Friday, 16 January 2015

Nesting Moorhens

Pictures of birds: Nesting Moorhens

female moorhen
female moorhen in tree
Birdwatching is a delight and never more so that when birds are nesting. This photo journal by wildlife photographer AnnMackieMiller documents one moorhen's nest along the Leeds to Liverpool canal.
Moorhens are great climbers so it was no surprise to find them nesting in a tree - they like to keep the nest hidden away from predators like mink and, in the water, pike. What was more surprising was the demonstration of ingenuity in how they pulled down a branch to get a start up the tree to the nest.

How to spot a moorhen's nest

adult moorhen with reeds
adult moorhen carrying nesting material
Moorhens nests can be hard to spot, especially once trees and shrubs take on new growth as Spring advances. Mostly you spot them by watching for both adults taking nesting materials into the nest.
Both adult moorhens are responsible for nest-building and they are very keen and very meticulous in their duty. The rule they seem to live by is 'never go back to the nest empty-beaked'. This gives the birder the ideal opportunity to see where the nest is hidden. Before eggs are laid you will see both adults out of the nest and carrying nesting material back.
Once eggs have been laid, the nest it is never left unattended. The adults take shifts in going off to feed and to forage for likely nesting material and then do a shift change - one off, one on. When the chicks hatch out, you will see the adults taking food back to the nest. It is often handed over to the sitting moorhen to pass onto the chicks but the carrier will feed the young ones too. .. and still the nest building continues.

Information on Moorhens

Moorhens are delightful little birds often seen on local ponds and rivers. They have long yellow legs and splayed toes which are ideal for climbing and for negotiating reeds and boggy vegetation that is their favourite habitat. They belong to the rail family.
Adult moorhens can be describes as plumb dark coloured birds. They are roughly the size of a pigeon but with much longer legs. Generally they are slate grey (gray) with brown feathering. They have a paled undercarriage - the female's paler than the males. They also have white strips down their sides and white under-feathers on the tail. They use these for displaying and for aggressive poses. They will also bob their white underfeathers when they are trying to lure danger away from their young.
They are most distinctive for the red frontal shield and bill that ends in a yellow tip. These charismatic creatures swim with a forward bob of the head.
It was fascinating to watch this pair of moorhens. Like most they like to hide the nest high in trees and bushes and they are adept climbers.
Once I spotted an adult plucking nesting material from the bank, it was an easy matter to follow it down stream to the nest site.
Once it got there, the branch was a bit above the water but this is no problem - the bird used his big feet to pull the branch down to a level where he could begin to climb. Those feet did the rest. He had no sooner disappeared into the canopy, the female appeared on her way out to forage.
male moorhen with tree
Male Moorhen
'First you have to pull the branch down to water level...'

moorhen with nesting material
Moorhen 'then you use.big feet to scramble up branches ...'

moorhen in tree
moorhen ' ...and wings are essential for balance.'

adult moorhen climbing into tree
Adult moorhen climbing into tree

adult moorhen climbing tree
adult moorhen climbing tree

female moorhen
a quick change and the female leaves the nest - moorhen

female adult moorhen
female adult moorhen in tree

female adult moorhen in tree
female moorhen in tree