During a recent short trip to Dublin, we hired a car for a day to explore the Wicklow Mountains and to visit Russborough House in Co. Wicklow. This wonderful country estate has a fabulous collection of paintings and furniture – and has been the location for some spectacular burglaries. One was by Bridget Rose Dugdale, for example, for those with long memories. It is also home to the National Birds of Prey Centre of Ireland, which we had time to visit briefly.
I took some photos of several uncaged birds that were tethered out in the open. Many were, or at least looked, familiar. They were unlabelled and when I came to check IDs later, including on the centre’s website, some of them didn’t add up. Eye-colours were wrong. Facial and frontal markings were unusual. And so on.
I emailed some low-res imaged to the centre, and they quickly explained the reason: we had been looking at hybrids. This post shows one example, a juvenile female gyrfalcon crossed with a saker falcon. Here are wiki pics of each of the pure-bred birds.
So now I realise that there’s a whole extra angle to bird of prey ID that I had never before considered…
About 10 years ago I was given a terracotta ‘bird ball’ as a birthday present. Over the years it has been hung in several shady positions around the garden. We have seen blue tits give is a cursory once-over in April. It’s been ‘perch on the top, head through the door, quick discussion, fly off never to return’. This year it was different: late April interest and preliminary inspections, followed by moving in, furnishing, egg-laying, incubating, hatching, frantic activity, tiny squeaks and cheeps… then we went away for four days. Bad timing – we had missed the main event.
The nest is now empty, the occupants all flown. With some difficulty, I managed to get a shot of the little nest made of dry grass and moss. The birds left the nest very tidy, with just a single tiny thank-you feather left behind…
A flash of sunlight across the lake, and suddenly assorted wildfowl emerged from the half-gloom and showed their true colours. This pochard was closest so I seized the moment…
MEA MAXIMA CULPA
My attention levels to this blog have dropped from the insouciant to the negligent, and right down to the culpably neglectful. A prosecution for recklessly wasting precious space in the diminishing capacity of world’s supply of ether must surely be close. I have considered closing it down, but somewhere in the mix there are a few things that people obviously find interesting or useful; things I have researched and photographed in detail. Followers may be comparatively few, but the daily hit tally remain surprisingly high – whether I post anything or not. So for now, I’ll keep this running… But there’s only so much time in the day, and this blog is one project that takes a hit.
The ring-necked parakeet (rose-ringed parakeet) Psittacula krameri
These pretty, noisy, gregarious birds, originating from the Indian subcontinent and (as a subspecies) the central Africa belt, are survivors and prolific breeders. Feral colonies, often expanding from a handful of escapees or released birds, are now found in many regions throughout the world. They are very adaptable, and populations spread rapidly. There are many thousands of them in south-east England, from the very heart of London to the outer reaches of the Home Counties to the south and west.
It comes as a surprise to learn that the UK population has only become established in the last 60 years or so. Some colonies are several thousand strong. We have a smallish colony in our part of west London. I can only imagine the noise (and mess…) emanating from a huge population of many hundreds as they swarm in to roost at night.
We get the parakeets passing through our garden most days, mainly in small groups of about half-a-dozen. After pausing to make the most of any filled bird feeders – from which they swing upside down – they head to the park at the top of the road, where they roost. That’s where I took these photos a couple of days ago.
We get pleasure from these green exotics, with their long tails and beady eyes. Elsewhere, they have undoubtedly become a nuisance. In places there are far, far too many of them and there is talk of culling. I don’t think anyone suggests complete removal; and by now it’s probably too late for eradication. But I do see that there is need for control where populations are out of control and breeding exponentially. I hope ours will stay around. I also hope the numbers stay much as they are now.
This young robin assisted me while I was gardening by encouraging me to turn more soil for his benefit. He was mostly within arm- or foot-length, and when we got tangled he flew to the edge of the garden rubbish bag. It was there that noticed the intricacy of his feathers, and so I took advantage of a bird’s eye view, so to speak. Click an image twice for a full-scale close-up.
Sometimes a sequence of photos suggests a narrative. I’m not sure I have ever been so close to a jackdaw before, but this one completely ignored me as it practised what appear to be its marching steps…
Lead Off With The Left
Left Foot Firmly Forward
Pause To Change Stride
Right Foot Forward…
We saw the first few swallows of summer here in Dorset yesterday. Two singletons and a group of three. Their arrival is about a week earlier than usual. One swallow may not make a summer (though it works for eating an oyster), but since there were five of them, I reckon early summer is here.
I have been neglecting this blog recently because a lot has been going on… However while clearing out some old photograph files, I was stopped in my tracks when I found this tiny Australasian owl. I saw it in an owl sanctuary last summer, but had forgotten all about it – I had been concentrating on another species, the Burrowing Owl. I feel it deserves a wider audience!