Wild Side with Professor Ian D. Rotherham

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I had a message from Maureen Beeston to follow up on the greenfinch discussions. She lives in Killamarsh near to Field Lane and the fields, which drop down to the Chesterfield Canal and has a bird table, and feeder in her garden.

Maureen says: “I always have one of the hanging feeders full of sunflower seeds and thought you would like to know that a couple of greenfinches (male and female) come down almost every day to feed from it.”

She has noticed that the type and quantity of birds feeding in the garden this winter have been slightly different from usual. “There are normally lots of house sparrows and wood pigeons, but there are not so many this year; whereas the number of chaffinches and goldfinches seems to have increased.”

The garden is attracting up to half a dozen chaffinches each day and around seven goldfinches, with up to a dozen goldfinches in bad weather.

“They stay in a hawthorn tree at the back of the garden, so are easy to count.”

Interestingly, there have been up to five or six blackbirds, which are probably winter visitors from continental Europe. Also, with the heavy snowfall came a pied wagtail for the first time in memory in 40 years. It was visiting every day and seemed quite aggressive towards the other birds, especially the finches.

There seems to be a strong south-easterly trend in the greenfinch records coming in. This was the case with another report, this time from Joe Fagan.

“I am replying to your request to let you know if any greenfinches were spotted in this area. While out cycling today, we heard six at different locations between Bawtry and Wickersley.”

It certainly seems the birds are doing better in the lowlands and to the east. What do you think? Recently, when Ruth Ashford walked along Rivelin Valley between the S-bend and Hind Wheel, she made an interesting and quite unusual observation. “I was surprised to see a tiny bat; I think it was a pipistrelle. It was flying around, but, especially since it was around midday, is this unusual?” This is indeed quite odd, but with a few sunny days, it is not absolutely surprising. The bat, probably one of the two pipistrelle species, will have come out of hibernation with the sunny weather, and it was probably hungry. In addition, at this time of year on a sunny day, there will be insects flying at midday, but not into the evening when temperatures drop. This means that in order to feed, an active bat out of hibernation, would be hunting during the warmer hours; interesting observation though and not so common.

n Professor Ian D. Rotherham, researcher, writer and broadcaster on wildlife and environmental issues, is contactable on ianonthewildside@ukeconet.org – follow Ian’s Walk on the Wildside, www.ukeconet.org for more information.