It’s All About the Brambles

The birds are doing their usual springtime partnering-up thing and I’ve noticed one or two species returning to nest sites that they used last year. Once again the brambles are proving popular.

A pair of Long Tailed Tits are back, which is a bit of a surprise as I thought they’d deserted their nest, situated in one of the larger bramble patches in the field opposite, last year. I’ve read somewhere that if nest sites are predated, the birds will not return, which doesn’t seem unreasonable. But than again maybe this is a different pair and the site just has potential-long-tailed-tit-nest-site written all over it. Who knows.

Anyway, the pair of them are now busy collecting building material for the nest which seems to include little bits of dried grass…

…lots of cobwebs – presumably to help bind other materials together…

Plenty of cobwebs under the eaves and in the corners of windows

…and what looks like pieces of lichen from a near by willow tree:

I thought lichen seemed an unlikely building material but I’ve learned from a website called Nurturing Nature that Long tailed tits do indeed use lichen for the exterior of their nests. In the pictures on that site it looks like a kind of green/grey pebble dash which camouflages the nest and, I’m guessing, might strengthen the structure too.

I’ve also noticed that the Long Tailed Tits seem pretty relaxed about hanging around above the nest site – in between, that is, their frantic sessions of nest material collecting. Their occasional laid back attitude is very different from the nervousness of a pair of thrushes which are back nesting in the same bramble patch but on the other side. They’re incredibly secretive. I’ve never seen them hanging out close to the nest site and they always seem to approach it in a very round about way, taking their time about it too. They seem to do everything they can to avoid attracting attention.

Spot the Song Thrush, watching me watching her. She subsequently flew off without going into the nest. It really does feel like they know when they’re being watched.

I first noticed them this year when on one of the pair nipped out from the bramble patch and swiftly flew away. The pair that were nesting there last year always flew off at high speed when exiting the nest. My assumption was that they felt exposed out in the open with all the potential predators about. We didn’t see any thrush fledglings last year and I wondered whether they might have been predated too. But they could have just moved away to somewhere with better cover as soon as they’d left the nest. It’s quite open in the field and Sparrow Hawks are regular visitors. Particularly when there are fledglings about and they have their own young to feed.

I saw one of the thrushes again yesterday, going into the brambles with a mouthful of goo-like material in its beak. Seems a bit early to be feeding young but maybe it was a beak-full of mud, which I know they line their nest with. There’s a ready supply by the stream. Talking of lining nests, I read on the Nurturing Nature website that Long Tailed tits use something like 1500 feathers to line their nests. That’s a lot of little feathers to find. Apparently the tiny young need serious insulation to protect them from frosty spring nights. I think they’re now approaching the finishing stages of nest construction as they’ve just started collecting feathers. Just another 1,498 feathers to go.

Other possible bramble-nesters I’ve seen include a Dunnock that I noticed sitting proprietorially on another bramble patch that I’m pretty sure a pair of them nested in – or at the base of – last year.

And I’ve seen a Gold Finch hanging around on its own which is unusual – they usually come in pairs or flocks – and I’m wondering whether he has a mate brooding a clutch of eggs near by.

I also saw a robin singing its heart out perched on some painfully sharp-looking brambles a while ago, but that may just have been a good vantage point for his performance. 

With all the different nest-raiding corvids about – magpies, jays, jackdaws, a resident pair of crows and even the odd raven passing through  – the thorny barrier of a thick bramble patch must seem like good nest protection for smaller birds that can nip in and out to their nests without a problem.

Yesterday, in one of my regular wanders up the garden I saw – and heard – a male Blackbird chasing away one of a pair of Jays. And there was a magpie lurking around as well. They were back again pretty quickly. The odds do not look good. Maybe the Blackbirds will try a bramble patch next time.

Below is another picture of one of the delightful Long Tailed Tits. I include it here just because I like the image – a bit Japanese print-ish – and it’s also the first time I’ve noticed the curious circular bokeh effect of the new lens.

I think Long Tailed Tits are becoming one of my favourite species.