Thursday, 28 April 2011

The Joys of Spring!

I have been so preoccupied with my Doves recently that I have forgotten to mention how lovely it is in the garden now Spring has sprung!  When I was planning to write my last entry I had intended to talk about how I heard my first Cuckoo of the year while standing in the garden with Pinky on my shoulder.  I also forgot to mention what a gorgeous day it was, the sun was shining and the garden seemed full of bees and butterflies.  Today it is overcast out there but the sun is up there, just blocked out by some annoying clouds.  It will return soon.  Oh I just looked out and it is raining!  The first rain in weeks so I will try and look on the bright side and hope it fills my water butts, which are numerous, so that I can water my herbs and seedlings with rainwater and thus avoid the daylight robbery which calls itself my water meter!

When the sun is out, which has been a lot recently the garden really is full of bees and butterflies.  I have been trying to educate the Grandkids that bees are harmless unless you annoy them and that our planet cannot survive without them.  I have explained about pollination in great detail but they still either run away screaming when they see on (which is often as we have tons of them) or try and kill them with a stick when they think I am not looking.  We are also blessed with lots of butterflies.  I have so far seen Orange Tip, Comma, Holly Blue, Speckled Wood, Brimstone and Peacock.  I am sure the copious amounts of Stinging Nettles and Brambles help attract them.  Hairy Hubby is always keen to strimmer them but I have saved them so far.  

Speckled Wood

Another creature we have in the hundreds is St Marks fly.  They are the most strange looking things which fly with their legs dangling and to me look like black fairies buzzing around the garden.  They don't harm anyone but in the qualities we have them they can be annoying.

A pretty bad pic of a Long Tailed Tit but it gives a good indication of the volume of St Marks fly!

There have also been lots of plants coming up, Lesser Celandine, Red Campion and Vetch although I have yet to research which type.  My wonderful Laurel tree has been blooming.  I love my Laurel tree, it is always green and lush and the birds love to sit in it before they go onto the feeders.  This does have the drawback of many of the leaves being covered in guano but for me it's a small price to pay.  I think Hairy Hubby would like to take a bottle of Dettol and a steam cleaner to it but luckily we can't afford the water!  My Bluebells finally made an appearance, they poked their little heads up just in time for lawnmower man to run them down.  Honestly that man, you have to go round the garden pointing stuff out to him every time he gets behind the wheel, he is a menace!

The leaves have really grown on the trees this past week and the wood looks dark and lush again.  The drawback is that with leaves on the trees it is much harder to see what is lurking amidst their branches.  I have noticed that the birds are eating much less seed now Spring is here, it is saving me a fortune.  I have also been putting out dog hair for them to use as nesting materials.  I find it very satisfying to sit and watch them come down and grab mouthfuls of hair to make their babies comfy.  It's not often you see a Bearded Great Tit!  I do also empty our own hairbrushes onto the grass but I notice the birds don't like The Hairy One's old hair much.  I can't think why.....

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Pinky's big day!

So today was Pinky's big day.  To be honest I was much more scared than she was.  I was actually close to tears, the old softie that I am.  I went down to her cage first thing and opened the door.  She just sat there and wouldn't budge, she always comes flying out as soon as I open the door.  After a few minutes I told her 'Ok I am going in to have breakfast then', closed the door and started to walk back to the house.  With that she went ballistic to come out so I opened the door and she had one massive fly about before coming to rest on the top of her cage.

It took ages for her to venture further, she mostly stayed on my shoulder but eventually I convinced her to sit on the bird table alone for a while.  Mr and Mrs Lovey-Dovey then proceeded to fly about like loonies to get her attention.  I thought they were being friendly and hoped that before long contact would be made and Pinky would spend the day in their company being guided by experienced doves.  How wrong I was.  When they eventually got on the bird table with her they fed with her for a minute or two before Mr Lovey-Dovey pecked at her and scared her off.

L-R  Pinky, Mr Lovey-Dovey, Mrs Lovey-Dovey

It was a very long day in the end, most of it spend outside with Pinky either on my shoulder or sitting somewhere watching the other birds hopefully.  She never went over to them but any time I put her on the Dovecote the male came down and shoo-ed her off.  I always thought Doves were sociable creatures rather than territorial.  It's all quite worrying.

Another thing which worried me was how Pinky tried to follow me indoors every time I went in.  She would flutter against the closed door and eventually sit on the roof and wait for me.  One time she even took to sitting on the opened part of the bathroom window.  At bedtime I felt I should be bringing her indoors to the study but thought it better to persevere.  I had to shut her in her cage again because otherwise she would be left out in the open, a sitting target for Sparrowhawks.  As she hadn't voluntarily tried to get into the Dovecote herself all day and was chased off every time I put her there I knew she wouldn't be roosting safely inside it.

Let's hope tomorrow is another day....

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Tales of Five Doves

There is lots of Dovey news, so anyone who is a fan of my little white feathered family grab a coffee, sit back and enjoy a catch up.  To anyone not interested in my birds, oh well, never mind!

First off Daisy and May went back to The Haven for a few days on Thursday.  I was having trouble syringe feeding them and it didn't seem fair to keep them here and have to be virtually force feeding them four times a day.  They were just not as easy to feed as Pinky and I am a novice at feeding babies.  It broke my heart to take them back even though I knew they would be coming home again soon but I knew it was for the best.  They had fun here and Pinky really took to them, she was even grooming them, it was very sweet.

Pinky preening Daisy and May and showing how to peck seed

The good news is that very soon after The Girls went back to The Haven they started eating big people seed and are now weaned!  How fantastic is that!  This should mean I can bring them home again on Tuesday when I go there for my regular day's volunteering.  So that will be double trouble flying round my study and pooping everywhere!  Does this look like a face who cares about the poop?  Nah not really!

Pinky has been enjoying spending day times outside in her cage by the Dovecote with view to letting her live out there with Mr and Mrs Lovey-Dovey sometime soon.  She is getting bored in the house and doesn't like being in her cage in the study, you can see she just wants to get out of it!  I know the day will come soon when I have to let her fly free in the garden but it fills me with dread.  I am very attached to my little girl and know I will worry myself stupid about her being out in the big wide garden all alone.  I'm thinking about letting her spend tonight out there in her cage to get used to it even more but then I keep thinking that she has been in her cage all day so she will want to come indoors for a wing stretch.  Oh this is so hard!

Mr and Mrs Lovey-Dovey had a tiff last night.  They were seen sleeping in separate nest holes, obviously all was not well in Dovecote Towers.  We did wonder if Mr Lovey-Dovey had been accused of looking at the gorgeous young Pinky too much and his wife had given him an earful!  They seem to be friends again today so he obviously made it up to her by bringing her nesting sticks or something.  They have been spending a lot of time in the garden up in the Sycamore behind the Dovecote, I don't know what has caused this change in routine but do hope it means impending egg laying!

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Intruders, babies and baths!

We had an intruder last night.  We were watching TV, or should I say trying to because there was seriously nothing worth bothering with, when the side floodlight came on.  Naturally we jumped up and looked out of the window to see who was trespassing in the garden.  The Hairy One got to there first, "I don't believe it" he said, or at least that is the polite version.  Peering under his arm (he is too tall to look over his shoulder) I saw a lovely chubby Hedgehog running full speed accross the lawn trying to get away from the light.  I was thrilled because I love Hedgehogs and that is the first time I have seen one in the garden.  Hairy Hubby however has some strange deep rooted mistrust of the poor little snufflers and was not amused at all.  "Now I will have to watch everywhere I walk"  he was muttering, along with several oaths.  Apparently Hedgehogs stalk him, yes honestly they do, they follow him about in a threatening manner.  He swears blind that in our last house one came under a car with him in the garage and snuffled down his ear (I would have liked that) so he swept it out with the broom and closed the door.  Then a little while later the same Hedgie came merrily ambling in the other door of the garage having walked all round the back of the house, down the alleyway, up the road, in the front garden and up the garden path...just to stalk him!  He also claims that they might go for the throat but I think this is a rare case of over exaggeration on his part!!!

I brought Daisy and May home today.  They are dear little snowballs, all warm and squeaky.  Pinky does not seem too phased by them, she came over for a closer look and they started screaming at her for food.  She gave them her best "I'm not your Mummy" look and left them to it.  Action Dog is really not impressed, even more feathered intruders to take her Mummy's attention!

I am not finding Daisy and May as easy to feed as Pinky and Perky were, they don't open their beaks for me and I am having to open them for them and squirt it in.  Hopefully we will setting into a routine after a few days and it will get easier.

Talking of Pinky, she had her first bath today.  I took loads of pics but will just post one here to brighten the page up.  Pics of Daisy and May tomorrow hopefully!

Pinky bathtime!

Monday, 18 April 2011

Oh Fudge (Duck)

I found myself back at Strumpshaw RSPB again today.  My birdy friends were coming to visit with promise of a pub lunch in lieu of my birthday on Saturday, I never turn down a pub lunch so I was really looking forward to it.  They arrived earlier than planned so we decided to go for the Fudge (Ferruginous) Duck at Strumpshaw before we went to the pub.  Yes, the same duck which was conspicuous by its absence on Friday.  

We arrived at the reserve in glorious sun to be told it had been seen earlier but was headed into the reeds.  Oh joy!  To be honest we have all seen Fudge duck a few times before so none of us were actually desperate for the tick but we had hoped to see it.  We had a meander round to the Fen Hide, sauntered in, lazily opened the viewing flaps and I started to faff with my camera changing lenses etc.  All very low key.  Then I got a nudge in the ribs to say the bird was on full view.  How jammy was that!  I hadn't actually expected to see it at all, let alone have it come out and perform for us.  So there were four happy birders all with another year tick in the book.

Not the best pic but you can tell he is Fudgy!  Hint: the duck on the left!

Our pub lunch was very nice, when we arrived in the car park there was an unexpected welcome in the form of a lovely Swallow sitting on the wires above our heads singing his little heart out.  You can't beat a swallow, they are total value for money, guaranteed to raise a smile!

What a little stunner!

The past few days it has been warm and I have been putting Pinky outside in her cage to get used to the big outside world.  I have put it by the Dovecote in hopes she will watch the big kids and learn the etiquette of being a grown up Dove.  She appears quite interested in the others but until today they took no notice of her, almost as if she was a second class citizen because she was caged.  I wanted to tell them she was a bone fide local dove who was born in that very Dovecote but as I have not found an e-course in dove-speak that wasn't possible.  Today however, the female of the pair flew up to Pinky's cage a few times and had a very brief look in.  She didn't land but it was obviously Pinky she was interested in.  The male sat on the landing platform trying to look very butch.

I think the transition from house to Dovecote is going to be as tricky for me as it is for her.  She is raring to go, she does not want to be in her cage at all now, she is out of it the whole time when I am home.  I don't put her in when I am out in case Action Dog climbs a ladder to open the door or Pinky manages to get stuck behind something.  Yes I know one is more probable than the other!  I know that sooner or later I am going to have to let her fly free in the garden but then what?  I mean what if she doesn't sit in the Dovecote but won't come back indoors.  What do I do, just leave her in a tree all night?  What if when it gets dark she is trying to get in, tapping at the window and I don't know?  What if she goes for a fly with the others and they fly off and leave her somewhere?  Oh what if, what if??

Friday, 15 April 2011

Strumpshaw Fen RSPB

I got up a bit late today, went into the kitchen to get some breakfast, checked my phone and found a text from a friend saying she and her hubby were going to visit Strumpshaw Fen today and would be there in an hours time! Well I wasn't going to pass that one up, I have been hoping to catch up with this particular friend for ages and had never met her hubby, plus I have been meaning to go to Strumpshaw for ages.  

I had a bit of a dash about, gulping down some porridge, forgetting to drink my tea and making a jam roll (healthy eating or what?) for lunch because that's all there was in the house and managed to get there in reasonable time!  We had a great walk round, there was nothing spectacular about, no Ferruginous Duck or Otters but some lovely migrants and a whole bunch of Black Headed Gulls showing off in front of the hide.  It was also the first time I have ever gone all the way round so was also a landmark occasion!

This guy thinks he looks dead hard, shame he looks like a clown really!

Other news.  Pinky is doing well, she has taken over my study and now spends most of her day flying about in there.  I put her away when I go out just in case she gets into trouble and no one can help her but apart from that she seems to enjoy using my dresser as a tree and perching on my monitor.  Oh yes and leaving copious amounts of poop everywhere.  I noticed that she had done one on the chair and that Hairy Hubby had sat on it but I decided that it would be best to keep quiet about that one for diplomatic reasons.  Heaven knows what it will be like when I have the new babies, Daisy and May, flying about.  Double trouble!  Pinky also likes sitting on my shoulder and preening my hair which is really nice except yesterday she managed to stick her beak right down my ear!  Not pleasant at all I can tell you.  Think sticking the cotton bud in too far!  I could still feel it about two hours later.  So now when she preens me or plays with my earrings I put my finger in my ear just in case!

Mr and Mrs Lovey-Dovey in the garden seem very happy.  They have a couple of Collared Doves who come and visit sometimes which is nice.  They have given them the guided tour of the des res bird table which is now basically theirs because not a lot else gets a look in.  They seemed to be nest building earlier in the week but I haven't seen them do that for a while.

Peggy the Pheasant with a sore foot seems to be improving.  I'm glad because she seems to be the favourite of the male bird who is often seen jumping on her back.  I feel quite sorry for her because she can barely support her own weight let alone his hulking great bulk and she is the smallest of the group of females.

I'm still waiting for The Hairy One to get his rear in gear and finish my Chicken House.  There is so little to do now it's really frustrating.  Just a handle to fit, some predator proofing and a bit of sanding.  It's like he has done the bulk of the work and moved onto new things.  New things being some stupid car he is doing up for someone.  I had hoped to get my new Chooks this weekend but that won't be happening now.  Maybe next weekend?

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Horsey Mere

I have been meaning to do the circular walk around the Horsey area since I moved here.  To be honest the main thing putting me off is that I am too tight to pay the car park fee.  Personally I think it's a liberty to make you pay extortionate prices to park somewhere like that.  Anyway today I bit the bullet and decided to blow the budget and pay the darn fee!

I arrived and marched reluctantly to the machine to buy a ticket only to be greeted with a sign which told me the trail was closed due to flood defense works.  How typical was that?  It also said that the shop might be able to advise me alternative walks so I trundled over there and spoke to a very nice lady who told me that if the locals had opened the fence because they were sick of it being closed.  Yipee said me and off I went and climbed through the gap in the fence.  I love a bit of trespassing!  After a while I realised that I was losing the trail.  I think that some of the way markers had been moved during the works and the trails crushed under caterpillar tracks.  After doubling back and finding a way marker I thought I must be on the right trail but eventually came to a dead end where a cut went right accross the path and there was no bridge.

Evidence that I can follow a path
I don't know exactly what was going on with the trail but despite having to turn around and head back to the car after an hours walking I am glad I went because I had a lovely view of two Common Cranes who were actually in the same field as me (probably a field I was not meant to be in...)  They were just ambling along without a care in the world.  It was probably one of my nicest Crane sightings because it was unexpected, I was alone and they were on the deck and fairly close.

When I got back to Horsey Mere I went back into the shop to check where I had gone wrong.  The nice lady had been replaced by a very rude man who treated me like an idiot who couldn't follow a trail, virtually pushing me away from his kiosk window to serve someone an ice cream, which was obviously much more important than my enquiry.  However I can follow a trail, see the evidence above!!!  I feel an email to his employer The National Trust coming on!

Other purely gratuitous pictures from my walk today, which I really did enjoy before I met the rude man in the shop....

Synchronised  Greylag

I never knew this existed

Horsey Mill, it used to be a donation to go up it, now its £2.50 a go!

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Life goes on

I had a surprise waiting for me at The Haven this morning.  There were two baby White Doves in a brooder!  Their mother abandoned them last night, she was a single parent and birds struggle to cope going solo as parents and often desert the nest under those circumstances.  They are two dear little (with think) girls, just getting their lovely white feathers.  The shafts are showing and there are tiny tufts of feather coming through.  Probably by next week they will be well on their way to being totally feathered.  I was able to have a cuddle with them and was asked if I would like to take them home maybe next week!  Would I?  OH YES PLEASE!  I have named them Daisy and May which might be spelt Mae but I haven't decided yet.  It was such a lovely surprise to see them especially after losing Perky on Monday.  Life stops for no one.

There were also a couple of other new babies in the hospital.  A baby squirrel for one.  He was gorgeous, a proper squirrel but in a mini version.  Full of fun and mischief.  I was able to have a cuddle and a play with him, he ran right up my arm and down my back like I was a tree!  I know I have done a lot of cursing about Butterfly the Squirrel but this little fella really was cute.  He drinks milk from a tiny doll sized bottle and holds it in his little hands.  Totally adorable.  The Haven do not usually take any thing other than birds but there was no where else for this little lad to go so one of the other volunteers is going to take him home and rear him.  She has done it before apparently.

The other new baby was the tiniest pink thing I have seen.  Not even as big as my thumb and with his eyes still closed.  Not a feather in sight and so young we can't even tell what species he will be yet.  We are thinking maybe a Robin from the size of him or certainly something Robin sized.  He takes his food in drops from the end of a cocktail stick because he is too tiny for a syringe.  Apparently a cat got at the nest and killed all his brothers and sisters.  This little lad only survived because he fell and landed accross a branch so the cat didn't find him.  It's a horrible vision to think of a cat with the other babies because they are totally helpless, it makes me shudder.

An old friend came to visit me late this afternoon.  Marilyn the white duck flew in with her latest beau.  It was great to see her in the garden again.  I often see her down at The Broad but she hasn't visited since this time last year when she was quite regular for a while.  I wonder if Esmeralda will appear again, she was my favourite and used to come to the back door and quack for food!  I have the feeling the ducks only come into the garden at around breeding time, heaven knows why but it seems to be the pattern.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Sad news

I heard today that Perky died in his sleep last night.  I knew he was very weak and sick, I knew this was probably coming but it is still a shock and still horrible.  I'm glad that I was able to have him home for those two nights and spend some time with him.  I'm also glad that he was able to spend some time playing with his sister Pinky.  They sat together for ages on my desk preening each other.  Perky had some adventures on my desk, he managed to flap onto the monitor shelf and got himself stuck behind the monitor.  I had to move everything to get him out.  He was very well travelled for a little bird who never really got to fly.  He went from Rollesby where he was born to Stratton Strawless, then to Somerset, back to Stratton Strawless and then to Rollesby and back to Stratton Strawless again.  He saw the world did out Perky!

I will never forget the way Pinky greeted him when I brought him home, or the way he cuddled into my neck the day I took him back to The Haven.  He was a dear little bird and I'm glad I knew him,  RIP Perks.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Once Bittern...

I had a lovely walk around a very quiet Hickling NWT yesterday.  It's usually quiet there so I wasn't fussed.  I had really wanted to photograph butterflies but typically I didn't see a single one during the whole hour and a half I was there!  There were Willow Warblers singing their head off on the trail which was lovely, I don't think the novelty of singing Willow Warblers ever really wears off even when you have heard a hundred this year.

The one star bird was my first Bittern of the year.  I always peep round the side of the second hide (whose name escapes me) just incase there is something really nice on the pool.  There never is but it makes me feel like a real birder to do it.  This time I raised my bins to watch a Lapwing and Blackheaded Gull having a disagreement over some food when something caught my eye along the fringe of the reeds. bittern..and out in the open!  I never see them out in the open.  I have seen loads in flight and half hidden by reeds but never out in the open.  I crept into the hide and carefully opened the flap, praying it wouldn't creak.  Creaky flaps are a speciality at Hicking, it's like they want you to scare the birds off!  Anyway the god of birding was on my side for once because there was no creak and the Bittern was still there, creeping slowly along the fringes, doing his wonderful Bittern walk.  I ran off a few shots, most were rubbish but one was not too bad.

Not the best Bittern shot ever, but its my best (only) one ever!

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Big Sis, Lil Bro

It's been an interesting couple of days.  Yesterday I had my birding friends come visit for the day.  We went to the coast to try and find a reported Ring Ouzel at the Waxham pipe dump.  When we left the car park at Horsey Gap it was breezy and not all that warm.  We all wore jackets and fleeces when we started our trek.  Naturally within five mins the sun came out and by the end of our walk it was 24 degrees and we were all about to collapse from heat exhaustion!

Looks more like The Sahara than Norfolk!

We never did find the Ring Ouzel but we had a great walk despite the overheating.  The highlight was the most amazing Yellow Wagtail any of us had ever seen.  It was right in the middle of the Waxham camp site just sitting there positively glowing in the sun.  None of us can remember ever having seen such a bright yellow one.  Absolutely the bird of the day.  But a Ring Ouzel would have been nice....

The other highlight of yesterday is that Pinky's weaning is coming along nicely.  I finally found some seed she likes.  It was trial and error but I had given her some of the wild bird seed I use and noticed that she was picking out one particular tiny seed and actually eating it as opposed to playing with it and spitting it out.  So I whizzed down to the pet shop to find a match.  I came home with Budgie seed!  My baby dove eats Budgie seed!  Since then she has been munching for England and has not been wanting half so much food from me.  She even turned down lunch today!  The other good thing is that her poops are not so watery and so easier to clean up.  She still produces copious amounts but thicker is better!

Today I had a garden treat.  I was out in the garden hanging out my smalls when I spied a Marsh Harrier cruising over the garden at tree top height.  He was well and truly in our air space, not just a 'seen from the garden' actually over the garden.  I called to The Hairy One to look and he asked if it was the one I had been looking for.  I wondered what the hell he was on about till I realised he thought it was the WT Sea Eagle!  It's easy to forget sometimes that non birders will not clock the difference between a bird with a 3 foot wing span and one of 8 foot!  Especially as he has seen both several times.  Oh I do wish I had seen that Eagle over my garden at tree top height.  Mind you I would probably still be talking gibberish now if I had!

Perky came home for a visit today.  He is still sick, though looking a little better than when I saw him last on Tuesday.  He was much better when having medicine but when the course finished he took a downturn so he is back on it for another go.  Anyway, the people at The Haven have asked me to have him for a couple of nights so I jumped at the chance to bring him home to see his big sis.  She was really shocked to see him and was jumping about in her cage shouting her head off to come out and see him better.  I think he was a bit overwhelmed by it all and eventually I put him back in his cage with his stuffed pony, he is used to a quiet life. Pinky is now sitting on his cage, I am not sure if that's because she wants to be close to him or if it's because I have put his cage where my printer usually goes and she likes to sit on the printer!  She is sitting over his head, I do hope she doesn't splat on him!!

Big Sis and Li' Bro (Pinky with red ring and Perky with green)

In order to bring Perky home I had to take a crash course in tube feeding birds.  Very nerve wracking I can tell you but my first attempt seemed to go OK so hopefully I will be just fine feeding him later tonight.  It's a very strange feeling poking a metal tube down a bird's throat and into it's crop.  Seeing them side by side it really is noticeable how small he is bless him.  Pinky is huge in comparison and has much more feathers.  I'd say he is a good two weeks behind her feather wise.  I do hope that one day he can come home to stay.

Monday, 4 April 2011

You win some, you lose some!

A howl of despair was heard in my house last night when I looked at Birdguides after a manic day of Grandkids, Easter Egg hunts and baby dove feeds.  A White Tailed Sea Eagle had flown virtually over my house and I didn't know!  It had been seen in Martham and then in Ormesby and I am just about in the middle.  If I had known I'd have made for open ground and looked UP!  I can only imagine what such a massive bird would look like away from the vastness of the Scottish Highlands.  Without those huge mountains as a backdrop it must look huge.

This morning I logged on after feeding Pinky and found that the bird had roosted locally!  Oh no, if only I had checked Birdguides earlier.  It was only a couple of miles away and the report was only an hour old.  Maybe just maybe it would still be there.  I grabbed scope and bins and was in the car and on the road within 5 mins of reading the report.  What I didn't know was that just about the time I was leaving the house it was seen over Caister!  You win some, you lose some!  Mind you despite heading south and being seen over Lowestoft it was reported today back in North Norfolk!  You can bet it will be sitting in a tree next to Rollesby Broad all day while I am at The Haven!