Todwick Environment: Wild Birds
Brian Chambers, a member of SK58 Birders, writes articles about wild birds in Todwick.
SK58 Birders is a local birding group that meets monthly in the upper rooms at The Loyal Trooper, South Anston.
We have over 60 members; club nights always include a slide-illustrated talk and a report on local bird sightings. New members are always most welcome.
For further information please contact Brian Chambers, 01909 770816 or visit: www.sk58birders.com
SK58 Birders – May 2021
April and now May 2021 have been cold months, although the skies have been clear and blue a lot of the time, there has been frost and a chill wind. This combination has delayed both bird migration and early nesting.
The Swallows, House Martins and Sand Martins are around but not in great numbers, their aerial insect prey must be difficult to find in sufficient quantity, so feeding young is hard work.
Wheatear have been recorded on the fields across to South Anston, usually fairly close to the old stone wall. This wall forms an excellent perch for the birds plus a good spot for the birdwatcher to see the birds before they disappear into the crops.
Also seen here are Yellow Wagtails, the male in splendid yellow around the head and chest, the female more camouflaged with subdued colours. Common Whitethroat are also resident by the wall, at least 3 pairs, the white throat being diagnostic plus their constant croaky song usually delivered from a conspicuous perch. The other common bird at this location is the Reed Bunting, the male identified by its black head.
These fields still support many bird species, in addition to those mentioned above there are Skylark, Wren, Dunnock (or Hedge Sparrow), Blackbird, Starling, House Sparrow, Wood Pigeon (too many) and often the raptors Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and Buzzard. This is not a full list as all sorts can turn up from time to time. In contrast, Lapwing no longer nest here, and the Winter Golden Plover flocks are very small nowadays.
One such is the Little Egret, smaller than a Heron and basically all white, this was seen by the flooded field adjacent to the A57 a few weeks ago. Today, May 16th, my wife heard a Cuckoo calling from woodland at the reclaimed Kiveton Colliery site. This is now a rare species in the SK58 square, occasional birds pass through, but it must be at least 10 years since they last bred.
Further afield, east of South Anston, a Black Kite was recorded passing through. This bird is smaller than the Red Kite, a species becoming ever more common in our area. Black Kite records are few in Yorkshire, the birds are common in Southern & Eastern Europe. So, it just demonstrates that unusual, rare species can appear in Todwick just as well as anywhere else.
Springtime for Todwick birds
Published: 28 March 2021
I’m sure there will be many nest boxes around the village gardens, we have a rather ambitious seven in place. There are many different sizes available designed to attract various species, the most common being the tit box.
Ideally the boxes should be placed during the Winter months, but it is still not too late, better late than never. The blue tit box entrance hole is recommended at 25 mm diameter, the great tit’s a little larger at 28 mm and for House Sparrow 32 mm. It is possible to buy a small metal plate with the appropriate size hole, this stops other birds, animals from trying to smash their way in to rob the nest.
Siting is of course important, some cover is ideal but there must be a clear flight path into the box and just as important a clean getaway. Place 4-5 meters high with the box facing away from the prevailing winds and out of the direct glare of the sun. This suggests a NE direction for perfection but anywhere between W and E should be OK.
If the box has been in use then a good clean out of old material is essential, if it is in use early then a clean out could encourage a second brood. It is not recommended to place nesting material in the box, let the birds gather their own.
Blue and Great Tits start searching for suitable sites as early as February but don’t actually start breeding until April/May, so now is the time to have your boxes in place, Good Luck.
I would be interested to know just how many birds and which species nest in our Todwick gardens. Which use nest boxes, hedges, bushes, outbuildings etc, please let me know if you have a nest, the site and species if you can.
Please email me any sightings: firstname.lastname@example.org
SK58 Birders – February 2021
I should imagine that most of Todwick’s residents have seen a Buzzard flying over the village. Here, at the Kiveton end of The Meadows the bird regularly perches on the fence of the horse’s field. I have posted some photos on the Todwick Facebook page.
Buzzard numbers suffered greatly in the 50’s & 60’s because of organochlorine pesticide use, raptor persecution and rabbit myxomatosis. Their favoured foods are rabbits (killed by the disease) also beetles and earthworms (killed by the chemicals). Since the 70’s numbers have increased dramatically, now being estimated at about 60 - 70,000 pairs to become the UK’s most common raptor after Kestrel. 25 years ago, the only Buzzards locally were over Kings Wood at Firbeck, now you may see 20+ birds at this site and if you go for a walk anywhere you expect to see one.
They are large birds usually seen gliding, often quite high, and heard with their mewing calls. They hunt over open fields and woodland as we have around Todwick, covering a large area in search of food, now more likely to be carrion, due to decline in the rabbit population. They are not specialised feeders, will eat most things protein, so that helps survival. They will take other birds, even pigeon, rodents such as rats, mice and even small things like earthworms, beetles etc. They really do not have any natural predators except possibly squirrels which will take a few eggs or young, and of course are easily disturbed by human activity.
They form lifetime pairs, display and start nest building March / April, building large nests of twigs and branches of 1 metre+ width in trees or rocky crags, usually lay 2/3 eggs, the birds fledging about July. The bird near our house is very light brown, a juvenile, so will not breed until 3 years old. However, I have seen a pair of adult birds flying together which presumably breed locally.
Raptor birds are not popular with everyone as they do take a good few songbirds, but they are all part of the ecosystem and their prevalence or not is a good indicator of the health of the environment. So, enjoy the sight of our local Buzzards, also the local Kestrels and Sparrowhawks and if you are very fortunate a Red Kite, another raptor seen ever more often in the Todwick area.
SK58 Birders – January 2021
The members of SK58 Birders, like all other societies, are not able to meet but are getting around our locality and reporting birds. The recording area, known as our local patch in bird watching terms, is the OS grid reference SK58. The web site, SK58Birders.com, has masses of information on birds seen, a species list of birds recorded over the years, local birding hotspots and much more. Definitely worth checking out if you have an interest in local bird news.
The Winter is a tough time for birds and also for us, so watching garden birds is an attractive option. Especially with snow and frost around, gardens are a source of easy pickings if food is put out. We have found that a mixture of bird seed, sunflower hearts and chopped peanuts together with cheap lard makes a tempting dish. With this we have a regular pair of Great Spotted Woodpecker, flocks of 30+ Chaffinch, about 20 House Sparrow, a maximum count so far of 15 Blackbirds, a good number of Goldfinch and a couple of Yellowhammer. Yellowhammer numbers are disappointing this year as previously a flock of over 30 have visited, it just shows how quickly things can change. We have had a Common Buzzard quite often circling over the adjacent fields which actually perched on the bird table for a while.
The Golden Plover are occasionally present on the fields between Todwick and Anston but not as often as previous years. About 20 were recorded early this year, at one time 2000+ flocks were common. Stonechat have been seen perched on the wall, Grey Heron standing in the fields and it’s not unusual to spot Cormorants flying over.
Tommy Flockton’s field, on the line of the canal off Hard Lane, has a good stretch of water. Duck species are attracted here especially over the Winter as migrant species flock in from Northern Europe. Mallard are ever present, maybe 40+, Teal, a small duck species, are also common. The male has the green and brown head markings, the female just brown but both have the glossy green speculum/wingbar, very visible in flight. A Flock of 20+ Wigeon are also regular visitors, forming a tight flock feeding on the grass alongside the water. The white Heron (Little Egret) is becoming a much more common sight as well.
Further afield at Langold Lake a few Goosander have been reported, also Pochard, and a very rare visit from a Goldeneye. This species is often at Rother Valley and other close by water sites but only rarely appears within the SK58 region. Another rare visitor was a Pintail Duck to Carlton Lake last December. We have many keen birders out scanning the area, usually recording common species so a rarity always generates some excitement.
There are plenty of Winter Thrush, Fieldfare and Redwing plus lots of extra Blackbirds from Europe feeding on hedgerow berries and in the stubble fields. One much sort after bird is the Waxwing, often attracted to supermarket carpark’s Rowan berries, or any well laden berry tree. They flocked to a tree at Kiveton a few years ago so keep your eyes open, if you see some let SK58 birders know via the web site, you will be very popular.
Keep up with the bird feed and let me know if you see anything special at email@example.com
Continue to 2019 reports.