Tag Archives: birds

WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DAY MAKES

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The weather worm has turned, and the snow I commented on in the previous post arrived overnight on Wednesday. But it did so very quietly. Sneaked up. We were forewarned of the impending change, but it came without fanfare. No whipping wind. No roars of rage. Nary a rattle. Odd, as it typically comes smashing in as though to remind us how helpless we are, and how beholden to its whims.

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I wonder what’s going on up there on big O-mountain? Zeus and Hera have barely whispered to each other for several weeks, so is this snowfall a sign that they’re gathering up their strength for a monumental row and aggressive show of Zeus’s force yet to come?

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It’s only just begun

The birds were rather taken aback, for as fast as I put out seed, so did the snow blot it out.

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What’s going on?

Agitated tweets trilled from the shelter of the bougainvillea which shook and shimmied with all the activity, while I made several careful excursions across the icy terrace to replenish the buried seed. Pretty much in vain for it was almost immediately covered up again

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Here comes my pal. The food’s under there…somewhere.

The birds persevered, and so did I, but Thursday was not a day of happy feasting for them, and only by noon Friday did the feeding situation improve. Night falls quickly at this time, so there wasn’t much chance to eat their fill.

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Saturday, and all is well!

A FEATHERY CHRISTMAS FEASTING

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The weather here on the Pelion is weird, as I’ve already mentioned in “EATING BREAD AND HONEY…” and is a major topic of discussion. Everyone has an opinion, everyone has a tale to tell of weather past, present and future. Some predictions are dire: “Well do I remember the winter of 19-whichever…; how we suffered in 20-whatever…” accompanied by heavy sighs and headshaking. The audience falls respectfully silent and the prophet of doom is gratified. Souls of more cheerful disposition take an optimistic view: “Isn’t the sun wonderful? It will surely continue, so enjoy!”

There are reasons for the seasons though, and much as we revel in the unexpected warmth, it really shouldn’t be so. We need rain, and we need it badly. We need snow, snow that will melt gradually and replenish the water table. We need some freezing to control pests which will otherwise inflict themselves on man, beast and plant in the hot months. Perhaps it’s reassurance that we need the most in these turbulent times; things do not stay the same, not even the weather.

Nature is also confused, blooming far too early – one can’t help but wonder if she’s about to get a stinging rebuke. Probably.

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Fruit and blossom on the same tree in late December

The bougainvillea beyond the kitchen window should have been bare weeks ago, but is putting out new flowers as though challenging the elements. Bees, wasps, hornets and great big bumblebees are busily buzzing and bumbling all through the short daylight hours.

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Can you see the bumblebee?

It’s strange to hear excited twittering in the branches at this time of year. Migrant birds have long since arrived to build numerous nests among the colour, jostling with the resident sparrows, all seemingly unaware that their shelter might be devastated by a north wind as sudden as it’s vicious.

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Caution! Fledglings

I put seed out for the birds each day

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and although Raki regards this as his own personal playground, his half-hearted attempts to assert himself are largely ignored by the nimble birds who retreat in a flash to the branch and leaf of safety.

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Hope springs eternal

There they hide, chittering at him until he loses interest and retreats to the comfort of an armchair. The sentry bird up in the olive tree trills the all-clear, and back the feasters come.

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The weather will surely change, these birds will move house and take up residence throughout the property, and I will continue to provide seed for them. But Nature is cruel, and some of these birds will be food for the raptors. Life goes on.

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CREEPING…CRAWLING…COLOURFUL

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Eye-catching! The Hawkmoth caterpillar

The Death’s-Head Hawkmoth is very large with markings resembling a skull, hence the name, and has long been associated throughout Europe with all manner of superstitions. It squeaks, which I find fascinating, but this unique ability has doubtless contributed to its ill-deserved reputation as an announcer of death, predicting everything from plague to war.

The genus name is Acherontia, a reference to the river Acheron in the Epirus area of Greece. The Acheron flows from the mountains down into the Ionian Sea, and was prominent in Greek mythology as one of the five rivers of death in the Underworld.

Perhaps Persephone wandered its banks, weeping into the dark waters?

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Not small

I’ve seen the Hawkmoth caterpillars on the property fairly frequently, feeding their way voraciously along, but have never been able to capture a good picture of the moth. Unless one happens to fly into the light, they’re not easy to spot at night but I’ve heard the strange squeak they make; one can understand why primitive peoples were so preoccupied with them.

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I wasn’t ready for this close-up!

No pesticides or poisons of any sort have ever been used on this land so we are fortunate to have quite a variety of insects which creep and crawl, flutter and fly about on their foraging missions, ducking and diving from their natural predators. Yes, of course the garden suffers to some extent, but it’s amazing how the birds by day and the bats by night sort things out somewhat.

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Forget the cyclamen flowers, I need the leaves

The colourful Death’s-Head Hawkmoth caterpillars are so striking that the lowly worms inching and squinching their munching way along seem insignificant by comparison.

Whether they creep or crawl, are large or small, worms and caterpillars are highly regarded by birds, so their lives are constantly under threat whatever their colouring.

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Watch out for birds!

Knitting needles, a few yards of yarn and a button or two – I give you GoogliBugs.

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Quite tasty, no?

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Minor’s puzzled…where’d he go?

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What is this stuff?

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Nice ‘n’ fresh!

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Trying to worm your way in?

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Lots here to fatten me up!

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These leaves aren’t up to much, don’t you think?

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The food’s beautifully presented

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Pink’s my favourite colour

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Are we related?

With a lot of luck, these may become moths and butterflies!

‘BYE ‘BYE BIRDIES

 

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Summer is reluctantly drawing to its end here; there are all sorts of little reminders that winter is sneaking up on us.  The cyclamen has begun to appear. Tiny clusters at the moment, but in a few weeks there’ll be large areas of these delicate pink plants with their distinctive flowers and leaves.

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Most of the swallows have already left, but one particular swallow clan and their offspring remain. These have returned to their large communal nest on a balcony for the third year now. At least I think it’s the same extended family. Apparently swallows mate for life, and this group has certainly done its bit for the swallow population with three sets of hatchlings this season. This is probably why their flight has been delayed as the last of the baby swallows have only just left the nest. I suspect ma and pa are quite anxious for the youngsters to build up their strength so that they too can journey along the ancient and perilous migration paths.

Busy, busy these parents have been for months, zapping past my window from the first glimmers of dawn until they’re mingling with the emerging bats at end of day. I’m delighted that their mud home has remained unoccupied so far during the long winters, for I’ve noticed that these sturdy dwellings are often taken over by winter squatters, and once that happens, the swallows shun the nest.

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I haven’t yet been able to identify the housebreakers which are small and somewhat sparrow-like, but they certainly do disrupt the swallow housing developments, and make an enormous mess of droppings from the high-rise apartments they have commandeered under the eaves.

 

Swallows feed on the wing, catching insects in mid-flight, but they flash by so quickly I’ve never yet been able to capture a decent photograph. Instead, here are pictures of a spotted flycatcher returning to her colourful home in the roof with an unfortunate grasshopper – dinner for the three raucous fledgings she was nurturing in June – and dessert of some sort of grub.

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She spent the whole summer only a couple of feet from my study window, so I was able to watch her preparing the nest with cheerful snippets I’d made available. When I sew, I try to trim seams outside in the garden, while small pieces of yarn from knitting projects get tossed out the windows. These bits blow around and are quite often picked up by birds to weave into their nests.

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Mama flycatcher was quite selective in what she chose to use, with a strong preference for red.

As for Raki, he was enthralled by the spectacle, and spent long periods chittering indignantly at the comings and goings, and although the nest is now empty he still stares hopefully up at it. But soon our feathered winter vistors will arrive and we all look forward to their antics.

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