But they were not that keen on the spiders.... but I'm bigger than them so this huge Pisaura mirabilis gets into the blog. Remiss of me I forgot to add a size reference like a coin, so you'll need to believe me it was about 2 inches tip to toe. A common hunting spider of gardens and if you notice it's lost part of it's leg, I think it's a male as they have bolder markings than the female.
These are very interesting as the female carries it's egg cocoon with her and when the cocoon is about to hatch, pops it onto vegetation, builds a silk tent around it and then stands guard until the spiderlings emerge. Keep a look out.
That was Sunday, by lunchtime on Monday I was in Tyneside for a brief visit to the ancestral pile. Being built in 1837 the garden is somewhat well established and a haven to birdife even though nowadays the Tyneside Conurbation is becoming its backdrop. I was amazed however to be sitting with a post drive cup of tea in the garden to see a Mistle Thrush land on the lawn. I've never seen one here but following a bit of detective work Sherlock Holmes would be proud of, located the nest in another garden.
What a beauty the male was. I photographed him from the bathroom window, and hope you like the views of what is a declining species across the UK, so it is good to see it nesting in the Tyneside Conurbation, which now it's being cleaned up is becoming a great wildlife area.
I thought it may also be useful to show the female in the photograph (above right) with a Starling and youngster, to illustrate the much bigger size of a Mistle than with its cousin the Song Thrush which is about the same size as a starling.
If one has a Mistle Thrush in the garden don't expect peace and quiet. Both birds were very aggressive at defending their territory, as this photo above shows, even a bird the size of a Jackdaw will be mobbed. In the wild I've seen Mistle Thrushes chasing Rooks, something I would not have believed if I'd not see it myself. But this pair did a sterling job with their fast and furious flight around the garden, accompanied with that distinctive metallic chattering call.
But it's not all mayhem in my parents garden. Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Jackdaw, Robins, Wren, Starling, Great and Blue Tit all live more or less harmoniously. Strangely enough very few Sparrows. I'd spotted 2 House Sparrows which my parents said were the first they'd seen for months. Another sadly declining species in Britain.
And of course Blackbirds. This fella-me-lad rules the roost in this garden. There are two males holding territories, this one near the house is very tame and easy to recognise with the white patch on the head. He is so tame that my mother is chastised severely if she delays the morning porridge left overs she puts out for him. What a racket.
His wife though prefers normal food but sourced in a way I've not seen before. How many of you have seen a blackbird taking sunflower seeds from a feeder? I'd be interested to know. She has developed a technique of perching on a chair, flying to and then frantically clinging onto the feeder, before dropping to the ground with her winnings. This is repeated over and over again, and on one morning saw her do this 11 times. Surely the amount of energy used outweighs the benefits. But maybe not.
Just before I left yesterday the male was doing this right next to where I sat. Now usually this "anting" behaviour is done to rid the feathers of parasites, something which is particularly common when feeding at the nest, a hot bed of parasites. But I just wonder if it was actually sunbathing. Like the rest of us, we need warm sun now and again.
Finally, a very short video of a Coal Tit, because I like these birds, and this years star attractions on Springwatch, but also because it is the first video taken on my new stills camera and I'm quite impressed, though the background noise is a bit annoying. Seabirds next posting.