After a somewhat soggy start, the St Albans Heronry project has sprung into action this week, introducing nearly 200 visitors to the busy lives of Verulamium Park Herons as they begin to incubate this year's eggs. An initial study of the aptly named 'Heron Island' has found 17 nest structures, of which 13 seem to be occupied. Furthermore we have spotted the birds sitting on eggs in 8 of these! The incubation period for Herons is generally about 28 days so as we don't know exactly when the first eggs were laid, we anticipate it could be only 3 weeks or so before we see glimpses of the first chicks!
But it's not only Herons! In the first 3 days we have racked up an impressive sightings list of 47! For anyone interested, details follow..
Mute swan, Canada Goose, Mallard, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Cormorant, Grey Heron, Moorhen, Coot, Black-headed Gull, Feral Pigeon, Woodpigeon, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Grey Wagtail, Dunnock, Wren, Robin, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Long-tailed Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Nuthatch, Jay, Magpie, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Red Kite, Buzzard, Greylag Goose (feral), Little Grebe, Ring-necked Parakeet, Kingfisher, Jackdaw, Common Gull, Rook, Goldcrest, Goldfinch, Song Thrush, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Sparrowhawk, Redwing, Stock Dove, Blackcap and Great Crested Grebe.
Our dedicated team are going to be in the park at the Lakeside by the Fighting Cocks pub every Wednesday - Sunday for the next 2 months, so do please stop by and see us between 10:30 and 16:30 to find out more and catch up on how the herons are doing! If you would like a badge as a souvenir of your visit we have a large collection, and you can also support our work in the Hertfordshire area by becoming a member - just ask the friendly staff and volunteers wearing blue!
We would also like to take this opportunity to thank the St Albans City and District Council and Verulamium Park staff for all their help in getting us up and running.
Hope to see you all down there soon!
Everything seems to be going according to plan up at Aberfoyle. The three osprey chicks are now three weeks old and are looking good. The male is doing a fine job bringing in fish every day, mostly rainbow trout, and the female has had her talons full this week, chasing off an intruder who's been flying close to the nest. It's been really interesting to see how the chicks react to mum being away from the nest - when she goes, the chicks keep really still and when she comes back, they spring back to life, exploring the nest and stretching their legs and wings. They've even started moving twigs about the nest, almost as if they're tidying up!
Feeding time for the osprey chicks
Blimey those chicks are well camouflaged!
The first of the peregrine chicks has taken the plunge and fledged. He's been named Duke after Duke's Pass. The other two chicks, which we think are males, will be named too once they've fledged, but at the moment they seem a little hesitant to take the next step. The parents are doing their best to coax them off the scrape. They're calling to them and the female's even tried bringing in a kill, feeding them briefly and then flying off with the food again. Unfortunately it's not having the desired effect and is simply leaving two rather confused looking youngsters, searching round the scrape to see if they can spot it or find some remains.
Where's it gone?!?!
And as if ospreys and peregrines weren't enough reason to visit Aberfoyle, there's some fab events going on every Saturday in July. The Summer Club is aimed at 8-12 year olds and costs just £3.50. It's all about birds on 6 July, bugs on 13, red squirrels on 20 and woodland explorer skills on 27. For information and to book, visit the Forestry Commission website.
We love a good character here on the Date with Nature blog and one of the youngsters at the Lincoln peregrines appears to be quite the cheeky monkey. Our woman on the ground, Kerry Davis, tells us more:
"We had quite an eventful few days here at the Lincoln peregrines last weekend. The first of the chicks fledged on Friday and it was amazing to see the male escorting it back to the nest site. By the following morning all four chicks had taken the plunge and flown the nest.
Four fledged chicks was exciting enough in itself, but things really started to kick off on Saturday afternoon, when a member of the public alerted us that one of the juveniles was sat on the wall in distress. We rushed over to investigate and there was one of the female youngsters, sat on the wall, but looking anything but distressed. In fact she was so relaxed that she spent the rest of the afternoon and much of Sunday morning relaxing in the same spot and didn't seem the slightest bit phased by the people keen to take her photo, earning her the nickname Bailey.
Her siblings seemed a little less keen to share the spot light. One decided to spend the day in a nearby tree, sitting above the traffic and conveniently at eye level with the Lincoln guided tour bus. The third sat on a ledge about 10m up the cathedral tower and the last (the sensible one) flew around the tower, generally doing what you'd expect peregrines to do, even treating us to spectacular views of a food pass directly over our heads.
At about 4pm on Sunday, Bailey decided she was bored with having her photo taken and would fly around a bit. Unfortunately, having only been flying for a couple of days at most, she still wasn't too steady on her wings and when she came into land, she missed the spot she was aiming for. She unceremoniously ended up in a heap on the floor just outside the Cathedral refectory, where people were enjoying a spot of afternoon tea outside and listening to a busker. Once she was over the shock of her landing, she decided to join in and hopped up onto a near by picnic table. She spent the next half an hour hopping about, including into a bike basket, then flew off into a tree.
Find the lady in the red coat. Got her? Good. Now look just to her right. Guess who!
We ended Sunday feeling very honoured to have seen these youngsters at such close quarters, but it looks like we could have our hands full over the coming weeks!"
Bailey - ready for her close up! Big thanks to Eddy Chandler for the photos.