Turnstones on Bexhill Prom– at last I am able to access my blog site again- apologies for the technical glitch. Taking mum along the Prom today, and most days, the bold Turnstones, so well camouflaged on the pebbly beaches they usually inhabit, show how unintimidated they are by people and human activities. At high tide, after resting on the shingle, they run across the very busy promenade, under the feet of crowds of people, feed on the grass verges and even on the busy roads. Here’s a few photos from today. Conditions: A beautiful sunny afternoon. Temperature: Max 14- Min 8c.
Greenfinches flock together to feed at this time of year, as we watched at Old Moor RSPB site near Barnsley yesterday, where we went to replenish birdfood stocks. Following a big decline in the 1970’s and 80’s, thought to be due to loss of seeds on farmland, a further decrease is linked to a parasitic disease that affects their ability to feed. So, while garden feeders are very important for these finches, which can manage big and small seeds alike, if you don’t keep feeders well cleaned, you could be adding to the spread of the disease. At Old Moor they were feeding quite aggressively, hence all the comings and goings in the photographs- in flight their beautiful colours stand out. Conditions: A largely sunny, still day. Temperature: Max 14- Min 9c.
Great Black Backed Gulls (familiarity referred to as GBBG‘s!) will be moving to inland waters and rubbish tips from the coast as winter gets closer. This one was on the East coast this week. These impressive, big, aggressive birds, are larger and blacker than the Lesser Black Backed Gull, and have pink legs rather than yellow, and a red patch on the lower bill. On the amber list, these birds lay their eggs in a low scrape, and feed on a very wide range of foods, including berries, insects, small mammals and birds, carrion and often by harrying other birds and stealing their food. Their eggs and feathers were harvested in the past. Conditions: Thick cloud through the day. Temperature: Max 11- Min 8c.
Dipper: We were lucky to watch a Dipper feeding near Ashford-in-the Water this week. These passerine (perching) birds have many specialist adaptations to make them aquatic, unique among passerines. Their dense feathers and large preen-gland makes them especially water-proof, while their haemoglobin count is high, giving them sufficient oxygen for long, active spells underwater. They also have nasal flaps which they close, and white, nictitating membranes (third eyelids) that protect their eyes when underwater. This makes them look unusual if you catch them with their ‘white
eyes’ when above water (see photograph). While they sometimes feed from rocks and in shallows, their main way of feeding is to walk rapidly along the bed of a fast flowing stream, wings spread wide for stability, picking up invertebrates, small fish and insects. Their name comes from their habit of bobbing when standing, not from taking a dip! Conditions: Mild, cloudy day. Temperature: Max 12- Min 10c.
Little Grebe, or Dabchicks as we grew up calling them, were called “Dive-dappers” by Shakespeare. Though really widespread on patches of water throughout the UK, these distinctive tiny birds, with fluffy back ends and no real tail, are on the Amber list, showing the populations are down. They feed on a range of water creatures, including what looks like a Stickleback, which this Little Grebe shook and hit against the water-surface to stun. It grappled with it for ages to get it the right way round, to avoid catching the spines when swallowing. I love the way they dive, up to a metre down, starting with a little leap, before shaking themselves hard to dry off when they emerge up to 30 seconds later. Conditions: Settled, mild weather with some sun. Temperature: Max 16- Min 8c.
Buzzards drawn to the plough– travelling back up to Sheffield today, a quick blog on the extraordinary repopulation of Buzzards in East Sussex. My brother-in-law Mike watched 13 buzzards feeding on earthworms and the like as he ploughed one field this week. We went to watch the next day and saw eight at least in a part of England where, when we were all growing up, there were no Buzzards ever seen. There were also flocks of Linnets– far from the path but I managed a photo as they flew. Once they had landed on the ploughed ground, to feed, they were too well camouflaged to see. Conditions: Light showers and sunny intervals, but much warmer than recently. Temperature: Max 15- Min 9c.
Pied Wagtail- this lovely, common wagtail can be seen in many different habitats. My mum’s mum used to call them ‘little clergymen’ because of their black and white patterns. They roost in big numbers in city centres, drawn by the ‘storage heater’ warmth of built-up areas. There is a big roost in the bushes near the Odeon in Sheffield. Here is a Pied Wagtail feasting on insects disturbed by my brother-in-law Mike as he ploughed in East Sussex yesterday. Conditions: Another lovely sunny day, before the rain is due to arrive. Temperature: Max 16- Min 7c.
Great White Egret– these relative newcomers, sometimes seen now in the south and east of England, are fascinating to watch fishing. Down in Sussex again, Lynn spotted this one when we were at Rye Harbour RSPB reserve. They run and leap and take off to find and spear their fish or frog meals. About the size of our Grey Herons, they are larger, of course, than Little Egrets and have dark legs, with yellow beaks when young- this must be older, with its black beak. The Great White Egret first bred in the UK in 2012. Conditions: A glorious spell of sunny weather over the last few days. Temperature: Max 17- Min 8c.