MY FAVOURITE CARTOON AS A BOY..

Thursday, May 31, 2007

EUROPEAN BROWN GARDEN SNAIL

Or to those of you who studied Biology O Level (or GCSE I expect), "Helix aspersa".
A night time explorer to our garden, and not particularly welcome (like the slugs...)
The Brown Garden Snail is (of course) common and widespread in the UK. You can see from my photos that it has four 'protruberances' from its head - the top two bearing eyes, the bottom two sensory organs (no sight) only.

I'm sure you will know that snails are hermaphrodytes, and if you ever wanted an accurate top speed figure for these snails, to bore people at dinner parties with - its .03 mph.
Or to put it in terms more easily digestable - this snail, if it had to crawl ONE MILE without stopping, at top speed, it would take virtually a day and a half to complete its epic voyage.
That said, if you are in the habit of throwing your garden snails over the next door neighbours' fence (our neighbours have no growing vegetables, so don't get all haughty taughty on me!), let's say a distance of 5m, your snails (should they so desire), could be back at the spot you threw them from (providing there's a small hole under the fence) within 6 minutes!

Helix aspersa IS used in "Heliciculture" (snail-rearing for culinary purposes), but not as widely as the "Roman or Burgundy Snail" (Helix pomatia), shown below. (Not my photo).

Roman Snails can be found wild in the UK (although they are far from common), and are golf-ball sized, much larger than Brown Garden Snails with a duller, plainer, different shaped shell.


The Garden Snail in France is eaten as "Petit gris", but one is more likely, when ordering Escargots, to receive Roman Snails.
My mother very nearly bred Roman Snails at our family home years ago, I think that would've been a lot of fun, and Anna had the idea to get me a Giant African Land Snail as a present once! (I secretly hope she still does)!


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

YOUNG GOLDFINCH


I could have added this sighting to my original Goldfinch post (or the one with the rather blurred photos taken through a rainy telescope), but thought this one deserved a post of its own.
After returning from a run round the rec this morning, I bumped into (quite literally!) a young (recently-fledged) Goldfinch, sitting on our back gate in the rain.
I assume its parents were teaching it that if it wanted any food, it could do worse than visit our Ethiopian Thistle Seed Feeder!
Unfortunately, I scared it I think, and after getting inside, I couldn't see it again, before I left for work.
Young Goldfinches lack their parents' bold black and crimson facial plumage - looking rather drab in comparison, but their bright yellow (gold) wing-flashes are very apparent early on in life, as this showed.
I only saw one young Goldfinch, but I assume others are around, even after this terrible weather!
NB. Photo NOT mine. I'll get some more film in the camera when I can, and see what I can do...

NB. 31/05/07 - Sitting in the spare bedroom writing about snails, and watching TWO fledgling Goldfinches watch one of their parents on our Thistle Seed Feeder! They seem very unsteady on landing (like our baby Blue Tits), but are managing (just) to land on the feeder and get some scran. Really nice to see - We're so glad our feeder has attracted the birds that we wanted to attract. I must re-erect the hide and grab some photos of them...

STEAM ENGINE

This was the whole idea behind the "Transport Label" on Blue-Grey. We live 200 yards from the mainline down from London to Exeter, and I've seen 3 or 4 of these steam engines chuffing away and hooting in the past.
Another one appeared today, (at the changed time of this post), heading down to the southwest from Reading.
I wanted to get a photo of it, but as it passed this time, I was involved in one of my runs around the rec - bad timing!
Note to self - I must toddle on up to the station soon, and see if they have a timetable for when these marvellous old trains pass through Reading, so I can get a nice photo!
So. No photo this time, but watch this space...

EUROPEAN BLACK SLUG (PALE/RED FORM)

This one is a byoody! About the length and girth of one of my index fingers, so not small at all!
Silly name for a pale slug with a fantastic bright orange 'skirt', but a European Black Slug it is, (in its pale or rufus form), which I found crawling towards our vegetable plot tonight.
I, after taking its mugshot, picked it up and threw it into the rec!

You can quite clearly see the Slug's "Pneumostome" in the second photo (above) - behind its head - a hole (2 in fact- one on either side) - this is the device the slug uses to breathe.

These slugs are often black in colour, hence their name, can reach 20cm in length, and thrive in Britain's moist, temperate climate, as do our other 40 or so (mainly smaller than this) slug species.

I intend to make my fortune from slugs. I can't tell you how, (or I'd have to kill you), but its safe to say, our resident slug population in our garden may well become the subjects of several experiments this summer...


NB. 01/06/07 - and in its slightly darker form, (not quite black...)

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

ANOTHER USEFUL LINK

I've added another useful link to "Blue-Grey" - the Wild about Britain gallery and forums homepage - just a vast array of photos and identification help.
Using this site (I'm a member now), I managed to identify a Green Shieldbug NYMPH, the photo of which I've now added to Tuesday April 17th's post on the Green Shieldbug, for future reference.

SAWFLY



Another visitor to the potato plants this morning, though I'm reliably informed by my fieldguide, that this species normally feeds on the nectar of rose plants - probably flew in from next doors' large yellow rose bush (see Scarlet Tiger Moth post or Knolly the Cat post for photos of the roses).
Small, and 'bronze-looking' from above, but that is an optical illusion - they have fantastically bright yellow abdomens, which are very apparent when viewed from the side or below (see 2nd photo when the Sawfly went to the underside of the potato leaf). When viewed from above however, the bright yellow abdomen is reduced to a coppery sheen below the Sawfly's folded wings.

Sawflies are so named because of their Saw-like ovipositors (egg-laying kit), though some work like a drill also. I'm sure you needed to know that...


ICHNEUMON FLY


A beautiful yet sinister insect this one.
Whe I lived in my flat at Wycombe Marsh all those years ago, all the Peacock butterfly pupae hanging under the eaves by my back door were killed by an Ichneumon fly (or wasp).
These insects pierce a caterpillar or chrysallis with their very long, sharp, ovipositor, and lay their eggs inside the host organism. The eggs soon hatch, and the host is eaten alive. Nature can be cruel - but what a fantastic looking insect - bright yellow and black, rather like a spindly wasp. Wonderful, though I hope it buggers off before any moth caterpillars in the garden are 'injected'!


LARGE RED DAMSELFLY


I told you that the garden insects were going mental in the sun this morning.
This was a nice find - soaking up some rays on one of our (now STAKED!) Potato plants.
A Large Red Damselfly.
Common, hardy and distinguishable from the other species of red damselfly in the UK, the Small Red Damselfly, because of its larger size (duh!) and its more colourful markings - black, gold stripes. It also has dark, (not red) legs.



2 SPOT LADYBIRD (MELANIC QUADRIPUSTULATA FORM)


Know what? Ladybirds are buggers to identify. This one IS a melanistic (dark) form with 4 marks (quadripustulated) instead of two spots (bipunctata).
Common in both forms, it makes me think that the "pine ladybird" I found earlier in the year, was in fact, NOT a Pine Ladybird at all, but one of these little sneaky fellas.
This one is therefore a new addition to our back garden, and I've deleted the Pine Ladybird post - until I actually find a REAL Pine Ladybird, not just a 2 spot pretending to be another species!

FOREST BUG (NYMPH)


I predicted the insect life would go crazy in the garden as soon as the sun did eventually shine, after these 2 days of constant hard rain and wind, (incidentally, High Wycombe was the coldest place in Britain yesterday - it only reached the dizzy heights of 5c during the day, and its virtually June!).
We have had a lovely sunny morning here in Reading (back from our trip to Cardiff over the weekend), and I found one of these little chaps (above) in my 6 foot meadow.

This, (as far as I can make out), is a "Forest Bug (nymph)" - normally found in woodland, Oak woodland at that, where it feeds on Oak and other plants and small invertebrates, by sucking the juice out of them.
One can tell its a Forest Bug by its "yoke-like large shoulders" and the fact that its a nymph by its rough case and poorly formed wings, as far as I'm led to believe.
Not something you'd expect to find in a 6' bit of meadow in a tiny garden in Reading, but I'm pretty sure this is what it was, and it didn't hang around long...

YOUNG ROBIN

Young birds seem to be everywhere at the moment.

Today I caught sight of a juvenile Robin sitting on our fence - though I didn't see the adult bird(s), and never have in the garden actually.

Young Robins, like a lot of juvenile birds don't exhibit the adult's colourful plumage for a month or so, and are basically very speckled dull-brown birds - rather like a tiny Thrush of sorts.

The European Robin (in case you didn't know) is a member of the Thrush family anyway.

I've never understood why Robins are deemed to have "red breasts". Their adult breast plumage is more orange than red, always has been. But there you go.

The photo below is one of Arthur Grosset's again. Many thanks Arthur. (I have no fil min the camera still, and probably wouldn't have been quick enough anyway).

Monday, May 28, 2007

BLUE TITS (62) FIN.

And now, the end is near.
And so we face, the final coytun.

Anna and I have this morning taken down our Tits' nestbox, and cleaned it out, (photos below).

We were hoping NOT to find any unhatched (off) eggs, or any dead undeveloped fledglings - both would have been left to be trodden into the fabric of the nest by the parents.
We didn't. It seems all our eggs hatched, all developed into successful fledglings.
The nest was quite flat - expected I suppose with all the little bodies bouncing around in there, but still quite springy.
The main construction was hewn from dried grass stalks, packed together with moss (lots and lots of moss), witha circular area in the middle, lined with feathers and pale fur. It was indeed a very neat job by Anne!
We have scraped the nestbox out and put the nest on the compost heap, re-erecting the box where it was before - for no real reason.

As for our Tits?
What has become of them?
I left you with the rather sad notion I'm sure, that they'd buggered off.
Well....

They're BACK!
We have (with great delight, I should point out) seen at least 4 (possibly 5) chicks ALL visit the garden to be fed by good old Scargill and Anne.
Our wee niblets are fantastic! They are quite squat, very fluffy, pale yellow, and have a shorter tail than their parents.
They seem to still be lacking in a little bit of confidence when it comes to landing from a flight; one tried a bit like a hummingbird, to land on our washing line, about 4 times in ten seconds. It failed!
This morning I had 4 baby Blue Tits all lined up together on our fence, begging food from Scargill and Anne.
I'm now pretty sure we only had FIVE chicks hatch (all of them) and five fledge. We've seen 5 too often now, for it to be a coincidence, so even though it could be more, we'll settle on FIVE as the final figure.

We have had quite atrocious weather here over the last 2 days - constant heavy rain and a strong, biting wind. Its fair to say that if our fledglings were still developing in the nest at this point, and we had no food for them, I would be ecpecting them to die.
Springwatch starts on BBC2 tonight - a wonderful programme if you are able to get over the infuriating witerings of the fat dwarf Bill Oddie. I' sure they'll mention what effect this terrible 2 or 3 days weather is having on small birds. I fear for the local Swifts at the moment also.
Anyway, we've got a few Waxworms and Mealworms left for our Blue Tit family - enough for today at least, and the weather cannot stay like this all week.

There you go.
We draw the saga to an end, and a really happy end at that! We are SO pleased they've returned!

On this post (62) I will eventually draw up a table of 'what happened when',( re: our Tits), when I have some time (mainly for personal use I guess), and intend to add a GIF animation of our first fledgling, to leave you with, if it works...

Thanks again for sharing the lives of "Scargill", "Anne" and family with us.
Until next year....?
Well... we do hope so!

CASSIDA Sp. (CANICULATA?)



This little chap has been residing in my 6 foot square meadow for some time now. I hope this constant 48 hour deluge (which is blowing our potato plants away if nothing else) hasn't put him off his stroke.
Some kind of Tortoise Beetle, (Leaf Beetle), possibly Cassida caniculata or berolinensis I think - very difficult to tell though. I'll just call him a GOLDEN-BROWN TORTOISE BEETLE, which is effectively exactly what he is. Very nice.

MATING SOLDIER BEETLES

These photos WERE taken by me as we prepared to set off into "Badger Wood" on friday night.
Soldier beetles (see Cardinal Beetle post for comparison of similar species). Mating. And even the "money shot" (below) showing you how these beetles 'git it awn'... (apologies for the soft focus in the last shot).

REEVES' MUNTJAC


To give it its full name.
Another non native species, now one of our most common, and certainly our most commonly encountered deer species in the UK.
I've had to quite literally step around these deer walking home from my old bakery jobs at night in the past!
Also known as the "Barking Deer" - for that's the very loud noise they make, Anna and I were priviledged enough (I s'pose) to see a young hind at very close quarters whilst staking out our Badgers the other night. (photo again is not mine).
We were obviously sat on one of its regular paths through the wood, as it came very close and circled us completely( prodding its front hooves loudly into the litter as a sort of nervous tic more than an alarm like a rabbit) , before eventually moving off into the dark wood.

When we go Badger watching again, and actually see some badgers, I'll attempt to describe at length the sights and sounds of a wood 'waking up' at dusk. Its a magical place to be at that time of day...

Friday, May 25, 2007

RABBIT

On friday evening (as in the changed time and date of this post), Anna and I drove to a secret location in the Chilterns to see if we could see any Badgers. Well, to cut a long story short, the wind was NOT in the right direction by the time we'd got there, and also, after watching the sett from a distance, I realised that at least 2 of the openings to the sett had been taken over by wabbits.
Badgers and rabbits will very rarely co-exist in different parts of an old Badger Sett, but like I said... very rarely. Generally for that to happen, the sett has to be quite large and old, with "satellite openings" out of the way of the main Badger sett activity.

Before we left, we scouted around and found another two promising openings , right on the edge of the wood which we may stake out later in the summer. We really want to see Badgers this summer!

Anyway, we DID see two rather nice big, brown wild rabbits - one of which obviously caught our scent, and did a "Thumper", ie sounded the rabbit alarm call by thumping one of its hind legs on the firm woodland floor.

No photos from me... I won't take pictures in a wood at that close distance for fear of scaring the subject. (Everyone knows what a rabbit looks like anyway).

Not really much to say about rabbits. But, in case you didn't know...
1) Rabbits are NOT NATIVE to the UK. They were introduced 900years ago.
2) Becoming a pest, myxamatosis was introduced in the 1950's to control their population.
3) Myxamatosis wiped out 99% of the UK rabbit population in 1953
4) Myxamatosis still exists, but the majority of rabbits are now immune.
5) Rabbits can have 'kittens' every 5 weeks for 8 months of the year. NOw you understand fully (in case you never did!) what "Going at it like rabbits" means...

CLICK BEETLE

Athous haemorrhoidalis, to give it its scientific name.
There are piles (hur hur!), of these all over the UK, living in any kind of wild and cultivated habitat - and they are a serious agricultural pest.
They are our most common 'Click Beetle', so named because of their ability to right themselves should they land on their back (unlike most beetles), by flicking a well developed muscle. This sounds just like a piece of cardboard being flicked, or "clicked" I suppose.
I took this photo near the photo of the mating Soldier Beetles. Unfortunately not only is it slightly out of focus, I did approach too close to this beetle, so it took up a very characteristic defensive posture, with its head drawn back into its body and anntenae pulled close.
Never mind - you get an idea of what this Click Beetle looks like - whilst there are a few different species of this type of Beetle - they all look like this - unmistakeable.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

PYRAUSTA AURATA (a micromoth)

Another nice (micro)moth photographed on our potato plants this morning.
This doesn't seem to have a common english name (I'll track one down eventually). It is a tiny "micromoth", about the size of my little finger nail, and is called "Pyrausta auratus". It can be told apart from the very similar Pyrausta purpuralis by the fact that its dorsal front wing gold markings are not three in number, nor do they nearly form a continuous band, (as they do in P.purpuralis). (That was for my benefit really - I thought it was a P.purpuralis originally).

I have noticed a few of these beautiful, tiny (remember, they are no bigger than my LITTLE fingernail!) little moths flying very low around our vegetable plot recently, but haven't (until now that is), been able to photograph one. Purple in colour when fresh - fading to brown with age, they are locally common in gardens over the south of the UK and like feeding on wild thyme and mint etc... No wonder they're in our bleedin' garden!
Nice to see though.

SCARLET TIGER MOTH!

I don't think I've ever seen one of these incredible moths before, let alone in the garden!
This is a Scarlet Tiger Moth. (Not a Garden Tiger Moth). I noticed it flying onto the neighbours' rose bush whilst I was on the phone to my father, and it stayed there for 30 minutes. By the time I had finished the phone call though, it had moved to the underside of one of their nice yellow rose flowers. I thought I wouldn't be able to get a decent shot of it, but I leaned right over their fence, and snapped the beauty.
(Our poor neighbours. It must be living next door to the bloody papparazi or something! I'm outside constantly, with binoculars, camera(s) and even two telescopes)!

One can tell this is the SCARLET Tiger Moth, by looking at its hind wings in these
photos, and specifically, the pattern of red at the rear of the hind wings, and most importantly, the fact that this moth did NOT exhibit any white edge on the rear of the hindwings. That last point is a giveaway. This was DEFINITELY a Scarlet Tiger Moth! Absolutely wonderful!
These moths are common in June and July in the West and South West of Britain, but virtually non-existent elsewhere. Perhaps they are spreading north and east? The imagos (adults) fly by day.
I feel really chuffed to have spotted this!

NB. 02/06/07 Anna saw this moth again in the garden yesterday, and we BOTH saw it in the garden today - on our side of the fence this time! Do we have a population of Scarlet Tiger Moths, or are they breeding by the stream at the bottom of the railway embankment?

Wonderful looking moths...



BLUE TITS (61) THEY'VE DONE IT!!!

So.
There we have it folks.
It's fair to say Anna and I are genuinely really quite upset that our little feathered family have departed. Neither of us have seen hide nor hair (feather) of the little niblets since they flew the nest, and we haven't even be visited by Scargill and Anne since this morning, even though we've put out some more Waxworms and Mealworms for them....
It's important to remember at this point, that whilst I guess it's natural to feel like this at the moment, after all, they've been a big part of our lives for OVER TWO MONTHS now, in reality these are wild animals still, and they haven't been part of our lives as such, more like We've been incredibly priviledged to witness at very close-quarters, a part of their lives.
Over two months of courtship, mating, nestbuilding, laying, incubation, rearing and fledging. And now nothing.

Its amazing to consider really, that only 19 days ago, the chicks were blind, naked, helpless, and not much bigger than the size of a penny. Now thay are fully independent birds, with strong flight muscles, good feathers and eyesight and almost as big as their parents.
It will be another month before they lose their juvenile coat of yellow face feathers with a dull green cap, taking on the white face and blue cap of an adult bird. (NB. Adult Blue Tits almost see with ultra violet vision - they appear to have "Blue Halos" to each other, around their heads).
They then will be fully fledged adult Blue Tits and will have to cope with all that the world throws at them. Thay will have to survive their first winter and find a territory and mate of their own, to breed for themselves, next year. Their chances of surviving one year are not high - only about a third of young Blue Tits survive their first year. I think our strong little niblets will be ok though!
I don't know how old Scargill and Anne are either, or how long they will live for (especially the bald Scargill, who has no waterproofing on his head). I suppose it is feasible that they could die this winter (most adult Blue Tits don't make it past a third year), and one of their offspring could return next year to breed in the box that they were themselves born in?! But this is all speculation - the chances are Anna and I won't even be living here next year...

These two penultimate photos are of Scargill (I really hope he gets his head feathers back) and Anne (she's looking a bit scrappy also now), are for me and Anna really. (The last photos in the next post, post 62, will be nest related). I took them this morning, after all the chicks had gone, and the two parents were busy feeding themselves. I did notice them fly up to the huge Lime Tree close to the house a few times - maybe, just maybe, there were some chicks up there that still wanted a bit of parental attention?!

The final post (62) and photos (not yet taken) will take the form of a little resume of our time with our Blue Tits, a tabular diary of what happened and when, (for my records I suppose - comparisons for future years etc... (I'm still quite chuffed I predicted the date of fledging EXACTLY right!)) and photos of me and Anna taking down the empty box. We will leave that until Bank Holiday Monday, just to make sure no Tits are roosting in it at night, though I'm almost certain that won't be happening now. I'm not sure what we'll find in the box - with any luck, no undeveloped eggs or small corpses, just a lot of flattened moss and feathers!
We still don't know how mant chicks were raised, I'll guess at SIX. What we DO know with certainty however, is that Scargill and Anne, against all odds (especially Scargill, poor fella), bi-polar weather conditions, marauding Magpies and Sparrowhawks, Spostles and midges have been quite the most precocious, successful Blue Tit family I've seen on any British website this year. Anna and I should (we have!) given ourselves a big pat on the back too, for undoubtedly helping the parents with our constant supply of food.
We desperately hope they come back and visit us soon. The garden just isn't the same without them, but as it stands, the next post on our tits will be BLUE TITS (62) and that will be the final post. Of course, should they visit us in the future, I may give them a little mention!

For now though, until we take the nest box down to clean it out, I leave you with the final two pictures of the best Blue Tit parents in Britain...
Thanks for reading about our amazing time with these incredible little birds.

SCARGILL
ANNE

Congratulations guys. Good job!

We have AMAZING TITS!

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

BLUE TITS (60) THEY'VE DONE IT!!!

You'll get some more when you come outside!
Very nearly now...
(Although, in actual fact, it was another 7 hours I think, before this chick fledged)

BLUE TITS (59) THEY'VE DONE IT!!!

Scargill (what a cutie?!), showing this chick that the world aint that bad...
Probably, technically the best photo I guess.
This chick just wants food now!

BLUE TITS (58) THEY'VE DONE IT!!!

This niblet was the first to peep out of the box, and the first to fledge, we think. He seemed absolutely fascinated by his first looks at the big bad world, and stayed in the nest box opening, taking all the sights in, for a good 10 minutes. He'd look at the trains in the distance, the garden, all the trees, the house next door, and here, he is watching the Swifts high above him, screaming in the air. He'd never seen them before, though he would have heard them from inside his box. I like this photo a lot. Even though it's a bit too "Orvilley" for my liking - I know exactly what he's looking at in this shot (and you do now as well!), and it's for that reason that I think this is my favourite photo of any I took of the niblets.
Almost there...

BLUE TITS (57) THEY'VE DONE IT!!!

Thinking about it...
Sheena is... a punk rocker

BLUE TITS (56) THEY'VE DONE IT!!!

Our little baby Blue Tits have ALL fledged now!
As suggested last night, I hoped Anna might see the remaining niblets fly the nest sometime before she left for work at 07:10am this morning. I thought I'd probably miss them.
Well... Anna DID see them leave. She took a chair outside at 06:30am for a coffee, and to see if any were leaving.
As she made her way down the garden path, one little niblety yellow fluff-ball, leaped out of the box, panicked, as Anna was there, and flew straight into the side of the next door neighbours' shed! He fell down the side, but thankfully, recovered, flew onto the roof of the shed, and sat there, composing himself for a few minutes, before heading off... somewhere?!
Anna also saw another two leave the nest after that. One pretty-well immediately, and another within 15 minutes or so. Anna left for work shortly after that (reluctantly) as she heard more 'peeping' from inside the box, and knew there was still at least one chick to fledge, possibly more.
I got home from work at 07:15, stuck my head out of the kitchen door, heard the parents calling, and heard a noise from inside the box also. There was at least one baby still in situ!
Unfortunately for me then, nature of a different type did call, and I spent the next 5 minutes or so in the lavatory, reading the newspaper. When I did get out into the garden, it was clear that there was no noise coming from the box, and the last chick HAD gone. I'd bleedi' misse dthe little bugger!
I spent a couple of hours sat in the garden, with the newspaper, hoping to see any of the chicks. I thought I did see two of them, flying towards the brambled railway embankment in their usual bouncy way, but to be honest, I couldn't be 100% positive.
What I DID see though, was Scargill make three returns to the box, with food, to make sure the box really was empty, and all his offspring had gone. He never actually went inside the box today, just looked in through the opening. He didn't see any chick obviously, and flew to his favourite tree to eat the food himself.
I laid on the last of the Waxworms for the two adults, and really hoped they would attract the youngsters too. We STILL don't know how many did fledge eventually. We KNOW 4 did. I think it may have been 5 in total, maybe 6, but 4 AT LEAST.
I managed to take a couple of photos of Scargill and Anne who returned (with no chicks in tow) to snaffle my Waxworms, but was quite upset the chicks had gone, without saying goodbye n all!!!
People on different websites have commented about the sense of 'emptiness' one feels when the nest becomes empty. I now understand.
It's GREAT that our chicks were very strong and healthy, and obviously don't need much support at all now, from Scargill and Anne, but it really is quite sad to not see them AT ALL! We have bought some more Waxworms and Mealworms for any interested Tit that passes by.
We can but hope.
But, in the meantime, here are quite a few of the photos I took yesterday, when fledging began. Most of them are of the first chick to fledge we think - ie the only baby that fledged yesterday. But the photos are not JUST of that baby - look closely, enlarge by clicking, and you'll see subtle differences in their faces which tell them apart as individuals.
Enjoy!First look outside. Wow! It's a big world!


Not sure about this giant with a camera though!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

BLUE TITS (55) ONE NIBLET FLEDGES!!!

I am at work again now.
I did manage to get a few hours kip this afternoon, woke and showered, went outside into the garden at 17:30pm to find Anna in the garden, keeping a vigil on the box - she'd got back from work a few minutes earlier.

I'd missed about 3 hours of 'Box Action', so didn't know if any of the chicks had fledged - but it was clear there was still a number in the box.

Scargill and Anne were making regular trips back to the box, and also calling their chicks out, from their tree (that had been lopped, earlier in the day, remember).

At 17:45 we witnessed a (what we think was the FIRST) chick haul up to the opening, and struggle through, and then launch himself into the air to join his parents in the tree!
ONE HAD GONE!!! HOORAY!!!
He was a right little niblet - all fluffy and yellow, with a bit of a punk's crest - and managed to take his first flight in a very impressive manner. I thought he might weakly parachute to the ground or our fence, but NO - straight over two gardens to his parents' favourite tree. Good job little fella!

We spent the next two and a half hours (ish) hoping that the others would join him. NB. It should be noted here that I/we are not positive he was the first to fledge - he was just the first we saw fledging. That said, we think he was the first to go - we KNOW 2 or 3 chicks were still in the box after he went - we could hear them.

Unfortunately. we didn't see another chick leave. One was very tempted, and his parents were trying their best to call him out - at one point Anne alighted on the chopstick with a caterpillar in her beak - the chick stuck his head out of the opening and begged for the food - at which point Anne turned around on the perch and turned her back on the poor little niblet! AnnA was watching this scene though our telescope at close range, and remarked that when this happened, the little chick looked very ashamed and downhearted!

We didn't even see the fledgling return to the garden in those two hours or so. Shame.

It must be very daunting for these chicks. Their only view of the world for the last (their only) 19 days has been a bright circle in their dark box - though which their parents would arrive with food.
Suddenly they pluck up enough courage to look out of the circle - and WOW! What a HUGE world! And it's all green and brown - not just blue or grey!

I took a load of shots of (I presume) the first chick to fledge this morning. He was in the opening for 10 minutes or so, taking it all in - looking at the screaming Swifts overhead, the trains on the railway, me, everything! It was really quite sweet. You could almost feel his excitement and wonder at his first views of his new world. I will endeavour to print these photos as soon as possible, and put the best on "Blue-Grey" asap.
I have decided not to try to take any photos of the chicks ACTUALLY fledging... I want there to be no distractions for the nervous little niblets, so we are watching now, from a distance.

As for the remainder of the chicks - they'll spend the night in the box without their parents or braver (older?) sibling. I'm sure they'll be fine, Scargill and Anne will be back at dawn to call them out and I expect them to go early in the morning (tomorrow, wednesday (the day I predicted almost 3 weeks ago!))
I think I'll miss the others fledge - I'm positive they won't spend another night in the box now!

I hope Anna sees them fledge before she sets off for work tomorrow, she's picking up some more Mealworms for the sieve in the afternoon, to try and keep the niblets in the garden for a wee while longer for photo opportunities.

We're going to miss them quite badly you know...!

WEEVIL SP.

Just returned from a run in the midday heat - not good!
The chicks are STILL in the nest, still looking out occasionally and still being fed by Scargill and Anne (although less today, especially Anne, who buggers off far more regularly than before).

They may fledge today, but I really have to get some shut-eye now, as I'm dropping.
Maybe Anna will see the little ones leave when she gets home, or maybe they'll fledge early tomorrow morning, (often the way), we'll see...
I just hope they stick around for a bit, the little niblets. I'll post photos on "Blue-Grey" as soon as I get them developed!

Found this little critter climbing up the kitchen wall (insect motorway),after the run.

It has a long snout (ROSTRUM) and its "elbowed" antennae are half-way down its rostrum. This makes it a weevil - and bad news for the garden plants!
There are over 400 species of British Weevil. I couldn't tell you what this one is - and believe me, I've looked through a few species on the web.
Probably a common Weevil of some sort. It had better leave our veggies alone...

BLUE TITS (54)

Well. I've managed to take a load of shots now. No chicks have left the nest yet, though they have been taking their first looks at the big bad world.
Good news - the Thai woman has finished hacking at the Scargills' favourite tree.

Also, (unrelated), I'm having a whale of a time in the back garden with the phone. I've downloaded some wild bird calls as MP3 tracks on it. I'm using the "WREN" as my text message alert at the moment - a wonderful rich bird call from such a tiny body.
Every time I get a message, my phone sings like a Wren, and within a second or two a REAL WREN answers from somewhere on a low tree branch on the rec behind me!

I've got a few birds on the phone - I wonder if I can attract a "GREAT NORTHERN DIVER" to the garden?!

BLUE TITS (53) BREAKING NEWS!!!

Got home from my night shift to find a couple of yellow-faced chicks looking tentatively out of the nest box opening!!!
ARE THEY GOING TO FLEDGE TODAY??!!!

I have spent the last hour and a half in the corner of the garden, and in that time just managed to take ONLY ONE photo (with the big SLR camera) of Scargill feeding the bravest chick, who had poked his beak out of the box. And that's all so far.

But BAD NEWS! If they are to fledge today, they couldn't have picked a worse day.
Scargill and Anne's favourite tree by far (in our next door neighbours' neighbour's garden) is today, of all days, being hacked.

The owner of this tree is a fat, ginger Irishman - he's obviously been about a bit, had a hard life and all that, and now is a shift worker on the railway line behind the house. I think he may be a bit of a (not so closet lush, and all)!
He has bought himself a bit of Far-Eastern wife (probably can't manage to get his own), who looks like your typical Phillipino or Thai woman - about 2' high in her heels.

SHE is hacking at this tree and its thick branches. IT will take her ALL BLEEDING DAY!
NOT the right person to carry out this tree surgery, and NOT the right day!

Anyway, I hope it doesn't put the parent Blue Tits and their chicks off fledging...

I will sit out in the garden today, as much as I can, with the camera, binoculars AND telescope to see what happens... (though I will have to go to schneeps sometime - I'm bleedin' knackered after last night)! This will probably be my last post re: OUR TITS now, until the little ones fledge.

Fingers crossed for today then. Wish them luck!

Monday, May 21, 2007

ANOTHER GOOD LINK

Don't know what Moth you've found in the kitchen?
Not sure what type of beetle you saw when you turned over that log?
Want to see more photos of UK birds and mammals?

After a year or so, "Blue-Grey" should provide the answers to your questions, by clicking on the respective labels.

BUT, for the moment, you could do a lot worse than clicking on the new "EAKRING" link found on this blog. The EAKRING home page suggests it's all about birds - not so.
I will certainly be using the site if I don't know what I'm seeing, or my books don't tell me.

COMMON HOVERFLY


Not a great picture of the Common Hoverfly (Scaeva pyrastri), but you try taking one of these litte hovvery feckers with a phone!
This is possibly the most common Hoverfly in the UK (although rare in Scotland).
It can be distinguished by its cream-coloured crescent-shaped stripes along its back, and its relatively large (for a Hoverfly) size, apart from anything else.
Whilst the adults feed on nectar, the larvae chow down on aphids - good news if our (not abundant population yet) BlackFly take a foothold on our fifteen Maris piper plants.

7-SPOT LADYBIRD




Just three photos I took this morning of our most common species of Ladybird, the 7-Spot Ladybird. Anna found this one yesterday and popped him on one of our potato plants to get him eating the odd BlackFly.

BLUE TITS (52)

A few more photos to show you how our chicks are progressing.
The first shows there are AT LEAST 4 chicks in the box...(I think?). One at the back, facing away from the camera, one at the front (just the top of its head showing - facing towards the camera (opening of the box)) and one on either side, facing in either direction. You might also be able to make out that the one on the right (only showing its wing feathers) is in fact, displaying a set of very well-developed wing feathers indeed! This is a chick not far from the big fledge.
The other photos are of a better quality, and show better "portraits" of the chicks - its just a pity in the second one, the chick closed its eyes. But you would too eh? If you had a bloody great giant snapping a couple of piccies of you!