Monday, 4 March 2013

Saturday, 2nd March 2013 Bird watching and listening along the Kennet and Avon Canal; Leader: Lucy Delve

This was a popular meeting, with 16 Nats members and a guest who set out from The George at Bathampton, for a gentle canal side stroll and the chance to hear early spring bird song and calls. Although cool and overcast, the calm air provided the ideal conditions for listening. We began at 9am with some encouraging words and helpful tips read from Simon Barnes’  “How to be a Bad Birdwatcher” and Bird Watching With Your Eyes Closed”, before concentrating our attention on the cyclic ditty of a Dunnock singing from a near by hedge. We then focussed our ears on the varied, higher pitched, softer, and thinner tone of the Robin’s song.

Greenfinches were in full song, including among their trilling notes, the distinctive, long drawn out "zweee”” note. A male briefly performed his fluttering wing display flight.  We heard the classic typical bell like “teacher teacher” song of the Great Tit but the song of this species can vary from the norm so beware!  We only heard a single Song Thursh and no Blackbirds as both species prefer to sing early and late in the day.

All these songsters, also including Wren and Blue Tit, were accompanied by background “noises” from Jackdaws, Wood Pigeons, Carrion Crows, a Green Woodpecker and Black Headed Gulls. We also found a couple of Common Gulls among the flock of Black-headed Gulls on the Bathampton sports field.

Perhaps the most challenging song to identify, came from a small party of Siskin, their rapid, twittering and wheezy notes from deep within bushes and trees the other side of the canal. We only saw the birds when they flew, calling, from cover and over our heads.  Fortunately, when we reached Grosvenor Bridge by Kensington Meadows, we found a singing male in full view whose song we could compare directly with a Goldfinch perched close-by in another tall alder tree. I would describe a Siskin’s song as a speeded-up Greenfinch, with its full song including distinctive very nasal wheezy note although this bird omitted that part of its song.

I hope that those attending the meeting can now identify with more confidence a few common bird songs and calls and will continue to develop their listening skills as spring progresses. Our summer migrants are only a few weeks from arrival now.

I recorded a total of 32 species during the morning by sight and sound, including a Treecreeper and Goldcrest both seen well but silent.

Lucy Delve


Common Gull and Black-Headed Gulls
click photos to enlarge
Seen during a very interesting walk listening and identifying bird song with Bath Natural History Society led by Lucy D. (I think I can now tell the difference between a Dunnock and a Robin without actually seeing the bird, I think?)
Now this is when it pays to be with experts, i.e. to be able to pick out the more unusual bird amongst a flock of Gulls. The not so common Common Gull is the one on the end (left) which is a little larger (but not much) has a slightly darker back (but not much) yellow legs (this I think is the giveaway) and the lack of a dark patch behind the eyes. Although some of the BH Gulls don't have any signs of their black head in the winter just to confuse me.
click photos to enlarge

Long-tailed Tit

This lovely little bird gave us good views of it foraging for insects and spiders in the deep fissured bark of a canal side Alder, working its way up different areas of the trunk and returning to the bottom to start again. It always amazes me how any insects survive such close scrutiny by birds like the Tree Creeper.

These miniature worlds are so fascinating that with a small hand lens you could loose yourself for hours, unfortunately this photo doesn't do them justice and you need to see them for yourself.
These have kindly been identified by Alan R. and include, along with mosses, Cryphaea heteromalla, Orthotrichum affine, Homalothecium sericeum, Ulota sp, and foliose lichens, Parmelia saxatilis (parasitized in places by coral-red fungus, Marchandiomyces corallinus), Punctelia subrudecta and Parmotrema perlatum

Fungus found on the underside of a Hazel branch
 - Phellinus ferreusHabitat on dead branches
 of deciduous wood, especially hazel, causing
an intensive white rot which rapidly destroys the
wood. Season all year, perennial. Common.
Not edible.

Thank you Paul Wilkins

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