Sunday, 6 January 2013

Happy New Year

My first 'proper' outing of 2013 took me to Shibdon Pond and Far Pasture, though yesterday while out with the kids I had a first in the form of a singing Dipper on the Derwent, first time I've ever heard one singing, a very warbleresque song, probably brought on by the very mild start to the year. Unfortunately my attempt to photograph the singing bird was thwarted by a passing dog, and the only other bit of interest on an otherwise barren day for birds was a collection of badger fur scattered around a flat stone, where they've been rubbing against it for the purpose of ridding themselves of the old loose fur which must get a bit itchy. Another sign of the mild weather though as traditionally January (being usually the coldest month of the year) is when badgers seem to disappear, they don't hibernate, just don't like the cold so prefer to be tucked up at home in the sett, foraging only when really neccessary. 

Today at Shibdon a good selection of gulls but not much else until a kingfisher made a colourful (though distant) appearance just before we left, a year tick for all present.
Far Pasture was both good and bad, the bad part being the pond itself which held only a few mallard and teal and a single moorhen.
The surrounding scrub and trees were excellent however. Star birds being not one but two wintering chiffchaffs of two different races, one your bog-standard greenish yellow chiffy and the other much browner-backed with beigey underparts more likely a scandinavian race bird. Being adjacent to the sewage works there were plenty of flying insects around for them today in the mild conditions but I wonder how they will manage when it supposedly turns a lot colder in the coming days.
The interesting thing about wintering chiffchaffs is that they won't be birds which spend the summer here (those will be long gone to warmer African climes) but birds which spent the summer on the continent, moving west rather than south. We spent a good while trying to photograph them but it proved very difficult in the overcast conditions, and as they remained for the most part very flighty and at the back of the scrub.
Goldcrests were in plentiful supply here too, and a band of long-tailed tits carried an assortment of other tits and small birds with them including a nuthatch. Two treecreepers came along in quick succession giving excellent views, and the adjacent sewage works held maybe half a dozen pied wagtails.
Two skeins of (100+) pink-footed geese added excitement to an already excellent session, and just as we left a small flock of maybe 16-18 siskin arrived.
In the car park (where seed is put down on a large flat rock) a couple of willow tits were among a good selection of commoner birds, with a couple of striking nuthatches here too.
All in all a very good mornings birding entertainment.

Update (and a bit of name-dropping) :
I also got a reply from TV's Mike Dilger (wildlife expert from BBC's The One Show) after I tweeted about my singing dipper, who makes the point that the song is often overlooked due to the roar of the river in its fast-flowing habitat. A valid point I think as even though on this occasion the bird was singing from a low perch on an island close to the nearside bank, when it turned away from my direction it was hardly audible.

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