The behaviour of animals is perhaps one of the main reasons many people continue to watch and observe even the quite familiar. I vaguely remember a comment from a Radio 4 series of programmes broadcast last week in which they were talking about ‘alien’ birds i.e. those that people have brought into the country. The comment was a report of an observation by an eminent ornithologist and concerned a pheasant that had been on a boat. When the boat got into difficulties the pheasant had flown to shore (if I remember all the details correctly!). Anyway the comment was something like ‘this is a remarkable piece of behaviour from an otherwise unremarkable bird!!’
Well, as many visitors will have noticed, we have a few refugee pheasants on the reserve who have discovered that there are easy food pickings around our bird seed feeders. I’ve even seen one fly up to the feeder and eat spilt seeds from the tray, so wasn’t too surprised when as we were closing down yesterday, one flew up onto the ‘shelf’ over the disabled access window. What was slightly more interesting was that it then started pecking at the window, presumably because it considered its own reflection, in the half-silvered glass, to be a rival bird.
Having satisfied itself that the ‘rival’ posed no threat, it then seemed to settle down as if roosting for the night and was quite unconcerned by our tapping on the window. It did, however, offer an ideal opportunity to get a real close-up of the stunningly coloured feathering on these birds.
Earlier in the day, near the centre car park, one of the other pheasants had been ‘anting’ or dust bathing – another ‘interesting piece of behaviour ‘, unfortunately I didn’t get a picture.
Not to be outdone in the ‘behavour ‘ stakes , when we returned to the centre after closing all the hides, a jay had muscled up to the seed feeder and knocked it onto the ground so that it could easily pick its way through the seed, selecting out the peanuts. A quick inspection revealed that the feeder was deficient to the tune of one screw, which had made it east to dislodge. I replaced the feeder before leaving, but wasn’t surprised to find it empty and on the ground again this morning. Having lost a number of feeders lately I knew I’d have to repair this one today.
But first things first, opening up the centre and dealing with the moth trap, I took the light fitting off and, as normal, covered the box with a towel before setting off to open the hides. During the morning round of hide opening, I was delayed again at the Woodland Hide, by what looked like a rather large squirrel apparently trapped inside the ‘squirrel-proof’ peanut feeder. It looked quite bright-eyed, but rather forlorn and immobile and didn’t move despite my banging in the window.
I guessed this was something else I might have to ‘release back into the community’ rather like yesterday’s swan, but with the added opportunity of having fingers chewed off!!! Rather ducking the issue I decided to leave it and think about my options whilst opening up the Ivy South Hide, but fortunately the squirrel had extricated itself from the cage by the time I got back.
Talking of things trapped, the repairs to the seed feeder took a little longer than I at first thought, having to locate a suitable screw to replace the lost one and giving the feeder a bath took a little time. It was, therefore, later than normal that I got the chance to look through the moth trap.
Earlier on when I’d casually looked in there didn’t seem to be much in the moth trap, and had also noticed yesterday that there were signs that we had had some bird predation (quite a few unattached moth wings) and some bird droppings on the egg-boxes.
Today I had what was numerically the lowest number of moth species for some time, but in terms of bio-mass was probably the largest ‘haul’ I’ve ever found in the light-trap in the form of a wren,. In my haste I had inadvertently captured it when I threw the towel over the box. The bird continued to scuttle around under the egg-boxes as I quickly tried to empty them out and eventually escaped, flying to a nearby bush – protesting loudly. In the intervening period I guess the wren had eaten most of the captive moths, with the exception of one Poplar Hawkmoth, five Large Yellow Underwing, one Setaceous Hebrew Character, and one Flounced Rustic.
I’ll finish with a shameless piece of ‘shoe-horning’ under the guise of ‘animal behaviour’ , with this image taken late yesterday of the Small Tortoiseshell basking on one of the picnic benches – copyright , my wife Sheila,