Friday, 21 November 2014

In the wrong flock

Although I wouldn't consider Pink-footed Goose (also known as Pinkfoot) to be an urban bird, it is a species that I regularly see. Skeins of this migratory geese, announced by a chorus of high pitched calls, regularly fly over the city in October and March, on their way to and from their breeding headquarters in Iceland and Greenland. Occasionally, however, a straggler will turns up with Greylags in local parks, allowing a closer look.
  On my way to work, walking through the park, a flock of Canada Geese and another of Greylag geese were about. While counting them I noticed a much smaller goose, a Pinkfoot, amongst the greylags. They have small bills, marked with pink, much darker head, contrasting with the slaty back. I think this individual was a young bird born this past summer, as you can see two types of feathers in its flanks and back, as the larger adult feathers, with a pale edge, have started to grow. The furrows that adorn the neck of adult geese are not yet sharply defined. The goose wasn't welcome and was often lunged at by the Greylags. Surprisingly, it was quite relaxed in the park, despite proximity to people, and it got very close to me as it followed the other geese across the lake and then to the grass to feed.
 I other occasions when had previously seen other Pinkfoot with greylags, it was also young birds. I wonder if leaving with your own species as the flock departs takes some learning. Geese need to reach a consensus before leaving as a flock, a decision that takes place by increasingly noisy vocalisations and movements of the birds of the flock when they are ready to leave. If a young bird misses the cues, it will fail to take off might miss the flock altogether, becoming stranded possibly with another geese species. Geese have long lives and move about, so most likely, while following the greylag flock in its travels, it will eventually meet a Pinkfoot flock and the young bird will be reunited with other members of its species.
A Greylag drives the pinkfoot away from its partner

Walking towards the grass. The difference in size between both species is evident here.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

Walton Street crows

We went to Walton Street market and car boot sale this morning and I couldn't help but notice the crowds of Carrion Crows. At least 50 individuals were about, on van and car roofs, atop flood lights,
 and walking amongst the huge puddles left by yesterday's rain.
Some patrolled just over the paths, elaborately flying slowly, sometimes almost hovering - in black-headed gull style - scouring the ground.
Soon it became apparent what they were after. No, they weren't hunting for antique bargains, but taking advantage from the fast food bonanza that inevitably follows human crowds.
Crow on roof van. 
A starling passed too close and made him jump
I missed the wing tip in the phot, but I like the shadow of the crow
I watched as one individual landed on the roof of a van, triumphantly holding half a hot dog sausage in its bill.
The remainder of the hot dog was being dealt with a few other crows: a dominant one pushed another aside...
...and quickly picked up the other half of the sausage in its bill, before flying away
while the other, less fortunate crows contented themselves with bread smeared on ketchup.
We associate scavenging behaviour with dirt, rotten food and germs, but I doubt the hot dog had been on the ground longer than the five-second rule allows, before it was cleared up, taken away by the crows.
But, occasionally, the bin man gets there first. Crows watched him picking a paper bag...
...but leaving some food behind, which was quickly dispatched
There were many gulls and starlings about, but I didn't see them take advantage of the market food. Crows appeared bolder, and cheekier than in other places, maybe they are all locals used to take advantage of the markets - and Hull Fair - and are used to people. This one spent some time checking itself out in the wing mirror of a car.
The it jumped to the roof and spent some time watching from this vantage point.It allowed me to approach close enough for a portrait (top shot)
 After filling their tummies, some crows took turns in the puddles for a bath.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Into the eye of the winter herring gull

 The resident pair of Herring gulls are back at the park. One of the individuals (above) has its full winter attire with a streaked grey head, which gives it a particularly stern look. The other one, which seems smaller (maybe the female?) still has a very white head. A young of the year is also about.

Spotting the Sparrowhawk

The pigeon flock in the park took off all of a sudden, like a loud clap. In the silence that followed, I looked up: The male Sparrowhawk flew into the tree tops, I managed to see where it landed, high up in a sycamore. The leaves made it tricky to have a clear view, but I managed a few shots. When I find a predator by interpreting the behaviour of their prey I get a satisfying 'Dr. Dolittle moment'. The rattling call of the crow that gives this blog its name, or the alarm call of the blue tit have pointed me to many a Sparrowhawk. The Feral Pigeons are probably safer in flight than sitting on the cafe roof when a Sparrowhawk is out hunting, so they take off as soon as they see the raptor in flight.