St Nicks

Centre for nature and green living

Wildwatch: 12 November – Scandinavian visitors on Bird Walk

Well, no, not exactly Scandinavian visitors on today’s guided Bird Walk, but more seen on our Bird Walk! Read on..

Our guided Bird Walk today was led by local ornithologist, David Campbell, but due to the high turn-out (14 people), Ian was press-ganged as the deputy leader!

We started off looking at the different birds coming to the feeder and bird table in the garden of the Environment Centre. The colourful Bullfinches attracted everyone’s attention, with a supporting cast of Greenfinch, Blue and Great Tits and the shy Dunnock.

Members of our guided Bird Walk on the Bund Path

Members of our guided Bird Walk on the Bund Path

It was a beautiful sunny morning, and David decided, because of the direction of the sun, to start off walking North, with the sun at our backs, on the East side of the playground. We first encountered an invisible, cheeping flock of House Sparrows, and then a small mixed flock of feeding Blue and Great Tits. We noted the small numbers of Starlings singing from the power lines to the North of the reserve.

We continued West along the Butterfly Path and met John, one of the regular local visitors, who gave us some information about his regular sightings on the reserve!

We paused for a short time at the Tang Hall Beck culvert, but, sadly, were not rewarded by any Kingfisher sightings. However, the people on the walk now know where to come to put in the time to see this elusive, but brilliant bird.

Goldfinch feeding on Alder cones

Goldfinch feeding on Alder cones

Surprisingly, we had seen few Goldfinches and Blackbirds on the walk so far, but, as we continued back South along the path along the bund, the Eastern edge of the reserve, we picked up quite a few Goldfinches, feeding on the Alder cones.

And then we started to see quite a few Blackbirds. Not a very notable bird, you might think, but we started to study some of them quite closely.

One bird, in  particular, had an unusually dark-coloured beak, and a few people remembered hearing on the BBC’s “AutumnWatch” that some of the Scandinavian Blackbirds, moving to the UK, had these black beaks.

Apparently, “sources suggest that Scandinavian 1st winter males don’t develop the yellow beak until they return to their breeding grounds. Our own 1st winter males apparently develop the yellow earlier, making this a way of distinguishing between UK birds and winter visitors from overseas” (Flickr discussion forum).

Blackbird - probably from Scandinavia

Blackbird - probably from Scandinavia

A photograph taken on the Bird Walk shows this bird, and you can see that there are traces of yellow showing on the beak, even though it seemed to be all-dark through binoculars. So – at last – we have reasonable evidence that St Nicks has Scandinavian Blackbirds!

Two fly-over birds seen on the walk, which were notable, were Cormorants, which is probably a new bird on the St Nicks list (although Ivana doesn’t feel comfortable about including “fly-overs”!). Cormorants, although essentially birds of the coast, have increasingly moved inland, and there is an active Cormorant colony in the Lower Derwent Valley, only a few miles away from St Nicks.

The walk finished at 11.45 with tea, coffee, scones and biscuits back at the Environment Centre. Our thanks to David Campbell for his expert guidance. We recorded, on the walk, a total of 19 bird species.

12 November 2011 | Categories: Wildwatch | Tags: bird walk, Bullfinch, cormorant, scandinavian blackbirds, Wildwatch