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Assorted Wildlife, Birds, Great Tits, Latin Literature, Robins

The Little Birds Nursery School, or, Heaven Shrill with Song

Baby Robin

Baby Robin (Photo credit: sally_monster)

Nunc viridant segetes, nunc floret germine campi,
nunc turgent vites, est nunc pulcherrimus annus,
nunc pictae volucres permulcent ethera cantu,
nunc mare, nunc tellus, nunc celi sidera rident.
Sedulius Scottus

And now for something completely different….from the last post:  A baby count as of the end of July (forgive me, a bit behind so this is July Birds, with August Birds to follow soon).

3-5 Babi-os! (Robins)

2 Baby Duncs (Dunnocks)

1 Baby Head Trauma Victim (Pied Wagtail)

4 Baby Twizzlers (Great Tits)

Baby Screech (Magpie)

Baby Darty (Blackbird)

It felt a bit like nursery school around here.  Still, we couldn’t complain as we were not working nearly as much as the Fuzz Man was.

Fuzz has been proving himself to be as attentive a father as he was a husband. He and Mrs Fuzz were  run ragged towards the end of July feeding a new and probably last clutch of the season.  In addition, Fuzz seemed to be overseeing at least two fuzzy Babio-s who had popped out of the shrubs and began taking their first tentative steps towards freedom. We felt rather like new grandparents.

The Disaffected Yoots

Doubly so, because as you recall we had housed a little family of Great Twit nestlings who had fledged a while back.  Well, it appeared that they returned at the end of July, with at least one  Parent Twizzle teaching the pre-pubescent Twizzlers about worms and the feeder.  It was so comical to watch:  Mom or Dad got a bite to eat, only to be mobbed and pursued through the tree tops by the ravenous little freeloaders.

Great Tit feeding a fledging

Great Tit feeding a fledging (Photo credit: swan corner)

It has been interesting to watch the learning process for feeding themselves that the various babies go through:  their initial explorations of the feeder, striking all kinds of poses on it at first but regarding it with a bit of trepidation.  Finally, they make that first jump inside only to pop out again like little jack-in-the-boxes.  Until the day they get the hang of it.  The same with the food on the ground. And then Mom and Dad Twizzle dumped the kids on the grandparents, and we haven’t seen them since.   Now, we are left with the little masked marauders, who become more and more like a little teenage gang of hoodlums each day.  The robin Babio-s look on in wonder and envy at their daring, with the feeder, feeding table, and worms.

A Day or Two in the Life of a Babi-o

The male robin is supposedly responsible for the care of the fledglings, while the female either creates a new nest or sees to any leftover nestlings.  However, the Fuzz man’s patience does not last long with the older babio-s, probably because he did have other nestlings on the go.  One little chancer, just beginning to sport a fully red breast, appraoched with trepidation the plate of worms, plucked one out.  But before it could hop off in triumph, Fuzz bowled in, startling Fuzz junior with clicks and flaps, so that it dropped its worm and took off across the yard.  At which point Fuzz grabbed the worm and slurped it down in un-Dad-like triumph.

Bad Dad then chased the baby off the worms again in a barage of clicks, but the baby only retreated to the feeding table this time and was at least able to peck at the seed there for a bit.  It got a bit bold and made another approach in the direction of the worms at which point Fuzzio chased it off, and they both went flying off.  Moments later, M. le F appeared again, trying to look like he was interested in a few bugs around the conservatory when he was really keeping an eye on the worms.

A few days later, I had a a small pot of seedlings from a friend’s garden to plant so scooped it up along with a trowel and a watering can to plant on the far-side of the yard.  When I turned out the seedlings, the soil was teeming with small ants, some with wings (a plague this summer).  I tried planting the seedlings without getting the ants on me (but feeling like they were anyway), and after pouring some boiling water over the seething mass of dirt and pot, I left both where they were, figuring they might be food for birds.  Pretty soon, Babi-o discovered  the site, and was happily popping in and out of the pot, investigating it and the dirt pile for insects.  Until, a dark cloud, a small dark orange fuzzy cloud, descended upon Babi-o, chasing it of the the little clump of ant gold.

Yup, it was the Fuzz Man.  Now Fuzz Man has not been in this part of the yard for months as all the food action (mealworms) has been on the opposite side of the house by the conservatory.  All of a sudden, today, he’s hopping all over the yard, down to the bottom, perching on the clothesline.  As long a there was only the odd bug for the Babi-os to peck at, as long as he had the worms, he was not interested.  Now, because the worms are thinning out a bit in the afternoon, and maybe because his nestlings are getting ready to fledge and the feedings might be decreasing, he’s all of a sudden interested in his turf again, all of it!

Babi-o will not be defeated, though.  It keeps returning to the site usually to get run off by the Fuzz Man.  At one point, there was even a bit of a slap fight.  If the Babi-os stand up for themselves, does this mean the end of Fuzzio’s reign?  And, as they did engage in a slap fight, does this make this particular babi-o a male?

The slap fights over this ant hill continued for a bit, with the last little set-to Babi-o and Fuzzio a fairly fierce confrontation with little yelps from Babi-o.  They fluttered into the bushes and I could hear Babi-o long after I lost sight of them.  But who should pop up in one of the small bird baths for a casual dip–the Fuzz Man bold as brass.  I might have detected a chunk where feathers should be (hard to tell with him when he is bedraggled the best of times).  I wanted to see Babi-o before I call it a night.  From a human perspective it was a difficult to watch this fight between a father and son.

robin fledgling

robin fledgling (Photo credit: siaronj)

But, I needn’t have worried.  For Babi-o appeared shortly aftwards looking as fresh as a daisy.  He (?) is certainly a bold, brave little thing, as he had not let a very long time lapse before getting back to the ant hill.  Could Fuzz have been vanquished?  He spent some time in the tree in back of my chair, studiously ignoring the anthill and the fuzzy baby stomping all around it…At what point, does the male robin adopt this behavior after weeks of tending to the spawn, both as nestlings and fledglings?  I knew he would eventually chase them off, being the bossy little robin he is, but it seems that they are still so young….

Leaving Home

I had the feeling, what with Fuzz’s fixation on the anthill that he was cutting back on feeding the nestlings.  I had learned from Springwatch that adult birds will do this when they want the babies to get the hint about moving on.  In the last few days of July, he started fending off the older fledglings and Mrs Fuzz from the food, while making regualr flights to different parts of the garden with worms, a sure sign that the latest bunch had fledged and he was feeding them wherever they had landed.  He appeared to be bringing worms to two separate parts of the garden, while Madame Fuzz continued to make regular trips back to the nest.  So we figured there were at least two fledgling (we can even hear them peeping away) with maybe at least one laggard still in the nest.

Which is more work: when they are at home or when they have left?

First week in August:  One of the places where the fledglings seemed to have been living was at the bottom of the garden where we had a pile of brush in front of big laurel hedges that separate our land from the field out back.  I was able to confirm their presence for two reasons.  The neighbours had the tractor out on their fields next door, and Fuzz was hovering around those hedges.  Then he went into super protective mode when I went down there to cut up some of the brush.  He was leaping from the brush to the top of the shed, clicking away while the little fledging peeped away in the hedge.  When I walked away he had jumped down to perch on the brush.  I put away the cutters and the barrel, and then looked back and he was still at his post on the brush.

So, to show him I meant no harm, I threw a few worms in front of him.  At first he didn’t take too kindly to them and flew off into the hedge.  I walked away and then came back to see him scrabbling about for the worms, and then assume his post upon the hedge.  Whereupon I threw him some more worms.  He didn’t balk at these, just watched me, eyeballed the worms on the ground and flew into the hedge with them.  I didn’t deliver any more down there.  I mean after all what does he want me to do, shove them down their little throats myself?

P.S.  In the next post, the Fuzzy Two become the Fuzzy Five

P.P.S.  My friends, echoing quite a few news sources, have said that this summer has been bad for nesting and nestlings.  Nobody told the busy little procreators in this garden!

Translation

The standing corn is green, the wild in flower,
The vines are swelling, ‘tis the sweet o’ the year,
Bright-winged the birds, and heaven shrill with song,
And laughing sea and earth and every star.

From Helen Waddell’s  Medieval Latin Lyrics

Discussion

2 thoughts on “The Little Birds Nursery School, or, Heaven Shrill with Song

  1. What a lovely story of your nestlings, they sound a bit like an unruly school!🙂 I didn’t realise the summer has been bad for birds too, looks like they found a haven in the garden.

    Posted by Emma Sarah Tennant | September 5, 2012, 8:23 am

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