Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Acrobatic Woodpigeons and helicopter seeds

The Woodpigeon stately presence might suggest that they are cumbersome birds, but Woodpigeons feeding on trees show that they are surprisingly acrobatic. Compared to their relatives the Feral Pigeons, Woodpigeons have shorter legs and longer tails, which give them more manoeuvrability when moving on branches. Today I saw a group of ten or so feeding on a cotoneaster tree. One of them swallowed one berry rapidly after another while keeping its head low by the bunch of berries, reminiscent of how pigeons drink, keeping their bills under water and swallowing the water directly. 
 Further ahead, three or four were eating seeds in a Sycamore - the ones that fly like helicopters - and having finished off the ones easy to reach, they were balancing and stretching at the end of branches to get at the remaining ones. The individual on the top shot had spent some time trying to reach a bunch of seeds beneath it. It then flew to the branch underneath and stretched its neck in the hope of being able to get them from there.

Happy feet

A mild day, the ground waterlogged with the past rains, and the grass peppered of earthworm casts, Lumbricus terrestris. A pair of Herring Gulls hunt for worms on the wet soil, rapidly patting it with their feet. The rapid rhythmic pattering creates vibrations on the soil similar to rain, and the earthworms move to the surface. I took a poor quality video, although it shows the behaviour of one of them, looking very intently to the ground and pecking occasionally. During some seconds it uses only one of its legs while keeping balance with the other.

Coot portrait

This coot called my attention due to the large size of the frontal shield. She came quite close to the shore in a local park and I was able to take her portrait.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Winter Herring gull pair

The Herring Gull pair at The Rock faithfully return to the park for the winter, and watch developments from their vantage point. I assume it is always the same pair, they stay together and I've never seen more than two at once. Herring Gulls are monogamous, mate for life and live long lives, so the pair might have been visiting the park for years. They are relaxed around people, and, unlike their relatives at the coastal resorts, do not bother people for scraps. They just wait. They know people will bring food to them at the park, no need to beg, just wait patiently.
 Herring gulls are in their winter plumage now, their heads and necks streaked with grey feathers. By February, their head and feathers will be pure white and soon after they won't be as regular in the park, having moved to their summer grounds for breeding.

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Crows on ice

After days of heavy rains, it has been quite cold the last few days, and the large puddles everywhere have frozen over. A group of a dozen Carrion Crows had gathered this afternoon on the grass of my local park, probably before flying to their roost. This pair of Carrion Crows, undeterred by the cold, was actually foraging on an iced up puddle. One of the individuals even dared to walk on the ice, not bothered by slipping on it occasionally, an experience that is probably quite unusual, as they do not normally wade. This individual must have overcome a natural inhibition to walk on water. But not only that, both exploited this ability to look through the ice in search of food tidbits which normally would be out of reach, far from the puddle edge. The crows used their beak as a hammer to break through the ice and reach underneath, or to lift pieces of it. The less adventurous individual did this from the safety of the shore, but the other one walked about checking the whole surface of the puddle. Many ground-living invertebrates, such as earthworms, might have drown in the flooded ground after surfacing in search of air, and the ice itself provided the crow with a platform from which to obtain these otherwise unreachable resources.
 Another illustration of the wonderful opportunistic behaviour of crows.
 The following video has a short clip of the pair of Crows on ice. There is another one in my YouTube channel.