Saturday, 18 January 2020

THE Reading RSPB group welcomed Graham Giddens for an illustrated talk entitled “Birdwatching in the dark”.

It was his first visit to the group and his presentation did not disappoint.

As expected, the talk covered the behaviour of Britain’s five species of owl and focused on how birds keep warm at night.

In the depth of winter as many as 24 wrens have been found to huddle together in one nest box.

Graham is an experienced “ringer” and as such was able to throw some light on how his and others’ ringing recoveries had helped solve some of the mysteries of migration, much of which is undertaken at night.

Principally, there are two routes from Britain to Africa — either via Iberia or the toe of Italy before crossing the Mediterranean.

Apart from this, much is still not known. For example, it is a great mystery where the house martin, many thousands of which breed in Europe, spends winter.

A few days later, the first minibus trip of the season took the group to the RSPB reserve at Pagham Harbour on the West Sussex coast just south of Chichester. It was a sunny day but there was a cold wind which was particularly noticeable at the beach.

On arrival, the group was advised that two yellow-browed warblers had been spotted near the information centre so seeing them became a top priority.

These birds come from Siberia and should be heading to south-east Asia for the winter but a few are seen in Britain most years during autumn migration.

They are small green/yellow birds, similar to a goldcrest but with a loud call, which soon gave away this pair’s whereabouts. Unfortunately, they were in a dense hedge and although the group waited patiently, the birds did not oblige with an appearance.

After a picnic lunch outside the information centre, the group ventured to the new hide at the ferry pool which overlooks the harbour.

There were shelducks, teals, lapwings and shovelers on the pool. The tide was out, making most birds somewhat distant but there were a few waders, namely redshanks, grey plovers and curlews in the muddy channels.

With the tide now rising, the group ventured to Church Norton, which is nearer to the beach and the harbour entrance. Hence the birds were being pushed nearer to shore and dunlins, ringed plovers, turnstones and black-tailed godwits were added to the list of waders seen. At the beach, a sea watch revealed a large feeding group of gulls but they were too far away to identify. A few gannets, being larger birds, were easily recognisable. A pair of red-breasted mergansers were also on the sea, making an attractive colourful addition.

A few passing swallows, together with three species of butterfly and a few dragonflies, indicated that winter was not yet in full swing but small groups of recently arrived Brent geese, pintails and wigeons showed it was not far away either.

The next meeting of the group will takes place at Pangbourne village hall on Tuesday, November 12 at 8pm when Ashley Grove will present an illustrated talk entitled “Lammergeiers of the Spanish Pyrenees”. Visitors are always very welcome. For more information, visit www.reading-rspb.org

Dave Glover

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