|primrose divisions ready for planting out|
Thursday, 16 June 2016
Thursday, 2 June 2016
Their mother watches anxiously then gathers the little stumbling balls of fluff together as they burrow into the cover of a sopping geranium patch.
I check the nest I've been watching for three weeks and find empty eggshells.
And if anyone can tell me why my Mac/safari is preventing me accessing sites on the internet, I'd be grateful!!
Posted by Rob Carlyle at 15:58
Tuesday, 31 May 2016
|Ground being cleared beneath limes|
|Lime Hawk Moth|
And as if in thanks, the limes bestowed on me a most beautiful gift. I discovered an exquisite Lime Hawk moth (Mimas tiliae) as I was clearing: a creature more like a jewel than almost any other living thing I've seen. Perfectly camouflaged against a lime trunk we now learn that this members of this beautiful group of moths are bestowed with a second nose that enables them to evaluate whether a flower is worth a visit.
The Lime Hawk moth was a gift indeed.
Posted by Rob Carlyle at 17:26
Monday, 2 May 2016
|A male pheasant and his entourage on the lawn|
Sadly, the released and bewildered young birds stray into roads in the autumn and are frequently seen as road kill.
In 2015, we had a memorable June when a number of pheasant mums turned up with their groups of chicks: peeping bundles of fluff. They circled the house and gardens as Indians once did in cowboy westerns.
Time went on and the chicks became poults which became adults.
When I went to fill the bird feeders during the winter there would be a rush of young female pheasants, peeping for food.
The mild winter obviously helped our pheasants and then in the spring, when the local gamekeeper stopped feeding his birds, a number of economic migrants hopped over the fence and joined us in what I can only guess is some kind of pheasant promised land.
By late March, there could be up to a dozen hen pheasants jostling beneath the bird feeders like a football crowd, waiting for the expensive seed generously discarded by the goldfinches, redpolls, siskins and tits.
In other years, the males have been the most evident and confident. Pictured is 'The Cardinal' who would occasionally bring a very shy girlfriend to the terrace hoping for a free lunch in 2014.
I think that the male birds must disperse on reaching adulthood, but that the females remain where there is a reliable food source: the result this year has been some very forward hen pheasants.
Their colour variation has made it relatively easy to identify individuals but none has been more striking than the stunning 'Negrita'. Her feathering is unusually dark and she has a beautiful purple iridescence around her neck. She is also the the most narcissistic of the pheasants as she will frequently be seen admiring herself in the windows of the bungalow.
This bouquet* of beauties has drawn the attention of several suitors. One bruiser has laid claim to the ground beneath our feeders and to Judith and Rogers. And throughout the season he has travelled between the two areas, vanquishing all comers. But this punishing occupation has been at a cost and by now, he limps along, tailless and missing lumps of neck feathers. But still he fights to defend his territory even though there'll always be a younger, quicker-on-the-draw hombre waiting to ride in to town. A gorgeous young pretender is steadily pushing him back from our feeders and as they fight, the border of the two males' territories each day is being pushed away from our feeders and is now a quarter of the way across the lawn. Jill feeds the old bruiser: she has an affinity for old wrecks.
Most male birds use calls or song to proclaim their territories. Males will frequently sing in response to hearing another male. Pheasants have a cute remarkable ability to give their territorial trumpet blast and wing flaps simultaneously with nearby males. How do they do that? I say that as a person with reaction times that are best described as glacial.
The males seem to lay claim to the best areas for feeding and this then attracts females. During the breeding season, the male birds constantly give a low 'whup-whup-whup' call which increases in tempo when food is discovered. This draws females to feed. The females appear to be polygamous - moving between territories to wherever food is most plentiful and mating with the male bird in whose territory they are.
The garden is constantly scoured by pheasants like zebras crossing the Serengeti. I can find no studies that show the environmental impact of pheasants but it must be significant, especially for already under-pressure invertebrates. The hens are now laying and are desperate for food. They flutter around the bird feeders and then move away, constantly searching in the borders and on the lawn. They will lay a clutch of around a dozen eggs which must be a significant proportion of their body weight - hence their urgency to feed.
The vulnerability of the pheasants' nests was evident yesterday when we were labouring through an especially overgrown border. There we found Negrita's nest. And what a diversity of eggs were in there! The conventional colour of a pheasant's egg is olive brown. But you can see from the photo that we also have both pale and sky blue eggs in there. I'm guessing that these are all pheasant eggs - we do have mallards in the garden too but their eggs would be expected to be larger. What I think we have here is an example of 'brood parasitism' in which a hen will deposit her eggs in another birds nest. We know that our hens are not fussy and will lay in the same nest as other hens; pheasants presumably do the same. The advantage for them of doing this is that they spread the chances of their young being hatched.
Pheasant nests are very vulnerable as they are on the ground. Hedgehogs, foxes, stoats, crows, magpies are among the many animals that will take the eggs from a pheasant nest. By laying eggs in more than one nest, the hen birds increase their chances that some of their young will avoid predation.
So, the clock is now ticking. In around three weeks the young will emerge clothed in their juvenile down and all ready to follow mum, peeping. How many will be successful and how many Indians will be circling the Cowboys this summer?
Can't wait to find out!
*the collective noun for a group of pheasants
Posted by Rob Carlyle at 10:47
Saturday, 2 April 2016
|Photo by John Richardson|
|'How many people does it take to fix a nest box to a tree?'|
on a moonless night. I'm told that redstarts like their nest holes to be dark - they've got it!
The boxes were placed in groups of four, with a range of different entrances in each group.
Posted by Rob Carlyle at 09:09
Friday, 11 March 2016
My guess is that two years ago and for the sixty that preceded that, there was no frog love here at all: there was no water. But last year we had frogspawn - presumably the first...? And having had this success, were hoping for more this year but as we constructed George's Pond I had to move frogs that were hibernating in the pond mud from danger - and into a small pond built in the 'Hot Border'.
Garden ponds have become increasingly important for our amphibians and other wildlife as wetlands and water have been lost in our countryside. A distribution map of Nottinghamshire shows frogs being concentrated around centres of human population with huge empty areas coinciding with the monoculture of intensive farming.
Water is vital if we want to encourage wildlife.
But would our frogs survive their early wake up call and take to their new home?
As with virtually all pond custodians, I couldn't wait to see the frogs emerge and begin their courtship rituals which are basically lots of showing off, loud burping and the locking together of bodies and thrashing legs. Much like any Saturday night in Nottingham I guess.
And tonight, torch in hand I visited the little pond and was rewarded with this sight... A male and female in a clinch.
When one of our kids was smaller they enquired of Jill whether this was how human babies were made. She answered 'Not in ponds'. Those were the days. I remember the burping so well.
Phenologists love events such as the spawning of frogs. 'Phenology is the study of periodic plant and animal life cycle events and how these are influenced by seasonal and interannual variations in climate, as well as habitat factors'. And they can use the wealth of froggy data gathered across the country to measure the advance of climate change.
Unfortunately we can't add much in terms of previous years' data, here at Cordwood but as soon as my burping and thrashing frog friends spawn, the world will know!!
Posted by Rob Carlyle at 23:40
Tuesday, 16 February 2016
|frosted 'snow bunting' crocus|
|primrose offering 'all day breakfast' to passing insects|
Posted by Rob Carlyle at 09:25
Sunday, 14 February 2016
|One of the 25 blue tits ringed today|
|Long Tailed Tit||
|Long tailed tit|
Posted by Rob Carlyle at 23:04
Saturday, 6 February 2016
|Trev tracking in|
|George's Pond beginning to fill....|
Posted by Rob Carlyle at 18:53
Tuesday, 2 February 2016
|the matting goes in with spoil on top|
|some of our disgruntled frogs|
We dredged out the water and its hoard of disgruntled frogs only to find the following day that the pond had refilled - the water table is so high after this wet 'winter' that even on the top of the hill the water isn't far from the surface. So, back in goes some of the excavated material to bring us above the water table.
|a tea break for the team|
And sometimes, from adversity comes inspiration. I read that our forebears made sacrifices to bestow blessings on new ships or prestigious ventures. Thinking of my poor old dad in his hospital bed, I wondered if this pond should carry our progenitors name? 'George's Pond'. Gotta ring.
Posted by Rob Carlyle at 04:49
Thursday, 14 January 2016
|actinic moth light in action|
|elephant hawk moth|
Posted by Rob Carlyle at 22:09
Wednesday, 6 January 2016
|.. showing the perimeter path and the gentle shelving to the centre|
|The HG joined by celebrity birder Ray Fox|
|Mark surveys the days' work|
Friday, 18 December 2015
|Soup making with Joe|
|Meeting of Clan Carlyle at Cordwood July 2015|
|In the Assynt|
Posted by Rob Carlyle at 13:13
Sunday, 6 December 2015
George Monbiot talks about 'shifting baseline syndrome'. An ungainly term but meaning that we look back to our childhood as the norm but this norm is not how it always was or has to be. My norm was of an abundance of house sparrows - and there must have been an abundance. I grew up on Nottingham's Clifton Estate which at the time was considered to be the largest social housing development in Europe. And during my childhood the estate of thousands of new homes (less than a decade old) was truly stuffed with these little birds. From nothing, the house sparrows completely colonised the estate. Sadly, for more recent generations, it is their 'norm' that their new homes will not have the company of house sparrows. So the new generations do not feel the loss that I sense at the absence of these chirpy chappies*. And so there is not pressure to address the shortages because these new generations consider the absence to be 'the norm'.
|a cock sparrer|
|four home house sparrow terrace|
* As a footnote to 'shifting baseline syndrome', the naturalist Joseph Whittaker remarked at the turn of the twentieth century that neighbouring Blidworth Dale rang to the 'crex crex' call of corn crakes. Sadly, corn crakes were lost as soon as mechanised harvesting came along and are long gone from Nottinghamshire. We have to travel to distant Scottish islands to hear them calling now. How I would love Joseph Whittaker's 'norm'.
Posted by Rob Carlyle at 08:30
Thursday, 3 December 2015
|one of the successful chicks reared in a RuBOP box|
|the head gardener and a baby barn owl|
|barn owl box|
Posted by Rob Carlyle at 08:30