Wildlife Newsletter for the Township of Dalkey
April 2012 - Michael Ryan
|MAKING A GOOD IMPRESSION – I had heard about the odd occurrence when birds have flown into windows and left a very detailed imprint, a ghostly impression on the glass showing the bird’s body and outstretched wings as they were at the second of impact. It seems to happen to owls quite often, one impression of a Tawny Oil that had hit a window in England even making it on to the BBC TV news. We don’t have tawny owls in Ireland so we never hear the `Too Whit Too Hoo’ calls which are actually a male tawny making the too whit call and a female instantly answering with the too hoo call. But we do have the Long Eared Owl, our most common owl and on a few rare occasions over the years I’ve seen one gliding silently over the garden soon after darkness. One night one flew up right outside the kitchen window possibly to perch on the edge of the roof. So when a next door neighbour told me recently a long eared owl had hit one of their back windows leaving that ghostly impression I’d heard about I was very keen to go and have a look. Sure enough when we went round the outline of|
|the birds body was still visible on the glass with outspread wings displaying splayed primary feathers. Although it was nearly three weeks after the bird had hit the window it’s outline was still preserved on the glass before us. Our neighbours had taken photos of the window the day after the collision showing the bird at the moment of impact. The image then was much more detailed and you could even see the ‘ear’ tufts on it’s head which are in fact not ears but feathers. There had been no signs of any remains on the ground or signs of injury so hopefully the bird had got away ok with nothing worse then a sore head. Owls have very dense feathers which render their wingbeats silent so they can swoop unawares on prey and maybe the thickness of its plumage, combined with the fact they fly slowly at night when hunting, might have prevented serious injury.|
– We were on the Killiney side of the hill near the pumping station
when we heard the sharp call of a bird of prey and saw a female sparrowhawk
gliding just above the trees. Then my companion saw there was another sparrowhawk
circling much higher above the first one. Kestrels are usually the only birds
of prey that hover but sparrowhawks are often seen wings outstretched rising
in slow circles. The higher one was a female as well and we speculated that
they might be doing territorial flights letting each other know this was their
hunting area where they’d be nesting.
We saw one of them later drifting over the trees and then it suddenly swooped, diving almost vertically before suddenly pulling out of the flight and soaring back up into the sky in a loop that would make a fighter pilot proud. I’d seen this behaviour before when I’d seen two females parrowhawks circling each other and one had done a identical dive and loop.
I have a very good book about birds of prey and when I looked it up I found
this was a characteristic piece of behaviour for females who are sending what is basically a ‘get lost this is my patch’ signal to the other female.
In the past the woods on Killiney and Dalkey have had two pairs of sparrowhawks nesting within three hundred yards of each other it’s evidently prime property for them. Although feeding only on birds sparrowhawks never make any discernible impact on any species population and in fact are a good indication of a healthy environment their numbers being reliant on numbers of prey species.
FOR BUMBLEBEES -
Often finding bumblebees in a torpid state in the garden I try and put them somewhere safe, in the sunshine if possible. I’ve sometimes brought them a small dollop of honey which they will often feed on usually then recovering and flying off. I wasn’t sure if I was doing the right thing so looked it up and found the following information on www.bumblebee.org/helpbees.htm#fly
It’s full of fascinating information and good advice. I mentioned before how insects that appear dead can oftenrevive after you breathe gently on them but had no idea that apparently bees find human breath very unpleasant so in my attempts to revive them I wasn’t doing them much of a favour after all.
Anyway the following is some very worthwhile information off that
website. What to do if you find a bumblebee that cannot fly? The bumblebee
is either sick, too old or too cold to fly. If it is sick or infected with
a parasite then I’m afraid there is not much that can be done. However
if you find a grounded bumblebee early in the year, just at the start of the
first warmer days, then it is probably a queen. She may have been caught out
in a sudden shower or a cold spell. If the temperature of the thorax falls
below 30ºC the bumblebee cannot take off. The best thing you can do it
pick her up using a piece of paper or card, put her somewhere warmer, and
feed her. When she has warmed and fed she will most likely fly off. You can
feed her using a 30/70 mixture of honey and water in a pipette or eye dropper,
or just a drop of this on a suitable surface within her reach, but be careful
not to wet her hair or get her sticky. By saving a queen you may have saved
an entire nest. If the weather is really unsuitable for letting her go, or
if it is getting dark, you can keep her for a day or so if you are willing
to feed her.
A grounded bee found at the height or end of summer is another matter. Look at the wings. If they are ragged round the edges then you have either an old queen or an old worker. There is little you can do as really it is their time to die, however you could take them in and feed them if you wish, but let them go if they start to fly. If the wings are fairly intact then you have probably got a male that is either cold or has been so busy patrolling that he forgot to drink. As above you can take him somewhere warm and feed him, then let him go. In cold weather a bumblebee feeling threatened may fall to the ground to avoid you, as it hasn’t built up enough heat to fly off. It is said that bumblebees don’t like human breath, so if you want to observe one closely then don’t breathe on it.