Posts tagged ‘Blackbirds’

May 19, 2013

Baby starlings and blackbird nest building

19 May 2013

Sitting in our conservatory the other evening around 7.00pm, the bird activity was going on late, with various species zooming to and fro. I didn’t take too much notice at first of the starling on the ground near the bird feeder, as it’s such a common sight, but then I saw it approach another bird and appear to feed it. Grabbing the binoculars, the parent bird had two youngsters with it, both pestering for food; young starlings are very easy to recognise, as they are the same shape as the parents with the same strutting gait, but they are brown – it is some time before they start growing their adult feathers, which are most noticeable first on the breast, making them look to me as though they are wearing flash waistcoats.

The three starlings disappeared out of sight, but my eye was then caught by movement on the far side of the pond. We’d been scooping algae and moss out of the pond earlier, and it was sitting in small heaps on the side, where we leave it in the hope that any pondlife we’ve accidentally dredged out will find its way back. One of the piles was being energetically turned over by a female blackbird, and I assumed she was looking for food. A moment later, however, she straightened up with a beak full of muddy pond weed and flew off with it, towards the house, disappearing out of sight into a tangle of ivy and rose which grow over the top a very large water butt we’ve got (I’ll do a post on that soon, so you can see just how large). I watched for some time, and in the course of about half an hour, I saw her make nine return trips to the pond; when the piles of weed by the side ceased to provide nest-building material which met her approval, she started getting down into the pond. You have to realise at this point that our pond has become very overgrown over the years, and though we have cleared large sections out this year, other areas are so matted that they are nearly dry land, so she wasn’t actually going underwater. The male blackbird meantime, was also around, spending some time on the end of the cottage roof, watching her endeavours.

Black male pheasant

Black male pheasant

I haven’t yet managed to get any photos of the young starlings, but I thought you might enjoy this recent shot of one of our visiting black pheasants.

April 2, 2013

Bees and blackbirds

2 April 2013

We’ve actually had some sunshine over Easter! It was even warm enough to sit outside for a cup of tea, albeit well wrapped up (us, not the tea). It still feels too early to me to do much planting out of stuff which is often out by this time of year:  better to wait a little longer than put them in when the soil is too cold.

A few gardening jobs got done – including a bit more chopping down of last year’s growth, which I leave on all winter to give insects a protected place to hide. We also got round to moving some foxgloves from the vegetable beds to other locations; I’d have liked to do it earlier, but the weather never seemed to permit it. I got tempted one year to leave some Sweet Rocket (not the salad veg, the one grown for flowers) at the end of a vegetable bed, but never again: it was a superb hiding place for the snails, who all came out at night and ate whatever was in reach. Having cleared the space in this veg bed, we’ve covered the soil over for now, and I’ll get the onion sets in before long.

Sweet Rocket (hesperis matronalis) - highly recommended as a good plant for butterflies and for giving masses of white or purple flowers. Photo May 2009.

Sweet Rocket (hesperis matronalis) – highly recommended as a good plant for butterflies and for giving masses of white or purple flowers. Photo May 2009.

Saw one bumble bee visiting the hellebore foetida, and found another buzzing around the greenhouse; I’ve got a tried-and-tested way of gently removing them, by putting a see-through plastic cup over them, then slipping a bit of card under the cup to hold them safe while I transport them outside. No butterflies, though; we have had Orange Tips in early April before now, but I rather hope they won’t turn up too early: there is very little caterpillar foodplant for them of any size yet this year.

The bird activity is high at the moment: it can’t be easy starting a family when the weather is so cold. We are being quite regularly visited by three or four male blackbirds and two females, who are VERY eager to get at the food when we put it out – I’ve been giving them a later-in-the-day top-up recently and when I put some out the other day, one must have been watching me and bounced across the ground towards it faster than I’ve ever seen a blackbird move on the ground – though not as fast as they can fly when a sparrowhawk is after them, when they are positively jet propelled.

I also got some work done in the greenhouse, including pricking out the antirrhinums (snapdragons), and while I was doing it, there were two blackbirds hunting around outside for whatever wild food they could find – see the photos below.

Blackbirds

Blackbirds. In the right-hand photo you can also see the hellebore foetida which the bees like so much