Sunday, 30 May 2010

Coal Tits Feed Fledgeling (video)

Soon after I had taken the stills yesterday I managed to a short piece of video of the fledgeling being fed. Once I had chased the Starlings away this morning the Coal Tits were back within a few seconds so I managed a bit more footage. As well as being fed by the parent the youngster also spent time hunting amongst the branches and the final clip appears to show that it had managed to find some food for itself.

While all the larger birds flew away when I took the camcorder outside to get some clearer video the tiny Coal Tits took no notice of me and carried on with the task in hand.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Coal Tit Feeding a Fledgeling

Yesterday I had put up one of the Suet Feast blocks to see whether the Blue Tits would be attracted to it. This morning, once the multitude of Starlings had departed for a while, a pair of Coal Tits kept visiting the suet block over and over again. They were obviously feeding one or more fledgelings but though I managed to film the adults the actual feeding eluded the camcorder as the youngster(s) moved to a different position after each beak full. Fortunately on one occasion they were in sufficient view to enable me to get some stills with the 50D + 400mm.

Fledgeling Coal Tit

Coal Tit Feeding Fledgeling 1

Coal Tit Feeding Fledgeling 2

Coal Tit Feeding Fledgeling 3

Coal Tit Feeding Fledgeling 4

This is the first time I have seen the Coal Tits for quite a while and was very fortunate to be in the right place at the right time.

Friday, 28 May 2010

Friday at the Flicks (Crane Fly, House Sparrows, Starling Fledgelings)

The Crane Fly - Tipula lateralis -  busy apparently laying its eggs in the floating pond plants in my garden pond.

While I was filming the Crane Fly at one end of the pond a couple of House Sparrows landed on the waterfall at the other end and fortunately didn't notice as I turned the camcorder in their direction.

At the beginning of the week, when these were filmed, there were two or three fledgeling Starlings visiting to be fed.

Early this morning there were at least 15 youngsters all clamouring to be fed. It was interesting to note that they tended to stay in groups of three or four which were presumably family groups.

Have a great weekend observing the wildlife around you. You never know what will turn up next.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Crane Fly, Sparrow Nestbox

I was puzzled yesterday when I saw what appeared to be a Crane Fly dipping its abdomen in the pond. Up till then I had assumed all crane flies laid their eggs in soil. On searching the internet I found that the Crane Fly Tipula lateralis likes marshy waterside environments. Most of the time it seemed to be laying its eggs in the oxygenating plants on the surface of the pond.

Crane Fly  - Tipula lateralis

Maybe with the lack of rain recently this was the nearest it could find to the correct environment.

I have often looked at a nestbox positioned on a telephone pole not far from home. It looks like a standard Bluetit / Great Tit box so I was quite surprised when I saw a House Sparrow busily fetching seeds to feed the youngsters inside. It didn't go in the box but just fed its brood through the hole.


 The Crane Fly was taken with the 50D+400mm and the Sparrow with the Lumix TZ7

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Feed Me - I'm Hungry

The last couple of days have been really noisy. The young Starlings have started to fledge and they all come here to be fed. The only time they are silent is when the parent has its head down the youngster's throat.

I haven't had any food for at least twenty seconds:

Feed Me 1

I can see right down to your tail.

Feed Me 2

Open wider.

Feed Me 3

OK, OK. You don't have to swallow my head.

Feed Me 4

It sounds like they are back again today. Hopefully it won't be too long before they can find their own food - quietly!

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

First Damsel of the Year

I try to remember to keep an eye on various plants in the pond to see if any damsels or dragons are emerging. I could make out something on one of the stems but it was quite a while before it dawned on me it was an empty larval case and I had missed out this time.

Damselfly larval case

Later in the day I managed to catch a glimpse of a Blue-tailed Damselfly resting by the pond so I assume this is what had emerged from the larval case.

Blue-tailed Damselfly

Plenty of sightings of the Smooth Newts and just one of the many Common Stretch Spiders which build their webs between the various aquatic plants.

Common Stretch Spider

Plenty of coming and going every night on the Hedgehog front but the house remains empty at the moment.

It was a noisy day yesterday as there were young House Sparrows being fed and the first of the young Starlings kept yelling for more and more food.

Monday, 24 May 2010

White Bluebells

There are a few large clumps of cultivated bluebells in my back garden which have been flowering for over thirty years. Noticeable amongst all the blue are two stems of pure white flowers. They are possibly a hybrid: Hyacinthoides x massartiana

White Bluebells

A short while ago I labelled this photo as horse chestnut, but I think it should have been labelled as Sycamore:

Sycamore Flowers

For one thing the Horse Chestnut flower spike grows upwards as can be seen here:

Horse Chestnut Flowers

Many of the scores of frog tadpoles in the nursery pond are developing their back legs. There are so many that I have started transferring some to the main pond. There they will have more natural food, less chance of using up the oxygen in the water and they should now be large enough to be safe from the fish.


The legs can just be made out along side the tail of this tadpole which is one of about fifty I moved yesterday. As their skin is delicate I scooped them in small batches into a plant pot saucer with the water rather than using a net.

While I was moving the tadpoles I noticed that one small ant had managed to get in the nursery pond and was walking about on the weed trying to find a way out.


Sunday, 23 May 2010

Hedgehog Sumo Wrestling: Round 2

Some times a couple of juvenile hedgehogs meet at the feeder and, with some caution, manage to eat without any problems.

2 Juvenile Hedgehogs

Other times it seems to be a case of instant dislike and the pushing and shoving begins.

I have never seen them try to bite each other which would be quite a problem with all those spines and their little teeth. They just charge and push until one decides that discretion is the better part of valour leaving the victor to the spoils.

Hungry Juvenile Hedgehog

After there being a hog in the hedgehog house four days running it has been empty these past two days. Maybe it gets too hot in the present above average temperatures. It is probably more comfortable under a hedge with a bit of cooling breeze.

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Dusty Sparrows and Sheets of Silk

As we were returning from a gentle walk round the cricket field I saw the usual group of House Sparrows having a good old bathe in the dust.

Sparrows Dust Bathing

With the Lumix TZ7 I was able to get the above still shot and the following hand held video.

It had been a misty night and there was plenty of dew on the hedges this morning. On one particular hedge was a line of sheet webs. A type I had never really noticed before.

Sheet Web 2

Sheet Web 1

I wonder how long it takes a spider to construct these webs as they seem to have a lot more silk in their construction than in an orb web. A criss cross of single threads can be seen above the web. The idea being that a flying insect will bump into a thread and be knocked down to land in the sheet web. Fascinating how many different ways various species of spider have developed to catch their prey.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Friday at the Flicks (Robin, Blackbird, Newts)

During the really cold weather the Robin was usually the first bird to appear in the garden but until recently it seemed to have been missing. Maybe it couldn't get a look in with all the corvids and Starlings milling around. The other morning it managed to find a clear slot.

Quite a few birds use my nursery pond as a drinking place and I have seen a Blackbird pick out pond snails to eat. Now it had decided that the floating Koi sticks I use to feed the tadpoles also make a tasty snack.

The sudden increase in temperature recently has warmed up the garden pond and several of the resident Smooth Newts are now evident.

Have a great weekend enjoying the sights and sounds of the wildlife around you.

Thursday, 20 May 2010


Now the Sun has been shining and the water in my garden pond is warming up the Smooth Newts are to be seen cruising through the water.

Common Newt

Common Newts

I have seen up to four in view at the same time so I know a decent number of them survived last winter's harsh conditions. I also managed to take some video which will be available tomorrow.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Horses for Courses.

I was intrigued by something floating in my garden pond yesterday. It appeared to be some sort of larva though its body didn't move all the time I was watching and photographing it but just seemed to drift with the breeze. Out of interest I tried all three cameras to capture a clear shot. The object was about one inch long. All the photos were taken using auto focus.


The 350D and 50D were used at maximum zoom and minimum focussing distance. The Lumix was held about two inches above the larva. I have always found it difficult with the Canon zoom lenses to get clear shots at near distances. Possibly too much movement when hand held and very limited depth of field is the main reason for such soft focus (more noticeable if you click on the photo and look at a larger version) as they both work very well on more distant objects. The Lumix on wide angle and the ability to get really close always gives me superior results for this sort of subject. Definitely a question of horses for courses.

The final problem to solve - what had I photographed? From the searching I did last night my best guess is a mosquito larva.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Nestbox Squatter Confirmed

I was pretty sure that a wasp had started building a nest in the Blue Tit nestbox when I sealed it up a few weeks ago. Yesterday I finally got round to taking that box down so I could have a look.

Wasp Nest

It is intriguing to ponder just how insects know exactly what to do to make such a perfectly formed nest. No practice makes perfect for them. A perfectly circular structure first time complete with regular hexagons for the cells inside. I wonder which of my fences now has a bright section where the wasp had been rasping at the wood. The nest is such a delicate structure that it hardly weighs anything but robust enough to maintain its shape. It even seems to have an 'umbrella' which, if built in a hedge, would keep rain from soaking the main part of the nest.

As I want to put a more sensitive colour camera in the box for next year I have replaced it with the box which has been in a tree nearby but totally ignored in that position.

Camera Nest Box

The replacement nextbox has a black and white camera with IR lighting and the external camera which monitors outside activity can be seen on the left of the photo.

On our afternoon perambulation there was one spot were there were a number of greenbottle flies one of which was obliging enough to wait while I photographed it.

Green |Bottle Fly

Seeing the metallic colouring always brings to mind the chapter in Gerald Durrell's book My Family and Other Animals where he meets the Rose Beetle Man. I really must get a new copy of the book as someone seems to have walked off with mine.

The Sycamore trees are in full leaf now and this young one was small enough for me to see and photograph the flowers.

Horse Chestnut Flowers

The Hedgehog seems to have taken to its house as there is an occupant for the fourth day running. There has been no sign of the adult hogs recently so maybe this one has finally convinced them that my garden is its territory ;)

Monday, 17 May 2010

Recovering from the Winter

One of my small Acer trees took a real hit this past Winter. I was beginning to think I had lost it altogether. This is what it looked like in May 2009:


At first glance this year it looked as though there was only one tiny bit which was still living but it hasn't quite given up the struggle for life just yet:

New Shoots

Though the end of the branches had been frozen enough to kill them off and only one new leaf has grown there are lots of new shoots sprouting as can be seen on the inset photo. Hopefully with a bit of TLC it will eventually make a good recovery.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Plants in the Garden, etc.

When I look around my garden I seem to see as much colour from self sown wild flowers as there is from the plants I have bought.

Wild Flowers

There is a small tree fern growing in a tub which I move to the unheated greenhouse over winter. In spite of the cold weather there are new fronds appearing and I am looking forward to a decent display this year. Last year it started late and made very little growth.

Tree Fern

I have a couple of tomato plants, one in the greenhouse and one in a smaller grow house (a Shirley and a Money Maker). Both are showing their first flowers.

Tomato Flower

Also in the greenhouse the strawberry plants are flowering and showing signs of the fruit to come. At first I thought they were being attacked by whitefly but closer observation showed the white objects seem to be discarded skins and the flies are more red than white. They are the same size as the odd greenfly which is also present. I wonder what they are.

Fly on Strawberry Flower

This morning while out walkies we saw a grey squirrel. Quite a cheeky one as it sat up checking for any traffic before crossing the road.

Grey Squirrel

They usually disappear rapidly when they spot us but this one paid us no heed at all.

For the second day running there is a Hedgehog curled up in its house. It made several visits for food and water during the night. These are a couple of snapshots from last night's video captures.

Hedgehog Hedgehog

Friday, 14 May 2010

Friday at the Flicks (Bread, Blackbird, Tadpoles) + some batty sounds

A few days ago I put out a small piece of bread to see which bird would be the first to notice it.

I make no apologies for yet another video of a Blackbird singing. This time I managed to get a clear view of a local singing in broad daylight. Usually they are camera shy.

Last weekend I managed to get to an aquatic centre and pick up a new tub of Koi floating sticks for the tadpoles. During the cold weather I thought that only a few of them had survived but as soon as the Sun comes out dozens of them can been seen in the nursery pond.

At dusk yesterday I noticed a bat or two flitting round the Leylandii next door so I dug out the bat detector to see if I could pick up any of their echo location sounds. Not a brilliant recording as it took a while for me to tune in to them and then they moved on. Also I had it too loud and the recording was very hissy so I spent a while with GoldWave processing the file. At the same time I was able to cut out the long sections where no bat was within range.


Have a great weekend observing the wildlife around you. I must spend some time catching up on other blogs. I am well behind as this seems to have been a busy week.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010


When I was primary school teaching one of the things my class and I looked forward to was a day out of the classroom exploring the local countryside to see what insects and other small creatures were about. Then would come the task of identification and finding out about their life cycle and habitat.That was in the days before the National Curriculum when the teacher was able to decide what the children would learn, chose the best times to go about it and allotted the time needed accordingly.

Not too many minibeasts spotted here at the moment. At last I did find one Speckled Wood Butterfly taking a rest from flitting all over the place though it steadfastly refused to open its wings fully.

Speckled Wood

I am not sure whether this was a small beetle or a small fly which spent a couple of hours on the outside of the kitchen window. It made a change to get a blue sky as a background!

Small Fly

A Hoverfly taking a rare rest.


Here a Common Green Shield Bug which spent about six hours in the same position on the outside of the kitchen window. The only time it moved was to angle itself to catch the Sun when it eventually lit up that part of the window,

Common Green Shield Bug

It wasn't until I enlarged the photos that I noticed that this little bug was missing two of its six legs.

Common Green Shield Bug

All the above were taken with the Lumix TZ7. There are still scores of seven spot ladybirds about. The tadpoles in the nursery pond are coming along nicely.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Hedgehogs Inside and Out

Inside their own house that is. One youngster, having eaten earlier, decided to have a nap in the Hedgehog House. At the same time another juvenile arrived for a meal and a drink of water. Later on it was joined by an adult. All was good tempered last night with no sign of them playing at being bulldozers.

What a kerfuffal trying to upload the video. Twice to Flickr only to be told each time that it couldn't be processed. Then tried YouTube and all worked first time. Action will be about double speed as the recorder drops to 12.5 fps when recording two feeds at the same time.

Monday, 10 May 2010

A bit of a Puzzle. What Did I See?

Unfortunately no photo, not even a fuzzy one. As we were walking through the churchyard this afternoon we came face to face with an animal. Unfortunately as soon as it spotted us it vanished before I could get the camera out of my pocket.

At first I thought - ah a Muntjac as it reminded me of some of the pictures I have seen. Looking up their description they appear to be not much bigger than Bobby but this seemed quite a bit larger. Colour brown with no markings. The puzzle was it appeared to have horns rather than antlers. Two unbranched horns about a foot in length, vertical and curving backwards slightly. Maybe it was a goat but it wasn't like any I have seen in the past. No sign of a beard either.

We went for a wander in the couple of the vdirections it could have gone but there was no sign of it and, unusually, Bobby didn't seem to pick up a scent.

Hedgehog Intruder

Two Hedgehogs into One Hedgehog House doesn't go. One juvenile had made a few brief visits to their house and on one occasion another decided to enter. The intruder tries a little shoving but ends up being pushed back to the entrance.

Later on one juvenile was seen feeding but no hedgehog was in the house this morning.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

A Raptor Comes Visiting but Leaves Empty Taloned

I have waited a long time to get a photograph of one of the visiting raptors which frequent the garden from time to time. When I went to the kitchen to make a cuppa I had a quick glance round the garden as I always do. Down the end of the garden partly hidden behind the greenhouse was a Female Sparrowhawk perched on an old wooden frame. At least I hope it is a Female Sparrowhawk.

Female Sparrowhawk?

Not the sharpest of photos but at least I got some shots this time. So as not to scare her away I stayed as far back in the kitchen as I could. I think the sight of a wrinkly pointing a 400mm zoom lens right next to the window would have made her depart rapidly.

Female Sparrowhawk?

She stayed for a short while looking at all the places she knew there should be small birds feeding but as can be expected there was not a sight or sound of the usual visitors.

Female Sparrowhawk?

It seemed to be unusual to see a hunting bird perched less than 6 feet (2m) from the ground. I managed to get half a dozen shots before she took off for pastures new. The one thing which surprised me was how small she was. Somehow I had expected a bird of prey to be larger. To give an idea of her size the horizontal piece of wood in the background is about two inches (24mm) high.

If you are interested and haven't had a look yet at the Peregrine Falcon chicks on Derby Cathedral I think their site is worth a visit. They are very recently hatched and the video of the parent bird being so gentle while feeding the chicks is a sight for sore eyes. It's not too gory and can be seen HERE.

I was only wondering yesterday whether the local Heron had survived the weeks of frozen water in the past winter. Well, I did see one this morning weaving round the sky being hotly pursued by three Rooks.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Hedgehog Sumo Wrestling

The youngster who had nested in the Hedgehog House left just before 8 p.m. and it, or the other youngster, arrived back about 10.30 p.m. for its first free meal.

These were taken with the 350D. The rubber lens hood I use has the ability to distort and give a reasonable seal on the glass of the kitchen window. This keeps some of the flash away from the lens but there is some reflection from the outer panel in the double glazing. The second shot was taken through the single glazed door of the conservatory.



It was gently raining at the time and by the looks of it it had rained most of the night so I wasn't expecting much hog activity. This afternoon I decided to look through the recordings and found one hog had been in their house for a short while soon after midnight.

What caught my attention though was this group. The way they were charging and pushing each other out of the way reminded me of Sumo wrestlers. Maybe I should paint a white circle so we can see who is the winner. I can't work out whether there are three or four hogs at this time but I am fairly certain that two of them were adults.

In spite of all the argy bargy the young Hedgehog returned some while later and managed to get a quiet meal. No takers for the Hedgehog House today though.
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