Blackbird singing out the day from a lofty perch …
This evening I heard a bang whilst watching some tv. It sounded like a bird had hit the patio window, and when I went to investigate I found this little fella lying sprawled on the decking. I feared the worst, but it had its head held up and looked dazed. I kept my distance for I didn’t want to frighten it to death, which can happen with wild birds. But as I stood and watched his little head slowly slumped to the wooden deck, and I thought he had gone.
However his tail was still twitching and I thought he may have passed out. I couldn’t leave him out there for fear of cats getting hold of him, so I gathered him up in my hands where it lifted its head up. I placed him in a cardboard box and took him into the house to let him recover a while. When I went to check on him not too long after he suddenly flew out the box to my delight! It flew a short distance in my living room, now all I had to do was catch it and set it on its merry way.
Eventually I caught it and took it outside, and it flew away at speed, apparently unharmed.
Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis), July 2018, rear garden, Staffordshire, England. © Pete Hillman.
Afloat in the water heading with purpose to the bank …
Single file in a line they go …
Finding lush green to feed upon.
Click once to expand view, click again to get that little bit closer
Canada Goose Branta canadensis adults and goslings, May 2018, the pond, Stourport-on-Severn, Worcestershire, England. © Pete Hillman
Click once to expand view, click again to get that little bit closer
I always hear these birds on my walks through the local fields or the woods, but rarely see them. On the two occasions I have seen them they have flapped out of nowhere before my eyes and have scared me half to death! Plodding through a very wet meadow chasing Cinnabar moths (a future blog), this one came screeching and flapping out of tall grass right before my eyes. He only flew a short distance before landing and vanishing. How an earth a bright red-faced bird of this size can vanish in a sea of green is beyond me. But then he bobbed his distinctive head up and I managed to get one decent shot before it took off again. Despite my best efforts and very soggy trousers I could not find him again.
June 2018, local field, Staffordshire, England. © Pete Hillman. Sigma 18-300mm lens.
I had been watching this Song Thrush Turdus philomelos making its way along the bank of the river hunting and looking for worms and grubs for a while until it flew up into a tree with its beak quite full of dinner.
May 2018, banks of the River Severn, Stourport-on-Severn, Worcestershire, England. © Pete Hillman Sigma 18-300mm.
Out on an early morning walk through the woods this morning I made a beautiful encounter with this little Robin which was on the path before me. He flew up into a tree nearby and allowed me to take a few shots with my Sigma 105mm macro lens before flying off.
May 2018, local wood, Staffordshire, England. © Pete Hillman
My neighbour has a large cherry tree and one or two Starlings have been perched in it of late in the high branches. They make the most varied and curious bird song I have ever heard, which is quite fascinating.
Starling Sturnus vulgaris, April 2018, rear garden, Staffordshire, England. © Pete Hillman
Looking out the back window the other day I spied this beautiful Grey Wagtail Motacilla cinerea, which is the first time I have seen visit the garden in all the 25 years I have lived here, and was quite a lovely surprise. I have only ever seen it down by the local river, and here in the garden I normally see the Pied Wagtail, so yes, I was very pleased to see this one, even from afar.
December 2017, rear garden, Staffordshire, England.
Thanks to this little Robin who suddenly appeared and flew across my path to land in a tree nearby. I had gone for a walk in search of toadstools, but the ground is bone dry, almost like in the middle of summer, and although not completely fruitless, there were not many of them about. But on the last return leg of my walk this little darling bird appeared, and surely made my day 🙂
Shot with my macro lens, that is how close he or she was.
October 2017, local wood, Staffordshire, England.
I was across the other side of a field when I watched this large winged bird of prey set down atop a tall tree in a hedgerow separating another field. It was a Buzzard (Buteo buteo), and I have spied many of them round and about over the years, but they are usually soaring through the skies, aloft and flashing their large pale marked underwings. I had my macro lens on, so I did a quick change to my zoom, and with lens cap off, I snapped a few shots from a distance. It is at times like this you really understand how a good zoom lens upgrade could benefit you. I approached, and kept snapping, for I knew it would spy my advance from its lofty perch as I neared. And it did, and took to the skies before I could get too close.
October 2017, local field, Staffordshire, England.
This little young Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris) was discovered pm my decking. It appeared to have got itself in a bit of a bother, and may have either been attacked by a cat or hit my patio window. But when I ventured to see how it was it took wing and flew into the treetops, so all seemed well with it.
Rear garden, Staffordshire, England. July 2017.
I came home from work one afternoon and found this on my driveway. Now, I don’t really know my eggs, except for small, medium and large, so I didn’t know what came out of this one. A quick look online I found a great blog going by the delightful name of the ‘Squirrelbasket’ which gave me the answer. It is a Woodpigeons (Columba palumbus), egg, and previous to this I noticed a pair of Woodpigeons building a nest in a crabapple tree on my front verge. I am a bit worried though, for was it on my driveway because the adult Woodpigeons cleared it out of the nest, or because a crow had got to it? I guess I may never know.
This little Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba), is very difficult to see on a stoney beach and could be another pebble until it moves. I followed this one as it ran along the shoreline. It hopped on the odd, larger stone as if to get a better vantage point or just to rest.
Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba), West Shore Beach, Llandudno, Wales. April 2017.
This Jackdaw (Corvus monedula) wasn’t shy at all when it came and landed on a seawall above the cliffs close by. It was so close you could almost reach out and touch it. It came even closer, and I thought perhaps it was expecting a food handout, but it had already got its beady eye on a crisp some passerby had dropped on the ground. As nimbly as can be it jumped off the wall, picked up the crisp in its beak and swooped off over the cliffs with it.
I cease to be amazed how adaptable these crows have become by the sea. I have even seen them follow the seagulls out at low tide to go and search for crabs and other invertebrates between the exposed rocks and the seaweed.
These intelligent birds are the smallest member of the crow family, and they are so devoted that they will form strong bonds with their mates and will pair up for life.
Jackdaw (Corvus monedula), Great Orme, Llandudno, Wales. April 2017.
These are the blighters that will swoop down and steal your ice cream or fish and chips whilst on the beach or the seafront. A few years ago I was sitting on a pebble beach and was about to tuck into a nice custard tart when one dive bombed me from behind and snatched the lot from my grasp in its beak.
This one landed on the roof just outside my hotel window. When I was a young lad I only used to see these beside the seaside, but now they fly overhead and have even landed on my garage roof here in the West Midlands where I am completely landlocked. Many have adapted well to a life inland, living off the rubbish we leave in our wake.
Yes despite their adaptability they are on the RSPB Red Status list here due to a moderate decline in numbers over the last 25 years. I have to say I do have a soft spot for them, despite the reputation they get sometimes. Yes they are scavengers and will virtually eat anything, and will attack small birds and other animals, yet their piercing cries and their streamlined forms as they soar aloft in the high blue yonder is alway quite something to experience.
Herring Gull (Larus argentatus), West Shore, Llandudno, Wales.
I have admire this little bird for its resilience as it survives the wilds of this prominent headland’s rugged terrain. I think these are all males with their Zorro masks on and their orange buff breasts. It winters in central Africa, and then migrates here for the summer where they breed, mainly in the north and west of Britain.
Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe), Great Orme, Llandudno, Wales. April 2017.
Walking along the beach front one morning I came across quite a few of these small finches, and they always appeared to travel as a pair. The female, as seen in the top two images, although beautiful does not stand out as much as the male with his rosy-pink flushed breast. See below.
It can be seen all year round, and is common and widespread throughout Britain except for the far north. It often feeds in groups, which I observed for myself that morning, on seeds on the ground. Can also been seen on heaths, rough grassland and farmland.
Linnet (Carduelis cannabina) male and female, West Shore Beach, Llandudno, Wales. April 2017.
This is quite a familiar black and white little bird that keeps bobbing its long tail. Found in various habitats, it appears to get quite used to people, especially in urban environments like towns and cities. I followed this lively one along a pebbly beach before it found this rock to sit on for a better view. Common and widespread throughout Britain, it mainly feeds on insects.
Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba), West Shore Beach, Llandudno, Wales. April 2017.
This little songbird was a delight to see as it suddenly appeared on this coastal stonewall before me. Present all year round, common and widespread, it is found in various grassy habitats, but favours rough grassland, heathland and moorland. It feeds on invertebrates on the ground. Unfortunately, like many of our birds, they have seen a decline over the years and are of an Amber status.
Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis), Great Orme, Llandudno, Wales. April 2017.
I filmed this delightful Blackbird feeding on berries in my front garden through my study window a few years back now. He was so engrossed in his feeding that he paid no attention to the folk passing nearby on the pavement.
For more information on this wonderful bird please click on the image below:
The male of the species has a brownish-red head, light grey back plumage, a deep black breast and dark tail. It also has a red eye and a pale patch on the dark bill. The female has a brown head and breast, flecked brown back plumage, and a brownish eye with a white ring. Similar to the Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula) and the Scaup.
They dive beneath the water for seeds, shoots and roots, snails, insects, and small fish, often feeding at night. The nest is a large pad of leaves and down in reeds near the water. The female lays 8 to 10 eggs in 1 brood, from April-July. They can live for up to 10 years.
Seen all year round, and found at large lakes and estuaries. The Pochard can accumulate in quite large flocks, and in the late autumn hundred may come together on a lake. They are quite rare breeding birds in the UK. This is one of the commonest inland diving birds, along with the Tufted Duck which often accompanies it. Widespread.
Photograph taken October 2011, nature reserve, Staffordshire. Camera Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38. © Pete Hillman 2011.
The male Wigeon is quite a colourful duck with a chestnut head and neck, a yellow forehead, a pink flushed breast and white under belly, which is quite distinctive in flight along with bold white wing patches. The body is round and grey, with a black and white stern. It has a dark green speculum. The beak is short, black-tipped and greyish. The female is less colourful with mottled greyish to rusty-brown plumage, and maybe confused with a female Mallard.
They feed on short grass, and also on aquatic plants, shoots, roots and seeds. The nest is made in long vegetation on the ground and near water. The female lays 8 to 9 eggs in 1 brood from April to July. They can live for up to 15 years.
The Wigeon form fairly close flocks on water or on the side of banks, and can be quite a colourful sight. They are quite a shy bird and will fly off when approached. It can be seen on estuaries, reservoirs and freshwater marshes when more widespread in winter. Large flocks also winter on the coast. Seen all year round, and fairly widespread, and especially abundant in winter.
Photographs taken February 2013, nature reserve, Staffordshire. Camera Nikon Coolpix P500. © Pete Hillman 2013.
This is the slimmest of the wagtails, and also has the longest tail which aids its maneuverability in flight. It has slate-grey upper parts and a long white-edged tail, whilst underneath it pale yellow, varying depending on the time of year, from being less yellow in the winter. It has a conspicuous white stripe over the eye. It can have a lot of yellow in its plumage and can be mistaken with the Yellow Wagtail.
It catches flies and other small invertebrates on the ground or in the air. It forms its nest in a grassy cup in a hole in the bank, wall, tree roots, or under bridges. The female lays 4 to 6 eggs in 2 broods, April to August. It can live for up to 5 years.
Seen all year round, and inhabits tree-lined rivers, or more open streams. It will come readily to a puddle to feed in winter, even garden ponds or city flat rooftops. Widespread over most of the UK with the exception of the northern and western isles of Scotland, but because of declines in the 1970s and 1980s it has an Amber List status. However, the population is gradually increasing.
Photographs taken October 2011, nature reserve, Staffordshire. Camera Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ38. © Pete Hillman 2011.
Also called the ‘Hedge Sparrow’ or ‘Hedge Accentor’, the Dunnock is an unobtrusive, plain bird with black and brown streaky back plumage, greyish underside, a streaked brown cap, a grey throat and face, a distinct brown eye, and a dark fine bill. Its legs are orange-brown. The adults are similar, although the female is a little duller. Similar to the House Sparrow (Passer domesticus), but the Dunnock has a much finer beak for eating insects and seeds.
It forages for food on the ground, eating small insects, worms and seeds, and will visit garden feeding stations. The females often court up to two males which ensures plentiful supplies of food for the chicks. The nest is a small grassy cup lined with hair and moss, built in a bush or hedge. It lays 4 or 5 eggs in 3 broods between the months of April and July. Dunnocks have quite complex social and sexual systems, where the male often mates with two or more females, and the female with more than one male. They can live for up to 5 years.
They are seen all year round, and are found on heaths and moors with low dense scrub, woodland edges, hedgerows, parks and bushy gardens. Dunnocks have endured serious decline during the 1970s and 1980s, most likely due to changes in their habitat and food availability, and have been struggling to pick up their numbers since. However, they are still fairly common and widespread throughout the British Isles, and the amber conservation status makes us keep a watchful eye on them.
The Common Cuckoo targets the Dunnock, amongst other birds, and lays its eggs in its nest. When the Cuckoo chick hatches it will push the Dunnock eggs out of the nest, giving itself preference for feeding via the Dunnock parent, which does not seem to realise anything is wrong, even from the outset as the Cuckoo eggs don’t even look the same as that of the Dunnock.