For a couple days, an adult male and a female black redstart have been flying down to my building’s underground parking with food in their beak. I investigated and found out they are nesting there. I am sure that these two birds are the parents of Apache, Spot and Ring, the friendly chicks that visited my feeding station for three weeks. Now that the parents are raising a new clutch, the fledglings from the first clutch are moving away from their birth site to make Continue reading
My three black redstart visitors keep visiting my bird feeder daily and now that berries are out I fix fresh branches to my roof to see the chicks practice fruit picking. Observing fledglings experiment and learn is always entertaining. An adult female also comes for the berries. I believe she is the mother of Apache, Spot and Ring, and is now raising Continue reading
Earlier this month, I came across a blog by the RSPB titled “Help wildlife feed the family this summer“, which encourages people to feed birds during the warm season and stresses the importance to help breeding pairs raise their chicks. On the other hand, another article highlighted the problems associated with feeding birds year round and particularly throughout the breeding season. I could not help wonder which is right as I recently, quite accidentally at first, started feeding birds at my window.
One evening, I threw leftover cereals over the small tiled roof that borders my attic window thinking birds would eat them. The next morning a group of grumpy-looking black redstarts stopped by for a snack.
New Zealand is a bitter example of the havoc men can bring upon nature. By purposely or accidentally introducing a legion of alien species to this far-off land, men unleashed destruction and forever altered New Zealand’s unique ecosystems and indigenous wildlife. Rats, stoats, weasels, ferrets, feral cats and brushtail possums are the most notorious culprits because they predate on native and endemic ground-nesting birds like the iconic kakapo, kiwi and takahe, and many other less known species like the fairy prion and sooty shearwater, two burrowing seabirds. Introduced predators have driven several bird species to extinction in the past and continue to severely impact bird populations today.
The problem is not limited to the bird realm. The insect world is also in trouble as introduced bugs deplete native populations by killing or out-competing them for food. Non-native wasps are a notorious example: every year, they destroy large numbers of native bugs including bees, spiders, flies and caterpillars like those of monarch butterflies. Wasps are so numerous they threaten birds as well—here is an insightful documentary about the wasp plague in New Zealand.
More insidious, but no less detrimental, is the case of praying mantis.
A single praying mantis species, the endemic Orthodera novaezealandiae, was originally present in New Zealand. Another, Miomantis caffra or “springbok mantis”, was Continue reading
Audacity is a trait shared by many New Zealand birds. Here, humans are not just tolerated, but often chased, scrutinized and sometimes hassled—a specialty of red-billed gulls who snatch food off people’s plates at restaurants. Species as different as keas, wekas and fantails (Rhipidura fuliginosa) all share this temerity and insatiable curiosity. Birds introduced from Europe are shy in comparison, save around campsites and touristy areas where they behave like natives.
Coming from Europe, this remarkable confidence never ceases to amaze me, and my recent interaction with fantails in Nelson Lakes National Park taught me it has virtually no limit. Many fantails have crossed my path since I arrived in New Zealand—the species has well adapted Continue reading
Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) are famous for the epic annual fall migration they undertake to Mexico and Southern California. What is little known is that their range extends beyond North America to the Pacific, as far south as New Zealand. North American and New Zealand monarchs are the same species, so biologists believe that Continue reading
The past couple of days have been rough for the great tit couple that nests in front of my apartment building. An Eurasian jay viciously hunted down several of their fledglings, killing at least two and injuring three. Knowing Eurasian jays prey on great and blue tit chicks is one thing, witnessing the brutal hunt is another. I had never suspected my spring watch would take such a dramatic turn.
The great tits built their nest inside a street lamp post, 2.5 meters off the ground, a smart choice in an urban environment where nesting cavities are scarce. I kept an eye and ear on the nest to try guessing when the chicks would fledge, always a special moment to attend.
Two days ago, I was awoken by a concert of alarm calls. Two great tits were flying in circle around a high branch of the large oak tree that stands across from my window. A jay soon came in sight Continue reading