Busy Birds

The birds are certainly busy in Malvern at the moment (as no doubt they are all across the country of course). There is a constant buzz of activity in the garden, be it gathering nesting material or just a feeding frenzy over the food we put out. The sparrows in particular have been keen on last year’s artichoke flowers for nesting material. It’s amazing how much they can stuff into their beaks, ending up with  ludicrously oversized moustaches!

Sparrow nesting material

In true Too Lazy fashion, we had left the old flowers standing thinking they would provide seeds for birds and maybe shelter for overwintering insects. We hadn’t realised they would make such good nesting material, but clearly the sparrows knew better. We’ve seen them plucking at the flowers in all weather, even when the high winds rock them about in the video below.

We already knew the blue tits had been checking out the bird box, so it was really nice to see this one taking nesting material in, although he or she did seem to be struggling a bit to get it all through the hole!

Birds of all sorts have been eating us out of house and home in the garden, hopefully building up their energy reserves for nesting. The blue tits regularly perform for the trail camera, but it was nice recently to get footage of the starlings and sparrows who have tended to be more camera shy. Being able to see the starlings close up like this you can appreciate what beautiful and colourful birds they really are – not just the plain black they can sometimes appear from a distance.

Starling on suet

The sparrows gather round the suet feeder in groups of up to about 8, although they can rarely manage to squeeze more than 3 or 4 on it at any one time.

There are still several species that have so far refused to be filmed although we see them regularly in the garden – Great Tits, Coal Tits, Goldfinches and of course the Sparrowhawk. Chris was out in the garden the other day, bent over a flower trying to get a shot of a bee, when the sparrowhawk swooped over him and grabbed a sparrow right out of the bushes. Chris carried on photographing the bee, oblivious to the action behind him! The trail camera was of course in the garden, but also pointed in the opposite direction. I could only watch frustrated from the living room, no camera within reach!


Dunnock Dating

The dunnocks in our garden are clearly getting frisky. They’re normally quite shy birds staying out of sight in our plentiful undergrowth, but this week I caught them displaying in a quite amazing fashion. (Look away now if you don’t want to see parts of a dunnock that are maybe best left to the imagination!)

I caught this pair outside the patio doors while I lolled on the sofa – fortunately for once a camera was within reach. As I hadn’t been anticipating a photo shoot, conditions weren’t ideal – I had to try and focus over the coffee table and dodge the cat’s scratch post; both of which obscured my view a bit, but I didn’t want to move and alert the dunnocks to my presence. So apologies if the photos aren’t quite as sharp as I’d have liked.

Dunnock pair

I thought at first the pair were just rooting about for food – and indeed that did seem to be what the male was mainly interested in. But the female started behaving very oddly. I thought at first there was something wrong with her – she seemed to be repeatedly straining her rear end (cloaca as I’ve since found out) while fluffing her feathers at the male. He didn’t seem particularly interested in her antics – can’t say I blame him, it wasn’t an attractive dance she did! The photos show her rear end in various stages of flexing (I did warn you to look away!)

Dunnock closed

Dunnock half open

Dunnock open

A quick bit of googling revealed that female dunnocks may mate with more than one male and that the males will peck at her cloaca to get her to eject the previous male’s sperm. This female seemed to be actively encouraging him to do so. I’d never heard of this behaviour, let alone seen it.  So you learn something new every day – even when just lolling about on your sofa!