As usual behind with posts because so much is going on with the wild life in the garden. I will start in this post with the animals, the after waiting a respectable time (and for the 4th un-swarm to decide whether it is actually going to swarm) post about the bee happenings. They have been leading us a merry dance since the end of April….
Sorry about starting with a funeral, but….
Cheryl is no longer with us. Those of you who have been hanging on my every last word at least since last November know that Cheryl is/was our lodger, an orb spider (we think) who ‘hung’ about in our bathroom.
In late March, early April her behavior started to change. Instead of hanging out all day, she would spend the day scrunched up in the corner of the ceiling only to come out at night for some minimal hanging. She was truly inscrutable. Towards the end of April, she had moved position a bit, but still observing her vampire-like schedule. Finally, we found her, not hanging exactly, but her legs extended in her web. We plucked at the web a bit to see if there would be any movement. Nothing. She is in a little plastic container at the moment because we don’t quite know what to do. It seems a bit disrespectful to just toss her.
More bad news….
Those of you who have been with this blog since last summer at least know that we haave an adopted son. We did not adopt him, understand. Rather, he adopted us…
Thankfully, he’s still with us, now with complete adult plumage (so, by this reckoning it takes male blackbirds three summers to get their glossy black feathers and bright eyes and beaks). His is one of the weddings as he has a very attractive mate. We suspect, although we do not have definitive proof, that she is the same mate he had last summer. She is very comfortable with us, not afraid at all. So, so far, so conjugal.
Their last brood was hatched right by our living room window in a forsythia bush. We had watched Bossy Girl construct her nest, even provided her with all the mud she needed (see the link). We wondered if they would return to this location this spring.
Not exactly. They did stay in the front garden but I’m not sure it was out of choice. Apparently, while we were working away a bit of a turf war happened with the result that Boss lost his foothold in the backyard which critically includes the conservatory from which all the live meal worms were dispensed. He now has our front garden and the next two front gardens as his territory.
All is not lost, though, as now that we are back we have been feeding him and Bossy girl, as well as one of the many robins, out the front door. Well, he’s our boy, what else were we to do? Perhaps, as a consequence of this, Bossy Girl built her first nest of the season directly opposite our front door in a patch of exposed evergreen trunk.
We should have known it was a bit obvious, and did we bring attention to it by peering in a couple of time? At any rate, we heard an awful lot of blackbird noise one morning and went down to investigate. Only to find a decapitated chick near the empty nest. As if that wasn’t heartbreaking enough, Boss and BG continued for a bit after that to collect worms. At first we thought they might have been able to save a chick or two. But no, it was like muscle memory, the collecting. It was sad to see, especially when they would all of a sudden drop all the worms as if they had suddenly remembered.
But life does go on, and we noted BG collecting mud (again we helped her with provisions) for a new nest this week. Although we would have been happy to have them close, we know that staying in our front garden would not be a wise choice (especially as we have seen squirrels and cats lurking about—AND we refuse to believe it was a magpie or any other bird. The decapitation has all the markings of the previously mentioned two culprits). She has been wise to re-locate entirely, this time I think she has gone across the street to a stand of leylandii. Fingers crossed they will be lucky this time.
Might as well get all the bad news out then
There have been a few other dead chicks in the garden, chaffinch mostly, again not really eaten. Or, we will come upon a circle of pigeon or dove feathers. These we think are the result of sparrowhawk strikes. Although our first live siting of a chick was a baby robin at the beginning of May, the youngsters we have been seeing more of are starlings. Unfortunately for them, the sparrowhawks have also noticed. The starlings make it so easy: they descend in a big group, noisy and bumptious, in the garden. One morning, as they were chattering away, feeding, I saw them all of a sudden as one fly straight upward and in there midst was a sparrowhawk who I think had go one of the chicks.
We have had a few sickly chaffinches. They bloat and wander about the garden. And then we find their little bodies. Or, a circle of feathers… Tarde venientibus ossa–(Those who come late to dine will find only bones).
One story that might have been sadder: we have a female blackbird that a month ago somehow damaged one of her legs, and consequently could only stand on one. We have a nickname for her, but it’s probably not PC to say. We took especial care to see she was fed every time she has shown up. And although she has not regained full use of her leg, she can stand on it after a fashion. She seems well in herself, has a ferocious appetite. I haven’t been able to tell whether she has a mate or if she has laid any eggs. But she is a survivor.
About those weddings….
The garden is going through its white/purple/pink phase, this little stand of mixed blossom one example. I can take no credit for this. I don’t recall planting any of this, so can only guess it is the work of the birds in anticipation of mating season. [Note: I think I have posted photos of this little stand of flowers before and people have kindly identified them for me. However, I have no recollection of their names and I would advise you not to waste your time with me).
Anyway, did I say it is mating season. And fighting season. Sometimes you can’t tell the difference between the two, especially with the doves and the pigeons. I am woken up at 4am by the robin slowly waking. It has been joined by a new, strident voice this season: that of the song thrush. I have only been able to catch fleeting glances of at least two in the garden as they are very shy. But geez, the singing is quite piercing, first thing in the morning, last thing at night. It’s a wonder the other birds can be heard at all.
Other pairings: Robins-at least three separate pairs with their own sections of the garden, all feeding young; Great Tits-at least two pairs, not sure if they have mated yet, usually it’s a bit later in the season as they only have one clutch; Blue Tits-same as GTs, the BTs and GTs always appear together to feed, it’s like a contest; Sparrows-have no idea how many pairs, loads, my husband thinks he’s seen chicks; Starlings, the locusts of the bird world, again loads of pairings and already loads of squawking babies; dunnocks-a few threesomes about, well it’s dunnocks, isn’t it; jackdaws and magpies–some pairing there; collared doves–definite pairs, have seen them gathering nest material. There are also a number of wood pigeons, chaffinches, coal tits, woodpeckers, wrens. And those sparrowhawks. We see crows opposite, but they never come into the garden. But the pheasants do.
And, what we see every season that no one can quite believe–the bullying of the magpies by the collared doves. One collared dove, if it’s been crossed, will not even let a magpie touch a claw onto the grass. It will lower its head and charge the magpie, sometime following it into the trees. One can just imagine what has provoked this….
And then there are the squirrels. They have their own feeders now, and they know it. But they have also taken to stealing entire fat balls out of feeders.
I will never complain about a squirrel at a feeder again….
As seen in my brother’s back yard
There must be a proverb somewhere about bears in gardens and low hanging feeders….
Next post loads of bee news and crappy photos….