Tag Archives: Erithacus rubecula

Birds in Autumn

It can be hard to love November. Whereas October is like a watered down, slightly colder version of summer, November is often wet, quite cold, and very dark as the sun travels across the sky at a very low angle causing very long shadows. And, of course, the days are now much shorter than the nights. We have very long nights. But because of this there are often great opportunities to see many species of birds close-up. Small birds in particular, come into villages and towns, and gardens in Wicklow looking for food and shelter. Some are harder to spot than others, but here is one you really ought to keep an eye out for – the Treecreeper (Certhia familiaris):

   It is an unusual-looking bird with a narrow curved bill with which it probes for insects and spiders in the bark. A Treecreeper will usually land at the base of a tree, or a wall, and walk up it to the top, before flying back down to another side, or area, to start the climbing process again. They are quiet birds, but quite calm, and can easily be mistaken for mice due to their colouring, long tails and habit of climbing.

The Goldcrest (Regulus regulus) is difficult to see for a very different reason – it is green like a leaf, is so hyperactive it seems like a leaf in the breeze rather than a bird as it hunts for insects under the leaves and twigs of bushes and trees, and it’s tiny. In fact, it’s the smallest bird in Europe. However, despite the difficulties I managed to get some photos. Here is one, which shows how camouflaged a Goldcrest is, despite the gold ‘crown’ on its head:

   Some birds are a lot easier to see because they prefer to look for food in the open, and they are coloured more boldly. One of them is the Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba), which is black and white and likes to bob along in front of walkers, relying on them to scare insects up from the ground so the Wagtail can leap up and snatch them. They will also enter supermarkets, and even small shops, in cold weather to shelter from cold or wet weather. Here is one which hopped across a flower tub to take a better look at me as I sat at a table outdoors:

However, even common garden birds can be a little bit shy sometimes. Here is a Robin (Erithacus rubecula), observing me from behind a leaf on a tree, a little shy of my camera. I like this photo:

The End of the Old Natural Year

Yes, we’re almost at that time again. This year the Winter Solstice occurs at 11.03 pm GMT (which is also our local time) so the first sunrise of our natural New Year is tomorrow, Monday. So do enjoy it. For those visiting Newgrange there will be no perceptible difference in light effect. Anyhow, take a look at what I found rising from the leaf-litter today:

Leaves emerging from the soil, but leaves of what?
Leaves emerging from the soil, but leaves of what?

Believe it or not, these are the fleshy leaves of Bluebells. Normally they emerge much later than December, but although it has been quite cold we have had few hard frosts. But whether we get snow or not is another matter, but I suspect not. Bluebells are very hardy though. But there are more than Bluebells around…

A Buff-tailed Bumblebee
A Buff-tailed Bumblebee looking a bit the worse for wear.

The bumblebee above is a worker Buff-tailed Bumblebee (Bombus terrestris) part of a nest of bees harvesting pollen from the yellow blossoms of this Mahonia tree which it is perched on. Unfortunately this bee will not survive the winter, but the much larger queen will, and she will start a new colony later, in the spring. Keep an eye for bumblebees though, because they are still around in small numbers.

Wildlife is not quite so noticeable in autumn and winter due to the short days and the poor light making it harder to see, but although you might not see it, it will definitely see you. For example, look at this Robin watching me from an arm’s length away, and I barely noticed it:

A lovely winter Robin watching me from a thicket, and scarcely noticeable in the shadows.
A lovely winter Robin watching me from a thicket, and scarcely noticeable in the shadows.