A plug

A very quick plug… if anyone’s a Sheffield Wildlife Trust member, I have a couple of bits about climate change in the latest issue of the SWT magazine, Kingfisher.


A very quick Old Moor trip…

Went to Old Moor for an hour or so on Sunday. Not too much to see – there were two coach trips of retired folk taking things over a bit, so we couldn’t squeeze into some of the hides (I didn’t even get near the birdfeeders).

Strangely, the Wath Ings hide was virtually bereft of birdlife, which is unusual. Maybe they saw the two coaches parked outside and had similar thoughts to me…

Today’s full list:
Black-headed Gull, Blackbird, Canada Goose, Carrion Crow, Coot, Cormorant, Gadwall, Golden Plover, Grey Heron, Jackdaw, Lapwing, Magpie, Mallard, Moorhen, Mute Swan, Pheasant, Pochard, Robin, Shoveler, Starling, Teal, Tree Sparrow, Tufted Duck, Wigeon

My second Peregrine (!)

Okay, this is a bit bizarre…

Last Wednesday, less than I week ago, I spotted my first ever Peregrine at Old Moor, and got rather excited about it. Roger B replied to my post about it with:

It’s worth keeping an eye for peregrines in the built-up parts of Sheffield. I’m told that they are sometimes seen in the Netherthorpe area.

I work in one of Sheffield City Centre’s tall office buildings on the seventh floor, and I’m lucky enough to get a panoramic view of Sheffield from the window, facing out towards Meadowhall and Don Valley. Not many birds to see generally, except for crows, Magpies, Feral Pigeons (of course), and on one occasion a Kestrel.

But today I happened to be staring into space as a bird flew past in the distance. I presumed it was a Carrion Crow at first, but it didn’t fly right, its wingbeats seemed a lot different, and it kept changing direction in a rather uncrow-like way, plus it was lighter coloured.

Remembering what Roger B had posted, I cursed the fact the office wasn’t equipped with binoculars, and then noticed it was zigzagging towards the window. Eventually it was about five feet away, so close I could clearly see its black “moustache” as it flew round the corner of the building.

A crazy, crazy coincidence, but not an unwelcome one! I’ll spend even more of the company’s time staring out of the window from now on, and post any more sightings I have.

My first Peregrine!

A mid-week trip to Old Moor today, and I’m nearly positive I saw my first ever Peregrine, which has always been on my “to-see” list. Definitely a falcon, darkish grey, significantly bigger than a Kestrel, and scared the bejesus out of the Lapwings. Yep, almost sure it was a Peregrine, despite only being a fleeting glimpse.

The rest of the trip I thought was rather disappointing as a whole – no really fancy waders or ducks to speak of – although did spot a couple of Snipe and a few Dunlins and Redshanks, and got a good up-close view of a female Sparrowhawk as it menaced the assorted flock on the birdfeeder. And I still managed to clock up my record species tally – maybe I’m just getting a bit too used to what’s there and need to move on to another site.

No Whooper Swans, obviously the lone one I saw last time has moved elsewhere, and the rest of the flock never arrived.

Today’s full list:
Blackbird, Black-headed Gull, Blue Tit, Canada Goose, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Collared Dove, Common Gull, Coot, Cormorant, Dunlin, Dunnock, Gadwall, Golden Plover, Goldfinch, Great Tit, Greenfinch, Grey Heron, Jackdaw, Lapwing, Magpie, Mallard, Marsh Tit, Moorhen, Mute Swan, Peregrine (woo!), Pheasant, Pied Wagtail, Pochard, Redshank, Robin, Shoveler, Snipe, Sparrowhawk, Starling, Teal, Tree Sparrow, Tufted Duck, Wigeon

A reservoir walk

I went on a good old walk yesterday, from Wharncliffe Side, and round More Hall and Broomhead Reservoirs.

First decent sighting of the day was my first fieldfare of the year, and walking through the More Hall Plantation, I was surrounded by small birds, including tits (blue, coal and great), treecreepers and nuthatches, as well as loads of squirrels.

I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t more to see on the reservoirs themselves – it was mainly feral ducks, mallards and every shade between. A couple of herons were stalking around, and there were three female goosander on Broomhead, which almost made up for the fact I was dragging my scope and tripod around with me.

What I was really wanting to see was some crossbills, I’ve read that they do live in the conifers in this area. Maybe next time.

Today’s full list:

Black-headed Gull, Blackbird, Blue Tit, Canada Goose, Carrion Crow, Chaffinch, Coal Tit, Collared Dove, Fieldfare, Goosander, Great Tit, Grey Heron, Jay, Long-tailed Tit, Magpie, Mallard, Nuthatch, Pied Wagtail, Robin, Rook, Treecreeper, Woodpigeon, Wren

Anyone know their fungus?

Does anyone know their fungus out there? Loads of this stuff suddenly appeared at the bottom of my garden a few weeks ago, seemingly within the space of a couple of hours. It’s starting to wither a bit now.

A few posts ago I think I painted my garden as a utopia for cats, but totally devoid of wildlife. Aside from this fungus, we do get the odd bits and bobs. A Common Toad set up home at the bottom for a while, and the neighbours have seen a hedgehog on a number of occassions, although I haven’t and that really annoys me.

Birdwise, there’s been a smattering of magpies, blackbirds, robins, woodpigeons, collared doves, house sparrows and blue tits. A very plucky wren took residence at the bottom for a while, but I fear it became a fun-size treat at one point. Ducks, geese, gulls, swifts and swallows have all flown overhead at some point, and feral pigeons can be heard cooing from the rooftops.

Whenever it rains, the lawns on our block suddenly get covered in snails, and if you walk outside in the dark when it’s wet, you just hear a sickening crunching noise under your feet as you squash the poor things.

Insect-wise a few interesting things show up. The tufts of ragwort in the garden housed Cinnabar moth caterpillars during the summer, large ichneumon wasps with their scary yet harmless “stings” in the living room, and recently some weird plume moths which look like letter T’s with legs stuck to the walls in the kitchen.

And the spiders in our house are another matter which I’m sure will one day merit their own post.

There’ll be loads more that I miss, and I itend to start keeping my eyes open a little more close to home. While it’s hardly going to have an SSSI stuck on it, there’s things to find even here.

Octopuses are geniuses. Official.

I’ve been reading an interesting article here – the gist being that octopuses are so intelligent that there’s a new move to ban live experimentation on cephalopods, offering them the same legal protection as cats, dogs and monkeys.

Octopuses may look like big, army bags of gas, but have shown many of the signs considered demonstrative of higher thought. For example, they can not only learn tricks and puzzles, but learn by watching the actions of other octopuses. They have been shown to feel anguish, fear and pain.

Yet it is currently legal to do, well, anything to them, alive or otherwise. No license is needed to experiment on them, and it’s not uncommon for restaurants in some parts of the world to serve them up live for particularly horrific customers (anyone seen the Korean film Old Boy? You’ll know what I mean.)

You just wonder how many animals have some remarkable levels of intelligence, but don’t have ways to demonstrate this in ways human beings understand. For example I saw a documentary years ago where pigs were given computer games to play for treats, and they outstripped the efforts of dogs and monkeys.

It’s a scary thought that one day we may develop new ways to communicate with animals, or at least gage their basic thoughts and emotions. Then we may have to realise that we’ve caused quite a bit of suffering over the years and have to come to terms with that. Because if “primitive” lifeforms such as octopuses can be legally designated sentient beings then we have to consider the intelligence of many other species way further up on the evolutionary ladder.