Birds

Jubilee Ringing

Today 4 septuagenarians, one carrying a 10 ft ladder, picked their way along a precipitate and thickly wooded hillside in the foothills of the Cambrian mountains. While others waved flags (today was the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee) we looked for bird nest boxes put up at the end of winter and now hidden in the deep foliage of the Welsh rainforest. Bill and I were trying to help ring this year’s chicks.

Great tit, one of a brood of 8. Very feisty and ready to fly the nest.

A right of passage — to get a number before they leave the nest — for us to monitor what is going on and to make sure we are doing the best we can to help the local birdlife! Most of out boxes only went up this year so expectations were not high as Jan and Jon of the local Habitat Protection Group inspected the 12 boxes which were designed primarily to boost our population of pied flycatchers.

This box had 7 chicks in it — Pied flycatchers!

Two of the boxes revealed pied flycatchers, one with a record brood of 9 chicks. The total of 16 chicks in the first year exceeded our wildest dreams.

Undignified but gently done this great tit gets registered and tagged with a little metal anklet.
Pied flycatcher chick poses after being ringed.

12 boxes yielded 48 chicks of which 24 were blue tits, 16 pied flycatchers and 8 great tits.

Thanks to the Habitat Protection Group for sharing their time, knowledge, expertise and for their patience and for giving us such a memorable jubilee.

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Birds, Ecology

Housing Scheme for Fly Catchers

Our friends from the Species Habitat Protection Group have turned their attention to the sad lack of properly constituted tree holes in our woodland — a flaw underlined in our recent ecology survey.

Here they are erecting armoured, pecker-proof, nest boxes in the dingle.

They are particularly keen to promote the habitat of pied flycatchers which already nest in our deficient holes — the oak trees are just too young (unlike the humans involved) — not gnarly and creviced enough!

Here is one that nested 2 years ago

We have it on authority that the pied flycatchers are due back from Africa tomorrow so, as always on our land, there was an imperative! Jan, Jon and Roger arrived this morning with 12 new nest boxes and got them up in the nick of time.

Locations documented by satnav.

Ready for the arrival of our little avian orcas.

On their behalf I’d like to thank Jan, Jon and Roger and we look forward to more of these beautiful little birds nesting here in future.

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Ecology, nature

Lockdown Liberty —

or are we just seeing what was there all along, albeit in the shadows.

My daughter lives in a modern development in the centre of Peterborough, a city of over 200,000 people. They don’t have jackals in the subways (like Tel Aviv) but since lockdown she has been working from home and has noticed snakes in the garden, grass snakes and there are adders too. Her neighbour recently opened the door to a Roe Deer.

Roe Deer in Peterborough thanks to Amberley McKeen

Feral goats have come down off the Great Orm, a hill in North Wales, to roam the streets of Llandudno left deserted by the tourists.

Locked down in Mid Wales we are spending much of our time out of doors and seeing more of the wildlife than I have ever done before.

Local Common Lizard making a hasty retreat

In the wood there are flashes of Pied Flycatchers and all around the sound of Wood Warblers, starting their little engines. A Redstart poses briefly in the sunshine:

We have discovered lizards for the first time, basking in the unseasonal sunshine — skittish and shy, unlike this celebrity cousin down the road at Ynes Hir — posing for the visitors to the reserve when I last visited.

I always knew we had newts in the pond but we recently noticed something very strange — some have great big (relatively) floppy, webbed hind feet and pin-like tail extensions —

Bigfoot newt — Actually a Palmate Newt (Lissotriton helveticus)
Rest assured they are breeding in our pond — here photographed with 2 larvae –babies still with external gills, unlike tadpoles they develop their front legs first.

In case you are in any doubt about the identity of these little beauties — look! No spots under the chin:

Ventral surface of Palmate Newt

Now we know that they are Palmate Newts we put them back quickly as they are protected!

Back home for tea having guiltily spent the afternoon pond dipping without even the pretence of a single grandchild but not before checking out the Pied Flycatchers nesting in the oak tree by the track.

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Birds

Visitors!

Spring is a frenetic time but this year is different — rather than dashing about doing what Humans do, we are locked down at home so we can look around and see what most years we might miss. All within walking distance of home! Suddenly we have visitors!

This was the first — who gave himself away by his call: Chiffchaff.
Blackcaps are suddenly everywhere with their “irresolute chattering developing into clear, slightly melancholy flute like notes”.
Pied Flycatcher, just arrived –male, perched above our path.
Pied Flycatcher –female, first spotted peeping out of a hole in the old oak tree.
Willow Warbler

Walking in the forestry above the village the din of Willow Warblers was deafening — seemed there was one at the top of every other tree (and not a Willow in sight!) Was this a fall — had they all just dropped en masse out of the sky on their migration?

Competing Willow Warbler

Home again and the first Wood Warbler announces his presence with a call like a tiny quad bike starting (said to sound like a coin spinning on a marble slab!) Usually hidden in the foliage, for the last week or so when the oaks are still not quite in leaf we have a chance to spot these lovely birds.

Wood Warbler —

In the glorious Spring sunshine we took our daily exercise climbing nearby Van Hill

Northern Wheatear, male, on Van Hill
Beautiful female Northern Wheatear also admiring the view.

We’ve seen Tree Pipits doing their parachuting display flight and hear our local Garden Warblers who flit around the shrubs and hedgerows singing their own “irresolute chatter” trying not to be photographed!

Today we walked miles in search of a Common Redstart, up on the hill in a row of mature Oak and Rowan we could hear but not see them — all we have is this chap on the wire.

Tree Pipit showing off during its song flight, parachuting back to a tree with legs down singing for all it was worth.

We have become enchanted by the Pied Flycatchers, Bill checks them out every day, this one we call Orca.

All pictures, except fuzzy Tree Pipit, thanks to Bill Branford (all rights reserved).

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