Foraging Party

long-tailed tit11.30 a.m., Lower Lake, Nostell Priory Park: As we walk into the wood behind the house at Nostell Priory, a mixed party of woodland birds is making its way through the trees ahead of us.

Each bird has its own approach to feeding, exploiting a different niche to the other birds in the party:

  • the blue tit hangs upside down to peck at an opened-up capsule hanging from the end of a slender twig on the beech tree. I suspect that it’s more interested in any invertebrates that might be sheltering in the crevices than it is in the beech nut itself
  • the coal tit closely inspects the branches of a holly
  • long-tailed tits flit about amongst the branches
  • a robin flies onto one of the lower branches of a holly then flies down to perch on a log. It’s the only bird in the group that gives the impression that it might be as much concerned with keeping an eye on its territory as it is on feeding
  • the great tit keeps flying down to ground level to probe amongst the leaf litter
  • a wren hops under the massive logs of a felled sweet chestnut, a niche that none of the other birds can explore
  • a magpie follows the foraging group along. If there’s anything going on in its territory, a magpie will always want a piece of the action

Later we add another two birds to our woodland list for this morning: a dunnock flies out from beneath a conifer and, as another feeding party makes its way through trees and shrubs at the entrance to the Menagerie, a goldcrest flies in front of us to investigate the branches of a holly.

We puzzle over a bird call in the trees by the chalets in Top Wood. To me it sounds like something the size of a woodpecker, but it isn’t the mad laughing ‘yaffle’ call of the green woodpecker. We check it out with a search on the RSPB website; it’s a nuthatch. It’s got a loud call for such a small bird, one that can be difficult to spot as it makes its way along the trunk and branches of trees in the wood.

A Good Year for Cygnets

On the Lower Lake, amongst the wigeon, mallards, moorhens and tufted ducks, there are six female goosanders. We don’t see any males.

It’s been a good year for mute swans: the pair on the Lower Lake have three cygnets, the pair on the Middle Lake have four. Last year the Nostell swans weren’t so successful, with only two cygnets successfully reared.

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