Sunday, 30 November 2014

Day 29 - Fantastic Fibonacci


Hi all,

Day 29. Apart from nature I love maths and science. I'll soon be going on a family trip to London. When we go we always try to go to the Natural History Museum, the Science Museum and Kew Gardens, some of my favourite places and will probably feature in my blog!

I didn't think there was much of a link between nature and maths until I heard about Fibonacci! If you don't know about this guy you're in for a treat. Fibonacci's real name was Leonardo Pisano and he was born in Piza in 1175. The Fibonacci name seems to have come about by accident from later people studying his work and misreading part of his hand written book Liber Abaci ('The book of calculations'), published in 1202 before printing was invented.

When he was young Fibonacci travelled a lot with family and was educated by the 'Moors' an old name for a people or culture in North Africa. Along his travels he learnt a lot of things but came across the modern decimal number system which he found much easier to use than Roman numerals so he used it in his work. A lot of people think he was the reason we now use this number system in Europe.

His biggest discovery, or the thing that he is well known for, is the Fibonacci sequence. This is a natural sequence about growth which he first wrote about in a theory about rabbits and how they would breed in an ideal world.
Fibonacci Spiral
http://www.mathsisfun.com/numbers/fibonacci-sequence.html

The sequence is very simple really, each number in it is made up by adding the two numbers before it and it goes:

0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144........

You see this sequence in nature a lot and if you look at the diagram here you see how arranging squares of these sizes you get natural spirals developing. You see this in all sorts of things from flowers, pine cones, snails and all sorts of other things.

It seems its the best way of arranging things to make the best use of space in nature (like seeds in a seed head). The numbers have lots of interesting properties and give when you divide two numbers in the sequence, you get a 'Golden Ratio' which appears in lots of places. There's a BBC radio programme linked below that talks about this a lot.

Some of my pictures here show some natural spirals which result from the Fibonacci sequence.

Here are some links to more information about this fascinating sequence:

BBC Radio - The Fibonacci Sequence

Maths is Fun - Fibonacci Sequence

Plus Magazine - The Life of Numbers of Fibonacci

Hope you enjoyed.

Z.

Saturday, 29 November 2014

Day 28 - Glorious Goldfinches


Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)
Hi all.

Today's Day 28 and the end to my fourth week. To me that is a gold achievement so I have got some Goldfinches to mark the occasion. We were at Fairburn Ings nature reserve when we saw these wonderful birds and we sometimes get them in the garden too. Anyway I better get on with the facts about these birds so here they are:

  • Goldfinches stay in the UK for Summer and Spring but in Autumn they start to think about migrating south, sometimes as far as Spain.
  • They have long, thin beaks which allow them to extract inaccessible seeds from thistles and teasels.
  • They are getting tamer as every year people are recording seeing more on bird tables and feeders.
  • They are very sociable birds and often breed in loose colonies.
  • If you've never noticed, goldfinches have a smooth, liquid tone to their voice.
  • There are two other types of goldfinch to the one we see in England, the American goldfinch found in, you guessed it, America and Lawrence's goldfinch which is found in Southern USA.
  • Despite there only being three types of goldfinch, the European Goldfinch was successfully introduced into Australia and New Zealand over 100 years ago.
  • The goldfinch is a Green Status bird but once it was probably a Red Status because of those Victorians who loved goldfinches being a cage bird which led to rapid decreases to the population.
  • As many as 132,000 in a year were sometimes caught just in Worthing, Sussex. Because of declines like this and other crisis's lead to the Society of Protection of Birds being formed which later became the RSPB.
Here are some links to some information:



BBC Nature - Goldfinches

Hope you enjoyed,

Z.

P.S. My bird club is going well. Check again next Thursday to see how it goes next time!

Friday, 28 November 2014

Day 27 - Marvelous Muntjacs

Hi all Day 27 today and I have some close encounters with some marvellous muntjacs for you today. I was at my favourite holiday park called Kelling Heath which is basically a caravan park built inside a giant forest and almost all of the forest is still there so it's a great place for wildlife spotters that want a trip to Norfolk. One of the best things there, if not the best things, are the deer and to see one right outside the caravan where you are staying is pretty special. Here is a picture of the muntjac I saw:
Muntjac (Muntiacus reevesi)

He is a really lovely creature and I love to share this sort of thing with you. Anyway here is a couple of facts for you about muntjac deers:


  • Muntjac don't breed once a year at a fixed season (rutting season) like other deer but throughout the year.
  • Females have usually just one baby and are ready to mate again if the opportunity arises.
  • Muntjac usually live to around 10 years of age but can live up to 16 for males and 19 for females though this is unusual.
  • They are 'crepuscular' which means they are most active at dawn and dusk. 
  • They like to live in deciduous and coniferous woods with dense undergrowth, ferns etc and are hard to spot because they are so small - though people have reported seeing them in their gardens and even walking along roads! 

  • We saw this little fella at Kelling Heath - he came right up to the decking to eat some fruit! And we could often hear their barking during the night.
  • Their diet is made up of leaves, berries, fungi, bark and herbs. Because they strip bark and leaves from low area some people consider them a pest :-(
  • Their numbers are unfortunately decreasing - and that's down to us. Hunting for their meat and fur has unfortunately  become popular to some people, and others are killed by cars. Muntjacs are found all around the world and their other predators include crocodiles, leopards and tigers (not in this country though!)
  • If they are alarmed their tails will stand up and males will scream whereas females and young will squeak. 

Gorgeous little creatures it's always a huge treat when we see one at Kelling Heath and talk about it for days

Here's a few links for more information about these lovely deer.

British Deer Society - Muntjac

BBC - Muntjac

The Deer Initiative - Muntjac

Hope you enjoy.

Z.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Day 26 - Suprising Sparrows

Day 26

I'm really enjoying my blogging as I'm learning so much. For instance there's a lot more to a sparrow than I thought. I get quite a lot in my garden, the first picture is one on my hedge by our bird table. They hop in and out of this hedge to the table all day having a really good feed! 
Male House Sparrow  (Passer Domesticus)

I wasn't expecting then to find out that they were the most common bird in Britain but their numbers are dropping at worrying levels and they now have RED status. Some areas have lost between 75 and 99% of their sparrow population. 

No one really knows the reason why. Some reasons that are suggested are  a decline in natural food sources and natural habitats, changes to building design, unleaded petrol having an effect on insects or an increased predation by cats. 

If numbers continue to fall they could reach crisis point and actually "lose the will to breed" which is called the "Allee Effect". 

Happily there are still 5.1 million breeding pairs in the UK. 

In Victorian times they used to shoot them and had clubs to see who could shoot the most. The more I read it seems there some Victorians who weren't very nice to nature :-( (see Fantastic Finches post) but happily Darwin and other Victorian scientists were very important and helpful.

Sparrows generally lay 2-3 clutches of eggs a year and sometimes the clutches can have eggs that are from different fathers! 

Pinching my crisp crumbs!
They are sociable little birds and like to be around people. 

They like to nest in colonies, in crevices in buildings or creepers - will evict other birds from their nests given the chance and would happily nest in a nest box if they find one they like! 

Sparrow nests are quite untidy and lined with bits of straw, string and paper - whatever they can find. 

Like a lot of the birds I've featured they don't tend to stray far from where they were hatched and raised.

Males have brown stripes and a black bib and the size of the bib shows how dominant he is - bigger the bib more dominant the sparrow! Females are paler without the stripes and juveniles are the same as their mums. 

House sparrows are often confused for their cousin the Tree Sparrow - more on them another day!

They eat seeds, insects and scraps and like to forage around under the bird table. 

The earliest record of a house sparrow is from the last glacial period as far as 10-120,000  years ago -as fossils were found. 

We have a colony of sparrows that live in and around our garden and regularly see up to 20 or so on the bird table and around it at any one time. We love watching the baby sparrows on the bird table - they are adorable - they shake their tiny wings and open their mouths and cheep until their mum or dad pops a seed in their mouth! 
Female coming in to land!

House sparrows are taken for granted a bit I think because they're maybe not so exciting and colourful as some garden visitors but it's such a shame that they have red status and are threatened because we would miss them so much if they weren't in our garden! 

In case you want more facts about these lovely little birds, here's a few links:





I hope you enjoyed this post.

Z.





Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Day 25 - More Fantastic Finches

Day 25

Well today's subject is far more common than I thought when I started. I don't see very many when I go to reserves and only the odd one in my garden. I also discovered I haven't many photos of them!


Chaffinch (Fringella coelebs)
It was a surprise then when my research showed me they are the second commonest bird in UK (sparrow were the most common - watch out for these guys soon - but is now the wren) and the most common finch. 

They are easily recognisable from their lovely colouring - males have pinker breast and cheeks than the female but both have the flashes of white on their wings.


You can find them in gardens, parks and woods (except the ones I go it seems)

They like to feed on insects, seeds (especially sunflower seeds and hearts) and caterpillars in the breeding season

Landing for a feed
A garden favourite the Chaffinch usually prefers to forage under the bird table rather than on it and has become accustomed to people being around and so if you are eating outside they will often sit in wait for dropped crumbs

There are about 6,200,000 breeding pairs in the UK so it has green status and there are even more between September  and March when 10-20 million visiting chaffinches from Western Europe come to the UK in search of food and a warmer climate. 

A taxonomist, Linnaeus, realised these visitors were mostly female. The males remained at home and flocked together, which led him to name them Coelebs meaning bachelor in Latin!

Chaffinches build a neat little cup shaped nest in the fork of a tree or bush lined with moss feathers spiders webs and lichen. 

They usually have one brood per year averaging on 4 chicks. 

Chaffinches are home loving birds and don't tend to stray far from where they were hatched and raised.

They are 14-18 cm long

Help to disperse seeds and berries for new plant growth.

The Victorians had a passion for Chaffinches and loved their song,  and a bird with a good song voice was worth a lot of money, so they used to trap them and keep them in cages and trade them on the strength of their songs. This happily became illegal though in 1896!

Did you know they have regional accents and can sound slightly different depending on where in the country they live!

So that's a bunch of facts on these lovely birds but if you want to know more try these links:





Hope you enjoyed this.

Z. 

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Day 24 - Smart Squirrels

Hi all, it's Day 24 and today I have some super smart squirrel facts and photos for you but before that I want to show you a video I found on Youtube that shows how smart they are. This isn't my video and you should be able to see it below but if not use the link :



Red Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) on stump 

Well, there's lots to say about squirrels apart from the fact that they are very agile and good at getting to food: 

  • Their lifespan is 2-5 years
  • Size from 8cm pygmy squirrel to 3 feet Indian giant!
  • 10 g to 8 kg! But most usually weigh about the same as a bar of chocolate or bag of crisps
  • First squirrels recorded as being present since the time of the Ice Age 10,000 years ago in the UK and were the red squirrel but the Victorians introduced the grey in around 1876 which triggered the start of the threat to red.
There is a red Squirrel on that stump somewhere!

  • They communicate through vocalisations and scent marking and also twitch their tale as a signal to others of a threat. If scared they will freeze, then run for cover up at tree to safety, or will lie themselves flat against the tree trunk to blend in.
  • There are over 265 species worldwide. In the UK we have 2, grey and red.
Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis)  

  • They are very intelligent. If they think they are being watched they will put on a display to other squirrels or birds by burying their stash of nuts - but they are only pretending! And when the other animal goes to uncover them, the squirrel will then go and hide the real stash. Also very good at accessing seeds and nuts on a bird table! 

  • They run in zigzags to throw off predators.

  • Squirrels plan ahead for the winter and hide nuts and seeds - some have been known to hide up to 2000 nuts in various locations which they remember!

  • They are tree dwelling and live in nests called dreys that are the size of a football high in a tree and lined with moss, feathers eat for warmth. 


  • Squirrels don't actually hibernate but do slow down their activity in winter
  • Can be left handed or right handed - identified when seen eating a pine cone!

  • They have babies called kittens usually twice a year with 3-4 kittens each litter. Born with eyes closed and no hair or teeth but by seven weeks they are tiny versions of their parents and ready to leave home.

  • Reds are less common because they are extremely susceptible to squirrel pox and also aren't as adaptable as they grey and can't eat the same variety of food. Greys can live happily in woods with oak, chestnut trees as well as conifers but red can only live in coniferous woodland. 
Sciurus carolinensis
feeding out of Homo Sapien's hand

  • 75% of reds in Scotland rest are in North Yorks, Northumberland, Wales, Merseyside, Isle of Wight and Cumbria. 

  • Reds were hunted for sport right up until 1927 and that plus disease and changes to habitat have meant their numbers have never recovered. 

  • Despite their name the red can be almost black or very pale brown.

  • Squirrels are very trusting for a wild animal and may eat out of people's hands.

  • Main threat is by birds of prey and pine martins, but even more so cars.

Sciurus carolinensis maximus!
In case you need it, here are some links to other interesting sites about squirrels:



Hope you enjoyed,

Z.


Monday, 24 November 2014

Day 23 - A Nature Ramble At Nosterfield

Day 23

Hi all today is Day 23 and today I have got some information about my walk at Nosterfield Nature Reserve. First of all I have to say that we do not have the camera to upload pictures so today it will just be writing. We have some facts about the reserve itself:

  • The reserve is near to Masham in a place called West Tanfield.
  • It is a former quarry site meaning there are lots of lakes where it has been blown up for rocks.
  • It is considered the area's premier wet grassland and has been a popular bird watching site since the 1970's.
  • Earlier this year we went when it was undergoing a facelift while we were there we saw literally 100's of tiny little frogs like the one below

  • They have also built a new dipping pond which will be in use hopefully by the spring when animals and insects have discovered it.
  • Wetland birds such as lapwings, shovellers and wigeons are inhabitants there.
  • Also we saw a flock of about 50 water birds land on the water that were smaller than a mallard, but we weren't close enough to see what they were. If anyone knows what they were then please tweet me on my Twitter page.
  • We saw lots of Gorse and holly which I'll be blogging about soon.
  • In the warmer weather we saw lots of dragonflies and damselflies and butterflies.
  • We spotted a Black cap, Robin and a Kestrel on the way back to the car at this amazing nature reserve.
  • There are two hides, a screen and an area for watching from your car.
  • All in all this is one of my favourite nature reserves and a great way to spend a Sunday morning. I would definitely recommend checking it out if you live in the area.
  Here are some sites you should check out:


Hope you enjoyed,

Z.

Sunday, 23 November 2014

Day 22 - Wonders of worms

Day 22

I was at Nosterfield Nature Reserve today and I'll be doing a post about this site and my walk soon. While I was there though I saw these chaps and realised I didn't know as much as maybe I should about them. I found these coming back along the path when we were looking for things in the soil. The two worms below are the same worms but the one in the left has must been turned over.
Earthworm (Lumbricidae)
Earthworms, if you didn't know already, are how compost bins work. The following is the process of composting:

  • You throw away your vegetables into your compost bin.
  • The earthworms will then eat the vegetables.           
  • The worms will digest the food and their waste will enrich the soil and be compost.
So if you ever wonder where your compost comes from, there you go.

Here are some more facts about worms:
  • Worms don't have legs, they have hairs or bristles over their segmented bodies.
  • They don't have lungs they breathe through their skin! The skin must remain moist so that they can move and breathe, and they keep themselves moist by releasing a fluid.
  • Worms have been on this planet for 600,000,000 (six hundred million)
  • Some are microscopically small and some are as big as 3m long!
  • Worms are hermaphrodite which means they are male and female, they do need another worm to reproduce with though.
  • They lay eggs from which emerge tiny baby worms. Here is a picture from our compost bin of those baby worms:




  • Worms can live for up to 10 years but this is unusual as a) they make a tasty meal and b) they may die from other causes such as drying up on a sunny day or drowning in waterlogged soil.
  • Contrary to popular belief cutting a worm in half will not make two worms - however the fatter pink part will survive while the other half dies.
  • They hate daylight and always bury themselves into soil which is why the worm we saw at Nosterfield was put straight back onto the soil.
  • Worms really are a gardener's best friend. They can eat their own weight in organic waste and soil and excrete their own weight in castings daily which is how compost is made, see above, and enriches the soil.
  • They never eat living plants whereas a slug does.
  • There are 6,000 species of worms globally and 27 species of Earthworm living in Britain.
  • The Lob Worm is Britain's largest Earthworm
Here are some links to more information:





Hope you enjoyed,

Z.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Yew will be interested in this!

Day 21

Hi all Day 21 today and I have to admit yew will be interested in today's topic! If yew haven't guessed already today's topic is Yew! I haven't done a tree post before so it will be a bit different to my normal posts and I hope you like it.

The word 'yew' is believed to have come from the ancient Proto-Germanic word Iwa and seems to refer to the colour brown. It is typically a small-medium sized evergreen tree 33-66 ft high with a 6ft diameter meaning it has an 18.84 ft circumference but in exceptional circumstances can grow much bigger. Its bark is thin and scaly brown the leaves are flat and dark green and arranged in a spiral pattern on the stem. The leaves are poisonous - it produces cones containing a single seed and develop a bright red berry-like structure called an Aril. The Aril aren't poisonous and are eaten by Thrushes, Waxwings etc. and dispersing the seeds.

Yew Trees can usually reach 400-600 years of age but many trees in Britain are well over 500 years old. They are listed on a wonderful website Ancient & Veteran Yews. There are even claims that some are 5000-9000 years old but this is difficult to prove as they are often hollow and you can't count their rings. The oldest Yew in Britain is either, the Fortingall Yew in Scotland, believed to be 2000-5000 years old or a Welsh contender believed to be over 5000 years old in St Cynog's churchyard at Defynnog. Here is a picture of the Fortingall Yew which I visited earlier this year.
Fortingall Yew (Taxus baccata)

The largest remaining part of the Fortingall Yew


The long life and size of yews led to them being revered long before the start of Christianity. It was a very important symbol to our Celtic ancestors. Churches were often built near ancient yews, but they were also planted in church yards so that farmers would keep cattle and sheep at out.

In medieval times when there were lots of wars, English longbows were made of Yew and so many were cut down at this time. There are not many Yew woodlands and many of those that survive are protected.

Pegs trace the remains of the 56ft circumference of the tree!
 It's been a tree linked with many superstitions

  • Romans believed it grew in hell
  • Vikings and Celts thought it gave protected from spells and death
  • Christians believed its poison protected the dead.

A spearhead 450,000 years old has been found made of yew!

Chemicals in the Yew have anti-cancer properties and they have been used to make medicines.

All in all a remarkable tree.

So you can read more about these wonderful trees, here's some links:

BBC Nature - Yew
Eden Project - Yew
Notice Nature - Yew
Ancient & Veteran Yews

Hope you enjoyed this.

Z.



Friday, 21 November 2014

Day 20 - Coal tits


Day 20

Hey everyone, thanks for all the wonderful comments about Bird Club. Lots of people still talking about it today so I hope it will just get better and better.


Coal Tit (Periparus ater)
Today's focus is a little bird we didn't see yesterday at school but I do see in my garden. They were also around a lot at Fairburn Ings where I took these shots.

I'm always fascinated by the stories and facts I find out about the things I post and this is no different, so here's todays facts:


  • They were first described and recorded in 1758 by the "father of taxonomy" (describing, identifying and naming species) Carl Linnaeus who was a Swedish botanist and zoologist. He called it a "parus capite nigro, vertice albo, dorso inereo, pectore albo ater" which translated as black headed tit with white nape, ash grey back and white breast - which wasn't very catchy and as the German name was kohlmeiB it later became coal tit.
  • Smallest of the tit family being only 10-11.5 cm long, and only weigh about 8g which is the same as 8 paper clips or a 50p piece!
  • You can tell them apart from marsh and willow tits because they have a white spot at the back of their heads whereas the others don't.
  • They like living in the country near to farms, woods etc and their favourite place to make their nests are low down to the ground in rotting tree stumps or in mice or rabbit burrows, even squirrel dreys!  
  • They also like to crawl up and down trees like a treecreeper.
  • They like nuts, seeds, peanuts and fatballs, which they cache and save for later.
  • They tend to have one brood of chicks usually in May, and lay between 7-11 eggs per brood. 
  • As there are around 760,000 breeding pairs in the UK they have green status - which is great because it's lovely to watch such cute little birds in the garden.

Finally, as always, I have some links for more information:




Hope you enjoyed reading about these lovely birds, have a great nature hunting weekend,

Z.





Thursday, 20 November 2014

Day 19 - Green finch and Bird Club goes live!

Day 19

Well it was a big day for me today. A while ago our family donated some bird feeders and feed to my school. I wanted to set up a bird watching club to help my school friends appreciate nature. Letters went out earlier in the week and I was very nervous, I didn't know if people would be interested or not. Happily they were and it was a big success. I'll tell you on my guest blog on thewildoutside.com more about how it went.

Today I've another bird from the wonderful Fairburn Ings for you. This is one I've had in the garden once, its not a regular visitor which is a shame as I think they are lovely.

Green Finch (Carduelis chloris) with friend and future post

Hide & Seek (Abscondere et quaerere)
I need a better lens for my camera as these birds made it difficult for me staying in the distance, but the first shot here was the one time they came closer. As you can see its a lovely Greenfinch :-)

As ever I did some research and here's some Greenfinch Facts:

- There are 1,700,000 breeding pairs in the UK (I don't know who counted them but I hope they didn't lose count halfway through!)

- They're quite sociable birds but often squabble.

- Males have brighter colours than females and juveniles.

- They have a short conical and powerful bill for breaking open large seeds.

- They like living close to people so they have more opportunities for a constant source of food and are becoming more dependant on bird tables as their main source of food.

- They can't prise seeds from closed pine cones  so wait for sunny days when they open before picking them out.

Here are some links to more info on these lovely green birds:

BTO - Greenfinch

RSPB - Greenfinch

BBC Nature - Greenfinch


Hope you enjoyed and don't forget to check out my guest blog at thewildoutside.com

Z.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Day 18 - puffy and fluffy

Day 18

Distant Puffballs (probably Lycoperdon perlatum)
As I saw quite a lot at Fairburn Ings on Saturday I thought I'd add in the fungus that I saw today, as well as a nice bird.

Here you can see the first fungus. I couldn't get close to take a really good picture as they were on a bank behind a fence but I think they are common puffballs.

Bracket Fungi (Ganoderma australe?)
They are called puffballs as when they are ripe and they get knocked (e.g. by rain) they release their spores (seeds) through a hole at the top. They have lots of names but the best one I've seen is the Devils Snuffbox. This works well too as you're not supposed to breathe in the spores as they can cause a disease called Lycoperdonosis. 

I was surprised not to see more fungi on my walk but did see this bracket fungi too. Fungi I find tricky but my research makes me think it might be a Southern Bracket. This site helped and you can see all the different types and why it is tricky.

First Nature - Bracket Fungi


Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus)

Well after that I thought I'd do something easy and very familiar. Blue tits. I get these in my garden too but there were loads at Fairburn. There's lots of fascinating facts about blue tits, here's a few:

- They are the most common tit in Eurasia.

- They are found all over Britain and as far away as Iran

- Males and females look very similar but females are slightly paler

- They eat seeds, nectar, insects, catepillars and nuts

- In the spring its mainly caterpillars for them and their young, apparently in males the brighter they are indicates how many caterpillars they have eaten. The brighter they are the more attractive they are to females.


 - They can have up to 10 eggs in a clutch and young fledge between 18-21 days

- They are very agile birds and forage in many places.

There's lots of sites with information on these colourful little birds, here's a few:

BBC - Blue Tits
RSPB - Blue Tits
British Garden Birds - Blue Tits

Hope you enjoyed this post.

Z.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Day 17 - No bull! It's a finch

Day 17

Hi all, I've got another really lovely bird I saw at Fairburn Ings for you today. I have to go a long way to see these birds as I don't get them in my garden yet.

I saw quite a bunch of birds in this tree so I had a look through my binoculars and there was a small flock of Bullfinches, both male and female. I need a better lens for my camera to get good shots that far off, but they were great in my binoculars. Just gently flitting around and eating seeds from catkins. It was nice to see them as I was stood here a while looking for a kingfisher.

Male Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula)

These are a couple of closer up pictures from an earlier visit.

As you probably know by now I like to learn a bit about the birds I see, so here are a few bullfinch facts:

  • Best place to see them is woodlands (especially at the edges), orchards and hedgerows
  • its name is based on its looks due to its front heavy 'bull headed' appearance
  • they eat seeds, buds and they feed insects to their young
  • they are an amber status bird but the good news is they used to be a red status. Their numbers are increasing (maybe I will get them in my garden :-) but the BTO says they are quite shy)
  • They make their nests from fine twigs, moss and lichen, lined with little roots (see my World in a Wall post on lichens)
  • it was first recorded in the UK in medieval times but their is fossil evidence from the last period of glaciation (10-120,000 years ago!)
So all in all they are just as fascinating as they look! Here's a few links to more information about them, and thanks to these guys for most of my interesting facts.


Hope you enjoyed this post.

Z.

Monday, 17 November 2014

Day 16 - an identification challenge

Day 16

Hi all. Yesterday's post was about a robin at Fairburn Ings. Today I've another bird I saw there. It's a tricky one as there are two species that are almost identical. My assumption is based on three things i) other sightings and identifications at the reserve, ii) the reserve has a lot of wet woodland, iii) the BTO's guide to telling apart Willow Tits and Marsh Tits.

What I think I have here is a lovely Willow Tit. Here's a few facts about them.

(Pocile montanus)
Willow Tit
Willow Tits are red status birds because of big population declines in recent years. The BTO thinks this is down to changes in their preferred wet woodland habitats, nest predation by Great Spotted Woodpeckers and competition with other tit species.

They are tiny birds with a wingspan of 19cm and a weight of 12 grams.

The best food to lure them with is insects, seeds and berries although during the summer they eat mainly invertebrates.

The best way to help Willow Tits is probably to make a Blue Tit nest box as when a Willow Tit hollows out a nest for itself in a rotten tree stump (its favourite nest site) they're often taken over by Blue Tits. This means providing Blue Tits a home should reduce the chance of one taking over a Willow Tits nest site.

A single Willow Tit clutch can have up to 13 eggs and they normally live up to 3 years.

If you're interested in these lovely little birds check out these links:

BTO - Willow Tit
RSPB - Willow Tit
BTO - Telling apart Willow Tits and Marsh Tits

Hope you enjoyed,

Z.

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Day 15 - Close encounters of the bird kind!

Hi all,

Had a great day today at the fantastic RSPB reserve, Fairburn Ings. I've lots of photos that I'll be using over the next few days. Sadly the nuthatch and the kingfisher didn't make an appearance for me. I've seen these wonderful birds there before but never been able to get good shots.

Robin (Erithacus rubecula)
This really cheeky little chap did make an appearance though and got very close to me so I got great shots. At first he just hung around in the bush to the side of a board walk we were on, but then he came right up onto the handrail. Once I got some images I found a shortbread biscuit in my pocket to give it a few crumbs. I was really suprised when it almost ate out of my hand. I know Robins are often not that bothered by humans but i didn't think it would come so close for shortbread!


As you can see from these two shots he was really close and quite happy around us. I have had them come closer but for a tasty treat of a meal worm, not just a few crumbs. You can see below a one was eating out our hands.

Well now to my research. Here are some facts about robins:


  • Every continent has its own robins although only the Japanese and Ryukyu robins are closely related.
  • If you want to see a robin in your garden the best way to do so is to dig. Often within minutes one will sit on a fence or something ready to inspect the newly overturned soil for earthworms.
  • Male and Female robins look almost identical but a male's red forehead is a U shape and a female's is a V shape. Juveniles have no red breast and are dotted with golden-brown spots.
  • Robins are extremely territorial and don't tolerate some other species with similar diets like dunnocks.( For more info on dunnocks see my other post Yearofnature - dunnocks)
  • Nearly 3/4 of robins die before they are one year old! 10% of those robins die defending their territory.
Here are a few links to robin info sites:


Hope you enjoyed.

Z.