Blog

Thu 31st January 2013

Posted on February 3, 2013 at 5:00 AM

Due to "lots-o'-work"-related issues, I have not updated here for a few weeks but I have been quite busy on the wildlife front. I usually spend mid-Jan to mid-March pretty much hibernating but I have been out and about as much as possible this year, spurred on by the challenges I have set myself.

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The snow which arrived (and disappeared) here on Friday 18th brought many, many birds to the island, pushed from colder climes abroad. After work on that day, I called in at Pulias on the way home and there were winter thrushes arriving in from the sea, some of them feeding amongst the seaweed. There were also flocks of Lapwings coming through and a few Skylarks going overhead, which is quite unusual to see at this time of year. Also there were two Firecrests feeding in the bushes just yards away. A superb 15 minutes burst of birding.

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Over the next few days these winter species could be seen everywhere, the main species was Redwing and there were literally thousands and thousands on the island. Every suitable field seemed to have hundreds feeding in there.

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Redwings on Vale Rec football pitch, which was covered in hundreds of these plus Fieldfares.

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This was quite useful for my "Footit" challenge and I added Fieldfare, Lapwing, Golden Plover and Wigeon to my total over the weekend of the 19th and 20th. The Golden Plover was on the school playing field nearby. But that was the peak of the action, because when the weather became a little warmer, the new arrivals stopped and birds became scarce again. So last weekend's "Footit" walk was a little more tame with few interesting birds noted and no additions to the list. However, a cancelled meeting after school today meant I could have a quick dash to the Garenne NR where I luckily picked up both Bullfinch and Siskin, just squeezing them in before the final whistle.

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So here is my final "Footit" checklist. I managed 76 out of my target of 80. I am very pleased to have found 76 species within just one mile of home and I am sure that I would have passed the 80 if I had the time. Reading the "Footit" blog, many of the birders on there seem to have spent days and days out in the field. I have added up my hours to just 12, so I think hitting 95% of my target is a pleasing effort. I don't think that many birders will have got better than 6.3 bpmph (birds per mile per hour).

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Other birds seen have been few, but I have been enjoying watching a Grey Wagtail feeding in the puddles below my classroom window all month. On the 24th I saw the Black Brant again at Vazon and there has been a fine-looking 2nd-winter Med Gull showing well at Cobo.

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2nd-winter Med Gull - Cobo, 22 Jan 13

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I have also been spending my time searching the area for ticks for the "1000 for 1KSQ" challenge. It really is amazing what variety there is out there when you go searching for it. I have just reached 150 species of organism in my home 1km-square, mainly by trying to identify groups that I have never really looked at before. The worms in the garden are not just 'worms', they are Redhead Worm and Blue Worm. The moss growing in the hanging baskets isn't just 'moss', it's Capillary Thread-moss. Those manky bits of scabby-stuff on the garden weeds are not just 'manky bits of scabby-stuff', they are different types of rust fungus. Looking closely opens up a whole new world you never knew was there.

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Common Green Shieldbug - garden, 26 Jan 13 - species number 150

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Of course, identifying some of these organisms is very, very difficult. I have bought a few books, but these can be somewhat daunting. Working your way through a Lichen key is like one of the choose-your-own adventure books where you keep getting killed and have to keep starting again. However, you can only learn when you set yourself challenges and with the help of the other guys on the 1000for1KSQ website, I am learning a lot (although snails are particularly troublesome at the moment). For some groups, the information on the internet is truly amazing. For example, if you find a species of bug wandering around, you stand a good chance of identifying it on the British Bugs website which seems to have all the species in Britain. I am constantly astounded what resources there are out there for the amateur naturalist.

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A tiny 3mm long snail which is found in our garden that I have provisionally identified as Pupilla muscorum.

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Pachygnatha clercki - Garden, Jan 13

Categories: 2012-2013 Winter