Friday, 20 June 2014

The Young Ones

The middle of June and the nest boxes are buzzing with activity.. well, not really buzzing, this is the "tsee-tsee, see-see" season after all!

The cutest of them all..  a young Blue Tit  (c.OOS)

Once the new recruits from the tit boxes and elsewhere vacate their first home, its time for them to sit around in deep cover and beg their parents to feed them, one more time.. to the confusion of us birders who can't sort out the "see-see" calls of the young birds, closer than 'one of the tit family'.

A young Great Tit also sports lemon cheeks (c.OOS)

I have noticed that the adult birds fondness for peanuts, even in the summer season doesn't abate.  One pair of Blue Tits with young in nest box were quite happy to take the short trip to the peanut feeder, repeatedly, to bring a swift feed back to their youngsters. This in spite of the hot, dry weather and presumed abundance of wild prey in the form of caterpillars and various tree living inverts or creepie-crawlies around the hedgerows ( the flowering elder trees are particularly productive at this time). The birds are happy to take to the feeder for a handy high protein food, broken down in to small morsels for the young birds.  This is important as large lumps of nuts or full kernels would likely choke the birds, so keep the nuts in a well maintained mesh feeder and the adults will sort it from there.

Young Coal Tit waits its turn at the nuts (c.OOS)

Once on the wing, the young make for the willow tree with hanging feeder and have quickly learnt that begging is less productive than actually clinging on and self feeding.  When the feeder was empty , the adults had no bother reverting to the elder tree and bringing back juicy invert. prey.. 

So the lesson,if any, is: protein snacks from the feeder are well appreciated, but natural food is easily as important, probably higher in protein and comes with moisture locked in, handy in these hot,hot days.

A Young Greenfinch called all evening from the Elder tree  (c.OOS)

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Summer nights

Long eared Owl (c.OOS)
Yes, its actually warm enough to be out and about the garden after the sun goes sliding down.. Have had a few evenings of 40 minutes watching and listening at dusk.. the chorus of Song Thrush , blackbird and Robin drops to a few individuals, ever more distant and fading.. time for the Pipestrelle bats to catch the eye, their jerky flight keeps this viewer on his toes.  I was lucky enough to hear a roding Woodcock on 2 evenings:  the  short flight call, 'whiss-ick'  followed by the hint of the grunting pig like note, all carried out while on the wing in a kind of slow motion celebration of the night. 

 It's Long eared Owls I am really after: the pursuit of nocturnal birds on the island of Ireland is somewhat challenging: not too many species to choose from and then their is scarcity of those that do occur, the Barn Owl being a case in point.  Long eared Owl is relatively common in Irish woodland.. they have no competition from the likes of Tawny Owl, as happens in the UK. 

 They are not great in the vocalisation department though.. however the young have a distinctive call , the so called food begging call, which can be heard by day as well as at dusk.  The bird books refer to it as sounding like a squeky, unoiled hinge or gate.  Now is the time to listen out for this food call: 'a whining, metallic 'zeen'.  We would love to hear of any observations, e mail me at if you have anything to report.

Great Tit (c. OOS)

A few nestboxes are occupied, a pair of Great Tits make the short flight from their box on an old Sycamore to the Peanut feeder.. A protein boost for busy parents: the pursuit of inverts., or creepy crawlies will begin in earnest when the young hatch.

I have refilled the Nyjer feeder, the Siskins and Greenfinches are regular enough visitors, a great chance to see them and compare their size and plumage.
Siskin on the left, and Greenfinch. (c.OOS)