Wildside with Professor Ian D. Rotherham

Kingfisher by Paul Biggs
Kingfisher by Paul Biggs
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Local wildlife photographer Paul Biggs was in touch with some stunning pictures. ‘Hi Ian, I have seen kingfishers at a number of locations around Sheffield over the last three to four weeks and have been lucky enough to get some photographs. The sites have been at Endcliffe Park, Birley Spa, Rivelin Valley and Malin Bridge.’

The pictures are so good that I may ‘showcase’ them over the next few weeks.

Another river-bird, the grey wagtail, came to my attention through Star reader Dorothy Canning, of Graham Road. Dorothy wrote that she had seen what she thought was a grey wagtail on a couple of occasions in mid-January. Remarkably, she says that in over 90 years, she has never seen one. The grounds of the flats where Dorothy lives are mostly mown grass with trees and shrubs, but importantly, the site is not so far from the Porter Brook and Endcliffe Park. Indeed, this is where the wagtail will have come from and, in winter, they do forage on grassy areas away from water. With the grey back, bright yellow undersides, and long tail plus jet-black markings, the grey wagtail is a distinctive and striking bird, and so is nice to see. Rewarded by visits from blackbirds and robins, Dorothy feeds the birds and provides water too. However, the wagtail was a bit special and as Dorothy says, ‘It was a lovely thing and I am hoping to get more visits.’

I asked about greenfinch records and David Cotterill of Eckington on the edge of the Moss Valley, responded. ‘Recently my wife and I were seated at the breakfast bar healthily eating our crop-field scrapings when we saw a beautifully-marked greenfinch on the bird feeder just outside the window. Well, we have goldfinches, great tits, coal tits, blue tits and long-tail tits, chaffinch, dunnock, robin etc visiting the feeders on a daily basis. However, we both commented how long it has been since we saw a greenfinch. I guess it will be a while longer now, because while we were admiring this bird, a sparrowhawk swooped in from nowhere, picked up the greenfinch and flew off with it. Maybe predators need to have ‘greens’ on a daily basis too.’ Apparently, the bad weather brought five regular greenfinches with a liking for sunflower hearts. Nevertheless, David notes the need to be vigilant when they put their pet rabbit out in the back garden. The common buzzards in the Moss valley successfully reared three young last summer and five of them have been regularly seen overhead looking for a snack. I have had similar reports in recent years with common buzzards coming low over gardens in Gleadless Townend. I wonder whether you have experienced anything like this.

- Professor Ian D. Rotherham, researcher, writer and broadcaster on wildlife and environmental issues, ianonthewildside@ukeconet.org – follow ‘Ian’s Walk on the Wildside’. For more info click here