Garden Twine and 4 little chicks

Last year I watched and photographed Goldfinch pulling at blades of grass in the vegetable plot and taking it off for nest building.

Today I spotted one tugging at the garden twine on the frame for the Sweet Peas. It bent down and grabbed the twine, tried nibbling on it and gave it a good tug. I think it managed to get a few strands out of it.

Four tiny chicks to feed

Last year I watched and photographed Blue Tits going to and from a nest box. This year I have a camera inside a nest box. Unfortunately I did a poor job of focusing it when I fitted it. I should have focused it above the bottom of the box. I must do a better job next year. Over the last two days four of the eggs have hatched with another four to go. Now that there are mouths to feed the male is dropping in much more frequently. Those chicks are tiny though.

The header image is one of the parents leaving the nest box. I will no doubt be posting more videos as the we go through the next couple of weeks.

Climbing Mouse

To encourage birds to find the camera nest box I put up some Sunflower seeds not to far away. The feeder is in the middle of a climbing Rose and is easy for small birds to get to. What I didn’t think about was that the rose gave little rodents a way to get to the feeder. And it didn’t take them long.

Blue Tits have been using the feeder too, they don’t seem to mind the mouse droppings on the tray. I can see the tray from a first floor window but from the ground it is above head height and it can be a bit painful reaching past the thorns to clean it.

The mouse has plenty of places to hide and breed, under stacked-up tiles, in a pile of bricks, under the shed, in plant pots and even inside a little burrow I have found under a Sage plant. I am OK with them as long as they stay out of the house.

Baildon Moor 9 April 2021

The wind was cold but it was well worth the walk along the path by the wall at the North West corner of Baildon Moor.

Before I saw anything I heard the lovely sound of Skylark above the golf course and eventually I managed to see it, high up singing away, much too high to get a photo. Groups of Meadow Pipit were also flitting about and chasing each other.

By far the noisiest though were the Pheasants. The males calling and fluttering their wings to announce their presence. I spotted several pairs some quite close to each other. I expected the males to start strutting round each other but they seemed to keep out of each others feathers. I did see two males in a bit of a head to head, no females to be seen, but they soon separated without any fighting. Perhaps the one with the bigger tail was just too intimidating.

One pair of Pheasants were obviously getting close to territory reserved by a Lapwing, they were swooped at several times but that didn’t stop the Lapwings in other parts of the field from mating, after which they would walk away from each other. Lapwing were spaced around the fields reserving their nesting ground but no where near the numbers I have seen before.

There was also the eerie call of Curlew as they flew around and glided into land. Several could be spotted and some landed further up only to be quickly flushed out by dogs off the lead. It is a wonder that the Skylark keep trying to nest there. I spotted two with their dogs on leads and five with their dogs off the lead, running around. Some had their noses in the longer grass and heather, sniffing everything out, others had their heads forward and their tails out – a straight line from nose tip along their backs to their tail tips – hunting. One little fluffy white thing was not the least bit interested in doing any of that though, it was just thrilled to be running about on the fairway.

It is not just people and dogs that make it difficult for the Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Curlew and Lapwing. They also have to contend with quite large birds, Crows, the occasional Great Black-backed Gull, Buzzards and ones like this Raven that flew over Kronking as it was chased by a Lapwing. A few years ago when this sort of thing happened there would be dozens of Lapwing in the air screaming, and as Corvids or Raptors flew by they would be mobbed by 6 or more of them. Now it looks as though being chased by 1 or 2 is more likely, hardly a mobbing. Stoats will also be roaming about looking for a meal.

While I was quietly watching all this going on a Field Vole scurried over a grass tussock before disappearing in the bottom of another. I can see that one becoming a Kestrel or Barn Owl meal if it behaves like that. It was too quick and unexpected for me to get a photo.

I also heard a Snipe. I would describe the sound as “chucka chucka chucka”. I want to be up there when they do their diving display with the thrumming tail feathers out.

A couple of hours in March by the River Wharfe

Even though I have had my Covid first jab I still want to feel safe out and about. The river Wharfe near Burley in Wharfedale has plenty of space along the banks so this is where I went for a couple of hours yesterday. The header image is looking down river and shows that there is a bit of space. As usual you can click on an image and it should load a better quality version.

Not only is there some space but wildlife too. Soon after going through the gate I spotted a Little Egret and on a rock in the river and on near side were two Lesser Blackbacked Gull and an Oystercatcher. They were down river but as soon as I turned back up river I spotted 3 Mandarin Ducks (2 Male and 1 female) and within 20 metres of them 2 more male Mandarin Ducks.

As expected in this area I spotted a Red Kite effortlessly soaring the airways. A few Goosander flew by and two of them landed in the river near me. As I was watching them a Cormorant flew up river just above the water. Very different to a couple of others that I saw flying by at tree-top height.

I spotted another large bird and at first thought it was the Red Kite I had seen, but as it flew around and came a bit closer I noticed it didn’t have the tail shape for a Red Kite. And then there were two of them. I have heard of birds passing food from one to the other during the breeding season in this kind of dance but these had no food to share and looked as though they were trying to get their talons into each other.

And then on the way back Goosander and Oystercatcher. A very pleasant walk.

First Viewing

One of my recent little projects was to add a camera to a nest box. It has been up for a couple of weeks and had its first viewing at half eight this morning. I’m hoping that a couple will soon decide that it is a suitable place to bring up a family and move in for the season.

This is the 2nd video that the system recorded. The first one was triggered by shadows on the right hand wall as a bird was outside wondering whether to pop in. In this video you have to wait about 10 seconds before anything interesting happens. As you will see the view is from above.

The nest box is a standard one from the RSPB that they call James Wilson otherwise known as the Classic. Though you probably get good results from buying one of their nest boxes that already has a camera in it I did it the fun way.

I used a Rasberry Pi4, a Power over Ethernet HAT to sit on the Pi, a Pi Camera with no infrared filter, a little case for the camera, 2 infrared LEDs, a 70 Ohm resistor and a small piece of Veroboard. I mounted the Pi on a Vesa adapter so I could screw it to the side of the bird box and made a timber box to screw over the top of it with a slot at the bottom for the network cable. The LEDs and resistor were soldered to the Veroboard which was then clipped to the camera case and that then stuck to the centre of the roof inside. The ribbon cable and 2 wires for the LEDs were then routed over the top of the hinged side to the Pi. The other bits of hardware needed were the PoE injector and the network cable.

As I was building the Pi I checked that things were working using VLC but really the finished article only needs RPi CAM Control software to be written to the micro SD card in the Pi.

It is set to record videos when motion is detected – and it looks as though it works.

A few from 2020

According to DigiKam, the program I use to catalogue my photos and videos, I have saved 1,538 different image files from 2020. Here is a post showing some of the ones I quite like. During 2020 many of the photos I took were of our garden and the things in it, or things I could see from it. This was one of the pleasant things about 2020, the time I spent in the garden with my camera, looking for things that I would not normally notice. I took quite a few photos of the new flowers in the garden and it was interesting to see the variety we had, but I am more into wildlife so most of the photos I have included here are of things with wings and/or legs.

During the year I had a few trips out with my camera. January photos are from Denso Marston Nature Reserve and Yeadon Tarn. February was already starting the stress of the year but this was due to the floods. I watched the footbridge at Buck Lane get whacked a couple of times with what looked like fridge/freezers racing down the river.

In early March I went down to Denso Marston Nature Reserve looking for a Water Rail that had been reported. I had to be patient but it did show itself as did a Redpoll. This was about the last trip out of the house for quite a while so a lot of the photos will now show “.. in our garden” or “…from our garden”

It was July before I had a couple of trips out with me not intending to meet anyone. It’s great that we have spaces like Baildon Moor. I also visited Ben Rhydding Gravel Pits.

One of the good things about August was finding a Brimstone that was hungry enough to stay still feeding. Normally when I see one it is drifting up and down in the distance.

From September onward it was quiet in the garden but a few trips out to with my camera were quite rewarding.