Over the past couple of days we’ve seen a female blackbird resting in the middle of the blanket of duckweed that covers most of our pond. She’s not bathing or struggling to get out. This evening I realise what she’s up to.
She grabs a newt from just below the water surface in front of her and immediately flies to an open grassy patch at the edge of the pond to peck at it. I don’t see whether she eats it there and then or whether she takes it off to feed to her young.
I’ve seen her stalking along the edge of the pond on the look out, I now realise, for any unwary newt that might surface. Our resident newts are smooth newts. Unlike the great-crested newts they don’t have special protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act but would this female blackbird care if they did? I think not.
I’ve seen her once before with a successful catch which she took to the raised bed behind the pond. I could see her prey was a long and flexible creature but at the time I couldn’t positively identify it.
This female blackbird is at the top of a pond food chain, at the apex of a food pyramid, but she’s not the top predator around here; she runs the risk of being incorporated into the food chain of one of the local sparrowhawks or domestic cats.
The newts are predators in their own right; I’ve watched them eating newly emerged frog tadpoles. The tadpoles, at this early stage of their lives, are eating the algae that grows on the clump of frogspawn.
From thin air, just add water . . .
I find it amazing that you can start with sunlight, water and carbon dioxide and in a few links along the food chain end up with a blackbird.
Although my aim is to build a little eco-system in the back garden, I do think that I ought to tweak the chances of survival for the newts by clearing some of the duckweed so that the blackbird can’t sit in wait at the centre of the pond.
Two days later, on Saturday, Barbara spotted the blackbird catching a newts again, five in total. I spent five minutes raking the duckweed to the edges of the pond which should make it impossible for the blackbird to perch in the middle of the pond and give some additional cover to the newts when she is stalking around the margins.