Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Winter birding notes 2
Charming Goldfinch by Sally Douglas

Winter birding notes 2

A Charm of Goldfinches.

Certain species of birds join in flocks in the winter months to go to roost. The most spectacular of these are starlings, large numbers join together towards sunset and fly to their chosen roost. Our nearest starling roost is the RSPB reserve of Otmoor where this 2017/18 winter thousands fly into roost in the reedbeds, 50,000 is possible.
I have also seen a number of blackbirds flying along a line of trees to go to roost,numbers between 25 and 30.
But this winter to my great surprise I have watched , regularly , a tree full of small birds at roosting time all twittering loudly. They then flew down in twos and threes into a large evergreen bush , making counting them easy. The numbers varied from 45, to one day 61. They were goldfinches , a ' charm ' for sure !

Report by Beryl Hulbert

A Host of Sparrows.

Another familiar bird often seen in flocks and living close to human habitation is the house sparrow.Although in decline in the U.K, house sparrows seem to have the ability to live everywhere from towns to rural łocations, the clue is in the scientific name of Passer domesticus.
They are globally successful and have been introduced to many countries in the world. As with many introduced species they can become a problem , sometimes native species have suffered as house sparrows compete for food and nesting sites. The North American population is entirely descended from house sparrows released in New York City's Central Park in 1850.
In terms of diet ,house sparrows are just not fussy . They will eat a wide range of seeds and insects, from millet and oats to caterpillars and flies. I was once watching a day-flying orange underwing moth fly across the garden, when a house sparrow swooped across and grabbed it. They can also be expert thieves and have been seen taking flies from spider webs and the spiders themselves from under the eves on my garage.
I have been feeding my own sparrow host of 20 to 30 birds , in a beech hedge in my drive , on cold March days they gather together in the hedge for shelter. They like the millet seed provided and almost seem to wait for it to be put out. Their well known , sometimes loud and some would say monotonous ' cheer-eep ' is heard at all times. It can sound quite loud when given in unison, especially from lots of males. They will also give a lower sounding ' chreek ' when they take flight .
I notice how winter males have a yellowish bill , which turns black in the Spring and have a small white dot behind the eye, more prominent in some males than others . Females lack the male's head pattern and black bib and have an indistinct buff streak behind the eye.
So support your local house sparrows , it would be a sadder world without their cheerful chirping.

Report by Colin Strudwick.