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ShareMondays2019 – Spider For Supper

Spider For Supper

ShareMondays2019 – Spider For Supper

I really had such fun watching the busy whitethroat adults bringing in food to their young at Heather Farm last week! So much on the menu; moth, caterpillar, damselfly and this rather magnificent spider. Good thing there are lots of these arachnids around the grassland! A few of the whitethroat families seem to have fledged already but these parents were still busy feeding today, when I visited briefly for 30DaysWild. I will miss the fledging as we will be going to our beloved Kos in Greece this week! I probably won’t get a chance to blog, but I will be posting a few photos on my Twitter feed @MiradorDesign. So, I’m posting late at night, or early in the hours of Monday morning, to enter this one into the weekly challenges and give myself more packing time tomorrow! Hope you all have a great few first weeks of Summer and I will catch up when I return.

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Wordless Wednesday: The Wonderful World Of Warblers

Whitethroat

Wordless Wednesday: The Wonderful World Of Warblers

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ShareMondays2019 – Watching The Whitethroat

Whitethroat at Heather Farm

ShareMondays2019 – Watching The Whitethroat

I’ve been watching the whitethroat at Heather Farm again this week. There are definitely two pairs nesting within a short distance from the carpark and cafe. You can watch them flying across the reeds and singing in the silver birch while sitting outside the cafe enjoying a drink (and maybe a cake!).

Whitethroat at Heather Farm

Whitethroat from the birdhide

For a closer look, head to the birdhide and look behind you, into the shrubs and up into the birch. There’s another pair in the thicket and reeds by the boardwalk, over the pond, as you enter the wetlands from the carpark.

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Whitethroat in shrubs seen from the boardwalk

They’re not the only birds busily building nests or feeding young in these thicket havens. Wrens, robins, dunnock, goldfinch and reed bunting are all sharing these patches, regularly popping up to the top of reeds or shrubs, to join their voices together in a wonderful chorus!

Whitethroat in the reeds at Heather Farm

Whitethroat in the reeds near the birdhide

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Out Of Africa

Whitethroat

Eye to Eye with Sylvia

Out Of Africa

No, I’m not in Africa, but this little whitethroat (Sylvia communis) was until just recently! They over-winter in sub-Saharan Africa before returning to breeding grounds, across Europe, in mid April. Whitethroats are warblers and have such a beautiful song. They’re similar in appearance to reed and garden warblers but have a longer tail and much more defined white throat. They are quite short-lived birds, usually about 2 years, so I suspect that the ones returning to this exact same nest-site, at Heather Farm wetlands centre, are the juveniles I saw fledging last summer.

Whitethroat

Female Whitethroat

I spotted the first male on Easter Sunday when out with my hubby. I wish he could feel as excited as me about such sightings, but he was very happy that it was sunny and warm, with a spot of grass to lay out on and the cafe for an ice-cream! Yesterday wasn’t quite so warm and bright but I am pretty certain that this whitethroat is a returning female. It’s slightly less defined in colour and markings and was busily collecting soft nesting material that it took back into the shrub that it’s perched on.

Male Whitethoat

Male Whitethroat warbling

Male Whitethroat

Perched in the birdhide, looking out through the way in, I can watch these wonderful little birds flitting in and out of their nest site, stopping to sing or feed, for hours. I’m certain they’re aware of me, in fact they often look me straight in the eye, with head cocked questioningly, but if I keep perfectly still they’ll just carry on about their business. I love these little moments of connection, it’s almost as if you’re having a silent conversation through mere eye contact! I can’t wait to see how this pair develop and really hope that I will get to see fledglings again later in the Summer.

If, like me, you love birdsong, why not head over to the RSPB website and buy or stream the single Let Nature Sing! You can help us get birdsong to the top of the charts by listening to something truly beautiful by May 2nd. I would encourage you all to visit their page on warblers and listen to the amazing songs of these natural-born singers!

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Watching Whitethroats

Hard to spot a whitethroat in the heat-browned leaves

Watching Whitethroats

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!

Whitethroat adult calling out the fledgelings

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!

Fledgeling whitethroat eyeing up the berries

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!

Fledgeling whitethroat in the silver birch

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.