This year’s summer with its sunshine and showers is looking like it’s going to be a bumper year for both wildlife and farming. The soil has remained nice and moist allowing birds to probe about for worms and insects and up to now I haven’t seen fields anywhere having to be irrigated.
In this month's diary I have included some video clips of the antics at the Little Egret colony, I hope you like them.
THE SELF PORTRAIT
Collared dove 'selfie'.
A friend telephoned me to suggest I pop round with my camera as a ‘bird’ had just bounced off his window and left a 'selfie' on the glass! This avian ‘palimpsest’ is a collared dove and amazingly was non the worse for its encounter. Last year a woodcock of all things performed the very same act on the very same window but this time with fatal consequences. It was such a beautiful looking bird that it was decided to take it to a taxidermist and it now stands proudly in the lounge under a glass dome.
THE BIRDS AND THE BEES
tree bumblebees (Bombus hypnorum)
These bird boxes are in my neighbour’s garden and this year it has become a ‘bee box’. Each year without fail this box has been home to blue tits who have always raised a family successfully. This year in early spring the blue tits began nest building as usual but a few weeks later I noticed the box was filled with very busy bees! They must have persuaded the blue tits to abandon their home somehow. I wonder if the bees just came in in spite of the blue tits protests until the birds where overwhelmed?
tree bumblebees (Bombus hypnorum)
About twelve houses away another neighbour telephoned me to tell me her bird box was also full of bees and about three miles away there was yet another box of bees in a friend’s garden! What is happening this year? How widespread is this phenomenon? Has this happened in your garden? These takeovers are in fact tree bumblebees (Bombus hypnorum) and are invaders who made their first appearence in the new forest 13 years ago, now they have spread as far as Scotland. Google this link for more details; http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-27701591
Sadly for the blue tits this probably means a failed breeding season this year because when they move off to search for new nest sites, unless someone has just put out a fresh nest box, all the nesting sites will have been occupied.
If this is going to continue year by year and nest boxes are going to be taken over in this fashion it is going to be difficult to find a way around this one.
THE LITTLE EGRET COLONY
Little Egret chick trying out his wings.
I am finding this new Little Egret colony in North East Lincolnshire irresistible. These elegant snow white birds with their frondy plumage and busy lives, feeding squabbling chicks are a delight to watch. One hour in the hide is very quickly four hours and sometimes more and even when I think “I really must go home” something happens within the colony and there’s another thirty minutes gone.
Little Egret adult.
Once extinct in the UK as they were killed for their feathers which adorned ladies hats.
This morning as I walked through the tall wet grass toward the hide I noticed some tracks in front of me, something had walked along and knocked all the raindrops off the grass leaving a ‘dry line’ in front of me. There, not thirty yards in front of me, sitting in the sunshine was my old friend the muntjac deer again, quietly chewing on a horse chestnut leaf.
My friend the Muntjac deer chews on a horse chestnut leaf.
I was cluttered up like a Christmas tree with tripod, rucksack and seat but I stopped and the muntjac just stared at me, continuing to munch on this leaf which was sort of going round in circles as he rolled it about in his mouth. I thought he would scamper off when I stopped but no, he just kept on munching and watching me.
I thought it worth at least a snapshot of him, even from this distance, I doubted he would let me get very much closer as I was right out in the open.
Sooner or later he will pop up in front of my hide again, I hope I will then get those close-ups I am now only visualising.
I spent most of the day in the hide watching the comings and goings of the egrets. I guess there must be at least twenty nests up there along with at least three heron nests with very well grown young now.
The egret chicks are pretty well grown, they are almost at the flying stage. These siblings, usually three, spend the day mostly huddled together on a long branch, preening and occasionally having a stab at one another for no good reason that I can ever see. Suddenly among all the calls that can be heard, they recognise the call of their parent returning with food. The chicks dash about all over the place trying to get the ‘me first’ attention and at this age the parents are almost terrified to enter this arena of flashing daggers.
This video clip makes me smile, the parent manages to go out on a limb where only one chick dare follow. After the chick had been fed, the mother flew off taking the weight off the branch and the chick went up three floors! However, another chick realises the chuck wagon has gone and he has not had a morsel and flaps a childlike paddy as children do.
They feed and flee as quickly as they can now that the chicks are so boisterous.
Here the chicks discover tasty morsels in the shape of hover flies, come to them, if they can catch them.
Just for fun...
We all know what a mallard chick looks like but what kind of duck is this?
ANSWER NEXT MONTH.