Fluffy Fledglings

As expected, the peregrine falcon eggs in the Bournemouth nest started to hatch this week. The first came in the early hours of the 24th April and the second came later the same day. You can see the second chick hatching with the first chick behind the adult in this still.

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The third chick hatched two days later, on 26th April. At the time of writing it appears that the fourth egg has yet to hatch- last year the fourth egg of the clutch didn’t hatch at all and given the long gap it seems unlikely it will now. I’ve been keeping an eye on the nest and if you watch the webcam in the morning’s you can often see the adults arrive for a feed.

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The three chicks are huddled together here as the adult hands them pieces of a huge kill. Mostly they are being fed pigeons which is hardly surprising in an urban area but this feed looks really like a lump of meat! Remember, you can watch the nest webcam online here and I’ll be keeping up with the chicks’ progress over the next few weeks.

More baby birds have appeared on my patch this week including this fluffy thing:

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It’s hard to identify from that shot alone but this is in fact one of a clutch of canada geese goslings. I spotted this family on the edge of the fishing lake with four very young babies.

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These are the only young canada geese I’ve seen so far but soon there will be quite a few and they will be collected together into a sort of nursery. Over on the nursery field some greylag geese have already arrived with their very small goslings. 

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You can just make out four goslings in this image. The greylags seem less confident than the canada geese and always stick to the far side of the nursery field. Incidentally, here’s a very clear shot of a different greylag on the fishing lake.

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Greylags are thought to be the ancestor of all domestic geese, though generations of breeding mean their domestic counterparts now look quite different.

I’ve got one more baby bird for you today, a young blackbird.

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There are several ways to know if you’ve seen a young bird. Generally their feathers are fluffier than in adult birds, particularly on the underside. They often still have the yellow part at the side of the beak which the parents can’t help but pass food towards. You can also often tell from their behaviour- they are often less jumpy than adult birds and might allow you to approach quite closely. It means you can get clear photos like this one but I always make sure never to disturb the birds too much.

I’ve got good views of a few birds out looking for food this week- they too may have young they need to feed. Here’s a grey heron, perhaps the same one I saw catching a rat a few weeks ago.

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Only metres away I spotted the kestrel that is often hovering for food over these fields next to the river Avon and for once I managed to get a photo of it.

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I am always amazed at how these birds of prey can hover so well, keeping their head absolutely still whilst their wings flap so quickly.

Finally, here’s a bird I talked about a little over the winter but now in it’s magnificent summer plumage, a black-tailed godwit.

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Black-tailed godwits are mainly winter visitors but I think this may be an unusual resident bird. There’s a fairly sizeable population over at Lymington-Keyhaven so it’s possible some birds breed here rather than migrate, especially with the mild winter we had this year.

That’s all for today so I shall see you in May!

 

The Egg Thief

I will start today’s post with an update on the nests I have been following. Last week I introduced you to the collared dove that is nesting on the bracket of our satellite dish. It had laid two eggs.

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Yesterday there the mother was not sat on the nest which has been very unusual over the past week. I went and had a closer look at the nest from an upstairs window and discovered it was empty. Something had taken the eggs.

We have a magpie who is a regular visitor to our garden and it is likely it found the nest and ate the eggs. It’s easy to feel sad about this but it’s nature. The magpies will be laying eggs soon so this meal can help to give them the energy to build their nest and look after their young. Our collared doves will likely try again elsewhere and maybe they will have learnt their lesson about building a nest in such an obvious place. Only a few hundred yards down the road is this nest which is harder to reach.

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Having better luck are the Bournemouth peregrines who this week managed to lay another two eggs, bringing the batch up to four (the same as last year).

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The eggs should start hatching around the 20th April. At the moment the eggs are being incubated virtually 24/7- this experienced pair certainly know what they are doing.

With Spring well and truly underway, the early butterflies are now fluttering around. I’ve seen a fair few brimstones around and also some peacocks which look absolutely stunning in the Spring sunlight.

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I have also noticed plenty of early bees and hoverflies buzzing around too. You would have thought pollen was limited at this time of year but this Tapered Drone Fly (Eristalis pertinax)  is covered in it!

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Fortunately I saw this adult rather than the maggot form as they sound really unpleasant. Tapered drone flies have ‘rat-tailed maggots’, the long tail acting like a snorkel as the organism breathes underwater. These larvae prefer water badly polluted with organic matter such as drainage ditches and pools around manure piles and sewage.

Not far away I saw some roe deer in a field.

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There were six deer here, five does and one buck. I can’t work out where these deer come from. There is the herd I usually see by the Avon not too far away and the lower New Forest deer are even closer but from either direction the deer would have to walk through built-up areas.

These deer will lose this site soon. A large development is being built on this site, at least sixty homes and likely more if the next phase of planning permission is granted. This is green belt land where I’ve also seen a kestrel hunting and a flock of meadow pipits. Then there’s the other environmental effects, like how this will affect the water drainage and adding even more cars to the local roads. In their wisdom New Forest District Council have decided none of that matters.

Let’s end on a happier note shall we? Here’s one more nest I’ve seen this week, a mute swan.

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Nesting Season

As I’d been hoping, the peregrine falcons nesting in the a clock tower in Bournemouth laid their first eggs this week. The first was laid sometime in the early hours of the 16th March.

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Then a second egg was laid at some point on the 18th March.

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Peregrines usually have a clutch of 3-4 eggs so I would expect one more egg to be laid in the coming days. The eggs should begin to hatch around about the 20th April. Getting these glimpses of the eggs was tricky as the majority of the time the mother has been sat on the eggs, keeping them warm.

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Meanwhile I’m really excited to have another nest to be able to share with you and this one is very close to home. Some Collared Doves have decided to nest on the bracket of our satellite dish!

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This is surprisingly a common place for this species to nest. Collared doves are one of the few species that benefit from living close to humans. They actually only nested in the UK for the first time in 1956 and the nest then was heavily guarded. Satellite dishes are actually decent nesting sites as they are well away from predators and if their is bird food around then there is a ready supply of food- like we have in our garden.

The position of the dish means it is very close to one of our windows which means from the right spot we can see directly into the nest.

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As you can see there are two eggs in the nest. This is the usual clutch size of collared doves and their may be as many as nine clutches in a year! They take about 14 days to hatch but I’m not totally sure when these were laid- hopefully they will hatch successfully and we will have some chicks within the next two weeks.

When I’ve been out and about this week I’ve seen lots of birds singing and displaying. The breeding season is here and as a result birds are suddenly very visible and audible. Here are a few of my favourites:

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Blue Tit
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Robin
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Little Egret (with a particularly long plume)
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Great Crested Grebe

This week I’ve noticed that the wood anemones (Anemone nemorosahave come into flower.

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For most of the year these plants are not visible- they are just ‘rhizomes’, a sort of lumpy root under the soil. In early Spring they grow out of the ground and flower from now until May. They are actually ineffective at spreading via seeds and mostly spread through their roots which is why you can get carpets of wood anemones in some woodland.

Finally, let’s end with a fungus!

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I’ve been all through my fungi book but still have no idea what this is. It looks spectacular though!

If you want more regular updates on the peregrines and collared doves then you can follow me on Twitter @dangoeswild1. You can also find the peregrine webcam here– I’ve just watched the male feed a pigeon to the female!

Primroses and Peregrines

Spring is so very close now and the temperature is starting to reflect this. We seem to have spent much of the week here trapped in mist which doesn’t feel very spring-like at all.

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I found these wild primroses (Primula vulgaristhis week. The colour of the flowers vary but these are the more common pale yellow colour. The name comes from the old French ‘primerose’ meaning ‘first rose’, highlighting the fact it is one of the earliest flowering plants of the year. Despite the name it bears no relation to true roses.

Not far from these primroses I spotted this grey squirrel munching on something on top of a fence.

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It is likely that this squirrel has recently had a litter of young, or is about to. Grey squirrels usually have two litters a year, the first around February/March and the second around June/July. This is likely to be a male squirrel as females are probably with their young in the drey at the moment. Male grey squirrels do not form pair bonds so don’t worry about looking after their young, hence why this individual looks so relaxed!

My other mammal spot of the week were the Avon roe deer. They appeared to be very relaxed when I saw them today, sat on the grass.

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Here we can see a female (doe) and a male (buck). This particular doe caught my attention as she is unusually pale for this herd of deer. The colour of the buck is typical for the deer I’ve seen by the Avon but this doe is much lighter. It’s always interesting to see the natural variation of animals, especially when they are likely to have fairly similar genetics. This doe should be easy to identify so I shall name her Sandy and look out for her in future.

I’ve been eagerly awaiting by first butterfly of the year and it appeared today. I didn’t get a great view so couldn’t be sure on the species but from my limited view and the time of year it seems likely it was a brimstone.

I also saw my first moth of the year yesterday, sat on a fence post on the cliff top in Bournemouth. It’s probably a Common Plume moth but is certainly a member of the plume (Pterophoridae) family.

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Whilst I was in Bournemouth I also had a look for the peregrine falcons that nest in the clock tower of Bournemouth and Poole college. There were plenty of pigeons around the building, an excellent source of food for the peregrines, but no sign of the falcons themselves. Fortunately there is a handy webcam of their nesting eyrie.

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This screenshot was taken this morning where the falcon appeared to be tidying up the nest. Last year the female falcon laid the first eggs in the early hours of the 15th March. If that’s typical then we can expect the eggs to be laid this week! The pair of peregrines successfully raised three young in 2016, two males and a female- with any luck they will do just as well this year.

I shall be keeping an eye on the webcam and will be eagerly awaiting the eggs. You can do the same on this link.

Black Kite and Peregrine Chicks!

April was a particularly strange month weather-wise. You expect fairly warm temperatures with lots of showers. Towards the end of the month the temperature was a fair way below average and we were having frosts, snow and hail which is particularly unusual in the South of England in April.

Still, whilst the weather might not realise it’s Spring the wildlife certainly seems to. Activity on our garden feeders has increased dramatically. As well as the continuous rush of house sparrows and starlings we are now regularly visited by a few blackbird and pairs of both robins and goldfinches. I love all the birds that come to the garden but the goldfinches are so beautiful it’s always a particular joy to seem them.

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Various migrants are returning for the warmer months. There are now plenty of swallows swooping over the local lake and I saw my first swift of the Spring this afternoon. I’ve also heard several cuckoos over the last few weeks in the New Forest.

I saw a particularly exciting migrant this morning which trumps the others though: a black kite. I was driving to Salisbury and got a really clear view of the bird flying fairly close to the road. Initially I thought it was a red kite but the colour and look was slightly wrong. I later discovered that a black kite was spotted at Blashford Lakes on Saturday. Given that I was 11 miles further North two days later I think it’s likely this was the same bird. You can see a picture of that exact bird taken at Blashford here.

Black Kites migrate to Africa in the Winter and breed commonly across Southern Europe and Central France. They are pushing slowly Northward but are occasional overshoot migrants in Britain. Blashford Lakes have several records of them over recent years though so perhaps they are a bird we will be seeing more of in years to come.

In other bird of prey news it looks like Bournemouth’s Peregrine Falcons are doing well. Three of the four eggs have now hatched and look to be doing well. They seemed to be really enjoying a feed of what was probably a pigeon as you can see below. I promise you there’s three chicks there somewhere! It’s possible that the fourth egg may yet hatch but only time will tell. You can watch the peregrine 24/7 here.

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I thought it might be interesting to seek out some other local bird webcams and I’ve found several.

Over in Poole Harbour is Brownsea Island and Dorset Wildlife Trust has a webcam on the lagoon there. It mostly seems to be occupied by black-headed gulls at the moment but over the few years since the camera was set up 75 different species of bird have been seen there. Unlike nest cameras this one runs 365 days a year and if anything is even more interesting in the Winter. You can view it here.

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Also on Poole Harbour is the RSPB’s Arne Nature Reserve which currently hosts a webcam in a Kestrel nest. There are five eggs in the nest, all of which have yet to hatch. You can see them below, although unfortunately I missed getting a shot of the mother sat on the eggs. You can see the webcam by clicking here.

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I shall keep my eye out for other local webcams as well as keeping you updated on these ones.

To end, here’s my only recent wildlife photo and not a very good one- a female fallow deer hidden in the trees. It might take you a second to spot it!

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Live Bournemouth Peregrines

You can now watch live Peregrine Falcons on a webcam in Bournemouth! Just visit www.bournemouthperegrines.org.uk and there they are!

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Peregrine falcons began to see regularly in Bournemouth from around 2005 and since 2009 a pair have nested every year on the Bournemouth and Poole College clock tower. There are few records of how successful they’ve been there but that all changes in 2016 with a new webcam.

The female peregrine laid four eggs in the early hours of the 15th March and the first egg hatched very recently, possibly yesterday. Here’s an image of that tiny first chick:

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I have been watching on and off but there is no sign of the other eggs hatching just yet but we will just have to keep waiting. I have seen the first chick being fed what looked like a grey squirrel though which was great to see.

I shall be keeping an eye on the webcam and will update occasionally on the birds progress. My fingers are crossed that everything goes well!

[Source: Bournemouth Peregrines]