Is that a middle spotted woodpecker?!
At this time of year young great spotted and green woodpeckers are fully fledged and joining their parents on the feeders and in gardens. These birds can resemble other species such as middle spotted, white-backed or grey-headed woodpeckers. These birds are found in mainland Europe but their reluctance to cross large bodies of water means they have never been recorded in the UK.
We have been sent a few photos of albino birds. The best photo was of a family of house sparrows that had three albino chicks. Most albinos reported to us have normal eye, bill and leg colouration, Partial albinism is caused by the failure of pigmentation to reach certain feathers. While this is often hereditary, other factors such as unbalanced diet, old age and injury, or even disease and shock can cause albinism. True albinos lack colouring in all feathers and soft parts. Their feathers are white, and bill, legs and eyes are pink. True albinos are normally less robust in other ways and often have deficient eyesight and hearing. Being generally conspicuous, they are more likely to fall prey to predators. Some albinos are shunned by other birds and will find it difficult to obtain a mate, but this is not always so.
"One for sorrow, two for joy"
This week we have had many calls about Magpies, some callers witnessing magpies softening bread in water and others asking us what comes after “one for sorrow, two for joy?” in the nursery rhyme. Most British members of the crow family (including magpies) will take eggs and nestlings. This can be upsetting to witness but it is completely natural. In Superstition, if a lone Magpie is seen, one should salute it to show you respect it...
As well as birds, we are often asked to identify other animals, mainly moths and dragonflies. We had a humming bird hawk moth outside Wildlife Enquiries window, which caused some commotion. We were also asked to identify a species of slug (there are lots of species in the UK apparently) and some seaweed found on Seaford beach.
The Wildlife Enquiries department is well and truly in the busy period so apologies for not posting anything for the last few weeks.
Baby birdsWe have to start with baby birds or more accurately, fledglings. May, June and July are the peak periods for fledglings being found out of the nest. Swallows and gull chicks are two of the main species being found wandering at the moment – 9 times out of 10 you should leave the bird where it is – for information on what to do if you find a fledgling please see our website
GullsSpeaking of gulls, dive-bombing adult gulls are out in force as they protect the chicks on the ground. Gulls, like all birds, are protected so you cannot have them, or their nests, removed until they’ve finished nesting – it’s a problem that repeats every year and with a few precautions you should be able to avoid the worst – Herring and lesser black-backed gulls are the main "problem" species, as they often nest on roofs near humans in urban areas. Moving through the area quickly and carrying an umbrella can help to avoid any conflict. More information here
White-tailed eaglesThe news that Natural England are pulling out of the Suffolk reintroduction generated a few fresh queries about our role and whether these birds do really eat livestock, pets etc. Read about it here
Racing pigeons and peacocksThese domestic birds often turn up in gardens. Racing pigeons need reporting to the relevant racing group – if you can read the numbers on the bird’s rings, contact the Royal Pigeon Racing Association on 01452 713529. There is often little that can be done for peacocks - Feed them if you are happy to have them around or don't if you'd rather they moved on – some useful information on this factsheet
Daytime batsWe have had a few queries about bats flying in the daytime. If they’ve got young to feed or need to feed themselves they’ll come out early to make the most of the insects. If you have any bat queries please contact the Bat Conservation Trust on 0845 1300 228 or visit their website - http://www.bats.org.uk/