Saturday, 23 June 2012

Mrs Blackbird

The nest is in the bottom centre of this picture, at the far left of the box


"And then there were four!"




"They are just like Cadbury's Mini Eggs!"


"Keeping a beady eye on me"



Making friends

It is now two weeks since I began sharing my balcony with a blackbird family. Mrs Blackbird, while sitting on her four beautiful eggs or perching on the side of the window-box having a stretch, has become quite used to me popping out now and then to check on the weather or to water the plants, and also to keep a check on how she is.

Last Sunday she even let me sit in my chair beside her and read the newspaper.

Today I could get really close again to take a new photograph of her on the nest. I had actually rushed in to get the camera when I discovered that she had left the nest for her early morning stretch but by the time I got back the nest was filled with her fluffed up body again.

Is Dad standing by?

I have not seen the black Mr Blackbird since before my trip to England. It was the male bird that I had spotted making a mess of my plant pots when gathering mud for the nest. I hope that he is still around and will reappear to help out with the feeding frenzy that will soon begin.

If Dad has come to an unfortunate end then I will have to give a helping hand by purchasing Mrs Blackbird some maggots from the fishing-tackle shop and leaving them on the balcony for her.

That is something else that I learnt from my Mum!

With a family of keen fisherman there was often a can of maggots in the fridge.  My Mum, with Dad’s full approval, often raided this tin, placing some of the contents on a tray in the middle of the lawn. She did this particularly to help out her robin friends, who fed from her hand, when there was a huge family of baby-birds to feed. She also fed the robins grubs that she found while raking the moss from the lawn to use to line her hanging flower-baskets. These grubs were specialities that the robins always took fresh from her fingers!

Dad has the photographs, I will ask him for them when I next see him!

Norwich peregrines

The young birds fledged two weeks ago but still the Hawk and Owl Trust Forum is inaction. There are some wonderful photographs to be found there by the contributors on the forum, one such set can be found here—


You can find others by scrolling though the Forum topic-list –



Monday, 11 June 2012

The Flying-Conductor is home to roost



Between 14.30 and 17.00, June 10th, 2012




Norwich peregrines and Nürnberg blackbirds

I am home to roost having done what seemed like around-the-world-in-eighty-days but was only in fact popping-around-Europe-in-fifteen —

Nürnberg-Dusseldorf-London-Norwich-Birmingham-Sheffield-Norwich-London-Dusseldorf-Nürnberg-Vienna-Nürnberg! 

While in England I saw my Dad, Aimee and the rest of the family, a few friends and the Norwich Peregrines. I risked travelling by train and got out from the Norfolk sticks to the Midlands and back without any delays, despite being evacuated from one station due to a fire! 

Unfortunately I saw the sea only from the plane and the Queen only on the television but I experienced Viennese waltzing, and Klimt and Schiele paintings, first hand in Austria! 

I was glad to have caught sight of the Norfolk birds and experienced some Queen’s Jubilee fever, even though I missed all the street parties. By the time the British began partying in the streets I was enjoying Viennese culture and eating Dobos Torte with a picture of Klimt’s painting, The Kiss, on the top.

More about the travels later, this is supposed to be about birds.

Peregrines

I tried my best to follow the life of the peregrines at Norwich Cathedral after I left Norwich but I had only seen a few glimpses of the chick’s darkening feathers on the webcam and did not have the opportunity to read the messages on the Forum for several days. Therefore I had not realised earlier that there were such concerns for the health of the smallest of the three chicks.

As I tuned in to the peregrines on Sunday morning I thought at first that one of the chicks had already flown the nest, Sunday being the day that the experts in the peregrine-watching tent in Norwich had told me is the expected fledging day. I soon realized that one bird, the smaller of the two male birds, had died in the early hours of the morning. The remaining two have since spent most of the day flapping around their nest-box and on the ledge, preening away the last fluffy feathers and receiving food from the parent birds.



Blackbirds

When I had come home for a few hours at the beginning of the week, to swap suitcases before heading off to Austria, I was nearly hit, full in the face, by a frightened blackbird as I stepped out on to my tiny balcony.

I noticed that the blackbirds that I have often seen hopping around in the trees nearby had been digging up the herbs from my plant pots. Last spring I had prevented these birds from messing up the patio below with their pickings from my window-boxes by quickly planting strawberries and geraniums. The birds left the boxes alone this year but it appeared that they had hopped down to a lower level to help themselves to nest-building material from the pots on the wooden, decking floor.

Before I continued with my around-Europe-in-fifteen-days trip I cleared up the mess, watered the plants, and forgot about it.

On Sunday morning I went out to see what was happening in my tree-decked balcony-world outside the kitchen door. I had checked whether I needed to water anything and pulled off a few dead leaves before I discovered a nest in the window-box at the furthest point from the door, snuggled in the soil beyond the geraniums where one of last year’s strawberries had been struggling to survive. 

It is a blackbird’s nest and it belongs to those messy blackbirds that hop around my balcony picking at my pots!

It was empty when I discovered it but that was no surprise to me as it was so newly built. 

There had been no sign of it at the beginning of the week. It is quite unbelievable that in the space of just five days such an architectural wonder can be built by two small birds. 

I wondered whether I had disturbed the owners of the nest with my comings and goings since I returned home to my own roost, and I feared that they may abandon it. I checked at regular intervals but there was no sign of life, then at lunch-time today I saw a beak and a tail poking up amongst the geranium leaves. 

A few hours later I peered out of the window and noticed that the nest was empty again. Oh dear, had I disturbed them when I opened the fridge door? Or when I put on the light? 

What a distraction these new neighbours will be if they decide to stay.

As there was no one on the nest to disturb I opened the door to let in the fresh air and I had another peep at the beautifully lined, perfectly round and very clean and tidy nest. Low and behold, during the short time that the nest had been occupied, bright blue egg-number-one had been laid. It is in the middle of the nest and there hardly looks to be enough room for any more to join it. But more there are sure to be as no one is keeping this one warm yet. 

The egg is not oval like a hen’s egg but fatter at one end and much more pointy at the other. So when it rolls it will roll around in a circle inside the nest.

An hour or so later, in a pause from peregrine-watching on the Internet, I checked up on the blackbird’s nest. I noticed the mum bird perched on a branch beside her nest watching me through the door with one beady eye, with the other one on her beautiful egg in the just-as-beautiful nest. She seemed not to be afraid of me only a little protective.

‘That’s nice’, I thought, ‘She is not afraid, perhaps I really will have lots of company again this summer’.
I am not sure whether when summer comes and the cold dreary days like today pass by, that I will be just as happy to have company because I doubt that I will be able to sit outside in my chair that is placed all of twelve inches, that’s thirty centimetres, from the nest, but it is exciting enough to put up with it for a few weeks.

This is the first time that I have seen bird’s eggs this closely since I was a child when my dad lifted me up to see a nest full of blue-tit’s eggs in one of the many nest-boxes in our garden.

PS

It is Monday morning and the Norfolk peregrines are still on their nesting platform, and as I write there is still only one egg in the Nürnberg blackbirds’ nest. I have every hope that there will soon be two eggs as Mrs Blackbird has just returned!

PPS

Before posting Mrs Blackbird had laid egg number two!

12 o'clock, midday, June 11th, 2012

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Peregrines in Norwich











Watching from Germany

I have been enjoying my daily visits to the Norwich peregrines via the Hawk and Owl Trust’s webcam that provides such a great view of the nesting platform and the city below the Cathedral‘s spire –


I have switched on at about 6.30 each morning since 14th May when the first egg hatched and even at this early hour I usually caught the birds enjoying breakfast. I have tuned in again on most evenings when I have returned home from work to enjoy the banter and questions and answers on the Peregrine Forum, even contributing now and then myself.

On a couple of occasions I have even tuned in at work to show both the adults and children who attend my groups the Peregrine action at Norwich Cathedral.

I, my family, my clients, and also many friends who I have talked to about the return after two-hundred years of peregrines to Norwich, are captivated by these amazing creature. Our enthusiasm has sparked off many conversations these last few weeks.

I am thoroughly enjoying communicating about the birds with my sister, each of us keeping up to date on the webcam and reading the website information. We discussed the progress of the chicks as if we were experts and keenly followed events surrounding them such as their recent ringing.

Although it can all still be seen on the Hawk and Owl Trust’s website but I was so excited when I realised that I would be able to see these fastest creatures in the world performing live. 

Watching for real

I am on a flying visit to Norwich and this afternoon, after a morning weeding the parsnips, armed with binoculars and camera, I jumped on my old bike to cycle the ten minutes to the Cathedral Close.

As I walked up The Close from Pull’s Ferry I immediately spotted the platform and both the male and female birds perched high, one on each side of the nesting platform keeping an eye out for danger, or for the next dinner! The falcon was on the right, perched on a crocket just above the nesting and the tiercel almost at the tip of the spire on the third crocket from the top, one looking westwards and the other eastwards over the city.

On the green in the Cathedral Close there is a manned information desk and in a small enclosed area there are half a dozen telescopes for public use, positioned to view the tower. 

Help is on hand to spot the birds and to provide answers to questions.

Now that the parent birds are no longer sitting on the chicks to keep them warm, they can be seen sitting preening themselves and on guard. They leave the chicks for longer and longer periods of time, attending from afar, and with the temperature now soaring well into the high twenties it is more likely that the chicks need to be shaded by the wings of their parents to keep cool rather than for their warmth.

Occasionally the head of a chick can now be seen from below, peering over the edge of the platform. This causes much concern to some of the followers on the website forum, but we are assured that the chicks will not come over the side until their feathers are able to support them in flight. As the experts said to me when I visited the Cathedral these are after all cliff and mountain-side dwellers and they should know what they are doing!

I am not here in Norwich for long and unfortunately by the 8th June, the expected date that the chicks will fly from the nest, I will be long gone. I am going to make the most of the live action and jump on my bike as often as I can before I leave. 

I would just love to see the adult birds in flight so I will try to visit early in the morning or late evening, the time when they are most active, hunting for food and arriving at the nest to feed the young. But if I do not see the parent birds flying it does not matter too much because all I wanted was to see the actual platform and chat to the wardens and just feel a little bit closer to the peregrine action, and say thank you for the great enjoyment that I have had from this project.