Thursday, 25 April 2013

Grounded Migrants

Willow Warbler, grounded. (c.OOS)
Its nearly 10 days ago now, but the first wave of warm southerly winds brought rain and mist, and with it quite a few migrant birds waiting to complete their north bound seasonal journey.

This is usually most noticable on the coast, on headlands or offshore islands where the sudden local change in bird populations has long attracted students of migration to witness the sometimes huge falls of migrants. It's 
great to get even a thin slice of this action, inland and out of the way in county Wicklow.. and so it was.. the wet, dew covered lawn was hopping with Willow Warblers, one of our commonest migrants.  It's interesting that a bird closely associated with feeding in trees such as willows, will forage on open ground.. I wonder is there an easy insect food source to be found in the saturated grass?  A day later they had retreated to the tree cover, well hidden and only identifiable by that lovely twittering cascade of notes, a true sound of spring.

Willow Warbler: up close.. note the pale legs and feet,mustardy coloured (c. M. Finn)

So much for grounded migrants. .. we had a few grounded mammals in too: 

Sika Deer  young and mum? (c.OOS)
Always a pretty sight, Sika deer also annoy in equal measure: they browse young trees and shrubs as well as break branches, seemingly for fun.. Knowing their capacity for food, I was still surprised to see a young animal descend on the seed feeder, the 'no more mess' mix is obviously attractive to them! 

Sika Feeder: no more mess! (c.OOS)


Friday, 12 April 2013

Migrants and spring displays, at last..

It is surely only a matter of a few days now before we record our first spring migrants?  Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and Swallow are all overdue, though already there has been a scattering of records from the coast. Overall I would say we are a good two or three weeks behind 'schedule', and the plants are too..

Male Blackcap on the Apples (c.OOS)

There's still lots of interest around the garden though: Siskins are ever present, characteristically clinging upside down to the peanut feeders.  This is a peak month with us for Siskins. We had passage of Redwings on freshly ploughed stubble fields, just for one day and a male Blackcap made it on to the spiked apple.. heretofore we only recorded Blackbirds and Blue Tits on this food source, Blackcaps only visit this garden in summer, usually well hidden but singing consistently and breeding locally.  My guess is that this particular bird has arrived from southern Europe, starving, judging by its feeding behaviour.  It fed voraciously for most of the day on a large Braeburn Apple and never uttered any note or song on its brief retreats from the food source.  Blackcaps have evolved an intriguing migration strategy whereby the northern European breeding population winter in Ireland and our own breeding population winter in Africa before returning to us in April.

There's more bird song from the members of the Tit family and unruly challenges around the feeders from mobs of Great and Coal Tits.. The former have a habit of forming a loose maul of five or six birds that chase through the hedgerow, actually making group contact with one or more unfortunate individuals.  Robins, Greenfinches and Blackbirds are noticably more vocal now, so every bird appears anxious to move on to the new season!

I think we're compatible! (c. OOS)
Much more controlled and stylish is the courtship display of a pair of Pheasants.  The male is like a matador, stalking along side the female, wing stretched and arched towards her, as well as the tail. (lateral display)  

This is my good side! (c.OOS)
The wattles and ear tufts on the head are fully extended and every shade and colour of the plumage is pitched to have maximum appeal and effect.. and the response is.. quiet disinterest, for the moment anyway! 

Must go! (c.OOS)