Risk assessment: food or flee?
Food, of course, and these seeds are just so tasty!
One eye on the sky – or perhaps the tall human – just in case there’s a threat.
But these seeds are just so tasty!
The British Trust for Ornithology describes it as a ‘nasal “dzwee”’; my description would be something like: stuttered twittering interspersed with long nasal wheezing. It’s an odd sound to make to attract a member of the opposite sex but it seems to work perfectly for the male Greenfinch. So, if you’re out walking and happen to hear a loud nasal wheezing from above, do look up. The Greenfinch is such a fabulous-looking bird and it has suffered a dramatic national decline in population since about 2005, so don’t miss any opportunity to see one.
Today I went looking for the Siskin that were seen at Cosmeston on Sunday (and had been heard by another birder earlier in the month). They’re not birds I’m familiar with as they’re not common locally and I’ve only seen them a couple of times when I’ve been on bird club trips (oh, and once very high in the trees at Forest Farm). My heart skipped a beat when I heard a flock of Goldfinches in the trees ahead of me (the Siskin were associating with Goldfinches on Sunday) and saw a few flashes of yellow and green in the birds with them. Unfortunately, they weren’t Siskin but Greenfinches – I’m not complaining though, as Greenfinches are also birds I don’t see very often.
Wednesday dawned clear and frosty so on went the layers of clothing, scarf, hat, gloves and boots, in the backpack went the camera, binoculars, a spot of lunch and rain jacket (this is Wales and I was once a Girl Guide so I was prepared!). I’d scanned tweets, posts and blogs so knew vaguely what to expect and left the house hopeful.
And I did not despair, nor was I disappointed. On my first Glamorgan Bird Club trip of the year, to Ogmore – both the river and the beach – and then on to Kenfig National Nature Reserve, I added ten new birds to my 2018 list, including two lifetime firsts in the Slavonian grebe and Short-eared owls.
At Ogmore, the weather was glorious – blue skies, and heat in the sun, if you managed to shelter from the chilly breeze. There were gulls galore, mostly Herring and Black-headed, a sprinkling of Common and a single Med, as well as, further down river, a Great black-backed gull – what beasts they are!
A Kingfisher added its flash of turquoise, to the mostly white, grey and brown colours of the other birds (Little egret, Cormorant, Mallard, Redshank, Canada goose, Mute swan). But I don’t mean to imply the other avian species were boring – just look at these dazzling Goldeneyes!
As we wandered further towards the river mouth, a Stonechat popped up to survey the humans adorned with bins, scopes and cameras, all staring in the opposite direction, to peep briefly, ‘Look at me!’. So I did.
At Ogmore beach, we were hoping for Purple sandpipers but, even with 21 pairs of eyes surveying every nook and rock cranny, we lucked out. Turns out the birds were spending the day across the bay at Newton and Porthcawl. But hey, the scenery was glorious, with glimpses of the recent dumps of snow across the water on Exmoor.
Sandwiches devoured, we headed to Kenfig and stomped down to the pool, where I almost immediately got on to my first lifer of the day, the little black-and-white Slavonian grebe that’s been overwintering there. It’s small, a frequent diver, and was distant but was plainly see-able through bins and scopes, if not such a great subject for my camera.
By this time, the sun had clouded over, and even a stroll through boggy fields, over wonky stiles, around the lake’s edge in search of White-fronted geese failed to keep the chill from my bones – and we didn’t see those geese. But, a small stalwart seven of us – the others peeling off to heated cars and homes – decided to head for a high point to survey the dunes for the Short-eared owls that have recently been sighted hunting at dawn and dusk. Another lifer! Two birds were seen, one flying low, back and forth amongst the dunes, the other gliding high, with a Kestrel for company.
And to finish off a wonderful day’s birding, we got the call that tea, coffee and cake awaited us at the Kenfig office, and spotted these two Greenfinch amongst trees along the way. Just perfect!
We saw 62 species in total: the full list can be seen on the Glamorgan Bird Club’s website here.
I hadn’t been to Forest Farm for a while but, when I heard some rather nice fungi had been found, I was there like a shot (more on that tomorrow). And, of course, whilst there I had to spend some quality time with the lovely birds that can be seen in this beautiful nature reserve at any time of the year. Now, in early autumn, there are a lot of young birds, and they’re always fun, and hungry, and often quite confiding.