22nd December 2015

Goldcrests- Travelling down south again soon so this may be the last post for a few days. We have been seeing these wonderful, tiny birds a little this winter. Weighing the same as a 20p coin, no-one believed in the past that they were capable of flying here on their own. They were known as Woodcock Pilots, as people thought they hitched a ride on the backs of Woodcock! Not only are they our smallest bird but their song is so high-pitched many people simply can’t hear it. We should be getting many migrant Goldcrests from Scandinavia this time of year but this is proving such a mild winter (worryingly, in some parts of the UK the winter solstice temperatures are predicted to be the same as this June’s summer solstice), with south and westerly winds predominating, that we have less migrants of al sorts so far. Conditions: Wet and gusty and grey. Temperature: Max 13- Min 5c.

Gold crest

Gold crest

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18th December 2015

Siskins are beginning to appear in our garden again. Sian had some some weeks ago but she does live nearer conifers than we do. These beautiful small finches, with very forked tails, are pretty distinctive, with their yellow-green colouring. The males are brighter, with lovely dark crowns and bibs while the juveniles are more streaky and pale. The population of Siskins grew with the increase in pine plantations in the UK. They venture into gardens more in the New Year, so keep your eyes peeled. Conditions: This unbelievably mild spell continues with the forecast predicting that it is 12c during the day, today but 14c in the night!

Male Siskin

Male Siskin, with black bib and cap

Male Siskin, with black bib and cap

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Siskin keeping a bigger Great Tit at bay

Siskin keeping a bigger Great Tit at bay

14th December 2015

Teasels in winter-Though they spread themselves a bit liberally around the garden, they are both beautiful in winter and a source of seeds for Goldfinches. Apparently though, only for male Goldfinches. It is hard to tell males from females but only males have long enough beaks to extract seeds from Teasels, so these must be male. Clearly, not all the seeds get scattered or eaten as we saw recently, with these seeds apparently germinating in the seed-head itself, probably due to the mild winter. Conditions: A spell of cloudy, still weather Temperature: Max 8- Min 7c.p.birds.12 024IMG_4934

Male Goldfinch on Teasel

Male Goldfinch on Teasel

Teasel head germinating its own seeds

Teasel head germinating its own seeds

9th December 2015

Bullfinches- I’m back down south for a few days but yesterday morning, in our garden in Sheffield, we had the joy of having four male and one female Bullfinch come to the garden at the same time. They often stay together in family groups through the winter, so some of the males may well be the young of a pair we have had visit all year. The chests of some were exceptionallyIMG_4335IMG_4364 bright.  Conditions: A cold frosty start, but a gloriously sunny day down south. Temperature: Max 11- Min 9c.IMG_4345

7th December 2015

Potteric Carr didn’t have many birds the other day, as I said,  but the light on the swathes of Common Reed and Reed Maces was wonderful, and we found this one, interesting fungi which I haven’t had time to identify yet. Always a lovely, accessible walk round there, birds or not, and still intend to return one dusk for the Starlings. Conditions: A lovely, mild and still day, with sun and cloud.Temperature: Max 13- Min 10c.IMG_4274IMG_4254IMG_4270IMG_4252

5th December 2015

Willow Tits- these are such gorgeous little birds, and are now on the Red List due to the recent slump in their population. They are seen rarely in Scotland but do occur in willow and scrubland, especially where it is damp. We watched this one feeding at Potteric Carr near Doncaster yesterday– first time I’ve managed to photograph one. Not much else in the way of bird-life on the reserve at present, due to the mild weather and westerly winds which are keeping European migrants at bay. The warden confirmed there are great Starling murmurations around 4 o’clock at present. Conditions: Gale force winds predicted today, with rain later. Temperature: Max 11- Min 9c.

Showing the difference in size between Willow Tits and Great Tits.

Showing the difference in size between Willow Tits and Great Tits.

Willow Tit showing the black cap and pale cheek

Willow Tit showing the black cap and pale cheek

Willow Tit showing the long black 'helmet'

Willow Tit showing the long black ‘helmet’

3rd December 2015

Oaks, like 80% of the higher plant species, have an incredible symbiotic relationship with fungi, through their roots. The miccorrhizae of fungi are better than roots at extracting moisture and nutrients from the ground and can even penetrate hard rock to extract phosphates. They can also store these nutrients for when the tree needs them. The fungi also produce hormones which help tree roots develop, and others which protect them from damage. The fungi itself gains nutrients from the tree roots, enabling it to create vast networks beneath the soil. A recent study under a small oak calculated that the fungal micorrhizae just for that tree would reach round the  world! The fungi  also enable the tree to transport carbon to its seedlings, and another study shows that trees can detect and favour their own seedlings over the seedlings of others of the same species! Conditions: Grey days, with some rain. Temperature: Max 13- Min 6c.

Oak tree

Oak tree

Oak

Oak

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Oak trunk

Oak trunk