Just a few bits of bird news tonight, for my interested reader?
1 - On January 1st this year, I devised this year's wildlife game for our eldest boy. "Around the birds in eighty aves". (Try to see 80 bird spp. in a year - a relatively modest total perhaps, but remember our eldest is only eight years old and we can't be sure about lockdown rules this year. Anyway - on January 1st he managed to clock up 34 species (on the very first day of the year!) and since then, we've managed to "bag" another 41 species - meaning we (he) sit(s) on 75 species come the 4th week of March - needing only 5 species for a win. I may have to increase the target to 90 - just to keep it interesting?! The current list (as of 21st March 2021) can be seen below.
2 - Two very unexpected visitors turned up to the garden yesterday - a first in ten years for this garden (well... we've often kept hens here, so rarely do I feed wild birds, as I am a little hot on biosecurity when my hens are around). These two visitors, a male and a female siskin became Ben's 74th species of the year so far - and like I say, we weren't really anticipating seeing any siskins this year (we are not "twitchers" or even "birders" (shudder)) - so this was a real bonus. Ben and I were engaged in a mighty tussle of Wii golf in the conservatory at the time that these siskins alighted on our very temporary wild bird feeder - I did have my camera with me, so took a few VERY poor shots through blown and dirty conservatory windows. These photos can be seen below.
3 - Ben and I took a 6 mile dawn walk around the 'hood on Saturday morning, to see if we could hear and then see the our first chiffchaff of the year. We managed to hear one in a local bluebell wood and then saw it - which was lovely. Good to see we were only two days later than the earliest seen and heard in this neck of the woods (Berkshire) this year.
4 - On our walk, we also spotted an obvious pair of buzzards, sitting together on the edge of a very quiet copse (full of roe deer as it happens) very close to our house. Oh it would be brilliant if these beautiful birds nested there this year. We are spoiled for red kites here (they're everywhere - we've become blasé about them) so we love seeing our preferred (to be honest) buzzards. A couple of (again poor) photos below.
5 - Finally (I think), I've been preparing my singular (now) swift space in the attic. I've bought a new swift call sound system with mini tweeter speakers, some black sugar paper from my wife's school (to darken up the interior of the space - well... that's what swifts prefer after all) and Ben and I will shore it all up during the Easter holidays this year in a (perhaps vain) hope that the best birds of all will return to us this year, and this time ACTUALLY NEST.
That all said, we have an intruder in our swift space at present. A very inquisitive starling - that has investigated the swift space TWICE last week, around the time I dropped Ben off at school.
I rig my wildlife cameras up to a motion-activated hard drive recorder - and this starling recorded its own mini clips therefore (see below).
I should perhaps point out that in the YouTube clip below, you, the viewer are looking through the lens of a very wide angle mini camera screwed into an attic beam about two feet directly above my self-built swift space on a shelf in the attic. The camera looks directly DOWN into the swift space from above.
You are getting a "birds eye" view, so to speak.
You're looking down the interior breeze blocks of the attic wall (bottom of the screen) onto the floor of a swift box I've built and screwed onto a shelf (which I also built) in the attic space.
The box is open at present (no ceiling) but the walls are a foot or so high - high enough to keep swifts in the box rather than falling out into the attic proper.
You'll also see in the clip below to the left of the box is a wooden swift "round", in which I hope any visiting swifts lay eggs and a few bricks on their sides, to make parts of the box VERY dark - which the swifts prefer. I'll need to, as I say, tidy all this up before the end of April.
The starling (and swift last year) enter and leave the space through a foot-long tunnel I've diamond drilled through the breeze block and brick exterior attic wall and lined with a carpeted flue pipe.
Now... whilst I think starlings are lovely things - I can't have them upsetting the apple cart as far as nesting in my swift space is concerned - I've put too much time and effort and money into swifts - so I'll keep an eye on this starling and if it becomes too keen - I'll block the flue pipe for a month or so, to persuade it to look elsewhere to nest.