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Lily the bear and frisky pigeons

Posted by Miranda Hodgson on 27 Jan 2010 at 05:19 PM

This last week, I’ve been distracted from paying attention to the wildlife in my garden by wildlife of a very different sort, from the US. An article in the paper prompted me to look at a webcam, which has been set up in the den of a pregnant wild black bear, called Lily, who lives in the currently frozen wilds of Minnesota. Lily was about to give birth and I found myself gripped with fascination and suspense, staying up well past my bed time for more than one night, until she gave birth to her first cub. Imagine having bears on the doorstep! It’s just as well I don’t live in the US or I’d probably never go anywhere except the forest.

Here in the UK, the snow and ice melted long ago (at least a week) and although more cold weather is forecast, the birds have reacted to the increase in warmth and the hedgerows have been filled with songs and cooings. It’s a welcome change from the silence of the freezing weather, when most birds hadn’t the energy to spare for singing.

Anticipating the coming of spring, first off the blocks are the wood pigeons. It’s easy to tell when pigeons are thinking about mating because they’re so obvious about it. I’ve seen them in the courtyard this week, one following the other, with the following bird continually bobbing its head in an attempt to allure its mate. Then, there is the increase in cooing, which is another give away.


Home sweet home?

The most obvious sign that pigeons are getting ready to mate is when they start to collect nesting material and they’ve been doing this for a few days now - walking about under the trees, picking up twigs, testing them for some mysterious quality and then throwing them down again and moving on to the next one.

Pigeons have one of the most uncomfortable looking nests I’ve ever seen, just a layer of criss-crossed sticks high in a tree. No leaves, no moss, or anything that looks as if it might insulate even a little bit. If you look at a pigeon’s nest from beneath, you can see daylight through the gaps. It’s hard to imagine starting life in a draughty, rickety platform in a tree, but pigeons were the UK’s most numerous bird in 2005 and they don’t seem to have decreased in numbers, so it can’t do them any harm. I count the days until the pigeons actually start to take away the twigs, rather than playing with them.


pushkin said:

I would have loved to see Lily and her offspring.  I'm surprised at how rickety that pigeon nest is.  You've inspired me to have a good look around my garden for nests in progress.

on 27 Jan 2010 at 06:07 PM

sue1002 said:

Since you told me about Lily, I've been very much distracted by her too :-)

It does seem early for some birds to be nesting already, especially as we're now going into another cold spell.

This weekend is the birdwatch weekend, here is a link for people to take part  I think this year's one will give us a clue to which birds have survived and suffered this winter.

on 27 Jan 2010 at 06:11 PM

David Benson said:

Never ceases to amaze me that birds know how to construct nests at all, even rickety ones...

on 27 Jan 2010 at 07:17 PM

Graham Rice said:

You might like to take a look at the bear cub on our deck in Pennsylvania - - and the bear and the bird feeder -

on 28 Jan 2010 at 11:52 AM

sue1002 said:

Thanks for sharing those pics Graham, I just love that first one.

on 28 Jan 2010 at 01:16 PM

Miranda Hodgson said:

Yes, Sue, it will be very interesting to see the results of the bird watch!

David - this is something I've puzzled over for years. Some nests are real works of art and I wouldn't know where to begin, but they just do it by instinct!

Graham, those are lovely pictures. I had already seen them, actually, as I saw your very sensible comments after the article in The Guardian, where you gave links. It must be strange having black bears in your garden - hope they aren't too naughty!

on 29 Jan 2010 at 12:21 PM