Monday, March 31, 2014

Cley Spy Pan listing Part 2: Signs of Spring

Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)

The latest additions include some encouraging sings of the turning season and an embarrassing ID slip.

One of the splashes of colour appearing all over the meadow is glorious sunshine yellow of coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara). This plant has an interesting strategy of flowering early when there is little competition from other flowers and grasses, and then later developing its wide rounded leaves that give the plant its name. Another eager flower is common field speedwell (Veronica persica) which is growing in many locations mostly around the edges of the meadow and paths.

Moss (Tortula mural)

A valuable lesson was learnt when embarking on moss identification. Growing on top of the walls around the farm yard is a moss which I took to resemble one of the only species that I know the name for Grimmia pulvinata. It looked on cursory inspection to be the same as some Grimmia pulvinata that I had pointed out to me previously, and a quick internet image search produced a photo labelled as G. pulvinata that also looked just like it. The error was soon picked up by those more knowledgeable when I posted a photo on Twitter and I have since used a proper ID guide to establish it is in fact Tortula muralis as suggested. There is also G. pulvinata on the same wall so another two species added. The moral of this story is never
assume, check, and don't trust one source on the internet!

Lichen (Xanthoria parietina)
Lichens are even harder than mosses, but I am confident in the identification of Xanthoria parietina, from both its appearance and its abundance as this is one of the most rapidly expanding lichens in East Anglia. This will be the start and finish of my attempts to ID lichens without expert help as they are fiendishly difficult.

We were also pleased to have a group of six bullfinches (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) mewing in the hedge running up to the wood. A pair of carrion crows have also taken to dropping in occasionally. Add to this chiffchaffs singing and buzzards and Mediterranean gulls calling overhead and it is really feeling like spring.

Here is how the list currently stands:

  1. Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla) – A nice start to proceedings, feeding on the seed mix we put on the ground.
  2. Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)
  3. Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)
  4. Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris)
  5. Linnet (Carduelis cannabina) – Over the winter we have had a flock of over 150 of these talkative finches.
  6. Blue tit (Cyanistes caeruleus)
  7. Great tit (Parus major)
  8. Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto)
  9. Wood pigeon (Columba palumbus)
  10. Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) – A young male occasionally causes a bit of stir amongst the next species when he zooms in.
  11. House sparrow (Passer domesticus) – We are fortunate to have a good flock of these chirping away in the hedges and on the buildings around the yard.
  12. Hen harrier (Circus cyaneus) – A bit exciting this one, a cracking male drifted across the field delighting the customers who were testing binoculars at the time.
  13. Dunnock (Prunella modularis)
  14. Common buzzard (Buteo buteo) – Our local population is starting to display over the woods on the hill in preparation for spring.
  15. Blackbird (Turdus merula)
  16. Robin (Erithacus rubecula)
  17. Black-headed gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
  18. Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
  19. Pink-footed goose (Anser brachyrhynchus)
  20. Feral pigeon (Columba livia)
  21. Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos)
  22. Reed bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus)
  23. Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus)
  24. Long-tailed tit (Aegithalos caudatus)
  25. Jackdaw (Corvus monedula)
  26. Common reed (Phragmites australis)
  27. Bramble (Rubus fruticosus)
  28. Dog rose (Rosa canina)
  29. English oak (Quercus robur) – These were planted around ten years ago along with some hawthorn at the top of the meadow.
  30. Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna)
  31. Wild strawberry (Potentilla vesca)
  32. Alexander (Smyrnium olusatrum)
  33. Stinging nettle (Urtica dioica)
  34. Colt's foot (Tussilago Farfara)
  35. Weld (Reseda luteola)
  36. Ivy (Hedera helix)
    Common frog (Rana temporaria)
  37. Brown rat ( Rattus norvegicus) – One dead in the middle of the meadow. Part eaten by something...
  38. Ivy (Hedera helix)
  39. Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula)
  40. Lichen (Xanthoria parietina)
  41. Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris)
  42. Moss (Tortula muralis)
  43. Moss (Grimmia pulvinata)
  44. Carrion crow (Corvus corone)
  45. Common field speedwell (Veronica persica)
  46. Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita)
  47. Mediterranean gull (Ichthyaetus melanocephalus)
  48. Common gull (Larus canus)
  49. Herring gull (Larus argentatus)
  50. Stock dove (Columba oenas)
  51. Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus)

Monday, March 10, 2014

Feed the birds: Hints and tips

Just some of our range of bird food.
As well as all the optical equipment and Cley Spy stocks, we also do a large range of bird food and feeders of all kinds. From peanut and seed feeders to fatballs and the ingenious Squirrel Buster, we have everything you need to keep your garden birds well fed.

Feeding garden birds is not only a great way to see them close up in a predictable location, but also can be a valuable resource for some of our declining species, especially in cold weather. Some care is required when feeding to avoid inadvertently causing harm, but by keeping clean and tidy and locating feeders sensibly you can do a lot of good.

Keep clean and carry on.
The best advice is to get into a routine of regular cleaning of feeders and changing the position of the feeding area. This will minimise the build up of droppings, which are the main way diseases are spread and the birds will get used to the times you refill and visit accordingly. Using hanging feeders is a good way of making use of limited space, but there is always some spillage, which if left overnight, can attract rats. The spilled food is not all bad, often being picked up by species that don't like to go on feeders such as dunnocks and song thrushes, but don't let it build up. If you are feeding large numbers of finches and buntings on the ground, using a dish makes cleaning up easy. Moving the location of the ground feeding is wise too, and take care not to put out more than the birds can eat in one day. When cleaning the equipment boiling water is a good way to disinfect feeders, bird tables and, in late winter, nest boxes without using chemicals.

One of the posts we hang our main feeder on.
Where to put feeders.
Small birds do not like to cross large open spaces and don't feel safe if there is no cover near by. Feeding a few feet away from bushes or trees will give the birds some shelter if they need to escape a sparrowhawk or a marauding cat. If you have nest boxes, or a particular place you know bird nest most years, it is best not to feed too close to these areas. The presence of large numbers of other birds can put them off building or make it hard for them to feed their young properly.

Your feeders will be most in demand during cold weather, especially if you put out fatballs, suit blocks, peanuts and highly desirable sunflower hearts. All of these offer a lot of energy for little effort on the bird's part,

Solid wire mesh peanut feeder
Some things to avoid.
Never put out fatballs or peanuts in the plastic net bags they are sometimes supplied in as birds can get tangled in them and die or hurt themselves in horrible ways. The Basketball Feeders we sell are a good easy to clean alternative for fatballs and a solid wire mesh tube feeder is the safe option for peanuts.

During the breeding season avoid putting out anything that could choke a chick. This includes whole peanuts, bread, suit and fat balls or blocks. At this time of year most seed mixes (without peanuts), fruit and mealworms are good bets.

Here are a few of our most popular latest lines.

The Squirrel Buster

An ingenious device that prevents anything heavier than the birds reaching the seed in the feeder. The outer casing is mounted on a spring that retracts the food inside thus stopping squirrels emptying everything before the birds have a chance. The resistance on the spring is adjustable, so if you want to have a feeder that cannot be used by jackdaws or starlings it is easy to change the weight tolerance.

Basketball feeder.

Basketballs and Chunky Dumplings.

These are a very neat and easy way to put out fatballs in a safe way for the birds and with minimal mess. They come in both hanging versions and with suckers to fit to a window. Chunky dumplings are what you fill them with, being high-quality nutrient-rich fatballs without any of the fillers that some have.

Ring-pull Feeders.

This is a whole range of superbly built, robust and easy to clean feeders that also have a comprehensive line up of accessories including poles and trays. Made of metal and very tough polycarbonate the manufacturers have the confidence to supply them with lifetime warranties.  This is a fine example of good design and engineering.

Window tray feeder.

A great little device for feeding small birds if you have little or no garden, or just want to get close views. These are ideal for filling with mealworms for robins and wrens.

UV window stickers.

If you have large windows or glass doors you may well have had an unfortunate bird not see the glass and attempt to fly straight through. A good way to help prevent this is putting stickers on the glass so the birds can see it. The ones we sell are designed to be as unobtrusive to us as possible, but reflect UV light making them obvious to birds. We have them in two designs, butterflies or maple leaves.

All of these and more are available at our Glandford shop together with a large range of bird foods.