Welcome to my blog

This is where I post various musings about wildlife and ecology, observations of interesting species (often invertebrates)
and bits of research that grab my attention. As well as blogging, I undertake professional ecological & wildlife surveys
covering invertebrates, plants, birds, reptiles, amphibians and some mammals, plus habitat assessment and management
. I don't work on planning applications/for developers. The pages on the right will tell you more about my work,
main interests and key projects, and you can follow my academic work here.

Wednesday 8 December 2010

As the snow clears...

...well, it's clearing in the south of England at least, and as it does so, I can't help but muse on the rapid and ephemeral change I've seen over the last week or two in the bird life visible from my office window. Now, I've not written much about 'backyard wildlife' so far, though not for any other reason than other topics keep grabbing my attention. However, after last winter's well-documented appearance of the thrush species redwing (Turdus iliacus) and fieldfare (Turdus pilaris) in gardens around Britain during frozen conditions, I was curious to see what would happen this time.

Prior to the wintry conditions, the usual birds were present e.g. house sparrow (Passer domesticus), goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis), blue tit (Parus caeruleus), great tit (Parus major), wood pigeon (Columba palumbus), collared dove (Streptopelia decaocto), jackdaw (Corvus monedula), blackbird (Turdus merula) and starling (Sturnus vulgaris). So, a typical mix of birds using feeders and other food sources in the garden, including seeds dropped from the feeders. However, within a day or so of snow and ice, the species mix had changed. The above were all still present, but starling numbers had risen from 6-10 to around 20 and robin (Erithacus rubecula) and coal tit (Parus ater) were using the garden regularly rather than occasionally. Also, species not seen during warmer weather appeared; one each of pied wagtail (Motacilla alba) and wren (Troglodytes troglodytes), brief swoops to take food by two black-headed gulls (Larus ridibundus), and most unusually a brief visit by a grey heron (Ardea cinerea) - possibly seeking food away from the usual, currently frozen, sources (although the local river is not frozen)?

None of these are at all uncommon, but as well as highlighting the importance of gardens as food sources, they do suggest that such observations can shed light on short-term changes in the behaviour and distribution of familiar species. If there's another 'big freeze' (otherwise known as 'winter'), watch this space for more...

Tree, snow and colour-tweaking.

Local woodland looking darn seasonal.

Chilly tussocks! It's the rare Snowy Land Urchin Echinus nivalis.

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