Three weeks ago, we enjoyed Linnets bathing. Today, we have one of a small flock stripping seeds from wildflowers, munching happily with its efficiently designed, seed-cracking beak.
I’m finally able to share some exciting news with you all. Back in June I was utterly astonished and hugely delighted to be invited by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) to contribute to their forthcoming publication Into the Red, ‘a collection of words and art inspired by Britain’s most vulnerable birds’. The book focuses on Britain’s red-listed birds, each one the subject of an original artwork and a piece of writing, prose or poetry, by 70 artists and 70 writers, some well-known, some not (like me). Profits from the sale of the book will be used to help these birds, to support the work being done to conserve and restore ailing bird populations.
The official publication date is 4 October but you can see examples of the book’s interior pages right now, and pre-order your copies, by clicking on this link to the BTO website. I know times are tough for many people at the moment but, if you can, I urge you to buy the book so that, together, we can try to bring these vulnerable birds back from the edge of extinction. My sincere thanks!
As well as the Ringed plovers I blogged about yesterday, my walk along Sully beach produced over 30 Turnstones, my favourite beach birds, pottering along, poking under stones, pulling at piles of seaweed in their never-ending search for tasty invertebrates.
Ringed plovers are not common on my local patch. In fact, the only place I see them is amongst the rocks on Sully beach, and that’s exactly where these 15 were perched, snoozing, preening, balancing on one spindly looking leg, when I walked along the beach last week.
Though their scientific name, Charadrius hiaticula, is a bit of a tongue-twister, they have, according to my Fauna Britannica, some wonderful vernacular names: bull’s-eye (Ireland); dulwilly and grundling (Lancashire); ringlestone (Yorkshire); sand tripper (County Down); shell-turner (Sussex); and wideawake (Somerset), to list just a few.
Today was a very good day to sit quietly in a peaceful spot. And I was blessed with the company of this little Robin that came and spent some time with me. As we silently communed, overhead the air was alive with hundreds, perhaps thousands of Swallows and the occasional House martin, all feeding up before their miraculous migration.
Usually Collared doves are easily spooked so, when I rounded the bend in a local footpath that winds between houses and saw these two on the ground in front of me, I expected them to fly off immediately. But no! Someone had sprinkled seed alongside the path and they wanted it. There was no way they were leaving until they’d consumed every tasty niblet. So, I waited, and used the opportunity to get several close photos of these grey beauties.
I’ve been trying to work out what the optimum conditions are for bird migration, and it seems to be a combination of a clear night followed by a sunny day, with just the right amount of wind – at least, that seems to be what Wheatears like as, both on Wednesday and today, they have been moving through in reasonable numbers, with some stopping off locally en route to their southern over-wintering grounds. These are a few I’ve been privileged to spot in recent days …
When I first saw a Buzzard on the ground like this but couldn’t see any sign of it having caught any prey, I wondered if it might be ill. My fellow birders quickly put me right – the Buzzard was probably worming. I never thought a bird of prey would eat something so tiny as an earthworm but needs must when prey is hard to find, or catch. And, indeed, I could see that the end of this bird’s beak was a bit grubby with soil. It was fascinating to watch, especially as the Magpies sneakily tried to pinch what the Buzzard was finding.
As well as the phenomenal Black terns I shared on Saturday, my visit to Parc Tredelerch produced another avian treat, this Kingfisher, at first perching on the edge of the boardwalk, then, later, appearing right in front of us as we searched the skies for the terns. Most of my recent views of Kingfishers have been of a fleeting flash of teal streaking rapidly past, so it was especially nice to have this one sit a short while quite close by.
Phenomenal fliers effortlessly performing awesome aerobatics…. It’s easy to get carried away and, at the same time, difficult to describe adequately in words the flying skills of members of the Tern family. It also proved extremely difficult, even with my new camera, to get good photographs as they swooped and swerved, dipped and dived, feeding on tiny insects both on and above the water.
These are juvenile Black terns (Childonias niger), rare visitors to south Wales, so it’s been a treat for many birders this week to have seen first one, then yesterday a second bird, feeding over the lake in Cardiff’s Parc Tredelerch. I spent several magical hours with a friend at the lake yesterday, watching and marvelling at these thrilling fliers.