Tag Archives: birds

Canaries in the nest and up the mountains….

We have just come back from a trip to the Canary Island some of the time on La Palma island and some of the time in Tenerife staying with some friends. These friends have a large patio attached to their flat on the second floor and have several large bushes of local varieties (including a 10 foot high Strelitza which we gave them last time we visited and which has grown very well indeed…) and the local wild Canaries (yes they really do come from there!) have nested in their bushes. We spent the morning and early evening watching them in the nest as the parents came and went and the little ones spread their wings and balanced on the edge of the nest. Which it turned out was a bad idea as one over-balanced, tried to fly and couldn’t and thus fell onto the patio and broke its neck :(.

Wild canaries are more speckled than their caged brothers and also more green.

On a better note we also have a nest (or more but one we have a camera in so we are sure of) of blue tits in our next box.

This is proving endlessly entertaining as we see the parents feeding the hungry little ones. When we left there were just 3 eggs in the nest – and mother came and laid one a day and then flew off… clearly though she had been busy whilst we were away as 6 or 7 have hatched and we think there are 2 or 3 more eggs still in the nest underneath the mass.  She has endless difficulty getting them safely under her body for brooding as there are so many of them, and what will happen as they grow and the other eggs hatch, I just don’t know.

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Here are some pictures of the little ugly ones… so embryonic and the little tufts on their heads are so cute! I will keep you all informed of their progress and photos will appear as we get good ones. We actually managed to catch one hatching as it is a live video stream which we then capture on camera as the pictures pass… a bit tricky hence the poor quality but!

Back to the Canary Islands.

We landed on Tenerife which was 20 degrees in the evening and went to the Hotel Reveron in Los Cristianos. This hotel has a 6 storey stained glass atrium!

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Our ferry across to La Palma was not until the next morning so we had the following day in Los Cristianos wandering around and walking to Playa de las Americas. All the beaches except for one (maybe imported?) have black volcanic sand with some rocks and rock pools. Behind the beaches are sand dunes which in many places are a Reserve with many unusual plants.

Books disagree but there are between 500 and 1000 endemic plants to the Canary Islands some being just small variations on others but still. I am trying to track down the names of these wild plants as I post them as they were so wonderful to see such variety and lushness in places and desert scrub and mountain terrains in others. Of course the landscape is very varied due to the volcanic eruptions and slides but the islands are all peaks on a large volcanic sub-bed which almost links them in places (see Lanzarote and Fuerteventura on the map below) but also provides for shallow water good for fishing. There is a new island gradually forming too.  See https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y6GHox-KeF4 for more details.

volcanic map

It might be worth mentioning as in this blog (http://modernsurvivalblog.com/volcano/300-foot-tsunami-and-east-coast-destruction/) that if there was a big blow out in the Canaries there is potential for a major disaster including a Tsunami larger than any previous that would inundate New York! Do remember that this is still a very active volcanic area…. El Hierro was acive in March 2013 (http://www.volcano.si.edu/volcano.cfm?vn=383020&bgvn=1&rnum=region18&snum=canary&wvol=hierro)

Next morning we took the ferry at 7am across to La Palma via La Gomera. We didn’t land  on this island but are told it is worth a day’s trip

Chicktastic! First of the year?

Walking in Regent’s Park this morning – yes March 2nd – we saw the first ducklings of the year – 6 beautiful little coloured chicks from the Egyptian Geese.

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The mother was very anxious, quacking constantly, and Daddy stayed close too, not surprising really when the twitchers were saying that 5 juvenile peregrine falcons were flying low over the lake this very morning! Though usually peregrins prefer pigeons they may have been interested in a small snacket…

The geese also shouted at the moorhens and coots and anyone who got too close to their precious little ones. But curious pigeons were shooed off by one little chick! An aggressive little male no doubt..

This is really very early indeed to see chicks out and about..!

The goose is related to the shelduck and is very small and compact for a goose. Although originally brought in as ornamental birds they are now feral breeding quite successfully around and about – with several pairs on the Thames too. The RSPB estimate some 1100 pairs breed in the UK every year.

Each pair lays between 5 and 12 eggs which hatch after 28-30 days, so this pair must have started late January which is at the extreme beginning of the breeding season for them – they often breed right into May.  The female incubates while the male guards. The chicks take 2 years to become sexually mature.

They eat  a variety of plant matter including grasses, seeds, shoots, leaves, grain and crops. They also takes food items from shallow water, including algae and aquatic plants, and sometimes animal matter such as worms. So ideally suited for living in a park. They didn’t mind humans as after all they feed them  interesting bread stuff.

The herons had started sitting on their nests too and one inhabited nest  looked as though it would soon fall out of the tree it was so large and at such an angle – but no doubt the twigs were firmly woven in.

Lovely to see all this wildlife in the middle of the city surrounded by wonderful flowers too – amazing how many species are in bloom all at the same time. Even anemone de caen which should flower in April/May were out in full bloom amongst the snowdrops, daffodils, crocii and  other spring bulbs plus primroses, dwarf iris and various bushes including verbena bodnantense and one or two flowers on a ceanothus  bush too. Not to mention all the London not so wild life called tourists!

A lovely if briskly chill morning to be out and about.

Nessie and wildlife: Armies and the Blair Atholls

Well we didn’t actually go to Loch Ness this time but we did go by it and through Inverness. So no Nessie, although I did buy the grandchildren a book all about Nessie and how she lost her glasses!

We did however, see some really good wildlife whilst we were in Scotland. I didn’t keep a good tally mostly because I didn’t recognise the birds that sang all around us but suspect we heard some skylarks on the high moors.

We certainly saw a wide variety of raptors including red kites, and swallows and martins and other insect eaters.



And as for the bird life on the waters there were so many different kinds, including shovellers and diving ducks and the greatest fun of all was a Gosander and her brood of 13 (!) chicks. She was quite a small bird and certainly the first time we had seen one – they don’t breed that often in the UK we read as the RSPB estimates only 2600 breeding pairs in the UK. A gosander ‘duck’ has a serrated bill to eat fish – mostly trout and salmon and thus the fishermen are not keen on them; they nest inland, and some are resident in Northern England and Scotland. There was no sign of the male gosander that we saw.

We also several grey herons both in and out of the water.

Grey Heron and Gosander and chicks

Grey Heron and Gosander and chicks


We are fairly certain we saw a capercailzie and definitely black rabbits as well as red squirrels – well one stopped us in the road as it thought about crossing. We also had an encounter with a pheasant mother who came out into the road and stood stock still. When she was convinced we weren’t moving she called her 3 tiny chicks out of the verge to cross the road. They were amazingly small…

Our final wildlife encounter was a bat in Atholl Castle! We think it must have been disturbed in some way as it was broad daylight and it followed us up the winding 14th century stairs to the old castle and the attics – probably where it usually roosts.

Blair Atholl Castle has its own private army since Queen Victoria’s time – and this is the only (official) private army in the UK. There were some 30 rooms open to view with furnishings from the 17th century. The castle was largely destroyed in the Jacopean revolt as there were brothers fighting against brothers – one for the Crown and one for the ‘King over the Water’. Prince Charlie (Bonnie of the song) stayed there before the Crown and Govt garrisoned the castle, thus chasing him away. The Jacopean army led by one of the brothers then besieged his brother and the Crown Garrison in the castle.. so the castles was changing sides a bit. There was a lot of army stuff on display – weapons, guns, and so on….

And nearly everywhere we went Mary Queen of Scots had visited, been imprisoned, or generally had a connection with the family line and so on…

All this is of course celebrated in the Highland Games it hosts, oh and of course there is the distillery and whiskies for those interested…

In Victorian times the main castle was rebuilt in a French Gothic style with a 9 acre walled garden which was historically linked to the castle and which had always had 2 large ponds in it. In the 1970s etc the garden had been used as a tree plantation and the ponds had been left to fill in but 20 years ago the castle owners decided to restore it – including the ponds (it was on a slope which meant that water flowed down into the pond areas)… they also restored a 18th century Chinese Bridge with islands, beds and dredging. The ponds now held a variety of unusual ducks.

The garden had wonderful scents with very old roses and old varieties of apple and pear trees.P1000489 P1000511

The castle and walled garden

The castle and walled garden

The castle café was £3 for a double expresso and shortbread was £1.60. the people looking after the rooms etc all wore the Atholl tartan and a piper played every hour or so in the courtyard…. (http://www.blair-castle.co.uk/)

Now we also some not so uncommon and not so wild life  in and around and not just the castle and its grounds but on our travels. There were the Highland Cattle of course; sheep aplenty; and what we think is an alpaca alongside some donkeys and sheep.. a pet we presume..

Not so wild life

Not so wild life

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