The Garden Diary 2004
September (part 2)
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10 September - This morning we woke up to the sound of rain, and although it had stopped by mid-morning it has remained overcast all day.
Over the last two days I have done very little, with no time spent up the tower, so there are no further images of the Martins.
I took just one picture yesterday, of this family of Magpies, perched on a television antenna. They were being very noisy, and when I first looked there were five of them. Sadly, one flew off before I could get my camera.
Back on 24 August I photographed a fungus growing on some decaying Oak. Today I photographed them again to show how they have changed. The fruiting bodies have opened out to form dark brown/black discs measuring up to 25mm at the widest.
Since that first picture I have identified the fungus as Black Bulgar (Bulgaria inquinans).
Another fungus has shown itself today, just one fruiting body growing in an area covered with wood chips (from a beech tree).
The nearest match I can find in my fungi guides is an Ink Cap, although I can't tell which one.
When the cap opens out I may have a close look at the spores.
Those first pictures were taken at 3.41pm. As we ate outside this evening I noticed that the fungus had grown taller.
I took this image at 7.26pm, and it shows the stalk to have grown by some 3cm in just under 3 hours.
11 September - A cooler day of some sunshine and lots of threatening clouds, but just a few drops of rain all day.
This morning I found the fungus cap had opened, but it had been toppled over during the night, breaking off at ground level.
As the right-hand image shows, it had grown to about 16cm in height, with the cap about 5.5cm in diameter. There was no sign of a collar on the stalk.
Much of the day was spent at my son Simon's house and I brought back a 'souvenir' in the form of this fungus, one of quite a few growing under conifer trees in his garden. I'm hoping that it still has spores to offer and I have put it in the same area of the garden as the Ink Cap.
The narrow stalk is about 7cm long, with a bulbous portion underground. It turns dark in colour when damaged (as can be seen in the top-right image, below the ring).
I haven't been able to identify it, but I think it belongs to the family Lepiota, which includes the Parasol mushrooms.
12 September - A sunny but cool morning, but overcast by noon.
It was interesting to watch them as they looked around. Occasionally a large fly would pass by and both chicks would follow its progress, their heads moving in unison as they tracked it. It has been three weeks since hatching, and they will be fledging sometime this week, so this has to be important practice for them.
They are also quick to spot a parent as it swoops below roof level.
The food being delivered on this occasion has very long legs, probably one of the many craneflies that are about at the moment.
At times there seems to be a dominant chick that spreads itself to occupy the entire entrance. Then its appearance becomes much more chick-like.
It's when a chick reverses out of the entrance that you can see how close its wing and tail feathers are to being ready to fly.
Interestingly, another step forward can be noted at this time. It appears that the convenient faecal sac is no longer produced, and the faeces are now much more liquid in form.
13 September - This morning started off very wet, and it remained cloudy for most of the morning, with a cool breeze that meant I had needed to put a jacket on when I spent time up the tower!
The weather was certainly having an effect on our Martins. I watched for an hour during mid-morning and in that time I saw only one visit by a parent. Most of the time they were not even in sight above the neighbourhood.
The lack of feeds seemed to make the chicks quite irritable and much of their time was arguing as to who would be the one at the entrance, presumably because they were getting very hungry. Their chirping gave way to a sort of rasping sound as they pecked at each other.
Wings appeared at the entrance and at least a couple of feathers flew out of the next.
When a chick had its turn to look out it was interesting to watch how inquisitive it was, constantly checking the surroundings, both the right way up, and inverted!
This rear end shot shows, perhaps more clearly than yesterday's image, that the wings and tail are getting closer to a 'usable size'.
I'm used to watching the Blue and Great tit chicks exercising their wings in the days before fledging. Exercising must be much more difficult in the confines of the Martins' nest.
As I watched our box I did not see any activity at all around the House Martin nest on the house across the road. I suspect that those chicks must have fledged during the weekend.
By lunchtime the weather had improved considerably and the parent were bringing food regularly again.
Trying to get 'arrival shots' really is a hit and miss affair, and unfortunately the position of the tower means that most of the time the parent's beak is hidden from the camera - it was so close this time...
Craneflies seemed to feature high on the menu. At least once the handover of food didn't go to plan, and on one occasion I saw a fly drop to the porch roof, still very much alive.
I spent a short time watching the box again after lunch and the resumption of food deliveries had certainly made a difference to the mood of the chicks.
There were no further signs of squabbling and they seemed happy to share the entrance again.
Click on images to see larger versions
After a gap of two weeks the adult Goldfinches have returned to the garden, but no sign of the juvenile since I last photographed it on 30 August.
We gave in to the Autumnal temperatures this evening and had our evening meal indoors for the first time since June (or was it May?).
14 September - After a real boomer of a thunderstorm during the night, this morning started cloudy and cold, with a strong, gusty breeze from the west.
The chicks were still in residence, but there was a lot of chirping going on, along with constant movement in the nest. Shortly after I arrived I was suddenly surprised as a bird left the nest.
I was convinced that the first chick must have left, until I check a video that had started recording at 6am.
The chicks were already looking out by 7am, but the first adult was not seen until 8.15am. It approached the nest but didn't land, or have food in its beak. Some fifteen minutes later an adult appeared from in the box, presumably the mum. She looked out and then left the nest, presumably for the first time today.
At 8.55am an adult fed one of the chicks. The female returned at 9.02am and went straight into the nest. I couldn't see if she had brought an insect. She stayed for 15 minutes. She returned at 10.04am, leaving at 10.30am - the departure I saw from the tower.
Since that time, up to 5.15pm ( the last time I checked the video) there have been no more visits to the nest by the parents. More importantly, the chicks have not been fed.
Surprisingly, they seem to have been very patient, with long periods when one would be looking out, following passing insects, inspecting the roof, and having the occasional yawn.
These were very brief events and I usually responded too slowly to catch the moment.
There were only a couple of squabbles resulting in the same rasping, almost buzzing sound that I mentioned yesterday.
There was a lot of wing stretching going on today, and I saw more wings appear in the entrance than on previous days.
Finally, another rear-end shot that really does show how well the forked tail is developing.
It's now 25 or 26 days since hatching. with the books giving a time of anywhere from 19 - 27 days for fledging, I would expect the chicks to depart in the next two days. The weather forecast for tomorrow is much better, so maybe..........
An update after looking at the evening's video recording. Having been absent nearly all day an adult turned up with food at 7.25pm. A minute later, the female (?) turned up with an insect and entered the nest. I didn't see her leave, but in the next ten minutes the chicks were fed five more times before the light levels dropped too low for me to make anything out on the video.
15 September - A bright, sunny start to the day, and the end of another chapter in the live of our garden - the House Martin chicks flew the nest at around 9am this morning. I will add more details later in the day.
A correction to my initial entry of the day - two chicks were seen to leave this morning, and this afternoon there is still one chick in residence (presumably number three?), enjoying the full attention of both parents.
I had thought it was all over, but when Sheila and I returned at lunchtime from a shopping trip, we were greeted by a chorus of Martins as the parents came to visit!
Instead of dismantling the tower this afternoon, I spent another hour up there watching as the feeds continued, now with no competition for the food.
A tail-end view confirms that this chick has a well developed set of wing and tail feathers, and I'd be very surprised if it didn't put them to use tomorrow morning.
I have still to go through the morning's videos properly before I can describe what happened at the start of the day.
9pm - I've at last managed to sort out the confusion of the day. There are only two chicks! The story goes something like this....
When the video started recording at 6am it was still too dark to make anything out, but within ten minutes it was possible to see that there were some wing and tail feathers sticking out of the nest. They didn't move until 6.30am when the first head (an adult) appeared at the entrance. Some stretching of wings took place over the next ten minutes, but it wasn't until 7.30am that two chicks looked out for the first time.
Five minutes later an adult appeared at the entrance, spent a few minutes looking out before leaving the nest (pics 1 and 2).
Three minutes later, at 7.43am, a second adult appeared at the entrance, but this one didn't leave until 8am (pics 3 and 4).
Then I spotted that one chick had a foot on the rim (pic 3 - spot the claw!). Moments later it lunged forward as if about to be fed and launched itself into the world outside (pics 4 and 5).
It started looking out again soon after 9am (pic 1). At 9.11am it opened its beak to be fed (pic 2) but the adult that arrived went straight past it into the nest (pic 3).
It emerged a couple of seconds later (pic 4) with the second chick following right behind it (pics 5 and 6).
After that everything came to a halt at the nest, and after a while I decided that it was all over, but .....
Half a minute later another adult entered the nest (pic 3) followed closely by one of the chicks (pic 4 - you can just make out the yellow colour on its beak).
As the chick entered a second adult arrived (pic 5). This one perched outside for a few seconds (pic 6) looking into the nest and all round the surroundings. Both adults then left (pic 7) although there was another 'inspection visit' shortly afterwards (pic 8).
So it seems that the chick I was photographing this afternoon was in fact one of the two that fledged this morning.
I know that it was still there after 6pm, and I have recorded the evening's activities, but I haven't got round to going through the tape tonight. I will be recording again tomorrow morning!
Before I forget completely, when I checked on the Ivy tree last night I found that the first flowers had opened. Judging by a couple of the anthers in the picture, it looks as though a couple must already have been open at least a day.
The only visitors I could see were three lacewings, including this individual.
16 September - Another sunny start this morning, although the temperature reminds us that it is Autumn - I see that the Birch has shed a few leaves in the breeze of the last couple of days.
The House Martin saga continued into this morning. Going through the early morning video (starting at 6am), this is what I saw -
At first light things remained quiet and it was not until 7am that the first head appeared, that of an adult, which stayed at the entrance until it left at 7.12am, when our chick appeared for the first time.
Around 7.50am a second adult head appeared at the entrance, and this bird left two minutes later.
At 8am the chick became agitated and very noisy. At this time I was watching through the bedroom window and was treated to a low level flying display by (I think) four adults. They seemed to be flying low enough for the chick to see them . Occasionally one would fly up to the nest, not stopping and without food. After about five minutes of this, the chick finally launched itself out of the nest and they all disappeared.
Half an hour later the chick reappeared and flew into the nest, with an adult in hot pursuit. The adult left a few seconds later but the chick stayed put!
This time it took four minutes to persuade the chick to join them, and this image from the video was the last glimpse we had of it as it left.
Since then there has been no sign of Martins in the sky around us, but I won't risk saying that the episode is finished quite yet, although I have removed the tower this morning.
Update at 10pm - I spent quite a lot of time out in the garden today and there was no sign of the Martins at all, until just before 6pm, when a group of at least 5 flew past making a lot of noise. A few minutes later I checked the nest and found our reluctant fledgling had returned, having been away all day.
Over the next hour there were no visitors to the nest, but at 7.12pm and adult flew in, followed in the failing light by a second one four minutes later.
If these are the parents, I wonder what the other chick is doing. Was it in the group that I saw flying earlier?
There was very little activity for the next 45 minutes as a light shower passed over us.
The two older birds started looking out more and then, a few minutes later, all three left the nest in quick succession.
I keep on referring to the older birds as parents, but I have wondered if one of them could be a young bird of an earlier brood.
Yesterday I forgot to mention that in the morning I caught sight of a young Goldfinch begging for food in the Hawthorn as its parent was at the thistle seed feeder. Well, this morning it was here again, and this time I had my camera available. It was a bit glum outside so lighting wasn't the best for photography - shutter speed too slow.
The yellow band on the youngster's wing really showed up as the wings vibrated. I am a bit surprised to see a young fledgling this late in the year (Martins excepted, of course).
There has been quite a bit of Goldfinch activity here this morning, including older juveniles coming to feed.
I first saw, and photographed a young Goldfinch here on 25 August. At that time there was no sign of red on its head.
This one appears to be in the process of a moult, and you can see the first glimpses of red plumage just above its beak. Notice how it's wings are bigger than the one in the first picture.
18 September - A brighter, showery day and mild enough to eat outside again this evening.
No pictures today, but I can report that the three Martins were in the nest again last night. It was nearly 9am when they decided to leave this morning, with the youngster making a lot of noise at the entrance before the adults made their first appearance. I didn't check on the nest this evening, but I will be setting up the video to record again tomorrow morning.