Monday, 21 December 2015

Goldfinch Chorus

This morning, while I walked around the park I heard a distant loud cheerful chatter. As I approached I realised there was a flock of Goldfinches up a large horse chestnut and many of them were singing. It is the second time this week that I witness this behaviour, the first time it also happened in the morning, the flock of Goldfinches singing together from a bare sycamore. Some seemed to amuse themselves pecking the branches, but in general they were just calling and singing. Goldfinches are very social birds, they often nest in loose colonies, and, although individuals might squabble for a particular food source, they often feed together in flocks. Whereas in the summer they like the seeds of teasels, thistles and other herbaceous plants (even lavender seeds!), in the winter, they can often be seen feeding on trees, like Alder, Plane, Ash and Birch. I haven't managed to find much information about chorus singing in Goldfinches, but the behaviour has been described in the closely related American Goldfinch and Siskin, where the males in the flock joining in chorus song in winter and spring.
Goldfinch flock singing (two bulkier Greenfinches are amongst them)

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Pair of Moorhens

There are now two Moorhen pairs in the park. They own each one end of the pond, a pair owns the island and the other the 'rock' with a couple of clumps of marginal plants. Today the island pair was very cosy, both individuals together, the one on the left preening around the neck of its partner. Moorhen males are slightly larger and heavier than females, so the larger individual on the left is likely to be the male. The Coot pair abandoned the park after their two failed breeding attempts on the stolen Moorhen nest.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

December songsters

It is not unusual to hear bird song in December. Robins and Goldfinches sing year round, Wrens will burst into song at any time. Do Starlings ever stop singing? I don't think they do.  Collared Doves and Stock Doves, after a short rest at the end of their breeding season, can now be heard calling again.
 In sunny winter days, Song Thrushes will start singing, maybe more towards January.
Wren in full song in October
Collared dove singing a couple of days ago.
Starling singing yesterday
 Today I heard two bird species singing, however, which I've never heard singing at this time of year. This morning I heard distant fluting phrases that sounded like a Mistle Thrush. I went to investigate and there it was, a Mistle Thrust atop a tree, singing contentedly.

 Blackbirds, normally will sub-sing in the winter. This is an eery, very quiet song, that usually subadult individuals carry out, as if 'practising' singing, well hidden in bushes. But as I was leaving work today, as it happened last week, I heard the surreal full song of a blackbird, its beautiful notes raising over the cacophony of the Carrion Crow roost at campus, and transporting me into spring. I had to check this out. There it was a full adult male Blackbird was singing from a wall. Given that it was quite dark at 16:15, the photo on top was the best I could manage without using the flash, but I recorded a short video of it. A very very unusual thing to happen in early December. I wonder if the unseasonally mild weather we are having is confusing this normally spring songster.