Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Stop Press

In my last post I briefly reported that the Canal pair of swans had failed in nesting this year.

On Saturday I found their nest abandoned and the pair sat on the bankside at the bottom of a garden looking like they were trying to build a nest.

Yesterday I went down to see them and lo and behold they had with them a little cygnet. Today I whizzed down to get some shots. I think the mother must have been sitting/brooding the chick when I saw them on Saturday. 1 cygnet isn't a very large brood for this nest site which in the past has hatched up to 8. Although little is know about this pair they could be new and inexperienced or old and less fertile.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Duel of the skies

Today was pretty dull and the air held the faint promise of rain that expressed itself as the odd drop here and there and the odd short spot of mizzle.

There was a lot of song on my patch but little activity. Despite the lack of wind most of the birds seemed to be sticking to the woodland where I could not see them.

Soaring above however were a pair of Swifts that screeched overhead and dived and tussled together. Its only when you see them in the sky together do you realise how stocky Swallows can appear in comparison.

Beside the river there were plenty of flying insects and I was able to get a few nice shots of a Grey Wagtail taking a quick preen in between feeding bouts.

On my return stretch I noticed the Kestrel emerge from one of the field side trees adding further evidence that there could be a nest where one of the branches has cracked and left a cavity, this was further reinforced when the male also flew out of the tree. They both seemed a bit agitated. Lots of people pass under the tree so I did not think it was my presence and then I caught site of the object of their worry, a buzzard across the meadow.

Both Kestrels proceeded to 'buzz' the buzzard by dive bombing it and calling incessantly.

Then after a few minutes the buzzard finally had enough and made a run for it pursued by the Kestrels.

On a side note: There is more bad news for the areas swans, a second nest has failed. The usually excellent nest site on the canal has been abandoned. Their was no sign of eggs or cygnets in fact the adults were located further down the canal attempting to make a new nest at the bottom of the garden. It is possible they were disturbed in their first site. Either way at the moment this leaves only 2 out of the original 4 nests still surviving.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

Just your average weekend

This weekend was a good weekend for wildlife watching. I managed to get out both yesterday and today to enjoy the good weather.

Yesterday I went back to St Nicholas Park to check on the swans and find out if indeed there were two pairs or just one. As it turns out there is just one pair, a tagged male - BEF and an unidentified female still on the nest.

On the way along the canal I saw the first ducklings of the year. Every year I see the first ducklings at the aqueduct where the canal crosses the river. There were nine of them and they were skittering across the water chasing the flies that whizzed about.

Whilst at Kingfisher Pools there was a fishing lesson/competition that had been joined by a Heron.

I was awoken this morning by an awful din of screeching and calling. I know a predator was about and got myself up and to the window. I saw a magpie pinning a juvenile starling to the floor. I gripped it tightly and was pecking violently at the head and neck. Around him he was bombarded by a number of adult starlings who unsuccessfully mobbed the predator.

I know Magpies take chicks but to see it was something altogether different. It lacked the tools of the Sparrowhawk to despatch the prey quickly and instead was having to use brute strength and brutality to subdue both the juvenile and hold off the attacks of the adults. It was mother nature, red in tooth and claw.

Later I went down to my patch and delighted in the amount of sound, the swallows above and the whitethroats in the meadow joined the happy song of the chiffchaff filled the air with song.

The swans nest is still abandoned and sadly there was no sign of the Kingfisher I seriously doubt they are nesting this year, the activity is far too low.

Interestingly I managed to get a picture of an Orange Tip. Orange tips tend to be very flightly  and rarely come to rest, all my previous shots are blurred or of them in flight. One came to light as a I sat watching the Kestrel hunt from main tree. Its great to get a good shot and be able to examine its antennae and the way it holds its wings.

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Bald as a Coot

I have recently upgraded my canon camera to the latest model and today was the first time I have had chance to put it to the test.

I decided to pay a quick visit to the local park to check on the Swans as I am certain they would have nested by now. On arrival I found a number of odd things.

Firstly there seemed to be two Swans sitting on nests. One was in plain site in a poor location beside the cycle path and another was on a more discreet nest set between the pool and the river. In the past few weeks I had only seen one pair of Swans. The two nests are fairly close together so it is possible they are of two different pairs or it is possible that the pair I recorded built several nests and the male is just resting/roosting on one of the nests. This is borne out bu the fact that no other swans, the 'males' were observed.

Having recorded the swans I took a circular walk around the pool and found another unused swans nest and a dead coot. There did not seem to be a mark on the bird and it was fresh, perhaps only a few hours old. It is possible he was a casualty of one of their violent clashes between rival birds.

I also stumbled upon a Coots nest and was surprised to find that they already had chicks. Coot chicks or Cootlings as I like to call them are balls of black full with ugly red and black heads with flecks of orangey red feathers. The red often confuses people into thinking they are Moorhen chicks. They two are black but have a more 'cute' appearance.

Monday, 4 May 2015

Mutes and Screamers

At the end of last month I updated you all on the status on the swans that I keep an eye on and this week I am pleased to say that another pair has nested.

This untagged pair has built a scant nest on my patch. The pair have been seen the past few weeks moving up and down the river looking for a suitable spot and have finally chosen a bank side off an inlet on to the river.

I am skeptical of its chances of success, its fairly close to the water and not very well built up risking flood waters, it is also close to the steps before Guys Cliffe a place popular with people who allow their dogs to swim. I think the rain or disturbance mean that it is unlikely that I will see any cygnets this year here.

Elsewhere the canal pair seem to be doing well. In fact they built four nests before settling on one to lay in. I still have to check on the St Nicholas Park pair but suspect they too will have nested by now.


Last weeks patch visit was one of firsts. On my usual tour of the patch I recorded the seasons first Swallows, Whitethroat and Willow Warbler. There are now at least 6 Whitethroats on the site all singing merrily trying to attract one another's attention and find a mate.

Female ducks are still absent and so I hope still on eggs, sadly ducklings do not last long on the Avon, mortality in the first week is incredibly high. In previous years I have seen brood go from 12 ducklings to just 2 in the space of 5 days. In the past predators such as Mink and Pike have been the problem, but I haven't seen a mink in years and I rarely see their footprints in the mud, this is a promising sign.


Last week I was incredibly frustrated to discover that I had forgotten to switch my remote camera back on after changing the memory card. For 7 days it sat passively watching but not recording, only weeks before the wind had blown the camera upwards revealing only clips of the sky and branches. Thankfully this week all is well and I started to get some interesting sightings. 

There has been a noticeable absence of wood mice, this could be due to the increase in vegetation, they can perhaps now forage without triggering the camera, I m not totally convinced, there is enough bare ground for their detection. Most interesting is the increase in Fox sightings. One such shot includes two foxes together. Their activity has increased in frequency and the time of day with more observations in daylight hours, I m suspecting cubs to follow, or perhaps that should be hoping.

On interesting clip only shows a fox for a fraction of a second, what is more interesting is the sounds recorded. Such screams that get louder and louder, I m not sure if these come from a Fox, they can vocalise in shrieks and screams or if it is some unfortunate prey such as a Jackdaw or Rabbit, take a listen and see what you think: