Please, do not hamper a young bird's life by picking it up, and taking it home with you. It is calling its parents to help them in locating it.
After fledgling from the nest, the parent birds will keep feeding it, and look out for it, until it will be able to look after itself.
And the reason you cannot see a parent is because of your own proxomity to the young bird. And while you are ebating if or not you should take the bird home, you keep the parent from giving it well needed nutrition in the form of a meal!


The photos on this blog are all taken by me. If there is any picture you might want to use for any other than personal use, please drop me a line to the email address shown in the sidebar on the right.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Blackbirds take over the garden and the birdfood.

Blackbird, Turdus merula, female
Soft bedding!

We have 12 of them now. They have totally shifted over the balance of power. The Rooks, Jackdaws and Hooded Crows, were mostly looking down from the fence at those Black and Brown birds fighting each other for the food. Mind you, it was fascinating to observe those big Corvids, trying to grovel their way into the garden!

In winter, large numbers of Blackbirds and other Thrushes visit Ireland and the UK looking for food and warmth.
Robin, Erithacus rubecula
All 4 Robins had drawn swords, and although last winter the cold weather made some species forget about territories temporarily, not this time around!

Ah! This coconut shell with peanutcake is mine!
The Rooks had managed to drop it off its hook, giving the Blackbirds a little ray of well needed fat and protein. They fought each other for the delicacy inside.

Redwing, Turdus ilacus
The Redwing, a little smaller than our native Song Thrush, was quick to respond to those free handouts.

Stand off between one of the Song Thrushes, Turdus philomelos, and a male Blackbird. The prize? Leftover peanutcake and crumbled fatballs. Among the seed.

Before the snow.
Dunnock, Prunella modularis

Male House Sparrow, Passer domesticus

Male Chaffinch, Fringilla coelebs

Male Blackcap, Sylvia atriciapilla
Do I see food down there?

In that very cold spell in February, this year, we had a female Blackcap visit the garden until spring. This time, it is the male who needs a good feed. I only discovered him on Christmas Day, when I sat counting the many Blackbirds on the ground, and spotted him down there looking for fallen bits of seed and other food which the Blackbirds might have missed.

After the first snow, I made the big mistake of going outside into the garden to feed the birds. (as you do, right? That is just part of everyday life, right? I did not think that that low covering would be a problem. How wrong I was. Oops. Wheeling over to the 'birdtable' (The Fatsia japonica) I soon realised that I could not get back inside, as my wheels got stuck onto the tracks I had made getting out there. It took me 40 minutes to get back indoors. The distance? A little over a metre! On a certain moment I did have to get out of my wheels and pull her forwards, without pushing her into my legs. Needless to say I almost fell over. Anyway, that was 12 days ago. Today is the first day that I was able to get out ago, after the thaw set in. I was getting claustrophobic, sitting inside all this time. Usually I spent a large amount of time outside, whatever the weather. Even when it was freezing during daytime, in late November/early December, I would still go and settle out in the garden with my thoughts, the birds above and around me.
The thaw has set in with lashing of rain; back to the normal gales and rain. From the south instead of the west. (Atlantic storms with used to be our normal winter weather-pre climate chance-) in other words, no chance for photos through those wet windows.

Eddy, our village shop owner, has helped us out by bringing shopping up to us, during this cold period, a service you only find in these small communities. When I had asked for lard for the peanutcake, I got a six pack of fatballs instead, because he didn't have any. The birds got this for free.

One of the Pied Wagtails, Motacilla alba

Our resident Blue Tits brought a few friends to dinner too.

Territorial bounderies forgotten?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Redwing, Song Thrush and Blackbirds; winter is here.

Song Thrush, Turdus philomelos, a Thrush which is resident around the garden and the little road to the factory behind our house.
. In the winter months of this year he/she was joined by one or two from the continent, other birds of the same species which had escaped the cold temperatures of continental Europe. I expect these again this winter. I can feel that it is going to be another severe winter

Female Blackbird, Turdus merula,
We don't see much of Blackbirds during the rest of the year. At least not here. One male (at least) lives in the trees which border the greenery of the council estate and the houses below. He often tries taking seeds from the garden whenever I am not in the kitchen. If he can persuade one of these females to stay for the summer next spring, I don't know. I hope so; because I love juvenile Blackbirds.

Male Blackbird
Here he is; or is it? how can we be sure it is our local Blackbird? We cannot!

Redwing, Turdus pilaris,
I spotted this Redwing in the Hawthorn behind our garden, at the end of last month. They might be our smalles Thrush, but I think they are one of our most attractive birds. I had to take these photos through two fat fences which stand between us and the school next door.

At this time of year, trees like Hawthorn, Rowan and Holly, among others, offer natural food to these birds to help them survive these cold months. Other Thrushes which you may encounter in your garden, (especially if you got apple trees with a few apples on the ground) include Fieldfare)
On the day I took this picture, I wanted to get to the other Hawthorns on the council estate. Snow and ice kept me locked inside my house and garden however. For quite some time. Which caused me to get very claustrophobic. Just not being able to get out of the gate!

Robin. Erithacus rubecula

Pied Wagtail, Motacilla alba

Blue Tit, Parus caeruleus

Great Tit, Parus major.

Worries about my Rooks.

Click on the photos for a better view.
This Rook, a juvenile still, has somehow broken the tip of its lower mandible. The upper mandible's tip has now grown downward. Over time the two mandibles will chafe away their original shape as has been happening already.

And here's another Rook, another juvenile unfortunately. He/she also broke the mandible. Very similar break to the first one. This one however looks to be in a worst state health-wise.
The school next door has been closed for many days over the last 2 weeks. This had a major impact on our Rooks, Jackdaws and Hooded Crows, which usual feed there during break times. Blackbirds and Song Thrushes took advantage of this by moving into the garden. The Corvids are back now with the school open today, but I have seen them that much recently. They still feed here, but it seems that the Thrushes have enough power to keep Corvids on the fence.
A full head of feathers like this one is what attracts me to the Rook. (and that cheeky character of course.)

Loss of feathers is apparent in this bird:
it could be suffering from that disease that usually hits Jackdaws. But as these feed togeter, it is very well possible that they got it too. With this cold spell, I assume that the Corvids are moving up and down the countryside in search of food, and we end up with birds other than the local flock.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Strange Mute Swan behaviour in Ballydehob.

Mute Swan, Cygnus olor
Cob (male)

Pen (female)

Last week, I was in Ballydehob with two of the girls from respite in Bantry. We stopped at the bottle banks, at the narrow end of the estuary. Here a few herring and Black headed Gulls, Mallards and Mute Swans patrol the water. When I went a little bit down a small slip into the water, the Swans started to become curious and came to have a look. They were waiting for a few chunks of bread, obviously. Something they won't get from me. I should have raided the kitchen for wilted lettuce, or some fruit.

As it was, Mr. Cob was having none of this waiting and started climbing out of the water. He waddled slowly towards me, and I kept a sure distance between him and me. He was not hissing, but he was not happy either.
His mate had left the water also by now, but he still waddled towards me. I was back on the road by now, and she started quietly feeding on the grass. I liked her approach: Ok, if you don't come and feed me, I'll do it myself!
Mind you, I was well aware that he could kill me with a single smash of his wing and neck. I was not taking any chances. I was however interested in why he reacted differently to me than to the two girls behind and next to me.

There were no cygnets to be seen, so he was not defending these.

Eventually, he joined her, even though it was against his principle that humans are on this planet only to feed the waterfowl.

Pen feeding happily on the left; the cob, on the right, is just nibbling a little snack. you can see at her posture that she trusted us, while he was still a bit on edge and still unsure of what to think of me.

pen, grazing.



I can only find one reason for his behaviour of singling me out from us three girls. There was one major difference between us of course, and that is that he would have seen a "short square-ish predator" and perhaps he did not recognise me as a vertical human, and was it all more about defending his territory? he did grunt now and then. Something was weird about it. he was not simply begging for food. Which is what I expected from him.

I was eager to see some waders, and I was also disappointed not to see any Teal. So we walked on, and crossed underneath the old railway bridge towards the little footbridge.

Hooded Crow, Corvus cornix, examining this bicycle underneath the old West Cork Railway Bridge.

Pair of Mallards, Anas platyrrhyncos.

Dinner for Two.
Blackheaded Gull, Larus ridibundus.

Little Egret, Egretta garzetta

Beyond the Little Egret was this wader. It was too far off for me to identify it. Neither could I just the size. I had no idea of the distance either. Could be a Curlew. I had missd seeing waders here, but the road stopped. The estuary, and the water didn't of course.

Opposite the West Cork Hotel in Skibbereen we found this Grey Heron, Andea cinerea, was on the lookout for its lunch in the river Ilen below it.

And finally, the two lovely girls who brought me here
Catherine and Maura, 2 of the staff at respite.

I had hoped to go to Killarney this time, but there was no way we would be able to with all the black ice on the road. Even going to Ballydehob, about 22km. from Bantry, we still had to wait until midday before it was safe enough to hit the road. Perhaps next time?