Saturday, May 28, 2011

Baby Blue Tits

Just watched my first brood of baby blue tits appear in the garden. Five little bundles in all - paler and much fatter than the parents who are flitting to and fro from the feeders to the bushes, where their brood are waiting to be fed.

They've all got tails and not too much of a yellow gape, so may have been out of the nest for a few days.

They came back later in the day and got even closer - to within a few feet of where I was sitting.  Managed to get a few shots but take into account - they're through glass and it was blowing a gale out there!

I've got some beautifully focused twigs and leaves and occasionally a not too bad a shot of the blue-tits.  Unbelievably adorable little bundles of fluff and looking well fed, getting buffeted by the wind.

Very attentive parents - both birds are feeding all five of them, making constant trips between feeders and their brood.  The youngsters do occasionally fly over to the feeders but don't quite know what to do and just wait to be fed.

Spot the birdie!

They're so well fed that they're even dozing off on their perches. They were around for a good half-hour and I hope to see them back.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Dew Pond Surveys - Kingston, nr Lewes

Something a little different for today's task and my first pond survey.  A slow start to the day but we finally made it to a new (two years old) dew pond in Kingston at the foot of the South Downs.

Out with the kit and on with the waders. Surveying the fauna and flora in and around the pond.  It hasn't been planted but there are already a few plants appearing around the edge of the pond.  Newts popped up to the surface every now and then but were too quick for us to catch them.  There were a few swallows skimming around.

Plenty of pond creatures appeared in the nets but the most exciting discovery was the broad bodied chasers that were hatching out all around the pond.  It had rained the previous night and they must have crawled out into the grass at the edge of the pond and then started to hatch during the morning.

We found one at first, which caused great excitement as we scoured the book trying to identify it, distracting us from doing much else as it repeatedly had it's photo taken.  The more we looked the more we found - counting around 20 in all, all at a similar distance from the waters edge.

There was a clue in that there were three male broad bodied chasers flying around the pond.  Being freshly hatched the colour was pale and developing all the time, which added to the confusion.  After an hour or so we finally settled on the broad-bodied and also worked out the males and females - most of them seemed to be males.  As you watched the colour developed in the body and wings, eventually showing up the distinctive yellow dots along the sides.

After a couple of hours they started to fly off in fairly quick succession.  Up and over the trees.  There were more nymphs in the pond, so no doubt the same thing will happen over the next few days.  It was mildly amusing watching them devour the smaller creatures in the trays as we tried to identify beetles and other larvae.

Having finished surveying this pond, we drove up the hill to look at the other three on the top of the Downs.  One was completely dry, possibly due to a cracked pipe, which needs some investigation and repair to see if it can at least hold some water.  It's been fenced to keep cattle and dogs out but does have a gate.  Much of the gorse which was cleared a couple of years ago has started to come back.

The other two had water in but less wildlife - although we were running out of time to survey them both. Plenty of weed and snails in one and a duck in the other.  Rabbits, pipits, whitethroat and passing goldfinches.

A lovely gentle day with great views across the downs.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Plant Survey on Telscombe Tye

Earlier than last year but an opportunity to perhaps pick out a few different species.  We were surveying two of the quadrants on the e-Piece.  We couldn't find the third peg as despite clearing the undergrowth last year it had disappeared again.

Too early for some species but there were plenty of cowslips on the slope and one or two orchids in each quadrat.  Not in flower yet, perhaps we'll check later in the month to see which they actually are, by which time the scabious will also be out.

Plenty of birdsong around - we heard a cuckoo as we walked down the path and both green and spotted woodpeckers were around.  I also spotted a blackcap singing below us.
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Monday, May 02, 2011

RSPB Pulborough Nightingale Festival 2011

A glorious evening to be out listening to nightingales.  Arrived at the centre just as people were starting to gather for the evening's event.

NightingaleImage by Sergey Yeliseev via FlickrToday was the last evening of the annual Nightingale Festival and the weather couldn't be better.  Although it had been warm during the day - the temperature did drop, although not as cold as last year.

I was allocated to Adder Alley.  Further along than last year where the nightingales had been singing at the Hanger and Picnic area.  We heard one as we left the centre - right along the path to the zig-zag and more down near Fattingates - another regular territory.

It took a while but as the light started to go, the nightingales started to sing and they were fantastic.  There were at least four along the whole of Adder Alley - starting near to Little Hanger hide, with two quite close together.  In fact at one point there were three singing within a 100 metre stretch and they didn't just start and stop.  They were singing for a good 5-10 minutes at a time.  The last one which I recorded was singing for at least 15 minutes.  (I'll try and get it uploaded).

Although you could hear them really well and singing very loudly from the centre of a bush - they were hard to see and not showing themselves at all.  Only a fleeting glimpse when they moved between cover as they finished singing or to start up again.

We had quite a few visitors who venture out this far onto the reserve.  The British Whites were also stealing the show as they had young calves who were being very cute and lively as the sun set.

A great evening and the nightingales certainly put on a good performance.
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