Saturday, 30 May 2009

What did I do in May?

I can't believe May is already over... It feels like a lot of my time has been spent feeding the birds, and watching their antics. Probably with reason, as at the beginning of the month is when I started ordering 1 kg mealworm every week, as chicks started hatching in the blue and great tits' nests. I share them, and seeds, with a neighbour (it saves shipping cost and stuff is fresher that way) who also feeds robins and blackbirds. When I started feeding mealworms 2 years ago, my first order was for a tub of 120g and little did I know what I was letting myself in for... I was mostly then feeding 1 family of blue tits (the 'flue tits') on the balcony [I blogged about then (here]. Unfortunately, this is South exposed with no shade and, on sunny days, the mealworms would just fry there (and wasps were also helping themselves) so I started putting another dish at the front of the house and we put a webcam onto it which caught the tits, but also starlings and magpies who would just hoover the whole lot in seconds.
Last year, I started putting the mealworms in a window feeder. I had got this Droll Yankees window feeder in the photo below, though you may notice that it has been customised... It had been fine while it was only the tits coming, but, as soon as the starlings fledged, they would just gobble the whole lot in seconds. Now I am all for helping them as well but, since I couldn't trust them to leave any for others, I had to restrict them. I initially closed the gap but then the blue tits could not get in, which surprised me since the great tits had no problem, and some starlings still could as well. So I started putting a chicken wire screen so as to block the front access, leaving just 2 smallish gaps at the sides. The tits took to it immediately which was great, and most starlings were defeated. Success!

This year, we have been feeding at least 3 families of Great Tits and 2 of Blue Tits (determined from the directions in which they were going back). In the photos above and below you can see one of our blue tits, nicknamed Punky, as it is getting to the gap and about to leave with the prize! I don't know what it is about blue tits, but every year we have at least one Punky/Scruffy (we have at least 2 this year) whereas the Great Tits seem to manage to 'keep their hair on'... I am not sure when the Great Tits fledged as the parents kept them in the Cemetery at first, but it was before the Blue Tits, the 'flue tits' fledgeing on the 20th May. I was unfortunately too busy that day to take photos :(

The starlings haven't tried yet this year, but their chicks have only started coming out in the past few days, and they have concentrated so far on the fat feeders on the balcony. They have also taken some of the occasional few I leave in a dish on the bathroom window sill which is where I photographed this youngster on Wednesday 27th (through the window):

To be continued...

Monday, 25 May 2009

Whitby, 23-25 April 2009

On 23rd April, we went to Whitby for the Whitby Gothic Weekend as we do twice a year. While my other half is busy making the live music side of the festival run smoothly, I spend some of that time wandering round, having a look at rocks and birds. I have had the photos ready for this post for a very long time, but I just haven't got round to writing the words around them. A mixture of catching the 'Whitby lurgy' initially and catching up afterwards and being otherwise busy (partially by the birds around here as their chicks hatch then fledge). It won't be as developed as it may have been, but I'd better bite the bullet and get it over and done with, so I can get on with more recent stuff!
Until last October, I had never been to the other side of that jetty at the back of this photo, having only been on the beach on the North side. Very different, as one side is a sandy beach, the other a shale beach with lots of fossils and mussel beds.

One of the things I like about Whitby is how close, compared to home, you can get to the gulls in town (pretty much exclusively Herring Gulls as far as I could tell). I love how this photo of a gull looking up at me turned up:

I can indulge in taking close up portraits like this one (I used this not quie as close one as my screen backdrop for a long time):

The other thing I like about Whitby are the turnstones, not that I was expecting any this time. This one was picking up crumbs and chips by the bandstand:

I went to the other side of the jetty on the Saturday morning. It was packed with Herring Gulls, a few of which I noticed fishing starfish like this one:

There were also a fair few Oystercatchers, a group of Kittiwakes, either nicely packed on the beach or noisily circling in front of the cliff, 3 Bar-tailed Godwits. I also spotted a Hermit Crab, an ammonite and a group of kids on a fossil hunt (they sort of put a stop to mine, that and the fact that the cliff seemed to be crumbling where I'd been shortly after I'd been there).

Plenty more photos to be seen here.
And if you are that way inclined, photos of the bands playing at the festival are there.