Monday 29 September 2014

Lifer ~ the Bearded Tit

Bearded tit at Minsmere - a gentle flapping of feathers

We have visited RSPB Minsmere many times and have longed to see the Bearded tit. It is an elusive bird and one on the orange conservation list. 

There are probably good numbers of this bird at Minsmere, but it is an elusive creature, despite the distinctive 'ping ping' of its voice. As you can see from the photos, it prefers to hang out in the reedbeds. 

We were in the Island Mere Hide over the weekend when a man moved at speed in the direction of our corner, camera poised. It transpired that he was on the case and had located a female. 

After a gentle flapping of feathers, the bird rose to the top of a reed ...

... and launched into the air. I had a feeling that that was all we were going to see.

However, that was not the end of the story. The RSPB volunteer got us up to speed on our Bearded tit fieldcraft, and soon we were waiting for the reeds to twitch. The twitching was almost invariably followed by a movement up the stem until a secretive face appeared.  

We had some good views of the female and now that we know a little more about these beautiful birds and their habitat, I hope we will have the chance to see the male before long. There is a magnificent photo of one here. You will notice that the male bird actually has markings more akin to a long moustache than a beard!

The RSPB Minsmere blog for 29 September (today), written by Ian Barthorpe, mentions the imminent irruption of this species. You can read about this aspect of Bearded tit ecology here.

Bearded tits, also known as Bearded reedlings, are apparently no longer included in the tit family.

Such poise!

It was a pleasure and a privilege to see this bird at very close quarters, thanks to the protection of the hide. Our 'audience' with the little creature was soon over and we watched as a small pair of wings flapped gently away.

Wednesday 10 September 2014

Tree Following ~ The Silver Birch in September

This post is the seventh in my Tree Following series, part of a wider project run by Lucy Corrander from the Loose and Leafy blog. I am following a Silver Birch in Suffolk, UK. You will find the other Tree Follower links for September 2014 here ... so do take the chance to go on a virtual exploration of the arboreal world!

to my Tree Following post for September. 

I'm sorry it is a bit late but I've been a busy bee recently. As you can see, the Bluetits are still enjoying the coconut feeders that hang from my Silver Birch. I hope to return to my usual posting for October, but meanwhile, here is a round-up of life in, on, under, over and around my chosen tree.  

The Silver Birch itself is showing a few autumnal signs, with small tinges of brown and yellow on the leaves. However, my tree seems to be changing slowly compared with the Horse Chestnuts and Virginia Creeper in the locality.

The usual pair of Dunnocks have continued to rootle around below the branches. They are very elusive most of the time.

The Starlings continue to visit and seem to enjoy the chance of a bit of friendly rivalry. They certainly make their presence felt with displays of wing-flapping and squawking!

The Blue tits hold back a bit when the Starlings are on the rampage. The Blue tit in this photo is dangling from a Silver Birch frond and as you can see if you follow the arrow, the tree is still sporting its catkins.

The Robin, Woodpecker, Great tits, Magpies and Wood Pigeons have continued to visit. The (other) silver birch to the front of the house had a Chaffinch perched in its branches one morning. As you can see in the photo above, there have been at least two female Blackbirds.

The scruffy fellow in the photo above is probably the most regular Blackbird visitor to the Silver Birch. He pecks at the coconut on occasions but is more often to be found underneath the tree. I have been rather concerned about him and began to wonder whether he was showing signs of disease or infestation. However (and this is sad), it seems he may be manifesting an avian form of 'relationship stress' that causes blackbirds to lose their head feathers. If this is the case, at least it means that he is not suffering from an infection or infestation that could spread.

The photo above was taken about a month ago. I think it is the same bird, which suggests that he has become even more bald in recent weeks. I wonder if he will recover now that the 2014 mating season must be drawing to a close. Do let me know in the Comments if you find any more literature on this condition ... or if you have a different diagnosis.

And finally, there have been a few dragonflies swarming around, but few have landed. The Shieldbug below was looking up from a fence post near the Silver Birch. I think it is probably a 4th instar.