Dusting behaviour in birds– this Wren was recently displaying typical behaviour for Wrens following wetting it’s feathers in a pond. It took about quarter of an hour to thoroughly dust bath in a hollow. The Wren spread its wings, wriggled, ruffled all its feathers, and even disturbed dust into the air, so that every feather was dusted, preened and dried and the dust reached the skin. This is called ‘maintenance behaviour’, maintaining feather and skin health and cleanliness as well as using dust for its anti-parasitic properties. It also meant it stayed in one place long enough for lots of photos, whereas Wrens are often so quick and secretive in their movements they are a job to photograph! Conditions: Showers. Temperature: Max 13 Min 9c.
Treecreeper- this is usually a solitary and elusive bird, so well camouflaged on the bark of trees and among the leaves that it is hard to get a good look at one. I was really lucky to have this one briefly come down to the edge of a friend’s pond last week. Though its body is no longer than that of a Wren, its long, down-curved, slim bill and its long, stiff tail, which helps it balance while climbing up tree trunks, make it look bigger. The bill has evolved to prise insects, grubs and spiders out of crevices in tree-trunks, where it feeds. This photo shows the very long toes and claws which help it grip as it busily travels, always upwards and often in a spiral, round a tree before flying off to feed elsewhere
. Conditions: Heavy showers and some bright spells. Temperature: Max 16 Min 12C.
Chaffinches are one of our most common and widespread birds, often seen feeding on the ground around cafes, boldly picking up crumbs, or in gardens around feeders. Males are more colourful than females or juveniles but the distinguishing feature for all Chaffinches is the white wing bars, visible at rest and when flying. Watching this Male washing in a friend’s pond was lovely. Although quite restrained when bathing, compared to some birds, it revealed the range of colours, including the beautiful olive green lower back which is often not seen when watching the birds feeding, and the white tail bars. Conditions: the first rain for a few days after a spell of gorgeous sun and blue skies. Temperature: Max 18 Min 12C.
There is a juvenile Grey Heron fishing regularly on Monyash village pond where, incidentally, there are numerous breeding Goldfish, as well as native fish, due to someone in the past unadvisedly dumping their pets, which now thrive several generations on. This is probably a second year juvenile as, though it hasn’t yet got the glossy feathers and black markings of a fully adult bird, it does have the beginnings of a
. Even though not fully mature, its wingspan is huge, as the photos show. Conditions: Sun and cloud. Temperature: Max 15 Min 8C.
Great Spotted Woodpecker: I was photographing one of our favourite garden visitors yesterday (this is a female– no red patch on the back of its neck like the male) and noticed the tip of its tongue protruding from its bill as it tried to deal with a particularly sticky beakful of fat (spot in one of these photos). The Great Spotted Woodpecker has an extraordinarily long tongue- up to 40mm can protrude beyond its bill. It is so long it has to wrap it round inside its head when not in use. The tongue is also sticky- all this is so it can reach into deep cracks in the tree-trunks and rotting branches where it reaches for, and extracts its favourite insects and larvae. So this is a very limited view of the tongue that is in there somewhere! Conditions: Cloudy. Temperature: Max 16 Min 7C
How do bees know when it is worth visiting a flower for nectar? Bees and other insects have co-evolved with flowers for millennia. If you have ever closely watched Bees working a patch or a head of flowers, you will have seen them hovering around individual flowers before deciding which flower to land on and feed from. Some very clever research (involving artificial flowers and electrical charges) has shown that they
respond to an electrical charge as they circulate and explore. The bees are picking up on an electrical charge that is emitted by the flowers, a charge which gets higher when their nectar chambers are empty and lessen as they re-fill. So, a Bee can distinguish a flower that has enough nectar to make a visit worthwhile, as well as when the chambers are filled again, hence, as you watch, you will see them revisit a rejected flower a little later! Conditions: Cool and sunny. Temperature: Max 16 Min 11C.
We don’t get many Honey Bees in our garden, but there have been a few around the Knapweed lately. A honey bee may fly 5 miles for food, but on average they fly less than a mile. Still, in a strong colony, this means the females, the bees which gather nectar and pollen, fly the equivalent distance to the moon and back every day! They navigate largely by the sun and, being sensitive to polarised light, they can ‘see’ the sun through dense cloud. Their compound eyes see colour three times faster than the human eye. These Honey Bees may have come from hives I know are kept by a local bee-keeper, and discovered our wild flower patch as one of their sources of food. More on how bees detect their food, soon. Conditions: Mild with a strong breeze. Temperature: Max 20 Min 14 C