It’s been a pretty eventful few days since my last post, with a few new species to add to the list and a fresh host of fledglings to welcome to Brandon Hill. Will try and keep it brief, as lots to get through…
Decided to get up early on Friday morning for the dawn chorus as I was away last week and missed International Dawn Chorus Day. All the usual suspects: goldcrest, great tit, blue tit, robin, wren, blackbird, wood pigeon, blackcap, chiffchaff – only big surprise being treecreeper, which I thought had moved on to nest, but must be nesting close by and feeding in the park. On the Jacob’s Wells side, thought I could hear house sparrows again. Have only heard snippets of song and faint chirrups before, which I’ve finally dismissed as passing house martins, but this time was convinced as sounded much clearer in the still of the morning. Investigated further and discovered a healthy population just a stone’s throw from the park at the top of the steps up to World’s End Lane. Really pleased to find them, as house sparrows don’t seem to like the Georgian buildings of central Bristol and here was c.40 with nests! They are so close, I don’t think it will take much to encourage them over the road.
Friday afternoon found second family of great tits out and third family of long-tailed tits, first common blue butterfly in the meadow on the bird’s-foot trefoil (often used as host plant for eggs) and went up to the top to see if the friendly pigeon was about – only found friendly squirrel..
Up early again on Saturday morning, I decided to see if I could see the sparrows from the benches at the top, now I knew where to look. Whilst looking out from the hill, saw my first confirmed house martin fly through the park and more surprisingly, 3 hobbies flying to the south-west over the Southville / Bedminster area. The first time I have seen hobbies in Bristol, but they seemed to be just passing and took no notice of the swifts flying just above them. Couldn’t see the sparrows. The first poppy was out on the lawn and a mass of tadpoles which seemed to be bathing in the early morning sun were in the tower ponds. Saw a pigeon cocking its head to the side, which usually means they have spotted a bird of prey overhead, but looked up and was a passing cormorant. Foxgloves on the north-west side of the tower are looking nice and although mainly cultivars and hybrids, are growing wild and are good for the bumble-bees.
In the afternoon, took a walk to the wildlife pond through the meadow to check the progress of the blue tits. Meadow is now full of yellow rattle and blue tits are now feeding nestlings through the entrance to the nest box. Can see the nestlings gaping up at the hole when parents are close by with food. Parents now only going inside to collect fecal sacs – reckon only a few more days before they fledge. Just past the pond in the bottom corner, found a lot of wood mouse sign. It looks like some kids have been ripping out the buddleia to burn, which is bad news for insects – particularly butterflies – and bad news for the mice, as has exposed a number of entrances to their underground burrows and has removed the shelter from areas they have been using to feed on the cherry stones from a nearby tree.
On Sunday afternoon, received a comment on the blog about some parasitic plants growing at the base of a wall on the Queen’s Parade side. Went down to take a look and found a patch of broomrape – most likely ivy broomrape as that seems to be the only possible host in the area. Parasitic plants like these are lacking in colour as they have no need to produce chlorophyll, deriving all of their nutrients from their host plants.
Whilst down there, I could hear a clutch of nestlings in the wall and after a bit of investigation, found that it was another family of blue tits. Encouraged me to take a walk around the park and see if I could hear any more. Found another 2, which made it 3 new blue tit nests in half an hour! 1 in a box I didn’t know was being used and another one in a wall.
Later in the evening found 3 families of long-tailed tits feeding together by the Charlotte Street entrance. There were 9 juveniles huddled together on a branch in the holly and at least 5 adults were feeding them. Tried to take a picture, but camera not really up to the job. If you look closely though, you can see the 4 tails pointing away, belonging to the birds facing the camera and sandwiched between them are 5 facing the other way, with their tails pointing towards the camera – maybe a good formation to keep for looking out for predators? Adults and chicks were all making a lot of noise until a sparrowhawk turned up and all went silent. Nothing to worry about though as it only stopped briefly before moving on.
Sunday night and today have seen even more nestlings and fledglings. A number of sparrows have fledged, from the World’s End population I found on Friday, my first coal tit and dunnock fledglings in the firs and shrubs around Cabot Tower and have discovered a goldcrest nest on the wooded side, which sounds like it’s about ready to burst. Found a wood pigeon egg on the floor of the woods too, but doesn’t look like it has been predated, so the woodies are most probably just on a roll.