Back at work today, but on a stand-by shift, which basically meant I didn't have to be in the office unless urgently needed. So at 7.30am I was at the bottom of the paddocks to see if Mr Fox was around.....and yes he was, snoozing in the morning sun. I left him there and walked around to the skip yard and, to my delight, I spooked another fox who promptly ran up the muddy wall separating the paddock from the skip yard. This means Mr Fox is not a bachelor as I stated in yesterdays blog. I confirmed this by quickly going back to the paddocks to make sure Mr Fox was still snoozing, and he was. So I'm very happy. I wonder if they have cubs in their sett. The grass is getting very long now, so its quite difficult to see.
The skip yard is man made with large walls of mud dividing it. These 'walls' have, over time, become self-seeded with various grasses and wild flowers. These in turn are attracting a large number of bees, butterflies and damselflies.
I checked the foxes 'sandpit' and it looks as if they were busy doing some more
excavating work last night.
While I was insect watching and generally taking in the early morning sun, I sensed something watching me and turned to find Mr Fox sitting and studying me just 20 feet away. He must have come over the grass 'wall' while I was immersed in taking photos of wild flowers. We stayed watching each other for nearly ten minutes before he decided he had was bored and slowly ambled off. He has a lot of grey in his coat, whereas the other fox I disturbed earlier was much more ginger.
Back in front of the office where I've put some feeders, the fat balls are the most popular at the moment. The peanuts and seeds are being ignored. The company car is parked about 8 feet away from the feeders, so I sat in it with the window down, and watched the comings and goings. The Blue Tits were regular visitors, but were eating straight from the feeder, so guessing they were topping up on energy for themselves before going back to finding insects for their young.
The scruffy Great Tit that I was watching for ages yesterday, was also back. Like the Blue Tits, he/she was happy to feed itself from the fat balls before going off to fetch food for its family.
The resident Robins were also active, and again as above, seemed to be feeding themselves. I keep seeing a pair on the feeders, and every now and then one will feed the other. This is a 'bonding' sign, and one that I would expect to see at the beginning of the nesting season rather than half way through it. Either they've already fledged one brood and are getting ready for a second clutch, or their first clutch failed for some reason.
The Robins are also not displaying any territorial behaviour like they were back in mid-April, they're happy to let others on the feeder and queue to wait their turn. When I saw them do this today, I fired off a couple of photos before realising they were letting a Coal Tit feed first. This is the first time I've seen Coalies on my feeders. I'm even more pleased when I followed this ones flight straight back to the nest that I'd accidently stumbled upon yesterday.
Despite trying hard, I could not get a photo of both male and female Coalies together. One is definitely much more ragged looking than the other. I'm also a little concerned that they are taking food from the fat balls to the nest, rather than eating it themselves for an energy boost.
After a pleasant lunch at The Goat in Shepperton (highly recommended), I made my way to the park which is just opposite the entrance to my work yard. Lots of kids around today, but that didn't stop me finding plenty to see.
I'd only been in the park for ten minutes when a male Blackcap popped up in front of me. He had a large juicy damselfly in his beak, and Mrs Blackcap wasn't far behind him. I moved away swiftly after taking a couple of photos as it was obvious I was quite near their nest.
I carried on walking through. The park here is nicely managed. Kids playground and nice size expanse of maintained grass for the families, and also meandering walkways through a patch of woodland, great for kids and dogs. I was ambling along like I do, when a dog walker stopped me. He'd seen me with my bins round my neck and carrying my camera, and asked if I'd be interested in knowing where a Great Spotted Woodpeckers nest hole was. Of course, I said yes. He gave me the directions and described the tree perfectly. He said one of the young was constantly at the hole entrance calling. I made my way to the tree, found it easily thanks to the dog walkers directions and the helpful aid of a young GS Woodpecker calling and calling and calling for food. This was my first sighting of a juvenile this year, so could barely keep the grin of my face. I'd seen the adults flying across the road all week, so knew there was a nest site in the park somewhere.
What shocked me though, was the nest hole was barely 8 feet from the ground. The ones I studied and watched at Cranford Park last year were at least 10 feet off the ground. This one seemed so low and vulnerable. I settled myself off the main path, and waited for a juvenile to pop its head out, which of course it did. But after taking about ten or eleven photos I heard one of the parents nearby. I know from experience it wouldn't come down to feed its chicks whilst I was there, so I walked on. Minutes later I heard, rather than saw, the adult feed the chicks. The whole 'urgency' in both the adult and the juveniles call changed to a more 'satisfied' chirping.
The juvenile looks almost ready to fledge. I may pop back down there tomorrow early morning.
So a very pleasant 'stand-by' shift at work. Just a shame I don't get a full days pay for today, but being out and about was nice enough. And thanks to that lovely dog walker who had the courtesy to be friendly enough to point me in the right direction.
Last shift tomorrow, then four days off. I'll be checking on Mr Fox, and hopefully his missus, and on the Coal Tits in between work duties
From Tuesday to Friday next week I'm on Peregrine Fledge Watch duty at Charring Cross Hospital. The three eyasses, Amy, Buster and George, are ready any day now to take to make their first flights. Hopefully I'll grab some of the action on my camera. Link to their web cam below......