Sunday, 1 November 2020

Things to look out for in November and December

 With a new national lockdown commencing on Thursday for at least 4 weeks, I suspect there will be many who will be making the most of this time to get out for walks in the countryside. 

Last lockdown I put up a series of walks that are all around Bishop's Stortford and I shall paste links to these at the end of this blog entry.

Whilst there are considerably fewer insects about now there are plenty of other wildlife species that, with a little searching in the correct habitat will be relatively easy to find.

Birds:

Probably the easiest to find will be the larger birds such as crows, rook, jackdaws and gulls. These can be seen, often in large numbers on playing fields and ploughed fields. A check on the football fields at Grange Paddocks would be a good start for these and with a pair of binoculars it is not too tricky to pick out different birds. Black headed gulls (red beak, spot behind the eye) Lesser black backed gull (dark grey, yellow legs) Herring gull (pink legs, lighter grey with brown speckling on head and neck and Common gull (smaller, light grey, yellow bill with black stripe and greeny/yellow legs) may all be present.

In here: 7 Black headed gulls, 4 Common gulls, 3 Lesser black backed gull, 1 Herring gull and a random Lapwing. Can you spot them?


Carrion crows (black bill) Rook (silver grey pointed bill and showing shaggy feathers on legs) and Jackdaws (smaller with a grey nape and sparkling blue/grey eye) will also be present in numbers. 

Large flocks of starlings will also be feeding on the ground. At first sight a black bird but upon closer inspection, often covered with white spots and in sunlight, showing purples, greens and blues.

Also thrushes and blackbirds. Fieldfares (large birds, speckled breast shaded golden and very noisy. their chack chack call gives away their presence can be found both feeding on the ground and in berry trees as can the smaller Redwing with its very distinctive white eyebrow and red "armpits" when in flight. Usually silent but can give a thin, wispy call when in flight parties. The large mistle thrush with speckled breast and overall grey appearance and smaller Song thrush with its arrow head spots on the breast can also be found in good numbers.

Song thrush



In seed bearing trees, particularly alders there will be a good chance of seeing both Lesser redpoll and Siskin. Latter a greeny/yellow finch in female and first year birds with the male being a striking yellow and black bird. Often in parties of up to 70 at a time. The Lesser redpoll is a light grey bird that can feed, like the siskin, hanging upside down from the alder cones. It shows a small red patch on the forehead, the rest of the plumage a grey/white streaking.


Residents such as Chaffinches, Goldfinches and Greenfinches will be seen in good numbers wherever there is food, both seeds and berries. Bullfinches become more obvious at this time of the year as the leaves drop and they often gather together in parties so if you see one flying, showing a very obvious white rump, hang around a while as there is every possibility there will be more following. Their call is like a squeaking iron gate. Fairly quiet but distinguishable.

Chaffinch

Jay numbers increase in winter with many migrating over the North Sea from Scandinavia. These are colourful birds that associate with oak woods. Magpies, of course will be everywhere.

Little grebe


On ponds and rivers there may well be an increase in wildfowl, with the ever present mallards making up most of the numbers but always worth checking for other species such as Gadwall, Shoveler, pochard and teal. Coots and Moorhens will also be present and on larger stretches of water, Little grebe will be found, such as along the Stort both north and south of Spellbrook locks. 

drake Teal

drake shoveler

Gadwall pair


Birds of prey can be seen more frequently in winter as the short hours of daylight force them to maximise their hunting times, so Kestrels (the only bird of prey that hovers) found along hedgerows whilst Sparrowhawks will visit gardens, especially if you have bird feeders about whilst Red kites and Common buzzards will almost certainly be a daily sight.

Great spotted woodpeckers can be seen more frequently as the leaves drop from deciduous trees but always check for the smaller (sparrow sized) Lesser spotted woodpecker. By the end of December it will be likely that the GSW will already be drumming its territorial call. This lasts for a few seconds and is regularly repeated.

Great spotted woodpecker (female as no red on neck)


Tawny owls and Little owls will be calling at night. Twitt twoo call of the tawny is well known. I liken the call of the little owl to the soundtrack to the shower scene in the film Psycho. You'll recognise it when you hear it.

Tawny owl found on the side of the road. Made full recovery at a vets who named it Deidre. I put the gardening gloves on as the talons are razor sharp.

Along rural hedgerows the yellowhammer will be overwintering in good numbers. Also here, as just about everywhere, Great, Blue and Long tailed tits and, if near conifers, a chance of a Coal tit, showing a white oblong on the back of the head. Also, in trees growing in hedgerows both nuthatch and tree creeper are possible.

Tree creeper

Plenty of other birds will be encountered, this just to give a flavour of what may be found on any wander along the footpaths surrounding Stortford.

Insects:

The butterflies and dragon/damselflies have just about finished now. On a sunny day before the first frost it may be possible to come across one or two. There will be some wasps still about, craneflies, and several fly species. All these can be found by checking any flowerheads on footpaths as well as in the garden. Here are a few from my garden today, 01.11.2020





Signs of insects can be found, especially in leaf mines on the brown leaves. Look for marks on the leaves that look like tunnels. These will be made by tiny caterpillars that munch there way around the leaves. This leaves a very distinctive trail that, when the tree species is known and the pattern of the mine is known, can be identified to species. Children love looking for these and they are very easy to find. To get started, check on well known trees like apple, hazel and hawthorn. Hold the leaf up to the light and you may be able to see the caterpillar still inside. Alternatively, there will be a hole where the cat has eaten its way out to pupate.

Garden or Woodland Activity: Stuff an old pair of tights with leaves picked up from the woodland floor or the garden lawn. When full, leave under a hedge all winter and into spring and in about April, bring it in to a warmer place such as a garage or shed. In mid May, tip out the contents whereupon you'll come across loads of tiny moths, a few beetles and several fly species that were all pupating in or on the leaf litter. 

Worth also picking up leaf litter in woodland habitats to check for ground beetles. There are a few that can be found throghout the winter.

Spiders:

Most spiders will be finished by now, but a wander around the garden with a torch may turn up several species as well as checking sheds, garages and corners of ceilings. One that is still in the garden is Araneus diadematus, the Garden cross spider. Females make a web each day and usually sit in the middle of it. Look for this near security lights or outside patio lights. This sort of habitat can also attract other spider species, too. Sitting here in my shed/office I can see 3 spiders, two species as I am typing. Here's one of them.

Zygiella x notata

Links to walks:

https://littlehadhambirding.blogspot.com/2020/05/local-walk-6-west-from-tescos-to-bury.html

https://littlehadhambirding.blogspot.com/2020/05/local-walk-5-thorley-church-spellbrrok.html

https://littlehadhambirding.blogspot.com/2020/05/local-walk-4-start-and-finish-at.html

https://littlehadhambirding.blogspot.com/2020/05/local-walk-3-little-hadham-area.html

https://littlehadhambirding.blogspot.com/2020/05/local-walk-2-flitch-way-with-extension.html

https://littlehadhambirding.blogspot.com/2020/05/walks-around-stortford-walk-1-from.html

Hope these help and that the walks are not too muddy. Note, they are at present!! I shall add extra details as I think of them in edits here. Plenty to find, just have to look a little closer. Good luck and I look forward to hearing about where you went and what you saw. 

3 comments:

Unknown said...

Redpolls are brown not grey

Jono Forgham said...

Agreed but when hanging upside down they appear lighter on the breast in good light and therefore can appear grey. Streaked brown on wings and back with 1st year birds showing a white tramline down the back from the nape.

Alasco López said...

What a beautiful pictures!
If you want to see more photos of birds, I share you my blog.

https://avesdecordobayargentina.blogspot.com

This is me

This is me
At the end of another Norfolk Coastal footpath walk. 47 miles, 3 days 99 species of bird

Caley Wood view

Caley Wood view
sunshine through the canopy 29.05.08

A walk along the Warta Valley, Poznan, Poland. Feb 2007

A walk along the Warta Valley, Poznan, Poland. Feb 2007
Best birds on this walk: black and middle spotted woodpecker and short toed treecreeper

About Me

My photo
A primary school teacher for 30 years, I retired from teaching in July 2009 to set up my own science enhancement and communication company. The Primary Works offers science clubs, workshops and staged science shows nationwide. I have always been interested in bird watching since my early years. Apparently my first tick was after inquiring about a chaffinch and then receiving the Observer book of birds. By the age of 9 I had moved on to Tory Peterson's collins guide and was now involved on YOC birding holidays to Northumbria, Essex coast, Slimbridge and Yorkshire. My twitching rule is that I will willingly travel 1km for each gram the bird weighs. However, I have had many rarities just by being in the right place. I have travelled widely throughout Europe and also visited Australia and Sri Lanka. In 2016 I spent time at Portland Bird Obs and two trips to Aviero, Portugal. 2017 found me back in Sri Lanka in Feb/March, then July and back for New Year's Eve celebrations in December. Also returned to The Camargue in May for a 4 day trip. Few plans for 2018, but nothing yet booked apart from a trip to the IOW.

Grey heron

Grey heron
Over the allotment 28.09.08

Southern Hawker

Southern Hawker
Ridge footpath 27.08.08

Juvenile green woodpecker (17.08.08)

Juvenile green woodpecker (17.08.08)
Note the stripes, denoting a bird fledged this year.

common blue

common blue
Ash Valley G.C. 15.08.08

Indian balsam (impatiens glandulifera)

Indian balsam (impatiens glandulifera)
River Ash

azure damselfly

azure damselfly
River Ash 28.07.08

marbled white

marbled white
Discovered at Westland Green 22.07.08

ruddy darter

ruddy darter
Bush Wood 21.07.08

honeysuckle 19.07.08

honeysuckle 19.07.08
growing in hedgerow in Chapel Lane

cinnabar moth caterpillar

cinnabar moth caterpillar
Photographed on ragwort 19.07.08

Bittersweet

Bittersweet
Study of petals 11.06.08

male yellowhammer

male yellowhammer
08.06.08

common blue butterfly

common blue butterfly
06.06.08

River Ash

River Ash
looking south from the bridge at Hadham Ford

Common poppy (papaver rhoeas)

Common poppy (papaver rhoeas)
in rape field 29.05.08

Caley Wood sunshine

Caley Wood sunshine
29.05.08

Millenium Wood fox

Millenium Wood fox
24.05.08

common comfrey (symphytum officinale)

common comfrey (symphytum officinale)
06.05.08 banks of the River Ash

Garlic Mustard or Jack by the Hedge,(Alliara petiolata)

Garlic Mustard or Jack by the Hedge,(Alliara petiolata)
flowers, leaves and fruit edible . Good in salad and pesto

April showers

April showers
Double rainbow 30.04.08

Caley Wood bluebells

Caley Wood bluebells
22.04.08

Yellow Archangel

Yellow Archangel
Chapel Lane (20.04.08)

sunlight 16.04.08

sunlight 16.04.08
looking south west from Bush Wood

snowy buds

snowy buds
06.04.08 in Bush Wood

Looking north west

Looking north west
05.04.08 evening shower approaching

Back Garden

Back Garden
Easter Sunday (23.03.08)

Brick Kiln Hill

Brick Kiln Hill
Looking east (23.03.08)

No play today

No play today
The 2nd hole at Ash Valley golf course

Teasel head

Teasel head
Bush Wood (21.03.08)

Reflections

Reflections
daffodils at Bush Wood pond (21.03.08)

Swollen River Ash

Swollen River Ash
The river at the bottom of Winding Hill 16.03.08

Daybreak over the chapel

Daybreak over the chapel
Thursday 13th March

Wild daffodils (narcissus pseudonarcissus)

Wild daffodils (narcissus pseudonarcissus)
growing in Bush Wood

January snowdrops

January snowdrops
Banks of River Ash, north of Much Hadham

Good Moon

Good Moon
From garden 24.01.08

Village Green

Village Green
Looking east towards Acremore Street

Looking south before Hadham Ford

Looking south before Hadham Ford
rare January blue sky

Useful sites

The following are some useful websites that may interest readers of this blog.
Firstly, Bishop's Stortford Natural History Society http://bsnhs.webplus.net/

Fellow birder, Gary Whelan's blog. Gives reports from our trips out together plus reports from his trips abroad. http://hairybirders.blogspot.co.uk
http://www.hertsbirdclub.org.uk/ The official herts bird club website. Frequently updated, listing bird sightings around the county. Offers links to many other websites. Both of these sites also offer links to yahoo discussion groups.
http://www.birdforum.net/ An international site. You can enter as a guest but become a member( free) to post comments, bird sightings and just about anything to do with wild birds. Good news updates, classified section for binoculars, cameras etc.
http://www.guidedbirdwatching.com/ A new site set up where you can contact people worldwide who will help you find good birds in their country. UK section being set up presently.
http://www.britainsbirder.co.uk/
Fellow birders blog. Strtford resident, Graeme Smith regulary birds the area south of Stortford as well as around Spellbrook and the River Stort from Spellbrook to Twyford Locks. Some superb bird photography: Graeme uses a digital camera attached to his powerful telescope to get detailled images of the birds he sees. Well worth a browse.
Two local sites that may be of interest can be found at
http://www.thehadhams.com/ www.thepelhams.net/content/section/12/139/

South Easterly walk

South Easterly walk
black, normal, red extended walk

South Westerly route.

South Westerly route.
Black usual, red extended

North Easterly walk

North Easterly walk
black short, walk. Red, extended

North West Patch

North West Patch
black route regular. Red route the extended wander