My Sunday Photo

Frozen Lido stone
We are lucky enough to live near a so-called Lido. It’s basically a small valley that was dammed in the early 1800s as a reservoir for a nearby canal.

You aren’t supposed to swim because it’s polluted and there are no lifeguards, but it has an artificial beach, so of course people do.

In the winter it often has a bit of ice on it, but this year it almost froze entirely.

Frozen Lido 1
Last week there were foolhardy people out walking on it; some idiot was pushing their baby around in a pram. When I walked the dogs around it on Wednesday they were both very confused when we got to the usual dog beach.
frozen lido confused dogs
You can see a small area that has been kept ice-free at the top of the photo below, so that the resident waterfowl have somewhere to swim and drink.
Frozen lido 2
Now the temperature has risen and all the ice is melted, but it seems that 2017 will go down in recent history as ‘the year the Ruislip Lido froze over completely-almost’.

Who knows, maybe we will have another cold snap before the winter is over?

Sunday photo

My Sunday Photo

Look what the cat brought in this week!

This is a feral ring-necked parakeet; we have flocks of them flying around this area but I’ve never seen one caught by a cat before.

Our neighbour saw one of our stupid, fluffy-tailed moggies with this one on Thursday and brought it over to us to deal with, rather than watch it be tortured to death.

Luckily we have a wildlife rescue about an hour from us that is open 24/7 so we drove it there. It seemed very lively despite a wound on its wing, and at last report is doing okay.

If you ever need to handle one of these, drop a tea towel over it first before you open the box it’s presented to you in. And mind your fingers, they can bite hard!

Green Parrot

My Sunday Photo

The Gallery: Animals

When I say our house is a bit of a zoo, people immediately assume I’m referring to our children’s behaviour.

They may have a point, but usually I’m talking about the number of pets we have. At the moment the number stands at 8; 2 dogs, 2 cats, 2 rats, a hamster and a snake. Yes, they do require a fair bit of  feeding, exercise, cleaning out and playing with but as a rule the animals are much less trouble than the kids.

On Tuesday, we almost added another to that number. I was out walking the dogs in the local woods, when the New Dog put his head  into  the grass at the side of the path and pulled out this little fellow.

Thank goodness it was him and not our other dog, as when the duckling wriggled and peeped in alarm, he simply dropped it. Our older dog would have gone ‘Chomp’ and that would have been that.

I managed to grab the poor baby before either of the now excited dogs went in for a second attempt. The duckling didn’t seem to be broken at all, but it was shivering and calling for its mum, so I put the dogs on leads and we waited to see if  Mother duck would show up.

As a rule Mother Ducks do tend to come running if they are in earshot of one of their babies calling for them, but they are not the best mothers and it’s not unusual for them to leave a duckling or two behind as they take their family cross country between bodies of water. After about 10 minutes of frantic peeping from the duckling, it was obvious he had been left behind and was now my problem.

If you find a duckling out and about without its mother and just leave it, it is unlikely to survive. If you leave it where it is, it will probably get eaten by something, attacked by another mother duck or even drown if left in water. I couldn’t bring myself to abandon this one, so I did the only thing I could think of and popped it in my jacket pocket while I headed home. It immediately went quiet and I was able to get it home safely, where I popped it in a cat carrier and decided what to do with it.

I did think briefly about keeping it as I have some experience with domestic ducks, but we live in a London suburb, not a farm and the dogs and cats were far too interested. Plus it was a wild animal and needed to be with other ducklings. Ducks are social and very messy.

Google provided me with the number for St Tiggywinkles, and the lady I spoke to confirmed that we could bring it up to them any time of the night or day. The wildlife hospital was about an hour away, so I was going to have to drive up in the evening, once my husband got home to stay with the kids.

In the meantime, I gave the duckling something to eat ( a finely chopped mini scotch egg!), a little dish of water to dabble in and put him in the kitchen where the dogs couldn’t get him. The kids came home and were enamored. All of them cried when I said we couldn’t keep him and DD1 insisted on coming with me to drop him off.

St Tiggywinkles is in the middle of nowhere, but the people were lovely and told us that ‘Alex’, the duck, would stay with them in a group of similarly aged ducklings until they were adults. At that point the whole group would be released back into the wild. DD sobbed when we left him; she is 13 and very susceptible to any kind of cuteness.

We plan to go and ‘visit’ Alex over half term. Of course we won’t be able to tell which one he is, but  I’m sure it won’t stop us trying.

This post was written as part of the theme over at Sticky Fingers this week. If you want to check out photos of other animals, then head on over.


Nestcam 2014: The Tits Are Back

After last year’s disaster, we haven’t gone near our nest box all winter. I always intended to unscrew the top and clean it out, the way they suggest you do, but the rain just kept coming. And by the time the sun came out, we noticed there were already birds visiting it.

A quick look at the camera showed me they seemed to be clearing it out themselves, as there was far less nesting material in there than there had been, so I didn’t think it was a good idea to intervene. Then the camera stopped showing a picture but we still had sound; we could hear them coming and going but had no idea what they were up to. Finally, last weekend, DH got the camera working, and we saw this.

Tit sitting on nest
Mama Tit  was sitting on a finished nest. This years nest has been built slightly out of camera-shot but  further away from the bird box entrance than last year. This is going to make surveying the nest contents more difficult but may be safer for the babies. Especially as this year, we have the cats who have full access to the garden. Luckily they are very lazy cats and do seem to spend a lot of time indoors, but they are a worry when you have baby birds around.

Looking at the dates from last year, we assumed that  Mama Tit would be laying, or preparing to lay her eggs, but yesterday afternoon I checked the camera and found this.

New tit chicks
Babies! We have babies, and they look about a week old. These babies are at least 2 weeks ahead of where last year’s chicks were at the same time. Two weeks is a long time in bird world!

There was still one egg there yesterday, but I haven’t seen it today, so maybe it’s hatched?

I think there are five or six babies, going by this picture, so not as many as last year ( nine?). Perhaps this will increase their chances of survival?

We’ll have to wait and see.

How many babies?

An Empty Nest

I’ve got some bad news I’m afraid.

On Wednesday, we  had seven chicks in the nest. They seemed very active, cheeping loudly and were obviously very hungry! Some were bigger than others, and the smaller chicks were getting squashed under their larger siblings. So I  was disappointed , but unsurprised when we came down to only 4 chicks in the nest on the Thursday morning.  The weird thing was that 4 of the smaller chicks remained, not the bigger, more vigorous ones.

The parents were still feeding the remaining chicks, although the chicks didn’t seem to be grabbing the food like before. Sometimes the parents had to try 3 or 4 times before one of chicks would actually take what was being offered.

Yesterday we were down to three chicks. It was cold and windy here and the mother seemed to struggle with keeping them warm and feeding them. Their chirps were very quiet and they didn’t seem that enthusiastic about food.

Then this morning we came down to this.

Empty blue tit nest

No babies. No mum or dad  tit. The kids are devastated and I will admit to having shed a tear or two.

What happened? I guess we’ll never know.

Our nesting box has a tit plate on it, a metal plate around the entrance hole that restricts the size of the birds that can enter it, so we are pretty sure  they weren’t all killed by a larger bird or other predator. The nest doesn’t look like it has been disturbed either.

None of the chicks looked all that well yesterday, so maybe they succumbed to some horrid virus? Or maybe just died from cold and starvation and the parents removed the bodies this morning.

Google has also thrown up another possibility; perhaps it was another blue tit who killed the chicks?  Horrid as it sounds, apparently this does happen sometimes.

We’ve also been dealing with another birdie crisis today. Our robin babies, who have been nesting in our sunroom, decided to fly the nest today. And The Puppy got one of them.

baby robin

As far as I could tell, it wasn’t physically hurt but it was shocked and died shortly after.

Cue more tears from the kids. Especially DD1 who apparently now hates The Puppy for killing the baby robin. And, of course the dog hasn’t really done anything wrong.

I do get some comfort from knowing that as far as the parent birds go, they won’t be grieving the same way as human parents would. They robins will just get on with their lives and  look after their remaining chicks, and the tits will try again next year.

But I can’t help thinking Nature can be pretty cruel sometimes, can’t it?

Nestcam Update: How Many Chicks?

Our first eggs hatched a week ago. Six hatched the first day, and another three in the following days. At one point we definitely saw nine chicks but never ten.

Now there are only eight chicks. We didn’t see what happened to the one that disappeared; for all I know it could still be at the bottom of the nest! But the parent birds are so careful about keeping the nest clean that I think it’s more likely that it died and was disposed of.

The parent tits spend literally every moment of the day gathering food for their brood. We help them by providing meal worms periodically but they disappear so quickly; we can’t keep up with the demand! Luckily we have a big old apple tree in our garden that seems to provide lots of grubs for this growing family.

There are a couple of noticeably smaller chickens in the nest that seem quite subdued when compared to their older siblings. These are often at the bottom of the pile and I do worry that they don’t get fed enough. But I have seen them eating, and also pooing, so hopefully it’s just that they are a couple of days younger than the bigger ones.

1 week old blue tit chicks

Last week, the newly hatched chicks were naked and floppy. Now a couple of the bigger ones are growing feathers. The smaller ones have to make do with fuzz. None of them have their eyes open yet, but that can’t be too far away. In a two more weeks they will thinking about leaving the nest!

The newest development is that suddenly we have sound. The chicks have started chirping whenever one of the parents appears; they launch themselves up out of the nest, mouths agape, with surprising ferocity.

At the moment they only make a very faint, wheezy noise but I suspect this will get a lot louder as they grow.

You can really see the size difference between the big and little chicks in this video. You can also see how the parents keep the nest clean. They scoop their babies’ poop with their beaks!

At the moment Mama still sits on the nest to keep her babies warm at night, but she already finds it hard to cover them completely. Legs and heads keep popping out  from underneath her and it’s not going to be too long before she is going to have to sleep elsewhere.

Chicks head popping out

Babies! We have Babies!

Baby chicks that is, not human babies before any of my ILs read this and get too excited.

This morning when we checked on Mama Tit, she was sitting tight on her nest, as she has been for the last few days. Her mate has really got the hang of feeding her lately and seems to be in and out of the box with food all the time.

We knew the eggs were due to hatch soon, but I had expected this to happen tomorrow not today. So when Mama tit got up off the nest and something appeared to move below her, at first I thought it was a feather.

Then I had a closer look, and I saw these.

3 chicks, 7 eggs

3 little chicks and 7 eggs, but no sign of any broken shell anywhere. The parents must be super vigilant about removing it.

The kids were fascinated and watched the nestcam instead of TV this morning.  There were complaints when it was time for the school run.

Sometimes mum would stay on the nest and only hop off when the male appeared with food for his offspring. Sometime both the adults would go off to find food and sometimes they seemed to struggle to feed their babies effectively.

In the end she does the sensible thing and eats the unwanted caterpillar herself.

I suppose the chicks are only newly hatched and quite tired at this stage and will become more demanding as they grow . I know they look pretty horrible at this stage but I feel quite clucky over them, in a way I don’t often get over human babies!

As for the rest of the eggs, when will they hatch? Well, about an hour later, after the school run, I checked the nest again and another three had hatched!

6 chicks, 4 eggs

It looks like half a hatched egg has been pushed onto the intact egg in the lower left of the nest. I hope this doesn’t make it too difficult for the chick that is in that egg to get out.

It’s been lovely watching these birds nest, and the chicks hatch but I am now worrying that something will go wrong as they grow. I know the kids (and adults)  in this house would be very upset.

Fingers crossed that  the rest of the chicks hatch okay and everything makes it to fledginghood.



Birdbox Webcam Update 3

Blue tit sitting Day 10

Its Day 10 in the bird box and Mama Tit is looking a bit scruffy on the nest. I think this is mainly because she is all fluffed up to incubate her eggs; when we see her on the lilac tree the box sits in, she still looks in good shape.

I don’t think Daddy Tit has quite got the idea of this hunter/gatherer business and poor Mama often has to leave the nest to find some grub(s). This was okay when it was warm and sunny, but it’s been much cooler this last couple of days and I’m hoping the eggs don’t get too cold when she leaves. We do see the male lounging around in trees nearby, so I don’t think anything has happened to him. We just don’t see him feeding his mate very often at all.

Luckily  Mama Tit doesn’t have to go too far for food; we have a bird feeder a few feet from the box and try and keep a good supply of meal worms available.

When she’s not off the nest looking for her next meal, Mama is forever grooming herself, doing ‘nest wiggles’, moving her eggs around beneath her and changing her body position  regularly. I suppose she’s resting and preparing herself for the next few weeks where she is going to be frantically feeding up to 10 babies! Just as well birds don’t breast feed!

The eggs are still all intact and none have been pushed to the side by Mama, so we are hoping that they will start hatching early next week.

still 10 eggs

Fingers crossed that the next update will be a happy one!

Watch the Birdie Update 2

After spending more and more time in the nest box during the last few days, it seems Mama Tit is finally sitting.

Blue Tit sitting on nest

This photo was taken about 10 past 8 this morning and she was still in the box. Normally she’s nowhere to be seen at this time of the day.

She does leave the nest for short periods, perhaps to get food, but her mate appears now and again with a beakful of something for her. I can tell when he’s around because she starts to make a very small tweeting sound to welcome him. When I hear this, I switch the camera on and start recording, but I haven’t managed to get any good footage of this yet.

It must be kind of boring sitting on a nest. Mama Tit sits still for a while, then puts her head under her and rearranges her eggs. Then she gets up, moves some bits of straw around, then resettles at a slightly different angle to before. Then she fluffs up again and sits still again. It’s all about maintaining a constant temperature; she gets off the eggs when they get too hot, and back on the nest when they cool down again.

Blue Tit eggs are supposed to take a couple of weeks to hatch, so we’ll start getting very excited again in about 14 days time.

Oh, and how many chicks are we expecting? There is no guarantee that they will all hatch, but here is a photo of the eggs, taken about half an hour ago. Blue Tits don’t usually lay again after they start sitting, so there probably won’t be any more.

Blue tit eggs

How many eggs can you count?

Watch The Birdie: Update One

Last week I posted about the Birdbox camera we have set up in our garden, and about the blue tits we have nesting there.

The female has been very busy building a nest out of bits of dried grass , moss and leaves and has also been lining it with feathers, hair ( we put the stuff from the dog brushes out for them) and stuffing from some toy that the dogs have dismembered. Up until the end of last week, Mama Tit has been in and out of the box every 10-20 minutes, but the box was always empty overnight.

However about 8pm last Friday, we took a look at the birdcam and found Mama camped out for the night.

blue tit sitting on nest overnight

Eggs couldn’t be too far away surely?

But the next morning the nest was empty. It remained that way for the next few days despite the female spending  every night sitting all fluffed up on the box.

But then a couple of days ago I noticed she seemed to be focused on rearranging the parts of the nest right below her. She was moving a fair amount of the fluff around and once, after she had done some housekeeping, then left the box, I caught a glimpse of something egg-shaped at the bottom of the nest.

Eggs in blue tit nest?

There are at least two eggs at the bottom of the nest, underneath all the feathers.

The next morning she’d covered them up again but we’ve had other glimpses of them since then, including this one this morning. I can’t count exactly how many there are now, but it looks like more than two, anyhow. Or maybe I’m just looking at feathers? I don’t know, what do you think?

More eggs?

Once she has laid her last egg she will start sitting all day as well as all night but we could be waiting another week or so for that to happen.

Until then, I will leave you with a short video of Mama Tit bedding down for the night. It’s very sweet how she tucks her head neatly under her wing. DD3 is convinced this is why birds don’t need pillows!