Saturday, 7 June 2014

Tis the season to get fledging!

After all the built-up excitement around our two nesting bird families, the nuthatches and blue tits, I had to come to the conclusion over the past couple of weeks that the chicks have now already fledged. I wasn't fortunate enough to catch the event as it happened and I suspect this will be because the parents chose a very early morning when the garden would have been much quieter and therefore safer for the fledglings. As disappointing as this realisation was, I still feel very fortunate to have witnessed the activity that I did. Seeing the nuthatches excavate their nest hole and patch it up with mud; watching the blue tits pulling tufts of cat and horse hair into the nestbox; hearing both blue tit and nuthatch chicks chirping away whenever a parent bird arrived with a wriggling grub in their beak. This is behaviour that I've never been lucky enough to see before and for that reason, I feel very fortunate.

That said, this past week or so has made up for the lack of fledging activity as the garden has played host to a variety of species, young and old. For a while, during the nesting period, it all went very quiet out there and if the nuthatches and tits hadn't been nesting, I think it would have been a rather dull few weeks, bird-wise! Understandably, during that time, all breeds of adult birds are very much occupied by the important task of raising a brood of chicks, something that doesn't allow for much lesiure time to visit feeders. I have noticed now that the garden has come alive again. It's absolutely bursting with life, including all our usual suspects; robins, blue, coal and marsh tits, blackbirds, dunnocks, chaffinches, woodpigeons, nuthatches, great tits and great spotted woodpeckers. Those last two are the most exciting to me, as it hasn't only been the adults I've spotted!

At one point maybe a fortnight ago, I noticed one rather scruffy-looking great tit pecking around on the grass, watched very closely by an adult. The bedraggled bird still had some of it's downy chick feathers attached and it was very yellow. Several days after this and daily since, the feeding station has been bustling with a flock of juvenile great tits, maybe eight or nine of them, all still with a yellow tinge but well-developed and the same size as their parents. They all stay close together, choosing to huddle in the surrounding trees and jostle for space on the feeders. There is a lot of chasing too and once one or two take off, the rest seem to follow quite quickly!
We are certainly no strangers to the woodpeckers in our garden. It is a daily occurrence to see at least one of them on the peanuts, but more likely we will see both the male and female on separate visits throughout the day. Occasionally they visit together which is a wonderful sight. This week though they have been joined by a juvenile and I have assumed that it is their chick, although I know that there is more than one pair of woodpeckers in our area. It was instantly recognisable by the nearly all-red cap and rather sandy coloured belly feathers. The behaviour too, especially when it was joined by one of it's parents, was a very good indication that this was a recently-fledged juvenile. When I first spotted it, the adult male was also there and the juvenile hung from the top of the feeder waiting to be fed by the adult. 
I took this picture at the end of May and since then, the red cap has started to fade towards the back. All three of the woodpeckers are certainly making good use of the peanuts as they are almost permanently hanging from them. Frequently,  I see both the juvenile and one of the adults together on the feeding station and on a few occasions I have seen all three of them together in the garden. One of these moments looked like it could have been a flying lesson for the juvenile as it was hopping from trunk to fence and then flying low across the garden. 
They have such a distinguishing call as well that I quite often hear them before I see them! I often remind myself of how lucky we are to have woodpeckers visiting. I know our rural location is the reason we get such a wide variety of visitors and I never take this for granted.

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