Robins in winter– Robins are one of a few birds that sing throughout winter in the uk. This is because they are particularly active in defending a territory year round but scientists in Bristol believe that us feeding Robins through the winter helps. Birds have a complex mechanism to manage their fat reserves, and Robins will only sing through the winter if they are well fed enough. They appear to be able to assess when they have enough energy to sing in the day, so a ready supply of food, and warmer nights means they are more likely to be heard defending their territory by their beautiful song
Robin in winter
Robin singing in winter
. Another reason to feed our birds. Conditions: A spell of bright, sunny weather. Temperature: Max 6 Min 3C.
Mallard numbers are increasing and you can see them on almost any stretch of water, in fact they may be becoming a bit too dominant but nevertheless, they are worth watching. I have covered a few birds washing habits this year and non is more enthusiastic in its dunking style than the Mallard. Also, watch out for them ‘asleep’. They can sleep with one eye open, meaning one brain hemisphere is alert while the other sleeps. Not a bad adaptive behaviour! Conditions: More grey, damp days. Temperature: Max 9 Min 2C.
Mallard washing on the Don, Sheffield
Mallard washing, Sheffield Centre
Male Mallard, drying out on the Don
Female Mallard washing
Dusting behaviour in birds– this Wren was recently displaying typical behaviour for Wrens following wetting it’s feathers in a pond. It took about quarter of an hour to thoroughly dust bath in a hollow. The Wren spread its wings, wriggled, ruffled all its feathers, and even disturbed dust into the air, so that every feather was dusted, preened and dried and the dust reached the skin. This is called ‘maintenance behaviour’, maintaining feather and skin health and cleanliness as well as using dust for its anti-parasitic properties. It also meant it stayed in one place long enough for lots of photos, whereas Wrens are often so quick and secretive in their movements they are a job to photograph! Conditions: Showers. Temperature: Max 13 Min 9c.
Wren, dusting for health
Wren, dusting after washing
Wren, dust- bathing
Wren, Small Tortoiseshell
Wren, dust bathing and preening
Birds take very different approaches to bathing– this juvenile Robin, just beginning to lose its speckled chest and gain its red breast, meaning it is now old enough to find and defend its own territory which it will have to do, even against its parents, took the energetic and vigorous route! It was lovely to watch. Conditions: A very wet but mild, still day, following recent days of torrential rain. Temperature: Max 11 Min 3C.
Painted Lady Butterfly: I blogged about these beautiful butterflies earlier in the year, as it is one of their mass migration years- an estimate of over 1 million have migrated here from North Africa and Southern Europe this year. Never overwintering in any form in cold climates, these stunning individuals, born here recently, were feasting on Verbena and other late summer flowers at Thornbridge Hall gardens in the Peak District last week. Shortly, they will begin their staggering migration back to North Africa. some may even cross the Sahara. Known in Latin as ‘Vanessa Cardui’ or Thistle Butterfly, the caterpillars will have fed on thistles and other local plants before building a silk tent, and emerging from their chrysalis-form. Look out for them, and their wonderf
ul markings, both on upper and lower wings- they will soon be gone south. Conditions: Very wet and grey. Temperature: Max 17 Min 12C.
Male Chaffinch, bathing
Chaffinches are one of our most common and widespread birds, often seen feeding on the ground around cafes, boldly picking up crumbs, or in gardens around feeders. Males are more colourful than females or juveniles but the distinguishing feature for all Chaffinches is the white wing bars, visible at rest and when flying. Watching this Male washing in a friend’s pond was lovely. Although quite restrained when bathing, compared to some birds, it revealed the range of colours, including the beautiful olive green lower back which is often not seen when watching the birds feeding, and the white tail bars. Conditions: the first rain for a few days after a spell of gorgeous sun and blue skies. Temperature: Max 18 Min 12C.
There is a juvenile Grey Heron fishing regularly on Monyash village pond where, incidentally, there are numerous breeding Goldfish, as well as native fish, due to someone in the past unadvisedly dumping their pets, which now thrive several generations on. This is probably a second year juvenile as, though it hasn’t yet got the glossy feathers and black markings of a fully adult bird, it does have the beginnings of a
. Even though not fully mature, its wingspan is huge, as the photos show. Conditions: Sun and cloud. Temperature: Max 15 Min 8C.