Reed Bunting

This reed bunting was an unusual visitor to our garden today. In summer, these birds are more brightly coloured, the male has black head and bib, and they frequent reed beds and marsh grasses. In winter they can’t afford to be so choosy and are often seen on farmland and gardens.

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These birds are similar to sparrows, which we never see here these days (although they are around elsewhere in Knutsford). The notched tail, dark head and bib and white collar and underside confirm the rapid identification by my resident expert.

Quality of the photos is not wonderful. We spotted the bird through upstairs windows, and it was preferable to grab quick zoom shots through the panes, rather than open a window, which would almost certainly scare the bird off.

Fieldfare 2

There were several of these birds hiding in the bushes, and coming down to feed on the grass field at Brereton Country Park, whenever there were no dogs nearby. They look a bit like large thrushes, but are actually fieldfare, members of the thrush family. These are regular winter visitors to the UK, and are said to congregate in groups and feed together – similar to the behaviour of redwing.

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You can clearly see the characteristic white underside.

It was almost exactly one year ago that we previously saw fieldfare on the same field. See earlier post. It would seem that they are creatures of habit.

The Panasonic TZ80 in my pocket gave a slightly better zoom image than the TZ200 used last time. In theory, the TZ80 gives stronger zoom, and the TZ200 has a better sensor. For practical purposes there’s not a huge difference!

Sefton sundown

I spotted this silhouetted curlew on the rocks, against the backdrop of this sundown picture at Crosby, Merseyside.sefton sundown

The sun is not yet low enough to produce the longer wavelength reds and yellows, but as we drove into Southport, a bit further up the coast, these colours had become quite magnificent, but for only a short while.

sefton sundown 2

Quite a difference!

The metropolitan borough of Sefton extends from Bootle, on the edge of Liverpool, up the coast as far as Southport.

Redwing

Taking a short break while looking for raptors out over the Dee estuary at Parkgate, we took the dog for a short walk and happened across a largish group of (maybe 20) birds running about and feeding in a grassy field. They turned out to be redwing, easily identified by the reddish underwing.

Click twice to see an image full screen.

As is suggested by their shape and patterning, redwings are distant relatives of thrushes. These would be winter migrants to UK. According to Wikipedia, they often form loose flocks of tens or even hundreds of  birds in winter, often feeding together with other types of bird. We did notice a few starlings mixed in with them.

Neumann’s Flash

Neumann’s Flash was formed when a salt mine collapsed in 1873. The Northwich salt mines had expanded rapidly without due safeguards, so inadequate supports were left to hold up the ground overhead.

A chemical industry developed around the production of salt, so the enormous holes created by this collapse, and the even more dramatic collapse of the nearby Ashton’s Flash in 1880, were in the 1950s used to dump lime waste. After dumping ceased, nature gradually began to recover and since the 1970s the area has been gradually developed into a country park, now part of the Mersey Forest initiative. Yes nature will recover, if given half a chance. See the story here.

Today, this is a great area for walking and birding, joining up with the nearby Anderton and Marbury parks.

neumans sunset

The picture shows Neumann’s Flash from one of its three hides, with a fair sprinkling of birds on the water, as the sun slowly sinks towards the horizon.

The featured image is a crop of the central area.

At WWT Martin Mere

We love going to WWT Martin Mere in the autumn to see the wonderful proliferation of wildfowl – thousands of migrated pink-footed geese, whooper swans, and many more ducks and geese attracted to the plentiful food that is available. These photographs give a small sample from our recent visit.

To see an image full screen you will need to single click twice.

These WWT reserves now play a valuable part in the global ecosystem. Such has been the human impact on the planet that we must now help the remaining wildlife to continue into future generations.

The featured image shows whooper swans and others in profile, shooting into the setting sun.

Seven Simple Actions for Birds

Most of you will be aware of much of the following from Cornell Lab of Ornithology: seven simple actions to help birds. But if you’re like me, you’ll realise that, although you are aware of them, you may not be doing enough. In the modern world, birds are absolutely dependent on the sum of the actions of all of us. With bird populations in decline, it’s vital that we each do all we can.

Here is a quick summary of the seven things – but do go read at the link above. Sorry it’s US-centric, but the principles apply everywhere.

1. Make windows safer – so many birds fly into them.

2. Keep cats indoors. They are frighteningly effective predators of small birds.

3. Reduce lawn, plant native species to provide food and habitat.

4. Avoid pesticides entirely. They kill natural things, all the way up the food chain.

5. Drink coffee that’s good for birds (shade grown).

6. Stop using throw-away plastics.

7. Watch birds and share what you see.

I’d add

8. feed local birds, and

9. provide nesting places and materials.

No doubt you can think of more… Go to it.

Featured image is from the Cornell article.

 

Ruddy Shelduck

No, I’m not swearing at the duck/goose known as the common shelduck. We saw this pair of a different variant, the ruddy shelduck, while in transit at a park in Chauvigny, near Poitiers.

ruddy shelduck 1ruddy shelduck 2

The pair kept well out of the way of the large number of more common birds on the lake, including mallards and coots.

Also known as the Brahminy Duck, these birds are common in Asia. This is not the case in France, and these are probably escapees.

 

 

Pied Wagtail

This pied wagtail settled just long enough, at RSPB Leighton Moss, to capture a couple of photographs.

pied wagtail.jpg

These birds present a neat pattern of shades of black-white-grey; I guess ‘pied’ could be an appropriate description. From the colour, you might think that it could be a so-called grey wagtail, but that actually has a partially yellow underside, making it easily confused with the yellow wagtail, which is even more yellow. Confusing!

Robin Juvenile

At RSPB Leighton Moss I was quite taken by this little bird that provocatively paraded on the footpath before me – clearly an innocent youngster, without fear. It looked vaguely familiar, but the markings suggested something a bit like a dunnock or a yellowy starling.

When I showed the picture to she who knows much more about birds than I do, she immediately identified it as a juvenile robin (European Robin, of course). Yes, it clearly is, when you look at that familiar slant of the beak.

And I always thought robins have red breasts. According to Wikipedia, the orange feathers begin to appear at around 2-3 months old, and the orange/red breast is complete in around twice that time.

Canada Goslings

Our walk around Shakerley Mere was interrupted by a family of Canada Geese and goslings slowly making their way across the path. As we have a small dog, and Canada’s are very aggressive when protecting their young, we waited while they crossed.

The 5 goslings were being shepherded by about 7 adult stewards, all assiduously watching over them. Interestingly, the group included two white, so-called Domestic Geese, clearly now wild. So the wider family was cross-species.

There was time to photograph the two heads, very distinctively different.

Both these geese are very common in the UK, particularly Canadas, which have become a pest in some places.

Blue Tits

We were delighted that blue tits used the nesting box we put up last year, even more so when a number of chicks appeared about a week ago. Since then there have been lots of tits on our feeders, some of which would be ‘our’ brood. They are obviously very young when you look at the pictures (double click to enlarge).

Blue tits seem to be present in our garden throughout the year. They like insects and are valuable to gardeners in keeping down populations of aphids.

Jackdaw thieves

The new bird feeder seemed like a good idea, to give greater variety to the newly fledged tits in the area. Easy-to-clean, adjustable size of feeding hole. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, next morning the feeder was empty. After the refill I noticed when glancing out of the window that the feeder was swinging about, and opened the window to investigate. Up flew SEVEN jackdaws and four wood pigeons. I determined to at least get photographic evidence.

The first ‘success’ (featured image) caught a thief in the act of flying away. Not a great photo I will admit, but it explains the swinging, which would of course dislodge seed onto the ground for the pigeons. And here was one awaiting his chance high up.

jackdaw 3

Finally, I caught one of the culprits in the act, very dextrously managing to feed from a feeder aimed at much smaller birds.

The jackdaws seem to have given up now, not seen for a couple of days. My theory is that these were newly fledged birds learning their skills. Real adults would not be bothered with such a food source. We shall see.

The old name for jackdaw was simply ‘daw’. I suspect the ‘jack’ was added because that is what their call sounds like.

Anhinga 2

This anhinga, taken at Brazos Bend Texas State Park in March, is poised, intent, ready to strike.

anhinga 2019

According to Wikipedia, the anhinga is also known as a snakebird, American darter, or water turkey. The stance is obviously a bit like that of a cormorant.