Sunday, 11 January 2015

Grimsbury Reservoir: yet more on willow tits!

I was pleased to be able to spend some time over the past few days catching up with local birds I've missed so far in 2015, especially at Grimsbury Reservoir, this being Big Bird Year (of course).  Gareth Blockley has set up a dedicated Grimsbury Birds blog, which is now THE place to go for the most up to date sightings and also contains a great archive of past highlights.

A highlight for me was the drake goosander that comes and goes from the reservoir at the moment, but showed well this morning, drifting towards me for a while.

Much attention has focused on the woodland recently, with the presence of a Siberian race of chiffchaff  Phylloscopus collybita tristis along with one or two of our regular Phylloscopus collybita collybita of western Europe.  The tristis proved hard to photograph well, but the photo below shows how grey-bown "milky tea" looking this race is, with just a hint of yellow-green on the wings. 
chiffchaff - "tristis"
chiffchaff - "collybita"
"collybita" again

This morning, the woodland path beside the river was sheltered from the wind and the warm sunshine again attracted a large flock of foraging birds, including the chiffchaffs, willow tit and several each of treecreeper and goldcrest.  They were all very confiding and enabled some enjoyable but (also, at times, frustrating) photography. 
"hanging" goldcrest

long-tailed tit
 It was also great to hear a mistle thrush singing loudly from the treetops.  One of our first songbirds to nest in early spring, it won't be too long now before they are on the lookout for nesting material.  A pair seem to be establishing a territory around the woodland.

mistle thrush
It's encouraging that the willow tit is still being seen, it is also starting to call more regularly.  Part of the woodland is being managed with their future needs in mind.  They like to excavate their own nesting cavities, often no more than a metre or two above the ground.  With this in mind, the BOS is seeking to create more dead stumps suitable for them in coming decades.  The scrubby habitat maintained in this way is also ideal foraging habitat for them; hopefully a win-win.

face to face with a willow-tit
future nesting habitat
Returning to Upper Wardington at lunchtime it was nice to see a flock of 100 fieldfare in their "regular" field next to the cricket pitch.  This field is evidently rich in earthworms; common and black-headed gulls also like to feed there on a regular basis.   

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