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Tuesday 25 January 2011

Gulls, Dunlin and Turnstones at Ferring, West Sussex and The Miller's Tale.

In the front of this shot are what look like Dunlin .  An estimated 9,500 pairs breed in Britain but winter migrants from Russia and Northern Europe swell the numbers to 700,000.
Behind the Dunlin are more winter visitors -- Turnstones, which may have arrived from Canada or Greenland.  Around 64,000 are estimated to over-winter on British shores.
Dwarfing them all is a Black-headed Gull; 200,000 breed in Britain but at this time of year visitors from Northern Europe swell their number to 3,000,000.
Source; RSPB Handbook of British Birds, 1st edition 2002.
Turnstones in the foreground marching quickly across the sand.  The Black-headed Gull is in its winter plumage, i.e. without its black head..... very confusing!
More marching birds.  Click on any picture to enlarge it.
Five well camouflaged Turnstones are in this shot.  What are the two other birds?  Mid/upper left might be a Sanderling, whilst mid-right looks like a Common Sandpiper.  In addition, on the right side edge of the picture is a rear view of a ringed plover, which I had completely missed until pointed out to me!  Thanks Rod from West Wales Cottages
The display board on the sea front.
Above, Lesser Black-backed Gulls; adults and juveniles.

My thanks (and those of 36 other Ramblers) to Brenda for leading this walk from the Mid Sussex Ramblers' programme.  Winter is a great time to be on the seashore to see these sights before the birds fly north again.

This 7.5 miles walk started from Highdown on the Downs north-west of Worthing and some more pictures from the walk follow.
The Miller's tale is a fascinating one.  Eccentric he may have been but the next information board for the Earth works suggest a profitable motive for such eccentricity, namely a convenient cover for smuggling alcohol.

Mid Sussex Ramblers on the Earthworks with Arundel castle in the distance.
Click to enlarge.
Crossing the flat farmland on the way to the coast, with windmill in the background.
Thanks Brenda, for a great walk.

Sunday 16 January 2011

Friday 7 January 2011

Shelduck, Lapwing, Teal, Pintails and more at Pulborough Brooks

There is a Shelduck, Lapwing, Teal and Pintails in this picture, taken this afternoon at the RSPB Pulborough Brooks reserve.
A Pintail preens itself above, mid picture.  28,000 overwinter in Britain compared to some just 40 pairs that breed in the UK.  Worldwide they are in decline, which is sad for such a beautiful duck.
Highland cattle chew through the rough grasses.
A lot of Teal are in the water behind the cows.
... doing what Shelducks do.

Another shot of Pintails.  Visit Pulborough Brooks to see them in winter.
The light failed quickly in heavy rain, so I have no shots of the many White-fronted Geese, Peregrine falcon, Marsh harrier et al, which were seen (by others) this day.

Sunday 2 January 2011

Holes in lawns; living with wildlife. Good reasons to NOT USE chemicals on your lawn.

If you wake up to find your lawn dug up as above, you might blame badgers or foxes digging for worms or leather jackets.  The "culprit" above, has left a couple of calling cards, namely the characteristic cylindrical, white droppings of the Green woodpecker.  And on this occasion there was no confusion as I photographed the bird through the kitchen window in the act.
What a fine bird, that really went at it to dig up the lawn for ants.
POW!!! The camera was focused but the bird was hammering too fast for the shutter speed on this dark afternoon.

Should you ever be tempted to "treat" an ant's nest, remember that to leave it alone will encourage their natural predators.... the glorious Green Woodpeckers to your lawn.
Another "woodland" bird that, like the Green woodpecker, is increasingly moving into the urban environment is the Jay.  This garden in Surrey is surrounded by mature oak trees, so is perfect for Jays, which thrive here.  Apart from a reputation of taking young birds, Jays will eat a host of invertebrates, including so-called pests.

If there was ever a case for enjoying a mossy, weedy lawn, then the joy of having such (normally woodland) birds in your garden is a powerful reason, in my opinion.  And to add to it one should include the butterflies and other insects attracted by wild flowers in a lawn.

Since posting this blog entry my own garden has developed over the decades into a wonderfully diverse nature reserve.  Some of my observations are collated in an animated talk, released in 2018 at The evolution of a formal garden to a nature reserve  

Saturday 1 January 2011

Winter migrants

About a million Redwings migrate to the UK and Ireland in the winter.  This one was in a garden in Surrey on Christmas day 2010.
They enjoy Cotoneaster berries.  Click on any picture to enlarge it.
A similar number of Fieldfares come to the UK from Scandinavia.  This one above, was in the New Forest, Hampshire on 4 January 2010.
The Teal population approaches 200,000 in winter, seen above at Calshot Marshes in Hampshire on 5 January 2010. 
The peak winter visitors of Bar-tailed Godwits in the foreground above may reach 66,000 to 80,000 individuals.  This was in the Axe estuary in Devon on 3 November 2010 with the larger Curlew behind it.

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