Friday, 29 January 2016

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2016

Long-tailed tit

I have rather neglected my blogs recently in favour of other activities and demands, but it is time to get back in the saddle and prepare for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch

I am guessing that Blue tits followed by Long-tailed tits will take the leader board in my neck of the woods. But we shall see. I am pretty sure that a fine Sparrowhawk swooped over the fence yesterday, so there may be other surprises in store. The Jay was here last week, seeing to its autumn cache, and the Greater Spotted Woodpecker (female) has been around intermittently. The Dunnocks are back and the Wren has been very active. There are two feisty Robins at present and a pair of Blackbirds. The local charm of Goldfinches puts in an occasional appearance, and Wood Pigeon numbers are on the rise. There are also the other usual suspects - Magpies, Carrion Crows and Starlings. 

The Grey Squirrel has been a little tinker, stealing the fat balls as fast as we hang them on the Silver Birch. There has also been a large black and white cat to add to the excitement ...

Do see if you can take part in the count this weekend. Chris Packham reminded us last night on BBC Winterwatch just how valuable the amassed data can be. Juliet, aka Crafty Green Poet, has written an excellent post here with the Birdwatch details. Happy watching! 

P.S. You may find it interesting to watch and see not only the species that come, but also how they are behaving. When we lived in South Wales, the Long-tailed tits seemed very shy around humans, preferring perches at the top of very tall trees (Poplars, I seem to remember). Here in Suffolk, our Long-tails are much more relaxed. They chitter away in small flocks in front of our window and show little fear when I am at relatively close range, regardless of whether the sliding door is open or closed. 

Friday, 8 January 2016

Tree Following 2016: December and early January

 Happy New Year!
 Welcome to my Tree Following post for December and early January. 

These tree posts form part of a wider project initiated by Lucy Corrander from the Loose and Leafy blog and continued by Pat at The Squirrelbasket. May I express my thanks to you both.

I am based in Suffolk, UK, where I am following an Acer negundo (aka a Box-leaf Maple). I am also continuing to keep an eye on my Silver birch, B. pendula.

You will find the other Tree Follower links by clicking the Mr Linky link here ... so do take the chance to have a look at the new posts!

Here is my latest photo of the Acer negundo, looking very bare and wintry ...


The following three photos of the Silver Birch were taken this morning. You can see the profusion of catkins. 

The main activity this last month concerns the birds who live around my home patch. I have yet to see a bird perch on the Acer negundo (no surprises here, but *why* is this tree so unattractive to so many species, I continue to wonder?).

The Silver Birch has had a constant stream of visitors in the last month, although there have been no new 'firsts' to report. I have noted the following ...
  • The faithful feisty Robin (and another Robin)
  • Blue tits, a cluster
  • Great tits, again a few of these
  • Long-tailed tits, always in a small group
  • Starlings, every so often
  • Blackbird, around the tree, rather than on it
  • Magpies
  • Wood pigeons, the usual suspects 
  • Carrion Crows, three noisy ones!
  • Greater Spotted Woodpecker - one visit noted to date in 2016

 On the mammal front, there have been many visits from the
  • Grey Squirrel (possibly just one squirrel, but a very hungry one at that!). S/he has been a regular visitor, perhaps due to the mild weather, and has broken a branch off the Silver Birch in a lively attempt to reach the coconut and fat feeders. These have constantly ended up on the grass as a result. The Blue tits seem to have enjoyed gathering round on the grass for a change, but most of the other birds have been wary of feeding at ground level in this exposed way.  
Cute little vandal!

Blue tit with broken Silver Birch branch and coconut feeders that dropped to the ground

I have not seen any other creatures this month, but - like many of us - I have been busy with festivities and other activities.

I love the Silver Birch, but am still tempted to 'ditch' the Acer negundo: it has been a dull tree to watch. However, when I was last thinking along these lines, a host of Ladybirds arrived (and those who follow this blog will know how interested I am in these creatures); so perhaps I should hold out for the moment and try looking a bit harder!

I will add my complete list of sightings next month. Meanwhile, happy watching!

And finally ...


Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Beech Branch Mystery at NT Ickworth

Pheasant at NT Ickworth, Suffolk, 4 January 2016

Happy New Year! 

We were wandering through the delightful grounds at NT Ickworth, looking for early signs of spring, when our eyes alighted on this strange object on a beech twig. You can see the beech buds at the end of the branches, but what is the strange white bundle?

While I am intrigued by a mystery, I am also curious enough to enjoy the satisfaction of finding the answer, often with a little help from my friends! So please drop a line in the comments or on my @coastcard twitter account if you can help.

It may be just a decaying leaf, but we suspect it may be an overwintering pupa or cocoon of some sort.

I note incidentally that there are lepidoptera like the barred Hook-tip moth (Watsonalla contraria) which sandwich their pupa between two beech leaves.  

NT Ickworth
I am reminded that the term marcescence refers to leaves (like many beech leaves) that dry up but do not fall off in the autumn. 

May 2016 bring many more wildlife mysteries and wonders to our attention!