April, 2016


We're about more than just birds (though obviously we like them a lot).

Notes on nature

We love nature... from every little bug on a blade of grass to birds, butterflies, otters and oaks!
  • Notes on nature: Snuggle up, it's nesting season...

    Spring has sprung and life’s all aflutter as wildlife gets busy preparing for the breeding season.

    You may have spotted birds in your garden flitting to and fro with nest material as they prepare for family life.

    Some opt for a traditional-style home, weaving twigs and moss into a neat cup-like shape lined with mud and hair.

    They include the robin, which often nests in trees but will take advantage of man-made structures too, as this fantastic picture of a female nesting in the dashboard of a 1978 ex-Army Land Rover shows.

    Robin nesting in the dashboard of a Land Rover (Image by Dan Skinner)

    Vehicle owner Dan Skinner, an RSPB UX designer based at The Lodge, said: “It has a canvas top which I leave open sometimes. There's been a cat living in there for a while, but as I got in a few weeks ago a robin fluttered out.

    “I didn't think anything of it, but as I drove down the road I realised there was a bird’s nest with five eggs. I went into town very carefully and then came home and checked later that the robin had returned, and it had. ”

    Dan, of Whepstead, Suffolk, has decided to leave the vehicle alone for around four weeks to allow the adult robins to incubate the eggs and the chicks to fledge.  

    He added: “It’s quite sweet to see them nesting but I do want my Landy back - I used to use it all the time!”

    Robins will often make good use of artificial holes in a variety of man-made objects, generally using dead leaves as a nest base, on which a cup of moss, grass and leaves is built and lined with finer material including hair, vegetable fibre and feathers.

    And they're certainly not alone in doing so, as this photo montage of a safety-conscious blue tit leaving its nest inside a life ring shows.

    Like the robin, a blue tit’s incubation period lasts for a couple of weeks, but the female blue tit will lay as many as eight-to-ten eggs, while robins generally only incubate four or five.

    Smaller birds such as tits and robins tend to lay larger numbers of eggs as life further down the avian food chain can be short, and it would be folly to put too much faith into a small number of young.

    So, next time you get into your car beware, you may just have more passengers than you'd bargained for!

  • Notes on nature: Eggs-traordinary ospreys hatch new plan

    Egg-citing news: the two most-famous ospreys in Britain – Loch Garten’s EJ and Odin – have laid three eggs this spring!

    The pair have settled down to family life once again at RSPB Scotland’s Osprey Centre, and appear to have put last year’s Eastenders-like love triangle behind them.

    The lovebird's long-running romance was interrupted in 2015, when an interloping male attempted to mate with EJ while Odin was away hunting, later even going so far as to kick the pair's eggs from their nest.

    The drama meant the famous pair failed to raise a family for the first time in years.

     An osprey nesting

    However, Jess Tomes, the Osprey Centre’s manager, said they appeared to be back on track this season - their eighth together. 

    “EJ is sitting on three eggs – the usual size for an osprey clutch," said Jess.

    “As is typical with ospreys, the eggs were laid over quite a long period.

    “The first was laid on Thursday, April 7 at 8pm, and EJ finally laid what we expect to be her third and final egg on Wednesday, April 13 at approximately 10.20pm – her 45th egg laid at Loch Garten over the years."

    Jess said she expected the first egg to hatch around May 15, but stressed she and other experts at Loch Garten were not counting their osprey eggs before they'd hatched.

    "There's a long way to go and anything could happen. There are interlopers, but fortunately this year they don't seem to have been very persistent!

    “One actually attempted to land on the nest, but EJ saw it off in fine style. We're also encouraged that Odin has been doing his job as a breadwinner.”

    Jess added business at the Osprey Centre had been brisk so far this year.

    "We've had a nice, steady flow of visitors, with plenty of families enjoying seeing the ospreys and the other wildlife.

    "At the moment, we've got a camera on a goldeneye box. Goldeneyes normally swim on Loch Garten but when they're breeding they actually breed up in trees.

    "We've a camera in one of our nestboxes and I've just heard today that a female goldeneye has laid five eggs. We're expecting a few more and she'll start sitting when she's laid her full clutch.

    "People will be able to keep an eye on her and see the chicks from inside the box and watch them launch themselves out of the box, which is a good few feet off the ground, and find their way to the loch.

    “We’ve also had good views of crested tits on the feeders as well as great spotted woodpeckers, siskins, chaffinches and coal tits."

    Why not take a look at the Loch Garten osprey blog and EJ and Odin's world-famous nest? If they aren't there, you may be able to spy them on their favourite perches.

  • Monday's magic moment: our woods are exploding!

    Some people get all excited about bluebells (which are purple, for the record). For me, fresh, tender green leaves are the real beauties of spring. They're everywhere you look... I can't get enough of that bright lime green that newly-sprouting leaves have (I think hazel leaves are my favourite - what about you?).

    As the leaves grow, the green gets deeper and loses its zingy, almost fluorescent quality, so make the most of them!

    Our nature reserves are great places to experience spring at its height.

    This photo of wych elm leaves was taken by Sue Kennedy. Browse RSPB Images to find more breathtaking photos like this (you can order a print or canvas if any takes your fancy).