Chaffinches from Scandinavia begin to double our native populations now. As usual, we have more female than male, which is due to differential migration. The 18th Century naturalist, Linnaeus, noticed this when he gave them their scientific name, Fringilla Coelebs. Coelebs means ‘unmarried’ and in his home Scandinavia he noted more males than females over winter, assuming they were bachelors. Males are more dominant in winter, and can forage for food better in colder areas, so females are more likely to migrate West to find enough food. However, female Chaffinches dominate in summer. Conditions: Mild and cloudy with heavy rain and strong winds moving in tonight. Temperature: Max 10- Min 8C.
This healthy, (ringed) female Sparrowhawk, flying in yesterday, at first scared all the other birds away. After a couple of minutes, a Magpie landed in the same tree and started to approach. They eyeballed each other but it wasn’t until a second Magpie arrived that the first dared to get really close and scare the Sparrowhawk off. Meanwhile, the little birds quickly pick up, from body language, whether the Hawk is in hunting mode– after 3 or 4 minutes, six Blue Tits had reappeared in the tree and happily fed a few feet from her. Conditions: Cold and bright. Temperature: Max 5- Min 3C.
New data on, appropriately, Darwin’s Finches, in the Galapagos, show definitively that new species can arise in as little as two generations. Closer to home, studies show that this lovely species, the Goldfinch, is evolving longer bills. This is thought to be an adaptation to garden feeders, which they increasingly visit- we have a small charm every day at present. Males already have longer bills than females, enabling them to obtain seeds from Teasels. Conditions: Cold, with sunny intervals. Temperature: Max 6- Min -1C.
Just a reminder that Honey Bees, and a few butterflies, including Red Admiral, do not hibernate but slow their bodies down and emerge whenever the temperature is around 10C or more, throughout winter, to top up their food supplies. These recent photo’s emphasise again just how important winter sources of pollen and nectar are for these insects- Ivy is one of the best, as these Honey Bees
show. Conditions: Cool and sunny after high winds and rain. Temperature: Max 9- Min 3C.
Robins are one of our few birds that sing virtually all year round, ceasing only for a while in late summer, when they are moulting and have compromised ability to fly. Then they are vulnerable, tending to hide most of the day. They sing all year to guard and hold their territories. The song is thinner and reedier in winter, but still beautiful. One has been singing from dawn till dusk from a singing post in a tree planted deliberately near our window, flying off to feed and to chase other Robins, but returning to proclaim its territory. It goes very well with the fiery red leaves of our Rowan Joseph Rock. Conditions: Sunny and cool. Temperature: Max 10- Min 8C.
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.