Blue Monday : Banquet For Blue Tits
The bountiful berries of the Cornus kousa, a flowering dogwood, make a fine banquet for the diminutive blue tits in the Autumn. It’s a feast for the eyes to watch them! There are a number of kousa trees around the grounds at RHS Wisley Gardens, but the best fruiting and most visited ones are just at the bottom of the rose garden. While other birds have to forage below the trees for fallen fruit, the blue tit appears to be the only visitor light enough to feed directly from the fruit ripening on the tree. Occasionally even these lightweights accidentally pick a berry that can’t quite support them and they tumble down through the leaves. I’m yet to catch that amusing sight on camera! My lead image really captures how adept they are at feeding from the berries, so I’m entering it into today’s ShareMondays2018 and Fotospeed challenges. I’ll keep on trying to photograph one their epic fails!
Finding a family of whitethroats (one of our many summer visitors from the warbler family) living next to the bird hide at Heather Farm has been a real treat! They’re actually behind the hide which makes it harder to hide from them. They, however, are very adept at staying hidden even when I can clearly hear them. Often the first clue is the tutting noise from one of the adults as they call the fledgelings out. Eventually one will make an appearance as I keep as still and silent as possible!
The next clue is the rustling and shaking in the brambles. The juveniles are in there somewhere! They eat a mix of insects and berries so are really enjoying feasting on the early blackberries. I watch the trail of movement through the brambles until one of the youngsters finally pops into view!
They don’t see me as a threat as I stay in the shadows of the hide, still and silent. Soon three fledgelings are bustling about on the brambles, before moving up into the branches of the three silver birches in this little grove. They really seem to enjoy the seeds of the birch trees! Two of these trees have been greatly affected by this summer’s heatwave. The seeds have matured early and the leaves have browned as the tree sheds them to conserve it’s dwindling water supply. The birds are easy to spot in the green leaves but utterly camouflaged against the browns, as you can see in my lead image!
Eventually the adults led their brood into the reeds near the boardwalks at the entrance to the wetlands centre. The reeds swayed and shook for a while to show their progress but they were soon well hidden from my sight or that of potential predators. I loved watching the little family and hope to see more of them before the end of the season. The previous morning I had attended a bird-ringing event at the centre, led by Surrey BTO, Horsell Common Preservation Society and The Thames Basin Heath Partnership. We had ringed lots of blackcaps, tits, reed warblers and wrens but the whitethroats had evaded us! It’s wonderful to see the success of this recently created nature reserve growing year on year. Today I’m sharing my camouflaged whitethroat as part of WexMondays.
Pack The Tree With Tasty Treats
Boxing Day is a day for snacking and sharing. The redwings suggest you place a few tasty treats on your tree (out of the reach of pets!) to feast upon during the day. Remember to put a few treats out for our feathered friends too!
Hiding The Gifts
It’s Christmas Eve and hopefully your tree is fully dressed and festive! This helpful Wisley redwing is demonstrating the perfect way to hide a few gifts among the branches and decorations on your tree. When you leave some food out for Santa and his reindeer don’t forget to top up the bird feeders!
The redwings suggested that while you’re dressing the tree you check the balance of the decorations, every now and then, by taking a step back and looking at the overall effect. Although berries are still plentiful, please keep feeding the birds over the coming days and weeks. I’m scheduling a few more posts from the Wisley redwings so that I can take a break over the rest of the festive period. I hope you’ll enjoy them and have a very Happy Midwinter Feast, wherever you are in the World, and however you choose to celebrate at this time of the year.
Protect Your Pets
The Wisley redwings have a very important message for everyone today! Small decorations and their parts can be a choking hazard to pets and young children, as demonstrated by this helpful redwing. Try to place them out of reach and if you have dogs, please don’t hang chocolates on your tree as it’s toxic to them. We don’t place any decorations on the lower part of our tree (including the lights) and we place the tree in a corner, with gifts and other obstacles around it to protect our cats. Tinsel is well known for causing intestinal blockages in pets so it’s best left in that box! Even the pine needles on live trees can cause intestinal problems. If you see your pets chewing branches please try to block off the tree from their reach or do as we do and get a synthetic tree. It’s still very pretty! Holly, mistletoe and poinsettia can all be poisonous to your pets. Mistletoe is also harmful to humans, so please keep it well out of reach of children and make sure you clear up any fallen berries. You can educate your children about the dangers of toxic plants when they’re old enough but I haven’t yet found a way to educate my cats!
Finally the redwings would like me to remind you all to keep feeding the birds!
Hanging The Baubles
The Wisley redwings have their third bit of advice for dressing the tree this Christmas! Once the tree is perfectly placed the next step is to start hanging the baubles up. All the birds agree that red is an excellent colour 😉
Hope you’re all having a cosy winter solstice. The shortest day of the year was a dark and dismal one here! Don’t forget to feed the birds, you may get a lovely song of thanks as I did today from our local robin.