Sunday, 1 January 2017

New Year, 2017

A Happy New Year to you all!
The rain streams down and despite reasonably mild conditions thoughts of a morning walk are quickly abandoned. A party of Long-tailed Tits, Aegithalos caudatus, passes though, their contact calls of tsee, tsee, tsee piercing the gloom. They ignore the food we've put out, intent on investigating the hazel and passion flowers for tiny invertebrates. This species is not related to the 'true' tits such as the Blue Tit but belongs to the Aegathalidae whereas the Blue Tits, Great Tits and so on are members of the Paridae (known in North America as chickadees). We have a fairly large cat population in the neighbourhood and these may explain why our bird table receives only a modest number of visits, but the remaining passion fruits beside the garage wall have been hollowed out, presumably by birds although I have not witnessed their visits.
I do little 'birding 'nowadays but an enforced morning in allows my thoughts to dwell on these creatures. A blackbird perches stoically on a nearby fence, ruffling its feathers from time to time, creating a little shower of water droplets. Its bright orange bill shows it is a male and it is keeping an eye on a potential rival a few metres away. It can't be a quarrel over a female as a couple are nearby, watching for a potential spat, so I suspect it is more about territorial boundaries. Food isn't currently a problem (although a predicted harsh spell could change that) since, although the rowan berries have long gone, holly is available where trees have not been stripped for Christmas decorations.
In some places holly is still plentiful. Byfield, Northants.
2 January, 2017
And yellow-berried shrubs still bear fruit. This tendency for yellow- and white-berried fruits to be ignored (low down on the pecking order!) has often been commented on but birds will be glad of them later.
Yellow 'berries' on cotoneaster. Byfield, Northants. 2 January, 2017



Other than blackbirds we only receive visits from robins, dunnocks, wrens, chaffinches and house sparrows; even feral pigeons eschew our garden.Corvids pass over, quite high up, and they are probably crows, although around Daventry there is a healthy population of rooks. These are already gathering excitedly around old rookeries. I don't believe they are yet mating but with day length now increasing their gonads will respond. Rooks. Corvus frugilegus, are among the earliest birds to nest and a February start is not uncommon. To build a nest high in a tree prior to the development of foliage means that these structures are seriously exposed but the species is very successful so they must be getting something right. The older birds will refurbish old nests but if no such nest is available then a young pair will obviously have to start from scratch. I pass a few rookeries regularly and will be looking for birds carrying twigs.
Four members of the crow family are seen regularly around here: Carrion Crow, Rook, Jackdaw and Magpie. Ravens pass over with some regularity and the occasional Jay is to be heard screeching in the nearby Stefen Leys Pocket Park. That leaves only Choughs, a crow confined to cliffs in south-west Britain.
Mixed gatherings of gulls gather on nearby fields and I'll go through them over the next few days to look for any oddities.

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