BIRDS

The Community Woodland is home to many birds, including Blackcaps, Robins, Chaffinches, Blackbirds, Dunnock, Reed Buntings, Wood Pigeons and Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits. In the summer, various warblers such as the Chiffchaff use the area to breed. Other birds, such as a Sparrowhawk or Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker, can be seen or heard. Many of the nest boxes you will see around the site have had residents, either roosting or breeding, and as the trees mature more birds will find the woodland a safe haven in which to raise their young.

Birds of the Community Woodland   by Tony Hoskin (text and pictures)

Marsh Tit taken on a bird feeder at the Community Woodland, February 2019. Marsh Tits  are a resident in the UK and normally live in deciduous woodland but often come to garden feeders.

Chiffchaff taken in April 2019 near Windmill Hill. Chiffchaffs are a spring visitor of the warbler family and many can be heard locally in spring, including at the Community Woodland, as they sing almost constantly with a ‘chiff-chaff’ sound which is how they get their name.

Great Tit taken on a feeder at the Community Woodland in February 2019. Great Tits are quite common birds and are easily identified by the large black stripe down their front.

Reed Bunting taken on a feeder at the Community Woodland in February 2019. Reed Buntings are quite plentiful in our area and are usually found around wetlands.

Chaffinch in April 2019 in a tree on the edge of the woodland. Chaffinches are one of our most common and widespread birds in the UK and can be found almost anywhere, including gardens, woodland and farmland and even in towns and parks.

Greenfinch feeding on the seeds of a woodland feeder in May 2019. A yellow wing bar and yellow sides to the tail are a good identification of the Greenfinch and the male has a much brighter plumage than the female (seen here). Greenfinches are a common garden visitor and can often be heard singing along hedgerows with often a wheezy sound.

BIRD FEEDING

To help the birds get through the winter months, we put up two bird feeders at the Community Woodland in 2017. Birds that regularly use these feeders include Blue Tits, Great Tits, Coal Tits, Long-tailed Tits and Reed Buntings. 

Reed Bunting (left) and Long-tailed Tit (right) on the bird feeders at the Community Woodland

During the very cold spell and snowfall of February/March 2018, the feeders needed topping up very frequently and Reed Buntings were seen feeding in small flocks beneath the feeders along with Chaffinches and a Robin. Other birds seen foraging on the playing field include Redwings, Song and Mistle Thrushes.

Male and female Reed Buntings beneath the bird feeder during the snow of March 2018

BIRD BOXES  by Tim Spotswood

The sad fact is that even our common birds are declining in numbers. With climate change, it is predicted that summer rainfall will decrease, but we can expect to have an increase in extreme weather which will be fatal to young birds and even adults.

We live in mostly tidy houses, with few or no areas for birds to nest in, which only makes matters worse. Blue Tits have been particularly affected by the lack of breeding holes – any they find are often usurped by Great Tits and even woodpeckers.

We can help these charming birds by providing nest boxes and by putting metal plates with 25mm holes over the access holes. These nest boxes can be placed in our gardens, about 12 feet high and facing north-east.

 

Blue Tit using one of the nest box es at the Community Woodland in May 2019 (photo byTony Hoskin)

As you walk around the Community Woodland or through the Copse, you will notice nest boxes for the tit family (Blue and Great) as well as a 'terrace' box for Sparrows (see our Projects section). There are now more nest boxes in the churchyard, including tit boxes, a box for Robins and one for Flycatchers (if we're lucky), as well as new boxes in Queen Square Garden and the school grounds.

We also now have four owl boxes in the White Street area: two at the woodland (in the large oak and ash trees), one on the boundary of the junior football field and one by the pond in the corner of the cricket pitch. We have found evidence of occupation in two of these boxes in the form of pellets, nesting material and broken shells when we have checked the boxes at the end of the season. So Barn Owls are definitely using them!

Do keep your eyes open and let us know if you see any signs of activity around our nest boxes.


BIRDS OF THE MOORS  by Tony Hoskin (text and pictures)

Lapwing at Helland in February 2019. Lapwings are a wader which are now on the endangered list. They are a ground-nesting bird found on farmland,  moorland,  heaths and wetlands.

Kingfisher at Helland in March 2019. Kingfishers live around rivers and streams and nest in burrows in riverbanks. The one pictured here is a female as she has an orange lower beak, while the male’s beak is all black.

Mute Swan on North Curry Moor, April 2019. The Mute Swan is our only resident swan. It is our most common swan and is normally quite tolerant of people. There are many of them in the North Curry area as they prefer freshwater wetlands. They nest in winter or early spring.






Mallard on North Curry Moor, April 2019. Another common bird in the North Curry area, the male Mallard is much more colourful than the female and the sexes are easy to identify as the female has a mottled brown plumage which helps her to camouflage herself when she is nesting or has young to protect.

Yellow Wagtail at Helland, May 2019. A brightly coloured bird with a long tail, Yellow Wagtails favour wetland areas. They feed on insects on the ground and are often seen feeding at the feet of grazing animals.

Sedge Warbler at Helland, May 2019. Sedge Warblers are spring/summer visitors and are heard more often than seen as they are very vocal little birds with a wide variation of sounds from rasping, grating to whistles and trills. You may get a glimpse of them darting through the vegetation but with patience, if you sit quietly, you may be lucky to get a good view of this lovely little bird.

Kestrel at Heland in March 2019. The Kestrel is a common falcon in the UK, often seen hovering over farmland, moorland and even motorway verges hunting for small mammals and birds.


SPRING BIRDSONG  by Tim Spotswood

In spring, the birdsong in the woodland and hedges is superb. Stop and listen to the melodies and variety. Have you heard the drumming of the Great Spotted Woodpecker, the melodies of the Chiffchaff and the Blackcap? Often birds, especially the warblers such as the Chiffchaff, can be heard, but not seen. The Blackcap makes an exception to this by singing from a high point in a tree, surveying all around him and warning other male Blackcaps not to wander into his territory. Many of our warblers  arrive in spring,  and sing away in the trees and bushes. At the other end of the scale is the woodpecker, drumming away in the Community Woodland near the owl box in the big oak tree. He is difficult to spot unless you catch a glimpse of his red head.

Aren’t we so lucky to live in a country with feathered friends? However, they need looking after in our gardens by planting native plants, not using pesticides and fungicides and by allowing the bugs they feed on to thrive.

Chiffchaff singing at the top of a tree along the boundary of the football field at White Street. Its ‘chiff-chaff’ call is a characteristic sound of spring.

 

THE HAUNTING CALL OF THE OWLS   by TimSpotswood

Anyone in North Curry who has ventured out when it is dark in the autumn may have heard the hoo-hoo-hoo of an owl. This call belongs to the resident Tawny Owls that live in the trees of the churchyard and the Fosse. Tawny Owls are nocturnal, hunting at night but roosting during the day in hollow trees or amongst ivy; they are then nearly impossible to see unless mobbed by smaller birds. Tawny Owls sing in autumn and late winter. The male’s call is a hoo-hoo-hoo, the female’s is hoarser. Often, the male and female call in unison, giving a long hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo.

Tawny Owls nest in hollow trees, laying eggs in late February to March and incubate the eggs for 28–30 days. The owlets remain in the nest for 25–30 days, and then are moved to different areas within the home range. For a further three months they are dependent on their parents for food, and it is at this time that a rather plaintive kee-wick can be heard as the teenagers demand food. 

The calls other owls make are very different from the Tawny’s. Barn Owls make a single piercing shriek during courtship and their owlets have a loud ‘snore’ when calling for food.

The Little Owl calls in March and April during courtship and has a single hoot. Both these owls are very much rarer than the Tawny Owl.

We are very fortunate to have Tawny Owls in our village because their numbers worldwide are decreasing due to persecution in game-rearing areas, traffic accidents, pressure on their habitat and injudicious use of pesticides and other agro chemicals. 

Enjoy the call of the wild.

Trees along the Fosse where the Tawny Owl can be heard