Tag Archives: Chaffinch

A Big British Birding Year: Part XI (other creatures of the wing)

As I had already called Spring before its official arrival, I felt vindicated last Sunday walking around Walthamstow Marshes in blazing sunshine.

I had heard tales that butterflies had already taken wing and felt a pang of envy that I had not seen any yet this year. I rectified this quickly on the marshes, and within an hour I had seen:

Comma (Polygonia c-album)

Comma (Polygonia c-album)

European Peacock (Inachis io)

European Peacock (Inachis io)

Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae)

Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae)

Small White (Pieris rapae)

Small White (Pieris rapae)

I also photographed my second species of bee of the year:

Common Carder Bee (Bombus pascuorum)

Common Carder Bee (Bombus pascuorum)

… As well as my first Bee mimic of the year:

Common Drone Fly (Eristalis tenax)

Common Drone Fly (Eristalis tenax)

The Walthamstow Marshes also provided my 73rd species of bird for the year so far:

Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita)

Common Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita)

I then walked up to the Walthamstow Reservoirs, the largest collection of still water in London, and peered through the fence at the famous Cormorant nesting island on the imaginatively named, Reservoir number 5:

Cormorants

I got a couple of character portraits of:

Common Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)

Common Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)

Greylag Goose (Anser anser)

Greylag Goose (Anser anser)

I then turned south and stared through the even more imposing fence protecting the Coppermill Lane waterworks. This is a known spot for roosting gulls and delivered my 74th species of the year:

Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus)

Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus)

From there, I walked back to the old Victorian water filter station that is now the Waterworks nature reserve where I finished my day by voyeuristically snapping this blended series of a mating pair of Pochards:

Common Pochard (Aythya ferina)

Common Pochard (Aythya ferina)

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A Big British Birding Year: Part IV (Big Garden Birdwatch)

This weekend, tens of thousands of people will have spent an hour counting the birds in their gardens for the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch. I joined them, as indeed I did last year .

I also got to tick one more bird off my year list to take me to a grand total of 49. The 49th species I photographed is one of the most hated birds in the UK: the Feral Pigeon:

Feral Pigeon (Columba livia)

Feral Pigeon (Columba livia)

Many people refer to the feral pigeon as a rat with wings. I don’t completely disagree with the comparison, as, like the rat, the feral pigeon has thrived in a world dominated by humans (let us not forget that humans do incomparably greater damage to this planet than all the so called ‘vermin’ put together). A few other things about feral pigeons that you may or may not know:

  • Feral pigeons are effectively domestic pigeons that have returned to the wild and bred.
  • Domestic pigeons were the first birds in the world to be domesticated (between 5-10,000 years ago) from the handsome wild version of the species, the Rock Dove.
  • Domestic pigeons, often bred as homing or racing pigeons, are able to navigate back to their home roost up to a 1000 miles away if they are released from a strange place.
  • Despite their reputation, and unlike humans, feral pigeons are immune to, and incapable of carrying, the deadly H5N1 ‘bird flu’ virus.
  • Feral pigeons are monogamous and mate for life. When you see a male puffing up his neck and chasing a female whilst cooing – he is courting a female that he will then stay faithful to for the rest of his life (something that many human males seem to find difficult).

Anyway, there ends my lesson, but as you can see, I don’t believe we should hate these natural survivors as much as we often do. Now, back to the listing…

I counted 3 feral pigeons together at one time in the garden – according to the RSPB rules – to count them for today’s birdwatch which I submitted online to feed into the organisation’s enormous database. This was one down on last year.

I counted two Blackbirds – a male and female – which is the same as last year:

Blackbird (Turdus merula)

Blackbird (Turdus merula)

Two Robins (one more than last year):

Robin (Erithacus rubecula)

Robin (Erithacus rubecula)

At least two Great Tits (also one more than last year):

Great Tit (Parula major)

Great Tit (Parula major)

Two Blue Tits (same as 2013):

Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus)

Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus)

One Wood Pigeon (down from three last year):

Wood Pigeon (Columba palumbus)

Wood Pigeon (Columba palumbus)

One Carrion Crow (I didn’t see any this time last year):

Carrion Crow (Corvus corone)

Carrion Crow (Corvus corone)

Strangely, I only saw one of the normally highly gregarious Long-tailed Tit (two this time last year):

Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus)

Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus)

At least one Chaffinch (one less than last year):

Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)

Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)

One Wren (which was missing from my hour last year):

Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes)

Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes)

And, finally six Starling (which improved on the solitary one I saw last year – although the photo is significantly worse!):

Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)

Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)

To summarise, I saw 11 species in my garden (in zone 1 in London) which was one more than last year (two new species, but missing a Magpie from last year). Five of of the species I saw were more numerous or new compared to last year, although five were also less numerous or missing when compared to last year, and two species produced the same number as last year. So overall a pretty even picture when compared against last year, but not bad in such an urbanised area.

Northumberland landscapes

The northernmost English county is a beautiful and wild place.

Northumberland road

Northumberland 1

wall and hill

Stream

We spent time in a remote valley for a wedding, only two weeks after our own (the main reason for Iago80’s recent online silence).

Lily

My wife and I were not really equipped for walking in the hills, but that didn’t stop us.

James

As we walked, I attempted to photograph some of the valley’s avian residents…

A female Whinchat (Saxicola rubetra)

Female Whinchat

Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis)

Meadow Pipit

Female Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)

Chaffinch

And Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) fishing in the streams

Grey Heron

It was also rare to look at the sky and not see (unusually) noisy Buzzards, hovering Kestrels, and circling Ravens (although I didn’t get a good enough shot of any of them to share). Seemingly oblivious of the predators, the sky was also often rich with our summer Swallows (Hirundo rustica) and House Martins (Delichon urbica).

Swallows