8 June: Well, what a difference a few hours make! I checked on the webcam yesterday morning and it was down; I didn’t check back so got the surprise via Springwatch last night: a second peregrine chick has been successfully introduced to the nest and is already being happily fostered by the adults.

The new chick on the right; the original, Cathedral chick on the left. 7 June 2017.

The foster chick was one of three chicks in a nest in Shropshire; tragically last weekend the parents were found dead, cause as yet unknown, on the ground below the cliff along with a dead pigeon. Toxicology tests are being undertaken, but poisoning is suspected. Utterly shameful if that is the case. Luckily the chicks were unaffected. They were removed from the nest by RSPB experts, checked over by a vet, and rehomed in the wild: the other two have been fostered to another nest in the Midlands. The segment on last night’s Springwatch starts at 10:51. The male, 25-day-old foster chick was put in the nest at around 8.30 yesterday morning, and was accepted immediately by both the parents and the original Cathedral chick. He’s a bit bigger than the Cathedral chick, as he’s six days older.

Just after introduction. 7 June 2017.

The female (with her satellite tag) feeding the new foster chick. 7 June 2017.

Grumpy! Why aren’t you feeding me, mum? 7 June 2017.

7 June 2017.

7 June 2017.

7 June 2017.

Not long and the chicks were snuggled together, and being fed by both parents. 7 June 2017.

The new family. 7 June 2017.

Such a beautiful sight. The new family. 7 June 2017.

More food. 7 June 2017.

The new siblings snuggled together with mum. 7 June 2017.

UPDATE 9 June 2017: Last night’s Springwatch had a brief update and showed that the fostering is going really well. The relevant segment starts here at 19:00.

The adult male is feeding the foster chick outside the nest, while the adult female feeds the Cathedral chick on the nest. 8 June 2017.

So far the Cathedral chick hasn’t ventured off the nest.

The chicks together, 10.50 am, 9 June 2017.

The foster chick trying out its wings: there’s been a whole lot of flapping going on. 9 June, 4.26 pm.

UPDATE 12 June 2017: Both chicks are now out of the nest, mainly hanging round on the parapet out of view of the webcam.

Round and round the apple tree … redux

Last night was very cold, and we woke to a heavy frost, the fiercest yet this winter. In the secret garden next door we were treated to the lovely sight of our first fieldfare (Turdus pilaris) of the winter, a new arrival from Scandinavia or points further east. He was flying between the tall beeches that surround the garden and the central, old apple tree, with its spread of windfall apples on the ground beneath, chasing off any blackbirds (Turdus merula) that got too close to his stash.

Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris). Photo by Bengt Nyman.

Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris). Photo by Bengt Nyman.

Now this might be a bit of a stretch, and I have no idea of the longevity of fieldfare, but I wonder if this is the same bird that stayed in the secret garden for well over a month during the winter two years ago. Fieldfare normally travel in flocks, so seeing a singleton is unusual enough. The fact that this one is displaying the same territorial behaviour towards the secret garden makes me wonder ….

The secret garden, surrounded by tall beech trees and with its old apple tree in the centre. The fieldfare was in one the beeches when I took this, not that you'll be able to spot it.

The secret garden, surrounded by tall beech trees and with its old apple tree in the centre. The fieldfare was in one the beeches when I took this, not that you’ll be able to spot it.

Our visitor two years ago finally left us when our neighbours on the other side of the secret garden started having lots of treework done, involving noisy chainsaws. The day that started, he left. We didn’t see him last year. It’s lovely to have him (or one like him) back.

And as a double bonus, this morning I heard the first song thrush (Turdus philomelos) singing. They sing through the spring and early summer, and then stop, starting up again in winter. It’s wonderful to hear.

Update: 24 January 2017: We have had several days of very hard frosts and sub-zero temperatures at night. Two days ago our lone fieldfare was joined by four others, and the blackbirds were down feeding on the apples too. It seems the greater number meant that the original fieldfare gave up on chasing everyone else off. Yesterday we counted ten fieldfare. We have been supplementing the apples with oatmeal, suet, sultanas, sunflower seeds, chopped up dates and figs: I think the birds eat better than we do!

Update 27 January 2017: The apples are now gone, and so too are the fieldfare: we started putting out extra apples just too late to keep them around (they didn’t eat any of the other offerings). Oh well. It was lovely having our loner and latterly his friends for as long as we did.

Animal jewellery

I love nature and wildlife so I’m always happy when I get my hands on some animal jewellery. I have some new pieces in my Etsy shop as of yesterday:

Vintage sterling silver frog stick pin. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details.

Vintage sterling silver frog stick pin. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details. (NOW SOLD).

Vintage handpainted lapwing pendant in sterling silver handmade surround with chain. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details.

Vintage handpainted lapwing pendant in sterling silver handmade surround with chain. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details. (NOW SOLD).

Vintage sterling silver and blue glass dolphin brooch. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details.

Vintage sterling silver and blue glass dolphin brooch. For sale in my Etsy shop: click on photo for details. (NOW SOLD).

They join the animal jewellery I already have: click on all photos for more details.

Vintage horse and bear pendant and chain, based on a Viking-period design. Finnish.

Vintage horse and bear pendant and chain, based on a Viking-period design. Finnish. (NOW SOLD).

Vintage Art Deco enamel and silver sailfish brooch.

Vintage Art Deco enamel and silver sailfish brooch.

Vintage puffy fish charm bracelet.

Vintage puffy fish charm bracelet. (NOW SOLD).

Vintage cloisonné enamel brooch, Ancient Egyptian Horus or Ra-Horakhty falcon, Egyptian Revival pin.

Vintage cloisonné enamel brooch, Ancient Egyptian Horus or Ra-Horakhty falcon, Egyptian Revival pin. (NOW SOLD).

Vintage silver butterfly brooch.

Vintage silver butterfly brooch.

Vintage Scandinavian silver leaping deer brooch by A Klokker, Denmark.

Vintage Scandinavian silver leaping deer brooch by A Klokker, Denmark. (NOW SOLD).

Art Deco scorpion brooch with glass jewels.

Art Deco scorpion brooch with glass jewels. (NOW SOLD).

Vintage silver and enamel peacock brooch from Thailand.

Vintage silver and enamel peacock brooch from Thailand. (NOW SOLD).

Elegant vintage Danish sterling silver clipon earrings.

Elegant vintage Danish sterling silver clipon earrings. (NOW SOLD).

Vintage enamel and silver butterfly bar brooch.

Vintage enamel and silver butterfly bar brooch.

Vintage 830 silver bird ring, Danish silver openwork ring, eagle, hawk, raptor or dove, Scandinavian silver.

Vintage 830 silver bird ring, Danish silver openwork ring, eagle, hawk, raptor or dove, Scandinavian silver. (NOW SOLD).

Vintage sterling silver fish brooch.

Vintage sterling silver fish brooch.

Vintage enamel and silver red cardinal bird brooch.

Vintage enamel and silver red cardinal bird brooch. (NOW SOLD).

Vintage lion and unicorn heraldic brooch.

Vintage lion and unicorn heraldic brooch. (NOW SOLD).

Vintage sterling silver brooch with birds and grapes, French by H Teguy.

Vintage 800 silver brooch with birds and grapes, French by H Teguy.

Vintage mesh metal purse with dragon design and blue cabochons.

Vintage mesh metal purse with dragon design and blue cabochons. Okay, it might be mythological but it’s still an animal ….