Bill told me about his woodpecker’s nest at the start of May, and I got over there right away. The hole was high up in an old willow tree beside the river, visible from the landrover parked beside the track to The Wilderness.
I spent an interesting few hours watching as the pair took turns inside the nesthole, presumably incubating the eggs. The books say that this is mostly done by the female, but this one did not seem to be carrying her weight – in fact, at the last changeover, the male seemed quite annoyed at how long she had spent enjoying herself instead of relieving him, and literally chased her into the nest hole!
Female has just arrived –
and sidles around the back of the tree and into the nesthole!
And so to today, when the chicks have hatched and are being fed – but only by the male, He arrived with food 22 times in the two hours I watched, so averaging 5.4 minutes between visits. There was no sign of the female, so perhaps she has met with an accident. Or perhaps there is more complicated biology going on – for example, is she sitting on eggs in another nest?
I noticed that, like the dippers, at the instant that the food is handed over, both parent and chick have their eyes shut.
The stone bridge across the River Alyn has a brick missing on the underside of the arch, and dippers nest in the hole every year. This year, I had spent some time trying to catch the instant when an adult hands over a beakful of insects to one of the gaping mouths protruding from the hole – it does so in flight, with no hesitation, and is gone.
I had photos of the food pass from the previous day, good enough to see that both adult and chick close their eyes at the instant their beaks meet, but I went back today to see if I could capture an improvement. As I was setting up my hide, I suddenly realised that one of the chicks was standing on a stone in the river just a couple of yards away from me. I had the opportunity of photographing it on its first day out of the nest!
The chick flew to the opposite bank, but once I was in the hide, it forgot about me, and returned to the stone, where it searched for food. I was struck by how active it was in its search, and how confident it was in its watery habitat. It even landed in shallow but fast flowing water and bathed, ducking right under.
After a while, I noticed that it was displaying, but it turned out that it’s target was another chick which had fledged.There followed an amusing interlude during which the chicks appeared to beg for food off each other!
Hey, let’s go up this post.
Why would you want to go up there?
There are sunlit uplands, filled with rotting carrots, up there – I have seen it in a dream, I tell you!
Rotting carrots? I love rotting carrots. Hey, Jimmy! This guy says there’s rotting carrots up the top of this post. You coming?
Yeah! Me too! And me!
C’mon, little Slimey …
There’s sunlit uplands as well, mind.
(Puff) I can do without sunlit uplands. (Pant) Bit steep, isn’t it?
There! Isn’t the view from here wonderful?
Where’s the rotting carrots? There’s nothing here!
Yes there is. Just look at these beautiful uplands.
You said rotting carrots – sod your uplands!
I took a lighting stand and a radio controlled flashgun to Chester Zoo this morning and spent a long time in the Monkey House. It was good portrait practice, but those monkeys did not take direction very well …
One thing I noticed – you know how most animals in zoos totally ignore the human audience? The enclosure windows through which we gaze at the inmates must seem like a TV in the corner of the living room to them, always on, always boring. However, when I set up the flashgun on the lighting stand next to the window, it was noticed and gazed at intently by a number of the monkeys. Not completely institutionalised, then.
We are now back after spending a beautiful couple of days on Skokholm, sister island to Skomer, lying off the Pembrokeshire coast. Foolishly, I played squash last Monday after spending a couple of hours sitting on my small stool, photographing the lesser spotted woodpeckers, and have paid, and continue to pay, for it with a painful bout of sciatica.
I still managed to hobble about a bit, and take advantage to some small extent of the access provided by a residential stay over a day trip, but I need to come back again.
The trip is worth a page on the website, so I shall update this with a link when it is ready.