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.
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,
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.