So much fun watching the fledglings this week! We have large numbers of juvenile starlings now and they really are riotous. Their antics at the feeder have been a source of joy and amusement, not just for me and Simon, but also for many of my neighbours. When they all flock in together, there is hardly enough room on the feeding station for the fledglings, let alone their parents!
Fledging Blue Tit
Shake Those Tail Feathers!
Singing for Supper
When the starlings aren’t monopolising the feeding station, the beautiful fledgling blue tits are now visiting. They are so dinky but very vocal! The ragged looking adults are being constantly harassed by the cute little fluffies. Actually seeing a feed is a real joy! Sometimes the blue tit adults bring food from the trees down to fledglings perched on the feeder. They’re all still going through my suet and seed at the rate of knots, but it’s wonderful to feel like we are contributing to the welfare of these new lives!
It was truly delightful watching this juvenile robin sunbathing, dust-bathing and preening last week at Polesden Lacey! I had a tough time choosing my favourite images from two wonderful days out with my best friend, Rachel and her boys Nate and Dan. We had quite an adventure at both Polesden and Wisley Gardens. Even managed to find the female grass snake that likes to sun itself near the rock gardens! Her eye is a blue-grey tone indicating that she is about to shed her skin.
The other treat waiting for us at Wisley was the little grebe pair on the Glasshouse Lake, who have finally nested and managed to hatch a couple of beautiful little humbug-striped chicks. This is the third year that I have seen little grebes nesting on the lake and they really are wonderful to watch. The parents carry the young chicks on their backs on the water, until they are old enough to start fending for themselves.
I managed to get a few images of this wonderful robin family in the Florence Nightingale Garden, at St Thomas’s Hospital. It was absolutely tipping it down with rain most of the time! Of course that brought up plenty of worms in the flower beds. The two juveniles that I saw were loudly calling for food under the roses! I have processed my main image as a birthday gift for my brother, Robin. He and my sister-in-law, Morwenna, are expecting their first little bundle of joy, a baby boy, in September! I am one very excited auntie already and so very happy for them 🙂
This one is a fair representation of my brother a child!!
When tawny owlets are only about five weeks old they leave the nest. They’re not fledging yet, they’re branching! The staff at St James’s Park discovered that tawny’s had returned to the park after an absence of twelve years, when they discovered one of the branched owlets in the back of a tractor. It’s not unusual for branching owlets to fall off their perch. Most of the time they will be absolutely fine and the advice is to leave them where they are unless they are lying down, showing other signs of distress or are in immediate danger. They will sit still on the ground until nightfall when they are known to use their strong talons to climb back into the tree! Even if they don’t return quickly, the parents will carry on feeding the owlet on the ground. Gardeners at the park were actually able to return this little owlet to it’s mother in the tree!
It was quite incredible to be able to watch this owlet and one of its’ parents last Friday. They were high up in the trees and it had started raining. I was captivated though! Fortunately I had my raincoat so I was able to observe them for a while despite the weather. It did make it hard to photograph them though. I was using a Fujinon 100-400mm lens with a 1.4x teleconverter to watch and photograph. You really do need a long lens or powerful binoculars to see them closely! The owlet has some good adult feathers coming through on the tail and wings but still plenty of downy fluff too. It was stretching the wings a lot and jumping between branches really well. The other wonderful behaviour I was able to watch was the circling off the head as the owlet builds up a full picture of it’s surroundings.
There are also Tawny Owls in Regents Park and these sighting are brilliant news for the species! It’s also a good sign that wildlife conservation and habitat management in The Royal Parks is working well. There must be a good amount of prey species available for these wonderful owls and this owlet certainly seems to be thriving! If you do go to St James’s or anywhere else to watch tawny owls and owlets, please keep a reasonable distance from their tree so you don’t disturb them. They are a protected species and these London owlets are very precious!
I finally built up the courage to visit Tice’s Meadow Nature Reserve on Saturday. Surrey BTO membership secretary, Penny, had told me that there was disabled access so I nervously set off to meet up with the team managing the reserve at their woodland birdhide. After a bit of time figuring out the RADAR key padlocks to allow access for my wheelchair I was quickly surrounded by wildlife. Speckled wood, meadow brown and green-veined white butterflies danced all around me! I was so captivated that I nearly missed this little fledgling pop up into the cut branches it had been foraging around. I thought my eyes where deceiving me, the speckled head of a young robin and the tail feathers of a…of a….no….can’t be…..(takes photos then checks BTO online and does a little wheelchair dance)….that’s the tail feathers of a redstart! Whoop! Just so thrilled that this wonderful little bird stuck around long enough for me to get a few shots. The female adult was already calling to it from nearby shrubs. She’s quite drab, a glance had made me think female or juvenile blackbird, but smaller. They didn’t visit the woodland birdhide but we were delighted to see lots of juveniles there too, including greenfinch, sparrow, chaffinch, nuthatch, robin, goldfinch and bullfinch! It was lovely to meet the team managing the reserve. Warm, welcoming and passionate about sharing the joy of nature and wildlife with everyone. They already have local schools visiting and events for young people with learning disabilities. Several RADAR key access points have been installed and plans are afoot to have the main pathways made properly wheelchair accessible. At the moment the ground is hard and that allows the wheelchair to get around without too much difficulty but there are deep ruts to be avoided. I really hope that the team manage to get all the funding needed to develop the pathways and progress with other projects they have planned, including providing more learning activities for the children who regularly visit. I had a very successful Big Butterfly Count around the meadow areas by Horton’s Mount! So many blues on the wing. I think I might have finally fallen down that rabbit hole into Wonderland!
This is my third image from my encounter with this dear little blackcap. After feeding and cleaning it’s beak, it hopped up into the branches of the shrubs, in the the riverside hedgerow, to preen. Some of those feathers are still quite downy and the gape (oral flanges) in the corners of the beak are clear to see. I have no idea exactly how old this fledgeling is but it certainly seems to be fending for itself well! The brambles were providing a feast for bees, butterflies and birds. My mum might just have sneaked a few ripe berries for herself too!
I’m sharing this second image of the juvenile blackcap, that I encountered yesterday, for today’s Fotospeed challenge. I haven’t had to crop these images much at all. I was so close to my subject I could hardly believe it! The blackcap was very aware of me and the numerous passers-by on the Thames Path, but was completely unfazed, gorging itself of the bountiful berries before hopping further up into the brambles to clean it’s blackberry-stained beak. I loved the way the light caught it’s face as it turned and stared straight down my lens!
Last week brought so many fantastic photography opportunities, but the ones that I most want to share in this weeks Monday photo-challenges are among the last few images that I captured yesterday in the late afternoon. I was with my parents at The Weir in Walton, on the banks of the Thames, near Sunbury Lock. There was an abundance of wildlife in the brambles and trees along the river path. I almost missed this juvenile blackcap picking blackberries. It’s often the song that first alerts me to the presence of a bird but this little one was being very quiet. It’s efforts to pick the blackberries where rather clumsy though and the sight of a shaking bramble bush gave the game away! I took a closer look and a shaft of sunlight caught upon this cheeky little face. I was pretty sure the youngster was a blackcap having seen an adult male in the vicinity earlier on. It’s perfect habitat for them as they feed on both berries and insects! I’m sharing this first image for Wex Mondays. More to follow!
While a young coot chick might look pretty bald, this is not actually the origins of the phrase. It’s in reference to the white frontal shield of the adult coot (see image below). This similarly applies to the name of the Bald Eagle, which has a fine head of white feathers. Bald also appears in the word Piebald, referring to horses, birds and other animals that are black and white. So where does this word for white actually come from? Annabel Rushton sheds some light on this in the RSPB community blog:
You often hear the phrase ‘bald as a coot’, but as you can see from the photo, they are covered in feathers. Even the chick, though a little sparse on its head, has a flame of red and orange down. So where has the saying come from? Well the word ‘bald’ is actually derived from an old English word ‘bala’ which means ‘white patch’. If you look at a coot, they have a white patch above their beak known as a ‘knob’ or a ‘frontal shield’. It is this that has given rise to the term ‘bald as a coot’, rather than because they are featherless.
Coot and chick at Claremont Landscape Gardens
The Idioms website adds:
A coot is a water bird which has marking on its head that gives it an appearance of being bald. It does have feathers on his head but it is the way it looks from a distance that gives this expression its shape.
This phrase has been in existence since several centuries with the first literary use being in 1430 in ‘Chronicle of Troy’ written by John Lydgate.