The wildlife keeps popping into the yard, as if they have been sprung from somewhere, probably the farmer’s field where the booming of the crow scarers go off all day.
He’s a Daddy-O!
As of this very weekend, Fuzzio is now a Daddy-O. We finally located the robins’ nest in a tree in our driveway, directly opposite our bedroom window, as it happens. (So, that’s why I have been feeling like I have a front row seat to his dawn chorus at 5:30 every morning…). This weekend he was more conspicuous in that area, and yesterday we started hearing a periodic chorus of baby voices. This morning, it happened at regular intervals, punctuated by a very loud Fuzzio voice, which I expect is meant to warn off any other bird in the vicinity. We haven’t seen much of Madame Fuzzio (we hardly knew her long enough to give her a name before she somewhat disappeared from sight.).
However, my mother in the States has the exact same scenario playing out in a shrub directly below her living room window. Every year, robins have nested in exactly the same place. Yesterday, while I was speaking to her on the phone, she was watching the female snuggle down deep into the nest while the male kept a watchful eye on the neighbors from a nearby tree, calling to her and anything else in the vicinity. So, maybe Mme. le Fuzzio is doing most if not all of the nest time, while Monsieur is collecting the food and warning off predators. Speculation on my part at this point, have to do more research.
Of course, Mme le F. has become use to being served her meals. In early April, we quite enjoyed the sight of Fuzzio and his new lady sharing food. I have to confess, because he did it so often and in such a showy manner, I was put in mind of those fellows one sees on TV who like to feed up their plump women. It seemed to get to a point where she (Mme Fuzzio, not the plump women, well maybe them too) would just stand around in front of the food pile waiting for him to swoop over with a few morsels he’d dredged up from some other place. I was curious about this behavior, and tried to do a bit of a research. This was about as far as I got:
Food sharing between adults can enhance reproductive success by increasing
fecundity. In insects that practice nuptial feeding, males that offer nuptial gifts to
females obtain more copulations and are more likely to fertilize eggs [Gwynne,
1984, 1986; Rooney & Lewis, 2002]. Courtship feeding in birds provides females
with added nutrition for egg production and results in an increased number
of eggs produced in a breeding season [Nisbet, 1973, 1977; Tasker & Mills, 1981;
Gonzalez-Solis et al., 2001]. http://www.stanford.edu/~feged/foodsharingarticle.pdf; http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0003347206001709
Lately, we have seen the two little blue-headed twits, really the comedians of the Twit world, indulge in the same thing. Mr Chaffinch, though, still seems to resent Ms. Chaffinch anywhere near the food.
Odd Little Sods
Mid April: Another sighting of a male goldfinch at the rockpool, the male chaffinch is a frequent, vocal visitor at the bird table now, with the female making stealthier appearances (see below for more recent Chaffinch news). The blue twit is also coming to the table a bit. And the dunnocks still surprise me with their bold appearances, perching or leisurely pecking across the open gravel path. The Little Wren has been doing its cute little dance and bouncing about. Starlings had been regularly feeding at fat cake above the green house. But in the last few weeks of April I have lost sight of them. (Today, last day of April-sunny- they are back with a feeding frenzy vengeance).
Late April: Chaffinches: Miss Thing and Mr Mouth (or Rainman).
I am growing rather fond of MissThing. Of course, our little book of birds calls her coloring ‘dull’, but her fur is of such a downy, soft appearance you’d just love to stroke her. She has made many valiant attempts at the food platform, not many of them successful. She examines the territory, lauches herself, but in a flutter of feathers aborts mid-flight and opts for a landing on the ground. We are trying to figure out what puts her off at the last moment. However, for the last few days she hasn’t even tried, because she has found something of infinitely greater interest: peanuts. I had been putting these out next to the conservatory in the kitchen garden mainly for the black birds who have been getting chased off by Mr Magpie from the bottom of the garden (of course, they have been attracting the squirrels as well but I think I have found the solution for that, see below). Chaffinches are seed eaters, and litterers with it, leaving the husks of seeds all over the ground. But these are little seeds. Imagine my surprise when I saw her pluck a peanut in her little vise-like beak and fly over to a nearby tree stump to peck it into bite-sized chunks. I have not seen Mr Mouth do this yet, and believe me I would hear him if he tried.
Today, 24 April, in the midst of a day-long downpour, and covering the kitchen garden in chili powder, I
realised I had forgot to put down some peanuts. I had seen her get chased off of the food on the ground next to a raised bed by the Mr Mouth and most likely the male dunnock (Pinky–it’s the legs, you know). She surprised me by flying off to feed from a fat cake hanging from our squirrel protected feeder (another feat yet to be performed by Mr Mouth. So why does she have such a problem with the feeding platform?). Anyway, I placed a couple of peanuts in a remote corner to the side of the food by the raised bed to see if she would find them. And, what do you know, on her next visit she sidestepped along the raised bed right for the peanuts! So, she is now on the look out for her daily peanut fix, it would seem.
Magpies: Mostly a Tale of M. Magpie and the Crows (no, not a rock band)
Mr Magpie–stuffing himself into little water bowl for a bath is a sight that even the little blue-headed twits find mesmerising, like a magic trick. Mme Magpie has not been as visible, but he continues to defend his territory, even with food not necessarily to his liking. But the crows are being persistent. The magpie would stride off thinking he’d done his job, but as soon as he turned his back, a crow would pounce again. Until the magpie would have to pursue it up through the trees with some encouragement from the female.
There is, however, a huge crow M. Magpie will not take on. He just shadows him, skulking about in his wake.
Watching the male magpie defend his territory has become a daily past time, and after today I have a grudging respect for his ability and determination. For the most part, he’s defending food from the crows. But today, 15 April, a similar and potentially more deadly confrontation took place with a squirrel. I was sitting in my office trying to do my accounts when I heard the shrill call of a squirrel. Fuzzio had been peacefully stuffing his face at the feeding platform, but once this clatter became an altercation he legged (or winged?) it. And the altercation? Between Mr Magpie and a squirrel in the holly tree in front of the office where the magpies had built their nest. The magpie was chasing the squirrel down the holly tree, at which point the squirrel jumped into the adjacent maple where the magpie followed it. I saw much wing fluttering, and then the magpie jumped onto the garage roof in back of the tree, and then jumped back into the tree to continue its pursuit. But then the squirrel jumped onto the garage roof, followed closely by the magpie. Exit squirrel, pursued by a magpie, stage left. My husband went to look on the other side of the garage, but they had disappeared. Knowing that magpie, I wouldn’t be surprised if they were at the county line by now.
Every time my husband sees the squirrel, resting on its haunches on the garage or greenhouse roof, he starts to hum the theme tune from Mission Impossible…
If my scintilatting account has not captured your interest, then maybe this video of a similar chase might: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r9OpzZDRTMI&feature=related
Again, though, M. Magpie does not always get the best of the squirrel. A few days ago, he was chowing on some bread on his feeding turf at the bottom of the garden, back turned. I watched a squirrel creep up on him. As soon as he was aware of it, he jumped to one side, allowing the squirrel to grab a piece of bread, and then quite casually sit back on its haunches and stuff it into its jowls. I can’t imagine M. Magpie was best pleased!
24th April: Against my better judgement, especially as he is beastly with the blackbirds and no help with the squirrels, I helped M. le M see off about 10 crows that had congregated on our chimney pots, in very close proximity to the top of the holly tree where the magpie nest is. I hadn’t realized what was happening until I was in the middle of it. I was sitting in the conservatory office pretending to work when I was distrcted by a lot of squawking and low flying birds. All of a sudden a crow swoops close to the conservatory roof followed by M. le M. And then there seemed like a milllion around. So, I went out and managed to scare them off. You’re welcome.
Late April: Squirrels (sigh)
At least two have been getting bolder. They have never been my favorites as I have yet to have a cherry from my tree because they strip it bare. Recently, they have been employing their skills as trapeze artists to get into the hanging glass bird feeder. Also bold enough to approach close to the conservatory. We think we have hit on a solution: chili powder! Just got to find where I would buy it in bulk.
.The Blackcaps Attend a Swinging Party at the Lido
A female blackcap (whose cap is not at all black but a nutty, berry color) has joined the male and both are hanging around the periphery. They have been welcomed to the neighborhood at the first pool party of the season hosted by Fuzzio. There they all were sitting in or around the two bird baths (or the municiapl swimming pool or lido, as we call it), assorted twits, the dunnocks, Fuzzio lolling in his pool, and the two black caps. You can just imagine mein host, the Fuzz man, giving them the low-down: “Not a bad gig around here, plenty of food for everyone. Of course, there are a few slapfights when a few of the guys hopped up on seed clash around the food, but nothing serious. We’ve got the two food bearers pretty well-trained to leave the food around, but to be on the safe side we keep them caged up in that glass nest. Of course, every now and then they burst out of it and start running around crazily, but we think that might be down to the squirrel, and any behavior that discourages it we are ok with.” Luckily, the dunnocks had no time to start a key party before the Fuzz man waddled off in his towel. From the Full Disclosure Department
It has come to my attention that the presence of carrion crows may have been greatly exaggerated. No, I am not imagining big, black, noisy things stealing M. le M’s food. Just that some of them might be jackdaws. Of course, I think the very huge black bird that has cowed M. le M may be a crow of some kind, but I think most of the time his battles may be with jackdaws. I must investigate further….