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The ant-ics of the clever jay!
This walk was a mistake, but what a good mistake this was.
I had finished a meeting at Hurst Green early and so I decided to take a stroll in the Hodder Woods.
Within ten minutes I had found a thrush’s anvil and seen a jay anting.
The song thrush is one of the cleverest of our birds.
Their favourite food consists of snails which have shells which are difficult to break.
The thrush has a favourite stone and it carries the snails to this store and drops it from a height or it gets the snail in its bill and bangs it in the stone. These are called thrush’s anvils and I found a well-used anvil in the Hodder Woods.
There was a great number of broken shells and one thing that this wet summer has produced is lots of slugs and snails.
I sat still in order to photograph the thrush’s anvil and as I turned round I saw a jay jum-ping up and down on an ants nest and with its wings spread out.
I have described this behaviour several times in this column but I have never had such a longer or close look at this in all the years that I have been bird watching.
What the jay does is to make the ants so angry thet they squirt formic acid (vinegar) on the birds. Once this gets into the jay’s feathers the acid kills off all the fleas and mites. This is nature’s way of de-lousing. There is nowt new under the sun is there?
What a relief the sun shone
I visited Wycoller Country Park last Sunday and guess what - the sun was shining.
This is a bit of a relief because this was St Swithin’s Day. It has been said that if it rains on this day we will get wet for a further 40 days! Ooops!
Lots of people had the same idea as me and the large hilside car park reached from Trawden was busy and as I descended into the hamlet children were busy paddling. There has been a medical report saying that many people are suffering from Vitamin D deficiency.
The treatment for this is to get more sunlight on your skin but without getting burned. I left the crowds behind me and headed off along the well marked footpath towards Haworth.
Here I found flowers in abundance including yarrow, speedwell, flag iris, water mint and self heal.
The latter is a common like plant of a delicate blue colour. Inthe old days it was brewed up in the same way as we make tea and does seem to keep in the treatment cuts and bruises - hence the name self heal.
The birds also seemed to be making the best of the weather and I found a coal tit feeding its young which was still in the nest and this must be the second brood of the year.
On my list was also common sandpiper, redshank, grey wagtail, dipper and a kingfisher. Is summer on the way?
Perhaps but I won’t hold my breath.
Even Mother Nature is challenged
2012 has been a difficult spring to understand and the weather has even been a challenge for Mother Nature.
The wet weather washed out many nests but the birds reacted by producing an extra brood so that young birds have been seen later than usual.
Some flowers bloomed late and once the weather improved (nobbut just!) a huge variety of flowers could be seen as the seasons seemed to overlap.
It remains to be seen but the weather seems to have been a problem for butterflies and bees. If we ever do get a hot spell in the next few weeks it will be interesting to see how they have coped with 2012.
What this season has been good for is slugs and snails, while many mammals which burrow, such as moles, earthworms and rabbits faced problems of being washed out. Talking about WASHOUTS this has been a good description of the 2012 summer so far.