Photos from my coffee & lunch breaks

As promised, here are a selection of photos from campus.

Juvenile pied wagtail

Juvenile pied wagtail

There are at least two pied wagtail fledglings, their colouring so much less striking than the adults, the better to go unnoticed. They are very shy and very fleet and I’ve only seen them when there aren’t many people around. The crow fledglings, on the other hand, are quite bold in comparison, and it was because of them that I started bringing a camera out to snap them. When I first saw them, the mother was keeping the three fledglings close to her and still feeding them. Unfortunately I didn’t get any photos at the time. It was about three days before I managed to get a chance to capture them on camera (I’m not going to work at weekends just to photograph crows!) and by that point they’d stopped hanging out together as a family. But the first day I sat and watched them I saw so many differences between the three fledglings that I named them and could tell them apart. I called them Mama, Favourite, Curiosity and Larry.

Curiosity?

Curiosity

Mama’s name speaks for itself, and you can pretty much work out that the one who stuck by her side and got first bite of any delicacy she found was Favourite. At the other end of the scale was Larry. Larry looked like he hatched last and got the raw end of any deal. When Mama found food she’d give the first bit to Favourite, without him needing to ask for it, while the other two clamoured. Curiosity would get a bit after he’d shouted for it a while, but no matter how much Larry shouted she’d eat the rest herself. So he wandered off to try to feed himself. He was the first one to drink from the puddle near me and peck at the ground around it. But Curiousity is into everything, so as soon as he saw Larry enjoying the puddle he was over there drinking and pecking too. But then what was Mama doing? Curiousity shot back over to check he wasn’t missing anything over there. Larry kept on working his patch and finding his food.

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Curiosity showing a small white patch near the top of the wing

Almost all of the crows on campus show signs of leucism – white feathers which ought to be dark – and these fledglings are no different. Unfortunately it’s not come out well in these pictures. It’s a sign of dietary deficiency and in these scavengers no doubt reflects the fact that campus has plenty of dropped crisps, and other human  leftovers, but very little carrion. From a human perspective no carrion is a good thing, but for a carrion crow it seems to be a bit of an issue. All three of these fledglings do have some leucism but Larry’s is worst, no doubt because the tidbits have gone to his siblings.

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Curiosity is easy to photograph because he’s always into something

In all of them it is most noticeable when they fly, but when Larry flies his wings are striped black and white. Unfortunately photographing any of these crows on the wing on campus is really hard and I have nothing to share. They start flying towards something over there then a human pops out and they have to change their plans. Add the fact that they plummet to start their flight and they have me beaten. So you’ll have to take my word for it that Larry’s wings are pied, not black. This website has an image which sort of shows it – Larry’s leucism falls somewhere between the two bottom pictures of wings.

Larry. I think.

Larry.

Each day they look different from the day before. Favourite rarely comes down from the roofs now and it gets harder to recognise them each day as their fluffy scruffiness becomes sleeker and smarter.

Other fledglings I’ve seen this year include blue-tits, a robin and magpies (with such fluffy white tummies!) but I haven’t managed to catch them on camera. But I did snap this young thrush…

Thrush. Probably quite recently fledged as well.

Thrush. Probably a mistle thrush rather than a song thrush.

The same thrush a few minutes later and several meters higher up!

The same thrush a few minutes later and several meters higher up!

… and these two squirrels, one of which seems to have lost most of his tail…
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… before I got distracted by crows again. I’d say this one hatched a few days later than Mama’s trio, and that he may have had an even less favourable start than Larry. His leucism is visible even when he’s not flying and all of his feathers look very brittle and scruffy. But he seemed to be doing OK foraging, so perhaps his condition will improve soon. He was in a slightly different area than Mama’s family, so I don’t think he’ll be in direct competition with them.

Unnamed crow fledgling from another nest

Unnamed crow fledgling from another nest

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4 thoughts on “Photos from my coffee & lunch breaks

  1. The Dancing Rider says:

    Loved these, and the info about them! I’ve noticed several young birds in our backyard with this condition. Post West Nile though we have hardly any birds anymore 😦 I think the Blue Jays were almost wiped out.

    • Sparrowgrass says:

      That’s so sad. I didn’t know about West Nile – but I’ve just done a little research. Apparently there haven’t been any confirmed cases in the UK – another perk of being on an island no doubt. Hopefully over time the remaining populations will recolonise and return to you.

  2. Liz at Libro says:

    Lovely post and pics, and how interesting about the leucism. I really miss the campus birds! I do like to have a look for some when I’m on campus for haircuts. I love the mistle thrushes and their interesting call. Do you remember all those redwings we used to see – are they still around? And the wren near to Staff House?

    • Sparrowgrass says:

      Thanks! I didn’t see the redwings this winter, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t here… I must remember to look out for them as the weather gets colder. I suspect wrens might not be hanging out near Staff Hse at the moment – I witnessed a rather heated territorial “discussion” between some blackbirds and a thrush there a few weeks ago – the three of them kept running in and out of the same bush, chasing and shouting and carrying on while we tried to have a meeting on one of the benches nearby.

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