Saturday, 4 January 2014

Through All Kinds of Weather

The wind was gathering force again as Sue and I met on 27 December for the last monthly survey of 2013. It rained for a while too though we found shelter in the wood where a brief outburst of song from a Wren briefly lifted our spirits. Then, just as we were cursing for not checking the weather forecast, out came the sun and brought a few more birds with it. Eventually, we ended up with a healthy total of 18 species. Blue and Great Tits were very active in the trees and quite vocal with Great Tits calling more frequently as if aware that a new year is on the way. Robins were singing around the park too though were not so easy to spot. Near the bothy, we saw a few Long-tailed Tits, very pretty birds but fast-moving and difficult to photograph. My effort below does at least show the length of the tail although the camera angle makes the tail seem as long as the body when in fact it's longer. When you see them in the trees, you notice how small their bodies are compared, say, to the Blue Tit.

A large flock of gulls was spread across the cricket field with Black-headed Gulls (40) outnumbering Common Gulls (5) on this occasion. A Lesser Black-backed Gull was seen there too, though keeping its distance from the others. This was the second Lesser Black-backed sighting of 2013. Sue also glimpsed at separate times the male and female Great Spotted Woodpeckers. And the Starlings are back from wherever it is they go to in the summer - a flock of about 30 was moving noisily tree by tree from near the playground down to the north field. Sadly, the RSPB estimate that the Starling population has fallen by 66% since the mid-70s and it is now red-listed as a bird of conservation concern.

In their usual territory - the Cliffview garden hedges - we saw no less than 12 House Sparrows, slightly more than usual. This is another once common, now red-listed bird which still finds a home on Hilly Fields. Elsewhere in the park, we saw 12 Feral Pigeons, 4 each of Woodpigeon and Crow, three Blackbirds, a pair of Magpies and a single Chaffinch and Ring-necked Parakeet. And so it remains only for me to wish you a very Happy New Year and remind you of what will undoubtedly be the greatest birding event of 2014 if not of all time (weather permitting)...

This is part of the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch weekend. Bring binoculars if you can. We will provide survey sheets. Children are welcome and we will have material for bird feeder making if they are interested in that. You can also have a go at our Fun Bird Quiz which, without being too ornithological, will challenge your common knowledge of our feathered friends. See you there!


  1. Hearing all that rain last night reminded me of the morning I got up early to do an interview in the BBC radio van (it was Today progamme covering the launch of Natural England's Access to Natural Greenspace Standard) ...on the way I passed two ducks, mallards waddling up the park end of Eastern Road. I'd never seen before or since.

  2. Can you recall the date and approx time? Ducks don't usually frequent HF due to the absence of any 'water feature'. This was a freak occurrence but it's worth recording freak occurrences in our bird list to show that they can happen almost anywhere.

    1. Just done a quick check and the Green Ladywell blog posted something on the interview. So I can confirm it was Monday 10th March, 2008. The interview was part of Natural England's launch of ANGSt (Accessible Natural Green Space Standards in Towns and Cities). I probably had to be there around 7am. I think the ducks got a mention in the intro by the reporter ( I can't remember her name).

  3. Brill - I'll add it to the list. Many thanks...