Birds in Stroud. Oh, and a wood mouse.
I have been writing this today 30 November and this evening after dark I took a very cold walk down to the end of the garden (as is my wont most nights) taking my camera just in case; and, to my surprise, a wood mouse crossed my path. A few steps on and a second appeared, ran off and hid behind an old tile just long enough for me to switch on the camera flash and click. And so, here is a bonus pic, see image 26.
Mice aside, I am taking this opportunity to review our parish birds.
We have now seen 50 species of bird in our garden alone and many more in our wanderings around the parish footpaths. Our parish is mainly agricultural with permanent grassland in the west and arable in the east and together with hedgerows, woodland, mature trees, and gardens providing habitat for many birds. All photographs are from our parish.
Observations of water birds (geese and ducks) are limited by publicly accessible water bodies other than the small Seven Stars pond. Canada geese fly overhead, and we have had mallard (images 1 and 2) and moorhen on our garden pond and coot also occurs. Grey heron is often seen flying across the parish and feeding in winter waterlogged fields as well as taking frogs from our garden pond (image 3). Little egret appears sometimes by garden ponds ever hopeful of a fish, and along our streams (image 4).
1 A drake mallard on our garden pond.
2 A mallard hen and family that I, with the help of a group of villagers and the then local policeman, rescued and put on the Seven Stars pond.
3 Grey heron looking for frogs on our garden pond.
Pheasant and red-legged partridge are common and will have been bred for shooting. Spring and early summer sees swifts flying overhead, swallows hunting over the grass fields, and I have seen house martins flying around the new housing at Stroudfields, all having wintered in Africa. We sometimes hear cuckoo calling and good to know they are still around as they also arrive back in the spring from Africa. Wood pigeon is common, and we often see the more delicate collared dove (image 5). Lapwings (image 6) can be seen in small flocks on the arable fields identified in flight by their large rounded black and white wings. Mixed winter flocks of black-headed gull (with dark brown winter head, (image 7), common gull (with white head, image 8), and Mediterranean gull (with black winter head, Image 9) can be seen over the arable fields.
4 Little egret looking down at our pond hoping for a fish.
5 Collared dove.
6 Lapwing on New Buildings Farm.
7 Black-headed gull (really dark brown) in winter.
8 Common gull (with a white head).
9 Mediterranean gull (with a black head).
Of the birds of prey, we often see buzzard (image 10) and red kite (image 11) hunting and thermalling. Kestrel hover over our fields (image 12) and sparrowhawk takes smaller birds from our gardens. Barn owl (image 13) is frequent and breeding in the parish and every autumn/winter we hear tawny owl calling (image 14).
Our most common woodpecker is the great spotted (image 15), but we sometimes see (and more often hear the yaffling call of) the green woodpecker (Image 16). Many years ago, we had a lesser spotted woodpecker but none since. Our common covids are carrion crow, rook and also the jackdaw (image 17) that takes food off the bird table and flies overhead calling ‘Jack-Jack-Jack’. Also, magpie and occasional jay (image 18).
10 Buzzard soaring over the village green.
11 Red kite are increasingly common.
12 Kestrel hovering over the village green.
13 Barn owl quartering across the village green.
14 A young tawny owl in hazel hedge.
15 Great spotted woodpecker. The red nape mark identifies this as a male.
16 Green woodpecker looking for ants.
Blue tit and great tit are common, feeding off winter moth caterpillars in the oaks in the spring and summer to feed their nestlings. Sometimes the smaller coal tit appears at the garden bird feeders along with small family flocks of long-tailed tit (image 19). Skylark is often seen defending nesting territory over the arable fields.
At one time we regularly had willow warbler in the garden but not recently. Chiffchaff (another warbler) is frequent and those with good hearing will detect its repetitive high-pitched ‘chiff-chaff-chiff-chaff’ call (no longer me sadly). Blackcap appears on the bird table most years and we have heard the loud call of the garden warbler. White throat also occurs though less commonly along our hedgerows. The tiny goldcrest can sometimes be seen high in the trees (particularly conifers), and I have had reports of the even smaller firecrest. Wren is common in our gardens and hedgerows (image 20) and, until recently, we would see nuthatch. We regularly see treecreeper moving up and flying down from our oak tree probing the bark with its curved beak.
Starlings are common and nest each year in our eaves, and we see large starling flocks about the fields (image 21). Blackbirds and song thrushes pull worms out of our lawn and from time to time we see the larger mistle thrush. Winter visiting redwings and fieldfares feed in the fields having spent the summer in continental Europe and Scandinavia. Robin is common and we occasionally see stonechat around the field edges; but sadly less common is the spotted flycatcher (that once nested behind the vine stems in our garden, image 22).
19 A flock of long-tailed tits at bird feeder.
20 A wren bringing feathers to its nest box.
21 Starling in spring plumage.
22 One of a pair of spotted flycatchers that took up residence in our garden.
House sparrow is common around the village and dunnock creeps out of our hedgerows to find food. Pied wagtails are most seen in the winter feeding around shallow rain made pools and also taking insects disturbed by sheep. Grey wagtail is less common, but we have seen it from the footpath bridge crossing of the Criddle Stream close to Furzefield Copse. We regularly see chaffinch, bullfinch (image 23), greenfinch (image 24), and goldfinch (image 25) on the bird feeders and table. Yellow hammer occurs occasionally along our hedgerows singing its ‘little bit of bread and no cheeeese’ song.
I will no doubt have left out a few species but these above are those that come to mind as I tap away.
As usual, watch out for my Stroud wildlife blog and the section on Wild Stroud, both on the village hall website: www.stroudvillagehall.org.