Saturday, 30 January 2016

Bird of the week - Red kite

The reintroduction of the red kite is one of the great successes stories in British bird conservation.  Thirty years ago the UK red kite population had dwindled to a few dozen birds in mid Wales as a result of persecution, poisoning, egg theft etc.  The first releases were of almost 200 birds of Swedish and Spanish origin in Scotland and England in 1989-1994 and the birds started breeding in 1992.  Further releases took place in England and Scotland including Harewood in Yorkshire from 1999 and the Derwent Valley in County Durham from 2004.  These photos were taken in Harewood.

The red kite's aerial agility is astonishing.  Whatever the attitude of its wings and tail, the eyes are always fixed ahead. The tail often moves completely independently of the wings.

This graph from BirdTrends shows the increase in population.
The Bird Atlas maps show the wide areas of repopulation, centred around reintroduction sites.

The red kite is Milvus milvus, milvus meaning a kite.

You can read more about the reintroduction of red kites here and listen to Sir David Attenborough's BBC Radio 4 Tweet of the Day on red kites here.

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed

Another trip to see the squirrels with Phil & Denise.  We weren't disappointed.

Isn't it strange how your ears get hairy when you get old?

I had always thought that "bright-eyed and bushy-tailed" referred to squirrels and thought it must come from Beatrix Potter.  When I looked it up some people think it refers to squirrels, others to foxes and others to cats.  The phrase probably originated in America in the 19th or early 20th century.

Monday, 25 January 2016

Who's been eating my apples?

When the apples I put out for the birds last winter were disappearing overnight I put out a trail camera to see what was happening.  The culprit then was a hedgehog which had forgotten to hibernate and I ended up feeding it all winter.

The same thing started happening again in the last week.  Fearing that the hedgehog had woken up early despite the cold weather I put out another camera.  And the thief this time is:

I didn't know foxes would eat apples but apparently they'll eat almost anything.  This video shows the fox running off with the last apple.  It looks a bit lame as it runs away  The video isn't the clearest, being recorded on a rainy night but you can see what the fox is up to.  The video should run on most things but not on iPads.

So has this fox turned vegetarian?  Don't count your chickens.  On second thoughts perhaps you should.

Saturday, 23 January 2016

Bird of the week - Willow tit

The willow tit was my bird of the week last March but I thought it would be good to share some photos from this week. These two were feeding alongside a flock of great tits and blue tits.

Poecile montanus (also montana) seems an odd name for a bird of damp woodland.  Look at the maps below and you can see that it doesn't live in mountains.

Willow tit numbers are in decline and the bird is on the UK red list.  The total UK population is only around 3000 pairs.

The BTO Bird Atlas maps of change in distribution show a disastrous decline in the southern and eastern parts of the UK.

The causes of the population decline are not clear but may include habitat loss and increased nest predation (by great spotted woodpeckers).  You can read a review of research into the decline in willow tit numbers published in British Birds here.  You can listen to a willow tit call here and watch a video of Mitchell Butel singing "Tit-Willow" in Gilbert & Sullivan's The Mikado here.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Red deer

I was in Glen Etive last week for a landscape photography workshop so I had only a moment for a couple of snapshots out of the window as we drove by.  I'll be back for more.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Five gold rings

I wrote before about using photos to decipher the numbers on ringed bullfinches in July 2014 and July 2015.  Both birds had been ringed about 2 km from here - one two years before and one four years before.  One good thing about finches is that they stay on the feeder for a minute or two which makes it easier to get the photos, especially if the ring is loose and moves around.  I have noticed several rings on goldfinches recently but they are more difficult than bullfinches as they turn up a dozen or two at a time.  

The first one I worked out was D981283 and I reported it to Euring.  It was ringed at West Moor, about 3km from here, on 01 November 2015 as a first year bird.

I then worked out D981106 (ringed in the same place on 11 October 2014 at least one year old).

And then D981261 (ringed in the same place again on 7th October 2015 as a first year bird) so they all go around in the same gang.

I am still working on Y*73908 and D9**288.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Bird of the week - Crested tit

I had never seen a crested tit before this week and then three came along all at once.  They were in Abernethy Forest near Loch Garten.

The three I saw were in close company with lots of coal tits which are about the same size and have similar colouring.

Previously known as Parus cristatus, this is now Lophophanes cristatus, lophophanes meaning light crest.

In the UK this is a bird of the ancient Caledonian forest of Inverness and Strathspey.

That we don't see it more widely seems puzzling when you look at its European distribution map.
"Lophophanes cristatus distribution map" by Viktor Kravtchenko - Own work based on the following data:. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Commons -

Listen to the BBC Radio 4 Tweet of the day on crested tit here and you will hear its wonderful call.