Birds from Barnard

Why Evolution Is True

No, not the college, but reader Stephen Barnard, who lives in Idaho and regularly furnishes photos. Here are two: a northern harrier (Circus cyaneus) and some mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) landing in the fog. Click to enlarge:

Northern harrier


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Adult squirrel noms acorn and peanut

Why Evolution Is True

My squirrel tending proceeds apace, involving repeated purchases of nuts and seeds (bird-feeding has somehow become included). While the three juveniles continue to feed, there are one or two adults who join them (and drive the juveniles away when they appear).

Here’s one adult making short work of an acorn; I think this rodent is a male. Notice that he abandons the acorn at about 2:25, picks up a peanut to take away, and, before he leaves, has a sip of water and puts the peanut into the water to keep it away from thieves.

Note too the gnawing marks on the windowsill: the shiny silver rubbings that appear at about 1:20. I now learn that squirrel teeth grow about six inches a year, and I’m supposed to provide them with something to gnaw on—like sterilized deer antlers! Have you ever tried to find sterilized deer antlers on the…

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Wind farms, birds, and that pesky thing called the rule of law

UK Human Rights Blog

bp_whimbrel_15_240409_500Sustainable Shetland, Re Judicial Review, 24 September 2013, Lady Clark of Calton  read judgment

The current storms brought down a turbine in Teignmouth: see here for good pics of this and other mayhem. And the rule of law recently brought down a massive wind farm proposed for Shetland. The Scottish Ministers had waved aside a request for a public inquiry, and ended up drafting reasons which ignored the obligations in the Wild Birds Directive in respect of this bird – the whimbrel. Lady Clark quashed the consent on this ground, and also decided that the wind farmer could not apply for the consent anyway because it had not got the requisite licence which she concluded was a pre-condition for such an application. 

And there is a very good chance that the NGO which brought this challenge would not be entitled to do so if Mr Grayling gets his way…

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Friday squirrel report

Why Evolution Is True

I have discovered that the last litter of squirrels includes three offspring, whose genders remain indeterminate. But they’re all feeding voraciously: I can hardly put out enough seeds to keep them from eating more. And they’ve learned how to open the seeds more quickly, as well as to appreciate peanuts and corn (which they previously eschewed).

They also interact in strange ways when they’re together. This video, taken yesterday, shows both nomming and interacting. I can’t figure out whether they’re playing, being affectionate, or even feeling the first stirrings of amour.

This one is now fond of both acorns and dried corn (they eat only the inside of the corn).


It’s especially cute when they drink from their bowl, almost like little cats:


Another catlike behavior they’re evincing is getting my attention by running up and down the screen in my office, which makes a horrible racket.  Two of them…

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Moar wildlife from Idaho

Why Evolution Is True

Reader Stephen Barnard continues to send a largesse of gorgeous animal photographs, and I’m chuffed that readers get to see it here first.  The latest includes three species of birds.

First we have two female mallards (Anas platyrhynchos):


And then a red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis), clearly showing how it got its name:

Red-tailed hawk

Finally, a lovely Northern flicker (Colaptes auratus):


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Create bog garden
Leave a fallen tree where it is or move only a minimal distance
Delay cutting until late winter if possible
Cultivate flat-topped flowers for hoverflies

In my last newsletter I thought that spring had seemed a long time coming. Well, it hasn’t exactly put its skates on since, has it?

Someone asked me whether this meant that climate change isn’t happening, but of course the truth is that this is weather rather than climate – eastern Europe is always still freezing at this time of year, so if the weather systems bring us winds from the east, then we’re going to be shivering, climate change or no climate change.

Looking out of the window, however, I can see the first pussy willow is out, which should provide nectar for brave early bumblebees and especially spring moths such as the Hebrew character and common quaker.

If anyone caught my podcast last week, you’ll know I was looking out of my window then too, and got terribly distracted by afirecrest in my garden. Yes, not a goldcrest, but its rarer (and very cute) cousin. It’s amazing what wildlife turns up in gardens.

I dread to think what it thought of the massed array of pots all over my garden at the moment. They’re what I’m growing for the RSPB feature garden I’ve designed for June’s Gardeners World Live at the NEC.

This isn’t one of those £100,000 show gardens, but with the help of a team of volunteers up in Bedfordshire and the RSPB team atFlatford Wildlife Garden, we’re hoping to pull something special out of the bag. Follow our progress here.

Happy spring gardening!


Things to watch for in April

Here’s a challenge: look for a creature in your garden you’ve never noticed before.

It could be a bee-fly visiting violets or ground ivy glowers. It’s a bit like a small bumblebee with very long thin ‘fur’ and a long black spike of a proboscis sticking out in front of it like a insect version of a unicorn.

Or how about the hairy-footed flower bee? Males, which are kind of gingery with a darker tail-end and an obvious white face, dart from flower to flower, humming as they go. The females do the same but are black all over.

Or look into your pond, very closely (and safely, of course!) and you might see a little cloud of tiny dots, like a swarm of the tiniest underwater flies, each one moving with tiny jerky movements. These are called Daphnia, which fuel many of the foodchains in the pond.

Adrian Thomas,
Wildlife gardening expert


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© 2008 The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds

Written By Lizzie & Joshua Christian. Copyright (c) 29/04/2013