Tuesday, 30 June 2009


Last Friday (if you recall, otherwise scroll down a little to Friday's post) I noticed that our local Jays had fledged maybe one or two young, and, given how awkward they were at landing/managing the aerials, they probably had just fledged that morning. On Saturday morning, on my way to the shops via Margravine Cemetery, one of them almost flew into me... I really didn't have much time to check as we were off to a wedding shortly thereafter, but they were so out in the open that I could see 4 young without much difficulty.
On Sunday morning I decided to go 'Jay hunting'. I couldn't find them at first but as I go closer to Barons Court I heard an unmistakable horrible sound and there they were. They were very mobile, going from tree to tree, from tree to ground, from ground to tree, but by being slightly ahead of them (sometimes) and sitting down by a tree or grave I managed a fair amount of photos, a selection of which are below. I tried to make the most of it as, even though our local Jays are not too shy, they had still been pretty elusive. I hope you don't get an indigestion...

We are in a graveyard after all...

I think that the following 2 photos are of one of the adults, redder and fuller crown, and somehow the 'blue' feathers don't look as pristine:

One of the youngsters begging one of its parents for food. Unfortunately, I only managed one very blurry photo of one being fed :(

"What am I meant to do with that?" (a leaf)

Thank you for your patience!

Don't forget water...

We are not the only ones feeling the heat at the moment... I took this photo of a juvenile Starling on the bathroom windowsill earlier today, panting:

It had just been drinking from the water dish I leave for them there. Don't forget to do the same, they need it now more than ever...
And. obviously, if you have pets, don't forget them either (though our cat doesn't seem to be wanting to drink more than usual) :)

Monday, 29 June 2009

They're back!

This was taken on Saturday during my patch walk on one of their favourite spots at high tide. They were not the first ones I'd seen though as there were already a dozen on Thursday, resting on the shore at low tide with the Canadas.
Still, looking at last year's notes, I saw about 50 on 20th June then, so they're not that early.
Next the swifts and autumn will definitely be on its way...

Friday, 26 June 2009

Nesting in a tyre (part 2)

I had checked on the moorhens last Saturday morning and one of them was on the nest in the tyre and there were plenty of feet marks in the mud underneath indicating a lot of ins and outs.
But this is the view that greeted me yesterday:

An empty nest where the original one was, and a moorhen in another tyre further along the side of the barge:

I can only imagine that something happened with the first nest/clutch, and they're having to start all over again...

We'll see how it goes :)

On a different front, our local Jays have successfully fledged at least 1, maybe 2 young, probably this morning. It was quite funny watching them trying to negotiate the TV aerials ;) While drinking my morning coffee on the sofa I could see Great Spotted Woodpecker, Jay & Blackbird vying for space on an aerial (where did they go before TV?!). Good way to start the day!

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Nesting in a tyre...

On the subject of interesting nests, a pair of moorhens in Hammersmith are doing a nice piece of double recycling. If you click on any of the photos below, you should be directed to the picasa album with a location map which might give you a better idea of where they are. There is a small green called Furnival Gardens not far from Hammersmith Bridge. Opposite, you have a group of boats/barges moored. And, inside a tyre tied to the side of one of the barges, a pair of moorhens are nesting:

And closer:

I have to admit that I may have missed them if I had not seen one jumping off during a nest exchange... Hopefully, they'll do better than the trolley coots slightly down river. I have yet to find where the moorhens on my patch near Crabtree Wharf are nesting (and they must have done last year as they had a juvenile with them for a while).

Friday, 12 June 2009


It has all gone rather quiet on the mealworm front, definitively not the frenzy it had been at times recently, with mostly just the woodpecker and some great tits picking them for their second brood(s). Seeds, peanuts and fat are going quite fast though.
One of the reasons might be that a lot of tree leaves are covered in small green flies (if anyone can tell me what they are... Every year when we first moved in they infested our living room in the evenings for a while)

The slightest disturbance and they fly off, I learned very quickly to be very careful when taking the photos above... I have seen some of the young blue and great tits flutter among the leaves and then all they have to do is open their beak, gobble and start again. Juicy! Easy meal! :)

Last Saturday morning, I went for a walk in Margravine Cemetery and I ended up admiring for a while one lime tree which had started flowering, pondering, as I do every year at this time, on cultural differences. You see, in France, lime herbal tea (tilleul) is probably the most common herbal tea you'll find, and it surprised me when I arrived in the UK 16 years ago that I couldn't find any anywhere. For me, the smell of lime flowers means 2 things: illness and school holidays. Illness, because it would be the beverage of choice when in bed with the flu for example. School holidays, because towards the end of June (which is when summer holidays start in France) my Dad would cut a few branches from our lime trees and we would pick the flowers and leave them to dry up in the attic or the hay loft for another year supply of tea. But I digress. I noticed then what I was pretty sure were Harlequin ladybird larvae, which proved to be indeed the case. 'Good' numbers of them in fact, and a few pupae as well. I have now reported them to the Harlequin Ladybird Survey. I don't think I have seen a 'classic' ladybird around home for about 2 years now. But, at least, we seem to have good numbers of another native ladybird, the orange ladybird.

On that same tree, I also found 2 of these, which I hope I have correctly identified as Forest Bug nymph(Pentatoma rufipes):

There were also lots of bumblebees, 2 or 3 different species, but I didn't manage to get any decent photo.

Finally, last week, I found this moth on our bedroom curtain, which (once again) I hope to have correctly id'd as a Brown Plume Moth . My knowledge of moths is rather limited and I'd never heard of plume moths before (and my other half admitted when he saw this photo on my screen to have thought it was some kind of dady-long-legs) but I thought it was rather intriguing.

Monday, 8 June 2009

Bento is back!

Last year, we had a real character among the great tits coming for mealworms. We'd nicknamed it Bento, for a fairly obvious reason, clearly visible on the photo below, taken as he was visiting one of the feeders (before customisation): the feather at the edge of its left wing was bent.

But it was also recognisable by its character, very confident, forward, demanding... He was always very quick to let me know I was late in refilling the feeders. I'll never forget (well I might, but it'll take some time), one day I was at the sink when I saw it appear and then hover in front of me looking me straight in the eyes while calling loudly. I obeyed pronto! He managed to have 2 broods, so I guess his approach worked.

This year, we were wondering if we would see him again. Early on, there was this one, nicknamed Thumper by my other half, as it would often arrive on the feeder rather heavily, with a big thump, and being generally a bit of a bully to the other birds. But nothing decisive.

Them, last Wednesday, I was on the balcony taking photos of the passionflower which had started flowering, and chatting with a neighbour, when I heard a light metallic sound and my neighbour said "Don't move, a bird has landed right above you". I move very slowly, and this great tit was on the flue, less than a metre from me...

You may notice the small feather sticking out? on its left wing? I actually got to get an even better look on Friday afternoon and the feather at the edge is missing... My other half was working at home and to give him some peace and quiet I had removed the feeder in the front room and put mealworms on the window sill by my desk, giving me very clear and closer views. That evening, I texted the neighbour I share the mealworm feeding with about it, and she replied immediately "Funny you should mention Bento, I saw one today reminded me very much of him". She feeds the robins by throwing mealworms on the ground [when they don't come and help themselved in her kitchen], and it would come and pick them up in front of them, and more than one at a time (which most tits don't). I saw him take 5, almost 6, albeit rather small ones, at once, quite a feat! He now takes 2 of the big ones almost every time. To finish, this morning, I had not even finished putting the feeder back on its hooks after refilling that it had already landed on it...

I think, odds are it is the same bird. And I am very pleased it's back :) On its second brood already more than likely, all the fledged young great tits have been fairly independent for a while now.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

What did I do in May? (Part 2)

I did spend some time trying to find the great spotted woodpeckers'nest. I had been looking for their new nest for a while, but without result. As it happens, I was looking in the wrong place...
On 13th May, I was awaken shortly before 6 by a call I had not heard in the back gardens for a long time. I quickly got up and checked: yes, a woodpecker was on the suet cake feeder on the balcony. Considering last year they had only visited when feeding their chicks, I think it is fair to assume that their chick(s) had hatched, which means that they should fledge about now.
After that first visit, at least the male became a daily visitor, initially only to the fat feeder, but then it discovered there were mealworms on offer... It initially couldn't figure out the feeder, but would take some from the dishes I also leave for them, one under the feeder and one on our bathroom window sill. The following 2 photos were taken on 27th May (through the window) and as you can see the hard work has been taking its toll, it was looking rather bedraggled (though still quite handsome imo):

(I have seen it take up to 10 at once)

Then a few days ago, it finally figured out how to get mealworms out of the feeder. Initially, only from the left hand side, but then also from the right hand side like on the photo below:

It is quite comical at times watching it as it often drops a few on a window sill below, to the delights of the tits who pick them up while their access to the feeder is blocked! [though I have seen one at least lose patience and get in on the other side]

Now, the nest. Since we could hear the chicks from a fair distance away last year I thought that I'd find it by listening carefully. I looked in the most remote parts, where I had seen them calling, getting insects (at one point I spotted the male pecking at the ground, which looked odd until I looked more closely once it had gone: it was an old tree stump), drumming... Nothing. Then, on 24th, a neighbour mentioned that she'd heard a strange call, repetitive, sounding like the woodpecker chicks last year while passing in the cemetery. In a spot I had not really checked as it is in a rather busy area. But almost as soon as I got there, the male arrived with food and 'directed' me the nest. No wonder I had not found it by sound, I had to be right in line with it to hear anything, and the hole being quite high, and probably the chicks quite low down, the sound was, albeit unmistakable, quite faint.

As of this lunchtime, the chick(s) was/were still in the nest; I managed to catch one just as Dad arrived with food: