© 2014 by Barbara Copperthwaite.

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Call of nature!

Great news about the Ring-necked Parakeets! Last night I received a call from my wildlife buddy Paul Anthony, a local expert. He and I had been talking only the other day about the parakeets, as he had not seen them for several weeks, so I reassured him by telling him of the (admittedly rare lately) sightings I had had. Now he was calling me from Highbury Park to say that he could see two adults and two juveniles which may have fledged fairly recently – the juveniles are more of a khaki green than the apple green of adults. A little further into the park he spotted another pair of parakeets. So this confirms once and for all my suspicions about why the parakeets have been conspicuous by thei

Tales on the wing

Have you seen many Swifts this year? So far I’ve barely seen any, apart from the occasional one. There have been no flocks of swifts flying over me, shrieking joyfully as they all fly together so excited at the speed they are going and the exhilaration. I’m missing this seasonal sound and am hoping to hear it again soon, though I am still buoyed up over seeing and hearing the endangered cuckoo for the first time in years (as I shared with you in yesterday’s post). I tried, unsuccessfully sadly, to take a picture of a Blackcap. I heard it right beside me and just managed to located it among in a gap among dense foliage in a tree…as it flew away. I didn’t even have time to get my camera up to

Going cuckoo!

Even now that the young Coots are bigger and swimming on the water all the time, those careful Coot parents are still building up and maintaining their nest all the time. While the chicks sat on the nest sunning themselves, they watched their parents swimming in from different directions bringing in extra twigs in and carefully placing them. Male and female were even bringing bright, freshly-fallen leaves over that decorated the nest. One of the chicks started to tug at the twigs too as if trying to join in. Later, the female settled down on the nest, and while some of the young continued to swim, one nestled under the safety of their parent. It did make me smile to see its face peeping out

Everything changes...

I love the fact that as soon as I walk into the park everything changes. I am literally stepping into another world. Even with the sound of the traffic still loud in my ears because I am just a couple of feet away from the busy high street traffic lights, in front of me is a Holly Blue butterfly fluttering gently in its erratic flight path. A Brimstone’s stronger flight takes diagonally it across my path and into the nettle patch near the entrance to the allotments. A few more steps into the park and I’m bathed in soft shadow, and if I look up I am soothed by the green light of sun falling through the canopy of the horse chestnut trees just inside the park’s entrance. The traffic sounds fade

Parakeets and pals

The Nuthatch pair I am particularly keeping an eye on are so busy at the moment. They never seem to rest as they flit in and out of their nest with an endless supply of food for their growing brood. Surely it can’t be long before the youngsters fledge and I finally get a look at them. I just managed to capture one of the parents briefly resting to have a look around before it flew away to continue its insect hunt. It seemed a particularly busy day for Blackbirds, too. Whether singing sweetly, giving their alarm call, or simply hopping around on the grass, they seemed to be everywhere I turned, along with Robins. Over by Henbury Pond, I also watched a small flock of four or five Chaffinch. In

A legendary day

Floating gently through the air in every direction were the seed heads of dandelion clocks. Their fluffy exteriors make perfect parachutes, and in the sunlight they transform a scene into something of wonder – anyone remember the film Legend, which heavily featured dandelion fluff filling the air in many of the idyllic pastoral shots? A Holly Blue flitted by; a delicate, dancing motion to its erratic up and down flight. I have only seen a handful of these butterflies so far. Numbers seem down on the amount in the park last year. A Mistle Thrush flew across the path before me, banking steeply to give me a lovely look at its speckled chest. It hid in a nearby tree, where it sang so loud and so

A watery nursery

The Coot family is doing really well. It’s unusual for the Coot to choose a place like Long Pool in Highbury to breed, as it generally prefers larger bodies of water than the Moorhen; but it’s safe to say our resident family is thriving. Yesterday I watched in the sunshine as the female Coot sat on the nest being fed by her attentive mate, and then in turn feeding a snail to her young. At first I thought it had only successfully hatched one young, as I only saw one head pop up for food. But later in the day the parent was briefly standing in the nest, and beneath her were two young chicks – and a third that boldly moved to the edge of the nest and seemed to be eyeing up the water. I’m sure i

The same but different...

Speckled Woods are busy fighting in patches sunshine all over the park. They cling to areas with trees and undergrowth, dancing in little clearings or on the edges of grass The ones you see whirling round and round each other are males, battling it out for territory to increase their chances of getting a female. The male Orange Tips are still busily looking for females too. The other day someone asked me how to tell the difference between a female Orange Tip and the Small White butterflies. As I mentioned in an earlier blog (see Brilliant Master of Disguise), the best way is to look at the underwings. The female Orange Tip has green mottles on the underside of her wings, but a Small White do


The pond is a real hive of activity at the moment. As well as the new Moorhen chicks and Mallard ducklings, the Canada Geese today showed off their brood for the first time. The pair proudly swam along with their seven fluffy yellow goslings. But the newest addition of all is not yet ready for the water - in fact it has only just hatched. I was lucky enough to see the mother and father changing places on the nest, and as I used my camera to zoom in to get a photograph, I notced a tiny movement, almost like the fluttering of a leaf in the wind. Using the camera on maximum zoom (and trying not to let it wobble too much, no mean feat at 50x magnification) I saw a tiny chick peeking up. It is so

Life springs eternal

There was a wonderful sense of peace in the park yesterday. But this belied the truth – it was actually a hive of activity, all with one aim: to successfully produce off-spring. Crows and many Magpies still seem to be at the beginning of the process. The other day I saw Magpies mating, and another pair were busy putting the finishing touches to a nest. Today a Crow with the biggest bill full of dried grasses and small twigs flew by me, clearly intent on creating a new home. The Moorhen on Henbury pond seems to be making another nest now, after abandoning their first on, which can still be seen woven onto a branch floating on the water. A pair of Moorhens on Long Pool duck pond have already s

Wild weather for wildlife

It was a bit of a wild day yesterday! The wind was gusting so hard that a huge section of one of the willow trees by the Long Pool duck pond in Highbury Park tore free from the trunk and crashed to the ground. I always find that sort of sight incredibly sad, but it is a part of nature – and thanks to the management practices in the park, the branch will be left so that wildlife can still make use of it. Birds and small mammals can still shelter in it, insects will burrow inside, and when it rots away it will help to nourish the land. I know some people may complain that it looks untidy but…life is untidy. I was only briefly visiting Highbury though, on my way to Holders Lane Wood once more.

A brilliant master of disguise

Highbury Park invariably lays on a wonderful welcome, and yesterday was no exception. Just a handful of paces inside its green borders a tiny Holly Blue butterfly danced by, as delicate as a blossom petal on the breeze. As if to hammer home its size and fragility, a robust Large White fluttered alongside it momentarily. The Nuthatch family I am watching seem to be doing well, with the parents whizzing in and out of the next with dizzying speed. Their chicks must be growing apace in their cosy nest, the entrance to which is, as is usual with this breed of bird, plastered with mud to make it exactly the right size for them. They are at the early end of their breeding time, so it is possible th