Coots

Not the most striking of our water birds the coot is often overlooked. All black apart from the the white beak and head shield they are a very common, living on almost any stretch of water. On our local boating lake there are a few pairs, one of which had hatched two chicks earlier this year. They can have up to 9 but struggle to raise a large brood and if unable to get enough food will abandon the weaker ones. The young are not the most photogenic duckling!!

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During the breeding season the coots are very territorial and will aggressively see off other coots or ducks. They will use their large lobe covered feet to attack, chasing away the intruder. However once breeding is over they congregate together in what’s known as a cover of coots. They are mainly plant eating but will grab small crustaceans and other small water animals and are regularly seen diving below the surface.

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Not the greatest of fliers they launch themselves into the air by running over the water to take off. Up close they are quite a striking bird with a vivid red eye. Keep your eye open next time you’re out and about near water and I bet you’ll see one.

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More Drama than the BBC

An early morning start to hopefully watch the woodpeckers fledge ended up being an emotional roller coaster!

As I arrived I noticed one young woodpecker clinging to the tree near the nest hole and the other squawking from the hole at the top of his lungs. The parents flew in and fed both before I was distracted by a real commotion further down the path with numerous birds mobbing a tawny owl. As I’d never photographed one before I seized the opportunity.

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 When the owl had finally had enough of the attention it was getting and flew away I returned to the woodpeckers and noticed the one that had been out of the nest had disappeared. After scouting around the tree I realised it had fallen and was on the ground by the path. As the wood is a popular dog walking area I couldn’t leave it where it was so picked it up and let it grab back onto the trunk hoping it would make its way back up. However it fell off again and after contacting a friend for advice placed it in a tree close by, hopefully to be soon spotted by its parents.

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I decided it was probably best to leave them alone and went off to see if the nuthatches were still in residence. The parents were busy flying in to feed but it was obvious the chicks would soon be on their way as they constantly popped their heads out to look around. One decided it was time to venture out but quickly changed its mind either deterred by the chilly wind or the sight of me!

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The bluetits were busy feeding and had a lucky escape when the male woodpecker had a go at grabbing a chick, but the location of the nest down in the knot of the tree seemed to be enough to stop it.

Close by a great tit was busy collecting material for a nest probably for its second brood of the year.

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As I set off to leave I thought I’d check on the woodpecker chick to see if it was OK and my heart sank as I approached and saw it grabbed by a crow!!

A morning of drama, emotion, joy and heartbreak. Who needs Game of Thrones!

A Punk Pirate

It hasn’t taken long at all for the woodpecker chick(s) to start peering out at the world. The parents have been in and out constantly with 35 visits with beaks full of food in just an hour. Imagine preparing a meal every two minutes for your kids!!

The male seemed keen to lure this youngster out with what looked like a dead chick stolen from another birds nest.

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The chick wasn’t too keen and was firmly staying put however tempting the offering. The female however was still pushing into the nest to clear up the faecal sacks which suggests there’s more than one in the nest hole.

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I don’t think they’ll be around much longer so I hope the forecast rain stays away as it would be nice to see them fledge in the sunlight.

Return of the Dipper

One casualty of the Boxing Day floods was the actual river who’s Geography was changed in many ways by the sheer force of water which surged down the channel. One area of rapids was a great spot for sitting and watching the dippers but the flood scoured them away so the dippers moved on.

I’ve seen them flying up and down but not found where they like to dip however I did notice them this weekend flying from the main river and into a small brook which flows in close by. It’s quite near to some locks on the canal so I could stand on a bridge over the brook and watch where they went.

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It soon became clear they had a nest nearby as both parents were in and out with mouthfuls of treats for the young, ranging from small fish to grubs and crustaceans. Unfortunately the site wasn’t great for photography but brilliant for watching their feeding antics. Hopefully I’ll keep an eye on the area and see the young soon.

 

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Meet the Neighbours

As you know I’ve been watching the local woodpeckers recently but within yards of their nest are three others species. All three have occupants and the parents are busy feeding all day long.

Just down the path are the nuthatches.

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Opposite the nuthatches are the Great Tits

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And just down from them are the Blue Tits nesting in the hole above the perch..

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It won’t be long till they all fledge and then the parents will probably start on a second brood.

 

Happy Birthday

The swan has been sat on her nest for some time now and the regulars to the park have been constantly asking for updates. Yesterday I was the first to see her new arrivals as three cygnets could be clearly seen in the nest and I happily passed on the news like a proud father. If I’d had cigars I would have been handing them out.

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She was constantly fidgeting though which suggests there may be more still to hatch. Last year she had eight who all survived and the year before she had six so fingers crossed there’s a few more to come.

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One of the three was clearly more confident than the others and was eager to explore its surroundings venturing out of the nest and pecking at twigs.

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It must be amazing to see the world for the first time with new sights, new smells and sunshine on their beaks. I do hope the first thing they saw wasn’t me!!

On The Moors

There are a lot of different habitats close to where I live but one I don’t visit as often as I should are the moorlands. Whenever I visit I tend to come across something new and it was the same on a recent early morning outing.

The warblers have returned and virtually all the small trees had one singing away in full voice. These were willow warblers trying to attract a partner for the breeding season after having arrived back from sub-Saharan Africa where they spend the winter.

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There were also lots of meadow pippits around, which although usually around all year may well have spent the winter at the coast or lower down the valleys.

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The star of the show though was the skylark which I watched rise to the heights singing its song before diving back down into the heather. Luckily I watched where it landed but its incredible camouflage meant it took me a good few minutes to fix on it and take a picture.

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