Musings and photos of wild and everyday life

Posts tagged “Blue Tit

Life & Death

Irish Stoat running with Wood Mouse Tomnafinnoge Woods

The last few weeks brought home the faster life and death nature of wildlife.  Not that all of us don’t have to go through the same things, but generally we seem to have a more intense and drawn out experience to death.  I was watching a TV documentary on elephants where they seem to mourn and dwell over dead friends and relatives a bit more like us – something I had read about before – and there are the elephant graveyard stories.  However smaller animals and birds ‘appear’ to treat death as a sharp shock before getting on with their lives.

Alternately, it might be the frequency of death, rather than the size of the animal, that lessens its effect on others.  Years ago our company used to train technical staff from an African country.

They came on a series of courses and we got quite fond of some that had been to Ireland on a few occasions.

Song Thrush Nestlings in Nest in rough Hedge

Song Thrush Nestlings in Nest in rough Hedge

Asking casually about one such that was not on the course being taught at that time, we were told, fairly matter-of-factly that he was ‘gone’. We had to pursue this to understand that he had died (of aids which kills so many in Africa).

These morbid thoughts are brought on by a few sightings during last month.

1)  We had a Song thrush nest in a partial wild hedge in our back garden.  The young seemed very healthy and not disturbed by the sound of the lawn-mower going past very close – admittedly not as often as it would do in a tidy garden. I was late in discovering them and reckoned by their size and activity, that they were close to fledging.  The parents continued to bring them food and to rest in the nest overnight, keeping them warm. Two days later, when I looked, they were gone but not just the chicks, all trace of the nest was gone!  There had been some wind but not as much as previously, so either they flew and demolished the nest in their leaving or, probably more likely, a cat got them.

Blue Tit in Tree

Blue Tit in Tree

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2)  Relations of ours have a Blue Tit camera nest-box similar to ours, that this year finally produced a nest, eggs and eventually young.

Their joy at the constant feeding and attention shown by the parents was brought to a shuddering halt by their sudden disappearence.

The babies continued to call for food but as time went by, it became clear that the parents were not coming back and that the chicks would not survive.

Cats are the main suspects although it is strange that both parents ‘disappeared’.

Irish Stoat running with Wood Mouse Tomnafinnoge Woods
Irish Stoat running with Wood Mouse Tomnafinnoge Woods

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3)  While walking in the rain along the river in Tomnafinnoge Wood near Tinahely (this is a very special woods and features Oak trees and Woodpeckers and the River Derry, a tributary of the Slaney), I heard a commotion from behind.

It sounded like a bird in a panic flying towards me but as I looked around with the camera un-ready!, it turned out to be an Irish Stoat (often called a Weasel here but actually there are no real Weasels in Ireland) running towards me.  While still trying to get the camera settings into appropriate action, I realised it had something in its mouth.  I thought it was a bird but on later review of the poor pictures, decided it was a Wood Mouse.

Aware that I would dearly want to get a good picture of this startling scene, the Stoat turned and jumped into the undergrowth!

The animal is gorgeous – very small and beautifully coloured – a kind of fawn / beige brown – and with a white belly and a black tip to its tail.

However the bird in its mouth broke the thought of innocent beauty and brought home the lethal nature of nature.

Moorhen & Chick on Nest Grand Canal Dublin

Moorhen & Chick on Nest Grand Canal Dublin

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4)  This week I walked along the Grand Canal in Dublin, thronged by lunch-time walkers and those eating food from the vendors along the banks.  As usual, I was looking for birds in the margins and eventually found a Moorhen amongst the reeds.  Going to the bridge I could see that it was building a nest and as I got closer again, a chick appeared from under the parent’s wing!  In fact there were 3 chicks and at least one unhatched egg.  Moorhens often have 8 eggs so there may have been more.

Moorhen bringing Grass to partner & chicks on Nest Grand Canal Dublin

Moorhen bringing Grass to partner & chicks on Nest Grand Canal Dublin

The other parent regularly brought leaves that (s)he knitted into the nest.  This was necessary as the nest was a floating one and required constant attention to keep it above water.  Both Moorhen sexes incubate the eggs and they are indistinguishable without examination.  However the male is understood to do most of the nest sitting.

On the far side of the canal, a young Heron stood patiently by the water’s edge unconcerned by people behind him, much closer than normally consider comfortable.

In the nest, little Johhnie – there’s always one – climbed out and swam about on its own.  He may have done this before but the parent on the nest did not seem too pleased while the other parent was pre-occupied with leaf gathering.

While I watched the Moorhen’s knitting abilities, someone behind me was feeding pigeons.  They wanted to peck at the large bread crumbs thrown and constantly pitched the crumbs up in the air as they tried to break them.  This led the crumbs and them to get very close to me.  So close that I nearly missed the drama.

A Lesser Black-backed Gull, which presumably had been watching the crumb throwing, also had his eye on the Moorhen Nest and suddenly flew down.  The parent jumped up to attack it and defend the nest but as the Moorhen pecked at its neck, the Gull, in one movement, reached down, grabbed a chick in its beak and disengaged from the fight, flying to the other side of the canal with the unfortunate chick in its bill.

This was not little Johnie, the mischievious roamer but one of the goodie-goodies that stayed in the nest – it’s the same the world over!

This all took about a second or two.  Too quick for yours truly, unprofessional, unprepared and a bit stunned, to get a picture of the scrap.

Lesser Black-backed Gull with chick taken from Moorhen Nest Grand Canal Dublin

Lesser Black-backed Gull with chick taken from Moorhen Nest Grand Canal Dublin

On the far bank, the Lesser Black-backed Gull manoeuvred the chick a couple of times and then swallowed it, as a few people and the Moorhens looked on disbelievingly.

After a few minutes, the Moorhen sat back on the nest with little movement.  It seemed to be detrermined to shield and protect the remaining brood & egg(s).  I was left wondering if (s)he continued to dwell on the incident, to be sad or to mourn.

A couple of days later, the nest was gone.  Only floating leaves remained.  It may be that the remaining eggs hatched and the young went off with the parents.  On the other hand, the nest was close to the bank, in a place frequented by people and the Canal in its city stretches, features many predators including dogs, foxes and of course little (and big) brats!

Looking forward to more on the ‘Life’ side in the next few weeks.

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Lizzie’s Lassies at Large

The good news is that Lizzie brought up 3 fine chicks and they fledged in June, while I was at the office.  Originally there had been 6 but we suspect that the winter and ‘spring’ has taken its toll of the insect population and they found it hard to feed the poor little bairns.
Starling feeding leatherjackets to juv in nest box

Starling feeding leatherjackets to juvenile
in nest box

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We weren’t sure that all 3 would make it as 1 seemed to be more lethargic and smaller, often disappearing under the other two!  However as we watched, it became apparent that the size was more to do with the distance from the camera and that they seemed to rotate the lethargic position.  The one that had been fed a lot, seemed to get lazier and slid down into the warmer deeper part of the nest.
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Anyway 3 is not a bad result.
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Our starlings again produced a fine gang of young’uns around the same time and have already produced a second brood!  Energy  seemed to be unbounded as they flew nearly continuously in and out of the garage nest box.
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Elsewhere in the garden, Blackbirds had a successful breeding season as did Robins but it seemed to be generally a poorer breeding season from our viewpoint – perhaps the bad Spring was to blame?
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Nearby Rooks and  Jackdaws seemed to produce their usual noisy kindergarten group while the sky was brightened by the fast flying and twittering House Martins and Swallows as well as Sand Martins.

Lizzie 2013

She’s back.  Lizzie, that is.  Blue Tit near nestYou remember Lizzie?  This blog is about Lizzzie (or Alice and lots of other things!).  See https://cliffsview.wordpress.com/2012/07/05/new-creations-what-grows-in-your-garden/ & https://cliffsview.wordpress.com/2012/01/29/lizzie-2012/

 

The nestbox has at least 5 and maybe 6 eggs in it.  More news to follow.


New Creations – What grows in your Garden?

Cherry Trees FGIt’s hard to say that one season is your favourite when so many wonderful things happen  or are to be seen in every season, every year.  But there is something extra special about the growing season – Spring early Summer – the creation time.

We are lucky to live in a rural setting with a wildlife-friendly garden.  Friends may say that the garden is the wildest thing around, but that’s another story!

Every year the garden seems to burst out, encroach and almost threaten, such is the growth in trees, shrubs, grass and other vegeatation.

Making use of the renewed cover, a range of birds ususally nest.

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Great Tit at nest box Box back garden

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This year we we were fortunate to host a number of home makers.  Of those that we know nested in the gardens, there were Great Tits in the nest box at the end of the back garden (now now, less tittering please);
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Woodpigeon Pair BG.

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Woodpigeons nested in both gardens;
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Starling arriving at Nest box with Leatherjacket & Worm FG.

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Starlings brought up a strong brood in the nestbox on the garage.  This was set up as a replacement for the hole in the garage they had used as a nest site before it was repaired!  They are currently feeding the second brood!

House Sparrow M BG
House Sparrow M with nut at feeder BG
House Sparrow Nest under Soffit front of house
House Sparrows are supposed to be in decline but you wouldn’t think it around our house.

Adabtable, they have learned to hang on to the nut feeder and get at the nuts. They have also successfully bred for the last few years in ventilation holes in the side of the house. This year they also used the creeper under the soffit at the front of the house! They make quite a racket in the back garden.
Sparrow F feeding baby BG
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Once again however, Lizzie was the star of the show. She and hubby once again eschewed the old nest box in the Crab Apple tree to use our camera box attached to the house.

Lizzie 2 (Lizzie 2012) had tried to nest earlier in the spring following our original Lizzie family last year (Lizzie 1).  So we call this lady, Lizzie 3 – of course they could be all the same.

Robin on bird table BGWe are reasonably sure that Robins and Wrens nested nearby and who knows what else?  Magpies have nested most years but not this one – there must be higher trees somehere near!

Of the non-avian animals, we have seen Mice, Rats, Hedgehog, Fox and Badgers but the cutest little Fox cubs appeared this year.

Fox cub near den BGSuspicious of their presence, they were captured first on a trail camera but were tame enough early on, to allow a quiet and reasonably still person to observe and photograph them.



Lizzie 2012?

Blue Tit on Cotoneaster bush BG

Having cleaned out the camera nest box not too long ago, I was surprised to see the Blue Tits nearby recently and entering a couple of times.

The starlings had used their nest box on the garage over winter as a roost and had been a bit more active in the mild weather recently.  So just in case I checked the view in the Blue Tit box and was delighted to find a good base for a nest already in place.

I don’t know if it is the same pair or not but we’ll probably call herself Lizzie anyway.

Wishing them well for the future.


Wildlife – Saint Stephen’s Green Dublin

Right in the heart of Dublin City, Lake SSG DublinSt. Stephen’s Green is an oasis from shops and offices.  People come here to relax, to hear music from the bandstand, to sunbathe and to have their sandwich for lunch.

But this small green haven is also an oasis for wildlife.  A small stream and waterfall feed a lake / pond and a mixture of well kept lawn and flower beds contrast beautifully with large trees and thick bushes.

The lake is the usual focus for people looking for wildlife and as usual this is well represented by Ducks.

Mallard are the most numerous but there are a good few Tufteds.

In late Summer the ducks moult and tend to sit around in lazy non-descript groups keeping their feathers dry.

It is one of those places where a pocket camera can deliver good pictures.

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Mallard Duck M St Stephens Green Dublin
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While common, Mallard, at least the males, have really brilliant colours that change depending on the angle of view and the sun.

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Male Tufted Ducks on the other hand are very formal Black and White and seem to resemble the shape of the bathroom ‘rubber duck’.

Tufted Duck M St Stephens Green

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From time to time more exotic ducks arrive.  This year there were a few Mandarin Ducks.  The female  below was resching for the Willow leaves for which they have a ‘sweet tooth’.

Mandarin Duck F or juv reaching for willow St. Stephen's Green

Lesser Black_backed Gull St Stephens Green Dublin

Regarding the ever-present Gulls, Black-headed and Herring Gulls predominate but other species can be seen like this Lesser Black-backed Gull which has yellow legs and whose back is a grey in between the light grey of the Herring Gull and the near black of the Great Black-backed Gull.

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Common birds such as Robins, Chaffinches, Rooks, Thrushes and Blackbirds roam freely here.

Blackbird M St Stephens Green.

As they are used to people, it is often possible to get closer than usual so that more details of the birds can be seen.  It is hard to beat whiling away a few minutes in the city park with a Blue-tit taking a bath right beside you.

Blue Tit bathing St Stephens Green

Mute Swan drinking St Stephens GreenEveryboby’s idea of a park bird, the Mute Swan, is accessible as always but nore unusually, Herons can sometimes be seen up close if care is taken.Heron on Rock SSG Dublin

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Grey Squirrel SSGMammals live in the park too but as usual are not as easily seen.  Most of the rodents such as Rats and Mice go about their foraging largely un-noticed.   Not so the Grey Squirrel which is now unfortunately found in most of the city’s parks.

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Young Foxes playing St. Dtephen's Green

A surprise for many will be the foxes which live in the park and go mostly unseen!  How many commuters pass by with heads bowed or with heavy thoughts and unseeing eyes on warm mornings when the foxes sunbathe or frolic in the foliage?

Moorhen struggling with large leaf on nest SSG pondLet’s close this short view of the park’s wildlife with a common, likeable bird, the Moorhen.

Strong colours, a busy demeanour and huge feet make them, for me, the cutest of the parks residents.

Every year they nest and rear young, many of whom are killed by predators.  Many times their nests are flooded or vandalised and yet they rebuild.  No wonder they are so common in waterways around the country.

Moorhen baby walking in pond SSGMoorhen looking to feed baby SSG pond
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Finally a big thanks to all those responsible for keeping the park so clean and vibrant and a home for so many wild things.

Flower display SSG


Wildlife in Dublin City

Dublin from WestAlthough we often prefer to go somewhere quiet to watch birds and wildlife, there are many opportunities and good places in Dublin city.

The streets see common birds such as Gulls, Crows, Robins and starlings.  There is even the odd Peregrine.

But there are also a number of good places such as parks and waterways where birds, rabbits and foxes can be regularly seen.  These include the Phoenix Park, the Liffey, Trinity College, Blessington Basin, the Grand Canal and Saint Stephen’s Green.  I will do posts on some of these separately but here are some of the birds regularly seen in the city centre.Hooded Crow on wall with pedestrians Clanwilliam Place Dublin 

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In many cases the birds have become used to people and provided you don’t go too close or make sudden movements they can be quite close.

This closeness with nature feeling does help to take the edge of the concrete jungle.

For photography purposes, this means that a very long zoom is often not needed.

Herring Gull paddling for insects Dublin
Wood Pigeon Dublin

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Grassy oases around the city, can harbour a number of birds such Woodpigeons and Magpies, foraging or nesting.   Herring Gulls often ‘paddle’ their feet to disturb insects in the grass or soil.

Magpie Denzille Lane Dublin

‘In trees on some of the busy streets, such as O’Connell Street,  Wagtails, Starlings and Long-tailed Tits often roost in numbers in the winter.

It can also be surprising to see the places that birds find for nest sites in what seems at first sight a forbidding mass of hard surfaces.

Blue Tit coming out of Nest hole Dublin Castle

Other wilflife includes rats which have been a feature of Dublin for centuries, foxes which are becoming more and more common in our cities and Squirrels.

The Reds are a bit timid for cities and in any case are being overrun by the Greys which now inhabit a number of Dublin parks including Phoenix Park, Merrion Square and Stephen’s Green.Grey Squirrel in grass Merrion Square

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Insects of course are ever present but some go largely un-noticed.

Scale insects can be seen on many trees but look more like a fungus, if they are noticed at all.

Scale Insects on tree Dublin Castle

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Still most people’s favourite is the Robin.  Alll the parks in Dublin have friendly Robins that come very close as you sit, especially if you have a sandwich!

Robin juv on tree Merrion Square Dublin


Lizzie – Leap of Hope

Well, over last weekend the remaining Blue Tit nestling got pretty big, seeming to be bigger than the parents but probably mostly fluff and air.Blue Tit nestling prior to 1st flight

On Wednesday morning it seemed to be more erergized, flapping its little wings and moving more.  Eventually it made a leap up to a ledge that lets some light in, translucently, for the camera to work in daylight.  One of the parents brought food but didn’t feed it the first time, seeming to entice it further.  On the second entrance the food was given over but soon after the baby made for the escape hole and stayed there for a while.  

The parents fed it there once and I rushed to get my camera, went to a room with a view and managed to get a couple of pics before it made the brave move and plunged into the great ‘out there’.

Blue Tit fledgling in bush after 1st flightFlabbergasted by its new environment, it stayed there, fidgeting for a while with the parents in a nearby bush calling.

Blue Tit parent watching fledgling in other bush after 1st flight

Blue Tit fledgling in bush after 1st flight

Eventually, they managed to convince it to fly to the front of the garden which it did without any obvious problem. 

A good end to their hard work and confined conditions, if not what they may have hoped for.

I haven’t seen them since but trust they are doing well.


Lizzie’s Labours Lost

Well, first the bad news.  We came back from the Leinster match to find that the 9 nestlings had become 3.   Soon after that there were only 2 and now there is only one.  I don’t know what happened to them.  They were too small to leave, so presumably have died but of what cause I don’t know.  And what has become of the bodies – eaten, removed?

There is good news though.   The one remaining nestling has grown pretty quick over the last few days and looks healthy.  He / she is a similar size to the adults and looks near ready to fledge, flapping its small wings and making the odd small jump.

It is strange that you can be aware of many nests and nesting activities around you, in the garden etc. and although its nice and feels good to see and be close to these things, there is no real emotion.  But the nestbox camera forces some involvement – you are with the birds in their daily struggle and can’t help feel emotionally attached.  We are hoping that at least the one remaining survivor makes it to the ‘outside world’.


Lizzie – Mouths to Feed

Well, she did it – 9 big mouthed, hungry, Muppet-like babies!  Hatching started last week and I wasn’t there to see it:(  Had to settle for a text message!

While the other Liz makes new friends in Ireland and ‘makes history’, possibly improving relations and trade between two countries, its hard not to feel when watching the activity at the nest, that this normal life work going on without any notice by most of the world,  is actually far more important.

With 9 mouths to feed, there is no time for coffee, the pub or golf or whatever Blue Tits would do if they had a child minder.  What is impressive is how both parents work together to feed, clean and take out the waste.  Many human homes would like such co-operation.


It’s also incredible to watch how quiet, obscure-looking little bundles are electrified by the sound of a parent approaching (or other sounds sometimes).  They go rigid, their beaks open like the Grand Canyon suddenly forming and they yell – ME, MEE, MEEEE or something similar. It’s like they are on springs!