Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Male House Sparrow Feeding Juvenile

Mother-in-law regularly puts out bits of ham fat on her garden wall for the birds here in East Anglia, in the UK.  Recently we were privileged to watch a male House Sparrow feeding a juvenile.

The male House Sparrows are distinguished from the females by their black faces, throat and bid, darker brown on their heads and wings and greyer underside, where as the females and juveniles are much paler with no very few if any black markings.

House Sparrows are native to most of Europe, the Mediterranean Region and much of Asia.  But can now been found in some areas of Australia, Africa and the Americas, due to accidental or intentional introductions.

Both the male and the female will share in the duties of feeding the young, whilst they are in the nest and for their first few days out of the nest.

In this photo of the juvenile, you can just make out the yellow cartilage like protrusion, around the base of the beak, which helps the adults to see the opening of the beak in the dark nest at feeding time.

The juvenile has now flown off and the male has a feed itself and then a well deserved shake of its feathers before flying off, job done, for now.

Saturday, 6 September 2014

Juvenile Male Common Black Bird

This juvenile male blackbird is a regular visitor to Mother-In-Laws garden wall in East Anglia, UK, where there is a regular supply of bacon or ham fat.  This bird appears to be a first year juvenile, as it has lost most of its mottled juvenile wings but the new ones are not as jet black as they will be in a few months time when it comes of age.

The Common Blackbird, Eurasian Blackbird or Blackbird, is a member of the Thrush family, they breed in Europe, Asia and North Africa.

The male Blackbird is distinguished by it being all black except for the yellow ring around its eye and its yellow/orange beak, which becomes darker with age.  You can still see some of the juvenile mottled feathers on its belly.

They are fascinating birds to watch as they are constantly cocking their heads from one side to another as they listen to what is going on around them.

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Painted Lady Butterfly

I had another spotting of some Painted Lady Butterflies - Vanessa cardui, the other day, loving the nectar they were getting from a large Bougainvillea.  The lovely shades of brown and orange really stood out against the deep pinky purple of the Bougainvillea.

These butterflies are one of the most widespread of all butterflies and can be found on every continent except Antarctica and South America.

Mediterranean House Gecko

This little Mediterranean House Gecko - Hemidactylus turcicus, was on the wall of our neighbours house the other night.  I only just spotted it as I saw something move out of the corner of my eye.  It was only about 2 inches long, there was a second one there as well, but as I approached to take this photo the other one seemed to let out a little squeal and disappeared behind an air-con unit.

Because I had to use my flash to get the shot, you can really see the markings on its body and how translucent the skin is, you can see the dark areas where the organs and stomach appear to be.

Eurasian Jay

There are quite a lot of Eurasian Jays - Garrulus glandarius, around our house living out their lives squabbling amongst themselves but otherwise having a good life, but not so much at the moment. There are also a lot of Collared Doves around here as well, and normally the two species get on well, but at the moment the Doves are either building nests or sitting on eggs and so they are very defensive towards the Jay.  Jays feed on chicks and eggs, as I witnessed with a House Sparrows nest,  and so they are not popular with the Doves.  The poor Jays have very little chance to sit in the trees before they are being seen off by the Doves.

These two had managed to find a quite spot in one of the trees for a little while, but they were very alert the whole time they were perched there.

The Eurasian Jays here are part of the subspecies atricapillus group as they have the uniform mantle and nape, black crown and very pale face.

Lattice Brown Butterfly

I had noticed this butterfly hanging upside down on the leaves of one of our yucca plants.  I was able to get quite close up to it before it flew away, not once did it flex its wings whilst it was hanging from the leaf.

The Lattice Brown - Kirinia roxelana is an average sized butterfly.  Unless it is flying, that is the only time you will catch a glimpse of the upper side of its wings as they remain tightly closed when it comes to rest.  It is found in South-Eastern Europe and the Far East and is on the wing from April to October.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

14th June 2014 - Update on the House Sparrow

It has been a very busy time for the House Sparrows since I spent the day watching them on the 5th June.  I have only been able to sit for short periods of time, but have been able to catch up with what is going on.

Both parents at the right hand side nest had been very busy backwards and forwards with food for the chicks, you could clearly hear the chicks calling out when the parents arrived with food.  I also saw mum come out of the nest a time or two with 'poo sacs' which she dumped on the roof several rows of tiles away from the nest. (To keep the nest clean the baby birds produce membrane sacs containing their poo, which the adult birds are able to pick up and remove from the nest, they sacs only remain intact for a short while before the poo is dispursed).

It must be quite hot in the nest, as the temperature has definitely risen here over the last few days, the air temperature is around 30 degrees C, because the female looks like she is almost panting and taking in a bit of air when she emerges from the nest, there is no sound coming from her.

The Jays have still been very interested in the roof and I seen at least one look down the entrance to this nest.

On the 10th June I had my first sighting on at least one of the chicks.  I had noticed Mum coming to the nest with food, but only very briefly popping into the nest area and then coming out still with the food in her mouth.  It almost looks like she was trying to encourage the young to venture out of the nest.

You can see the yellow wort like pieces around the mouth of the youngster which helps the parents locate the mouth to feed the young.

This little one seemed keen to find out what terracotta tile tasted like.

Mum seems to be coming back with several tasty morsels of bug and fly for the youngsters.

And that was it, the next day the nest was quite, all of the young had fledged, I am not sure how many there were, I think I picked out at least two, but there could have been more.

The left hand nest did not have such a happy ending.

The female appeared to be sitting on the eggs, during the time I had been watching the nests and then around the 10th June, I noticed here taking in food and I could here the young in the nest.  I only noticed the female going into the nest with food, unlike the right hand nest.

Yesterday when I looked to see what was happening this is what I saw:

The tiles had been lifted off the nest and the young were no where in sight.  My husband and myself were completely baffled as to what could have done this.  We have the odd squirrel about here, but we have not seen any around the roof.  There is a Buzzard regularly flying around over the valley in front of the house, but I don't think it would know the nest was there.  There are several domestic cats around but we have not seen any on the roof of the house, due to the design I don't think they could get up there.  We have no other wild mammals around, so the only other culprit is the Jay, as we have seen them hanging around.

During the day a Jay appeared on the roof several times hopping around near the nest and at one time perched on the upturned tile.  I would have loved to have seen how the Jay managed it if that was the case as these tiles are not light and they are at least half a foot long.  The roof is on our friends house, so he went up onto the roof to put the tiles back down so they wouldn't get blown off the roof or let water in.

This morning a Jay appeared on the roof again and hopped along to the entrance to this run of tiles and stuck its head inside.  We can only assume that somehow the Jay pushed its way up the tiles and then got stuck and the only way out was to push its way up through the tiles, leaving them at this angle. But I guess we will never know.

As for the third nest that I thought we had in the centre of these two, I guess that was either an abandoned nest from this year or one from last year as there has been no activity there at all.