Saturday, 26 October 2013

Autumn into winter

With a gale forecast to arrive soon and the clocks going back, autumn is beginning to turn into winter.
It's been surprisingly mild though and late butterflies continue to feed before going into hibernation.
Several commas, red admirals and small tortoiseshells have been in my garden near Derby, feeding on michaelmas daisies and now on ivy blossom. In addition I've put out rotting plums, damsons and bananas which the commas and red admirals love, probing their proboscises deep into the gooey mess.
Red admiral on ivy 
On the bird front, there are still rather few immigrant thrushes in the Derby area. Even though there were some big counts of redwings a few weeks ago, most of them and their larger cousins the fieldfares, must still be in Scandinavia.
Fieldfare by Pauline Greenhalgh 
Meanwhile, those (mostly crazy) bird watchers who indulge in watching visual migration ('vis mig') are getting up at dawn and keeping their eyes on the skies for the next hour or two, when passage, if there is any, is at its height. I myself indulge occasionally. Two mornings ago I counted over 3000 wood pigeons flying south in flocks up to 150 strong. But there were only a handful of thrushes. This morning, pigeons were on the move again, keeping low to the contours as they headed into a blustery SSW wind.
Suddenly, a raptor flew up in front of me and went over my head, rather half-heartedly chasing a pigeon. It was a juvenile male peregrine falcon and I wondered if it might be from the cathedral since I was only a few miles from the city.
Serious vis miggers contribute their sightings to a website run by a Dutchman and called Trektellen. Some counts are amazing either for the sheer number of birds recorded or for the variety of species seen. Look at http://www.trektellen.nl/trektelling.asp?telpost=751 to see how many redwings were counted on a single morning flying over a hill in Bedfordshire on 10th October. That must have been amazing!
The best vis mig watch points tend to be among hills or moors where birds are channelled by the contours. But even if you just step outside your house and look up, wherever you are, on a 'good day' you can expect to see redwings, fieldfares or woodies flying over....as long as you get up early! Usually by 9-10 am, passage is much reduced or over, the birds then settling to feed.
Nick B (DWT)
Ps. The best conditions for movement are good visibility, overcast skies and light SW winds but locally birds may move in a wide range of weather types. On clear nights, go outside anytime after 10/11 pm and listen for the 'seep seep' calls of redwings flying overhead....it's magic to hear them passing....and, as Lorraine commented recently, it must be quite exciting for our cathedral peregrines too.

41 comments:

Nick B (DWT) said...

To see Lorraine's first comment on this post please refer back to the previous post and read the last two comments.
Nick B

Sue Peregrino said...

Thank you Nick for updating the blog. The subscription email this sends me reminds me that I've been slacking in my visits. I've had a fabulous trip to Symonds Yat, a breathtaking vantage point overlooking a huge loop of the river Wye down in Herefordshire. The big cliffs there are the top predator's site and the top peregrines are guarding it. The adult female was in residence whilst the adult male was taking a juvenile female on hunting practice but is now taking her far away, hoping to give her the message its time to leave home. There were two great birders there and just as the best birders do, let me look through their scope. I'd never have seen the female without that as I very stupidly failed to take my binoculars. I swapped the news with them; they told me all about Symonds Yat and I told them the news from Derby.
I guess all of our birds,residents and winter visitors alike, will be keeping their heads well down for the next day or two while we get this big storm that we've been promised.

Hilary B'ham said...

Thanks Nick for the great update. I don't often get the chance to get to the migrating watchpoints but have been able to attract so many more garden birds into my garden over the last year or so. Will try putting out some rotting fruit but I suspect my regular birds,foxes and badgers might just get there first. I have noticed this year many more butterflies and some late butterflies. I have organised some "bug hotels"here in my garden, also at my grand daughter's in Putney, very near to The London Wetland Centre. After my week up in the Highlands in June I am now keeping the two, safely situated and not too huge dead trees in my garden. More insect life in dead trees than live ones and more insects mean more birds. It's great isn't it!

Hilary B'ham said...

> Sue Peregrino. My mother lived very near to Symonds Yat and regularly watched and painted the peregrines there. My sister and I climbed a few fences there (hope no one was looking) to scatter her ashes within site of the peregrine nest site after mother passed away a few years ago. I feel another trip to Symonds Yat coming on....beautiful part of the country.

Hilary B'ham said...

> Sue Peregrino. My mother lived very near to Symonds Yat and regularly watched and painted the peregrines there. My sister and I climbed a few fences there (hope no one was looking) to scatter her ashes within site of the peregrine nest site after mother passed away a few years ago. I feel another trip to Symonds Yat coming on....beautiful part of the country.

Hilary B'ham said...

> Sue Peregrino. My mother lived very near to Symonds Yat and regularly watched and painted the peregrines there. My sister and I climbed a few fences there (hope no one was looking) to scatter her ashes within site of the peregrine nest site after mother passed away a few years ago. I feel another trip to Symonds Yat coming on....beautiful part of the country.

Helen said...

Both adult birds were sitting on the hotel lettering this morning, looking very content, but no sign of any juveniles. Three workmen on the road below were very interested and a couple of them enjoyed seeing the birds through my binnoculars. They soon had their phones out to google the website!

Lorraine said...

Wow! I've just checked out Symonds Yat Sue - what a breathtaking area it is! The resident Peregrines must be a supreme example of their species, what with so much variety of prey to sight from their perfect vantage point.

I bet each morning the tiercel says to the falcon "What tasty morsels shall we eat today?" She prob replies "Oh, we'll have redwing for breckers, pigeon for elevens's, fieldfare for afternoon snack and a nice plump woodcock for supper I think!"

Anyway, I'm certainly going to stop off at Symonds Yat if ever the opportunity arises - what a glorious representation of the great British landscape.

Hilary, what a wonderful and loving accolade to your dear mother. I also admire your dedication in catering for the many visitors to your garden. Good luck with the "bug hotels" and what a great idea. I've done my best again this year to create a safe haven for any hedgehogs that may pass through, but sadly they seem very far and few between nowadays.

Well, as far as Plymouth was concerned, we fared very well in the gales, had far worse in fact, so from this neck of the woods all I can say on that score is that it all turned out to be:-

" A bit of a storm in a teacup! "

Anonymous said...

Watching from the U.S. at 6:30pm UK Time on October 28, 2013 and a Peregrine is visiting the nest area at Derby. Have not seen one for a few weeks, it is great to finally see one again.

Cheers.

Anonymous said...

Think there is a juvie in the scrape at 6pm tonight. lots of speckled breast feathers. Big healthy looking bird.

Linda

Lorraine said...

That's very interesting Linda as I really do believe that a juvie is still in the Derby area and occasionally sneaking back to the tower and scrape looking for any leftovers from the adult catches. It's just a case of catching the little monkey in a timely screen grab!

Meanwhile I'm keeping an eye out for it! ...............

Phoebe said...

Only stream 1 is working at the moment. Stream 3 is unavailable.

Phoebe said...

I was just lucky to see the falcon arrive at the scrape with a fresh catch, I thin it could be a fieldfare! She is eating now.

Phoebe said...

I will out some pics on flickr

Phoebe said...

thin = think
out = put
apologies for my typing errors lol

Phoebe said...

Some pics om flickr now of the prey brought in by the falcon earlier today. Does anyone know what prey it is? I still think it is a fieldfare.

Nick B (DWT) said...

Hi Phoebe: it certainly isn't a fieldfare I'm afraid to say - these lovely Scandinavian thrushes are white on the underbelly and this is dark brown and the bird is a bit too big. I would say it is probably a woodcock but my hesitancy is that the legs look yellow - whereas woodcock legs are dull grey coloured. I've put our (national) prey expert Ed Drewitt on the case and I'm sure he'll confirm or otherwise and let me know.
Incidentally there are definite woodcock featehrs lying in the middle of the tray.....
Cheers
Nick

Phoebe said...

Hi Nick, I must agree with you now, I did see the legs were yellow and the feathers more like that of a woodcock but can't really tell what it is. The pics on flickr might help id this. It is quite a big bird.

Thanks for replying. Let's hope Ed Drewitt can sort it out for us.

Phoebe

Sue Peregrino said...

Oh yes, and Symonds Yat has got a great tea hut too (top marks, Forestry Commission!) What a fabulous thing you did for your mother Hilary and boy, was she incredibly blessed or what to live in such a gorgeous part of the country! I've done a simlar thing in exchanging a pebble from my brother's grave for one there (also doubtless very politically incorrect) He never visited but he would have loved it. As Derby is my top "urban" spot, Symonds Yat is definitely my top "wild" one! I've seen some comments about Ed Drewitt - you may all be interested to hear that he tweeted yesterday to say that he has a book on urban peregrines coming out in May. Also on twitter, London Peregrine Project posted this "Nice work if you can get it (and don't mind heights…) http://www.grandforksherald.com/event/article/id/277170/ " ...... but of course, that water tower is nothing compared to Derby cathedral!

Lorraine said...

Gosh, when I saw the Cam No1 image of the large prey that had been brought back to the scrape I thought for a horrid moment that it was a juvenile peregrine. Even the flickr images don't exactly identify it.

Why have the parent birds seemingly chosen to leave the catch uneaten do you think?

I won't fully relax now until the expert opinion of Ed Drewitt clarify's ( hopefully ) exactly what kind of bird it is.

I can still see the carcass lying there ignored by the adult just in view on Cam No1's image of the scrape.

Phoebe said...

@ Lorraine... The prey that is left on the scrape is not complete, the falcon had a good feed from it when she brought it in. There must be plenty of food around for them to leave it there, maybe it is maturing just like we hang game before cooking it!

It is not big enough to be a juvenile peregrine so I wouldn't worry about that.

Lorraine said...

Phew! - thanks for that info Phoebe x

Hope cam No.3 is up and running again soon. Very windy in Plymouth again at present but with sun just peeping thru every now and then.

Will tune in again later....

Anonymous said...

Update: Nov. 2nd 3:30pm U.K. time a Peregrine is visiting the Box. Great to see them now and again. Watching from U.S.

Sue Peregrino said...

@Lorraine I have a piece of peregrine info that might be of interest to you but it's not appropriate to put it on this blog. The Derby Project have my contact details. If you would like to correspond offline, contact Nick at enquiry@wildlifetrusts.org and ask him for my details.

Nick B (Derbyshire Wildlife Trust) said...

Ed Drewitt and I both think the prey item is probably a woodcock though it isn't that easy to determine...and the beak certainly isn't in view...which would have helped considerably!
Nick B (DWT)

Lorraine said...

Hi Sue,
Sounds interesting! I've emailed Nick B for the necessary contact info and will email direct once received.
Many thanks,
Lorraine

AnnieF. said...

There's a peregrine on the tower, facing the wall, but I can't make out any distinguishing features to identify it precisely.

Lorraine said...

I can see it also AnnieF - I saw the falcon spending time in that spot earlier, so it may be her. I'm watching closely for a glimpse of a leg ring ( or not! ) or she may turn around and show her identity later.

Lorraine said...

Oh, there you go, the peregrine in question has now turned to face the Cam and - it's the falcon. As per, he's looking for supper !

Lorraine said...

Oh, there you go, the peregrine in question has now turned to face the Cam and - it's the falcon. As per (SHE's ) looking for supper !

Phoebe said...

@ Nick B and Ed Drewitt – Thank you both for your input on the ID of the recent prey. Most of the time the prey is brought in without the head, which is what I think happened here. I was looking for the long beak of a woodcock or snipe at the time but could not see a head. I do think it is more likely a snipe now, the wing feathers are not that of a fieldfare.

I have been enjoying watching the bullfinches, one male and two female in my new back garden. Still no sign of any redwing or fieldfare, though I know they are around mot far away. The rown tree is still dripping with bright red berries. I wait and watch patiently...

@ Lorraine – The bird you have been watching must have been on the scrape as I still can't get a view on any of the other streams. I'm afraid I didn't have much time to watch today. I was distracted from my housework by the bullfinches!

AnnieF. said...

I do believe it's the falcon I can see on the left-hand ledge of the scrape. Where are Phoebe and Lorraine when ID is needed?!

Lorraine said...

Hi AnnieF !
Yes it's the falcon we can see on the scrape at the moment. She still hasn't finished off the prey remains that was left there some days ago has she. It's thought to be a woodcock. Maybe they actually have taste preferences - who knows - but nice to know there is plenty of choice for them to feed on. The adults will both be fit and healthy for the start of next years egg laying.

Lorraine said...

The falcon spent many hours sleeping on the scrape last night - still there at 2.45am this morning.

I just saw her again ( 11.50am )with a small catch in the r/h side of the scrape, but she has now flown off with it toward the direction of the Green. She looks in tip top condition.

Lorraine said...

Tiercel sitting on the far end of the ledge below the scrape ( a favourite spot of his ) at 12.51pm. You can tell it's him by his head feathers. They are almost like a low fitting dense black cap with much neater lines defining the contrasting lighter feathers of cheek and neck. The falcons dark head feathers are not as neatly defined against her cheeks feathers ( for this reason, my own pet name for her is "Cloud" ) due to her contrasting dark and light cheek feathers being more cloudy in appearance and not as neatly defined as the tiercel's.

Lorraine said...

Horrible drizzly day in Plymouth and from the cam it looks like Derby is also damp and misty now. I doubt we'll see any overnighters tonight but will check in on and off towards midnight.

BP: At least it's good weather for ducks and this cute little duckling seems to be having loads of fun !!

Lorraine said...

18.39pm :Tiercel sat on the edge of the scrape wearing his black cap !

Cam 3 has a view, as it did yesterday, but it froze again at 10.27am this morning! Must be the present damp weather so not complaining as there is still Cam 2 showing regular glimpses of both the adult birds meanwhile.

I think I have to concede and accept now that the last remaining Juvie has finally gone for good. Oh well, let's hope some of the four juv's make it through the coming winter and live long and productive lives. I'm sure they will and who knows, one day we may even have confirmation from a sighting of a leg ring. The Derby line are a sturdy bunch. They seem to adapt from urban habitat to wild conditions very well ( even winning a patch on the Moors, as is more or less certain from the Yorkshire sighting.)

Lorraine said...

BP: A screen grab I took earlier which shows the clean lines of the tiercel's black " cap " when merging into the lighter cheek feathers, which are more sharply contrasted than the falcons.

Lorraine said...

Mmmm..... following up on my interest about weather peregrines had a developed sense of taste, it turns out that, depending on the species, birds can have fewer than 50 or up 500 taste buds, whereas we humans have between 9,000-10,000 and though they can taste sweet, sour and bitter, this aspect also varies by species.

So, I guess the peregrine's catches are more opportunistic rather than preferential and once caught they then eat of it what they wish.

I did find out how important it is to keep bird feeding stations clean and fresh though, because having a weaker sense of smell, in comparison to ours, a lot of birds can't necessarily distinguish between rotting and fresh foodstuffs.

Must ensure I keep this in mind when topping up the nuts and seeds etc., and keep it all free of any mould or stale titbits.

Lorraine said...

At checkout ( 2.41am ) it looks like the tiercel is occupying himself with a recent catch on the far end of the ledge benieth the scrape. Can't tell what it is though from this distance.

Lorraine said...

BP:

"Aww, c'mon Mum, whadaya mean were 'avin Pigeon Pot Roast for tea? - we 'ad that last night......and the night before......and the night before that..."