Friday, 20 December 2013
Saturday, 14 December 2013
It had a few legs missing, well in fact most of the legs are no longer there. This lack of limbs does not seem to have affected its survival this late into the season though. Like spiders there should be 4 pairs, but this is where the similarity between harvestmen and spiders stop. In harvestmen the second pair of legs are longer than the others and act as sensory limbs.
Harvestmen will eat all kinds of food. Their omnivorous habits mean they will eat dead squashed slugs, bird droppings, jam, fruit and other plant remains, as well as live small invertebrates that they might catch. Generally they are nocturnal and can be found hiding under ivy, amongst grass stems, and other vegetation, under stones, bark and logs and inside cool damp buildings like sheds and outside toilets. Their common name derives from the fact that most are mature in autumn, at the time of harvesting.
Monday, 2 December 2013
Had an invasion of Jackdaws into the garden this morning. Almost like a scene from Alfred Hitchcock's "Birds". I had noticed that the small feeder in the garden was emptying faster than normal, and I now think this might be the reason. The footholds on this feeder are larger than the other one, and allows larger birds to cling on and feed. It's not uncommon for me to see a pair of Jackdaws in the garden, and there are a few pairs in the neighbourhood, but this is the first time I've seen so many in the garden at once. The photos show the queue building up for the feeder.
The collective noun for a flock of Jackdaws is 'a clattering' or 'a train'. I prefer a clattering of Jackdaws, contouring up their calls as they gather on the chimneys and trees surrounding our garden.
The Welsh name, Jac y Do, is not dissimilar to the English name. The English common name jackdaw first appeared in the 16th century, and is thought to be a compound of the forename Jack, used in animal names to signify a small form (e.g. Jack Snipe), and the archaic native English word daw. The metallic chyak call may be the origin of the jack part of the common name, but this is not supported by the Oxford English Dictionary. Daw, first used for the bird in the 15th century, is held by the Oxford English Dictionary to be derived from the postulated Old English dawe, citing the cognates in Old High German tāha, Middle High German tāhe or tāchele, and modern German Dahle or Dohle, and dialectal Tach, Dähi, Däche and Dacha.
Looking closer at the lawn I think there is evidence of their feeding behaviour there as well. Small clumps of moss and grass have been pulled up all over the lawn. There must be some invertebrates in the thatch on which they are feeding. Unlikely to be worms, as they do not pull them out of the ground, but they often feed on worms disturbed by ploughing.
Jackdaws have increased in abundance since the 1960s and more recent BBS data from the BTO suggest that the increase is continuing in all UK countries. Part of this increase over the past 40 years may be due to a reduction in persecution.
The BTO Garden Bird Survey shows that jackdaws are common visitors to gardens, and their reported presence peaks during early summer and again in the autumn. In our garden they are present all year round. A pair nested in next door chimney. Luckily we have a guard over ours to prevent this. But it is not uncommon for the nest to fall apart and drop down the chimney along with the young.