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    Birds

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    chris c
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    Re: Birds

    Post by chris c on Wed Nov 08 2017, 00:17

    Walked on one of the heaths in the tail end of yesterday's sunshine, not that much to see except for a couple of Woodlarks and dozens of Meadow Pipits, and eventually I heard but didn't see a Dartford Warbler. Something flew over, heading back towards Minsmere, which I'm pretty sure was a very late Hobby - too small for a Peregrine, too large for a Merlin and didn't look right for a Kestrel. They are staying later probably because there are still dragonflies on the wing.

    There was also a small flock of Starlings, flying away from Minsmere. Triangulating them with the flock I saw over the farmland, I thought they might be collecting at Hen Reedbeds which sometimes collects a massive murmuration, so after today's shopping trip I went there and sat on the seat until dusk. A few dozen showed up in small flocks, wheeled around and then went on elsewhere, each lot going in different directions, so I'm no more enlightened. A couple of people showed up after a visit to Minsmere but apart from another high flying Bittern they hadn't seen anything out of the ordinary. We had the all too common conversation, discussing changes since they were young - they were from Oxfordshire which is now absolutely inundated with Red Kites which seem to be displacing the Buzzards, and also lacking in the once common Willow Warblers. They'd seen Redstarts in the New Forest but no resurgence in Cuckoos such as we had this year, or Turtle Doves.

    A combination of the cold and the rump steak and vegetables in the car caused me to head for home. Yum yum!
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    Re: Birds

    Post by chris c on Sat Nov 11 2017, 02:01

    I called in the farm shop where I hadn't been for a fortnight and they wanted to know why.

    "Well, some idiot sold me far too many sausages!" which they found hilarious.

    After that I walked the nearby common. Sat on the seat by the pond with the sign saying "Danger! Deep water!" It was empty except for a small puddle about six inches deep in the middle. Mostly I watched a bunch of Blackbirds flying around and in the hawthorn bushes eating berries. Quite a lot were black-billed, presumably newly arrived migrants.

    Finally I saw a Redwing and heard a Fieldfare, they've been late arriving so far this year. A lot of Hawfinches have been reported migrating in, but no sign of any, or any Yellow Browed Warblers, just mostly assorted tits, Robins, various finches and a load of Dunnocks tweeting as dusk fell. I spotted another smallish flock of Starlings heading purposefully east.

    I needed to empty my bladder so looked carefully up and down the track before stepping aside and peeing into the gorse bushes. In mid stream a horse rider trotted up. Why does that always happen??? Fortunately it was cold enough that she couldn't have seen anything even if she'd wanted to. Anecdotally I read about a diabetic who was taken short and peed in the bushes - and was arrested and put on the sex offenders' register for allegedly flashing at some children. I doubt that would happen here but nowadays it pays to be careful.

    When I got home the pheasant went into the oven, wrapped in bacon, and a load of sprouts and chestnuts went into the saucepan. While it was cooking there was a knock at the door - one of my neighbours who had been out shooting with a brace of fresh pheasants newly plucked, which promptly migrated into my freezer. My favourite kind of birdwatching!
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    Re: Birds

    Post by Jan1 on Sat Nov 11 2017, 11:10

    "When I got home the pheasant went into the oven, wrapped in bacon, and a load of sprouts and chestnuts went into the saucepan. While it was cooking there was a knock at the door - one of my neighbours who had been out shooting with a brace of fresh pheasants newly plucked, which promptly migrated into my freezer. My favourite kind of birdwatching!"

    ...nice way to end your day Chris.

    Saw some of these birds recently



    Yes, the robin - "The UK's favourite bird - with its bright red breast it is familiar throughout the year and especially at Christmas! Males and females look identical, and young birds have no red breast and are spotted with golden brown. Robins sing nearly all year round and despite their cute appearance, they are aggressively territorial and are quick to drive away intruders. They will sing at night next to street lights."

    Illustration and words for here
    https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/bird-and-wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/r/robin/

    They were pictures on a set of 'Christmas style' table mats ... they looked nice.

    All the best Jan
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    Re: Birds

    Post by chris c on Fri Nov 17 2017, 22:58

    Robins split up and the males and females hold separate territories over winter, they both sing although not as tunefully as in spring when the males' hormones kick in. There may also be migrants coming in from the Continent adding to their numbers. Dunnocks too, I've seen and especially heard more than the average number of both so far this year - the Dunnocks mostly calling rather than singing as the sun goes down.

    Since it was a beautiful sunny day, albeit cold, after my weekly visit to the farm shop I drove to Dunwich and walked up the beach more than half way to Walberswick.

    At first there wasn't a lot, a few Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails, and assorted gulls. I saw a Great White Egret fly into its usual hunting ground of one of the channels behind the shore pools - they are about 50% bigger than the common Little Egrets, flap a lot slower in flight, stand a lot more upright and have yellow bills. Someone I met walking down from Walberswick told me the other one was further north but I didn't get that far. He'd also seen a Bittern, which I didn't - several Grey Herons though - and a couple of Spotted Redshanks along with the Common ones and Dunlins and Black Tailed Godwits.

    I walked along the top of the shingle ridge which was hard going but worth it as I was suddenly surrounded by utter cuteness - Snow Buntings, more than a dozen, maybe 15 or more but they were hard to count as they look like moving shingle among all the stationary shingle

    https://vimeo.com/145506446

    They flew off to the north and continued slightly faster than I could walk to catch them up again.

    No matter as I also met up with the usual winter flock of Twites



    about 50 - 60 of them, although they didn't come as close as the buntings, or as they had done in previous years.

    I met up with some birdwatchers from Sussex, who'd never seen Twites before and were quite enthralled by the swooping formation flying.

    Eventually the setting sun and corresponding loss of light, plus the sausages in the car and the PSB in the fridge, got the better of me and I started the walk back. The tide had gone out and I was able to go much faster on the sandy beach than the shingle ridge.

    The Snow Buntings had somehow bypassed us and returned to the place where I had first seen them, so the Sussex folks got a good view of them too.

    Three of the sausages made it down my neck along with a bunch of broccoli, two thickly buttered oatcakes, two glasses of Carmenere, a square of 85% chocolate and a cup of coffee, about eight hours after my breakfast, after which I went and lay down for a bit.
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    Re: Birds

    Post by chris c on Sun Nov 19 2017, 22:31

    Fine. bright and sunny although cold, so after a trip to the Co-Op and a different farm shop for PSB and chillies and some strange broccoli like a halfway house between the purple sprouting and the ordinary kind, I intended to walk the estuary, but the tide was high, so I drove on down to Minsmere.

    Lots of Goldfinches and others including some Bullfinches among the bushes, and several Lapwings in the field, quite tame and approaching close to us, and a couple having a ding-dong battle which someone was photographing by lying on the ground.

    I spotted something strange flying around thetreetops

    "Was that a Sand Martin?"

    "No, it's a Swallow!"

    Actually we were both right, there was at least one of each, plus I'm almost certain a House Martin - it's getting silly late for all of them.

    Lots of common stuff in the brilliant sunshine but no rarities. Well a Dartford Warbler in the coastal bushes along with the regular Stonechats, I heard but didn't see it, it's been lurking around for a while now, some way from the commons where they are quite widespread now. Loads of Mute Swans flying noisily overhead, and eventually three Bewicks which have replaced the Whoopers that were there earlier.

    I did the main circuit but my feet were starting to feel the cold so I came home and had another meal of Gloucester Old Spot sausages and PSB. Later I might top up with some ground pork and the usual combination of bacon, oyster mushrooms, peppers and chillies - and garlic of course.

    I had yet ANOTHER conversation with a fairly elderly couple who had given up sugar, wheat, "vegetable" oils and processed not-food, and who had highly similar views on the competence of dieticians. Funny how commonplace this has become.
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    Re: Birds

    Post by Jan1 on Tue Nov 21 2017, 17:07

    Hi Chris

    Many thanks for the video link to the Snow Bunting - I've repeated the link in case anyone missed it in your earlier post

    https://vimeo.com/145506446

    I enjoyed seeing the Twites too (if folks scroll up a little they can see it)

    Eddie and I were out for a short stroll around the park earlier - lots of magpies - they do seem to take over areas sometimes ...

    The trees were still looking lovely wearing their Autumnal shades

    All the best Jan
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    Re: Birds

    Post by chris c on Wed Nov 22 2017, 22:22

    I was never sure why, but Rooks became quite scarce in Surrey over the years, and the Magpies increased as the Rooks decreased. Well there were still several rookeries but the birds didn't stray far from their homes. You had to go west about as far as Hampshire before they returned to "normal" numbers.

    I don't know if it's the same reason here, but we still have masses of Rooks and correspondingly fewer Magpies. Jays are currently quite visible as they carry acorns from the oaks and fly relatively high.

    Lots of leaves finally blowing down in the last couple of days' breezes.
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    Re: Birds

    Post by Jan1 on Thu Nov 23 2017, 19:37

    The magpie's were sitting on the tree branches earlier today.
    There were not so many leaves they could hide behind as the leaves were all on the ground ... last night's strong winds brought a lot more Autumn leaves down.

    I would not have liked to have been a bird in last night's terrible weather

    All the best Jan
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    Re: Birds

    Post by chris c on Sun Nov 26 2017, 23:17

    Yesterday was pretty dire too, there was a hard frost which lasted until about lunchtime. It started to get cold on Friday, I was going to go for a walk down by the river as dusk fell after my visit to the farm shop and see if the Barn Owls were coming out to play, but I only managed about half a walk before turning for home. Liver and bacon with mushrooms and broccoli more than made up for my disappointment.

    Rooks, Jackdaws and assorted gulls were heading for their various roosts but not much of anything else.
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    Re: Birds

    Post by Jan1 on Thu Nov 30 2017, 18:38

    Do you feed the garden birds?

    With the weather getting colder many of us may want to regularly feed our Garden Birds, and you may already be doing this. One thing they love are 'Fat Balls'. Read how to make them below.

    "Fat balls and other fat-based food bars are excellent winter food. If they are sold in nylon mesh bags, always remove the bag before putting the fat ball out – the soft mesh can trap and injure birds.

    You can make your own bird cake by pouring melted fat (suet or lard) onto a mixture of ingredients such as seeds, nuts, dried fruit, oatmeal, cheese and cake. Use about one-third fat to two-thirds mixture. Stir well in a bowl and allow it to set in a container of your choice. An empty coconut shell, plastic cup or tit bell makes an ideal bird cake ‘feeder’. Alternatively, you can turn it out onto your bird table when solid."

    Fat Ball details from the RSPB. Please read more about what you can do to help birds during the colder months here
    https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/read-and-learn/helping-birds/feeding/whatfood/

    All the best Jan
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    Re: Birds

    Post by chris c on Sun Dec 03 2017, 23:24

    I used to put birdseed and peanuts into the lamb and other fat that ran into the bottom of the grillpan and leave it to solidify. Sadly the rats liked it too much, I stopped putting out seed altogether too. I carried on throwing out mealworms because they got hoovered up so quickly, right up until the blackbirds and robins either hid out while they moulted or moved into the fields or across the road.

    Today I was treated to a small flock of tits, mostly Blue Tits and some Great Tits, though surprisingly no Long-Tails, picking spiders and their eggs, and probably other things, off the windowframes and poking through the shrubbery.

    Some of the rat-free neighbours put out food, especially over the road where the gardens back onto more gardens. Meanwhile I'm a bit surprised how few birds there are out in the fields, the Rooks and Jackdaws that made such a spectacle last year are probably using someone else's fields to congregate before flying off to roost, and there aren't as many gulls as usual either, and almost no winter thrushes anywhere. Pigeons in the rape, but let's not talk about them!

    Not much on the heath where I walked recently, I went miles before finally seeing some Dartford Warblers, and heard a few Meadow Pipits and Pied Wagtails flying over.

    I came home to watch a pheasant migrate out of my freezer into the oven, and then into me. A massive cock, I got three meals out of it - half the breast wrapped in bacon with Brussels sprouts and chestnuts, and two stir fries with mushrooms (one with oyster mushrooms) bacon and the usual multicoloured peppers and chillies, and one with olives too, accompanied by more sprouts and chestnuts and broccoli. This "eating disorder" is clearly doing me no good at all . . .
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    Re: Birds

    Post by Jan1 on Tue Dec 05 2017, 18:42

    One of the trees close to us has now lost all its leaves.

    Great excitement this morning (well I was excited lol!)
    We had five magpie's in the tree, three of them were smaller, are they the babies I wondered? Could be I'm not sure, but the colours in their plumage/ feathers was lovely.
    I forgave them for being a little noisy ...

    All the best Jan
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    Re: Birds

    Post by chris c on Tue Dec 05 2017, 22:17

    My mother got quite superstitious as she aged, used to spit when she saw a Magpie and say "good morning Mr Magpie, how's your wife?" She also had a rhyme about one for sorrow, two for joy, but I can't remember what five was.

    Could have been this year's young still hanging out with the parents, or if they were arguing some other pair's young.

    Meanwhile

    http://www.rspb.org.uk/community/placestovisit/minsmere/f/12440/t/195898.aspx

    such bizarre looking things, make you realise that birds evolved from dinosaurs.

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    Re: Birds

    Post by Long birder on Thu Dec 07 2017, 13:43

    Hi Chris and Jan,
    Have put the free bird songs app on my new phone. Although incomplete, it's worthwhile having and listening to. Some will need background birds differentiating!
    regards
    Derek
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    Re: Birds

    Post by chris c on Thu Dec 07 2017, 22:50

    I got a good grounding in bird songs and calls when I was young, we had no TV but listened to the nature programmes on The Home Service, with recordings by Ludwig Koch and Victor Lewis. I used to do my own recording but quality equipment cost an arm and a leg in those days, since when the environmental noise got dialled up a lot. Modern recorders are an order of magnitude cheaper and better and smaller too, though I've been pondering on splashing out on a "collector's item" like a Nagra, just because I always wanted one.

    Some of the birdwatchers I meet around the reserves and elsewhere have some awesome apps on their phones which help out when my memory has failed. Maybe I'll see what Santa brings me.

    Not hardly much to see or hear recently, loads of imported Blackbirds but a serious lack of other winter thrushes. The massive local Rook and Jackdaw roost also appears to have moved after many years in the same wood, and no decent Starling Murmurations yet. A few more Whooper and Bewicks Swans but a lack of geese too.

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    Re: Birds

    Post by Long birder on Fri Dec 08 2017, 13:44

    My problem Chris is I don't like Google to have my credit card details. So I opt for free stuff.

    Plenty of Redwing and Fieldfare through and tens of thousands of the Svalbard population of Barnacle Geese on the Solway. 5 Yellow Hammer and c.20 Tree Sparrows in garden. Dotterel still with Golden Plover on the Solway, although I have not caught up with it yet.
    Not many of the Hawfinch invasion have reach Cumbria.
    D
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    Re: Birds

    Post by Jan1 on Fri Dec 08 2017, 19:32

    Out today and going to the car there was a robin perched on the car aerial ...cheeky thing I thought Smile but it was nice to see him, such lovely colouring.

    All the best Jan

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    Re: Birds

    Post by Long birder on Thu Dec 14 2017, 14:10

    I read a report the other that suggested that Neonics not only affect bees but are causing birds to get disoriented during migration. This sounds to be a canary in the coal mine situation! Derek
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    Re: Birds

    Post by chris c on Thu Dec 14 2017, 23:34

    Wow I was assuming most of the effects were from climate change but that's a thought.

    Scurried over some of the farmland yesterday, I saw a whole TWO Redwings, and a couple of Blackbirds and Robins. The huge Rook and Jackdaw roost seems to have completely deserted the wood they used for years, there were only a few around. I shall have to hunt around to see where they congregate instead. There were a couple of disconsolate Buzzards hunched in trees, and a Peregrine flashed past, they seem to be breeding well and spreading.

    Apart from the missing winter thrushes there's been a lack of Lapwings and Goldies on the farmland so far too.

    Jealous of your Tree Sparrows, haven't seen or heard any for a few years now but there are still plenty of House Sparrows, and Yellowhammers.

    I found a Hawfinch nest in Bristol decades ago. Well actually in Leigh Woods just over the suspension bridge. Also once heard a Golden Oriole, surprisingly hard to see considering they are large and bright yellow. Well actually it was fairly greenish, probably a youngster: right up in the tops of the trees in the early morning sun it was very well camouflaged. No Nightingales left in Nightingale Valley by then, and the Peregrines hadn't returned by the time I left.

    The Orioles now seem to have deserted Lakenheath where there was a breeding colony for years. Hawfinches live on a private estate with no public access just up the road. We used to get them in small numbers in Surrey too, bounding over the treetops looking very top heavy but I haven't seen any of this year's crop of immigrants. There's been another flock of 30 - 40 Snow Buntings on the beach between Thorpeness and Aldeburgh but I didn't go down there yet either, or to see if the geese and ducks have built up on the flooded marshes, usually lots of Whitefronts and Pintails, the Barnacles I'm told are all feral.
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    Re: Birds

    Post by chris c on Wed Dec 20 2017, 00:04

    Made it down to the beach between Thorpeness and Aldeburgh in the brilliant sunshine, though it was slightly cold.

    I parked about halfway in between where the parking is free - unlike other places, the town car parks still charge in winter. I wasn't sure which direction to walk at first but I spotted a couple of Pied Wagtails on the shingle, and a couple of Meadow Pipits, and a few Linnets.

    A bit further north and I came upon the Snow Buntings, at least a couple of dozen of them flitting around on the shingle and among the seedheads. Hard to count as they kept dividing up into smaller flocks and heading off in different directions, then re-amalgamating again. They weren't quite as tame as the Dunwich flock but were fluttering around quite close, and gradually proceeding north up the beach a bit quicker than I was walking, so eventually I left them to it and returned south to the hide overlooking the flooded marsh.

    Hide? More like viewing platform, a bit like one of those old fashioned bus shelters, a roof, a bench and open to the elements on all sides. By then the sun was going down and reflecting off the water affecting the visibility.

    In the distance I saw a flock of Rooks and Jackdaws explode into the sky from where they were congregating to roost. I kept an eye out in case it was a Peregrine, and suddenly a bunch of ducks loafing on the grassy banks catapulted themselves into the water. I still didn't see a Peregrine but it might have been a Merlin, there are a few hanging around. Or just a "dread" when everything panics at the memory of something that happened a while ago.

    The ducks divided up into one flock largely of Teal, going crek crek, and one of Wigeon going wheeoo. There were several Shovelers which stayed in the water throughout, but I couldn't see any Pintail. Likewise there were loads of Greylags and Barnacle Geese, both feral, but no Whitefronts.

    As the light was going and my feet were cooling rapidly, I hoofed it back along the back of the beach. I met some people who had walked south to Aldeburgh and were now on the way back, who had spotted the Snow Buntings much further south - they reckoned thirty to forty so had obviously seen the whole flock.

    I had a stem of Brussels sprouts in the car and several sausages still in the fridge so that was dinner sorted.

    We often get Snow Buntings but this year the numbers have been exceptional. More than makes up for all the missing stuff.

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    Re: Birds

    Post by Long birder on Wed Dec 20 2017, 16:28

    There has been some snow buntings on the coast near us this year, just five.  Otherwise most of the larger flocks of Snow Bunting winter on the fell tops where someone had a Shore Lark last winter. When I maintained transmitting equipment there were good sized flocks in winter round the buildings at Great Dun Fell radar station, which is almost as high as nearby Pennine peak Crossfell


    You mentioned Twite recently, Chris - they were a common breeding bird in the right areas when we came to Cumbria in the mid 1960s!  Now they are scarce.
    In the 1950s when I birded on the Wash, winter flocks of Twite numbered 1000s.   How these birds fortunes have changed.
    D.

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    Re: Birds

    Post by Long birder on Wed Dec 20 2017, 16:42

    @Jan1 wrote:Out today and going to the car there was a robin perched on the car aerial ...cheeky thing I thought Smile but it was nice to see him, such lovely colouring.

    All the best Jan
    They are not a very tolerant bird, Jan! However during the cold weather six were feeding in the garden at the same time. Probably the territorial male felt there was too much opposition.

    best wishes to you and yours for Christmas and 2018.
    Derek
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    Re: Birds

    Post by Jan1 on Thu Dec 21 2017, 12:58

    @Long birder wrote:
    @Jan1 wrote:Out today and going to the car there was a robin perched on the car aerial ...cheeky thing I thought Smile but it was nice to see him, such lovely colouring.

    All the best Jan
    They are not a very tolerant bird, Jan! However during the cold weather six were feeding in the garden at the same time. Probably the territorial male felt there was too much opposition.

    best wishes to you and yours for Christmas and 2018.
    Derek

    Goodness, I don't think I've ever seen six robins together. We always just seem to have one that hops around near the car and bushes. Of course I'm not sure if it is the same one. I always like to see robins, they do seem such a colourful bird. Memories of both my mum and gran always come back to me ... they always used to talk about robins in the garden Smile

    Many thanks for your best wishes Derek.
    Have a good Christmas and good wishes for the New Year too.

    All the best Jan
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    Re: Birds

    Post by chris c on Fri Dec 22 2017, 23:12

    @Long birder wrote:There has been some snow buntings on the coast near us this year, just five.  Otherwise most of the larger flocks of Snow Bunting winter on the fell tops where someone had a Shore Lark last winter. When I maintained transmitting equipment there were good sized flocks in winter round the buildings at Great Dun Fell radar station, which is almost as high as nearby Pennine peak Crossfell


    You mentioned Twite recently, Chris - they were a common breeding bird in the right areas when we came to Cumbria in the mid 1960s!  Now they are scarce.
    In the 1950s when I birded on the Wash, winter flocks of Twite numbered 1000s.   How these birds fortunes have changed.
    D.

    Oh yes I remember the Twites up on the fells. And the Golden Plovers, Lapwings, Curlews, Snipe . . . oh and Ring Ousels. Someone was telling me there are still Twites around the Norfolk coast, but probably not in those numbers. Here we regularly get 50 - 60 but they can be buggers to find, like the Snow Buntings they patrol a long stretch of beach and can be the other end from where I go, then when I go to the other end they fly down to where I just came from.

    Didn't know that about the Snow Buntings up on the fells (well I may have done but forgot), here they are almost exclusively coastal. Goodly numbers this year, someone from Essex was telling me they have a flock which hangs out around a cafe on the beach and pick up crumbs almost from beneath people's feet.
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    Re: Birds

    Post by chris c on Sat Dec 30 2017, 23:18

    Even more Snow Buntings around, 65 reported in one flock alone and probably a couple of hundred up and down the coast.

    It set me thinking, they and the Twites specialise on eating the seeds from the coastal plants, but these are avoided by most of the resident birds, except Linnets and a few Yellowhammers. Maybe they are too salty and only certain species can process the salt.

    This set me thinking further about just how many modern vegetables are derived from coastal plants - Sea Beet, Sea Kale, Sea Cabbage, Wild Asparagus, Wild Carrot, Wild Parsnip etc. A lot of these have leaves like leather and roots like hawsers, a great deal of plant breeding skill went into making them edible. Our forbears must have had good teeth, and a high tolerance for fibre.

    Still a lack of many of the usually common winter visitors, but there's currently a Starling murmuration at Minsmere, they seem to have been very late to arrive this year, as compared to last year when they turned up at the regular time, murmurated a few times in a couple of places and then presumably emigrated again.

    I found the Rooks and Jackdaws congregating in a different farmer's fields much further west. Not sure if they have returned to their regular wood yet or if they are roosting elsewhere, maybe avoiding the Buzzards and Kites.

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    Re: Birds

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