Wednesday 17 July 2024

Wild Bird Wednesday 625 - Brambling

The Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla) is a winter visitor to the UK, and depending on the severity of the weather elsewhere the winter population in the UK can vary between 45,000 and 1.8 million.  In its breeding range there may be as many as 22 million pairs of this very attractive finch.

In the UK this bird seems to be extending its winter range, but this may be as a result of garden feeding and shortages of food elsewhere.

This finch is about 14 cm long, with a wingspan of 26 cm and a weight of about 24 g. 

These birds were photographed under a feeding station at RSPB Titchwell in Norfolk.

AS is often the case with birds, the male is more brightly coloured than the female.  However, they are both distinctive enough to make identification reasonably straight forward.  In breeding plumage the males would have a solid black head, and they must look magnificent. 

As ever, to join in with WBW click the link below.  Cheers  SM

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Monday 15 July 2024

Mammals on Monday 6 - Swamp Wallaby

The Swamp Wallaby (Wallabia bicolor) is a common Wallaby down the entire east coast of Australia and around to southwestern Victoria.  These animals were photographed at Wilsons Promontory National Park in Victoria.

The Swamp Wallaby has an average length is 76 cm for males, and 70 cm for females (excluding the tail). The tail in both sexes is approximately equal in length to the rest of the body. Average weight for males is 17 kg,  with females averaging 13 kg.

Although not a difficult animal to see, I did observe one individual chewing on bones - a leg bone of some form and a rib - and this does not seem to be a widely recorded behaviour in marsupials.  Technically this is called osteophagia and has been observed in a range of herbivorous species, but I cant find reference to it happening in herbivorous marsupials. 

Osteophagia is thought to act as a kind of 'vitamin supplement' where an animals diet is lacking in minerals - normally calcium and phosphorus.  Given that the vegetation in the area that the pictures were taken is basically growing in very sandy soil, I see no reason why this explanation should not apply to this individual.

The biologist in me is fascinated by these pictures, and the comedian in me thinks it looks like the Wallaby is playing a flute, brushing it teeth or on the phone!  You can identify with which ever aspect of my personality you choose!

If you have a close look at the images you can see the serious looking claws on this animal, and that the wallaby in the third and forth images has lost a chunk of its ear.  I suspect these two observations may be in some way connected!

Cheers SM

Wednesday 10 July 2024

Wild Bird Wednesday 624 - Starlings

The Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) is one of the 20 most abundant birds in the UK.  But this statistic hides a considerable decline in population: at last estimate there were 1.8 million pairs of Starling in the UK, but this is less than 50% of the population that was present in the 1960s. The UK starling population UK has fallen rapidly, particularly since the early 1980s and continues decline. There have also be population declines in northern Europe.  This is not a pretty picture for a once ubiquitous species. 

In the winter the UKs population is increased by birds from continental Europe, and as this time they form large roosting flocks of up to a million birds.  At these roost sites murmurations can occur - these are the flocks of seemingly coordinated birds that form rapidly changing patterns in the sky.  The exact reason why Starlings behave in this way is not fully understood, but it seem likely that it is related to predator avoidance.

When I was in Somerset at the end of the year I went to Shapwick Heath Nature Reserve to watch a murmuration.  There were good numbers of starling about on the evening - as well as booming bitterns - but the sky was a little grey!  Oh well.

These are some of the images I took on that evening.

Each dot in this picture is a starling!

And these are some of the shapes and patterns they made.

Given that the light and the weather were pretty ordinary, I was pleased with the pictures.

As ever, to join in with WBW click on the link below.  Cheers  SM

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Monday 8 July 2024

Mammals on Monday 5 - Chipmunk

Staying in Canada for this weeks mammal, which is the Chipmunk.  I'm pretty certain that all the Chipmunks in this post are Eastern Chipmunks (Tamias striatus), but I not 100% on this.  Any comments on identification appreciated.

Chipmunks are a rodent with an omnivorous diet including seeds, nuts and other fruits, and buds. They may also eat grass and shoots, as well as fungi, insect, small frogs, worms, and bird eggs. As you can see they do not mind dining at bird feeding stations either.

I have just discovered that there are 25 species of Chipmunk - which is a bit of a surprise, but also rather wonderful!

Cheers.  SM

Wednesday 3 July 2024

Wild Bird Wednesday 623 - Pochard

The Pochard (Aythya ferina) is a diving duck that visits the UK in large numbers (approximately 30,000 pairs) in winter.  It is a much less common breeding birds, with less that 800 pairs nesting in the UK.

It will not surprise people to know that I took these pictures in the winter!  These pictures were taken at the WWT Welney Reserve in Norfolk.  

In winter male Pochards are very distinctive with their bright reddish-brown head, a black breast and tail and a pale grey body.  Most of the pictures I took were of the male duck, but when I look at some of the 'wide angle' or group shots I took I can find very few females.  I'm not sure it this is a known behaviour or just a coincidence of the day.

Pochard are about about 46 cm long and weigh about 930 grams - making the smaller and lighter than a Mallard.

I'm not 100% certain that the odd duck out in this set of pictures is a female or a younger bird.  Oh well.

As ever, to join in with WBW click on the clink below.  cheers  SM

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Monday 1 July 2024

Mammals on Monday 4 - American Red Squirrel

The American Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) is a widespread species and is actually found over a greater area of Canada than the USA.

This species has an average length (including tail its rather wonderful tail) of 28 – 35.5 cm and a weight of 200–250 g.  

Rather shockingly, this animal is more closely related to you and me than any of the other mammals I have posted on Mondays so far.  Squirrels are a placental mammal, just like us, and while there are clearly differences in many areas their reproductive floorpan is much the same as ours.

These squirrels are comely found in coniferous forests where they feed on the seeds of evergreen trees. However, they are equally at home in deciduous forests, backyards, parks, and urban areas, where they  eat foods such as berries, acorns, hazelnuts, mushrooms, and sunflower seeds from backyard bird feeding stations.  Somewhat surprisingly there diet also includes birds eggs and mice!

When stressed this species can be rather vocal - and as my wife said, 'it looks like he is shouting' in one of these pictures. 

What a splendid animal this is.