Sunday, 26 November 2017

Beautiful Bullfinches

The longer I write this blog the harder it becomes to find new species to share here, doubly so on my local patch. Sometimes though I get lucky and see a new species close to home that I haven't seen locally before.

Which leads me nicely onto this beautiful bird, a bullfinch.

These bright finches are UK residents and feed on seeds and buds(1)- this individual was flitting around the tree pecking at buds. The bright colour shows that this is a male but there was also a paler female present too. 

Now whilst I have seen the occasional bullfinch before I've never seen one in the area that I call my patch but I've actually seen quite a few over the last week or so. So why might this be?

Interestingly this year there have been a large number of the rarer hawfinch in the UK(2) and I don't think it's an enormous leap to suggest there may be a link here. The reasons cited for their larger numbers is twofold. Firstly, it's thought poor food supplies are forcing hawfinches to look further afield- like with the waxwings last winter, there are more hawfinches than food supplies. 

It's also been suggested that Storm Ophelia co-incided with their migration period, blowing them to the UK rather than down to the Mediterranean where they normally migrate too. Although they look fairly different there are a lot of similarities between hawfinches and bullfinches. They eat similar foods and whilst many bullfinches are resident, some do migrate south for the winter. 

Another small bird I saw recently that is a less common sighting was this treecreeper

Treecreepers feed on invertebrates on trees, starting near the base and working their way up the tree, using their stiff tail feathers for support(3). Unlike nuthatches, they only ever head up the tree, never down it. Treecreepers do leave their breeding territories at this time of year but they only venture as far as 20km(4).

A bird I see more often locally is the buzzard. 

As you can see, this is hardly the most rural of environments. The bird is sat on the perimeter fence of a local building site where a new housing estate is being built. It means this bird has lost a lot of it's hunting territory, though at least there is some field left in front of this fence. 

I was surprised to see another buzzard only a short distance from this one, sat on top of a bound of gravel from the groundworks. 

I don't see the buzzards often enough to be certain, but I think that the first one here is the parent of the second. Buzzards are territorial(5) so this second bird is most likely a descendent or the partner of the familiar bird I usually see.

I suspect the reason the buzzards gather here is the large number of rabbits on these fields. A row of bushes next to the path I walk along contains many entrances to warrens. 

Interestingly, the group of roe deer I shared last week seem to have taken to the site too, despite the noise of the building work nearby. 

I was concerned that the building work would affect the wildlife on the site significantly but there seems to be no sign of that so far. It just seems to have pushed the wildlife to the bit of land that remains field which happens to be right near the quiet footpath I walk on. It's still not clear if this land will eventually be built on and I hope it isn't because the wildlife need it. 

In the last fortnight the leaves have turned on the remaining trees leaving some stunning Autumnal colours. 

I think that's a fitting place to end- see you soon!

2: Kench, E. 20/11/17 'Look Out for this fantastic finch in a tree near you..." Eastern Daily Press
3: Snow, D and Perrins, C.M (eds) (1998) The Birds of the Western Palaearctic Concise Edition Oxford: OUP. ISBN: 0-19-854099-X pp. 1411-1416

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