Wrens

The Eurasian Wren – Troglodytes troglodytes – it’s scientific name bearing reference to its tendency to disappear into crevices and cavities in search of food or a suitable roosting spot.  The Wren is a firm favourite with everyone.  Indeed I’ve lost count of how many I have painted over the years!  The Wren is not our smallest bird in the UK, that award goes to the Goldcrest and Firecrest, but it is sill a relatively small bird compared to everything else.  Measuring just 9 or 10cm and weighing between 7 and 12g what it lacks in size and weight it makes up for in personality and numbers.  There are estimated to be over 8.5 million breeding pairs here in the UK and I bet, even if you don’t realise it, you will have heard them sing at some point.  For such a tiny bird they have an incredibly loud voice.

Wrens are resident in our country all year round so you never really know when you may see one hopping about in the garden or whilst out on a walk.  Whilst a small brown bird, they actually have beautiful markings on their plumage.  Their body is quite dumpy, with both short wings and a short tail.  The latter is often held in a cocked position – one of the wren’s most familiar poses.  They eat insects and spiders and have a narrow, relatively long beak which is ideal for getting into all those nooks and crannies where a tasty meal may be hiding.

Wrens can be found in a wide variety of habitats, they are found in low numbers on really high ground, tending to favour woodlands, gardens, farms, moorland and heathland.  Their small body size and limited fat reserves mean they are particularly susceptible to very cold weather, so when the weather turns cold they turn to one another for warmth and will huddle together to roost and see out the worst of the weather.  The record seems to be 61 birds counted in one box in Norfolk in 1969.  Just imagine that!  Come the spring and the warmer weather the males are much less tolerant of one another and will strongly defend their territories.  They set about building a selection of unlined nests with which they court the female.  When the female finds a home that meets her expectations she lines it with soft feathers and lays usually between 5 and 6 small white, finely speckled eggs.  Each is just 17mm in length.  The male in the meantime maybe courting additional females!

Not a great example but gives an idea of a wren's nest

Nests vary in location and in the material they are made from.  The nest in the photo is tucked behind an ivy branch and is constructed of bracken, we’ve seen them made with moss and straw and tucked in a variety of little places.  Jo’s Mum even had a nest in her tumble drier outlet pipe…..!  The young hatch at around 16 days and remain in the nest for 2 – 2.5 weeks.  After this time they may return to the nest to roost or may use one of the male’s spare nests instead.  They are mainly cared for by the female although occasionally a male may help with the rearing of the brood.

The female can be as vocal as the male at times, warning off anything that comes near her nest or young.  Many a time we have been walking along our local lanes and we hear the tut-tutting of a wren and then the tiny little high pitched noise of fledglings in amongst the hedgerow.  They move about like little mice and can be difficult to catch sight of.  You very often hear them before you see them.  There are apparently 88 species of wren.  I’ve painted 3 of them!  I guess I need to get a wriggle on if I am to paint the other 85!

I hope you have enjoyed this blog as much as I have enjoyed writing about one of my favourite little birds.  I’ve saved the best to last in the hope that you have read this far.  About a week ago we caught movement in one of the cameras in our bird boxes.  We looked up and this is what we saw……

We were totally thrilled with this and it definitely won over the TV for viewing that night.  Anyway, must get on, I have 85 other species of wren to get painted……
Until the next time.
Keep them brushes wet.  Paul 🙂

Our Great Tit Family – Part 2

I am hoping that you enjoyed the first part of our Great Tit family’s saga, should you have missed it, check the previous blog post out here. Thought I would give you a little update on their progress so far. The female was a really good Mum and continued to brood her eggs almost constantly whilst the male kept her well fed with tasty caterpillars and such like. Then on the evening of day 12…….

…..great excitement for us as we spotted a tiny pink, naked chick! Mum and Dad remained as attentive as usual and carefully started to feed the chick. Given that the eggs are just 18mm (0.7″) long – you can imagine how tiny the chick is! Sometimes the food brought in was just too big – which meant Mum and Dad had to polish it off themselves, but it is amazing how big a meal the little ones can take!
We remained alert to the cameras, and over the period of 36 hours a further 3 chicks hatched out.

This was interesting behaviour, we were aware that parents will take the hatched egg shells away from their nest, this keeps the nest clean and hygienic and dropping the shell a distance from the nest confuses predators too. We were not really aware that the shells were eaten, although it makes perfect sense for the female to eat the shell to replenish her diminished calcium supplies. Female birds do indeed look for snail shells prior to laying in order to increase their calcium levels. There is an interesting article on this behaviour here.

Let’s see what next week brings for our little family, I’ll definitely edit up some more chick footage for you all – we can never get enough of cute little chicks!
Have a lovely weekend, let’s hope the weather stays dry and we can all get out and enjoy the wildlife wherever we live.
Have fun! Paul

Our Great Tit family

A couple of years ago I made a lot of bird boxes for our local woods and a few neighbours showed interest in purchasing some of them. So to advertise the boxes I placed one on our gate post…..one year later…… well you can obviously guess what happened next!

Clearly the pair of great tits had stumbled upon an old tennis ball as this seems to have formed part of the nest lining. 🎾 We were a bit caught out by the nest and as these birds can be very sensitive to disturbance we didn’t try and install a camera to watch their progress. We do know they successfully raised 3 chicks which was really great. But, wind forward one year and this time we have been able to install a camera. However, this story is not without it’s own saga…..

As you know, Jo and myself are nest recorders for the BTO, so we had checked the above box on the weekend and it was completely empty. On Thursday we were returning from a local birding walk when we noticed someone delivering leaflets to our neighbours. We thought nothing of it, we went out for lunch (special treat) and it wasn’t until we got home that we realised that we had not had a leaflet………now does the above box look like a letterbox to you?!! Clearly someone thought it was, it had been opened and a leaflet placed inside. 😟 We were horrified to see a part built nest underneath the leaflet and thinking it may be the great tits again we were really worried that they may have been put off the box altogether. As we were going away for a few days, I decided to screw the lid shut and put a sign on the box “This is a bird box NOT a letterbox!” – you can still see it there!

On our return home a few days later we were mighty relieved to find a fully finished and lined nest and as the pair were away from home themselves I took the opportunity of popping a camera inside so we could follow their progress and hopefully share it online too. Unlike our tennis ball lined nest from a year ago, this one is completely furnished out in white sheep wool – masses and masses of it. No idea where this has all come from as the sheep in our back field are a Zwartbles and a dark chocolate brown colour! It does look incredibly cosy though. 😆

Anyway, the blog has rambled on long enough for today, so like all good story tellers, I’ll of course carry on this one next week……do watch this space. 😉
In the meantime, do leave me a comment, I would love to hear whether you have birds nesting near your home.
Until next time keep enjoying the birds and wildlife around you and I’ll catch up with you all very soon. Paul