Tag Archives: commensal

Less unexpected birds in the city.

young sparrow

The garden spectacle this week has been the two fledgling sparrows that have left the nest in next-door-but-one’s roof to flit and flutter to our back gate where they can perch, and cheep and flutter their stubby wings in the hope that their parents – or any passing sparrow for that matter – will feed them. There must be hope they will live, now they have spent two days out of the nest!

Here is one of them watching intently as his mother (or is it his aunt?) pecks at the fat balls over the gate. The fact that he was fed did not prevent him starting to call again as soon as he’d finished swallowing.

Although the adults are very tolerant of humans moving about the garden we share with  them, Chico took off as soon as the back door opened. Three metres’ flight to the washing line, where he could not get a grip, turned base over apex before achieving enough co-ordination to crash into the holly bush.

The two chicks were soon back on the gate, ‘Please Sir (or Madam) I want some more!

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Tidying up and Tuning Up

Autumn,and time to start tidying the vegetable patch at Mrs O’s garden, harvesting beans in the process.

The goldfinches were active and noisy in nearby gardens, but hidden in the conifer next door there was a blackbird, singing under his breath a long, complex song; not, to my uneducated ears, the song of a novice. I look forward to hearing more from him as winter progresses.

I was reminded of another blackbird who lived maybe 25 years ago in a garden I maintained in town, behind a lawyers’ office. His subsong included a ‘warbler’ phone ringing tone, but he never, in my hearing, used this in his full song. A starling would not have been so conservative; we had a very accurate phone mimic a couple of years ago. More than once Mrs T or I have got up from tea in the garden – and realised it was the starling.

Tidying the planting troughs in our own garden showed why our canine visitor Melba was interested in the corner where they stand. When the bedding petunias were removed there were small heaps of grain husks, suggesting that Mrs Turnstone’s woodmouse friend had been raiding pet food supplies and bringing grain there to enjoy under cover. Melba clearly knew about this well before we did.

Mice – with and without wings

The parent blue tits (or titmice) are very busy, right outside the kitchen window, ferrying many insect morsels to their brood. Mrs Turnstone, great provider as she is, appreciates their devotion.

A woodmouse appeared, scurrying across the garden path at 3.30 p.m; what crumbs did she discover under the garden table?

Finally, a flittermouse, a pipistrelle bat, flew across the front of the house, picking up flying insects that had eluded the blue tits.

I trust Mrs Tittlemouse is as well housed as usual since I saw two foxes going about their business the other night; one peeled off to the left of our house, its mate went to investigate the remains of the student party to our right.

Mrs Turnstone sees their presence as a clinching argument against rescuing a couple of battery hens!

Woodmice like to share

Mrs Turnstone has been using the garden shed as a cold store. It works well for celery, swedes, cheese in tins, beer, wines and spirits. But:

‘I’m afraid the Mouse has been helping herself to the pizza. I suppose I’ll leave it out there for her now.  I was going to serve it tonight’.

I’ll set the trap then’.

‘NO You Won’t!’

Singing and Scavenging for Supper

They were both seeking attention, each in his own way singing for his supper and disturbing the peace. First of all we heard the guitarist, plucking a Spanish concerto from his strings, playing against one of those recordings without the soloist, the over-amplified sound carrying a hundred yards and more across the harbour.
Even he was not loud enough to drown the pathetic cries of a fledgling gull, wheedling crumbs from whoever cared to toss or drop them, though he was not risking getting under the feet of any human or dog wandering the quayside. The whine continued, now from one side, now another, as he chased down anyone rash enough to occupy a bench.
The Jackdaws’ more dignified method was to watch from a vantage point and once the humans had got up and left, to circle down, without fuss, and snap up whatever crumbs and trifles the people had scattered about in their usual messy fashion. A most efficient tactic, and managed without the chatter these birds maintain on our rooftops or, as we saw them today at dusk, returning to St Petroc’s tower.
Just before twilight, as we enjoyed a cream tea, we observed a fourth, silent, species of scavengers, scuttling across the roadway, retreating down the steps onto the harbour pontoon if dogs or children took too close an interest – a troop of our tribal totem, the Turnstones. Cream tea crumbs seemed as tasty to them as the delicacies discovered along the tideline. I hope they are getting all their vitamins, but they looked healthy enough and certainly had their wits about them.

Another Commensal

There were a few screw holes left in our walls where fixtures were removed for the builders to get to work. One has been taken over by a line of parcels! IMGP4676Not brown paper but carefully cut scraps of rose leaf, each wrapping a food supply for the egg that the leaf-cutter bee has laid in there. This faces almost due North, so the outer larva will not roast to death.

That mother works hard for babies she’ll probably never know. And how well do we ever know our children? Off they go, God bless them, and how did they get like that?

Here is where you can send your sightings of bees in the United Kingdom: info@theBigBuzz.biz  or beecount@foe.co.uk . There is great concern that bees are losing ground in Britain.