Sunday, 4 January 2015

Long-tailed Tits and Bullfinches

Late last year and so far this year the Long-tailed Tits have been visiting the feeders outside the shop and in the Nature Area. We've certainly had some cold nights, but now temperatures are back up again it seems to around 10° during the day and above freezing at night. Still, the birds are feeding fairly frantically and compared to last winter's wet and warm weather, this feels positively chilly. The Long-tailed Tits are such fun to watch, always flitting about in their family groups, visiting tree to tree and feeder to feeder, never stopping for more than 10 minutes at a time. Alongside the Robin, they are probably one of the UK's favourite garden bird.


Another unusual visitor which we've been seeing more often is the Bullfinch. This previously declining species is easily identified by its plump body, short finch bill, white rump and whistling call. The belly of the male is a stand out orangy-red colour while the female (pictured below) is a dull beige, both have the same black head and wings. Whilst the Long-tailed Tits are visiting the feeders due to the lack of their natural food, the Bullfinches are finding plenty as many trees start coming in to bud. Their liking for fruit buds in particular is one of the reasons for their sharp decline (especially around the late 70s), as they have been persecuted over the years by fruit growers for the damage they do to crops. Other main causes are loss of habitat, hedgerows and woodland margins. Since 2000, however, their numbers have been steadily increasing, pushing their conservation status up from red to amber.
 

The Grey Wagtail is still visiting the barn roof regularly, a Chiffchaff was in the Nature Area just before the new year and a Little Egret has been spotted on a couple of occasions. Up to 6 Buzzards were up over the valley yesterday too. No sign of any Siskins yet, though I had a pair calling over home (Staplecross) recently and my first record of a Kingfisher on my local pond.

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