November, 2008

Wildlife

Wildlife
We're about more than just birds (though obviously we like them a lot).

Notes on nature

We love nature... from every little bug on a blade of grass to birds, butterflies, otters and oaks!
  • Time for a huddle?

    Pied wagtail roost. Photo by Katie FullerA cold, arctic wind is heading towards us this weekend. So, whilst we can all dust off the winter coats, dig out the scarf and gloves (hopefully finding a matching pair, although if you're anything like me you'll end up with two left handed ones!), what can the birds and wildlife do?

    Well, I bet you've seen a pied wagtail? Even if you didn't know what it was (a clue: see the picture!). They do, afterall, live near us humans. Next time you're in the supermarket carpark, take a look, more than likely there'll be one there somewhere. Anyway, I digress.

    These little chaps, with their unmistakable 'wagging' tails, have come up with a way of beating the cold. Basically, they seek out some friends and cuddle up! Not a bad idea!

    As I got off the bus, returning from work the other night, I happened to glance up. There in the tree above me were 40-odd black and white 'fluffballs'! With a big street lamp spewing out heat to keep them warm, these guys had found the ultimate pied wagtail roost. It was a great spectacle, especially with people walking oblivious underneath.

    It's not just wagtails that do this. Something like 45 wrens were once found roosting in a single nestbox to beat the cold. Now that's cosy!

    So when you're out next, all wrapped up, complaining it's cold, think of the little birds all huddled up. And maybe put out some extra peanuts for them, just to help them through. It is, afterall, the season of goodwill!

    Seen anything that makes you go 'wow' recently? Leave a comment.  

  • Something for the weekend

    This week, you've got to keep your eyes and ears open. Be alert at all times, wherever you are - especially if you're out shopping. Waxwings are here!

    Whatwings? Waxwings. They breed in Scandinavia, snapping up mosquitos in the northern forests, but in winter it's berries they crave - especially red ones. If the Nordic berry crop is poor, they're forced to flee in search of more, which brings them to the UK.

    For that reason, waxwings are here in force this year. If you're in the north or near the east coast, you're in luck, as they make landfall here before heading inland, working their way south and west. Montrose is a particular hotspot today, with 280 in town!

    You don't have to be a hardcore, nerdy birdwatcher to appreciate waxwings. In fact, I reckon you can't fail to love 'em.

    • Because they spend most of the year in the middle of nowhere, they don't fear people and will happily continue feeding while you watch just feet away. Their desire for berries brings them into towns, with places like supermarket car parks with ornamental bushes being particularly popular
    • They do bright red poos of berry skins
    • They make a delightful sound, like a delicately ringing bell
    • They're sociable and are nearly always seen together in flocks
    • They're beautiful birds - like a feathery powder-puff - with soft, brown plumage, a crest and dark Zorro eye-mask. Their wings are striped with black, white and yellow.

    And how did they get their name? Adult male waxwings have little red 'drops' of what looks like bright red sealing wax on some of their wing feathers. It appears to serve no other purpose than looking nice.

    So, while you're out and about this weekend, do watch out for waxwings. They'll make your day!

    Have you seen them?

    Or maybe something else that made you smile? Write a comment (you will need to register first - this is free - then log in).