A gallery of squirrels

We know they are an invasive alien species that inflicts terrible damage on our trees every year – but they are also much loved, long term park residents.

Header picture by Simon Knight

We have been working with Wiltshire Wildlife Trust’s Water Team to establish great crested newt habitat in the reserve. Here is a video of what we hope might be happening somewhere in one of our ponds.

Nesting

At this time of year, the reserve’s blue tits are building nests in holes in our old trees. The ash tree at Fiveways harbours a nest every year and the fenced oak near the bottom of the Arboretum seems to have attracted more than one pair already.

Here is a video of a female blue tit building a nest while, outside, the male guards the site from marauders and thieves.

Video from The Nest Box
Header picture by Simon Knight

Butterflies

The spring weather has brought our butterflies out of hibernation. On Wednesday, Ian reported a peacock, brimstones, commas and a small tortoiseshell.

1&2 Brimstone 3&4 Comma 5&6 Small tortoiseshell.
Header Image: peacock by DKG

Winter blue tits

During the winter, in natural woodlands, blue tits spend most of their time in oaks, searching for insect food in the trees’ rich ecosystems. But at this time of year they turn their attention to the midges, mites and wasps that come to lay eggs in the new leaf buds.

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The Eurasian collared dove, Streptopelia decaocto, seems ubiquitous: one of the park’s noisiest and most common species. But it wasn’t always so.

How come?

Jay

Ian Bushell photographed this young jay in the reserve on Sunday morning. He said:

It is last year’s chick, a one year old bird that has raised its crest; adults have black and white bands on their heads. Its call, which was what attracted my attention, was more like the mew of a buzzard rather than the harsh call of the Jay.

Blue tit colours

The blue tit (Parus caeruleus) has been classified as sexually monochromatic, which means that male and female are the same colour. This classification is based, though, on human colour perception, not on blue tit colour perception.

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Nuthatch

Ian spotted a nuthatch at the weekend; the first he had seen in the reserve for about seven years. Let’s hope it’s one of a pair that are building their nest in a hole up in an old tree.

Buff tailed bumblebees

The aerodynamically unlikely buff tailed bumblebee queens are already out of hibernation and buzzing around between the park’s spring flowers. Here is a video about their surprising flying skills:

This is the time when great crested newts emerge from their winter hibernation.

Here is a video following a female newt’s search for a mate and the ideal conditions in which to lay her eggs. We are hoping that our newly established pond (see here, here and here) will attract this rare and endangered species to breed in the reserve.

Robins, male and female, sing all year round but the male’s spring song is louder and more confident as he prepares to do battle for territory and a mate.

Header image by Simon Knight
Audio: European Robin from xeno-canto by david m.

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