A collection of wildlife photographs

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Bird life around Sheffield (and a couple of plants)

Now that the spring has arrived, I have noticed the appearance of a remarkably more varied birdsong outside my window each morning. In mid-March, I decided to take a walk around Sheffield, with the bird society, to see what I could clamp eyes on. After ambling around a pond which was home to numerous Mallards and Geese, we went searching for some passerines.

Pied Wagtails, Motacilla alba
The first such birds I came across on 8/03/14 were Pied wagtails, Motacilla alba, scampering across the path in Weston Park, Sheffield. They are characterised by their near-constantly wagging black-and-white tail. Adult pied wagtails also have a black crown, and a white face. In the photograph on the right, a male stands in the foreground whilst a female walks on behind him. The male has a black bib, and back, with white wing bars. The female, on the other hand, is a more constant grey colour over most of her body, which diffuses into the black crown. The female also has a black bib which is captured in the lower image.

Pied Wagtail, Motacilla alba
Pied wagtails are often found on bare ground, such as the path and improved grassland in the two photographs, but also on rocks, and roofs. They appreciate these flat surfaces as they can run quickly on them, to catch insects. When they walk, their head moves in a jerking movement.

In Crookes Valley park, I noticed a Mistle thrush, Turdus viscivorus on the bowling green. The Mistle thrush has a yellow-white breast speckled with black spots as shown in the photograph below, similarly to Song thrush. The bird foraged on the ground- characteristic behaviour from this species, helping separate it from Song Thrush, which is usually seen in the treeline. It then preceded to release a distinctive rattling call, as it flew off onto the bowling green clubhouse. The British Trust for Ornithology have released a useful youtube video, which tells us how to tell Mistle thrush from Song Thrush: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3VEDsg0V1_M&list=PLFFgJk1PU_BMFv-PUiK3udwr0vpzE-DH0
Mistle Thrush, Turdus viscivorus

Below, a Chaffinch, Fringilla coelebs reclines on a perch in the tree. The tree it sits on is an Ash, Fraxinus excelsior characterised by conspicuous large black terminal buds on the twigs, as shown in the photograph to the right. Chaffinches have a conspicuous double white wing-bar. The side of this male's breast is a rusty red colour, slightly brighter than the grey-white brest of the female Chaffinch. Interestingly chaffinches are the second most abundant bird species in Britain after the Wren, with a healthy 5.4 million pairs. They should be easily found in open woodland, and often forage on the ground.
Chaffinch, Fringilla coelebs

In the same area of broadleaved woodland, sat a Male Bullfinch, Pyrrhula pyrrhula. These are large birds which are easy to identify due to being rather plump and lacking a neck. All Bullfinch birds have black heads. They feed on the seeds, and shoots of trees, and also on insects in the warmer months. Females have a breast which is ash-grey in colour, whilst the male pictured below has a bright and readily noticeable pink-red breast. 
Male Bullfinch, Pyrrhula pyrhulla
A british resident, the Blue tit, Cyanistes caeruleus are commonplace in deciduous and mixed

Blue tit, Cyanistes caeruleus
woodland, parks and gardens, where they breed. They differ from Great tits, Paras major in that blue tits have a blue cap, with a black eye stripe, as shown in the photograph to the right, whereas great tits have black heads down to the eye line. Blue tits are also much smaller than Great tits. Their small round head appears to be fixed onto its body without much of a neck. The blue cap and wings which give a blue tit its name, are shown in the photograph below.
Blue tit, Cyanistes caeruleus, with its distinctive blue cap and wings
Male House Sparrow, Passer domesticus
In another outing on 14/03/14, I spotted several House sparrow, Passer domesticus individuals. They found perches in some scrub near to where I live. They are reasonably stocky birds, with brown wings  and white-grey underside. The top photograph depicts a male, due to the presence of black bib, and the lower is a female, which lacks a bib. 
Female House Sparrow, Passer domesticus
I noticed a blackbird, Turdus merula on a sycamore sapling, surrounded by Ivy. The identification of Sycamore, Acer pseudoplatanus is obvious even without leaves, because of having a large green terminal bud. A large green terminal bud is visible at the end of a branch jutting up towards the top-right of the photograph below. The blackbird was evidently a female, because of its dark brown colour and a light-brown streaked throat. Identical to males, female blackbirds have distinctive yellow eye rings, and a yellow beak, but the plumage of a female is not all-black. They feed on earthworms, insects and berries. In this picture its beak is covered in mud, indicating that the bird has been digging around for some earthworms for a mid-morning snack.
Female blackbird, Turdus merula on sycamore, Acer pseudoplatanus sapling

A female Blackbird, Turdus merula gathers leaves, whilst a female House sparrow,  Passer domesticus gathers twigs for their nests.

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