General chat

“Is there any way we could have a thread for the more lightweight stuff like music and general chat?”

Do it here. Please no personal attacks or bickering. Anything abusive, provocative or inflammatory may be deleted.

22 Comments

  1. Gezza

     /  September 11, 2018

    • Kitty Catkin

       /  September 11, 2018

      Sparrers are the ultimate survivors; how can you not love the cheeky little sods ? Sparky treats the caff as if he owns it or is a paying customer. I love they way that they bounce along like rubber balls rather than walking properly as the pooks do . Nothing dignified about these birdies.

      It was a privilege to hold that girl sparrer who had been hit by a car (I assume) and couldn’t fly, although she was scooting along the side of the road until she ran out of steam. I put her on my hand and just held her enough to stop her falling off, and talked soothingly as we walked along. She didn’t struggle, just sat there happily, looking around….but after some minutes her eyes glazed and she died. I am glad that she wasn’t run over or caught by a cat but died in loving hands and was ‘buried’ in a flowering bush. What a sweet little bird she was.

      • Gezza

         /  September 11, 2018

        Cheekybird is very vocal when she alights on the kitchen window ledge. It’s a sparrow’s “Oi”. She also gives other sparrows an earful if she thinks they’re pushy at the counter.

  2. Gezza

     /  September 11, 2018

    Pooklet Report:
    I spent about 20 minutes on and off watching the area around the nest over the other side through binoculars from my fence today. Yesterday, when I walked along the bank & did the same thing from closer up, I actually got to see less. The angle from my fence, with focus and zoom correctly adjusted, actually gave me a wider, clearer view from where I am. So I will leave the birds in peace and watch them from my place in future.

    The pooklet is tiny. Four days old today. Probably not yet quite sparrow sized. Only glimpsed it again, they are keeping it in the nest or controlling how far it wanders closely. A teeny little wombling black fluffball with a tiny, pointed little white beak.

    I could see today there are actually two nests. One, the pooklet’s nest is, about a third of the way up the bank and well-hidden behind a broadleafed bush, but looking very snug in golden dappled afternoon sunlight. The other, Bluey’s, is an impressive sleeping platform which he has built about 3 feet above and to the right of the pooklet nest. He was resting in it when I was watching Sweety & Aspen fussing about feeding the bubba with bread chunks I’d just given them. They pass the food to each other, then feed the closest one feeds it to the pooklet.

    Bluey’s built a guardhouse and he’s the watchman. They haven’t done this before, so I think Socrates the dangerous (to them) Norwegian Forest Cat may have modified their behaviour.

    • Gezza

       /  September 11, 2018

      All the pooks are visiting less frequently. They are all staying close to the nest, with usually only one or two of them wandering further afield at any one time. If they come up to me for food (for example if they see me at the fence) they come over either singly, or just two of them, one after the other, and then take station at the nest, allowing the current caregiver to come over to me.

      Jojo is 6 months old & is as dedicated a caregiver as the adults already. She learned quickly from watching the others. The pooklet-caring instinct is so strong in Bluey that when I feed him wheat grains he will pick most of them up, and will then start making the unique, very quiet feeding-call noise, pick up the last single grain, and walk 50 metres down and along the bank, cross the stream, and take that single grain to the pooklet.

      The others will eat all the grain, although they too emit the pooklet feed-call noise as they eat it. Hard to describe it in words. A soft, frequently repeated “uh-uh”. Normally this automatically brings the pooklet out from cover, flapping its tiny penguin wings to help it balance on uneven bushy surfaces, and as a begging call, to take whatever plant or other food the adults are chewing then giving it.

      I give them all damp bread chunks, because even if they break off and eat a portion themselves, they always then take most of it along the bank, over the stream, (sometimes dunking it first) up into the nest, and feed the pooklet.

      I had an interesting experience with Sweety while I was watching the feeding relays. When she was relieved nest duty and sent on food-gathering duty she jumped up on the fence beside me and walked along it to the closest point she has ever come to me, being the anxiously neurotic birds they always are.

      I had already fed her some wheat and some bread, and she’d been to the nest & come back for more, so I said: “All gone, no more, Sweety” which is a stock -standard phrase of mine meaning what it says. Ordinarily they will reluctantly accept that and if they hang around it will thereafter be just to do a bit of lawn trimming (for me) / salad eating (for them).

      So I was just quietly watching the pooks in the sun, elbows out and … Bump ! She tapped my elbow with her beak. A first. “No more, Sweety”. Normally she would just be coy, tap her beak on the fence railing, and look hopefully, and then reluctantly accept that and wander off to a safer distance a couple of feet away, and maybe start grooming before returning to the stream.

      Not today. She stretched down & banged the fence railing – hard and loud. Twice. When I ignore her & looked away back to the stream, the next minute … THUMP !

      She really banged my elbow with her beak this time. She was damned determined. It bloody hurt ! That beak is as solid as steel and she put all her neck muscles into that one. And she was looking right at me, red eyes glaring. “No !” I said, grumpily, and I watched her this time. Oh my God. She’s going to do it again ! THUMP ! And that one bloody hurt too.

      None of the others would DARE do this.

      She did it twice more when I still just ignored her & refused to comply with her demands. That beak is not just solid, it’s sharp. And they all hurt. There’s still a damn cold southerly blowing up the stream so I’m wearing a woolly shirt, a polartec short jacket, and a padded, long winter coat -jacket over that – seeing I’m largely stationary at the fence while observing and not getting warmed up moving around. If all I had on was a light summer shirt I reckon I’d have small bruises from these thumps. They were all right on the elbow-tip bone too.

      “You little madam !”, I said. I thought, “I’ll fix you – I’ll reach out and touch you” <:D

      So I did. Ordinarily just moving to do that would make her immediately yelp and scramble along the fence top off to a safe distance. They're not like ducks. There is an absolute No Touching Policy with these birds. Under any circumstances. And she did flap her wings in protest – but she let me stroke her twice down her blue chest-plumage. And then walked back along the fence, basically she got right into my personal space. I put some more wheat down on the railing for her, which was difficult as she was directly in front of me, and she even had to back up awkwardly to get her beak down to it.

      After that I glared at her and really growled "NO. NO MORE". And she finally backed away and eventually climbed down into the flower box, looking all innocent, when I left her and came back inside.

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  September 11, 2018

        Have you seen any sign of little Kitto yet ?

      • Kitty Catkin

         /  September 11, 2018

        If you lived here, you might well have had a shirt on…doesn’t it just HURT to bang an elbow ? The pain is out of all proportion….

      • Gezza

         /  September 11, 2018

        While I was watching the pooks at the nest there was a major amount of splashing down in the rapids just below it and I looked down, expecting to maybe see Eli – but this time it was Big Ella. Which solved a mystery for me. I see her less often than Eli, who can be summoned up through the rapids pretty quickly with some meat thrown in the water opposite my place.

        Ella, I tend to see cruising around most often where the Eel Stump used to be, and on a more random basis. I’ve never seen her come up from the rapids before & I had begun to wonder if she was coming downstream from a lair further up.

        She is really big, slow moving, but powerful. Watching her come up the rapids was a real experience. I went down to the Eel Spot and called her over and spent twenty minutes feeding her. It is the most spine-tingling experience I’ve ever had with her. She is just massive now. And she was inches away from my hand.

        There is an area of subsurface rock where, when the wai is at the right level, like it was today, I can drop meat chunks (or today, cat roll chunks – cheaper)down into an area only an inch below the surface, where it’s restrained from washing out in the current by kind of loose cage formed by a couple of underwater roots.

        I dropped about a dozen in there, one after the other, as she waited inches below, watching me. She was sticking her head right out of the water, numerous times. She’s a really big fish. Her blue – cold – eyes were watching me intently. One chunk wedged itself behind another group of 3 thinner roots – and she couldn’t just suck it straight into her mouth, as she usually does. So she came fully half out of the water, going hard for it, twisting and rolling on her side & opening her mouth fully, biting at it. I dislodged it with stick in the end because she couldn’t get it out. Man she has phemonenal sized jaws. I’ve never seen them open like that before. She’s a real shark, is Ella. Seriously. A huge, grey and white river shark.

      • Blazer

         /  September 11, 2018

        wonderful observations Gezza…might have to change your name to Sir Gerry Attenborough.

        • Gezza

           /  September 11, 2018

          Thank you for that Blazer. I was just thinking about how big Ella’s jaws are and realised when I was holding my coffee – if you have an average sized hand, open your thumb and forefinger in a V. Her fully opened jaws are the size of that V from the tip of your thumb to the first joint of your forefinger. I was staggered, truly. I ain’t putting my hand in the water anywhere near Ella. She’s already appeared out the depths once and given me a fright because it was so sudden. She’s an awesome creature.

  3. Griff.

     /  September 11, 2018

    One puke
    Went down to the pond this morning about eight ducklings swimming around behind mum .
    Did not even know she was nesting .
    White faced herons have a nest in my bush judging by the noise . Not quite sure exactly where the Totara canopy is to heavy to see it,
    The local kowia is flowering. I checked out a few trees I can get seed from. , I will get as much as I can and spread it out where it will grow around the pond. It is hard to grow because it takes years to sprout from seed .i did that at langs and now have half a dozen seedlings growing. Kowia is great because the wood pigeons and Tui rely on it for spring feed when little else is around .

    • Maggy Wassilieff

       /  September 11, 2018

      You need to chip the Kowhai seed coat to get rapid germination.
      Take the individual kowhai seed and with a razor blade (or nail clipper) cut off a tiny bit of the end of the seed furtherest from the hilum (the seed attachment scar).

      I usually then soak the chipped seed overnight (it will swell) before sowing in potting mix… or sowing directly in a prepared site.

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  September 11, 2018

        I must try that. Failed attempt last year. Have to wait for more seeds now.

      • Gezza

         /  September 11, 2018

        If you left in a glass of water in sunlight, would a root stem appear?
        I used to do that with … um … some plants. They’d all then grow in potting mix, no failures.

        • Gezza

           /  September 11, 2018

          Actually, no – I didn’t leave the glass in sunlight – I kept it in the dark in the hot water cupboard. But it guaranteed that those that produced a foot root or whatever the first shoot is would grow.

        • Maggy Wassilieff

           /  September 11, 2018

          Kowhai seeds have a very hard impermeable testa (seed coat).. means the seeds can survive long periods in seawater without salt-water penetrating to the endosperm/embryo inside.
          In nature, kowhai seeds that fall into a stream might get abraded on rocks /gravel or beach sands and water can enter the seed.. and metabolic processes that start germination commence.

          If the kowhai seed lands directly on ground and there is no abrasion to the seedcoat, then it may be some years before the seedcoat breaks down enough for water to penetrate.

          It’s a little tricky holding onto the tiny kowhai seed and chipping the slippery seed coat with a razor blade, but you should be able to chip a few hundred seeds/hour.

    • Gezza

       /  September 11, 2018

      My ducks have all disappeared from the stream, except a couple of unpartnered drakes. So experience tells me they’re about to soon all reappear with dozens of little ducklings in tow.

      I expected that the pooks and the ducks would have their little ones around the same time, & sometimes they do. But my pooks have produced offspring every 2-4 months since I’ve been observing them closely over the last 18 months. The ducks have managed two broods only, Spring and Summer.

      The waterbird hatching time being now may explain why Ella is back. She takes them. She may move in an impressively stately manner, but she strikes at the ducklings in a burst of speed, roaring up from the depths. I’m actually worried about my new pooklet. It’s been in the water already. Just a snack for her.