Welcome to the February edition of Birdwords Update. This is a quickie, with an ID feature and a few other snippets of this and that.
Listen to the media, or chance upon a conversation with a neighbour, and you might be fooled into thinking that February is a depressing month and it’s not worth getting out of bed. Well, if you love your birds, you know it’s the opposite. Birds are everywhere, including some of the beauties illustrated at the top, and it’s hard not to be reminded that spring is around the corner. Take Rooks, for instance.
Already they are attending their colonies and refurbishing nests, and they will have eggs within a few weeks. Even if not strictly breeding, many of our birds are looking stunning, like this Starling that I photographed recently. Notice that it is a male, already with a blue base
to its bill (females have pink). One nearby was singing with typical zest today, as were plenty of other species: Great Tits, Coal Tits, Nuthatch, Dunnock and Robin – they were all at it. And it’s only going to get better. That ultimate spring beauty, the Blackbird, has just started singing – I have one performing outside my office window. This is also the best time of the year to listen to Song Thrushes.
Now that it’s late winter, birds like Siskins and Bramblings often pay their only visits to gardens during the winter, as food begins to run out. Away from the garden, February is a great month for ducks: on reservoirs and estuaries, numbers will be high, and many species will be displaying – look for Goldeneyes, for example, with their odd head-tossing. The head always looks too bird for a Goldeneye’s body, as it is.
While spring is around the corner, there are still plenty of winter birds remaining on the
coast and elsewhere. Last week at Titchfield Haven there was a feast of waders, including some showy godwits that did something unusual: the two species made a flock together (see above). Normally they keep separate, but in this case we had the perfect opportunity to appreciate their very different flight patterns: plain wings in Bar-tailed Godwit (e.g. 4 top right), and bold white wing-bar in Black-tailed. Also you can see that the Bar-tailed Godwit’s bill is just a little more upturned.
My spring programme is well underway, and apart from the Titchfield trip there have been some notable sightings, not least on Wednesday mornings, with Great Northern Diver, Black-necked Grebe, Shag and Sanderling, among others, at Sandbanks, Poole (30th January), plus Golden Plover, Corn Bunting, chasing Hares and mating Red Foxes (too busy to attack us) at Maiden Castle, Dorchester (6th February), and Hawfinch near Ashley Walk in the New Forest (13th February). The trip to Thorney Island (22nd January) was memorable for all kinds of reasons, including a blizzard, but was great for Marsh Harrier, Peregrine and another superb range of waders.
Just a quick mention that my trip to BELARUS with Ecotours Wildlife Holidays is viable and runs from 26th April-6th May 2013. Cost is £1415 per person, plus £130 for a single room and £250 for the air fare. There are still places available if you wish to come; please contact me as soon as possible.
Here’s a bit of the itinerary to tempt you: “Days 1-3: After landing at the Airport we drive to the famous World Heritage Site, the Belowezhskaya Pusha ancient forest. We will walk amidst ancient trees and focus on woodland species. The fairy tale woods hold Hazel Grouse, Great Grey and Pygmy Owls, plus all European woodpeckers, although we would need a lot of luck to see them all. Crested Tit, Common Crossbill, Collared Flycatcher are all breeding here. Raptors include White-tailed, Short-toed, Lesser and Greater Spotted Eagle, Honey Buzzard, Goshawk, Hen and Montagu’s Harrier. We always stay alert for the presence of mammals in these woodlands where Elk and Wild Boar are numerous and European Bisons still dwell amidst the trees.
Please would you think about following me on TWITTER? For updates, pithy comments, wildlife chat and so on – surely you cannot resist it…? Well OK you can – but go on, it won’t hurt.
My tag is @DominicCouzens
A BLOG FROM THE FALKLAND ISLANDS
If you regularly visit my website you might have caught up with a blog about a trip I undertook last October to South Australia and Tasmania. Well, in a week or two I will be off to the Falkland Islands, to look for birds and mammals. So please watch the website space for traveller’s tales, hopefully of some interest and/or amusement.
And you can follow the trip on TWITTER! See above.
Good birding all,