Fledgling Great Tits- the three remaining young in the bird box seem absolutely ready to leave. Sometimes you can only see one or two because they bury themselves inside the nest! Increasingly they are stretching and fluttering their wings in preparation to fly out. These seem well ahead of the fledgling Tits on Springwatch! Away for a few days, I’m sure to miss the moment! Conditions- Heavy cloud and light rain. Temperature: Max 13- Min 10c.
Bumblebees in our garden visit the wonderful Dusky Cranesbill (Geranium Phaeum in garden version) more than any other plant out at present. So easy to grow, the main Bumble Bees visiting today were the small Early Bumblebee and the lovely Carder Bee, the only common Bee you’ll see in the UK with a ginger thorax. Geranium Phaeum will grow almost anywhere, shade and sun, is easy to split- and Goldfinches will enjoy the seeds later in the year. Conditions: Cloudy with a breeze and some sun. Temperature: Max 18- Min 10c.
Magpies and Jays, like most of their cousins in the Crow (Corvid) family, will take the eggs and young of small birds. Both have been around the garden while the 5 fledglings in the Great Tit nest box have been reduced to 3. The Magpie was trying to get it’s beak into the nest hole so I suspected it in the first disappearance, and protected the entrance hole but the second died in the box, of no visible cause. The RSPB commissioned a study which shows that the huge decline in small song birds is the same in areas with few Magpies as in areas where they have increased. Food and nest site loss is much more likely to be the cause of the worrying decline. Conditions: Dry and still, with some sun. Temperature:Max 18- Min 10c.
Tree Mallow: Along Bexhill prom, mum was astonished to see this huge and beautiful plant, about 6 feet high, growing out of the shingle beach. It is the biennial Tree Mallow, and is native along Western cliffs and beaches but is thought to have naturalised from gardens in the south. It can be a nuisance on some Scottish Islands, making it hard for Puffins to get access to their burrows. Like all Mallows, parts of the plants are edible- the seeds and leaves. The leaves also used to be used as poultices for sprains. Conditions: Cloudy and dry. Temperature: Max 16- Min 9c.
The beautiful, very common Silverweed, prolific in damp, grassy places in many parts of Europe and North America, is a wild Potentilla. Long used in herbal remedies, the roots were also an important source of carbohydrate in North America and Scotland before the cultivation of Potatoes. The strong leaves were also used as insoles by weary walkers! Older writers call it Argentina, from the Latin ‘argent’/silver, for obvious reasons and seen with the dew on them the other morning, they really sparkled. Conditions: A cloudy, showery day. Temperature: Max 10- Min 9c.
Marsh Harrier. These wonderful birds, abundant in East Anglia in the early 19th century, became extinct in the UK by the end of the 19th Century. Now they are on the rise again, with over a hundred females in Norfolk alone. We watched a pair on Pevensey Marsh, East Sussex, last week. At this time of year the male makes food passes to the female in mid-air. Slow fliers, they can keep airborne at very low speeds for a big bird- less than 20mph. They are also adapting their behaviour- most still occur on moors or marshes but some are breeding among cereal crops. Back down south for a while so there will be a break in transmission! Conditions: Dry and sunny before the wet and unsettled days to come. Temperature: Max 16- Min 10c.
Great Tits– a photo summary of the Great Tits in our nest box. Great Tits are the most studied bird in the world, and quite likely to use a nest-box, though they tend to raise smaller numbers of chicks in a garden box than in their natural habitat of deciduous woodland. Caterpillars from Oaks normally provide the majority of their diet. Five chicks would need about 5,000 caterpillars to successfully grow and fledge, and a worrying number of feeds are nor caterpillars, so we will wait to see if they all thrive. Due to global warming, the coincidence of Great and Blue Tit births with the emergence of Oak Tortrix caterpillars is becoming less reliable. Conditions Sun and cloud, with a cool breeze. Temperature: Max 18- Min 10c.
Wheatears- It is hard to imagine that these lovelyy, robin-sized birds were trapped and eaten in their thousands in this country, for centuries. Migrating from Africa in early March and returning in September, Wheaters (the name derives from the white rump- from ‘white arse’) boosted the meagre income of South Downland shepherds until the early years of the 20th century. In 1842, for example, sixty dozen were sent to
London in one day, on the Eastbourne coach. 1,480 dozen were recorded trapped in the Eastbourne area alone in one year. In 1665 the Rev. Giles Moore records buying two dozen, for one shilling, in Lewes. Highly prized as a delicacy, they were often cooked, wrapped in vine leaves, and roasted. They like open ground- we watched this one on the cliff tops in Suffolk the other day. Conditions: Sun, cloud and cool breeze. Temperature: Max 12- Min 7c.
Mute Swans, Britain’s largest bird and one of the heaviest flying birds in the world, waste no time scaring other birds, predators or people away from their nests. This Grey Lag Goose sailed too close for comfort to the swan’s nest. First of all, Mute Swans try the ‘parallel swimming’ approach but it didn’t work with the large and also aggressive Grey Lag. So, then the Swan just swam headlong towards the Goose until it took off and disappeared to the other end of this pool at Wicken Fen. Conditions: Warm and sunny. Temperature: Max 20- Min 9c.
Otters– after years of watching for Otters, we were recently very lucky to watch this one, spotted by Lynn, at Minsmere, for half an hour, fishing. Its speed was astonishing, frequently leaping out of the water and successfully catching many fish. The hide window was closed at the time and no-one dared open it, so the photo’s aren’t great but the experience was! You will see much better shots, probably of this very Otter, on Springwatch at the end of May. Since virtually disappearing from central and south-east England by the 1970’s, due to organo-chlorine pesticides, habitat loss and persecution, they have made a steady recovery, even sighted on the River Don in Sheffield now. Conditions: The hot spell continues. Temperature: Max 20- Min 13