Nature Notes, January 2019
As mentioned last month, the flock of small finches which feed regularly in the front field near Wood Farm are Twite and the flock numbers 60+ at present. Viewed through my telescope I can see their neat rounded heads and small but stout pale bill and when perched they show their forked tail. The Twite is a bird of the hills, returning there to breed during the summer and autumn, often called the 'Mountain Linnet', but comes down to the coast in winter to find better feeding habitat. In the days gone by, before silage became popular and hay was the main fodder for cattle outside, flocks of Twite could be found around the hay racks eating the seeds.
In the first two weeks of December I have been watching Fieldfares, Redwings and Mistle Thrushes also feeding in the front field. These winter visitors are especially welcome as most years they do not come into our area until mid-March. The Redwings are very attractive to watch with their bold cream coloured eye stripe and pale moustache like streak on either edge of their checked patch and conspicuous reddish flanks. The Woodpigeon flock I also mentioned last month has now grown to 180+ and is present most days. We have not seen the Buzzard around recently until this week when a bird returned to hunt for earthworms, again in the front field. It uses the same technique as the bird we had last winter, perching on the cross bar of the telegraph pole and then gliding down to catch a prey item. It can also sit on the ground and watch for something to eat.
Read any natural history magazine and I can guarantee that at least one article will mention 'global warming.' This may be the reason we have seen two Queen Bumblebees feeding on the last flowers of our Buddleia bush in the third week of December. I would have expected Bumblebees to have hibernated by now and all the flowers on the bush to have died but I counted fourteen florets in bloom.
The number of Magpies in our area has increased steadily over recent years and has become a menace as they frighten the smaller birds away. Up to eight at one time on the lawn! Most of the time there will be two or three trying to find any spilt bird food and some birds have learnt how to hang on the peanut feeders. We also have a glass jar with a handle, which originally was bought with a suet bird pudding in, and now we use it to feed sunflower hearts in it. It hangs on a cord and twizzles when any bird touches it. The Nuthatch, Great Tit and Blue Tit have mastered the art of feeding from it but the Magpies are too big to be able to balance on the jar.
There have been several comments in the press about the lack of Robin Christmas cards in 2018. We must be lucky as we have had a number but better still we have two Robin around Wood Farm. One in the front garden and one in the back. The shortest day has been and gone so it will not be long before the Robins and other birds start courting and the cycle of life starts all over again.
May I wish you all a peaceful New Year.