Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Saturday and Sunday 2nd and 3rd December

Reed Bunting (c) Early Birder

It was a very grey, dull and damp weekend. The most irritating fine rain fell off and on, not heavy but enough to that mist optics, cameras and glasses. It was a quiet and unexciting weekend birdwise, we still lack the amount of open water out on the fields that will attract the normal spectacular numbers of wildfowl, Golden Plovers and Lapwings.
Soggy Kestrel (c) Bark

Coal Tit and Marsh Tit in carpark (c) Bark

It was a weekend to find interest in the everyday birds that we often overlook and take for granted. There is, for instance, a corner of the car park where a small amount of food is regularly scattered. It attracts not only Robins, Blue and Great Tits but also a couple of Marsh Tits and a Coal Tit. A patient wait can be rewarded by superb close views of these slightly more unusual tits.
Blue Tit (c) Bark
There is another rather more disturbing result of spending time carefully going through the small passerines at the feeders or beside the hide. You notice very quickly that there are a number of Chaffinches suffering from a disease that causes their feet to become deformed and grossly swollen. Some are so badly infected that they find it difficult to perch. I believe that the disease is called chaffinch viral papilloma. I read that it is not very contagious and is found in clusters. Advice from the RSPB suggests that these birds will not readily infect others and that in order to contract the disease a bird would need to have a nick or cut on its foot.
Infected Chaffinch (c) Bark
On a lighter note there is another Chaffinch that by the hide that attracted our attention. It is probably the same bird that was seen last year and was nicknamed the “Father Christmas” Chaffinch. It has a leuchistic patch below its bill and onto its breast that makes it look just a little bit as if it has a seasonal beard!
Father Christmas Chaffinch (c) Old Caley
The numbers of finches taking advantage of the seed feeding beside the Hide is going up steadily. These numbers can fluctuate however, and it is not difficult to work out why when one takes a stroll up the footpath towards Beckley. There are a significant number of game strips in the fields on both sides of the path. There are broad weedy strips on three sides of one field alone and also we also have our own strip sown for wild birds, on the southern edge of the Closes. It means that there is a choice of places to feed and to take refuge when one of the Sparrowhawks is about.

Linnet and Yellowhammer from the hide (c) Bark

It is interesting to see the variety of birds taking advantage of the free handout. Wood Pigeons and Pheasants are not much of a surprise but there are regular visits from Moorhens, Mallard, Great Spotted Woodpeckers and on Sunday a Green Woodpecker. Corvids, notably three or four Magpies, also take the food. Three Yellowhammers and a Brambling were there on Sunday amongst the Linnets and the Reed Buntings.
Green woodpecker (c) Bark
At the screen there was little new to report apart from the first drake Pochard that I have seen on the moor for a while. The Kingfisher made several passes but the water was very turbid and brown and we wondered if it could see its prey through the water. I understand that some of the water from the reedbeds will be allowed to flow out onto Greenaways and then Big Otmoor in order to wet them up a bit more and make them more attractive to wintering wildfowl. This will also help to improve the water quality and help to counter the negative effects of having a very large number of Starlings roosting in and consequently defecating into the reedbed every night.
Grumpy Cormorant at first screen (c) Bark

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