© 2014 by Barbara Copperthwaite.

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Jewels in the woodland crown

The distinctive call of the Ring-necked Parakeets is normally to be heard loud and clear at some point during any walk in Highbury Park, but for the last handful of days it has been conspicuous by its absence. I suspect that they are now nesting. I have pictured them breeding, and just a few days ago (see the blog post from April 20, Love Is In The Air) I shared with you a photograph of them displaying courtship feeding, so this seems like a fair conclusion. Courtship feeding actually happens not to woo the female. The male offers food to his mate after breeding, generally when she is laying and incubating – and also during egg formation, which I believe was what I caught on camera the other

A ruff lesson

The Great Crested Grebe stood out clearly amongst the ducks, swans and geese. Its slight, elegant silhouette reflected back up to itself in shattered pieces on the wind-disturbed surface of Trittiford Mill Pond as it glided along, with its magnificent ruff on display. It is this ruff which gives the Great Crested Grebe its name – and which also once almost drove this beautiful bird to extinction as the 19th century turned into the 20th. Back then, the chestnut head plumes were very much in demand by ladies of fashion, and the bird was slaughtered until there were just fifty breeding pairs left in the country. Happily, it is now fairly common – and a lovely bird to watch. Sadly for this bird,

The Jay: From secretive to show-off

Saturday morning was a damp one, with showers that made nature watching a lot less fun than the sunshine does… But, as it was the day for a wildlife walk around Highbury Park with local expert Paul Anthony, I was still excited as I donned my waterproof coat. There was little to see as everything was keeping a low profile thanks to the poor weather. But what fascinated me most was the way Paul could simply listen, and from sound alone identify a myriad species of bird, all hiding away in the canopy. Dozens of Robins and Blackbirds, Great Tits and Blue Tits galore, a handful of Long-tailed Tits, and – saving the best for last – around six Chiffchaffs and at least twelve Blackcaps. It just goes

Hide & Seek

The elder Ring-Necked Parakeet pair were very vocal this morning doing their circuits over the park in full voice, then settling in tree tops momentarily, their brilliant plumage almost disappearing amongst the bright green fresh leaf growth. Clearly they are not yet nesting, despite mating. They have lived in the park since 2009 and have bred every year, though their young generally seem to be predated. One success story for the pair is the lone female parakeet who has taken up residence in the pair’s former home. Not only has she survived and thrived, but I am beginning to suspect she might not now be alone. She has not been seen for a little while - long enough for me to think the worst,

A morning of surprises

Another day, another first sighting of the year! The first Holly Blue for me! I was walking through the section of park that runs past the stone balcony, with the pond in front of it, and was watching a Large White butterfly go by when I saw it pass a tiny, delicately-hued butterfly. It could only be…and it was…a Holly Blue. And frankly, given the rate that holly is being cleared from the park, possibly my last ever Highbury sighting of this pretty little butterfly (yes, despite my previous positivity that things had slowed down, there has been further clearing). Today I must concentrate on the positive though. I had already had a wonderful welcome to the park when a Mistle Thrush sang as I

Nesting news

The Moorhens’ nest on Henbury Pond was built but never seems to have been used. I am yet to see any birds on it, so perhaps they have built in the grasses along the side instead, as they did last year. That was when I got a shot I was particularly pleased with, of mother and chick peering through the camouflaging grasses – have a look through the Gallery to see it, and others. A pair of Wood Pigeons have taken up residence in a very neat nesting hole in a dead tree. The male sits outside on a nearby chopped off branch stump, patiently keeping lookout, while the female sits on her eggs, sometimes peering out for a little fresh air and change of scenery. It is a very popular stump, as it also

Love is in the air

A Blackbird gave an alarm call and flitted by in the undergrowth as I walked. Minutes later though, I was being serenaded by that sweet Blackbird song. Because it is so common, people sometimes overlook this bird, but take a minute to really look at it. Those sleek black feathers, that bright, intelligent eye, ringed with orange, and its gloriously orange beak, like a beacon amongst its dark feathers… And then there is its song. So well-known, yet as pure as a mountain stream, it really is beautiful. Nearby, a Nuthatch was busily going up and down one of the dead trees and pausing to give a call of its own; this one loud and insistent. Despite it staying in clear view and me snapping away me

Close your eyes...

Close your eyes and you can hear the changes nature is creating. Now when there is a gentle breeze, the trees have enough leaves on them to give that wonderful, soft hushing noise created by them all brushing gently against one another. It is one of those sounds that, until I hear it, I don’t realise how much I have missed it – yet when I do, my heart melts with joy. As I walked into the enclosed area of Henbury Pond, I saw the Grey Heron at the far end. I watched it fishing for a good twenty minutes, while Scamp waited patiently at my feet, not moving a muscle. It stalked slowly, deliberately through the water, lifting one foot, holding it in place momentarily, then moving forward. Found a

Fabulous firsts

Every day seems to bring something different at the moment; this is such an exciting time of year. Yesterday, I saw my first Speckled Wood butterflies. Two of them whirled around one another at dizzying speed as they flew through the air. What were they doing? Fighting. It will have been two males, one defending his territory against an interloper. At this time of year, when the temperatures can be low, it will be vital to hold onto a sunny spot to warm themselves and, of course, attract a female. I have to admit it was fabulous watching them as their wings caught the sunlight. I also saw my first Comma of the year, and I was really pleased with the photographs I got. I hope you like the one

Prepare for departure...

I am still seeing Redwings, which will probably be leaving any day now for their northern breeding grounds in Russia, Iceland and Scandinavia. The Nuthatch are nipping in and out of their nesting site, and I suspect they are sitting on eggs right now. I am ridiculously pleased and excited for them, as I do have real affection for this bird. Speaking of which…the female Parakeet born last year is still all alone and lovely. I often see her sitting on her favourite perch, but she has been conspicuous by her absence over the last two weeks or so. I was starting to worry that she had been predated, especially when I saw a cheeky Bluetit peering into the entrance of her nest. But today I saw her

Fresh starts

It's hard to believe that in the fortnight since my last post, the weather has gone from chilly to positively hot, butterflies are everywhere I look, greenery is sprouting on branhes and the ground, and flowers are in bloom. Spring has well and truly sprung. How many of the items have you managed to tick off from Wild Times? So far, I've seen evidence galore of badgers and their cubs at various places I visit (Birmingham has one of the highest urban badger populations in the country, but I also had a cheeky holiday over in Lincolnshire where I did some spying!). Swans and Grey Wagtails can also be ticked off. Although there have been no Holly Blues as yet, there is a plethora of pretty Peaco