The pair of Ring-necked (or Rose-ringed) Parakeets were back in the garden today, looking very elegant in the low sunlight- and unusually quiet. These birds, natives of West Africa and Lowland India, escaped or were released from captivity in the 1970’s and mostly colonise the south east, but we have had them for a couple of years in our Sheffield garden. The RSPB don’t support a cull yet, until proper research has been done on their impact on native species. It is the ear-piercing screeching that is the biggest problem her so far! Conditions: Sunny intervals. Temperature: Max 10- Min 7C.
My first Redwing sighting in the garden this year, shows these small, beautiful winter migrants from the Thrush family must be arriving from Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, in numbers. Named from the smudge of rusty-red feathers beside the wings, they travel in small flocks. You can see this one calling to others nearby, in one photo- note its yellow tongue. Look out in hedgerows, supermarket carparks and anywhere where berries survive, and you may see Redwing, sometimes in mixed flocks with Fieldfare and native Thrushes. Conditions: After a glorious, sunny day, a windy, cloudy one, like much of the year which has seen very mixed weather. Temperature: Max 14- Min 8C.
The value of late-ripening berries is high not only for the birds, but for our bird-watching and our Joseph Rock Rowan, with gorgeous autumn colour developing, has yellow berries, which are eaten later in autumn than red berries, so benefits many- yesterday a brief visit from a Blackcap and Mistle Thrush; today, the turn of several Blackbirds, Blue Tits and the antics of an ungainly Woodpigeon, trying to balance on branch-ends in a stiff breeze. Conditions: Showers and cloud. Temperature: Max 16- Min 8C.
Ash die-back is getting closer– in Tresswell Wood, North Nottinghamshire, a wood dominated by Ash at present, ash die-back is really affecting the ecology. This is only 30 miles from Sheffield, and the Peak District where many of the large trees in the landscape are Ash. The Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust notes how woods change over time– Elms were lost, and thousands of hazel rods were stripped out and used as handles for fire buckets during World War Two. Woods have a ‘high diversity index’ and can cope with some change but this feels troubling. Conditions: Mild and cloudy Temperature: Max 16- Min 12C.
Look to your trees- another rally for our Sheffield trees, today– thousands of healthy trees cut down already. We thought our trees were safe, in a city once proud of having more trees per head of population than any other UK city, until the cuts and a disastrous highways contract between SheffieldCC and a private company has led to wide scale felling, despite Wildlife Trust’s, Woodland Trust and many experts condemning the policy. This could happen where you are…. Conditions: Windy with showers. Temperature: Max 12- Min 10C.
Autumn fruits and nuts- it’s that time of year again, and the gale-force winds may have brought Conkers, Acorns, Chestnuts, Hazel Nuts down yesterday/today so here’s a reminder of the things you may get a close-up view of- and if it includes Sweet Chestnuts, you may even get a feast to take home and bake, roast or make into great soup with lentils. Conditions: Calming down in Sheffield after a wild night of tail-of-the-hurricane winds. Temperature: Max 14- Min 9C.
Moth night tonight. Organised by Butterfly Conservation, once a year, it is held at different times of the year and this is a late season one. The weather is warm and set fair and they’d like people to go out with a bright torch over the weekend and see which moths are feeding on Ivy flowers, such a great source of autumn food for many insects. Even if you can’t identify them, you can look and enjoy the huge variety of moths we have in the UK. Conditions: unseasonably mild, sunny intervals. Temperature: Max 19-Min 13C.
Young Goldfinch are still showing up in our garden- these must be from a late brood. Goldfinches, recovering from losses in the 1970’s and one of the few birds to be increasing, come to feed on Niger and Sunflower seeds at garden feeders, and have 2-3 broods a year- hence the late showing of juveniles. Still to gain their red heads, they do have the black and white ladder-backs and gold wing stripe. I’m including a drawing I did of adults and young. Conditions: Mild with sunny intervals. Temperature: Max 16-Min 13C.
Chiffchaffs and Willow Warblers are hard to tell apart and both might be stopping off in your garden, like the Chiffchaff is in ours, filling up on their way south for winter migration. If you get the right view, you can see that Chiffchaff’s have dark legs, and, migrating shorter distances, have shorter wings. Willow Warblers have pale pinky-orange legs, are usually more yellow in overall colour, and have longer wings for longer migration. The photo’s should help! Conditions: Cloudy Temperature: Max 15- Min 11C.
Hornets- what is the point of wasps and their large relatives Hornets, people wonder. These highly social creatures which operate in complex colonies are often disliked for their propensity to sting. In fact the Hornet we have (unlike the Asian Hornet) has a fairly mild sting and only attack if disturbed. They chew wood, mix it with saliva and build intricate paper nests often in trees. They eat plant matter but also often hover around plants, like these were last week, down South, predating many garden pests. So, i fact, they are helpful to us humans! Conditions: Sun and a stiff breeze. Temperature: Max 15- Min 11C.