News archive

November 2016

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Winter roosts

Winter roosts

The long winter nights can be perilous for small birds, their large surface area to volume ratio meaning that they loose heat more easily than larger ones. Small birds are also at risk from predators during the day and so can ill-afford to carry large food reserves as they approach the long, cold night. Small birds reduce their nocturnal energetic expenditure by fluffing out their feathers to trap air and by huddling together.

Starlings are well known for their roosting behaviour and for the fantastic aerial displays they put on before settling for the night. These are known as murmurations and can involve thousands of birds whirling in the sky.

Starlings roost for many reasons. Grouping together offers safety in numbers - predators such as peregrine falcons find it hard to target one bird in the middle of a hypnotising flock of thousands. They also gather to keep warm at night and to exchange information, such as good feeding areas.

More and more birds will flock together as the weeks go on, and the number of starlings in a roost can swell to around 100,000 in some places. Early evening, just before dusk, is the best time to see them across the UK. You don't need any special equipment as it's all visible by just looking to the skies.

Despite the incredible size of the flocks, starling numbers are just a fraction of what they used to be. The starling population has fallen by over 80% in recent years, meaning they are now on the critical list of UK birds most at risk.

Brighton Pier is the nearest starling murmuration hotspot but don't forget that in Tonbridge we have our own pied-flycatcher roost in Sainsbury's car park!

Friday, 11 November 2016

Wild Classes with Simon Ginnaw

The course called Birds Beyond The Boughs, The Ecology & Conservation of our Woodland Birds is full of fascination information. Some of the topics covered so far include how British woodlands have developed in a different way to European ones, and how birds use woodland eg different species of tit will feed in different niches along the conifer branch that they are feeding on - coal tits at the end, crested tits in the middle.

If this interests you, you might like to consider joining Simon Ginnaw's class which runs in Hildenborough on a Thursday from 1pm to 3pm. Two field trips are included. Contact Simon for details:

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Local birding news

Some interesting birds have been seen in the Tonbridge area lately, including rough-legged buzzard, seen today being mobbed over the Medway water meadows, and great white egret at Haysden.

Other birds seen in Kent in the last coupleof days include black-necked grebe at Cliffe Pools, black redstart at Dungeness, shorelark at South Foreland, taiga bean goose at Sandwich Bay and ring ouzel at Lade Pits.