Archive for the ‘Natural History’ Category

20130108125152(1)

Sometimes also known as the Rose-ringed parakeet, these birds originally from Africa and Asia have become established in the South East of England and are spreading northward. The UK population is thought to be of Indian origin and established itself following escapes from captivity. Its amazing breeding success has seen a rapid expansion of range in a relatively short time.

???????????????????????????????

Even though Greater London and surrounding areas is still its stronghold, the species has been recorded in almost every county in England, and has reached Wales and the Scottish borders. The latest estimate is around 10,000 breeding pairs, but this may be an underestimate as the counts at our 2 local winter roosts were 6,000 and 2,000 birds  last year.

DSC00230u

20121122090819(3)u

A Bank Holiday Monday morning visit to the Kent Wildlife Trust reserve at Sevenoaks to look for Little Ringed plover and other migrants.

The reserve is based around two large lakes which were originally dug for sand and gravel extraction. My first stop was at the hide overlooking the west end of the main lake. This was where the Little Ringed Plovers had been seen the previous day but there was no sign this morning. More common birds were present including Tufted Duck, Teal, Mallard, Great Crested Grebe and a single Mute Swan.

Eurasian Teal (m)
Wood Forget-me-nots

I then walked through the wood to the hide at the other end of the main lake but only saw the same species. Blackcaps were singing in the trees but no other migrant warblers were heard. My final stop was at the hide on the second lake. Here there was a group of Greylag Geese. The feeding station was not busy and only a couple of Blue Tits, a Great Tit, a Dunnock and a Magpie visited whilst I was there.

Canada Goose [sp] (Branta canadensis)
Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Eurasian Teal (Anas crecca)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Great Crested Grebe [sp] (Podiceps cristatus)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Common Buzzard [sp] (Buteo buteo)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Lesser Black-backed Gull [sp] (Larus fuscus)
Stock Dove [sp] (Columba oenas)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Great Spotted Woodpecker [sp] (Dendrocopos major)
European Green Woodpecker [sp] (Picus viridis)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Eurasian Blackcap [sp] (Sylvia atricapilla)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
White Wagtail (Pied) (Motacilla alba yarrellii)

Large White (Pieris brassicae)
Small White (Artogeia rapae)
Orange Tip (Anthocharis cardamines)
Peacock Butterfly (Inachis io)

Canada Goose

Posted: April 19, 2019 in Birds, Natural History
Tags:

20130327150937(2)u

DSC01116u

The Canada Goose was originally a native of North America. A few individuals manage to reach the UK naturally each year. However, the vast majority of the population dates from introductions. Historical records show that this was likely to have begun in the early 17th century, when a group of geese were presented to King Louis XIII in Paris. In the UK the first recorded introduction was in the late 17th century, when a group of Canada Geese were introduced into the Royal wildfowl collection in St James’s Park. From these small beginnings, it is estimated that the current UK breeding population is 62,000 pairs and the wintering population is around 190,000 birds.

DSC01522u

DSC02321u

The Canada goose has become a common bird of UK lakes, gravel pits and urban parks. They usually form monogamous pairings which stay together until one bird dies. They can lay between 2-9 eggs per pair per year (average five) and it is not uncommon on our local lake to have 10 to 15 young every summer. In the UK there are not many things that will take even a half grown Canada goose and so it is easy to see how their numbers prospered over the years. Indeed, in some places measures have had to be taken to limit their success and prevent them becoming a pest. Interestingly, the UK population unlike its American counterpart tends to be a resident species with very limited migration.

Working at home today with a wonderful view from my study window

Keith and I made a trip to the London Wetland centre in search of spring migrants. Surprisingly, there wasn’t much initial evidence except for a number of singing Blackcaps.

On reaching the tower hide we were alerted to a male Yellow Wagtail on the marsh, which was an unexpected bonus.

Yellow Wagtail (m)

Keith thought he heard a Chiffchaff calling near the secluded walk but it didn’t erupt into song and we never did locate it. Otherwise, the resident birds were getting on with preparing for the breeding season.

Tufted Duck (top left), Mute Swan (top centre), Common Redshank (top right) with Grey Heron (bottom)

The Sand Martins were back in evidence over the lakes having completed their journey from their wintering grounds in Africa.

Cowslip (top right), Common Shelduck (top centre), Common Snipe (top right), Tree Bumblebee (bottom left) and Great Crested Grebe (bottom right)

So apart from the Sand Martins, the Blackcaps and the Yellow Wagtail we didn’t find many migrants but there were plenty of other signs of spring with flowers blooming, Bumblebees on the wing and birds preparing sites for nesting.

Greylag Goose [sp] (Anser anser)
Mute Swan (Cygnus olor)
Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiaca)
Common Shelduck (Tadorna tadorna)
Northern Shoveler (Spatula clypeata)
Gadwall [sp] (Mareca strepera)
Eurasian Wigeon (Mareca penelope)
Mallard [sp] (Anas platyrhynchos)
Eurasian Teal (Anas crecca)
Common Pochard (Aythya ferina)
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
Great Crested Grebe [sp] (Podiceps cristatus)
Grey Heron [sp] (Ardea cinerea)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Eurasian Sparrowhawk [sp] (Accipiter nisus)
Common Moorhen [sp] (Gallinula chloropus)
Eurasian Coot [sp] (Fulica atra)
Northern Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
Common Snipe [sp] (Gallinago gallinago)
Common Redshank [sp] (Tringa totanus)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Lesser Black-backed Gull [sp] (Larus fuscus)
Rock Dove (Feral) (Columba livia ‘feral’)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Great Spotted Woodpecker [sp] (Dendrocopos major)
European Green Woodpecker [sp] (Picus viridis)
Rose-ringed Parakeet [sp] (Psittacula krameri)
Eurasian Jay [sp] (Garrulus glandarius)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Western Jackdaw [sp] (Coloeus monedula)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Sand Martin [sp] (Riparia riparia)
Cetti’s Warbler [sp] (Cettia cetti)
Eurasian Blackcap [sp] (Sylvia atricapilla)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Common Starling [sp] (Sturnus vulgaris)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
Western Yellow Wagtail [sp] (Motacilla flava)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
European Greenfinch [sp] (Chloris chloris)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)
Common Reed Bunting [sp] (Emberiza schoeniclus)

Blackcap

Posted: April 9, 2019 in Birds, London, Natural History, UK
Tags:

I was pleased to hear our first Blackcap of the year singing in my garden a few evenings ago.

Blackcap (m)

The Blackcap is a small warbler, primarily a summer visitor is easily identifiable if seen. Both sexes are similar but the male, as its name suggests, has a black cap, whilst the female has a brown cap.

Blackcap (f)

It is estimated that around 1.2 million pairs breed in the UK and whilst most depart in the autumn, a growing number (currently estimated at around 3000 birds) now spend the winter here. However, research has shown that these are mostly birds that have bred in Germany or NE Europe rather than UK breeding birds.

Blackcap (m)

I love photographing sunsets so was delighted to come across this picture with a great sunset over the Pacific.

Through My Lens

In late December 2018 I had the privilege of joining a friend of mine for an early morning fishing trip. The fish declined to show up, but nature made it worth while with the sunrise.

View original post

Cirl Bunting

Posted: March 21, 2019 in Birds, Devon, Natural History, UK
Tags:

The Cirl Bunting is at the northernmost edge of its range in the UK and is found in the south-western counties. 10 years ago they were restricted to one or two isolated areas in Devon and it was feared that they may die out. The introduction of supplementary winter feeding programmes has boosted the number of birds that survive through the winter months and so are able to breed the next year and this has been responsible for a significant upturn in the population, such that they are now expanding into the neighbouring counties of Somerset and Cornwall.

Cirl Bunting

It is now estimated that there are around 900 breeding pairs in the UK.

Purple Sandpiper

Posted: March 20, 2019 in Birds, Devon, Natural History, UK
Tags:

This medium-sized wading bird is a winter visitor to the UK. It is mostly found in the north of the country but although not common it has established winter roosts in the south at places such as Southsea Castle and Brixham Harbour.

A few pairs (possibly up to 3) nest in the far northern islands of Scotland but it is estimated that the wintering population in the UK is around 13000 birds.

They are usually found on rocky outcrops where they probe for winkles , crustaceans and spiders, although also eat the plants that grow on the rocks.

These photos were all taken on our recent trip to Devon near Brixham Harbour.

The final day of our trip to South Devon and Keith and I went to Berry Head Nature Reserve, which is on a headland just outside Brixham. Our first destination is the quarry, where for 200 years since the 1800s Limestone was quarried from the cliff. Today it provides a cliff face and a secluded place for birds.

There are Fulmar nesting on the cliffs and out in the bay a large number of Northern Gannets and Guillemots. This looks a fantastic place for resting migrant birds, but only a few early migrants have arrived so far and apart from the resident species there is little to record.

Fulmar
Rock Pipit

Our next destination is the bird hide which faces opposite the cliffs where the Guillemots nest. At this time, it is estimated that there are around 1000 birds on the cliff ledges.

View over the bay towards the Guillemot colony
Guillemots on cliff ledges

Our final stop on Berry Head is the point where we look for passing sea birds but only see more Guillemots and Gannets.

We then began to descend from the headland vis the coast road, which passes through some woodland where we add some common woodland species to our day list, before coming to Breakwater Beach just outside Brixham Harbour. Just as we pass the outdoor swimming pool, I notice a small bird on the rocks, which turns out to be a Purple Sandpiper. We soon find another and spend some time watching and photographing this wading bird which spends most of its time probing in the gaps between rocks looking for food.

Purple Sandpiper
Purple Sandpiper

Walking back through the harbour to the town, we see a Ruddy Turnstone on the quayside.

That brings us to 107 species in 3 and a bit days birdwatching, the best we have achieved on any of our trips. Not only an excellent number of different species but some fantastic views as well. Fircrest tops the list for me as it is a species I have tried to find many times and failed so it was great to finally catch up with one.

Northern Fulmar [sp] (Fulmarus glacialis)
Northern Gannet (Morus bassanus)
European Shag [sp] (Phalacrocorax aristotelis)
Great Cormorant [sp] (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Eurasian Sparrowhawk [sp] (Accipiter nisus)
Ruddy Turnstone [sp] (Arenaria interpres)
Purple Sandpiper (Calidris maritima)
Black-legged Kittiwake [sp] (Rissa tridactyla)
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)
Great Black-backed Gull (Larus marinus)
European Herring Gull [sp] (Larus argentatus)
Common Murre [sp] (Uria aalge)
Common Wood Pigeon [sp] (Columba palumbus)
Common Kestrel [sp] (Falco tinnunculus)
Eurasian Jay [sp] (Garrulus glandarius)
Eurasian Magpie [sp] (Pica pica)
Carrion Crow [sp] (Corvus corone)
Eurasian Blue Tit [sp] (Cyanistes caeruleus)
Great Tit [sp] (Parus major)
Eurasian Skylark [sp] (Alauda arvensis)
Long-tailed Tit [sp] (Aegithalos caudatus)
Eurasian Wren [sp] (Troglodytes troglodytes)
Common Blackbird [sp] (Turdus merula)
European Robin [sp] (Erithacus rubecula)
House Sparrow [sp] (Passer domesticus)
Dunnock [sp] (Prunella modularis)
Eurasian Rock Pipit [sp] (Anthus petrosus)
Common Chaffinch [sp] (Fringilla coelebs)
Eurasian Bullfinch [sp] (Pyrrhula pyrrhula)
European Goldfinch [sp] (Carduelis carduelis)