A Gaggle of Goslings

I had a rare week off from blogging last week. I try to find different things to talk about each week and sometimes it just so happens that I’ve been unlucky and don’t have much wildlife to share with you. Fortunately though I’ve collected enough to be back today.

I’ve been enjoying keeping an eye on the small field that serves as the nursery area for the local canada geese. As each clutch of goslings hatch they are walked to the nursery field by their parents and all the goslings mix together.

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Last week I counted 45 goslings at one time which seems like even more than usual! By grouping together like a few adults can keep many goslings safe from predators.

I came across a brood of mallard ducklings today sheltering on the shore of the fishing lake.

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Given their size and location I think there’s a likelihood this is the same brood I spotted a few weeks ago when they are very young. There were fifteen ducklings then and were only four today- it’s entirely possible that the missing eleven ducklings were all predated. It shows how hard it is to raise young in the wild and why it’s worth having so many young if over a quarter of them are lost.

This week the first starling fledglings started to arrive in the garden. They are fun to watch as they stagger around, not quite in full control of their limbs yet, and beg their parents for food.

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I haven’t seen much of the Avon roe deer over the last month or so. I suspect that with the arrival of Spring they have more options for places to eat. I did spot several individuals yesterday though they can be difficult to see in the long grass.

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As you can imagine, when this buck had it’s head down and was eating you could barely see it at all. It’s around this time of year that roe deer start to give birth to their young so I shall be looking out for that, though I suspect the fawns will be almost invisible in this sort of foliage.

Apologies to arachnophobes but here’s a magnificent spider I found this week:

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This is a nursery web spider (Pisaura mirabilis). Like many spiders this species has interesting mating behaviour. Males approach potential females with a gift, a fly or other insect wrapped up ready to eat. When the female bites on the gift the male starts to mate with her. To make sure the job gets done he keeps one leg on the gift in case the female tries to escape with it or attack him. If this does happen the male will pretend to be dead (it’s called ‘thanatosis’) and will be dragged along by the leg touching the gift. When the female stops the male carries on mating.

Here’s another invertebrate I spotted recently:

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I’m not entirely confident on the ID of this one. It certainly looks like a grasshopper or cricket with that leg structure, possible a roesel’s bush cricket. It’s early in the year and this looks really small so I would hypothesise that it’s a nymph. Females are green so this is a male (assuming I’ve managed to identify the right species).

I was disturbed to see in the news recently that Theresa May and other members of the conservative party want to repeal the ban on fox hunting. When polled, 89% of the British public said they agreed with the ban. May has often stressed how she follows the public’s wishes, seeking out a Brexit deal, so it seems hypocritical for her to go against the public on this. Besides, with Brexit and the issues with healthcare and education funding fox hunting doesn’t feel like it ought to be something the government is even thinking about at present.

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!

 

Chicken of the Woods

I’ll begin today with what will probably be my final mention of the canada geese this summer. It requires a close look to tell which individuals are this year’s young now as they’ve grown so much.

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I found earlier in the week that geese, presumably from all over the area, are now gathering in huge numbers inside one of the meanders of the Avon.

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This afternoon I headed to my regular haunt of Blashford Lakes Nature Reserve. I spent a fair bit of my time in the woodland hide. It’s not the best time of year to see birds there- they’ve all had their young and aren’t so desperate for food now- but you are guaranteed to see lots of birds anyway.

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Chaffinch
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Juvenile Blue Tit 
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I saw one bird which was a little more unusual, though I am not certain on the identification. After some analysis I think this bird is a chiffchaff (although it may be a willow warbler- they look very similar and are usually identified by their songs).

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It’s always a surprise to see how many mammals can be seen from this hide. As usual there was a grey squirrel enjoying the dropped bird seed.

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There were also 3 or 4 bank voles running around the bottom of the feeders.

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Like the woodland birds, the freshwater bird season has largely come to an end but the usual suspects were around.

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Coot
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Grey Heron
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At Blashford I finally managed to get a clear photo of a butterfly I’ve seen a few time over the last week, the speckled wood.

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I’ve also seen quite a few holly blues around the area this week too.

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There were a few large fungi growing in the Blashford Woods like this Dryad’s Saddle. The name comes from the idea that dryads, tree nymphs from Greek mythology, could sit on the fungus.

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I also found this striking chicken of the woods. This one gets it’s name as it is edible and supposedly tastes like chicken! It’s a great name which I couldn’t resist using as today’s title.

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That’s all for today but there will be a special post on Friday so stay tuned for that.

Warm Wildlife

Summer has finally decided to put in an appearance this week. The temperature here yesterday was around 32° C and it’s been an uncomfortable few days and nights for us humans. The poor wildlife are stuck outdoors in it 24/7.

The Canada Geese haven’t been spending much time on the fields this week. With the majority of the goslings reaching near-adult size they are now spending most of their time on the lake, under the shade during the hotter parts of the day.

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Meanwhile, the mammals are seeking the shade of the trees where possible. I saw this roe deer near the lake on Monday- I think they come down into the wooded areas of the New Forest to avoid the heat of the open heathland.

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The oak trees near the lake are home to a fair few grey squirrels. They seem to be spending a lot of time on the ground at the moment, presumably avoiding the heat above. Being fairly rural squirrels these ones aren’t keen on people and hurtle up the trees as soon as you go near.

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Life for smaller birds goes on largely as normal-you always need to eat after all. This is one of the Collared doves which frequents the garden and has learnt how to access one of the bird feeders.

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It’s a precarious balancing act though and doesn’t always look so graceful:

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The warmer weather is good news for some with the local butterflies starting to appear in some numbers. I’ve seen some of the usual suspects…

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Meadow Brown
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…and some less common species.

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Silver-Washed Fritllary 
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I have been keeping an eye on a nest which is in a box on the side of a telephone pole. Sadly when I walked past this evening I noticed a chick had obviously fallen from the nest and was squawking away.

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I would have tried to put the chick back in the nest but given that it was some two metres above my head on a telephone pole it was impossible. The chick has no hope of surviving but I hope at least it will feed a hungry predator.

For me it was a reminder of the fragility of life in the wild. Rarely outside of TV do you get to follow individual animals, and even then you don’t see their demise. But in reality every thing you see is fighting for it’s very survival and often things go tragically wrong.

Well that was a melancholy ending wasn’t it? There’s good news though; I work in a school and have just finished for the summer holidays. That means I will have plenty more time over the next six weeks to get out into the wild so I hope to bring you lots of exciting things here in the coming weeks!

Acrobatic Snails

I have some good news to start with today. I’ve been watching out for weeks to see if a second Great Crested Grebe would appear on the local fishing lake. I feared that this year there was one lonely grebe. But finally I’ve seen it with a partner!

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Meanwhile the Canada Geese goslings are gradually growing older. They are still crossing between the lake and the field opposite on a regular basis and are still very entertaining as they do so. You can see the front gosling here is starting to get it’s adult colours.

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I’ve managed to capture some photos of some of the bigger birds that live locally. I was just heading out of the housing estate and disturbed a grey heron which was stood on a rooftop. I haven’t quite worked out why these birds occasionally come into the estate and sit on random rooves.

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This evening I saw this buzzard circling around the area. It was very high up and there were obviously excellent thermals as this bird seemed to hover for astonishing lengths of time without flapping it’s wings.

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There is lots of Rosebay Willowherb in the hedges on the edge of the lake and they are really popular with pollinators.

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With an abundance of insects in the area there is lots of food for the local birds, like this female chaffinch:

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The garden bird feeders are still fairly busy with lots of starlings and goldfinches feeding a lot over the past week.

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Bird feeders aren’t just for birds though. You would have thought that this particular feeder was difficult to reach for anything other than birds:

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But as you can make out in that picture it appears that several snails have found their way onto this feeder. There must be something in the mixture that they really like. It was amazing to watch this individual make its way to the food, at a fast pace for a snail.

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There are also loads of blackbirds in the area at the moment. We get the odd one in the garden but they can be seen more often on the grass verges and the playing field at the end of the road.

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Finally today I have a damsel and a dragon to share with you that I saw when walking by the River Avon on Sunday. There were hundreds of these banded demoisellearound.

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And this is a rather worn male black-tailed skimmer dragonfly:

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Wildlife In Focus

On Sunday we finally got some sunnier, warmer weather and the local butterflies seemed as pleased as me about this. Meadow Browns were out in particular abundance and I saw various other species like Small WhitesRed Admirals and this beautiful Comma:

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And I also managed to spot this stunning Scarlet Tiger Moth:

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Due to the heat there weren’t many other creatures out in the open but I did catch this swan keeping cool in the river.

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On Monday evening I was surprised when I ran into this roe deer near the fishing lake. I’ve never seen deer this close to home before (about five minutes away). It was on farmland at the edge of our housing estate. I was also surprised how confident it seemed for a deer- it stood fairly calmly and looked back at me and didn’t even run off when I eventually continued on my way.

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I’ve gradually been getting more into wildlife blogging and photography. You may well have noticed that my photos are mostly of poor quality, especially if the creature I was photographing was far away. This was because I was using a really rubbish camera. Unlike many other bloggers I don’t have the budget for expensive camera equipment but I realised I could afford a new camera.

For those interested, I’ve bought a Nikon Coolpix L340- it’s hardly the best camera on the market but it’s not bad for £100. My old camera had a 4x zoom- this has a 28x zoom! This means I now actually have a half decent camera so I can capture better photos and more wildlife than before.

My first outing with the new camera was past the Canada Goose nursery. Several times this week I’ve seen the nursery move from the fishing lake to the fields opposite. They go under the fisherman’s gate and cross the gravel track where the fishermen park. It’s a fantastically entertaining sight.

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The longer zoom means I can capture some wildlife I wouldn’t have been able to before, like this small bird. I’m not certain but I think this is a juvenile robin.

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I also spotted this rabbit. I think rabbits are one of our more underrated mammals, perhaps because they are so very common. I always think that every animal is interesting whether small, like insects, or common, like rabbits or pigeons. It is estimated there are about six rabbits for every human in the UK. They were brought over from Europe after the Norman Conquest in 1066 and the fact they are now so common, despite how often they are predated upon, shows how successful they are as an animal.

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I’ve discussed the peregrines falcons nesting in Bournemouth but there are also a pair fairly close by in Salisbury Cathedral. They’ve had two chicks but one of the youngest, a male named Raphael, got in trouble when it tried to fledge in high winds last week. Thanks to human interaction it was kept safe and both young are now doing OK. For more on this story check out the Salisbury Cathedral news story.

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Raphael [Source]
That’s all for today but I can’t wait to bring you some great wildlife using my new camera!

Dragonflies and Dartford Warblers

I think I will start today with one of my more exciting spots. Here’s a very poor photo of the bird in question:

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It’s hardly my finest photography work I will admit. But that bird is a Dartford Warbler. It’s one of those species twitchers get excited about and I was pleased to see a fair few of these today. Some were very close to the path and I got a really clear view of them. They are distinctive birds so I knew exactly what they were immediately. I saw these in area of the New Forest very close to Ringwood- Google Maps calls it “Kingston Common National Nature Reserve”.

I had an excellent day up in the forest and saw a few other interestings too, in between getting soaked by a monsoon-esque rain storm. Here is a really cool funnel web made by a Labyrinth Spider:

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The spider was home and retreated deeper into the funnel as I peered down to take a look. Somewhere at the bottom of that tunnel are probably some eggs.

I also found a pond with some stunning dragonflies darting over it. This one is a male Broad-Bodied Chaser.

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And another blurry photo for which I can give a positive ID is this Emperor Dragonfly:

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I thought it was about time for an update on the goose nursery I’ve been following. Here’s the nursery yesterday:

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As you can see, it’s empty other than the odd rabbit. But in a field a little further along the path (and frustratingly obstructed by plants) was this view:

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So it seems there are still some goslings around. I’m intrigued why the nursery has moved- I’ve been watching all week and that is definitely the case. My assumption is that whatever food source drew the geese to the original site has dried up. There are now considerably fewer young geese out on the fields. I was interested to see the younger geese out on the fishing lake and swimming in a mixed species line-both canada geese and greylag geese.

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Meanwhile it has reached that time of year when our garden becomes overrun with starlings.

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We easily get 20+ starlings every time the food is refilled. I guess this is because most of the nesting is done and now we the juveniles are starting to get their adult colours and are pretty much independent. Before the harsher weather comes and reduces the population we have a few months of starling chaos!

A few random things to end today. Here’s a hoverfly I spotted, Eristalis pertinax:

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And I have had another fungus from my Blashford Lakes trip identified. This is a Ganoderma species. You can see some white parts on the fungus which look like they may be a different species but are actually parts which have grown this year.

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Enjoy the rest of your weekend and see you soon!

 

Swallow Chicks

It’s a little challenging at the moment for me to get into the great outdoors thanks to horrendous hayfever. For the first time it was so bad I had to get medicine prescribed from the Doctor but even that isn’t making much difference. Fortunately I am very stubborn and am refusing to let my horrendous hayfever stop me for seeing wildlife.

I have spent a lot of time recently near a meandering section of the river Avon. There is usually several bird using the rails of an old railway bridge as a perch and I managed to capture these black-headed gulls doing exactly that.

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The two smaller bridges further along the same path are usually quieter as they are further from the town. I have spent a lot of time here marvelling at the beautiful flying display given by swallows and the occasional swift here. They glide over and under the bridge, scooping up insects as they go. Photographing them is tricky but I did manage to get this shot of a swallow perched with some nesting material in it’s beak.

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And as I’m discussing swallows, Dorset Wildlife Trust have a new webcam in a swallow nest. I’m not sure of its location so it might not actually even count as part of my area but I love swallows so I’m going to keep an eye on it anyway.

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The image isn’t too clear but I *think* there are five chicks in the nest. You can click here to see what’s happening in the nest yourself.

On Sunday I took a detour from my usual route on the Avon Valley Path which took me right next to some of the meanders.

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It’s a very clear section of the river surrounded by meadows. Whilst I’m sure there is plenty of wildlife in the grasses most of what I could see was in the air such as a V formation of greylag geese and a majestic mute swan.

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I also saw quite a few honey bees near the river.

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In other insect news (it is National Insect Week after all), I’ve notice a lot of cuckoo spit in the area lately. Despite the name cuckoo spit has nothing to do with cuckoos or saliva. The foamy substance is created by a small insect called a froghopper. The froghopper nymphs create the substance by excreting the plant sap they feed on and mixing it with air so that they are protected from predating birds. It’s a remarkable defence mechanism which looks really bizarre.

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I shall end today with an update on the canada geese I’m following. Today I went on my evening walk a little earlier than usual and found the goose nursery was fairly quiet. When I passed the fishing lake though I discovered a lot of geese on the water. Here’s a group of young geese with their minders:

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And here’s some younger goslings who are still that gorgeous yellow colour:

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I’ve still got a long backlog of things to share here so do come back on Saturday for that. Remember you can follow me on Twitter @dangoeswild1 for blog updates, wildlife news and even more photos.

Fledglings and Bees

It’s a busy time of year for birds and I’ve started to see all sorts of fledglings.

The local Canada Goose nursery is looking busier than I’ve ever seen it this year. I estimate there’s around forty goslings within a few hundred metres of each other and they are lovely to see.

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The elder goslings are actually starting to look like canada geese now but there’s still a few much smaller goslings at the nursery:

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There’s also a few greylag geese with young amongst the many canada geese but they don’t seem to pool their parenting like the canada geese too. Whilst canada geese have been numerous in the area for some time it’s only over the last few years that greylag geese have been seen and there gradually seems to be more and more of them. It’s also interesting to note that the geese are sharing their nursery with the horses who usually live in it!

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We’ve had a few young birds in the back garden too. As well as the juvenile starlings there have been very young house sparrows and dunnocks, the latter being pictured below (poor quality though as it was taken on my phone through a window).

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Dunnock Chick and adult

In other bird sightings, I’ve been thrilled to see a kingfisher a couple of times by a stream near the fishing lake. I’ve seen kingfishers a few times in the past and usually you just get a blue blur but I’ve got a really clear look at this one for a split second both times. It looks a little dishevelled but it’s a stunning bird all the same. As I’ve seen it in the same place I suspect there is a nest nearby but I can’t quite work out where. My big challenge now is to try and get a photo of it to share with you.

Another bird I think is nesting nearby is a grey heron. I have seen it in the same field several times. Herons actually nest in trees despite their large size and as the field is surrounded by trees on two sides I assume it’s there somewhere but I can’t spot it. I sa what is probably the same heron flying overhead yesterday.

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I’ve been participating in the Great British Bee Count over the last few weeks. Via a fantastic app (see here) you can identify and send off your bee sightings to help monitor the British bee population. There are actually around 250 species of bee in the UK and identification is not always easy. In the garden we mostly seem to get early bumblebees (Bombus pratorum) like the one below (I think).

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And opposite the goose nursery there’s brambles which are full of tree bumblebees (Bombus hypnorum). Interestingly this species was only recorded in the UK for the first time in 2001 but has since become widespread over England and Wales.

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In proof you can find wildlife everywhere here’s a spider I found in my shower! Thanks to Twitter I can say this is a male cupboard spider (Steatoda grossa), also known as one of the false widow species.

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To end I have an interesting plant to share. Last week I visited the beautiful Holton Heath in East Dorset. It wasn’t a great day for wildlife thanks to the weather (I saw a few bramblings and little else) but I did spot loads of Common Sundews (Drosera rotundifolia).

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The sundew is a carnivorous plants and takes nutrition from insects which get stuck on it. I have seen them a few times before but it almost seems a plant which is too exotic to live in the UK. A carnivorous plant in Dorset, so cool!

Recent Sightings

It’s June and there is an abundance of wildlife everywhere you look, so today I am sharing all the best things I’ve seen around the area lately.

Whilst thing have gone a little quieter lately, the most obvious species on our housing estate a few weeks ago was the starling. If you walked down the street you could hear the sound of starling chicks squawking for food from virtually every house, including our own. They seem to like to nest under the roof tiles in the cavity. Now many young starlings have fledged and can be seen trying to eat food off the feeder, although many still don’t seem to have got the hang of it.

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There are lots of Canada Geese around the nearby fishing lake and for many years they seem to have set up a sort of goose nursery in a local field. At this time of year you can guarantee to see lots of gosling on the field.

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Canada geese are quite interesting in that the way the raise their chicks is different to other birds. Their hatchlings are precocial, which means they are well-developed and can feed themselves almost straight away. They just need their parents to keep them safe and show them where the food is. They lay around six eggs in a clutch but actually many geese don’t do much parenting- they led their young goslings to a nursery area and let other geese look after them. On the local field there are around 25 goslings but only four adult geese.

Other birds are beginning to fledge now, although frankly I haven’t seen many young birds yet. The weather this week is looking to be a little better so I expect that many will fledge now. I spotted some blue tits nesting in this crevice in an oak tree and from what I could glimpse they looked like well established chicks that will fledge soon.

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One final bird for today is this beautiful Little Egret with some black-headed gulls. I’ve passed this spot on the river Avon a few times recently and the egret has always been there. I have only seen the one so it’s unclear if there’s breeding going on. The egret is not keen on the gulls and chases them off if they come too close.

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I’ve been out and about in the New Forest a lot this week and seen plenty of interest. There are deer everywhere in the New Forest at the moment- it’s almost harder to avoid seeing them than it is to see them! I finally managed to get an OK photo of a roe deer doe too:

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You can see a lapwing in the centre of photo below, taken at Ibsley Common. You might think of lapwings usually living on farmland but clearly this emerging heathland is just as good. I was also lucky enough to see peregrine falcons passing food in the air whilst I was up on the common too. I suspect they may well have a nest in a small wood up there.

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Another New Forest spot was this beautiful slow worm which was basking on a path. Despite their name and appearance slow worms are neither a worm nor a snake but actually legless lizards.

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I shall finish today’s post with some of the lovely views I’ve seen recently:

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