16th May 2015

We’ve been having visits from this lovely little mouse, which I think has to be a Wood Mouse, though its ears don’t seem quite as big as they usually seem! Wood Mice are the most wide spread and common rodents in the UK, mostly coming out at night. They have brown backs and pale undersides, a long tail and big ears. Like all our native mice, they seldom survive from one summer to the next, so have to breed quickly to carry on the generations. They build complex burrows and networks of chambers, some of which they use as food stores. They often cover the entrance to their burrows with sticks and leaves. This one was eating seeds under the bird-feeders and was happy for me to creep quite close to it. Conditions: A breezy, dry day with sunny intervals. Temperature: Max 13- Min 8c.IMG_8804IMG_8822IMG_8814

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14th May 2015

A look at the declining Herring Gull, as I travel back up to Sheffield today. Every day, late afternoon, mum has a visit from this Herring Gull, at her new home overlooking Bexhill sea-front. It taps on her window, stands on the open threshold of the nearby door and sits on the balcony, staring at her staring back at it! A very welcome visitor. It gives a chance to identify this large gull’s main features:  the adult has a pale grey back,

Herring Gull in flight

Herring Gull in flight

The daily Herring Gull looking in through mum's window

The daily Herring Gull looking in through mum’s window

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Herring Gull

Herring Gull

black wing-tips with white ‘mirrors’, pink legs and a red patch on the underside of its beak. Juveniles are mottled browns and greys. At Bexhill at least they are still quite common but overall, despite increasingly turning up in urban settings and farmland, their population has dropped by 50% over the past 30 years. Conditions: After some lovely sunny weather recently, dry and cloudy in the north, wetter in the south. Temperature: Max 11- Min 5c. 

11th May 2015

Blue Tits– I’m travelling down to Sussex again today so the posts may be few and far between for a while but here’s the Blue Tits we have in the garden, the female displaying to be fed, to strengthen the mating bond, collecting feathers for a nest from our supply gathered from one of mum’s old feather pillows, and generally hanging around. The Blue Tits are nesting in next doors box so we still see lots of their activity. As with al female birds at present they’ll be using lots of energy and body-weight to produce about an egg a day, while having less time to feed. Conditions: Set fair with cloud and sun. Temperature: Max 17- Min 9c.

This Blue Tit really fluffed itself out after the heavy rain

This Blue Tit really fluffed itself out after the heavy rain

Over several weeks at this time of year, female Great and Blue Tits display by wing and tail fluttering, to stimulate the males attention and promote bonding

Over several weeks at this time of year, female Great and Blue Tits display by wing and tail fluttering, to stimulate the males attention and promote bonding

Attracted by the fluttering and calling, the male takes food to the female

Attracted by the fluttering and calling, the male takes food to the female

The female accepts the food

The female accepts the food- they choose high energy foods like this fat to help restore used energy from nest-building and egg-laying

The female does all the nest-building. Here she gathers some feathers we have hung up by the feeder

The female does all the nest-building. Here she gathers some feathers we have hung up by the feeder

10th May 2015

Nesting Great Tits and more– after nesting much later than last year, both ‘our’ Great Tits and Sian’s Blue Tits have been moving on apace. To our astonishment on Friday there were already 5 eggs in our box– they must’ve been well covered-over before because they usually lay one a day! Females of both species build nests and do all the incubating. At Sian’s for the weekend, we are eagerly watching to see if the Blue Tit lays. Meantime, other breeding birds to watch in the comfort of your armchairs- Sian, via

One of the pair of Great Tits now laying eggs in the bird-box

One of the pair of Great Tits now laying eggs in the bird-box

Great Tit on the occupied bird-box

Great Tit on the occupied bird-box

Poor photo but here are the five eggs

Poor photo but here are the five eggs laid by friday

a mate, found the wonderful Puffin webcams on Shetland (Search: visit.shetland.org/shetland-webcams . Scroll down the webcam sidebar, past the cam of the taxi queue on the pier (unless your wondering, like Shetlanders, how long you’d have to wait for a taxi!), and various others to the Puffin webcams- number 3 is most fruitful at present with Puffins, Guillemots, Fulmars et al.) Then search for the Dyfi Ospey Project where Glesni is once again sitting on eggs, and of course you can always watch the Sheffield Peregrines which are brooding 2 young (2 eggs not hatched). Conditions: Still, dry and mild with some sunny intervals. Temperature: Max 16- Min 12c.

9th May 2015

Last of the Heron mini-drama! Watching the juvenile Heron the other day I wondered why it’s head suddenly went up and it started croaking– then it’s crest went up in alarm and it took off, and into my view hove a large mature adult which afterwards chased the younger Heron right off the pond. Here are the photo’s. Conditions: After hours of very heavy rain late yesterday it is mostly dry with a few sunny intervals today. Temperature: Max 12- Min8 c.

First the young Heron croaks aggressively

First the young Heron croaks aggressively

Then up goes its crest and the wings are spread

Then up goes its crest and the wings are spread

In a display of submission it takes off

In a display of submission it takes off, crest still raised

Here's why- the dominant adult Heron usurps its feeding patch

Here’s why- the dominant adult Heron usurps its feeding patch

8th May 2015

The bodies and feathers of Herons can take on so many shapes and forms, depending on their behaviour, from hunched up when at rest, to extremely elongated, vertically and horizontally, as they search for and then reach for prey, or frighten off other creatures. They have special neck-vertebrae that allow their necks to be ‘folded’ up into a tight s-shape and rapidly extend in attack. They can also hunt after day due to special photoreceptor’s in their eyes. In a fairly fruitless attempt to cheer myself up today I am posting a few photo’s to illustrate some of these varied poses! The ‘fluffed up’ one was it’s attempt to appear bigger when attacked by a diminutive Moorhen. Conditions: Sunny intervals followed by long spells of heavy rain. Temperature: Max 12- Min 9c.

This Heron was trying to make itself more intimidating to an angry Moorhen, by fluffing its feathers out!

This Heron was trying to make itself more intimidating to an angry Moorhen, by fluffing its feathers out!

Or crouch down in a squat pose

They can crouch down in a squat pose

They can balance in a very elongated form while watching for fish

They can balance in a very elongated form while watching for fish and waiting, motionless, to strike

In this position they look almost Ostrich-like

In this position they look almost Ostrich-like

7th May 2015

Herons: I was lucky to be able to watch the juvenile Heron fishing over a long period, at Encliffe Park the other day- a wonderful sight you can see in most urban parks that have lakes. Here’s a few photo’s following the patient stalking they do. Conditions: Light showers and heavier cloud on this momentous polling day. Temperature: Max 12- Min 7c.

This  arcing pattern of spray happened most times as it pounced

This arcing pattern of spray happened most times as it pounced

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Success- it usually was successful

Success- it usually was successful

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