Monday, 1 September 2008

Bumbarrel nest

At St Margaret's birding can be exciting, especially during migration, with birds in every bush, having dropped in during their journeys. Then there are days when the place is almost birdless, after a clear night when nothing new arrived and most migrants, that were there the day before, left overnight. Today was one of the latter.

I did spend a while watching young kestrels hunting over the fields. When the harvest is in, there are vast areas when prey can be found amongst the stubble. Both Kestrel and Sparrowhawks make full use of this period, before the fields are ploughed and resown.

This young Kestrel had been hunting for a while but didn't seem to manage to catch anything before it too a rest.

A bird that appeals to everyone is the Long-tailed Tit, if it wasn't for its disproportionately long tail it would be one of our smallest birds. They nest early in the year and their nests are well hidden, often in dense bushes.

I have to thank Norma and Richard Barton for bringing this piece of avian craftsmanship for me to see. Norma is a dab hand with the Secateurs and she uncovered this old Long-tailed Tits nest in a prickly bush. Long-tailed Tits build extraordinary, ball-shaped nests, which gives the species the folk-name 'bumbarrel'. I've fixed this on a pyracanthas to photograph it, the original position was tucked away, ot of sight in another bush.

The nest is a wonderful construction of moss and spiders webs, disguised with lichen and lined with feathers.
Through the entrance hole you can see the soft lining of feathers. The female lays between 8 and 12 tiny eggs, that hatch about two weeks after the last egg is laid. The young are reared in this small chamber for about 15 days before fledging. By this time the nest is at bursting point, and I think the method of construction gives it a little elasticity to cope with the pressure of all those growing fledglings.

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