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Miranda Hodgson

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Bluetits find a good use for tennis balls

Posted by Miranda Hodgson on 14 Apr 2012 at 10:52 AM

To protect the raspberries and strawberries last year, we put up a frame of bamboo canes held together by tennis balls and fitted some netting over it. The protection worked and the frame has remained standing since last autumn when the netting was removed.


I had been watching to see which birds landed on the frame and had expected to see robins coming to inspect it. Robins always seem to be curious about anything new in a garden and are often the first to investigate. It was a surprise, then, to see a bluetit (Cyanistes caeruleus) on a tennis ball, pulling vigorously at the felt covering until it had a beakful and then flying away with it before coming back for more. The tennis balls are now looking distinctly tufty on top and I’m wondering how long it will be before they are bald.





In other wildlife news, we’ve noticed that, after a long absence, house sparrows (Passer domesticus) are coming into the walled garden at home and we’re wondering what’s attracted them. They spend most of their time in a rather unkempt Cotoneaster horizontalis and it is my guess that they like the thicket of upright stems as we often see them perched amongst the upper growth. It’s lovely to see them again and even their incessant squabbling cheeping makes me smile. It sounds like a pitched battle, but on watching them, all they seem to be doing is jumping up and down at each other.

Elsewhere, the recent rain – 15.5mm in a week! – is very welcome and should be pleasing to the earthworms, who will have gone into suspended animation and have curled up in deep burrows. They should by now be more active and have returned to moving through the soil. The rain wasn’t enough to leave many puddles, so all the dishes of water put out for wildlife must be topped up daily. They are being put to good use and a great deal of splashing goes on, which doesn’t take long to empty them out!


richardpeeej said:

Great to hear your wildlife stories Miranda as always. You were very observant to notice the bluetits taking the woolly tufts from the tennis balls and you have captured some very stunning pictures too..I can see you are enjoying the Spring..

on 15 Apr 2012 at 02:30 PM

Anonymous said:

Miranda.  You won't believe this, but.  Visiting my daughter a few days ago.  We both winessed the same thing.  Yes, a pair of Blue Tits taking it in turn to pluck away at the tennis ball on the kids swing ball.

Something I have never seen before.  Feeding one of the local squirrels pea nuts, still in shells.  A visiting Jay, observed what was happening.  Eventually the Jay dived down beating the squirrel to a kernel. With kernel in beak. The Jay hopped from various garden features.  Suddenly he began digging with his beak at the base of a rose bush.  Kernel was placed within the hole, and the hole filled over.  Amazing.  I'd never seen that before.  More surprising.  The bounder returned and repeated the act.  I have seen Magpies, deposit bread into the bird bath, and return later to collect the soaked morsel. Life is wonderful.  Mike.

on 15 Apr 2012 at 09:48 PM

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on 15 Apr 2012 at 11:11 PM

Linda said:

This happened in my garden this week too. They seem to love the fluff; their nests must look great!

on 16 Apr 2012 at 11:21 AM

Miranda Hodgson said:

Good to hear that others are seeing birds making use of tennis balls! Would love to see those nests.

Mike, I haven't seen jays planting seed, but coaltits do it a lot. I've watched them taking sunflower seeds and pushing them into the soil and the edges of plant containers. If you ever wonder where all those stray sunflowers in odd places come from, it's likely to have been the work of coaltits!

on 17 Apr 2012 at 01:19 PM

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on 09 Aug 2015 at 08:44 AM