In Which I Get Some Feathery New Neighbours

I’m really excited. I’ve been living here three years, and for the first time, it looks like I have some birds nesting in the nesting box at the bottom of my garden. I only have one decent tree, and it is the same one I had the flock of Bohemian Waxwings in in January.

I think it’s a pair of blue tits. They spent a few days in March clearing out what was probably a bit of a mess in there, but seem to have settled down now. They probably don’t have chicks on their wings yet, or I’d expect there to be a lot more activity, but I suspect the big day won’t be too far off!

It’s a cloudy day here, and it was tricky to persuade my camera to focus properly with all the twigs between me and the box, but here are the best pictures I managed to get of my uncooperative new friends!

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It’s been slow posting here of late. I’ve not been feeling too well to be honest, but being able to watch these little chaps from my desk is cheering me right up!

Some Brief Thoughts on the Mysterious and Inconvenient Mass Death of Birds in Arkansas and Sweden

You can’t fail to have heard about the recent rain of dead and dying blackbirds in Arkansas over the new year. Up to 5000 American Blackbirds were found dead or dying in the streets and gardens of Bebe, Arkanas. Less well covered is that this seems to have coincided with a mass Drum fish-die-off in the same state.

Arkansas game officials hope testing scheduled to begin Monday will solve the mystery of why up to 5,000 blackbirds fell from the sky just before midnight New Year’s Eve.

The birds — most of which were dead — were found within a one-mile area of Beebe, about 40 miles northeast of Little Rock, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission said. The blackbirds fell over about a one-mile area, the commission said in a statement.

As of Saturday, between 4,000 and 5,000 blackbirds had been found dead, said Keith Stephens with the commission.

Continue reading Some Brief Thoughts on the Mysterious and Inconvenient Mass Death of Birds in Arkansas and Sweden

A Strange Flock

I had some interesting visitors in my back garden for a little while this morning.

I have no idea what these birds are. They were around the size of a starling. Notably, many of them seemed to have a head-crest.

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You can click the picture for a rather larger version. As usual, my cheap camera utterly failed to get a decent picture.

Update: After a little research, it looks as if they were Bohemian Waxwings, not commonly found in the UK, though plentiful over in Northern Europe. Perhaps they came over for the winter. If so, I hope they weren’t too put out by the awful weather of the last few weeks. It has warmed up a little now, at least. I don’t think I’ve ever seen waxwings before. I hope they come back.

Update: They came back :) Only about ten of them this time. I guess that means they must be living locally. Neat!

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A far better picture of a Bohemian Waxwing I nicked off Wikipedia.

More garden adventures!

My garden would horrify most real gardeners. Most of what I do to it involves ripping out the ever-encroaching bindweed coming under the fence from neighbours who consider them “ornamental”, and trying to make it as pleasant a place for nature as possible. Here are a few things I found in my garden adventures today. My little camera, as usual, struggles with getting close enough, but they’re just about usable:

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Seven Spotted Ladybird

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Galls on a Sycamore leaf

These alien-like red structures are called galls. Although they look a little like cocoons, they’re created by the plant itself as a reaction to having eggs injected into the leaf by an insect. It creates the gall to isolate the eggs from the rest of its structure, but the eggs are just as happy in the gall as in the leaf, so it all works out. These ones are probably the work of the Sycamore Gall Mite, Aculops acericola.

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Red Poppy

This is a poppy of Genus Papaver. I’m not quite sure of the species. It doesn’t look much like the corn poppy we associate with Flanders field, with the flower being about 6 inches across. It looks a bit more like the Oriental Poppy, but that doesn’t look quite right either. There’s over a hundred species in Papaver, and most don’t have pictures on the internet. It doesn’t matter that much though, as the insects love these whatever they’re called!

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Cuckoo Spit - Froghopper Froth

My rubbishy camera refused to focus properly on this. It’s knows as Cuckoo Spit in the UK, but for once the Cuckoos are innocent. It is a protective froth of processed plant sap made by the nymph stage of a relative of the aphid known as the froghopper. The froth protects the nymph from predation and drying out.

Spider Babys.

Araneus diadematus, the European garden spider, has been busy in my garden. I spotted this group of bouncing babies having fun on my wheeliebin and thought I’d share!

The focus isn’t perfect, but I think it’s the best my little camera is going to manage as close as I had to get. These spiderlings are little more than a millimetre across each. Click the picture to get a larger version.

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Araneus diadematus - Baby European Garden Spiders

I hope you enjoy this International Day for Biological Diversity. Why not have a rummage around your own garden or street, and see what you can find! I’d love to see pictures, especially those of you in distant lands.

The British Big Freeze of 2010

Via Twitter from Ysharros. It really IS cold. This is a NASA satellite image from today.

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The British Big Freeze 2010

Truly epic.

This just in: George W. Bush is still a jerk.

From the Telegraph:

The American leader, who has been condemned throughout his presidency for failing to tackle climate change, ended a private meeting with the words: “Goodbye from the world’s biggest polluter.”

He then punched the air while grinning widely, as the rest of those present including Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy looked on in shock.

Mr Bush, whose second and final term as President ends at the end of the year, then left the meeting at the Windsor Hotel in Hokkaido where the leaders of the world’s richest nations had been discussing new targets to cut carbon emissions.

He’s not even bothering to pretend any more. The world is counting the days til he’s gone, and we can get things back to some degree of sanity.

Seeing as we have no footage of this incident, lets take a trip down memory lane and revisit one of President Bush’s other great foreign diplomacy hits.