Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Nesting And A Tortoise Tale

More rain and wind this morning delayed my start but the wind at least pushed the clouds east and left a couple of hours to check out for the first time in almost three weeks our ringing spot at Out Rawcliffe. After the car scattered several Tree Sparrows from the roadside the next bird I saw was a rather late in the spring Wheatear, surely in now the latter half of May heading to Iceland or Greenland and perhaps one of the many we saw in Menorca in the first week of our recent holiday? Today’s female Wheatear posed nicely for a few shots as the strong wind blew its feathers awry.


The strong wind didn’t make the best conditions for trying to follow birds through swaying branches and fluttering leaves but I found my first Whitethroat nest of the year containing a full clutch of five eggs. Other birds scolded me from the top of vegetation as I tried to suss out their territories.

Whitethroat Nest


There were lots of territorial Willow Warblers including a regular capture we call “Mottle Head” in its usual spot near the feeders but it wasn’t giving much away today, and neither were any of the other Willow or Sedge Warblers. A sunny, calm day is definitely the best for finding nests but despite the wind I heard the soft calls of Sparrowhawks and found the beginnings of their nest.

Willow Warbler

Another Bird Blog sometimes features mammals but here’s one with a difference, a tortoise that breeds freely in the wild on the island of Menorca. We came across this fine specimen of Hermann’s Tortoise on the coastal path from Sant Tomas to Son Bou where it shared its habitat with amongst others, migrant Wheatears, House Sparrows, Tawny Pipits, Stonechats, Linnets and Goldfinches.

Hermann’s Tortoise

Hermann’s Tortoise Testudo hermanni can be found throughout southern Europe. The western population hermanni is found in eastern Spain, southern France, the Balearics, Corsica, Sardinia, Sicily, south and central Italy (Tuscany).

Early in the morning, the animals leave their nightly shelters, which are usually hollows protected by thick bushes or hedges, to bask in the sun and warm their bodies. They then roam about the Mediterranean meadows of their habitat in search of food. They determine which plants to eat by the sense of smell. In addition to leaves and flowers, the animals eat fruits as supplementary nutrition. Around midday, the sun becomes too hot for the tortoises, so they return to their hiding places. They have a good sense of direction to enable them to return. Experiments have shown that they also possess a good sense of time, the position of the sun, the magnetic lines of the earth, and for landmarks. In the late afternoon, they leave their shelters again and return to feeding.

As well know Tortoises are particularly long-lived animals, as long as 70–100 years.

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