Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Snakes eggs, Siskins and a second male Blackcap

These were discovered by my mother near her compost heap yesterday. I've never seen snake eggs before but having googled them I think these are probably Grass Snakes. The fact she swept a baby Grass Snake up in her dustpan last week (resulting in a swift whiskey being consumed before lunch to steady the nerves- she isn't good with snakes) while tidying up her stables would seem to support this theory, but if anyone knows different please let me know. 

She has seen adders in that location before. Adders are probably my favourite snakes. L and I once saw a black adder on Canada common. In fact I would have trodden on him if L, aged about 6 at the time and blessed with incredibly sharp eyes and equally sharp powers of observation, hadn't seen it and shouted a warning. He was lovely, just lying there basking in the sun quietly minding his own business. 

Anyway, I think these eggs are amazing don't you? Each one has a tiny hole where the baby snake has wriggled out and they measure approx. 2.5cm long by 1.5cm wide.

We had a disaster with our male Blackcap on Monday evening. I was talking to M who had just got home from work when we heard a horrid bone-chilling thud from upstairs and the next thing I knew a small body plummeted down out of the sky and landed heavily on the flagstones outside. Our male Blackcap had smashed into our bedroom window and I honestly thought he was a goner. I couldn't believe it. He lay on his side as he'd landed, feet in the air, twitching and breathing very heavily for five minutes, then managed to get his feet under him although he still had his head down and to one side. He remained there unmoving for another 15 mins and I don't think I breathed the whole time, then finally he managed to sit up and started to look around. 5 more mins and he hopped into cover, 15 mins after that and he'd flown off. I saw him on the feeders an hour later looking none the worse. Phew! Just shows if a bird hits a window don't interfere - leave them for half an hour or more because they may well just be severely stunned and the shock of human contact in such conditions could be enough to carry them off.

Anyway, the very next day I spotted another Blackcap on the feeder, this is a different male - he is far skinnier than our sleek first boy and also more nervous and reactive to my movements. I've seen both of them at the same time since so we definitely have two. I'm assuming he's just arrived from the migration as he's spending all his time stuffing himself on the feeders. I haven't seen a second female yet but am keeping my fingers crossed. Hopefully there is a good chance.

I've finally managed to get some shots of the original Blackcap pair feeding together. They are very sweet with one another, feed close together, squash up next to one another and frequently fly off in the same direction. She is becoming quite brave and this morning sat on the fence near me while I was eating lunch outside. It gave me a great opportunity to have a closer look at her. They're both possessive feeders and see the blue tits off in no uncertain terms. Compared to the new arrival they are decidedly podgy, but this has to be good news for nesting.

I'm not aware of any other pair of birds in the garden who spend as much time together as these two do. I am keeping everything crossed that they stay and hatch blackcaplets and bring them into the garden to show me.

The other pair who turned up unexpectedly yesterday (I haven't seen hide nor hair of them for a good few weeks) were the Siskins. Apologies for the blurry pics- M had knocked my nyger seed feeder over during a particularly robust exchange of croquet with F at the weekend and broken it, so it was sitting on the wall outside the kitchen window at an awkward angle for photographing. I didn't want to let the moment slip away without getting a snap or two. They are such beautiful birds, and again the female was much braver than her husband when it came to the camera...

I've replaced the nyger seed feeder and I'm not sure the goldfinches are all that impressed. On the one hand the new model boasts a "tray" to catch the seeds and they did seem to approve of that, but on the other it is decidedly less "smart" and to be honest looks a bit cheap and plasticky (the old one had a gold metallic top and bottom), and I'm not sure how well it works (or indeed how long it will last). The jury's out at present.....

The sparrows are still busy carting off nesting material suitable or otherwise from the garden at a time when I'm pretty sure nearly everyone else is already sitting on eggs. I frequently see either or both of them with beaks stuffed full of other people's feathers and bits of garden debris. By late yesterday afternoon he was in pensive mood sitting on the top of the hedge looking out across the garden, perhaps reflecting on what is presumably his wife's fussiness over nest preparation. If he's anything like my husband he'll be thinking: I've made it functional what more does she want???

The other two photos were taken last week- amazing how much the hedge has come out since then.

Beak full...

Here's another blurry picture I have to apologise for the quality of but we so rarely get Jay's in the garden I was rather excited to see him and it was worth a twiggy picture....

We went into the forest on Sunday to check on the wild bee's nest and I am pleased to say they had all gone, which I hope means they've survived the winter. There was a chunk of nest loose so we bought it home. The perfect symmetry of the shapes really astonishes me. Very clever people bees- and great news this week that the EU has voted to ban the pesticides that are thought to be affecting their central nervous system with such dire results. Let's hope it's a significant step in the right direction and their numbers can start to recover.

I'll end this rather long and rambling post with a photo of our new Head Robin, who is so far nameless. Our previous Head Robin, Blackberry, sadly died ten days ago and it has taken the new boy all that time to muster the courage to claim the Head Robin's Chief Singing Position (on the top branch of the tree that has last year's abandoned magpie nest in it- another female who scolded her husband whenever he tried to lay a twig down). This is him singing on the elder tree outside the kitchen window a couple of days ago....

Enjoy the sun!



  1. Some lovely photos here CT. What a lucky escape for the blackcap!

    Last summer we had a young nuthatch get itself trapped by the leg in the frame of the greenhouse. I had to gently disentangle it and put it on top of the bird table while it recovered. I was terrified either it or I had damaged its leg, it took a while to recover but eventually hopped about and then flew off apparently none the worse for wear. They are more resilient than they look!

    1. Thanks Jessica :-)

      How awful- poor nuthatch and thank goodness he/ she was ok. The more I watch the birds the more amazing I find them- they look so delicate yet they survive the winter outdoors, smashing into windows and getting stuck in greenhouse frames. It's more than we would I'm sure!

  2. I've seen snakes but never their eggs but suspect you are correct with your identification, certainly fascinating to see them. Glad you are having so much Blackcap activity and getting some lovely photos of them but very sorry to read of the window episode! Poor thing :-( So glad it seemed ok in the end though. I think I have mentioned before that we had the perfect imprint of a Sparrowhawk on our French door a few years ago but no sign of the bird so it must have survived! We also had a Goldfinch which sadly didn't survive :-(

    Lovely to see the Siskins and the Jay which I'm very envious about, I have never had a Jay in my garden. Yes, great news about the pesticides. I read it's initially only a two year ban but presumably that will be enough time to prove it needs to be banned altogether. Love the sparrow photos! Best wishes, Jan :-)

    1. Hi Jan,
      That must have been quite a shock to see a sparrowhawk imprinted on your window! I dread the young birds crashing into the windows at this time of year and am thinking about getting stickers to help dissuade them. I've now seen three Jays in the trees near home since posting - we have an abandoned vineyard on two sides of the house, it's v overgrown and I suspect is supports a lot of the birds we see in the garden.

    2. PS- HUGE apologies Jan I've just realised I called you Val in the previous post. No idea where that came from! CT :-0

  3. Lovely photos and terrific post. I was worried about your blackcap, so I'm pleased he has survived the ordeal. Hope a second female turns up soon. The snake's eggs are fascinating; I used to see adders as a child but I haven't seen one for a long time. It's great news about the wild bees surviving - and I agree, it's also good news that the EU has moved to protect bees at last.

  4. Let's hope the data supports the need to make it a permanent ban then we'll be getting somewhere at last. No sign of a second female BC but I'm not sure how territorial they are so possibly they wouldn't nest too close together? Hope all your bees are OK Wendy.


Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x