Mixed Feelings

We now know the location of the Goldfinch nest. They’ve chosen an old ivy-clad, and previously pollarded, willow tree that died two or three years ago from Honey Fungus. At the time we cut off all the dead willow branches to use for kindling, and the ivy has since pretty much taken it over. We now call it the ivy tree. The Goldfinches are nesting near the top, on the field side.

The “Ivy Tree” is to the far left.

I’ve seen one of them, I assume the male, spending a lot of time hanging around outside at various vantage points. A securing cable for the near-by pole for the electricity line is a favourite, if uncomfortable-looking, spot.

He’s been singing his heart out which is his way, I think, of proclaiming his territory. I’ve seen him chase off other Goldfinches that have been passing by or pottering about in near-by trees. And then his partner occasionally pops out from the nest and they go off to do a bit of together foraging.

Yesterday one of them arrived back at the nest with what looked like a piece of grass or two, so maybe they’re still applying the finishing touches. Finished or not, the female is spending most of her time on the nest at the moment.

The thick coat of ivy seems to make the old willow tree a popular location. Pigeons have nested there in the past and a pair of Robins are currently nesting further down, about three foot off the ground. There was a pair of them nesting there last summer and the young fledged successfully – we watched them leave the nest one by one on a sunny afternoon – so it may well be the same couple back again.

In the winter I looked over the area where I thought the Robins’ nest was, but couldn’t see anything. The old tree trunk is hollow and there’s a long narrow opening which the ivy has now largely overgrown.

The entrance to the hollow inside extends maybe a couple of feet above from where it’s visible.

I suspect the Robins might be entering through the ivy and that the nest is actually inside the tree. Then again, the ivy growth is pretty thick and the nest might just be nestled against the trunk with the leaves covering it.

One of the residents. They don’t like going in when anyone’s watching.

There’s more than one pair of Robins in the garden and field, and they’ve had a few tussles lately. We’ve also noticed them having a go at a pair Dunnocks, who I think may be the pair now nesting in the largish bramble patch (to the right in the picture at the top) along with the Thrushes and Long Tailed Tits.

Robin with Attitude – is there any other kind

It’s all pretty competitive out there. And dangerous. The old willow tree with the Goldfinches and Robins is next to a couple of conifers in which I suspect there are one or two other nests as there’s been a lot of small bird activity there recently. Every time a member of the crow family flies by a flurry of small birds raise the alarm and chases after them.  They went berserk a few days ago when two jays passed through at the same time. 

A potential nest-raider watching over the garden, looking out for any give-away signs

A lot of birds become more predatory at this time of year it seems. We have a pair of Greater Spotted Woodpeckers regularly visiting the garden. They’ve always been welcome visitors in the past, but they’ve taken Great Tit chicks and Blue Tit chicks from our nest boxes in recent years – once wiping out an entire brood, so my feelings about them have become a little mixed. 

I’ve also had a soft spot for our resident pair of Carrion Crows. I saw one of them, a year or two ago, messing about in the stream and watched as it selected a white stone from the gravel bed and then flew off to his partner in the field who he presented it to. Which was kinda cute and endearing. Then a few days ago I stepped out of the back door and heard a loud commotion by the stream – wild screaching and flapping. I saw a Crow with what I thought initially might be a duckling in its beak – we’ve had mallard broods here in the past – but a male Blackbird’s loud alarm call, and its sudden appearance chasing after the Crow, which was flying away across the field almost immediately, suggested otherwise. Seeing the fluttering, screaming bird in the crows beak was pretty shocking. I thought it was a bit early for fledglings – I haven’t seen any about – but on the other hand I wasn’t aware that Crows took mature adults.

It all happened very quickly and I only managed to get a hurried picture of the Crow with its prey when it reached the other side of the field. The yellow edges of it’s gaping beak as it was being carried away, and its mottled chest, suggest the victim may well have been a fledgeling rather than an adult, but I don’t think there’s enough detail to be sure. Whatever, it’s now also a case of mixed feeling when it comes to crows. 

Another spring casualty

There’s a lot of new life about at the moment, but quite a bit of sudden death too. I guess that’s the nature of Nature. It’s tough out there.

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8 Comments

    1. Thanks, Mike. Yes, I liked the Robin pic too. They can look a little bit scruffy at this time of year – a few tufty bits here and there where they’ve had encounters with other Alphas, I’m guessing, but they kind of wear them as a badge of honour. And after all the scraps they’ve had, I think a few feathers out of place is understandable anyway!

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  1. I love your pictures. Would you like to come round and use your incredible patience to photo our pair of bullfinches who are back for the second year and a newly arrived linnet?! Did you see the pink as it set at 5.15 a.m. the other day?

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    1. Not a huge amount of patience – have managed to get into the habit of keeping the camera with me when I have a cup or glass of something outside. Well, most of the time. Otherwise it’s a sprint back inside and out again to find – obviously – that the shot has gone. No bullfinches here for a while, we’ll give you a ring. The linnet sounds tempting too – never seen one here. Re the ‘pink’ are we talking about that amazing sunset the other day? If so, we did. The pinkest pink ever. Stunning.

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  2. I know what you mean about mixed feelings…the joy of having birds nesting and the stress of listening to alarm calls as jays and magpies and crows pass through. Of course it’s perfectly natural but I feel sad that the songbirds are getting a hammering from all sides what with so many environmental issues whereas the corvids are less affected by such things. Great post, thank you.

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    1. And we get to see and hear them getting hammered – which can be pretty gruesome, even harrowing. But then of course the cheery little songbirds in turn are causing carnage on an industrial scale in the insect and caterpillar world. But somehow seeing a Wren or a Blue Tit with a mouthful of mushed tiny creature protein on the way back to its nest doesn’t generate quite the same feelings of sympathy for the victims. And of course caterpillars meet their fate in silence – no screaming when they get plucked off an oak leaf! Thanks for your comments, Jen. Much appreciated.

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      1. Haha! Yes, you’re absolutely right, and when you think of all the challenges it’s incredible so many fledge successfully, but they do. We had blackcaps nesting in our garden last year, but I have absolutely no idea whereabouts so they clearly found a good spot ☺️

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