Sunday, 26 January 2014

Redwing and berries

This lone Redwing feeding on cotoneaster berries in the park did not lose track of the sky above. When feeding alone, birds have to keep watch more often than when in flocks.

Friday, 24 January 2014

Dancing for worms

I had blogged before on this curious gull behaviour, although that occasion I didn't manage to see the effects of the gull 'dance'. This morning, on the university ground, a Herring gull did the worm dance energetically, and very effectively on the wet grass. I watched as it captured four or five good size worms more or less in the same spot in a few minutes. Breakfast sorted!

UPDATE 6/08/17. I just found this interesting article by Niko Tinbergen in which he discusses the behaviour in gulls and other birds. He calls it 'foot paddling' and the behaviorr includes paddling in shallow water:
Tinbergen, N. (1962). Foot-paddling in gulls. British Birds, 55(3), 117-120. Here.

Tiny legs

Not the best photo, but I like how it shows that Woodpigeons have really tiny legs, not really ideal for walking, but for keeping their balance when they feed in trees. In fact, when Woodpigeons are in a hurry on the ground, such as chasing a partner during courtship or approaching an opponent in a fight, they often hop a few times instead of running.

Sunday, 19 January 2014

New year song thrush

The Song Thrush has a skulking, unassuming nature, not as bold as the Blackbird or Mistle thrush, and much more cryptic than the first. During and after the summer moult it becomes almost invisible. But as the start of the year approaches males start to sing, and then they become bold and loud, choosing a prominent post, usually the topmost branches of a tree and delivering their clear, musical phrases, often including mimicry of other birds, and repeated a few times each in long sessions. I watched a male in the park yesterday for a while - I ended up getting neck ache!. The singing was punctuated with nervous glances up into the sky at the slightest disturbance, and I guess that singing makes males quite exposed and vulnerable to predation.
Can you spot the Song Thrush on the large Horse Chestnut?

Saturday, 18 January 2014

Canada goose portrait

I tend to ignore the Canada Geese in my outings to the park and I realised I didn't have any close-ups I was happy with so I got down to my knees this afternoon, at eye level by the pond, and had a session with this intrigued individual.

Thursday, 16 January 2014

Goldfinches feeding on ash keys

I had never seen any Ash seed predators, until today I spied a charm of Goldfinches atop a weeping ash tree in the park. The Goldfinches were sitting on bunches of keys chomping away at them. I was so surprised I checked sure they were eating the seeds and not the buds or just loitering on the tree. But, yes, they were manipulating the seeds with their bill (bottom photo). I could only find a photo of goldfinches feeding on ash keys (here). The coat of the ash seeds seems quite tough and leathery so that shows how versatile goldfinch bills are, not only extracting tiny seeds like teasel, birch or alder from their pods, but also dealing with these.

UPDATE 18/01/2014
I watched another flock in a different Ash tree today. I photographed an individual using its foot to hold the whole seed while it pecked it with its bill. Photos follow.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Keeping an eye on the crow

I was watching a crow feeding on the ground, picking morsels of food from a large chunk it was pinning to the ground with its foot when this Herring Gull flying over saw the scene, found it as interesting and quickly tipped its wing and landed low on a shed roof overlooking the crow. I had just the time to take this shot, as the gull decided maybe it wasn't worth trying to steal the crows food with me as witness, and took off.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Coo coo!

I have been wanting to get this shot for a while, and I managed it this afternoon. A singing Collared Dove, throat puffed out, with the low sun of the winter afternoon lighting it from underneath, doing its repeated, three-syllable coo from an aerial, their favourite singing perch.
 I photographed two cooing pigeons today, as the Stock Doves in my local park are also very vocal, although much more coy than the collared dove, I couldn't manage a nice shot, but like how the iridescent patch in the neck spreads out, making feather stripes which are not very visible on the resting bird.
The song of the Stock dove is also cooing, but lower, bisylabic and full of effort, and lacks the purring quality of the domestic pigeon. Given how shy and unobtrusive these doves are, learning to identify their call is the best way to spot them.
Here is a nice recording from Volker Arnold in Germany: