Bluetit factoid

Most birds can’t create pigments, other than melanin, on their own. This bluetit, high in the park’s canopy, can’t produce the pigment, carotene, that makes his tummy yellow; it comes from pigments in the green caterpillars he eats. The more caterpillars he eats and the brighter his tummy, the more likely he is to attract a mate.

Header picture by DKG; others CC0 from pixabay


More about migration

Our willow warblers are among the park’s smallest birds; at 8.7 grams, they are only half the size of a robin. Their migration route, though, is the longest of any of the park’s birds: over 8,000km all the way to sub-Saharan Africa, an astonishing feat of endurance, and in April they will come all the way back to the park.

Willow warbler migration

by keithwlarson (CC BY-SA 3.0)


Another migrator from the spring of 2018:
The Chiffchaffs are back

Winter song

Many of our little songbirds abandon their territories in the winter and flock, sometimes in large numbers; but not the robin. Robins stick to and defend their territories right through the winter and their winter song is part of that defence.

Singing in winter is a high risk strategy. It uses a lot of energy when food resources are low but hanging on to a good territory right through the winter gives a robin an advantage in the spring when the breeding season begins. His winter song is shorter, quieter and altogther smaller than it will be come the spring.

Header photograph by Suzanne Humphries

Wood pigeon

Wood pigeons (Columba palumbus) are our largest and most common pigeon. Gregarious, very adaptable and given to flocking in enormous numbers at this time of year, they are an everyday sight in British towns and countryside.

In towns they seem unafraid but in the park they are shy and wary. Often the first indication that they are there at all is the loud clattering and clapping of their wings as they take off and fly away. Their call is the lovely, familiar background noise of spring and summer.


Simon Handley has reported a brown and white magpie in the park, at the top of the Arboretum; this is a rare genetic fault called leucism. Please don’t forget your camera next time you visit; we would love a photograph of it.

One for sorrow, two for joy…

There are several families of magpies in the park. This year’s crop are, as yet, short-tailed, loud- mouthed and clumsy, hanging out in gangs and still learning to fly properly. But, despite their dramatic black and white beauty, their reputation is poor.

Read on:

We apologise for wrongly identifying this little bird. We thought it was a blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) but our expert has identified it as a marsh tit (Poecile palustris). This is the first sighting of a marsh tit in the park: a new name for our species lists.

Read on for more about the marsh tit

Creeping thistle

Like ragwort, creeping thistle (Cirsium arvense) is classed as an injurious weed by the Weed Act of 1959. Our hedges and edges are full of it: beautiful, pollen-rich, heavily scented flowers, buzzing with invertebrates, followed by seed heads elevated on stems sturdy enough to support seed-eating birds. Gorgeous.

 

Photographs by DKG

Drought

 

This is now the longest continuous period of drought since 1976. The park’s paths are dusty, the grass is brown and crunchy underfoot,  some of the trees are shedding leaves in an attempt to stop water-loss and the streams are shrinking.

Continue reading “Drought”

LBJ

The world is full of little brown birds. Small and brown seems to be some kind of default programme for birds and accurate identification can depend on an extra millimetre in a  brown tail feather or the exact shade of a brown eye-stripe. Until they are otherwise identified, the RSPB calls them all LBJs: little brown jobs.

Continue reading “LBJ”

DKG heard this year’s first cuckoo in the park on Sunday morning.

Sunday Morning in the Park

BY IAN B.


Pleasant saunter with Pat and all the hounds this morning round Southwick Country Park.  The long tailed tit’s nest is now finished with a cladding of lichen.

 

 

Two reports: a little egret at the pond and a barn owl hunting on Lambrok Meadow but we didn’t see either. We looked for the daffs we planted last year and saw about fifty in flower and lots of blind bulbs all along the edge of Village Green from the decorated bridge around to the seat, and also down by the stream. Not a bad return considering they were supposed to be bedding in the first year.

 

 

The primroses are out all over the place and the first of the blackthorn and the pussy willow are beginning to show. Spring just round the corner. . . . .

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Pictures: Ian B. and SMH

Good news: the pair of barn owls photographed by David on March 10th are still in the park. They appear to have chosen a nest site in a hollow oak tree. Both were seen early in the morning last week; the cock bird hunting, the hen near what we hope is the nest.

 

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