Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Reed Warblers, Tufted Ducks, Reed Bunting And A New Challenge

I paid a visit to my friend, the river, after walking the dogs this morning. The fishermen will be back from May 1st so my time of unrestricted wandering is drawing to a close. I will still have access, only less frequent. I was hoping to see water voles but despite good field signs the voles themselves remained hidden. 

The river took pity on me and shared some wonderful things in their place. The reed warblers are now back from Africa and out in force. I sat on a bench and watched one displaying. He flew high up above the reeds, singing like mad, then dropped back into the base of the stalks, only to hop back to the top in stages and zoom up into the air again, singing his scratchy song all the while. He repeated the process several times while I sat and admired him. Presumably, the robustness of the display was necessitated by the fact his arch rival for this pristine patch of reeds was sitting singing in the willow tree nearby. I wonder who will win? If possession is nine tenths of the law then he's there.

Reed Warbler (male)
A little further along I came across a male reed bunting. I've never seen one on this stretch of river before. He was hunting caterpillars, which the adults eat in spring although their more usual diet is seeds. It's possible he was also finding food for his children. Reed buntings have suffered a 30% decline since 1970 but their population has stabilised with around 250,000 territories in the UK. Interestingly, birds that utilise wetland habitats (such as  this one) breed more successfully now than those using farmland. Good old high intensity farming is likely to be the culprit there.


Reed Bunting (male)
I headed up to the other beat, which is more wild in many ways, and found a pair of grey wagtails bobbing in a tree. There are 38,000 breeding pairs in the UK following a 40% decline since the 1970s and they can be hit very hard by bad winters. I felt a bit seasick watching the constantly bobbing tail and after a while moved on to see what else I could find.


Grey Wagtail (male)
The cetti's warbler has set up a territory at the top the river near a bend in the water where a thicket of trees provides excellent cover. These are shy birds, restricted to a few sites in southern England, East Anglia and Wales. They look like an over-sized wren and have an enormous voice with a short but loud burst of song. They arrived in Britain in 1961 and were first confirmed to be breeding here in 1972. There are thought to be over 2000 males holding territories here now but, like the great wagtails, these birds really suffer from cold winters, and also from wetland drainage. This is my photo from last year because they really are impossible to see!


Cetti's warbler

A flash of blue caught my eye at that point; a kingfisher, whirring away up river towards a group of ducks. I had to look them up when I got home because ducks are not my strong point id-wise. These are Tufted Ducks and there are over 16,000 breeding pairs in the UK. Unlike many other bird species, their population increased during the 20th century. They are colonial, often nesting in groups. There were six of them on the river today...


Tufted Duck (male with crest, female without)
Back home and it is all go in the garden. I've located the nests of great tit, blue tit, tree creeper, sparrow and goldfinch, and suspect we've also got coal tits somewhere nearby because they're back and forth from the feeders all day. Coal tits nest in the ground in mouse holes. The nuthatches are also feeding babies- their nest is in the tree creeper's oak. 

Oak trees can hold a number of nests of different species at any one time. Last summer, a local oak I know had jackdaws, kestrels and a barn owl all nesting in it at the same time!

We've already got two baby blackbirds being fed by dad on the lawn, and a baby dunnock visiting the ground below the feeders. The bullfinch male was busy stripping the seed heads from dandelions we've let grow in the lawn. We're trialling a new grass-cutting system this summer: the whole thing gets cut on a longer setting, but half the lawn keeps its daisies and dandelions one week and we rotate that with the other half the following week. So far it's working as you can see from the bullfinch using the seed head.

Male bullfinch

baby dunnock
I'm hearing the cuckoo most evenings now, he calls close to the house at around 7pm. Last night I was thrilled to hear two of them. There was one on my morning walk and one down at the river as well. The females should be arriving any day which may account for the increased calling of the males.

Finally, in Running News, after Sunday's road race and the musing that followed I have entered an off-road half marathon which takes place this June. I've got eight weeks to get fit for it. I'm really pleased to have something new to focus on. Although I've got a couple of halves booked in for the autumn I felt I needed something significant to tackle before that. This one goes over the Downs so it will be hilly (yay!) and most of it is away from tarmac (yay again). It's run by a running club so there won't be too much razzmatazz (another yay). The prize is a beer tankard and some local beer to go in it, so all in all I think it will be right up my street :o)

I'm also contemplating entering the ballot for the London Marathon which opens next week. M has a good for age qualification which means his place is assured and he's planning on using it to enter for 2018 so I thought I might as well give it a go too. That t-shirt mix-up last Sunday has a lot to answer for!

Hope you're all well?

CT.

34 comments:

  1. An Italian friend gave me his Rome Marathon t-shirt. I wear it with pride when I'm training. This year he's entered the Venice marathon. I can hardly wait . . .

    My first race since January coming up soon. Unusually it's a road race but it's for a good cause. I won't be hammering it.

    The thought of the beer will get you over the next finish line!

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    1. I love the idea of swapping race shirts.

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  2. Had to come and look at your warblers!

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  3. So much life going on down at the riverbank. I wish I knew where to look.
    Your races all sound very exciting. The one with a beer at the end sounds the best. Although incredibly self concious, I managed to get out the other day. It was probably too much too soon but it felt good to be out there doing something at least. X

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    1. Whoop! Whoop! You go girl! Start small and build up slowly x

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  4. Saw a couple on the plane to Seville with London marathon tracksuits on. I thought of you. I'm sure that half marathon in June will be a breeze and all those lovely hills ( you must be mad!). Plenty of wildlife action in your part of the world. Would love to live by a river but then I mustn't complain with all my lovely oyster catcher friends. Like the idea of your half and half lawn mowing, will suggest it to my other half! B x

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    1. It'll be interesting to see how the hilly half goes. I'll walk if I have to! Hope Spain is going well. Seabirds are lovely things and your oyster catchers are some of my favourites xx

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  5. I really must learn to identify more birds and not just classify them as little brown jobs! Your photos are amazing - I can rarely photograph birds as I get too excited and panic, so even if I get my camera out in time, it's invariably out of focus. Yay for the 2018 London marathon - now there's a T shirt worth earning. xx

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    1. There's a useful Collins app which is pretty good. I have my camera hanging round my neck at all times :o). No idea if I'll get through the ballot- suspect I'd feel disappointed now if I didn't! Xx

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  6. Hey CT,
    One of Olly's friends Mum's entered the London Marathon last year when she was eight months pregnant with her daughter. She didn't expect to get a spot, but did and decided to raise money for a local charity that helps children with autism. She'd never run before, and trained by herself while juggling her family and her job. She ran it in just under five hours! How amazing is that! I spoke to her today, and she said it was one of the best experiences of her life. The crowds lining the route were so uplifting, she didn't even notice the first ten miles. Anyway I saw go for it! My 29k is looming; next Wednesday across beaches, up and down sand dunes and around Godrevy headland.
    Leanne xx

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    1. That is impressive. Tell her well done from me. I was thinking about your race earlier today. I'm sure you'll love it. The terrain sounds brilliant! Let me know how you get on - I'll be willing you on xx

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    2. Good luck Leanne 29 k is mightily impressive :). B x

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    3. I have a feeling she meant 10k, but I could be wrong :o) xx

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    4. I did mean 10k lol. I think anything else is a little out of my reach. This is what happens when you have no computer and are forced to use your phone for everything xxx

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    5. You'll be running 29k before you know it xx

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  7. Fabulous bird life, some great spots there. I think our great tits are feeding their chicks, although I'm worried they're not in and out enough. I am trying to trust them to make a good job of it! The blackbirds are driving me bananas by rooting around in the pots and between the cracks on the patio making a huge mess. They always look delightfully healthy which I put down to them eating a diet of (my) organic blueberries for six weeks of the year. I will forgive them anything when they sing though. Well done on the new race and good luck with the London Marathon application. If you dress as a giant rabbit or something we will all be able to watch you on the telly. CJ xx

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    1. I'm sure the great tits are doing ok :o). Our blueberries and cherries all disappear here too. I usually get to eat one or two, tops.
      A giant rabbit, now there's a thought.... I think I might prefer a giant "CT" on my shirt! Xx

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  8. That wagtail is very puffed out!

    Love reed buntings. Very dapper.

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    1. It was having a good old preen but it was quite chilly. Reed buntings are lovely things. I don't see them very often.

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  9. London sounds very exciting and it sounds like something you could do ! I will be cheering for you.

    cheers, parsnip

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  10. The Warblers aremarvelous and it is so good to know there areso many birds nesting and have fledged in our garden. Good uck with the training!

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  11. Lovely bird photos! I wish I managed to take some like those. And I so wish we had birds that like eating seed heads from dandelions. :)
    Good luck for the ballot! xx

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    1. Thanks, Sara. I'll pop over to visit you x

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  12. Lovely to see and read about all the birds on your wanderings and in the garden. I've got some weed type plants in the front that I leave and I'm rewarded with Goldfinches eating the seeds.

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    1. It's so great to see them using the plants like that isn't it? x

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  13. Well done with all your running, I have been reading through your journey..
    Lovely set of wildlife photos and a great read...
    Amanda xx

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    1. Thanks my dear. I'll pop over and catch up with your latest x

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  14. Great spotting! Good luck with the ballot. Zx

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  15. How exciting to hear the first cuckoo and find some much wildlife. Fingers crossed for the London Marathon you have come so far with your running. Sarah x

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    1. Many thanks, Sarah. Hope all is well with you both and Tavi x

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