Saturday, 17 May 2014

'Hiding' in Mum's garden

Following on from yesterdays blog, this morning I lugged my portable hide over to Mums. The first thing we did when I arrived was set it up at the bottom of the garden so the birds could get used to it.
As per yesterdays blog post, I primarily wanted to use the hide so I could observe the regularly visiting male Great Spotted Woodpecker. We'd noticed over the last couple of days that he had changed his eating behaviour. Instead of eating from the front of the peanut holder (as seen in my blog post a few days ago - link to post here) he was now collecting peanuts from behind the feeder and doing something with them behind the trunk. We couldn't see what he was doing, but on inspecting the trunk after he left we found remnants of nuts in several cracks in the bark.
So that's the primary reason for lugging my hide over two bus rides and a short walk. All in the name of observation. It didn't take long for the GSW to get used to the hide. Within half an hour of setting it up, we watched from the conservatory as he, again, went behind the feeder, faffed about behind the trunk and shortly flew off. Knowing this was my cue to go and sit in the hide, I armed myself with a bottle of water and my phone so Mum could call me if she needed anything. Mum retired for some horizontal resting in front of the tv, and I patiently waited.
Half an hour later he was back, at first sitting on top of the pergola, before coming down to the feeder. This was new to me, normally the bird we see enters the garden from next doors tree. This one had entered from the front of the garden. At the time I put it down to the fact the hide was there and maybe he was a little unsure about it..........
He soon perched under the feeder, and I started firing off loads of photos. When I was checking on my photos an hour later, I noticed our poor GSW has a broken top part of his beak, or culmen to give it its proper name. It also looks like it could be cracked and the red of the eye suggests some sort of head trauma I think.
When I got home this evening I compared the above photo to a heavily cropped one I had taken on the 13th May (see below), just four days ago. I'm starting to think these are two different males. The red crown on todays male looks a bit more extended up the back of its head, and the black markings around the cheeks look a little different too. Obviously the beaks are different. The feeding behaviour is also different as well as the flight path they use to enter the garden.
Todays bird (I have a very strong urge to call him 'Bill') was taking nuts from the feeder with both parts of its beak......

going round to the back of the trunk, dropping the nut into a crevice then spearing it with the bottom part of it's beak......
before ramming it into the crevice....
and smashing it to pieces......
He certainly seems healthy enough. I checked the trunk crevices later and there are no whole peanuts stashed in there, just lots of smashed up bits. Is he using the crevice as a type of vice to hold his nuts so he can feed ? I don't think he's storing food as I had previously thought, and I also thought that type of behaviour was mainly autumn or winter.
So going back to the broken beak, how could he have possibly sustained so much damage ? Woodpecker beaks are probably in the top ten for beak hardness and durability. I will never know what happened to our poor little male, but as the peanut feeder and where it is situated is obviously suiting him, we will make sure it is topped up.
So going back to my hide. After proving useful for observing Bill the Woodpecker, I wanted to see if I could utilise it for taking photos of the many birds that drink and bathe in Mum's stream. Because of the way the garden is planned, or to word it a little differently, because of how many plants my Mum has (lol), the stream cannot be seen from the conservatory view point nor the view point from the bottom of the garden. After lots of hide positioning and moving pot plants around to get a good view, I realised this was going to be trickier than the woodpecker. At the bottom of the garden where Bill's nut tree is, there is a dip in level so I could get a really good view of the tree and I only had to open the hide front a little bit.
Up on the patio area, the only view of the stream is looking down on it. And the only way to be able to take photos was by unzipping and opening the whole front section of my hide.
what my hide looks like completely opened
what my hide looks like closed but with the whole front section opened
Not only was the whole hide in a less hidden spot in the garden, it looked to me like the front was very exposed. Would the birds be spooked by it ?
Less than forty minutes after erecting it the birds were feeding at the feeders right above it, Bill had come back down to his nut tree (less than six feet away) and the stream was alive with the noise of splashing birds.
I waited for a lull in the action then went and sat in the hide, and patiently waited.
 I didn't have to wait long........


"Come in, the waters lovely"


As well as the numerous Sparrows, a Starling dropped in for a drink.....

And one of next doors Robins came in for a quick bathe.......

So hide-wise, it was a complete success today. I will be looking out for our Bill in future, and may ask a couple of wildlife hospitals if they could guess what sort of head trauma Bill has suffered.

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