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Monday 20 July 2009

Proud Father on daughter's Graduation Day

Well, whose a clever boy, then? . . . . . . having a really clever girl who has graduated for a second time in two years - this time her Post Graduate Certificate of Education.

And . . . . she starts her new job in September in a very good primary school, teaching 5-11 year olds.

If you are looking in my princess, your mum and I are so very proud of you. A big well done and a huge cuddle from us both.
I'm taking a few days off for a small break - I have a few non-blogging items requiring attention but I will be back soon.

Sunday 12 July 2009

He Flew The Nest Too Soon

After last week's story about the Peacocks I thought this story about their smaller garden cousins may be of interest.

I suppose it was about 10 years ago I started building bird boxes for our garden. But first, soon after our conservatory was built, I redesigned the garden, building a curved path and some steps and walls beneath a pergola I made, together with an extremely robust garden swing under an old Victoria plum tree. Sadly the tree is no longer alive but I used it as a frame on which to grow a lovely Clematis - variety: Elizabeth Montana. I took the photo earlier this summer.Looking underneath it today I shot with my new Panasonic F562 camera the old swing, strong enough to swing an elephant, on which the children and us parents had a lot of fun. You can see some bird boxes in the background. I am very pleased with the camera which is far more versatile than its rather archaic predecessor.Straight ahead is my Blue Tit box in which we have seen many successful broods over the years - and unfortunately some unsuccessful. I remember well a brood of birds flew the nest far too early after a violent thunderstorm which must have shocked them and although the parent birds still tried to feed them out of the nest, four of the fledglings fell victim to local cats - such is the cruelty of nature.
Here is a closer shot. The hole size for a blue tit box is critical and should be about 25mm in diameter so that the birds feel safe from larger predators. The box should face away from due south to avoid the sun's direct heat - probably due north is the best position.

Parents do not like second hand nests - it is part of the courtship procedure to build a nest together to cement their relationship with one another, so before they appear it is necessary to remove last year's nest. At the back of the box I have four screws so I can take the back off to clear the old nest every year.

It is very exciting when a pair of Blue Tits are thinking of nesting. To begin with they are extremely nervous and it takes a long time for them to pluck up courage to enter the nest box. I expect Mrs Blue Tit has the last word regarding the suitability of the abode and she soon gets him busy with nest building. I expect he thinks, "Why bother to clear the thing from last year - we could have saved ourselves hours and hours of work and I could have done the prize crossword instead?" But she gets her own way every year, bless her.
I built this bird table a few years ago and it is the scene of many a wintry squabble when birds compete for the food we place there for them. Above the table is a pair of semi-detached abodes but so far Blue Tits have rejected nesting there in preference to the detached property nearby - thus keeping up with the 'Joneses' and all that! A wasp queen was not so fussy two years ago and we had a minor skirmish with a swarm of wasps, fortunately small ones, dealt with by wasp killer, hence the white mark round the hole. Eddie Bluelights was quite equal to the task!

If you look closely underneath the table you can see Mickey the Budgie's old swing. For those who do not know Mickey he was my pet budgerigar, the subject of two humorous posts, Mickey the Celibate Budgie and Mickey the Love-Sick Budgie. I have noticed that wild birds have neither the wit nor the inclination to use the swing and so far I have never seen a wild bird perched on it or playing on it except an escaped budgerigar five years ago - perhaps Mickey's ghost.
Three years ago I built another nesting box, this time for sparrows, hoping in some small way to help them to recover from a serious disease causing a severe depletion of their numbers.

The holes are about 30mm allowing access by a bigger bird than a Blue Tit, who would not dare nest there.

There are three compartments in this house and every one has been used so far - yet not all at once. There would be no problems if sparrows nested there because in no way are they territorial. However to date sparrows have not nested there, but for the last three years we have been blessed by having a pair of Great Tits nesting and producing young. Either they return every year or the chicks when adult return there. The Great Tit is a very beautiful bird but very territorial. It is great having them there but they will not tolerate Blue Tits since they compete as rivals for their territory. So the downside is that we have not had any Blue Tits nesting for 2 or 3 years.

I discovered this little chap a few weeks ago - obviously a Great Tit chick who had flown the nest too soon.
He was exhausted and could not summon the energy to fly away from me - allowing me within 2 feet of him. I toyed with the idea of picking him up and putting him back in his box but read if you do that the parents will reject him. I did see the parents flying around trying to feed him but I did not give much for his chances.
He did manage to fly into this tree so reluctantly I thought it best to leave him with his parents. There was a very slim chance of survival - as it turned out the odds were against him severely for I saw him dead at the foot of the tree the next day. I really must research what to do with fledglings who leave the nest too soon to see if they can be reared somehow in safety until they can fend for themselves.
Blue Tit (from a book)

Great Tit (from a book)
I guess the American name for Blue Tit is Blue Bird - correct me if I am wrong.
And I wonder have you a corresponding name for Great Tit?___________________________________________________________
And now another surprise! I am honoured to receive the co-runner up POTD award for 14 July 2009 from David at Authorblog. I am very grateful to you David and wish to congratulate the winner, Hilary, and all the runners up.

Thursday 2 July 2009

Did you invite Mr and Mrs Peacock round, love?

I was dozing after a meal in our conservatory last weekend and was wakened by my over excited wife saying, "Wake Up! Wake Up! There are a couple of birds outside!"

"Are they in uniforms or not?"

"No! listen - there are two Peacocks on the garden shed roof!"

"Don't be so silly!" I retorted, getting settled in my chair and nodding off again.

"Quick, quick! Get the camera!! quick or you'll miss it."
"Must I?" Then I looked out of the window and I was amazed to see we had two peacocks on our back lawn - hardly regular visitors at any house these days. And there they were, cool as cucumbers - just breezed in to see us from out of nowhere! Was I dreaming I wondered?
By the time I got the camera they had moved closer and I managed to get three good shots.
There he is walking fearlessly closer towards me, displaying his feathers - his wife was round the corner behind him. Obviously he was on the scrounge. I backed off and then he and his Missus advanced. She seemed a bit shy and stayed in the background.
And after a few pieces of bread and a drink of water he puffed out his chest with pride.
Having had enough of our company they walked around the side path to the front of our house, crossed the road and went straight up to a neighbour's front door, followed by me. They stayed by the front door and then my sense of humour got the better of me so I slowly approached, rang the front door bell and carefully made my retreat behind a bush at the side of their house.
I heard the neighbour make a startled comment to her husband that some friends had called round to dinner. I appeared to join in the fun. We discussed where they might have come from but were unable to offer a suggestion. Mr and Mrs Peacock wandered down the road and headed off towards the park. I'm not sure what they eat in the wild - must look it up.

I remain totally baffled as to where these visitors originated!
It is not every day two large peacocks visit a humble domestic back garden!
Whatever next, I wonder - Emus, Ostriches?
I keep looking nervously over my shoulder - perhaps a couple of lions may walk round the corner looking for their dinner!