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swift brick

Swift-bricks: fancy sex in a swift box or in flight?

by Angus ~ 24 July, 2020 ~ comments welcome

Swifts are amazing creatures - they migrate from Europe to Africa and back every winter, they cruise at 70mph and in a lifetime they might fly a distance equivalent to three return trips to the moon.  There is some question about where swifts actually mate - it is certain that they can copulate in mid-air, but they also routinely mate at their nest sites.  Possibly mating on the wing is a lightening quick liaison between individuals that are paired with someone else - a case of a 'swift quickie', that may have the effect of widening the gene pool - even if it's a long shot.  Despite all their aerial stunts, they spend about a month every year incubating eggs or brooding chicks on a solid surface such as a ledge or crevice, an old nest or a specifically designed swift box or swift brick. Read more...

Birdwatch 2020

Birdwatch 2020

by Chris ~ 21 April, 2020 ~ comments welcome

The RSPB has organised the Big Garden Birdwatch for some forty one years.  This year’s event took place back in January (25-27th) and some eight million birds were recorded.

The most counted garden visitor this winter was the house sparrow with nearly 1.3 million sightings over the weekend.  This was good news as the sparrow has been in decline for much of the time since the inception of the BGB.  After the sparrow count, starlings were the second most frequently sighted and then the blue tit. Read more...

Birds at Woodcock Wood: A Conundrum for the Summer

Birds at Woodcock Wood: A Conundrum for the Summer

by Chris Saunders ~ 16 August, 2019 ~ comments welcome

July and August can be difficult times to watch and appreciate woodland birds. With nesting coming to an end, there is little in the way of birds’ song, and the beginning of summer moult means that many birds prefer to hide away in dense foliage, not because of vanity but rather because they are at their most vulnerable to predation - their feathers are in poor condition during the moult, and their energy levels are lowered by the process. In spite of this, there is still plenty of interest to hear and see, but perhaps it takes a bit more time and effort than at other times of the year. Read more...

Woodcock Wood: Nuthatches

Woodcock Wood: Nuthatches

by Chris Saunders ~ 30 May, 2019 ~ comments welcome

Nuthatches are one of our real favourites. We’ve had them nesting in a box in our walnut tree at home for several years. They are colourful, noisy and bold birds, full of character, with a bit of a mean streak. They will keep the sparrows and tits under control at a feeder, and even a mated pair don’t tolerate each other too well where food is concerned.

They are able to climb headfirst down a tree, a feat not managed even by the Treecreeper. This agility is evident from an early age. We’ve had the privilege of watching young grow with a nest box camera, and they climb around inside of the box well before their feathers are fully developed. Read more...

Bird by Bird - about the threats to wild birds

Bird by Bird – about the threats to wild birds

by Angus ~ 17 May, 2019 ~ comments welcome

Jayne Ivimey and Julia Blackburn have put together an amazing exhibition that makes grown ups cry.  It describes the plight of wild birds in the face of human activities from oil spills and pesticides to loss of habitat from climate change.  The official RED LIST is the list of seriously endangered species and the number of birds on it has recently grown from 36 to 70, so that extinctions now seem almost inevitable for some with humans as the perpetrators.  But this is more than just a lament: it is also a celebration of what the authors call the "miracle of the gift of flight" and the magic of birdsong.   Woodland birds play an important role in the roster of the 70 birds that Jayne has recreated in clay. Read more...

Woodcock Wood's Buzzards

Woodcock Wood’s Buzzards

by Chris Saunders ~ 15 February, 2019 ~ comments welcome

Well, not ours exactly …. but during the spring and summer it’s rare for us not to see and hear the buzzards. In Woodcock Wood they fly above our backdrop of Corsican pine and make forays across the chestnut coppice, occasionally perching in the tall oaks. With open fields behind the pines, this makes the perfect habitat for this beautiful bird.

We are lucky that Woodcock Wood is a small but central part of their territory. We see them most often in spring when the pair renew their vows in noisy and beautifully aerobatic courtship displays. It’s usually their calls that attract our attention, and then it is a privilege to watch their mastery of flight in these displays. Read more...

Air pollution and sparrows

Air pollution and sparrows

by Chris ~ 15 November, 2018 ~ comments welcome

Air pollution is a major concern in many of our cities across the U.K., and indeed through Europe.   Indeed, it is thought to be responsible for a significant number of premature / early deaths.   The European Environment Agency (EEA) has estimated that air pollution is causing around 467,000 premature deaths in Europe every year.   The main culprits are particulates and nitrogen oxides (NOx) - mainly derived from the engines of cars, vans, lorries but also boilers etc.

Now research at the University of Madrid has shown that air pollution is affecting bird populations.   Dr. Herrera-Duenas and her co-workers collected hundreds of blood samples from sparrows in rural, sub-urban and urban areas.   The house sparrow has been strongly associated with human habitation but can live in urban or rural settings. Read more...

ash keys

Seeds – the means of dispersal

by Chris ~ 19 October, 2018 ~ one comment

In general, as plants are fixed in place, they have a bit of a problem when it comes to reproduction. That is, exchanging genetic material with one another and then ensuring that their offspring can establish themselves away from the parents so that they are not in direct competition.   Some plants have solved this by using the wind to move pollen and/or seeds (anemochory), some use water (hydrochory) and many others have entered into associations’ with animals.   

The list of animals providing ‘assistance’ is quite varied.  In the case of pollen, transfer is achieved by beetles, bees, bumblebees, hoverflies, hummingbirds, fruit bats, moths etc.  The dispersal of seeds by animals is known as zoochory.   Read more...

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