Kingfisher and Kestrel

I’ve just been up to Loxley Nurseries to buy some more birdfood, and while I was up there I had a look to see if anything interesting was on Old Wheel Dam. The usual suspects were there, plus seven black-headed gulls, and two stock dove in nearby fields, plus the Canada goose count is at 67.

I was about to leave when I noticed a shape across the other side of the dam, which turned out to be a kingfisher! I watched it for a while as it hunted, moving slowly round towards it and getting quite close, even managing a few half decent photos. It’s amazing how well-camouflaged these gaudy birds can be, their blue feathers not showing so bright unless the sun is directly on them, and their orange chests blending in well with the remainder of the autumn leaves. It was great to see it diving into the water and emerging with fish.

Kingfisher

Kingfisher

Kingfisher

Kingfisher taking off!

There was also a hunting kestrel in the field opposite the Nurseries, which perched on a lamp post for a while.

Kestrel

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Waxwings sighted!

I went for a trip up to Crosspool with my friends Chris and Gill at lunchtime, and we very quickly found the waxwings! There were at least 20, possibly as many as 30 or so, flitting across Manchester Road (near the Sportsman pub) to feed on the rowans, sometimes brazenly feeding just a few feet away. Here are some pics I got of these brilliant, ridiculously photogenic birds.

Waxwing

Waxwing

Waxwing

Waxwing

Waxwing

More waxwing alerts

Waxwings are all over the place today… thanks to Roger B for giving me the tip off that a flock of at least 40 have been feeding on Rowans on Machester Road in Crosspool today, heading down the road from the Sportsman Pub and down the hill towards Rivelin.

There’s also a record on Birdguides in Hillsborough. Can anyone with a paid account tell me where abouts? EDIT – apparently three flew east over Norris Road mid-morning.

Hopefully I’ll be able to find some of these on my lunch hour tomorrow…

Wish Trees

Wishing Tree

Good old Wikipedia… I think I’ve found out the reasons behind the tree I photographed at Padley with coins inserted in its trunk (see this post). It seems the tree is some kind of Wish Tree, which Wikipedia describes as “an individual tree, usually distinguished by species, position or appearance, which is used as an object of wishes and offerings. Such trees are identified as possessing a special religious or spiritual value. By tradition, believers make votive offerings in order to gain from that nature spirit, saint or goddess fulfillment of a wish.”

One form of votive offering is the token offering of a coin. One such tree still stands near Ardmaddy House in Argyll, Scotland. The tree is a hawthorn, a species traditionally linked with fertility, as in “May Blossom”. The trunk and branches are covered with hundreds of coins which have been driven through the bark and into the wood. The local tradition is that a wish will be granted for each of the coins so treated.

On Isle Maree in Loch Maree, Gairloch, in the Highlands is an oak Wish Tree made famous by a visit in 1877 by Queen Victoria and its inclusion in her published diaries. The tree, and others surrounding it, are festooned with hammered-in coins. It is near the healing well of St. Maree, to which votive offerings were made. Records show that bulls were sacrificed openly up until the 18th century.

Near Mountrath, County Laois, is a shapeless old Wish Tree in the form of a sycamore tree called St. Fintan’s Well. The original well was filled in, but the water re-appeared in the centre of the tree. Hundreds of Irish pennies have been beaten into the bark as good luck offerings.

Many public houses, such as the Punch Bowl in Askham, near Penrith in Cumbria, have old beams with splits in them into which coins are forced for luck.

Thanks to Jon B who commented on my last post with some spectacular examples that he found at Malham in the Yorkshire Dales. An example of his photos is here.

A few searches on Flickr show there’s a good number of these trees around. Searching for ones in the Peak District show there’s a few around the area, including a good number at Dovedale. The example below is by orangeacid and used under the Creative Commons License.

The money tree by orangeacid

Another search in Yorkshire show a much bigger crop, including examples of them at various locations. The impressive example below is by user Tasa_M, and taken at Hardcastle Crags in the Calder Valley. Again it’s used under the Creative Commons license.

Money Tree by Tasa_M

The caption by the above user suggests the custom goes back to Roman times, but she observes, like I did with the Padley tree, that most of the coins appear to be modern 2p pieces. I’d conclude that due to the lack of pre-decimalisation coins the Padley tree was definitely started post 1970s, and probably much more recently – the photo at this page shows the tree looking much less “coined” that in my photo, and while there’s no date on it I’d suspect it’s not from too many years ago.

If anyone knows any more info then please let me know!

Patch update 16/11/08

I’ve visited the Loxley Valley so infrequently recently that I’m not sure I can really call it my patch at the moment, but it’s always the case after the nights draw in unfortunately.

I did get a trip out on Sunday, however. The highlights were:

  • 50 + fieldfare on Loxley Road, and at least 2 x redwing in fields opposite Admiral Rodney.
  • 63 x Canada Goose in fields by Old Wheel Dam, with 12 x moorhen (a good count for the area) and 3 x tufted duck on the Dam itself.
  • A flock of 44 x black-headed gull touring the area and feeding in fields.
  • A kestrel being harrassed by two magpies on Black Lane.
  • A grey wagtail at the fisheries.
  • A nuthatch on Black Lane, and another on Loxley Road near Rowell Lane.
  • A grey heron in a field near Rowell Lane.