Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Song Thrush and black berry surprise

Ivy flowers on the garden pergola have been discussed in a previous blog post back in November 2011. Black ivy berries to follow have been suggested in other blog comments as food for the Woodpigeon too, further suggesting the promise of Bed and Breakfast for a pair of Woodpigeons that nested there last year.

As for the black ivy berries, nope I’ve never noticed them. Well, not until Day 1 of BBC Springwatch (Monday of this week). So, it was a sunny Bank Holiday Monday and the garden awaited weeding but at the same time there was ironing in the basket and a washing in the machine waiting to go outside, but... the Robin nest video footage had me glued to the PC monitor!

Walking away was hard, nesting activity is addictive viewing you know, but domestic duties called as did some time outside in the garden and in the sun. Expect the unexpected and all that, but as the washing machine door was opened, movement outside caught my eye that I really wasn’t expecting...

Song Thrush video, 50 sec with background music, try HD quality.

On top of my ivy clad pergola, a Song Thrush was moving about. That, in itself was a nice sighting as they are shy visitors. A quick dash for the video camera ensued and then on zooming in… yep you’ve guessed right… it was eating black berries on my ivy! In May... really?

“In autumn, ivy flowers attract insects, which in turn provide food for robins and wrens. When the black berries appear in the middle of winter, they're devoured by everything from thrushes, waxwings, starlings and jays, to finches and blackbirds.”
Top 10 plants for birds by Gardener’s

“Calorie-rich ivy berries are loved by birds, including the song thrush, mistle thrush, redwing, blackbird and blackcap. Although the berries appear in November, birds don’t tend to eat them until around now – shorter-lived berries such as rowan and hawthorn are eaten first, leaving the longer-lasting ivy berries until last. According to the RSPB, ivy berries contain nearly as many calories as Mars bars, gram for gram.”
English ivy: berry good for birds by Kate Bradbury, February 19th 2015

Video grab of Song Thrush eating black ivy berries, May 25th 2015.

So, all these years as I’ve watched and watched with great anticipation for my Wisteria to flower towards the end of May, over on the other side of the pergola, there has been something going on that I never knew about until now. My ivy has been feeding the birds! Seeing is certainly believing :-)

Wisteria flower buds (flower opening almost there) May 26th, 2015.

Wow... this week has seen two firsts for my garden (the other being our Robin nest having chicks being fed). It's almost midnight and Mr/Mrs Hedgehog has just popped by... so its time to say good night from us both :-)

Hedgehog in feeding station, May 26th, 2015.

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in May 2015.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Phew... all is well at Robin nest

After last night’s worry, mentioned in this morning’s post, a variety of wriggly food continued to be delivered into the Robin nest this morning… by both parents! Phew… Mum isn’t missing after all.

Apologies are in order too, Mr & Mrs Robin, I can see now that you do keep a clean house by removing the fecal sacs from your chicks! Oh my… your chicks must be getting a good size by the size of the poop parcel below... keep that wriggly food coming!

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in May 2015.

BBC Springwatch tribute weeks

Last night BBC Two Springwatch returned to our screens with seasonal chat about nature at this exciting time of the year. Story developers follow live cams (many on birds nesting) 24hrs throughout the three weeks of this show. Oooo… now that’s a seasonal job that would suit me very nicely ;-)

Last week’s Chelsea Flower Show tribute week (still more to come) was such fun that it would be amiss of me not to give Springwatch the same treatment. After all, it captured my attention when I began this gardenwatch blog. Regular visitors will know this blog began just as a temporary thing (a broadband friendly way) to send images of the Eurpoean Robin to my homesick friend in Australia back in 2006. Sadly, she died in a tragic, freak accident and won't get to see this :-(

For the next three weeks I’ll try to keep up with Springwatch, posting snippets from my own garden about the birds and wildlife that find their way here as well as footage and images from out and about. Lots of old video footage and stories are sitting just waiting for their moment. This could also be fun and a great gardenwatch update for me too. There will be an interval or two back to Inverewe Garden to complete the Chelsea tribute and the Gardening Scotland Show which is on this weekend too.

In my story developer role, I’m delighted to update on our garden story of the Robin pair that frantically built a nest in an open fronted nest box sighted in my ivy clad Pergola. Did the noisy neighbours (woodpigeons and hedgehogs) scare them away? No they did not, we came back from our hols and they were still in residence :-)

This Robin nesting story has since moved on a bit, yep, last weekend the male was seen visiting the nest more often… now with wriggly food in his beak! Although there isn’t a camera in the nesting box, my basic video camera on a tripod below it has captured a more detailed look of the food deliveries - not for viewing at mealtimes perhaps ;-)

1min 46sec, compilation, Robin pair bring in wriggly food, no background music,
try HD quality. A cheeky Blackbird landed on the camera at the end!

Just like the Springwatch story developers, I sat watching my many clips of video capture on my monitor looking for one thing (food going in) and observed a piece of random behaviour with a fly. Clearly the female Robin knew it was coming and was on alert and she very efficiently dealt with the situation. It was such fun watching the footage not knowing what was going to happen next.

2 mins 11sec, 2 clips, Female robin chases away fly,
with background music and pair in nest without music, both leave.

As I’m the only story developer here, not able to gardenwatch every day, I couldn’t guess at how old the Robin chicks are. However, some seriously big food deliveries were made yesterday morning with a quick exit by the parent birds. Having previously been the story developer for a successful Blue tit nest with a nest cam, I might say the Robin chicks are a good size already!

Appreciating that not everyone has time to view the short videos above, as per usual, I've captured a few video grabs to give you a flavour of the varied menu the Robin chicks having been served. Notice the female sitting at the back of the nest in the first image with a juicy green caterpillar – a few caterpillars went in this yesterday (when all footage this was taken).

In my story developer role, I have observed that the Robin is a way more cautious bird to approach the nest than the Blue tits were. In the image above of the male with the wings open, he landed but quickly left again so he was clearly unhappy with something around him. He did return as can be seen in the video. Note in the video that the female is leaving the chicks alone for spells but brings them back a food delivery from her trip out :-)

The Robin doesn’t appear to be removing the Fecal sacs (chick poop bags) as the Blue tit did either. From the views seen of the female on the nest, she doesn’t appear to be doing the diving into the nest cup to keep it clean but then again my view is limited. Sadly, my time as a story developer with this Robin family might be limited too and just as I was getting into the swing of it.

Last night, I was outside just before dark and heard a Robin calling again and again. In the low level of light, I could just see where it was perched and it was a branch I’ve seen the male use many times over the weekend. It was a pretty persistent call of a kind that I’ve not been hearing from the Robin in my garden. It was quite eerie seeing his silhouette too.

Perhaps the male robin was just calling the female out telling her the chicks can be left alone now. Perhaps, he was calling the chicks out to fledge. But then again, I have heard an eerie, persistent call like that from a Blue tit female when she had chicks to feed. The male Blue tit never returned and the female was unable to find enough food for her chicks and they died. Oh dear… has something happened to our Robin Mum!

This post was published by Shirley for shirls gardenwatch in May 2015.