After a relatively quiet summer bird-wise, the welcome cool weather has brought many native and visiting birds back to our local area. It seems extraordinary however that our migrating swallows and house martins are still present in reasonable numbers, and yet to make their move south when wintering fieldfare from Scandinavia have already arrived at Hockenhull, together with at least 150 pink footed Icelandic geese. Grey herons are very active on the Pit and canal, and are clearly in the mood for fishing, with one individual being at the Pit from sunrise to dusk. It’s sad to see swallows and martins flying over the Pit, canal and fields frantically feeding up, often gathering in good size flocks on telegraph posts. A lonely adult chiff chaff was singing at Hockenhull last week, and a youngster was happily splashing about in a bird bath in a village garden. Robins are eager to find food locally again, and will come very close if encouraged with worms. Goldfinches are making the most of the large number of seeds in the hedgerows, or coming onto bird feeders filled with sunflower seeds. Treecreepers literally do creep through gardens hunting for insects on trees, and are often missed. They are like little mice with white bellies and a slightly curved bill, and will fly to the bottom of a tree, and climb upwards. They then take off to the bottom of an adjacent tree and start climbing again. However their very noisy neighbour the nuthatch will climb both up and down tree trunks. They are much more colourful, and as I said earlier, very noisy often calling loudly from the top of trees around the village. The High School grounds and Village Green are good places to hear them.
Jays too can be very vociferous, and are regularly appearing in gardens across the village. They are also very colourful and often flit from garden to garden hunting for food. If you are patient and lucky you might see some flocks of starlings flying around often landing in groups in gardens. At this time of year the adults are accompanied by this years youngsters and they both have magnificent plumage as can be seen in these images. I mentioned how pink footed geese have arrived from Iceland. It’s now thought that many of our starlings actually migrate to Europe at this time of year.
One of the strangest visitors to Croft Close in the last two weeks was a single painted lady butterfly. What’s strange about that you might ask? Well the probability is that that butterfly will have emerged across the channel in France in July, from adult butterflies that were born in Spain earlier in the year, who in turn were bred by butterflies that had first emerged in Morocco in Autumn 2017. This chain of events describes the journey of one of the most remarkable insects that we see in this country. Painted lady butterflies don’t appear every year, and clearly this single individual has probably made a lone journey, but there are occasions when millions make this incredible journey. The last time there was a major influx was in 2011, when thousands turned up in the village and surrounding area. What is also remarkable is that it was originally thought that these migrants actually died after their long and exhausting flight. It now emerges, after tracking by special radar equipment, that thousands if not millions actually make the return journey across the channel to France.
Finally I thought you might like to see some pictures of red squirrels seen recently at Formby. We took our grandchildren to the National Trust Forest Reserve there, and were rewarded with great sightings of at least 10 individuals during the morning. If you go to the northern most car park, approached through the town, the squirrel reserve is very close to the entrance to the site. Well worth going for close up sightings like these.
Heron on the Canal
Heron in flight
Pink footed Geese
Painted Lady Butterfly
Swallows on the wires
Chiff Chaff bathing
Red Squirrel at Formby
Formby Red Squirrel