Winter Birding Notes.

A gardener’s friend and the typical LBJ.

The dark and often gloomy days of December and January give us almost no bird song, apart from a couple of familiar garden birds. Wrens will sometimes give a burst of their rather loud trilling song on a brighter day but most familiar of all in winter is the robin’s song. Male robins will sing in all months except in mid summer when they are moulting and need to hide away to recover.

The robin’s autumn and winter song has a more wistful quality to it and can sometimes be heard on gloomy December and January mornings when it is still quite dark. Often the artificial light from urban street lamps will encourage a robin to sing. In winter robins will often have a regular song perch in a higher more exposed hedge or tree, this is linked to showing other local robins where your own territory is.

Unless you’re a robin, both sexes look identical and both sexes can drive off intruders in a territory although sometimes a pair can come together and tolerate one another. This winter I have noted three singing robins in my own and other gardens around me, showing where the territories are, their wistful and beautiful song really lifts a cold and dull winter morning.

The gardener’s friend in all weathers.

Meadow Pipit.

Meadow pipits are the typical LBJ and are abundant on upland habitats in summer. In winter and with the colder weather they move to more lowland areas and can be found on almost any farmland field or urban park. Their numbers are increased in winter months with migrants arriving here from all over northern Europe to spend the winter months with us.

They have a fluttering almost weak flight and when disturbed take to the air with a ‘tseep tseep’ call. Given a close view they are far from being just a boring dull brown, they have a streaked buff underside and upperparts olive-buff to almost yellow. The breast is also streaked right down and over the flanks. The legs are a pinkish brown and have a curious rear long hind claw on the toe, this can be seen behind the branch in the photograph.

I watched 20 meadow pipits on my own patch in a broad bean field in December, on landing they almost vanish when they are amongst the crop. When viewed on the ground they have a shuffling, creeping gait as they search for small seeds, insects and larvae among the crop. They all take to the air at any moment with an repeated sound of their ‘tseep’ and ‘peest’ contact calls to flutter around and land again. This contact flight call is given continually as the pipits travel in loose flocks and its one of the sounds of late autumn and early winter and the promise of the colder weather to come.

Report by Colin Strudwick.

Meadow pipit photographs by Sally Douglas.

Happy New Year to all our members.