Saturday, 31 January 2015

Day 91 - More Patterns in Nature

Hey everyone,

It's Day 91 and I want to go back to a theme that was quite popular last time I did it, patterns in nature. As I've been on my nature hunts I've found a few things that I've managed to photograph that really show some lovely natural patterns.

 I've really been enjoying the frosty mornings. I love the way the frost brings out the patterns in simple things like leaves as you can see here. The crystals are also really pretty and make lovely patterns themselves.

 I often go fossil hunting on the coast and I was fascinated with the patterns of ammonites, the spirals are fantastic Fibonacci sequences. This new fern frond unravelling reminded me of them too (right).

When I looked back at this photo of a pheasant I thought the patterns of its feathers was very striking. The feathers on peacocks are great too and the patterns of how they lay together are just as nice as the fancy tail feathers.

I saw this fossil in the Natural History Museum and it shows that natural patterns have fascinated people for centuries. This pattern was copied and used on pillars in the museum. There are a lot of other natural patterns used in the decoration of the museum. The bark on this Corsican pine to the right is also really nice.
Patterns can be very simple. The straight lines of the leaves of this palm on the right are simple but really lovely, and I really liked the patterns on this plant (Brownea grandiceps) on the left.

Patterns can get really detailed too like on this orchid. The shape of the centre of the flower is quite interesting too, it looks like a tiny pixie, hands on its hips and wearing a pair of boots!

Well, that's it for today, I hope you liked these patterns as much as I do,


Friday, 30 January 2015

Day 90 - Cracking Cormorants

Hey everyone,

A gulp of Cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo)
Day 90 and an interesting bird today. I've seen these birds mostly on islands on Lake Windermere, at Whitby sometimes and at Fairburn Ings but the photo here is from Bolton Lake. They were on the far side of the Lake from the hide so it was quite a job to get a picture!

I'm talking today about Cormorants. Here's a few things I found out:

  • The UK is home to a population of around 9,000 breeding pairs. They have a Green status.
  • This number increases in the winter to around 41,000 birds. an internationally important number of these birds.
  • In the UK they mainly breed at coastal locations but some inland breeding locations where they nest in trees have been found.
  • Their diet is mainly fish and they are very good at swimming and catching them. So good that they have been seen as a threat to anglers and have sometimes been controlled because of this.
  • Cormorants are often seen drying their feathers after swimming for food. It's a myth that their feathers aren't waterproof but they are less water resistant than a lot of birds to help them forage underwater. They do though need a lot of time out of the water to dry off.
  • Cormorants are sometimes described as a prehistoric looking bird and that's because they are part of one of the oldest family of birds that had similar ancestors in the time of the dinosaurs.
  • Out of the water they have awkward proportions and aren't very agile but they are strong flyers when they get going
  • They are 90cm long with a wingspan of 145cm. They weigh between 2-2.5kg
  • There is a lot of folklore linked to cormorants. In Norway three seen flying together are thought to be carrying a message from the dead. Norwegian folklore also says that people who die at sea can come back to visit their families in the form of a Cormorant. In Ireland and some other parts of the UK seeing a Cormorant on a Church steeple is a sign of bad luck to come. Oddly they are also seen as a sign of a good catch by fishermen.
  • Cormorants are quite shy of humans but can be domesticated. In China and Japan Cormorants are used by fishermen. They put a string around their necks to stop them swallowing the fish so they are sent off to hunt and they bring the fish back to the fishermen.
  • A group of Cormorants can be called a flight, a paddling, a rookery or a swim, but my favourite is a gulp of Cormorants :-)
Well I found out quite a lot, they are very interesting birds. If you want to find out more try these links:

Hope you enjoyed,


Day 89 - Bird Club Update

Hi everyone, this is my Day 89 post which I did and then didn't publish in my rush to get out to another performance, apologies for that and it's not much of a post - I'll make up for it other days I promise!

I'm trying really hard to get a post up every day because I really don`t want to miss any days but it`s not always very easy! So what I'm going to do is a bit of an update on Bird Club that we had today at School.

We saw:

  • 2 collared doves
  • 2 wood pigeons
  • 2 coal tits
  • 2 great tits
  • 2 blue tits
  • 1 robin
Not the most we've even seen but it was nice to see all our regulars!  Just in case you`re wondering how it actually works at bird club we basically take our packed lunches with us and stand at the windows in our ICT suite because it looks out on to a little garden where the bird feeders are.  We have our binoculars and bird book and take it in turns to use them.  We also take it in turns to fill up the feeders each week.  It`s been snowing here today so the birds were glad of a bit extra food today!

I was really happy to find out today too that there is now a waiting list for the bird club!  I had been really worried that no-one at all would turn up at the first week but it looks like I'm not the only birder at my school and people say it`s really nice and chilled and great to learn to recognise all the birds! That`s great because this is my last year at primary so it`s nice to think that other years will keep it going!  Not sure whether there`s anything similar at secondary school but they have lots of clubs including sciencey clubs so they might be open to trying it if there isn't one already!

I was also very interested to find out that Matt Doogue's daughter has joined an ECO club at her school, I was wondering if this might be something that we could look to start at our school too! (Will be asking Matt about that!).  We could tie that in with things like our beach clean / countryside clean, reduce, reuse, recycle etc.  :-)

Anyway sorry again that`s it's not the most exciting post ever, but got some good ones still to come up my sleeve... :-)

Hope you enjoyed


Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Day 88 - Marvellous Moorhens

Hey everyone,

Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)
Well it's Day 88 of my blog and so far I've managed to get a post out before my performances, tonight is a night off as there`s no show, so I've a bit more time. As I did Coots yesterday and I found out that they are quite closely related to today's subject I thought I might as well cover them too. If you read the Coots blog you'll know I'm talking about Moorhens!

They are another bird I see a lot and a couple have started to live in a field behind my house and are sometimes on a stable roof that I see from our window. I haven't yet managed to get a picture of them there though.

Well today in my research I found out the following facts:

  • They are a fairly common bird found across much of the UK. 
  • They are Green status and there are about 270,000 breeding pairs in the UK. 
  • They are a wetland bird found near lakes, ponds and rivers but they do spend more time out of the water than Coots do. As I said above I have seen them on the roof of a stable but also I've seen one up a neighbours tree!
Moorhen at Fariburn Ings
  • They are around 34cm long, have a wingspan of 52cm and weigh around 320g.
  • They typically live for around 3 years but the oldest moorhen was recorded as being 11 years and 3 months.
  • As you might just be able to see from my photos they have a dark brown back and wings, a more black belly with white stripes to their sides.
  • As Moorhens and Coots look quite similar, I have found that the best way to tell them apart is that CooTs have a whiTe face, and MooRhens have a Red face! (ie two T`s, and two R`s!).  Well it works for me and my mum anyway!
  • Moorhens have some unusual behaviours. It is the females that fight for the rights to mate with males! 
  • Also they breed co-operatively, some of the older young birds often help parents to raise new offspring. Apparently they are only one of two British birds that do this.
  • When pairing up, males swim towards females with their beaks in the water, the two birds then nibble each others feathers and pair up to build nests. They defend them quite fiercely.
  • They have a defensive technique of pulling themselves under water leaving only their bills above water (thanks @birdbrainuk)
  • They are omnivores, they will eat snails, insects, berries, small fish etc.
  • This is one of my favourite collective nouns, a group of moorhens is called a plump! :o)
I enjoyed finding out more about these birds and if you want to know more try these links:

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Day 87 - Cool Coots

Hey everyone,

Coot (Fulica atra)
It's Day 87 and I thought I'd cover another bird that I see pretty much everywhere I go. They're great to watch as they pick through the plants or dive in the lakes. They're not as colourful as some birds but really full of character, I'm talking of course about Coots.

So I did my research and here's some of what I found out:

  • They are widespread across the UK on freshwater lakes, gravel pits etc. but are sometimes seen offshore if the lakes are frozen.
    Coot creating barely any ripples
  • They are a Green status bird, their numbers are on the increase. There are about 30,000 breeding pairs that are joined by others from places like Scandinavia in the winter and the numbers can be as many as 190,000.
  • They are omnivores, they eat mainly plants they will also eat snails and insect larvae.
  • They can dive up to 2 metres looking for food.
  • Their mood can be quite changeable. Sometimes they are very social and will feed together in groups. At other times like in the breeding season they can be quite aggressive to other birds and other coots. They might even kill some of their own young if there are too many to feed successfully.
  • They are closely related to Moorhens and they can live alongside them happily as they don't compete for food.
  • They are around 37cm long with a wingspan of 75cm and weigh 800g.
    Coot feet
  • Typically they live for 5 years but the oldest one is recorded as being 15 years 3 months!
  • There are lots of names for a group of coots it seems, including a cover, raft or covert but my favourite is a codgery of coots.
  • When they want to fly they run along the water until they take off, I wonder if their funny feet help them with this?

Well I hope that was all interesting but if you want to find out more try these sites:

Hope you enjoyed.


Monday, 26 January 2015

Day 86 - Stunning Shelducks

Hi everyone,

Shelducks (Tadorna tadorna)
Day 86 today and a quick post today on a lovely colourful bird I see in lots of places I go, from Norfolk, to Yorkshire and the Lakes. They are easily recognisable and very colourful, they are of course Shelducks.

So what did I find out about these lovely water birds?

  • The mainly live on the coast but can be seen inland around reservoirs and gravel pits.
  • I was surprised to find there are only around 15,000 breeding pairs in the UK, but they are joined by others that overwinter here and there can be around 61,000 in the winter in the UK. They are an Amber status bird.
  • They like to breed in tree hollows or burrows, such as rabbit burrows. In some places they were killed because they were competing with rabbits for burrows!
  • Shelducks moult their wing and tail feathers at the same time and they aren't able to fly when they do this, sometimes for as much as four weeks!
  • A group of Shelducks is called a dopping or doading.
    And a few more...
  • They gather together at favourite sites for moulting and UK moulting sites can have around 4,000 Shelducks but more amazing is a German site where they have had around 100,000. That's quite a dopping!
  • Shelduck babies, shelducklings, are taken by their parents soon after they are hatched to nurseries, lots of shelducklings are gathered together and looked after by a few adults. Up to 200 Shelducklings  have been recorded in one nursery!
  • When any danger is spotted adults fly away and all the Shelducklings dive out of danger.
  • They eat invertebrates, molluscs and crustaceans.
  • Typically they live for around 10 years but the oldest one was recorded as 24 years and 8 months.

Well, I found out lots I didn't know about these birds! If you want to find out more try these sites:

Hope you enjoyed,


Sunday, 25 January 2015

Day 85 - Sutton Bank & More Big Garden Birdwatch

Hi everyone,

A charm of chaffinches.
Well I managed to get up to Sutton Bank this morning, a great place that I've posted on before about my walks here, as I knew they had some activities going on around the Big Garden Birdwatch. I got up there early, before they were doing their actual count, so I was just watching rather than counting but it was still great. I started out in the cafe and had a fantastic hot chocolate and flapjack whilst I watched the first set of feeders. (happy days!)

Well there was lots of activity! There were more chaffinches there than I could count, good luck to everyone doing the count! The blue tits were happily flitting in and out as well as the odd great tit, and coal tit. A little highlight though was the guy in the video I took. It was on the first set of feeders but the video was on the second set of feeders (sorry it's a bit shaky and it was through glass). I was having a good chat to the staff at the visitor centre (Hi Chris :-) as we were wondering if it's a Willow or Marsh tit. In the end I decided it was a Willow Tit but it's hard to tell and I might have that wrong, please let me know if you can tell from the video.

There were also Dunnocks and a few Siskins. We didn't see one but must go back for a good walk and hunt for them but I found out today that they also have Crossbills around this area as there's a lot of coniferous woodland around.

I also had a report back from my grandparents big garden birdwatch. They only live just up the road but they get a few different species. Along with the Collared Doves, Wood Pigeons, House Sparrows, Starlings, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Coal Tits, Dunnocks, Robin, Blackbirds etc. they get far more Chaffinches than we do, a greenfinch, a regular Squirrel and a regular pair of Goldcrests that visit! There's a photo here of one from their garden.

Short and sweet today as it was my first performance this afternoon, more on this soon as I'm going to use it for a theme I've been planning for a while :-)

Hope you enjoyed,


Saturday, 24 January 2015

Day 84 - Big Garden Birdwatch & BBC Wildlife Blogger of the week

Hi Everyone,

Just a little post today as it's quite a busy weekend with rehearsals for a show I'm in next week. There may not be daily posts next week as I'm not sure if I'll get time to fit them in but I will try!

Today's smallest visitor...
So, the Big Garden Birdwatch is here! I sat down this morning after the feeders and bird table had been stocked up. It's usually a busy time and I wasn't disappointed. So, what did I see:

- 9 Starlings
- 7 Blackbirds
- 2 Robins
- 2 Collard Doves
- 1 Carrion Crow
- 7 House Sparrows
- 2 Blue Tits
- 1 Jackdaw
- 2 Dunnocks
- 3 Wood Pigeons

...and one of the larger visitors
That's not all we usually see, it was a surprise that the Wren and Great Tits didn't show up and our occasional pheasants, goldfinches and longtailed tits decided not to come along either. Still, as my garden is quiet small, I was quite happy with the amount of visitors we had. Lately a Moorhen has been in the field and on top of the stable behind our garden and I've been hoping it would have a look on the bird table - but not so far :(.

Tomorrow I'll be going to do it all again at my Grandparents house and hopefully taking a trip to Sutton Bank to see what the North York Moors National Park are doing.

I hope all your big garden birdwatches are going well too.

One last thing, I was very proud to spot this on twitter yesterday....
Thanks BBC Wildlife Magazine :)


Friday, 23 January 2015

Day 83 - Ornamental Oystercatchers

Oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus)
Hi everyone, it's Day 83 and I've got a lovely bird today that I saw feeding on the cliff tops when I did my beach clean.

It's a lovely bird, its black and white plumage really make its orange eyes, beak and legs stand out. I am of course talking about Oystercatchers. It was on the way back home when we spotted these on a big patch of grass having a good hunt around for food. They were very busy as you can see from the little video which is a bit shaky as it was done on an iphone and it was quite windy.

So I did my research and I found the following facts:

  • They are quite a big bird being about 43cm long with a wingspan of 83cm and weigh just over half a kilogram.
  • Their name is curious as it seems they haven't been seen eating oysters and their beaks may not be strong enough to get through oyster shells.
  • They do eat cockles and mussels (alive a-live oh) and they learn how to open shells from their parents. Some bash through the shells and others prise the shells apart. They also eat worms.
  • Mostly they live on sandy, muddy estuaries but they have in some places started to live and breed inland.
  • There are about 110,000 breeding pairs in the UK and they have an amber status. This might be as their numbers were deliberately reduced in the 1970's as fishermen thought they might eat all of the cockles and mussels.
  • They live for quite a long time, usually for around 12 years but the oldest one (time to hang on to those hats again :-) was recorded at 40 years old!
  • I looked for the collective nouns for them and it seems you can have a stew of Oystercatchers, or a parcel of Oystercatchers. Think I'll stick with a parcel as I don't like the idea of an Oystercatcher stew much.
  • They are also known as a Sea Pie, so I wonder if they used to be eaten a lot in the past?
  • They seem to have been very successful and can be found in Europe, Asia and Africa.

So if you'd like to find out more about these birds try these links:


Thursday, 22 January 2015

Day 82 - bird club update

Hi all,
Well it's Day 82 and I thought I'd let you know how I got on today with the Big Schools Birdwatch I did today with the school bird club. If you have read earlier posts you know I managed to get this club set up at school and we meet every week to see what visits the school's little garden.

It`s really good fun and has even inspired some of the members to get their own bird feeders and put them up at home which is great! The teachers (the head and the deputy!) that attend say it`s a lovely club and they say it`s a really relaxing way to spend a lunch break and eat your packed lunch! It`s my last year at primary school so I hope it will be continue - I`m hoping to pop back from time to time and see how it is going! (and maybe drop off some bird feed too!)

I also got the school to get involved in the big garden birdwatch and today was the day we chose to count up everything and record it for the RSPB.
 What we saw today was:

  • 6 Great Tits
  • 2 Blue Tits
  • 1 Wren
  • 2 Blackbirds
  • 1 House Sparrow
  • 2 Collared Doves
  • 1 Woodpigeon

Now that's not a huge amount but our new feeders had only been up for a few hours so I didn't think that was too bad and we also only had 40 minutes today. It will be interesting to see what we get in a few months time. Other birds that we`ve seen other weeks include a mistle thrush, black headed gulls, magpies, crows and even a sneaky little squirrel sometimes pops in to pinch a peanut or two!  Everyone`s welcome :o) lol.

Oh, I also want to share a bit of news with you all, my blog yesterday went past 10,000 views. Thank you all very much for reading my posts, I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoy writing them.


Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Day 81 - Synchronus Shovelers

Northern Shoveler (Anas Clypeata
Shovelers in a courtship display
Hi everyone,

Day 81 and I've another lovely water bird for you today. I was lucky enough recently to see these birds at Blacktoft sands, and not only did I see them I saw them engaged in their courtship displays, more on this below.

So today is the turn of the Shoveler. Here's a few facts I found:

Shovelers bobbing their heads

  • As you can see in the pictures they have a big shovel shaped (spatulate) beak
  • There are between 300-1000 breeding pairs in the UK but they are joined in the winter by others from Europe, up to 18,000.
  • The RSPB list them as amber status as the UK has over 20% of the North Eastern European population.
  • They are around 48cm long and have a 77cm wingspan. They weigh about 630g
  • In the second two pictures you can see some of their courtship display. I watched them dabbling (feeding) in pairs going round and round in circles. You can see this in the video below.
  • They also did a fabulous display in pairs bobbing their heads up and down. It was lovely to watch.
  • They live on shallow lakes or marsh, reedbeds and sometimes wet meadows. 
  • They use their beaks, which have a sort of comb structure on the edges, to filter food out of the water and they eat seeds, bits of vegetation, small insects and molluscs.
  • The feeding action of sifting the water is called dabbling. 
  • They usually live for 3 years but the oldest Shoveler was recorded as being 22 years and 7 months old.
  • I tried to find a collective noun for Shovelers but only came up with some for ducks in general. They are described as a raft, a team or a flush. My favourite one I found though is a paddling - a paddling of dabbling Shovelers.
If you'd like to find out a bit more about these lovely ducks try these sites:


Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Day 80 - Heavenly Hybrid Ducks

Unknown Hybrid Duck (Mysterious duckus)
Possibly a domesticated mallard?
Unknown Hybrid Duck (Quakus unknonus)
Have you ever seen a duck that doesn't quite fit in with the other ducks or any ducks in your ID Guide? Well you could have seen a hybrid! Of all the birds, waterfowl (ducks) are the most likely of all birds to hybridise.

Hi all today's Day 80 and as it is a very small milestone, I thought I'd do a blog on birds, but not as you know them. I will be doing I post on ducks, but not normal ducks, hybrid ducks. I saw all of the birds that you can see on the right at RSPB Fairburn Ings in Yorkshire. They all caught my eye because they looked completely different to the rest of them. My favourite is the white and light-brown one that has a very large tuft on the top of its head. Hybrid Ducks are ludicrously hard to identify so if anyone has any idea of what the birds to the right are, then please comment or tweet me. Like I said I my favourite duck is the one in the middle of the three. Anyway, I think it's about time to put in the facts. Before I do, though, I want to say that I won't be able to put in things like; size, RSPB Status and that sort of thing because it will vary so much in what hybrid it is:

  • When two different birds mate, their off-spring will be a hybrid that can look either exactly like one of its parents or completely different!
    Unknown Hybrid Duck (Haveus noideaus)
  • Sometimes a hybrid off-spring can go on to mate with other birds and produce more hybrid ducks. This is called a successful hybrid mating. However, some hybrid ducks are not able to mate and are therefore infertile causing an unsuccessful hybrid mating.
  • The mallard is the most common duck to partake in cross-species breeding. It is estimated that there are about 50 hybrids that include a mallard and I am pretty sure that the top and bottom pictures include a mallard.
  • Although apparently hybrid ducks are mostly bigger than their parents, they can even have a goose as a parent and therefore can be much, much bigger than a standard duck. One of the biggest hybrid results is probably a goose x swan hybrid or a Swoose!
  • The most likely ducks to breed with a mallard are:
  1. Pintail
  2. Tufted Duck 
  3. Wigeon
Note that wasn't in any particular order.

As an example, a mallard mating with a Muscovy duck will normally produce a pied (black and white) off-spring.

Here are some links about these strange but wonderful combinations:

Hope you enjoyed,


Monday, 19 January 2015

Day 79 - Looky-likey Lampreys

Hi everyone,

Well I was puzzling over what I could do today that might be a little different, so I was looking through my photos from walks in the summer and I came across these. At first I wasn't sure what they were and thought they might be baby eels which is why the title is looky-likey as they looky-likey an eel - it's bad I know but there aren't many alliterative words for Lampreys that fit lol :-).

I found out these are actually Brook Lampreys!
Brook Lamprey (Lampetra Planeri)

Lampreys are very interesting creatures as I found out in my research, here's a few facts I found out:

  • They look like eels but they are actually jaw-less fish! 
  • They belong to a very primitive group of fish that have a round sucker, instead of a mouth with teeth and jaws. Fossil records show that they haven't changed much in 300 million years!
  • They are dark blue/green and paler underneath, and they have no fins.
  • The most common type of Lamprey is the Brook Lamprey pictured here. This is also the smallest type and its numbers are in decline. 
  • It's usually found in clear, freshwater streams with gravel, sand or silt beds for spawning and indicates healthy and high quality rivers. We saw some in a stream at Silton Forest which is close to where we live.

    • Found throughout the UK, but with more in England and Wales, and less in the highlands of Scotland. Seems I may have been lucky to see them in North Yorkshire as they're not as common as in other areas as you can see in a map at the Defra website.
      Another one in a different pool
    • They have an unusual life cycle. When the adults spawn (have their babies), they then die :-(. The larvae (baby Lampreys) don’t have eyes or a sucker mouth when they are born but instinctively know to bury themselves in the river bed where they filter-feed (on algae etc) and they stay like this until they are old enough to have grown the sucker mouth and eyes, usually around 3-5 years old, when they then start looking for a mate and the cycle starts over. 
    • They can grow to a maximum of 20 cm but are usually around 16 cm. The oldest recorded lamprey was 7 years old! If you see one that is much longer (25-40 cm), it is probably the River Lamprey.
    • The Brook Lamprey as an adult doesn't feed, but other species, there are around 50 different species of Lamprey, are parasites and attach themselves to fish or marine mammals by suction before they start to suck out living tissue - nice!
    Here's a few sites if you want to find out more about these remarkable creatures:

    Hope you enjoyed,


    Sunday, 18 January 2015

    Day 78 - Gorgeous Goldcrests

    Goldcrest (Regulus regulus)
    Hey everyone, well it's day 78 and I've a little treat here that I saw just a few hours ago. I'll apologise now for the picture quality but it was almost dark and I think it was just feeding itself up before getting set for a cold night, it's been snowing here most of the day great for snowball fights for me and Dad but tough on the birds!

    I'm talking here about a lovely Goldcrest! I don't seem them very often, and when I have they are very quick. There are a pair though that visit my grandparents garden, and this is one of them I saw when I visited earlier.

    So what have I found out about these gorgeous little guys:

    • They are the smallest birds to visit our gardens, the smallest bird in Europe in fact.
    • Incredibly they weigh just 6 grams and are only 9cm long with a wingspan of 14cm.
    • If you think that's small, their eggs are tiny, they weigh less than a gram and are only 14mm x 10mm.
      Looking for more titbits on the floor
    • A slightly weird thing I found out is that females will lay 6 to 8 eggs in each clutch - so the eggs together weigh more than the mother! Sometimes though there are 12 eggs!
    • Another interesting fact is that sometimes before the first chicks have fledged the female will leave the male to feed them while she builds a second nest. This can mean they can produce as many as 20 chicks per year. This is very important when very cold winters can leave only a quarter of the population left to breed again.
    • They are a green status bird with around 610,000 breeding territories, these birds are joined in winter by millions more from Scandinavia.
    • They have little thin beaks which are ideal for getting little insects out of pine trees which is where they mostly live. 
    • The latin name regulus means a prince or kinglet, our old friend Linnaeus named them so I wonder if he was thinking their crest (yellow in females more orange in males) was a bit like a crown?
    • They typically live 2 years but a Goldcrest has been recorded as living just over 4 years

    Well, there's a lot to these little birds. If you want to find out more try these sites:

    Hope you enjoyed,


    Saturday, 17 January 2015

    Day 77 - Remarkable Reed Bunting

    Hello all and a happy Saturday. 

    Today I've found a lovely little bird here that looks a bit different in its winter plumage in these pictures, looks a bit sparrow-like, to its more striking summer plumage but beautiful all the same. It's a bird that I've seen in Norfolk (at Horsey and Titchwell), at Leighton Moss and at Fairburn Ings where these pictures are from.

    I'm looking today at Reed Buntings. So what have I found out about these little guys?

    Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus

    • They are resident across most of the UK with a quarter of a million breeding territories. 
    • Despite these numbers they have Amber status, and have been red status, due to numbers falling since 1969. This is probably due to loss of habitat and agricultural intensification.
    • As I mentioned above it looks a bit like a sparrow and its country names include Fen Sparrow or Reed Sparrow.
    • They are only 16cm long with a wingspan of 24cm. They weigh only 21g.
      Reed bunting at Fairburn Ings
    • It seems they have an interesting breeding strategy. Often, less than half of the chicks in a brood will not have been fathered by the pair male.
    • Another interesting survival tactic is that they make their nest low down in dense vegetation. If they spy a predator nearby the adults will often try to lure them away by acting injured.
    • There doesn't seem to be a collective noun specifically for a reed bunting, but collections of buntings in general are known as a decoration, a mural and a sacrifice (think I prefer the first two!)

    • Their sharp call I've seen written as 'shreep-shreep-teeree-tititick' but you can make your own mind up if you listen to the video I found here.
    • Their diet is mainly seeds, but they do eat insects in the breeding season.  When food gets scarcer in winter they will visit bird tables on occasion, but also join flocks of finches and other birds to look for seeds in farmland.
    • Their typical lifespan is 3 years but the oldest recorded reed bunting was 9 years and 11 months!
    • I was quite surprised to read that their eggs weigh just 2.2g, and 6% of that is shell. So these little birds emerge almost from nothing!

    So if you want to find out more about these lovely birds, try these sites:

    Hope you enjoyed,


    Friday, 16 January 2015

    Day 76 - Wonderful Wigeon

    Male Wigeon (Anas penelope)
    Hi all today's Day 76 and we have been at Blacktoft Sands for dusk where I saw todays subject. It's not the only place we've seen these lovely birds. We've seen them at:
    As you will know from the title and pictures today I am covering Wigeon.
    As you can see they are resident at a lot of places so I guess I should get on with the facts:
    • As my little list of sites I have seen them at shows they are quite common in the UK especially in Winter as a lot come here from Iceland, Scandinavia and Russia.
    • They are an amber status bird. They only have 300-500 breeding pairs which classifies as a RED Status but there are significant amounts of wintering birds in a few places throughout the UK so it ends up being an Amber List species.
    Wigeon feeding
    • They are 48cm long with an 80cm wingspan. Males are a larger weight than females as they weigh 800g whereas the females weigh 650g
    • They have a diet of food mostly found in water or on grassy marshes. They eat a range of aquatic plants, grasses and roots.
    • They have a rather short life span of about 3 years but (hold on to your hats) the oldest ever wigeon was 34 years and 7 months old... Wow!
    Pair of Wigeon, female in foreground
    • Now for a fact I like and will try to put more into my posts. The collective noun for a group of Wigeon is a Company. E.G. I saw a company of Wigeon at Bolton-on-Swale Lake last week.
    • They have some nick names, or 'local names', of 'The Whistler' and ' The Half Duck'. I don't know why this is but I have a feeling about the first one as I will explain in the next fact.
    • The Wigeon has a 'funny whistly call' as explained by my Dad. This is the reason that they are called 'The Whistler'. Here is a video of them calling. There is a great video and a piece of audio beneath the map on the RSPB site.
    Wigeon on the wing
    • In flight you can see their white stomach and males have a large white wing patch. You can see this in the picture to the left.
    Anyway, here are the links to even more information:

    Hope you enjoyed,


    Thursday, 15 January 2015

    Day 75 - Tremendous Tufted Ducks

    Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula) at Fairburn Ings
    Hi everyone, its Day 75, which is a nice number, halfway between 50 and 100 so it's sort of a mini milestone.

    I'm looking at a lovely little bird today which I see in quite a few places I go but my pictures today are from the fabulous Fairburn Ings. Today its the turn of the wonderful tufted duck!

    They're not as colourful as some ducks but I think they are still very pretty and look very relaxed as they paddle along. So what has my research today found out about these little guys? Here are the facts:

    • They are slightly smaller than a mallard (a post I've yet to do) and are generally around 44cm long with a wingspan of 70cm and weigh about 3/4 of a kilogram.
    • Tufted ducks are omnivorous (like humans - will eat plants and animals) and feed on the muddy bottoms of lakes or estuaries mostly by diving.
    • The pictures here are all males, females are a chocolatey brown all over.
    • They have an amber status, meaning there is some concern over their numbers as they have gone down a bit in recent years.
    • It seems they first started to live in the UK in 1849 after the accidental introduction of the zebra mussel which they like to eat. The first record of them breeding in the UK was in Yorkshire (nice place to live :-) in 1849.
    • There are around 19,000 pairs breeding in the UK and in the winter they are joined by lots more from Europe and Iceland
    • They live on average for around 4 years but the oldest recorded tufted duck was 24 years and 3 months.
    So not as long lived as yesterdays curlew but 24 years still seems pretty impressive. If you want to find out more about these birds try these links:

    Hope you enjoyed,


    Wednesday, 14 January 2015

    Day 74 - Corking Curlews

    Curlew (Numenius arquata)
    feeding at Nosterfield
    Hi all today's Day 74 of my blog and I have a wonderful wader for you today. From the title you can see that I am doing Curlews today. Yesterday I did a post on The Big Garden Birdwatch and I just want to say that the response for it was amazing. A lot of people said it was good and if you were one of those people, thank you.

    Anyway, without further ado, here are the facts:

    • Curlews are Europe's largest wading bird. They measure up at about a 90cm wingspan and they are 55 cm long. Also they are pretty heavy as well with males weighing 770g and females weighing 1kg.
    • They are an amber status bird with 68,000 breeding pairs in the UK. There is some concern over the loss of their habitats due to intensification in farming and forestry activities.
    • ...Which brings me nicely on to their habitat. They breed on upland moors which is why I see them so much in the North York Moors. You can often see them performing their flight displays and calling, which is a lovely sight. They nest in small depressions lined with a bit of vegetation such as grass.

    • After the breeding season you'll see them on muddy coast bays and estuaries where there are tidal mudflats. I've also seen large herds of Curlews at Nosterfield when they have been feeding on the grassland there as you can see the pictures. Which also brings me nicely on to the diet of Curlews. They eat worms, shellfish and shrimps which they locate on touch with their large curved beak.
    • ...Which brings me nicely on to their long curved beak. Their beak is an unmistakable downward curved bill and is used for probing soft ground for food or to simply take prey off the surface.

    • The Curlew has an amazing call, it can't be mistaken.  Here is a video that has the call on it:

    • Finally, they have a typical life span of 5 years and, hold on to your hats, the oldest recorded curlew was 32 years and 7 months old!

    Here are some links to some more information on these Corking Curlews:

    Hope you enjoyed,