Welcome to the latest account of Garden Wildlife Watching. I distinctly remember a conversation I had with my son many years ago when he was quite young, but old enough to engage in some philosophical musing. The family was idling at a café in some light dappled Mediterranean sea front village taking in much needed liquid, whilst oil plastered sun worshippers bedecked the golden sands in front of us, their hazy silhouettes shimmering against a sparkling azure sea. Between sips of cool refreshing beer or cola, we were musing on the various things people did on holiday, concluding that simply lounging around on a beach somewhere would not suit our style. I told him that you could lift me up (not physically because not many people could do that) and plonk me down anywhere in the world and I would never be bored, simply because there would be something wild to discover. It’s as true today, maybe more so, than it was then. My interests in wildlife at that time didn’t extend much beyond birds and butterflies, whereas today I tend to poke my nose into every natural nook. Needless to say, this often leaves me bewildered and serves to highlight my ignorance, but never the less always provides interest.
This current lockdown is happily forcing me and many others to erase all notions of zipping off to the coast to revel in any spring migration from our minds, and to instead focus entirely on what can be found locally. I always tend to potter around the garden in late summer snapping away at insects, spiders and anything else that I find, but I’ve seldom spent much time doing so this early in the year. That’s probably because things like ring ouzels, warblers, chats and the stray exotics tend to dominate the horizon for a month or so. We won’t be troubled with such in 2020 I feel.
Here we are then restricted to garden wildlife watching, so what has turned up this week? Firstly, I can report that the blackbirds are now feeding chicks and have been doing so for a few days. To begin with the adult birds were very wary and reluctant to attend their brood if we were anywhere closeby. But they seem to have relaxed and decided we are harmless enough, making rapid flights into the thick ivy with beakfuls of juicy fodder. The magpies appear to have moved on temporarily, presumably nesting elsewhere this season, which means that to date the blackbirds have been able to go about their business unmolested. I hope it stays that way.
Dunnocks are certainly breeding in the thick hedges somewhere whilst greenfinches, goldfinches and robins must be doing the same. The great tit pair are still filling the swift box with moss whilst a pair of blue tits could well be utilising a nest box at the bottom of the garden after being chased away by the male blackbird from the one a few feet from his brood. Quite a satisfying list.
A couple of days ago a pair of buzzards caught my eye as they began soaring close by. As they gained height a third bird joined them quickly followed by two more. All five birds circled on high for a couple of minutes before each folding wings and rapidly veering away to the north east and out of sight. Later that day a trio appeared a bit lower and closer involved in some display or territorial duel. I lost sight of them behind the trees but they could easily have been some of the same birds present earlier. In fact, I’ve discovered buzzards over the garden to be a daily event and not so unusual as I hitherto thought. I never get tired of watching their effortless mastery of subtle air currents and always get pleasure from seeing, or indeed hearing, them. For variety, yesterday a trio of sparrowhawks drifted southwest but I should imagine they were local birds sparring over who owns which bit of sky.
Oh, and I’ve added blackcap to my bird list – one has been singing melodically from the bottom of the garden all morning.
Three new butterfly species have turned up in the garden; orange tip, holly blue (at least 2) and green-veined white.
There have been other insects which I have tried my very best to identify. These are the Tree Bumblebee (Bombus hypnorum), the White-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus lucorum), Gwynne’s Mining Bee (Andrena bicolor) – I know that’s right thanks to Tim Strudwick via the Norfolk Wildlife Facebook page, an authority on these confusing little creatures. Other 6-legged visitors I’ve found have been both pine and 14-spot ladybirds, and a hoverfly, Epistrophe elegans – thanks to James Emerson for correct identification of that. One thing is certain, I’ve had no time to be bored.
That concludes my account of the latest Garden Wildlife Watching. With fine weather forecast for the next few days it will be interesting to see what else turns up in or over my Sprowston oasis. That osprey and red kite are long overdo!