Tuesday, 10 June 2014

9th June - Fiddlesticks and Flapdoodle!

Great Spotted Woodpeckers are seen and heard around the patch regularly, and I have been relatively successful in photographing them, but their bigger cousin the Green Woodpecker, is heard but has been extremely difficult to see or photograph.  Long distant shots on telegraph poles have been the only outcomes, and only recently I chased one up and down Lye Way in the hope of getting that elusive picture, only for the bird to elude me all the time.

This time of year we hear the young calling, and may see them on the lawns around Lymington Rise once they have fledged, but they are extremely shy birds.  I can see them from my office window in Guildford, and they are also common in Germany, all of course when I don't have a camera to hand.  Last week I only said to Helen I would just love to get a good picture of a Green Woodpecker, so imagine the frustration when Monday morning, as I reached for the breakfast cereal in the cupboard by the kitchen door I saw an adult Green Woodpecker perched on the garden fence.  I knew if I ran for the camera it would be gone so I just decided to watch it as it sat there looking around.  Finally it flew off over the hedge, a small deposit on the lawn being the only record of it ever being there.

I walked to the dining table and looked out into the street, and amazingly the woodpecker was sitting on the small patch of grass on the other side of the road from our house.  I raced upstairs grabbed the camera and then into the bedroom where I gingerly opened the window.  At last a good close picture of a Green Woodpecker, in what is more like its environment than in a tree.



It was looking for its favourite food, ants, and the source of the ants appeared to be between the kerb stones.  The ants build nests in the gaps of the stones, and the woodpeckers was pushing it's enormous tongue between the spaces to get to the ants.



I have seen them doing this at work and in Germany, and it appears to be a good source of food in semi urban areas.  If you saw Springwatch over the last two weeks you would have seen details of the size of a Green Woodpecker's tongue, it is enormous being twice the size of the beak, the bird world equivalent of the anteater.



It would pause from feeding and continually check around it for danger.  As it did so it would blink and you could see a large eyelid slip over the eye.  This I believe is the nictitating eyelid, a third eyelid that is translucent, and covers the eye to protect it when chiselling wood.  All woodpeckers have this feature.  The eyelid also can be quite thick to protect the eye and more especially the retina when hammering on the trees.



A few more looks and then it was off, flying in the direction of where I have seen young previously so maybe we will be hearing the calls of juvenile birds again this year.  I have no idea where they nest though.



Fantastic at last to get some clear and close pictures of a wonderful bird, and even more surprisingly in the garden

With the sun out the Tree Bumbles were very active around the nest box.  Tree bumble bees nesting in bird boxes are becoming more of a common occurrence much to the concern of some.  Many requests are received to remove the nests, but in truth the best approach is to leave them be, the nest dying after a few months.  As I watch from the office window I can see a cloud of drones hovering outside the nest hole.  They never go in, and are apparently watching and waiting for queens to leave the nest.  This explains why as I tried too photograph the bees at the nest hole, they only flew around it, and as a result I only managed this one bee.



The bees are quite distinctive with a clear white tail, the only bumble bee with a clean white tail.  It will be interesting to see how this nest develops.

Our other nest on the house has now just become occupied again.  The House Martins have finally moved in, and I can hear them chattering away as they change over the role of sitting on the eggs in the nest.



This one was chattering away, and I wondered who to as there was no other bird outside the nest.

Then as it moved I could see another's tail and wing feathers to the right of the main bird.



It was probably getting it's orders on what it had to do around the house while it was gone, clean up, laundry etc.

This nest does not have a very good record, and usually the first brood do not survive as the nest falls down.  Last year they re-built it, and it lasted for a late brood, but they haven't given much attention to it this year, and once again I fear for the survival.  As always we can only wait and see what happens, and hope they mixed some cement into the mud last year.  The pair on our neighbours house opposite have completed the nest, and also appear to be nesting.  Again we shall wait and see what transpires.

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