06 June, 2009

Flowers and baby birds

Field of poppies. Normally this field is a rather undistinguished scrubby green, but for some reason this summer it has suddenly burst forth in a blaze of magnificent scarlet poppies.

Close-up of poppy flowers near the path, mixed in with ox-eye daisies and buttercups.

Drift of buttercups, looking as if someone spilt a pool of sunshine.

Fledgeling blue-tit chick perched obligingly on a windowsill while waiting for Mum to come along with food. This picture was taken about a week ago, and this morning there were three blue-tit chicks twittering and cheeping and pushing each other off the peanut feeder (Which is too far away to photograph with my steam-powered camera, and I wasn't about to go outside and disturb them). I wonder if one of them was this little fluffball, a week older and now independent?

Also a young robin, a fledgeling great-tit being given a lesson in how to work bird feeders by a harrassed-looking parent, a couple of adolescent blackbirds from the parents' first brood (I think they are now feeding nestlings on their second), and a noisy family of chaffinches. But none of them would come close enough to be photographed so you'll have to take my word for it.


Rick said...

Steam-powered camera?! Sounds rather ... steampunkish.

Beautiful pictures! Curiously, in spite of our more southerly latitude and presumably warmer average climate, the last couple of weeks have been peak 'flight school' season, as my wife calls it, here as well.

Carla said...

"Flight school season" - what a lovely phrase!

Courtship and nesting behaviour in quite a few bird species is triggered by increasing day length, independent of temperature. (Hence birds start singing to establish breeding territories even in a dismal spring like last year when it snowed in late March and rained most of May). Maybe your birds respond to the same signal?

Rick said...

I didn't know about day length as a trigger, but it makes sense, and our birds probably respond to it as well.

My wife actually hates flight school, because she is rather protective of the finches and sparrows, and is not a happy camper when the crows and blue jays show up to do their Darwinian thing. :-(

Carla said...

As I understand it, day length is commonly a trigger in temperate zone birds (note: I don't know how many species have actually been studied). It makes a lot of sense for anywhere that has weather rather than climate (of which Britain is an extreme example - last weekend the temperature was 25C, this weekend it's more like 12C. Last year we had a run of 20C days in February and a run of 8C in April). Trying to use temperature as a signal in circumstances like that is going to result in a high proportion of birds getting caught out and either nesting far too early when there's no food or far too late when there's not enough summer left to raise a brood. Day length is at least predictable. (Though problems arise when food species don't synchronise to the same signal; climate change may have adverse effects on species that hatch their eggs by the sun only to find that the caterpillars hatched by temperature and have now all turned into moths).

I don't like it either, but better crows and blue jays than domestic cats and getting squashed by cars, no? At least the predator population bears some resemblance to the food supply; if they take too many one year their own population will decline the next year and the finches and sparrows get a chance to recover.

Rick said...

I imagine that temperate zone birds are a pretty well studied group!

Contrary to popular stereotype, our weather can be just as variable from year to year, plus coastal California is an extreme case of microclimates. When I was a student at UCSD I'd often walk from cool and foggy at the dorms to warm and sunny at the central library, then back to cool and foggy.

Also better crows and jays than starvation. Of all the hatchlings a nesting pair produce, to first approximation the food supply will only support a replacement nesting pair.

Constance Brewer said...

Ohh, pretty flowers! I like.
I probably shouldn't tell you it snowed here today. It's June, and we had snow. I think I'll take after the birdies and start migrating - south for the summer!

Kathryn Warner said...

Gorgeous pics, especially of the cute little fluffball!

The weather really is bonkers, isn't it - I was back in my winter coat this past weekend, whereas the weekend before I was out sunbathing!

kevin said...

Your photos show why this is my favourite time of year!

Meghan said...

I LOVE the cute fuzzy bird pic! The field is beautiful. Thank you for the pictures!

Carla said...

Rick - depends whether the triggers can be identified by field study or whether you have to set up breeding colonies in controlled conditions. If field study, then yes, you're right, I'd guess quite a lot of species have been studied. If it needs controlled conditions that's a much bigger deal so it's likely to have been done on fewer occasions. Not being a zoologist (or ornithologist), I've not much idea!

Point taken re California's climate :-) Your example is an extreme case of micro-climate! I'm used to Cambridge fogs hanging over the river, but the outlying colleges were rarely sunny at the same time.

Constance - and then even further south for the winter? :-)

Alianore - you're not alone. The girl in the queue ahead of me at the shop on Saturday was wearing a fur coat.

Kevin - thank you! Mine too, I think, though I do also have a fondness for autumn. Chiefly I'm glad to live somewhere that has seasons. I like the endlessly changing and repeating cycle.

Meghan - glad you liked them! There are lots more cute fluffy birds around, but most of them aren't obliging enough to come and pose for a photograph!

Rick said...

I imagine that the triggers can be inferred (though not rigorously demonstrated) from field study, if a species consistently nests about the same time from year to year, whether the season that year has been warm or cool.

Here the hills have gone from March green to summer brown! We have distinct seasonality, but as I've mentioned before, entirely different from the 'cultural' seasons rooted in English or northeastern North American conditions.