Blood, Sweat and Deers

Each year when deer grow their new antlers they are covered in a downy velvet which supplies nutrients and blood flow to the growing antlers below. Come the Autumn the antlers are fully grown and the deer will scratch or rub them against trees and rocks to remove the velvet and reveal the antlers ready for the rutting season.

This young Sika deer was probably showing off his first set of antlers this week and although it does look painful it’s probably little more than an itch he needed to scratch.

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Between March and May next year he will cast these antlers and begin to grow a new pair. Cast antlers are a great source of calcium and minerals for other animals.

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Bluebell Squirrel

I don’t normally point my camera at grey squirrels but I made an exception today. I don’t dislike them and I do enjoy watching their antics, I think it’s probably more the fact they are so common. We even have one visit the feeders in our very urban garden.

The grey squirrel was introduced to Great Britain in the mid-19th century and after a number of releases it began to increase dramatically in population at the beginning of the 20th century, mainly spreading from Woburn Park, Bedfordshire. ¬†They came to England from North America and are now one of Britain’s most well-known and frequently seen mammals, with an estimated population of 2 million compared to the 160, 000 native red squirrels. It’s not their fault they’re here more the fault of bored rich Victorians introducing them onto their estates without any knowledge of the damage they would do to the red squirrel by passing on a disease they were immune to but which was devastating to the red.

Anyway I was in the woods to photograph the woodpeckers and was watching this squirrel and silently urging it to move into a nearby patch of bluebells for a more photogenic picture. It duly obliged and then went a step further by digging up an old acorn..

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Dirty nose and a dirty acorn, or is it a olive?.

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It quickly and deftly removed the outer casing and begin to enjoy the seed inside.

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Pretty In Pink

On a recent trip to the wood I spotted this blue tit wrestling with some potential nest material. The pink thread was caught on a branch and the bird was struggling to get it free.

Blue tit with pink thread.

Blue tit with thread.

The thread looked like it had snagged from a walkers coat and the blue tit had spotted something with which to line the nest. It wasn’t going to let this find go and pulled and pulled.

Blue tit pulling pink thread.

Heave Ho

Blue tit pulling thread

Almost got it

Somewhere in the woods there is a nest with a lovely pink thread running through it as the blue tit did finally pull it free. I did think at one point the bird was standing on it and causing its own problems.

Blue tit with pink nest material

Blue tit accessorising

 

130/365 – Feeding Changeover

The great spotted woodpeckers eggs have hatched and the feeding duties have begun. The parents are in and out every few minutes which can lead to some traffic backing up. When each parent lands on the tree they let out a call to notify the other that they need to get in and then they wait for the other to emerge.

Great spotted woodpeckers at nest hole

The male exits while the female waits to go into the nest to feed the chicks

Do Ducks Goose?

On a recent visit to St Aidans a RSPB reserve near Leeds I decided to try and practice getting some in flight shots. It’s never been something I’ve really had much success with so I did a bit of reading and had a play around with some new settings.

The results were quite good but it was when I was photographing a pair of tufted ducks I got something a bit more than I bargained for. The ducks took off and I started panning with them and firing away.

Tufted ducks in flight

Tufted ducks in flight

As they passed me the male grabbed the female in the rear and definitely goosed her!! As with most females experiencing this, she wasn’t impressed and let him know. I wonder if they’re still a pair?

Male tufted duck goosing the female

Male tufted duck goosing the female

Dancing with weeds.

One of the most elaborate courting rituals your are likely to see this Spring is that of the Great Crested Grebe. First described in 1912 the spectacular display is played out across the waterways every spring. The grebes both sporting black and orange facial ruffs and black ear tufts will warily approach each other before starting to flick their heads from side to side

Grebes beginning courtship dance

Grebes beginning courtship dance

This may continue for a few minutes before they both dive down and re-emerge with beaks full of pond weed. They will then rise up from the water paddling furiously to maintain the height out of the water.

Weed dancing grebes

Weed dancing grebes

Watching them it’s hard to comprehend the stamina needed to keep them chest to chest and extended above the surface.

Weed dancers

Weed dancers

Once down to about 30 pairs in the UK they were brought to the brink of extinction for their feathers which were used to line hats and muffs. Now though through protection and conservation they are now numerous and can be found on almost any body of water.

Swan Lake

For the last couple of years I’ve visited our local boating lake to watch the cygnets arrive and grow into beautiful swans. However this year the female was recently killed in an accident and after seeing her bring 16 young into the world this year over the last three years its going to be hard to visit. The male is still on the lake and even though he doesn’t have a family to protect is still patrolling and chasing off perceived threats.

Protective swan

Protective swan

The local swan rescue had to remove the three young from last year as Dad was trying to chase them off so they could prepare for a new brood, but the stroppy teenagers weren’t going. After the death of the female they are looking to find a suitable replacement but as swans tend to mate for life it’s a tricky situation.

Swan take-off

Swan take-off

I’ll miss the opportunity to see them raise some more young but hopefully he can find a new partner and next year we’ll see them proudly showing off their new arrivals.