Tuesday 7 October 2014

Tree Following ~ Silver Birch in October

 Tree Following ~ The Silver Birch in October

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, B. pendula, in Suffolk, UK. You will find the other Tree Follower links on the Loose and Leafy blog ... so do take the chance to go on a virtual exploration of the arboreal world!

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, let's begin with a couple of diary entries ...

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Sunday 21 September
Weather: fair

David had seen a Jay TFb13 in the garden some days before, and this time it was my turn to watch the bird pecking around in the sandy soil for caches of acorns. We have had a Jay in the garden in previous years, but these two sightings constituted the first visits for 2014, as far as we are aware. I expect the underground acorn store in which fresh supplies could be deposited for the winter was the attraction, but since the bird was very close to the Silver Birch, it seems right to record its presence in this post.

Jay in garden a year ago

Wednesday 25 September
Weather: fair after a cold start

A flicker of silver caught my attention as a Grey Squirrel tail disappeared in the foliage, only to re-emerge moments later. I have not seen a Grey Squirrel TFm4 in the garden for quite a while. The creature perched on the trellis, looking towards the coconut feeders that dangle from the Silver Birch. I waited but the Squirrel headed off towards the Local Nature Reserve. I am wondering if it was sniffing out a previous subterranean acorn stash that needed replenishing before the winter.
Postscript: the Grey Squirrel re-emerged on the trellis a couple of days later, but has not been spotted since.

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General round-up

I had anticipated a major change this month, and while it's true that the Silver Birch has been shedding more leaves, it is far from bare. In fact, there are still patches that are still full of green leaves. 

There are other patches in which gold predominates. 

Strangely the 'other Birch', just the width of the house away, is looking far more autumnal. The ground below is a carpet of leaves and the foliage is lacking the green sheen of its near neighbour. 

Below the 'other' birch, Swedish Birch, B. pendula 'Darlecarlica'

The two birches are not identical specimens since my birch is Silver Birch, B. Pendula and the other is B. pendula 'Darlecarlica', but I wonder whether this is the only factor causing the different leaf-shedding rates. 

New Sightings

I have been particularly interested in two new sightings. One involved a shield bug and the other a woodpecker. We were watching the Great Spotted Woodpecker, no longer such a juvenile, as he (the red patch on the back of the head makes me think it is a male) flitted cautiously from the decking to the coconut. 

He pecked away for a few seconds before flying off towards the local nature reserve. No sooner had he departed than a new arrival swept in. It was a Green Woodpecker TFb14, and a 'first sighting' for our garden. The green bird pecked away in the grass, presumably devouring grubs or ants. What a thrill! 

Note eyelid: is this its nictitating membrane ... and if so, why is it showing at this point?

The second newcomer was a strange reddish Shield Bug. I have yet to get a definite ID, but I suspect it may be a late instar Birch Shield Bug TFi24. If my hunch is correct, there are no prizes for guessing why it might have arrived in our garden. I have to say, though, that it looks more (though not exactly) like the Red Shield Bug. My jury on this one is still out. 

PREVIOUS SIGHTINGS of birds (on, in and around the Silver Birch) include ...
  • TFb1 Great Spotted Woodpecker 
  • TFb2  Great tit (several frequently on feeder) 
  • TFb4  Blackbird (I have not seen the Blackbirds so much this month)
  • TFb6  Blue tit (several frequently on feeder)
  • TFb7  Robin (one or two appearances)
  • TFb8  Magpie (about three frequently dive-bombing feeder)
  • TFb9  Wood Pigeon (up to ten perching around the feeder area)
  • TFb10 Dunnock (two frequently below feeder)  
  • TFb11 Starling (infrequent appearances of up to three birds)  
Previous birds not seen this month ...
  • TFb3 Long-tailed Tit
  • TFb5 Song Thrush 
  • TFb12 Carrion Crow (on fence at back of Silver Birch) - first seen on 14 May 2014
  • TFb13 Goldfinch
On the mammal front, previous sightings include ...
  • TFm1 (?Wood) Mouse
  • TFm2 Bats
  • TFm3 Shrew
  • TFm4 Grey Squirrel
  On the insect front, previous sightings include ...

  • TFi1 Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly [March]
  • TFi2 Buff-tailed Bumblebee [March] 
  • TFi3 Brimstone Butterfly [April]
  • TFi4 7-spot Ladybirds [April]
  • TFi5 Skipper Butterfly [July]
  • TFi6 Meadow Brown Butterfly [July]
  • TFi7 Large White Butterfly [July]
  • TFi8 14-spot Yellow Ladybirds [July]
  •  TFi9 Small White Butterfly [May]
  • TFi10 Orange tip Butterfly [May]
  • TFi11 Harlequin ladybird [May]
  • TFi12 Garden Chafer (Phyllopertha horticola) [June] 
  • TFi13 Ruby-tail Wasp [June]  
  • TFi14 Blackfly [June] 
  • TFi15 Marmalade Hoverfly [July]
  • TFi16 Shield bug [July]
  • TFi17 Migrant Hawker dragonflies [July]
  • TFi18 Unidentified Damselfly [August]
  • TFi19 Comma butterfly [August]
  • TFi20 Red Admiral butterfly [August]
  • TFi21 Peacock butterfly [August]
  • TFi22 Green bottle flies [August]
  • TFi23 Ants [August]
  • TFi24 Squashbug aka Dock Bug, Coreus marginatus [August]
 There have also been plenty of moths.


Monday 6 October 2014

RSPB Minsmere (with Otter and Great White Egret)

Otter in ring of bright water in front of the reeds. Photo Credit: © David Gill 2014

It is always exciting to see what wildlife is out and about at RSPB Minsmere, and our visit this last weekend coincided with that of a Little Crake. The bird had attracted folk from miles away, and we had rarely found the reserve so busy. By the time we arrived, the Little Crake was no longer showing, so we headed on past the Bittern Hide in search of Bearded tits.

We failed to see any this week, but were delighted to see an Otter. It was a fair distance from us, but we could see it clearly through binoculars.

It swam to and fro below the dome of Sizewell Power Station ...

... and then it turned towards us (photo below). You can just about make out the characteristic 'V' emanating from the otter and receding in the weed.

There was a measure of excitement in the hide over the appearance of a Great White Egret. I have seen this bird in the western Peloponnese, but it was my first sighting in the UK. The egret was right over on the far side, and as you can see, I was shooting into the sun. You may have to take my word for the yellow on the bill! 

On our way back to the car we caught a glimpse of this Muntjac deer ...

There were plenty of rabbits and grey squirrels out and about in the autumn sunshine.