Let’s Go Birding!

After our last blog post about insects,  I’m sure you’ve all been keeping your eyes to the ground! Now it’s time to look up though – with the bird breeding season upon us it’s well worth keeping an eye on the trees and hedgerows to see who’s around. Below we’ve listed a few of our favourites to keep an eye on – particularly if you have bird feeders in your garden. Thank you to Rosie from the Wilde & Greene farm shop for her amazing photographs.

 

  1. Chaffinch

These little delights are a lovely addition to any garden. Their distinctive colouring (red with a bluish grey head for males, a more subdued brown and buff for the females) separates them from other finches. Look for their obvious black and white wing bars in flight.

During nesting season these little birds make a distinctive frog-like ‘kkk-kkk’ if you venture too close to their nests, and loud ‘feep’ calls can often be heard coming out of hedgerows and trees.

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2.  Dunnock

This lesser known sparrow is the real life ‘little brown job’ of the bird world.  Sometimes called a ‘hedge sparrow’ you will often see them skulking around the ground underneath bird feeders, hedgerows and bushes. For something so normal looking, Dunnocks have extremely interesting breeding methods. It’s always the quiet ones. Listen for a high-pitched, rather frantic chatter coming from hedges.

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3.  Greenfinch

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Greenfinches love black sunflower seeds! They are bright little birds with a twittering (sometimes a bit jurassic) song. They’re common on heathland, in parks and gardens and in woodland.  Their distinctive green-green plumage and black-tipped wings make them easy to spot.

 

4. Great Tit

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Great Tits are very easy to tell apart from other members of the tit family. They have a long, pointed beak and a very black head. They’re much larger than blue tits, and their plumage tends to be more green than blue, with a yellow chest. It’s a very common garden and bird feeder visitor. You can hear its very distinctive two syllabled ‘teacher-teacher’ call pretty much anywhere you go.

 

5.  Long Tailed Tit

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These lovely little birds are a common favourite. They fly from tree to tree in excitable family units devouring insects as they go. You’ll often find them on fat-ball feeders. They have an almost electric sounding repeated ‘sceep’ call  which is hard to miss when they’re around! Long-Tailed Tits are easy to spot – they’re little rose-pink, white and black fluff balls with very long tails and short beaks.

 

6.  Goldfinch

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Other than an extremely distinctive bubbling chatter, Goldfinches are incredibly easy to recognise because of their read faces, black caps and yellow and black wings. They’re common visitors to bird tables, gardens and parks, although I often see them sitting on top of houses on aerials chatting away to one another.

 

7.  Barn Swallow

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They’ll be back soon! Swallows migrate here from March until October for the summer and nest inside old farm buildings. They have a distinctive chatter with a ‘kkk’ noise coming from the throat added in for good measure. Barn Swallows have such a distinctive shape – a deep forked tail with long streamers and pointed, elegantly curved wings, you’ll most likely see them on the wing, playing and flying through the air catching insects as they go.  They have white undersides, red throats and blue bodies.

 

8.  Great Spotted Woodpecker

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These striking birds have black and white plumage with strong red undersides. The male also has a distinctive red patch on the back of his head. You’ll more likely hear them rather than see them when they’re in trees  – either a loud drumming or a loud call that is almost like a laugh, which they often do in flight too.

Rosie was lucky enough to have one on her bird feeder, where they can sometimes be spotted (they like peanuts). Otherwise, look out for them in woodland, parks and large gardens.

 

With numbers in strong decline, it’s more important than ever to take notice of the birds that we have in our local area. Why not keep a record of the species that you see – maybe even keep a tally on numbers to monitor the birds year on year? Even if you decide not too, they’re still nice just to look at!

 

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Bug Life

Cavenham Heath is a wonderful nature reserve right next door to our farm shop in Tuddenham, Suffolk. We like to keep up-to-date with the bird sightings on the heath by keeping our sightings board relevant and updated weekly, and we’re very excited about the Stone Curlews that have just arrived up there for the summer.

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Right now though, we’re thinking about insects, which we have lots of down south too! After hearing that we’re at risk of losing huge numbers of our insect population, we’ve started to look at the ones around us.  Graeme Lyons visited the Suffolk heath at the end of last month and gave us all of his records for his visit. We’ve picked out a few of the most interesting species that are also common down here for you below:

Minotaur Beetle

Minotaur Beetle

GRAEME LYONS

This is my personal favourite. The Minotaur Beetle is a large dung beetle with three large horns on its head. It buries the dung of mammals (particularly sheep up on the heath) in finger-sized holes for its larvae to feed on. They grow to around 2cm long and are easily identified because of the horns.

 

Birch Catkin Bug

Birch Catkin Bug

GRAEME LYONS

This rust-coloured bug is common on or around birch trees. It mainly feeds on the seeds of the birch, and you may sometimes find them clustered together on a single birch leaf. With all the silver birch on the reserve, you’re bound to find one if you keep your eyes peeled! Watch out though, they have stink glands to ward off predators which have led them to also be called ‘Stink bugs’.

 

Garlic Snail

This little guy can be found under logs and is about the size of your little fingernail. Give it a sniff – it smells like garlic! It has a yellow-brown shell which is translucent.

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Ero aphana

GRAEME LYONS

Ero aphana is a nationally scarce spider found on heathland. It’s one of four species within the Mimetidae genus which are also called pirate spiders. This is because, unusually,  they predate the webs of other spiders – not for their food, but for the spiders themselves. These spiders grow to around 3mm long.

 

Dock Bug

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GRAEME LYONS

This is the most common and the largest member of the Squashbug family. It’s called the Dock Bug because it mostly feeds on the seeds and leaves of docks and sorrels. Like other bugs within their genus they have specially adapted mouth parts that they use to pierce plants to extract juices.

We’ve got lots of other insects to talk about, but in the meantime do let us know if you find any of these – or any other interesting ones!

The 4 R’s

At Greener Greens we, like many people, avidly practice the three R’s – reduce, reuse and recycle – to cut down waste, conserve natural resources, landfill space and energy.  But something I saw today prompts an additional R – resourcefulness.


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I was at the Dorking recycling centre (aka “the dump”) which sadly the local council has voted to close, although closure has now been delayed until the end of September.  As I put a black bin into the landfill/burn container one of the recycling team split it open to reveal its contents.  “Why are you doing that?” I said. And this is what I was told…

On recognising the folly of the planned closure, the team thought they would prove the value of their service by opening each black bin deposited, reclaiming (yet another R!) items that can be recycled and keeping a tally of the amount their actions earned the council. Within the first fortnight they had reclaimed 2 tons of clothing for which the council receives 50p per kg and many tons of other items.  To date the team has gained the council thousands of pounds.  And so impressed is the council with their trial that it has allocated funds to help their efforts.

I saw 3 bags opened today and each contained bottles, paper and other recyclable items.  Sadly one third of the contents of one bag was recyclable, demonstrating that we still have a way to go.  But this wonderful team at Dorking is busily generating the statistics that enable a better message to be presented to us all.  And they have given a new dimension to “protesting”!

We shall be campaigning to keep this recycling centre open and the team in jobs. And to do that, we will be following the progress of this trial.