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ShareMondays2020 – A Feast Of Thistles

ShareMondays2020 – A Feast Of Thistles

Only a few photos this week! I had a very brief spell outside with the camera last Wednesday, but the goldfinches at Heather Farm put on a good show for me, feasting on the thistle seed heads. On Thursday evening I started coughing. It was a bit concerning! I followed the guidance and immediately started the process of booking Covid tests for both myself and Simon. It is a bit of a process, but you just have to stick with it and keep refreshing the booking site, until you are able to get a nearby drive-through appointment, or order a home testing kit.

Simon got straight in touch with his employers, to arrange working from home, and I contacted my care agency and the carers I had seen that week. Although they all wear PPE and observe good hand hygiene, they have the closest contact to me (after Simon!) so I needed to alert them to the possibility that I may have contracted the virus. After a while I was finally able to book us tests close to home for the following day. I’ve got to say the test centre was really well run, staff did everything possible to make us feel reassured, and we were all done in just ten minutes. Our results were emailed and texted to us on Saturday morning, just under twenty four hours later, and I am delighted to say that we’re both negative!

Goldfinch on thistle seed heads

I still have no idea how, or where, I have picked up this virus. I have been sticking to strict social distancing ever since shielding was paused. I’ve not been meeting up with lots of people, going to pubs or into shops. I’m still classed as extremely clinically vulnerable to complications if I catch Covid-19, so I’m not ready to take big risks. The fact that I am already taking so many precautions, yet have still managed to pick up a virus, just goes to show how easily they can be spread. None of us should start being complacent, especially as the Winter flu and cold season approaches and more sectors are being opened up to the public.

Even if you’re not in a high risk category yourself, there are plenty of clinically vulnerable people out there, around you, who need your help to stay safe. You can’t tell how vulnerable a person might be from looking at them. Some known risk factors like age, gender and ethnicity might be more obvious, but you can’t see chemotherapy, radiotherapy, immunotherapy, COPD, diabetes, severe asthma, organ transplants, certain blood disorders, to name but a few!

Bull Rushes ICM

The person standing behind you at the checkout for the supermarket could be vulnerable. Did you wash or sanitise your hands before you touched any of the surfaces they might then be touching? Maybe you thought it was okay because you’re wearing your mask? Hand washing is still the most important thing we can all do to protect one another! The next most important thing we can do is to get tested as soon as possible if we develop symptoms: a fever, a new, continuous cough, a loss or change in sense of smell or taste. Self-isolate as soon as symptoms appear and follow procedures for contact tracing if you receive a positive result.

For now I am clear, but I am still feeling pretty rotten with the virus I have! I hope my depleted immune system can deal with it soon, so I can get back outside with the nature and wildlife I cherish so much. Take care and stay safe everyone x

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ShareMondays2020 – Squabbling Siblings

Squabbling Siblings

ShareMondays2020 – Squabbling Siblings

Watching the fledgling starlings every day is such a great way to observe their behaviour and how they mature. They’re definitely at teenager stage, so much shouting and posturing! They absolutely scream at the adults and I can’t help feeling a bit sorry for these hard working parents. There’s screaming to be fed, screaming when the adult is in the way, screaming when a sibling gets to the favourite feeder first. It’s just like any human household really! I’m just watching all the stages of adolescence at a much faster pace.

Adult Starling Plumage

Beautiful adult starling

June is the month when many of us take on the 30DaysWild challenge from The Wildlife Trusts. They have recently launched a campaign for a Wilder Future, something I have always been passionate about. Latest statistics show that 1 in 7 species in the UK is at risk of extinction now. Starlings are an at-risk species. There has been about an 80% decline in the species since the 1980’s! Much of this is down to habitat loss. This is both in relation to loss of winter roosting sites and a loss of suitable nest sites. Our starlings nest in cavities under our roof tiles. I really am truly privileged to have them here and I would hate for future generations to miss out on the pleasure of watching these garrulous characters! Please do read the statement and join the campaign if you can!

Here’s a bit of the action from the starlings and other birds at our feeder this week. Enjoy!

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ShareMondays2020 – I Predict A Riot!

I Predict A Riot

ShareMondays2020 – I Predict A Riot!

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!

The stare!

Staring Starling!

Fledgling Blue Tit

Fledging Blue Tit


Do a little dance!

Shake Those Tail Feathers!

Singing for supper

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!

Feeding a fledgling Blue Tit

Dinner Time!

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ShareMondays2020 – My Window On Wildlife

The Messy Eater

ShareMondays2020 – My Window On Wildlife

As most of you will know, I can’t leave my home as I am in the shielded group. I can’t even get into the garden as we’re in flats and the gardens are a communal space! I do, however, have a window that looks onto a small area of lawn and a little flower bed with hydrangea and roses.

Great Tit in the Rose Bush

Great Tit in the Rose Bush

When we were initially asked to stay shielded indoors, I knew that the hardest aspect of this for me, would be not getting out to my favourite nature reserves and parks to watch wildlife. I ordered a new bird feeding station, a little flower shaped feeder and a bird bath to encourage our garden birds to come to me. The feeders and bath are all set quite high, as we have two cats so I wanted to keep the wildlife safe! My regular visitors are the starlings, great tits and blue tits. The hot weather has made the bird bath a popular new feature and several of my neighbours have followed suit and added bird baths to their little patches too!

Thirsty Work

Parenting is thirsty work!

 

The little flower feeder has been very popular with the blue and great tits who both like an open feeder and good perch. I got Simon to stick it into one of my large planters to give it a bit of extra height. The blue tits are looking quite bedraggled at the moment as they have been very busy taking food to the nest. I suspect they have started their moult as well. After a very heavy shower the other day they looked especially untidy! I think it just adds to their character and tells a story of how much parenting work they are doing!

Bedraggled Blue Tit

Bedraggled Blue Tit

After The Rain

After the rain!

I have been filling (or rather sending Simon outside to fill!) the flower feeder with suet pellets for a high energy food source. The great tits absolutely love it! They’re not nearly as bedraggled as the blue tits but I am sure they have a busy nest nearby.

Take Away Dinner

Take Away Dinner

For weeks now I could see increasing activity from the starlings and felt sure that their young must be close to fledging! I was finally rewarded with the sight of a couple of fledged starlings at the feeding station. They are wonderful to see and hear! Very noisy, demanding food from every single adult nearby. The coconut feeders with suet and seed have been great for the starling fledglings, soft and easily digestible and packed with energy! They really are rather messy eaters though. Plenty ends up being dropped on the ground but the pigeons are happy to come and hoover them up.

The Very Hungry Starling

The very hungry starling!

 

The fledglings are great to look at closely with the telephoto lens! The markings are, of course, very different and they are able to open their beaks incredibly wide due to the soft gape flanges in the corner of the beak. I also noticed that the fledglings eyes are quite blue in colour.

Fledgling Starling Detail

Juvenile starling detail

I’m looking forward to seeing blue and great tit fledglings joining the starling at the feeder soon! I had a brief glimpse of a blue tit fledgling this afternoon so watch this space for more fledgling stories.

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ShareMondays2020 – Queuing For Groceries or It’s Two Metres You Tits!

Queuing For Groceries

ShareMondays2020 – Queuing For Groceries or It’s Two Metres You Tits!

So, I might have finally lost the plot from being stuck indoors so long! But, hey, if the children in Spain can spend six weeks without being allowed out of the home at all, then so can I. Honestly, I salute them! I was hardly ever indoors as a child. My love of the natural world was encouraged from an early age. Even now, the children of Spain have only just had the lockdown relaxed as far as letting them outside for just the one hour. The majority of people here in the UK have always had that one freedom! Please be grateful for it and continue to social distance as much as you can. You are saving lives!

Meanwhile, my new bird feeder has been a big hit with the starlings and tits. They’re giving me a lot of joy and plenty of amusement too, when there’s a fracas over feeding rights. The starlings do actually form quite an orderly little queue, but they sometimes forget the queuing order and it all gets rather flappy and noisy! They’re really garrulous little characters and the range in vocalisations is incredible. I must try to get some recordings! I do love keeping the windows open and hearing a range of birdsong from outside.

It’s not just the starlings and tits! I can hear the blackbird singing away at the moment, the wren serenades us every morning and evening, goldfinches chatter as they flit through the trees, the magpies seem to be in constant disagreement with everyone, the wood pigeon coos soothingly and once or twice a day the parakeets add their voice to the general cacophony. It’s a heavenly symphony! I hope you’re all taking good care of yourselves, enjoying a few simple pleasures and staying safe.

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ShareMondays2020 – Wonderful Wren

Wonderful Wren

ShareMondays2020 – Wonderful Wren

Never dismiss the little things in life, the simple pleasures, the joy of watching a tiny wren busying about in the bracken, building a nest. So busy he didn’t worry about me sitting in my wheelchair watching his activities. He hopped over so closely a few times it actually took my breath away!

Wonderful Wren

I wish I could return to watch his progress but I am being “shielded” at home for the next 12 weeks as I am most vulnerable to complications from coronavirus. I hope these little wrens will come through this years breeding season safely. I hope that all of us come through this crisis safely! With any luck, I will see the wrens again on the other side of all this. Take care everyone x

Wonderful Wren

 

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ShareMondays2020 – FEED ME!

FEED ME! - a newly fledged song thrush in February

ShareMondays2020 – FEED ME!

Friday before last, I had to go to the Central Middlesex Hospital, near Wembley, for a small bowel MRI to check on the adhesions in my gut. Adhesions are often a consequence of abdominal surgery and I’ve had quite a number of operations for my Crohn’s. Anyway, I had to hang around at the hospital for a while after the scan, to wait for the mannitol solution to pass, so I went to the cafe by the entrance. I couldn’t quite believe my eyes when I saw a pair of song thrush busily taking food to a nest in a small tree outside the front entrance of the hospital. Surely it’s far too early for nesting!

I had come out without any cameras and I was soon cursing myself for it. Heading outside for a closer look, people were wandering around in the area but the birds were ignoring them. I stood there watching the adults bringing in several meals of worms to two very hungry nestlings. Song thrush do start to nest earlier than some other birds, usually having two or three broods during the season, which normally runs from March to August. Nesting is triggered by the weather and we have been having a very mild winter! I managed to capture a few images with my phone as a record, a couple are heavily zoomed as I didn’t want to disturb the birds.

Storm Dennis arrived at the weekend and the weather was truly appalling all week. I couldn’t return to the site with my camera until last Friday. I feared that the weather could have spelled disaster for the nest! When I arrived the nest was empty, but I could hear the thrush making chatting noises in the garden area alongside the hospital. I approached cautiously and hid at the corner of the wall to search the gardens. It was delightful to spot the two fledgings close by, hunkered down in the grass, calling for the adults to feed them. Eventually, the adults managed to coax both fledgings to take a haltering flight into the safety of the hedgerow.

Feeding time for fledgling song thrush

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ShareMondays2019 – Winter Tree Decorations

Fieldfare

ShareMondays2019 – Winter Tree Decorations

I managed to get out of the house last Thursday to visit some of my favourite tree decorations, at RHS Wisley Gardens, fieldfares and redwings! These two birds are members of the Thrush family that fly south from Scandinavia, to overwinter in the UK and other parts of southern Europe. They won’t take long to strip the cherry trees bare of these sweet treats! It’s a spectacle I love seeing every year. They are so busy feeding that I can get just a little bit closer to them than in some other areas where they are gathered.

Redwing