Hedges and Maybe Fledges?

It’s been a mixed week with the trail cam this last week or so. We’ve either had two happy successes in the garden or one success and one disappointment and we can’t work out which.  The undecided is our baby blue tits.

We’ve been filming the adults going in and out for a few weeks now. They seemed to be doing a good job feeding the babies and we could hear chicks chirping. Then suddenly about 9am last Wednesday the adults started flying back to the box with caterpillars, stopping, peering in and looking confused. We’d had the trail cam on the box continuously and this was a very marked change in behaviour. For the first couple of mini video clips I thought great – because the adults were hanging around outside, clutching the food which made for much better shots. But after the 20th clip of the same thing, we started to worry. We also couldn’t hear the chicks tweeting any more. There was no evidence on any of the films of predation (next door’s cat had been a likely candidate, but couldn’t reach the box with the chicken wire over it). Could the chicks have all fledged and the camera just missed them leaving the box? Have they just died in the box – why would they, when the parents were doing a good job with the food?  Here are a couple of clips of the confused looking adults.

The adults seem to have stopped using the box now, so we could check to see if there are dead chicks in there, but while we don’t know for sure, there’s still hope that they did fledge and it’s a happy ending. The adults are still feeding in the garden and disappear into various trees, so it could be there are chicks hiding amongst the leaves. There’s a lot of general chirping in our apple tree and next door’s damson tree, so fingers crossed they made it.

The definite happy event is that our hedgehog is back! He or she may have been around for weeks, but as we’ve had the trail cam pointed up for bird activity rather than down on the grass we hadn’t realised. So the upside of the end of the bird box activity was that I tried filming downwards at night instead of up! And lo and behold the hedgehog trundled into view.  The first film is a bit blurry – wrong lens or LED setting or something technical (blame the operator!)

Second attempt is a bit sharper and I’d added a bowl of catfood as a bit of a temptation which seemed to do the trick.

Previous years we’ve had a pair of hedgehogs (but of course no trail cam to record them), so fingers crossed we have two this year too. So hopefully more hedgehog action to come.

If anyone can shed any light on the blue tit behaviour – any thoughts would be much appreciated. It will be disappointing if they’ve fledged and the camera missed it, but not as disappointing as if they didn’t make it at all. One final happy thought though – when up this morning before 5am to empty the moth trap and check the hedgehog cam, I spotted what looked like a pair of Long Tailed Tit chicks in the apple tree – so one happy little bird family in the garden at least.

 

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!

 

Baby Blues (hopefully)

In the last couple of weeks the posts seem to have been colour themed, first red, then yellow and now blue! The big blue news is that the Blue Tits are nesting!! So excited to see them using the bird box (the old one of course – they’ve turned their beaks up at the new deluxe one!) The brief video clip below shows both adults flying in and one exiting again. I think at this stage they were still making the nest as we saw them with nesting material.

The photo below is a still taken from the film. Hopefully things will go well for our pair and we can give updates on their progress – fingers crossed for a successful fledging and baby blue tits.

Blue Tit on Bird Box

The other big blue news is that our bluebell is flowering. It is bluebell singular and has been since it appeared in the garden a few years ago. The Malvern Hills themselves will soon be ablaze with  blue, but our garden has to make do with this lonesome individual each year.

Bluebell

The blue tones seem to be spreading round the garden too, with the emergence of several other blue hued flowers. These pretty little Violas are springing up all over the place in the shadier areas.Viola

And today I spotted these tiny Speedwell flowers hidden amongst the grasses. Not the easiest to photograph as they are so damn small. I didn’t realise they were so hairy either until I downloaded the photos.

Speedwell

And finally, no blue post would be complete without Forget-me-nots. These bright little flowers have been a favourite since I was a child (many moons ago) and are a sort of unofficial totem for Too Lazy To Weed. They spring up wherever we haven’t weeded – so pretty much over the whole garden!

Forget me not