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Miranda Hodgson

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Spotting long-tailed tits' nests and other bird news

Posted by Miranda Hodgson on 04 Mar 2013 at 10:10 AM

The birds are already nesting and for the past week, I’ve seen the discarded white shells of half a dozen pigeon eggs on lawns and pathways. Pigeons always start nesting early, though, and they finish late in the year. Now that March is with us and the weather is starting to warm again, other birds are thinking of nesting. More birds are singing, to attract mates and defend their territories. Various materials are being gathered and arranged with secret skills into snug nests. In trees, bushes, hedges, sheds, plant pots, nooks and crannies and even the pocket of a coat left hanging on a tree, great works are being carried out.


 A robin's nest in a coat pocket


From about now, and for the next few weeks, is a good time of year to try and spot the nest of the long-tailed tit (Aegithalos caudatus). Even when the branches are bare, these nests are not easy to spot but, by the time the leaves are out, they are almost impossible to see. Long-tailed tits favour hedgerows and brambles and build right in the middle of the tangled mass of stems. The nest is a drop-shaped ball of moss, spider webs and hair, lined inside with some 2000 feathers and camouflaged on the outside with lichen. 

 

 

 Long-tailed tits' nest in bramble

 

I was taught to find these nests by a friend, John Davison. He has been watching birds now for over 75 years and has probably forgotten more about birds than most people will ever know. He showed me how to walk along a hedgerow, slightly stooped, to better peer into the thicket of growth and at last catch sight of the mossy, lichen-covered oval.

 

 

 Long-tailed tits' nest in hawthorn

 

There is a genuine thrill in seeing a bird’s nest for the first time, when you’ve crept carefully and quietly along to discover the secret places where they have chosen to make a temporary home and lay eggs. If you can stay gently alert, and not disturb the bird, the day soon comes when the eggs hatch and you can see the young ones in the nest. 

In other bird news, the blackbird that frequents the garden here spent a good part of the weekend watching us dig out a patch of the invasive Peruvian lily (Alstroemeria aurea) and waiting for the worms that were unearthed. To save him trouble, I tossed a worm over to him, intending it to land nearby, but my aim was off and the worm hit him on the head. It goes some way to showing how accustomed he is to humans that he merely paused for a startled moment before eating the worm and then carrying on as normal.

There is a good picture of a long-tailed tit on Wikipedia. 

Comments

EvaInNL said:

Love the bit about the blackbird :) and it is certainly nice to see the birds out chirping and going about their Spring business.

on 05 Mar 2013 at 12:43 PM

Miranda Hodgson said:

The birds are a delight just now, aren't they! I watched two bluetits chasing each other yesterday and they were so fast. It was lovely to see.

on 06 Mar 2013 at 11:52 AM