Sunday, 17 August 2014

In and Over

Recently the garden has been nearly devoid of birds, just a few of the usual suspects present. Many specimens are still in moult, so they are skulking in the shrubs and making furtive visits to the feeders. Only the Starlings, with their constant bickering, being so brazen to openly occupy the feeder perches. It has been doubly disappointing as my Sister and her friend Bev from New Zealand stayed with us for a few days and I was keen to show them "our" birds.  Bev declared that she had never seen a Robin, a state of affairs that would normally be easily resolved on our small patch. All through the winter we had a resident Robin that became tame, to the point where he would sit in front of the patio doors demanding to be fed. I always obliged and he became accustomed to the rattle of the suet nibbles in the container.

Sadly, after raising the first brood and halfway through the second, he disappeared along with his mate. I had watched these two from their first encounters, more like fighting than courtship, to the full blown display which sealed the bond. We were without a resident for two whole months, but during our guests' stay a couple of juveniles moved in and battle commenced yet again, this time for the territory. It started with that half hearted sub-song and over the last few days has developed into a more strident routine, full of confidence and now performed from an open perch - it's his patch now as the competition can be heard singing the same lament from a good distance away.  That he starts at first light isn't really a problem, though it is usually from a perch just outside the bedroom window - and he continues until after lunch, just to make sure everyone knows he is there. I don't think he is the sharpest tack in the box as when I rattle the nibbles he just cocks his head and watches me as I scatter a few samples on the lawn. As I walk away a juvenile Blackbird dashes in and greedily scoffs the lot. As winter approaches he will lose his reticence, and I hope remain with us until next year.

So Bev if you read this, "our" Robin is now "Bev's Robin" and here he is.

Luckily having the camera to hand to capture the Robin meant that as other birds came in and over the patch I managed to record their passing. First up was a juvenile "something", I haven't really made up my mind what it is but it is very vulnerable as we have more than our fair share of Magpies at the moment.

At this time of year we often have the odd migrant passing through and today was no exception. I just managed to record the passing of a Common Whitethroat as it shot into my neighbour's dense shrubbery, no doubt waiting until nightfall before commencing his cross channel journey.

The neighbourhood Herring Gull flock went into high alert early on Saturday morning, at least twenty birds wheeling in the air and screaming, just to the north of the garden. "Raptor alert" - and sure enough as I looked up a Sparrowhawk was circling above in a clear blue sky, the early morning light giving this sleek grey messenger of death a slightly warmer look.

I thought it somewhat odd that long after the Sparrowhawk had disappeared the gulls continued their raucous calling. It was all explained by three Buzzards circling above the garden on a huge thermal. Slowly they spiralled upwards and eastwards towards Worthing. Then all three made a long shallow dive westwards until they found another thermal over Angmering. Enthralling stuff to watch but never close enough for any decent shots, but obviously too close for the comfort of the resident crows which gave chase.

We have three plum trees in the garden and it has been a good year for fruit. However, two of the trees have been devastated by the constant attacks from Blue Tits, Blackbirds and Magpies. The third tree, a Victoria has suffered not one attack. I knew that the family of young Crows were visiting the garden on a regular basis but I was amazed to find out the reason why. A neighbour's pear tree was obviously satisfying the sweet bills of these omnivorous raiders.

Then today, Sunday, the garden was alive with birds again, Blue Tits, Coal Tits and Great Tits, accompanied by two Greenfinches, ten Goldfinches and a lone Chaffinch. The Starling flock has grown to fifteen and the House Sparrows are feeding another brood in the crab apple tree. Even a Wren paid a visit, picking up insects from the undergrowth around the pond.

Finally, just as a heavy rain shower was breaking, a Wilchiff appeared. I always have difficulty deciding whether it is a Willow Warbler or a Chiffchaff.  The canary yellow of this bird and its yellowish legs have me going for Willow Warbler on this occasion. God knows how bright it would have been in full sunlight.



Not only have the feathered flyers increased but there has been a notable surge in insect life. Hoverflies are not my strongpoint so if they are incorrectly identified I would be more than happy to be put right.
Volucella zonaria - a Hornet look alike
Eristalis pertinax - perhaps??


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