Saturday, 30 March 2013

Jays - all mouth and plumage

On Wednesday during one of our twice-monthly work mornings we heard a sound like parrots fighting.  It was a chorus of Jays squawking.  Were they quarreling over territory or mobbing an owl?  We didn't find out and we didn't see them.  Like people who make a lot of noise they are actually rather shy.  They are at home in woodland where they can easily hide, but very striking if you do catch a glimpse of one.

They are mostly pinky grey with black and white on their wings and tail,  and with a black moustache.  The most startling feature is the blue patch on the bend of their wings.

They do sometimes eat other birds' eggs and nestlings in summer, but their favourite foods in autumn are beech nuts and acorns. 
Indeed it is because they bury acorns in grassy places as a winter store of food, that we get oak trees growing in grassland, as you can see in this shot of the pylon field at Filnore, taken last April.  We didn't plant the three young oaks in this picture, jays did.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Self-guided Trail - a post about posts

Thanks to a South Gloucestershire Environmental Grant we have been able to update and print our latest edition of the self-guided trail leaflet.  Copies are obtainable from Thornbury Library, Thornbury Town Hall and Thornbury Leisure Centre.


The trail is marked by twenty numbered posts each with a white stripe taped round the top.


Number 9 is now permanently at an angle - rather rakish.  Number 17 was broken off during grass cutting and will be replaced.  It's just perched in the brambles for now.

Number 2 is on a cherry tree
and number 18 is on a huge old beech tree
A few trees have also been marked with a band of white tape to help you find your way between the numbered posts


Start at post 1
It's near the interpretation board just inside the main entrance. 


With the leaflet in your hand you can follow the trail from post 1 to post 20, which takes in the whole site.  If you prefer you can take a shorter walk.  The leaflet contains a few notes on what to look out for and a map of the whole Filnore Woods site.

As well as painting the numbers, Alan re-touched the sign
 - just in case you thought there was no eff in Filnore

Friday, 22 March 2013

Great tit

Another bird from the 44 species recorded at Filnore Woods

"Teacher, teacher, teacher, teach"  says the tell-tale-tit.  Great tits have a variety of calls but this is the one you hear most frequently and once you've got it it is unmistakable.

from RSPB website

In contrast, the coal tit's song has the stress on the second syllable "fitchew fitchew fitchew" and the chiffchaff puts equal stress on all syllables "chiff chaff chiff chaff chiff chiff chaff"

Great tits are quite bold and you will see them on bird feeders and bird tables. They like to nest in holes in trees so maybe some will chooses the nesting boxes we have just put up in Filnore Woods.

Recognise them by their black heads and white cheek patches and by the yellow tummy with a black stripe down the middle.  Females are a little bit paler yellow and their black stripe is not so wide.
from BBC website
It's a cheery song that sounds as if things are going well.  Listen on the birdsong link under 'helpful links'.

Monday, 18 March 2013

Nestboxes for birds

 At Filnore Woods we have very few mature trees with holes in them.  This means we are short of nesting sites for hole-nesting birds like great tits, blue tits and coal tits. 

From Thornbury in Bloom and Avon Wildlife Trust we have been given two woodcrete nestboxes and six wooden kits.  Woodcrete is a mixture of woodchip and concrete that makes a durable and well-insulated nestbox.  See the photograph from the Schwegler website on the right.

The kits had to be assembled before installation.  Here you see Alan and Rob solving the puzzle.


In no time at all (!) they had cracked it and assembled their first box.

It really wasn't that difficult so soon all six wooden boxes were assembled and ready to take to the woods.

We installed the boxes at the recommended height between 2m and 4m up in trees in 8 different places in Filnore Woods.  We hope this will enable more birds to feel at home there.


Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Cheerful Chaffinch

Yesterday in Filnore Woods I heard the 'pink' 'pink' 'pink' call of a chaffinch.  The male chaffinch does have a bright pink waistcoat and face to match his call, which helps me remember who is calling.   He's not so bright pink as the male bullfinch (see blogpost for 6th Jan) and where the bullfinch has a black cap pulled down over his eyes, the chaffinch has a paler, blue-grey bonnet on top.
from wildaboutgardens website
Although it's early days yet, I heard him singing his full territorial song as well. Check it out on Brett Westwood's website (see 'helpful links' on the right). The song is a falling cadence of notes with a little flourish at the end. Makes me think of someone tumbling downstairs and then jumping up unscathed at the bottom.
Like so many birds, the female is a drabber version of the male.  This little lady in the photo below has a beakful of nest material for the new home.
from Equso
Both male and female show bright white stripes on their wings when they take off and fly away.
from the rspb site

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Bramble bashing stops for nesting

When we first planted Filnore Woods in 1998, the walls of the old cowshed were still standing and the chains where the cattle were each tethered in their individual stalls to be miked by hand, were still there.  Unfortunately it was rendered unsafe by fire and had to be demolished.  Perhaps we can make what's left into a feature like a barbecue site or timber-framed barn at some time in the future.  Well, you've got to have big ideas and plans.
In the intervening years the remains of the building had become totally overgrown with brambles and a few elder and hazel bushes.  The last of several work sessions this winter, with nine volunteers in action, resulted in a good clearance around the ruins.

 This is what it looked like as we started last Wednesday.

Many hands make light work
Although the work warms you on a chilly day, a coffee and a biscuit help refuel the workers.
February coffee break and November sunshine
What we started at the beginning of the winter has now been concluded, to allow birds like long-tailed tits, lesser whitethroats, wrens, blackcaps and garden warblers to nest in the remaining thorny thickets if they choose.  And so the old cowshed foundations are revealed - not a pretty sight but full of potential.


If you live locally and would like to help with the conservation work, you will be very welcome.  Check the 'volunteering' page for details.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Greenfinch fizz

Yesterday I heard the summery sound of a greenfinch.  And then another.  I usually hear them before I see them.  There's a fluty trill, almost like a little giggle and then a sort of fizz or wheeze.  No other bird does the fizz so it's a way you can be sure it's a greenfinch.

The male lives up to his name with olive green breast and back.  He also has a pink beak if you are close enough to see, with bright yellow edges to some of the wing feathers and yellow patches on the sides of the tail, which show when the bird flies off.
The female is more discrete.  She is mostly greyish brown but still has tinges of yellow on wings and tail.

Juvenile birds are similar to the female but more speckly. 

Here's dad feeding a fledgling, courtesy of Mike Atkinson 
Listen to the full greenfinch song on Brett Westwood's birdsong recordings under 'helpful links' on the right.  The song consists of several different phrases varying in pitch and speed from a slow 'ping ping ping' through canary-like trills to the 'lazy wheeze' as BW calls it.