Sunday, 17 April 2016

War and Peace

Today on my patch was a time to appreciate bird behaviour. It was gloriously sunny and all the birds were out singing and flitting about in fact I record 26 species of bird in my 1 hour visit including a cormorant which was the first sighting of one this year.

As I first arrived three Buzzards could be seen wheeling and mewing above the fields. I have a resident pair that nest on my patch and a second pair nest in a nearby wood. During the summer you can watch the adults rise up out of their nests and tussle with each other along their boundary, today however the interaction did not seem overly aggressive and I wonder if the third individual was last years offspring. Like many birds of prey Buzzards exhibit a behaviour called natal philopatry. When fledged the young buzzards will disperse from the nest site over autumn and winter only to return in the spring. They arrive back at the nest site if their parents are gone they can claim the territory as their own, after all they know it was good enough to raise them, or if the parents are still resident they find themselves tolerated for awhile and then chased off. The third individual was very pale which could indicate a juvenile although Buzzard colour morphologies can range from the almost white to the darkest brown.

I spotted this youngster not long after being furiously mobbed by Crows and Rooks, They never gave him a moments peace the entire time.

In fact all the predators were having a hard time, a pair of Kestrels were present and like the Biuzzard were driven off by a combination of crows, magpies and jackdaws and the Sparrowhawk that was cruising through the wooded edge of the river was easily spotted by the Great Tits and right along its length alerted all the small birds to its presence.

Down by my feeding station the Chiffchaff were in abundance. I have seen more chiffchaff in this year than any other, I suspect that the mild winter meant that more of the overwintering ones survived  and will have managed to grab the best territories by the time the other and their cousins, the Willow Warbler and Whitethroat arrive from Africa next month. They seemed oblivious to me and I was able to watch their behaviour quite closely. Some of the adults were still staking their territory by 'chiffchaffing' from prominent song posts whilst others silently chased off intruders.

From where I was sat I could watch a pair that seemed to be mating or courtship behaviour. The pair flitted about among the willow stems low by the waters edge, dashing up occasionally to what could possibly be a good nest site. This flitting and soft suitt calling passed briefly into a moment of mutal shaking. both individuals seemed to perch, held up their tails and flittered their wings whilst closed, a bit like young sparrows do when demanding food from their parents.

Lastly I would like to finish on a recap from last week. Along the river I managed to see a pair of Long-tailed Tits building a nest. I got some shots of them bringing in moss to a bush hanging over the river. Its an excellent nest site as long as we do not get a major 1 m+ flood again, which only really happen in late winter. There is no way a land predator could get anywhere near. Well today after some searching I managed to find the same tree and was able to see that the nest was completed.

 It is hard to see from the picture but it is the white mass in the centre made of moss and lichens. Its an enclosed nest so there was no way to see if anyone was on it but I will definitely be monitoring it closely over the coming weeks.

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