Thursday, 31 March 2016

The Mystery of the Sparrow Eggshell

Eggshells can hold a lot of history. For example, the largest egg in the world was laid by the elephant bird, measuring is 30cm high and 21cm in diameter. That's 100 times bigger than a hen egg! Unfortunately, the elephant bird was thought to go extinct from their home in Madagascar in around the 17th century. All that from an egg!

As you may have guessed, I didn't find an egg that was nearly that size. It was smaller than a hen egg, in fact. It wasn't even a full egg - it was half of an eggshell. White, speckled with brownish-black blotches. That's a little bit of a common egg decoration among birds.

The egg from both angles.
There's a hole in the wall and a pair of house sparrows keep flying into it, so perhaps this was a hatched chick's egg fallen out of the hole. On the other hand, it might be the remains of an egg that was eaten by another bird.
I managed to identify it as a house sparrow egg not too long later.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Park Photography Adventure (feat. Andy Whapham)

My Dad has a blog about photography ( Visit it HERE) and I have a blog about wildlife (you're already here!) , so what better to do than to combine them?

I recently went to London to visit my Dad (he picked me up in his car and drove me there) as well as my step-mum and two step-brothers. It was a blast! On Monday (the day before I left and the day after I got there) me and my Dad headed to the park with fancy cameras and took lots of fantastic snaps! I will admit, my Dad is a lot more experienced than I am at photography and he took better photos than I did, but it was a lot of fun and I didn't realise how much I liked photography until then! I also saw about four new wildlife species as well as at least twenty-five dogs!

My first picture - not great, but at least it's in focus!
We walked around the park, my Dad teaching me all sorts of different things and getting me on the edge of my (non existent) seat with a couple of stories (hint hint) about how he used to bike with his friends and such.
My Dad poses for me on a park bench showing off his lovely, fancy camera.
We saw lots of new species as well as exploring a few areas I hadn't seen before. It was a little prickly here and there and I tripped up on some twigs. It was also very hard when I wanted to take a photo on the ground; balancing on your tiptoes whilst bent down is not an easy task...I will say that my trousers got a little gunked up with mud. There might still be a leaf in my shoe...
Mine and Dad's favourite photo of the day! ❤
"I think that's my favourite - there's a bit of reflection in there and it's in focus" -Rough quote from Andy Whapham, 2016
My highlight of the day was seeing an Egyptian goose, which I successfully identified myself. I managed to snap a photo, which will be seen a bit down the blog post, but I only got a picture of it's backside, and I didn't get much of it's details. I don't know much about the species yet, as I can't find it in any of my bird identification books, but I'm guessing it was probably a male as the colours were stunningly bright. It almost reminded me of the mandarin duck when I saw the back feathers.  We also saw a pair of tufted ducks (which were a lot smaller than I had imagined), which my Dad identified (he too used to be a keen birdwatcher), a coot (yet another new species) and a parakeet. Oh boy! What a day.
Other species we spotted (which I've seen before) were mute swans, lots of carrion crows, moorhens, mallards and  a great tit (I've never seen that before either!).
Carrion crow strutting his stuff!
I love these kinds of pictures - hiding behind objects!
Am I the only one who imagines an osprey - best bird - perching on top of this?!
Using a natural tripod.
Even though the subject is out of focus, I kind of like it that way!
What a shot! least I got a shot of him! (or her...gender equality!)
The camerashy coot...!

"There's nothing like a picture of a rock," -A.W, 2016
Is this disregarding the mallards' privacy?
" takin' a photo of me?"
Last picture of the day - yet another bird bum.
That was only some of the 91 pictures I took that day. There was another I wanted to share, which was of some dogs, but I didn't think you guys would want to look at another animal bum. Thanks to Dad for taking me on this fabulous exhibition!
One thing I've learnt going on it is that it doesn't have to be perfect - it is just about what makes you happy.


The Blue Tit Saga

Common birds; exactly what they say on the tin.

"Common, adjective; occurring, found, or done often; prevalent."

Well, one of Britain's most common garden birds is the blue tit. The favourite of many British people who own a garden. Cheeky, adaptable and just plain cute, these birds are hard to miss, and easy to attract to any garden across the country.

However, for years me and my mum have failed to attract this bird to our garden. It seems impossible to think: all these little birds need is some shelter, and some peanuts (obviously simplified, it isn't quite as easy as that, but still very easy). But yet even though next door's garden had a tall conifer tree, we offered food which we changed weekly, we lived near to a field with a fenced off forest that the birds could live in themselves without much disturbance, and bushes to hide from predators (which, to me, was an ideal habitat for any garden bird) the perky little cyanistes caeruleus' to our garden.

At that point, I will admit I honestly considered giving up bird watching, since somehow we couldn't even attract one of the commonest birds to our garden.

It was then my mum came up with a plan. Well, not really a plan, just a decision to perhaps spice things up a little in the garden and get fat birds flapping around.

"Instead of changing the food weekly, perhaps we could add food every two days?"

I felt like a complete idiot. How could I, the only person I knew who I considered quite knowledgeable on British birds, not have thought of the plan before? I quickly brushed the thought aside and went along with mum's idea. The house sparrows flocked even more to our garden. Starlings barged into the way, sending any small birds darting for cover, to get in on the meal. Woodpigeons pecked at the ground below, scoffing up any dropped seed they could get their hands - or bills - on. I grinned at the dinner party that was occurring outside my window.

One day, while I was on my iPad, my mum called me to get downstairs immediately, but be quiet and slow. I thought to myself, why on Earth would I need to come down so fast yet so slow?

But when I did, it was well worth the wait. Mum pointed frantically at the window, whisper shouting.

"Look, look! That bird there - that's definitely NOT a sparrow," stuttered mum. "Look, it has whiter cheeks. The tail's longer too! Perhaps it's a great tit? I think so-"

"Blue tit."


"That's a blue tit. Without a doubt."

"What? Isn't it a great tit? It looks around the same size."

"Look at that yellow breast, and blue head. And look at that sparrow over there, compare the sizes. The blue tit is smaller."

I flicked through my bird book and checked the sizes of the house sparrow and the blue tit.

"Hey, look. See? The blue tit is around eleven centimetres, yet the house sparrow is around fourteen!"

After sighing at the bird flying away, and just resisting the temptation  to cheer when we returned, we decided to keep watching the window from then on.

That blue tit marked the start of our bird café. The local collared dove(s?) sat on top of the bird table as a perch and went into it, nibbling. We might have (though I doubt it) even saw a long tailed tit. Robins came along too.

But in my opinion the blue tit was the best of them all, and we were all concerned for it's survival.