48/365 – Female Mallard

I think because they’re everywhere Mallards are overlooked, but if you catch them in the right light they are simply stunning.

Female mallard portrait

Female mallard

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47/365 – A Barbadian Caterpillar

This stunning caterpillar caught my eye in Barbados and grew massive in the time we were there. You would think that when it turned into a butterfly it would be just as beautiful. But it doesn’t it pupates into a large but very brown moth!

Frangipani caterpillar

Frangipani moth caterpillar

Starlings

We regularly get starlings feeding on the fat balls in our garden. However it has declined  as a breeding bird in the UK. Each autumn into winter our resident birds are joined by huge numbers of birds come over from the continent to winter here. They will gather together in the evening into spectacular murmurations where they swirl overhead as they prepare to roost.

Starling soaking up the sun

Starling soaking up the sun

They are dark, thrush sized bird with longish pointed bills and short tails. They have a big head and short tailed with a striding walk. They have glossy, iridescent plumage which has a sheen like oil on water when caught in the sun. In winter it will gain more white spots and its beak will darken in colour.

Adult and juvenile starling

Adult and juvenile starling

Juvenile Starlings can cause some confusion when spotted as they have none of the sparkling plumage of their parents.

Adult starling feeding juvenile

Adult starling feeding juvenile

Oh No I Think I’m a Twitcher

“A twitcher is someone who will go to great lengths to view new bird species. For some twitchers their pursuit can turn into an obsession and can involve extensive travel, dedicated monitoring of birding hotspots and networking with other twitchers.”

I had to travel down South for work this weekend and I had read that almost on my route, there was one of the influx of Hawfinches, so I thought why not go and try and see it as they are a pretty rare bird normally. Last year we had a massive influx of Waxwings into the UK and this year a similar number of Hawfinch have arrived, and as with the waxwing I’d never seen one. Unfortunately the weather was dreadful so the images don’t do this stunning bird justice.

Hawfinch

Hawfinch

The hawfinch is the UK’s largest and rarest finch with a small resident population which are usually difficult to spot. This resident population have been joined this winter by thousands from the continent where crops of their usual food is in short supply.

Perching hawfinch

Perching hawfinch

It was easy to spot where the bird was as it has attracted a small crowd and so I guess I became a twitcher. They are quite a chunky bird compared to the usual finches we see in the UK but it is their remarkable conical beak which makes them stand out. This beak can exert immense force which allows them to crack seeds other birds can’t use. They are able to crack a cherry stone, which if you’ve ever bitten one will know they are a tough nut to crack!

Hawfinch feeding

Hawfinch feeding

Compared to the pictures I got of the waxwings last year these are a bit disappointing but as we Twitchers say, “It’s a tick”.