Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Christmas Event, St Ives, Bingley - Sunday 2nd December

Thank you to everyone who came to the Airedale Otters Christmas event at St Ives and made it such fun occasion.

The weather was great - it was a beautiful bright, sunny day, but quite chilly. We started with a walk around Coppice Pond and a visit to the bird feeders. It was a quiet morning for wildlife, so we soon headed back to the warmth of the St Ives visitor centre with its lovely roaring fire. The rooms were beautifully prepared for us by the Friends of St Ives - many thanks to them. So many Otters turned up it was a tight squeeze!

We had hot dogs cooked on the range, and mince pies, buns and juice. The mulled wine for the grown-ups went very quickly!

Everyone had the chance to make felt bird decorations of Robin, Blue Tit, Coal Tit, Chaffinch, Goldfinch, or House Sparrow – and to learn to identify these birds as we made them.

A Goldfinch and Blue Tit hanging from our Christmas tree!
This year’s bird song quiz was about the more unusual, weird and funny noises some British birds make.  We heard the Booming Bittern, the yaffling Green Woodpecker, the screaming Swift, and the churring Nightjar – not to forget the Corncrake, which rhymes with corn flake! We also learnt that some birds say their name: Cuckoo, Chiffchaff, and Jackdaw.

Click on the name of a bird above to learn more about the bird and listen to its song again. The quiz prize was a bird feeder and bird ID book, which the winners donated to their local school. Well done!

Finally, Cam got his hands dirty and mushed up a big pile of lard, mealworms and seeds to make some bird feeders. Here are two we made, hanging in an Otter’s garden. 

By feeding the birds in your garden you’ll be helping them survive periods of severe winter weather. This will help them be in the best condition at the start of the breeding season in the spring. Let us know what birds you seen on your feeders this winter.

Thanks again to everyone who came and made it such fun event. We will soon be posting a full list of events for 2013 - along with details of our next event, which coincides with the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch on the weekend of 26/27th January.

The leaders of the Airedale Otters would like to thank all our members and parents for their continued attendance this year. We hope to see you all again in January.

Have a fantastic Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Monday, 12 November 2012

Checking Nest Boxes at Deep Cliff Wood, Harden - Sunday 18th November

Thank you to everyone who came to the fascinating and fun event at Deep Cliff Wood in Harden on Sunday 18th November. We cleaned out the nest boxes we made in January, getting them ready for next Spring.

 Deep Cliff Wood, Sunday 18th November

It was always a mystery when cleaning out nest boxes – who knows what you might find?! Well, out of the 14 next boxes, at least ten of them had been used. 

 Checking the first nest box

Nest boxes 1 and 5 contained only bird poo, which suggests that birds have been using them at night to roost.  Smaller birds, such as Blue Tits and Wrens, often use nest boxes to sleep in during winter nights (up to 60 Wrens were recorded in a nest box once!).

There were two half–built nests, in nest boxes 4 and DJM. Birds stop building nests for several reasons: maybe one of the parents were injured or killed (possibly by a predator like a Sparrowhawk), or maybe they were struggling in the bad weather. If, the birds were struggling to find food or keep themselves warm in all the rain, they may have decided to stop and try again later when the weather improved. Building a nest, laying eggs, and then raising a family is very hard work for a small bird. They will only carry on if they have a realistic chance of raising at least one chick.

 Blue Tit nest from nest box 3

 Blue Tit nest from nest box 12

In nest boxes 3, 10, and 12 we found complete Blue Tit nests. It is likely the birds in these nest boxes successfully raised families!

Checking nest box 6

It was a mixed story for nest boxes 6 and 23. Both had Blue Tit nests, with two eggs in Number 6 and three in Number 23. Hopefully, these Blue Tit families successfully raised chicks from other eggs, but like the half-built nests we found, these nests may have been abandoned before the mother had finished laying all her eggs.

Blue Tit nest from nest box 6

Blue Tit nest from nest box 23

Nest boxes 2, 8, 9, and 11 were all empty and clean. Hopefully these will be used next year.

Here’s a full list of the nest boxes:

Box number
What we found
Bird poo!
Empty and clean
Complete Blue Tit nest (no eggs found)
Partially-built nest
Bird poo!
Blue Tit nest with two eggs
Partially-built Blue Tit nest. Box chewed by squirrel
Empty and clean
Empty and clean
Successful nest
Empty and clean
Blue Tit nest and bird poo
Blue Tit nest with three eggs (one hatched)
Partially-built nest

We also brought some old birds’ nests we had collected, so we could have a closer look at how nests are made and how to tell the nest of one species from another. And there’s no better way of telling how a nest is made than pulling them apart!

 Looking at an old Great Tit nest

The three Blackbird nests were all made of a mud cup, lined inside and out with grass. The Song Thrush nest was similar, but with more twigs and leaves. The larger Woodpigeon nest was made of small sticks woven together. It looked quite flimsy, but was in fact quite strong. 

The Great Tit nest was similar to the Blue Tit nests we found in the boxes: a soft cup of moss, grass, feathers and bits of other things like string. We had one other nest, again similar to the Blue and Great Tit nests, but this time covered over with roof! It had a small hole in the top for the birds to come in and out. This nest was found in roof, under the eaves, so it was probably made by a House Sparrow.

We also had a brilliant game of Wildlife Bingo. I thought the Otters might struggle to find some of the things on the bingo cards, but almost everyone found everything! Well done!

While looking around we found a Common Earthball fungus, which often grows near birch and oak and there are plenty of those in Deep Cliff Wood.

Common Earthball in Deep Cliff Wood

Another lovely day in out in our wood, and the weather stayed mostly sunny too.