Saturday, 25 April 2015

Magpie sitting tight

A pair of Magpies built a nest in a maple near our house, as they did last year (that time in the tree opposite). In the the last few days, the tail of the incubating female can be seen sticking out from the side of their large domed nest. Soon, we won't be able to see much as the leaves are growing quickly. Earlier in the year, the magpies were very vocal, now they are surprisingly quiet, if they fledged young, I do not know. The female will take care of incubating while the male feeds her.
This is a photo from 13/03/2015, when nest building was in its early stages.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

The female Sparrowhawk and the 'missile' thrushes

There is a breeding pair of Mistle Thrushes in the park. Last week, one was busy finding earthworms on the lawn and carrying them neatly folded in its bill. This means they must be feeding young.  Today I heard the rattling call of annoyed Mistle thrushes. They use this call when they guard their berry trees in the winter, against Blackbirds and even much smaller birds like Chaffinches. The pair of them called and called from a tree. I tried to spot them and saw that a female Sparrowhawk was sitting on a branch. The Mistle Thrushes rattled and swooped over the hawk, the hawk ducked every time they dive-bombed her, although they didn't actually touch her.
 The female Sparrowhawk is an impressive raptor compared to the almost cute, much smaller, male. She is as large as a Woodpigeon, with broad chest and piercing yellow eyes. She can actually bring down Woodpigeons. Although the thrushes appeared fearless, they always stayed over the hawk, not underneath. The hawk moved onto an ash tree nearby, and although higher up, there were fewer leaves in the way, and after some trying I found a clear line of view and managed to take some photos and a video of the 'missile' thrushes dive bombing her. This behaviour, known as 'mobbing' involves potential prey individuals harassing or sometimes actually attacking predators when they are encountered. Mobbing is at its most intense during the breeding season. It is a behaviour that is not completely understood. One explanation, the 'move-along' hypothesis, is that mobbing diverts the predator attention from places where there are nests or young. When the Sparrowhawk's young hatches, they will be fed almost exclusively on fledglings, so harassing the predators might encourage them to move on, and hunt somewhere else.
Mistle thrush with worms in bill (14/4/2015)

The 'missile thrush' was my photo management software autocorrection, but I think it is actually quite fitting! This is an initially very shaky clip (no tree nearby to hold on). Watch out at 11 seconds.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

New moorhen chicks

This morning, a moorhen was on the island with three very young chicks. They were tiny and a bit clumsy, and had some trouble following the adult about. There was only one adult with them, so I wonder if its partner is still incubating, or brooding other chicks on their tree nest. These tiny chicks either jumped from their nest, or climbed down the tree unharmed. They peeped and flapped their tiny wings comically, stretching out to their parent, who will occasionally give them tiny morsels of food, one at a time.
 After a while the parent brooded them on the ground, a bit restless trying to get itself comfortable. The following time I saw them, the adult was trying to arrange some nesting material on a branch by the water, maybe not happy with brooding the chicks on the ground? There were a number of large gulls about, and with just one parent around, I wonder what the future of these chicks holds.
Parent finding food.
Chick begging
Brooding time

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Coots settling in the park

I wrote about the visiting coot a few posts ago, but there has been new developments in the local park, a few days ago two coots were present and today I counted three coots. They were quite dispersed in and around the pond, but from a particular location all were visible. If they are just coming in or they have been here all along since I saw the first one, I do not know. They are relatively vocal, appearing to keep in touch with each other. This afternoon, two of them seemed quite content, preening close to each other, while surrounded by playing children and lots of people in the park, they most likely dispersed from another park, where they have grown accustomed to people. Male and female Coots have similar appearance, although males are larger and heavier, so possibly the individual in the foreground on the shot above, much larger, is a male. Male and female, however, have very distinct calls. I hope that at least a pair stays in the park as they will provide opportunities to get to watch them closely and learn more about their behaviour.
One of the coots being chased away by the resident Moorhen (with its nest in the island tree).
Coot about to dive
This is the third coot, note its very large frontal shield, protruding from the top of the head and stained pink. The two individuals at the top of the post have much smaller shields.