Sunday, 24 June 2012

Ringing..... a rather special bird

A once in a lifetime opportunity? I certainly hope not, but it did feel that way as i arrived at Woods Mill last Tuesday to ring their resident Barn Owl chicks. The nest has been observed closely over the past few weeks, and it appears there is only one adult feeding the chicks, a female! Whats more, it doesn't seem to have a ring, meaning its not of last years brood. None the less, upon examination of the box, we found 4 healthy male chicks and I was lucky enough to be given the chance to ring one of them. As the eggs are laid 1-2 days apart, and consequently hatch 1-2 days apart, there is a distinct pecking order (pardon the pun) and the youngest chick will be fed last, so only in a good year will as many as 4 survive!
The ages ranged from 39 to 49 days, with fledging usually taking place around 56 days, so these birds are nearly ready to leave the nest. As is obvious in the photos, the wings are well on their way to developing, but they still retain a lot of the down that keeps them warm as chicks. At this age, they are often very vocal and needy as they need to be fed alot, and it is not uncommon for the adult bird to roost somewhere else for a bit of peace and quiet, and only return to the nest to feed them.

What a day......

Me ringing a Barn Owl chick, Tyto alba,

Ever wondered how to weigh a Barn Owl chick?

Full profile of Barn Owl chick, Tyto alba, with its new ring

The photo of me ringing the chick was kindly taken and is copyrighted to David Plummer.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Nearly-Fledgling Whitethroat

So, a quick trip to Pulborough in rather blustery conditions didn't yield much in the way of birds for us, but luckily we were treated to an adult Whitethroat feeding its very nearly fledged chicks just in front of one of the hides; for a good half an hour. While the shots aren't great, mainly due to some rather mobile nettles that kept getting in the way, I managed to grab a couple of snaps, including one telling the end of a Common Blue Damselfly. From what I could see, it was the male feeding them as it was a particularly bright bird, with the females often being duller in contrast! Whitethroat young take around 12 days to fledge, and from the looks of things these chicks are pretty much there. Perhaps time for a second brood?

Common Whitethroat, Sylvia communis chicks asking to be fed!

Common Whitethroat, Sylvia communis; with food, Common Blue Damselfly, Enallagma cyathigerum

Common Whitethroat, Sylvia communis fledglings together

Monday, 4 June 2012

Other Flying Beings

So this post is not about birds, but about some interesting flying creatures I have found over the last week. These are creatures I know virtually nothing about, and my iPhone just about records a picture adequate enough for me to I.D them at home. So first of all was this White Ermine Moth I found on my friends patio doors. These little wonders aren't particularly rare, but that doesn't make them any less exquisite. The degree of speckling can vary greatly depending on where you are in the country; this is an example from Herefordshire! These night-flyer's are also poisonous, and thus are not at risk of being eaten, perhaps why this one was so happy to be hanging out in the sun.

My next find was not far from home, in Rewell Wood in Sussex. I have been working on the site for the last few weeks, and have been permanently surrounded by Pearl-bordered Fritillary butterflies. These butterflies are a priority BAP species since populations have been declining dramatically. Common Dog-Violet is the caterpillars favoured foodplant, but it will also use Heath Dog and Marsh Violet. The adult is less picky, using bugle as their primary source but also favouring a  number of other plants species, including birds-foot trefoil, Buttercup, Dandelion and Bluebell. This species relies heavily on woodland clearings for suitable habitat and nectar, and if these are not maintained and become overgrown, whole colonies of Pearl-boarders die unless there is more suitable habitat nearby.

This next moth was a new one found last week. Turns out it's a Cream-Spotted Tiger Moth. Again, not hugely rare, but the size and colour of this one was really startling! They are also nocturnal moths, and this one had recently emerged as when found it was still unfolding its wings. The caterpillars of this species are not fussy at all, and will eat a variety of plants.