Goldcrests and Dippers

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A wander down to the River Douglas.

Had a wander down to the bottom of the Plantations to see how the river was doing. What prompted the walk was a first ‘garden tick’ and its been an age since I recoded a new bird in the garden. The bird in question was a just fledged Grey Wagtail who was just finding insect on the patio. It must have been ants it was finding as it never stopped pecking away on the ground for a good 10 mins. As it was busy making sure it covered all the area its long tail was wagging away – it couldn’t have a more apprroprite name.

Any way getting back to the walk I had left home very early to see – or more accurately ‘hear’ what was happening breeding wise in the wood. The trees are in full leaf now which makes it a lot more difficult in actually seeing the birds so here’s where a good ear comes useful! Sadly I lost my hearing ability for the more ‘high pitched’ calls of some of our smaller birs – the Goldcrest was the first to vanish and that must be around 15 years ago. The song of the male Goldcrest is a very,very high, thin double note tat sounds like ‘cedar’ it repeats this about five six, or even seven , repeated 5–7 times and brings it to an end with a rendition of - cedar­cedar-cedar-cedar-cedar-stichi-see-pee. The entire song only lasts 3–4 seconds and is repeated 5–7 times a minute. This song, often uttered while the male is foraging, can be heard (or in my case not heard) in most months of the year. There is also a subdued rambling subsong.

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Getting back to the walk. Once by the river Douglas it was a good place to sit and ponder after the wander!! Just sitting on the river bank I had several ‘close encounters’ with one of my favourite river’ birds - the dipper. Twenty five years ago it was a really scarce bird in the borough but now dippers breed every year on a few of our local rivers. Presence of dippers is a good indicator of that pollution and contaminants are not present or low enough for invertabrates to survive in the water. The dipper is the only passerine with the ability to feed whilst being fully submerged in fast flowing water. It has a broad membrane above the nostrils, which can be closed when the head is submerged a sort of built in nose – plug!!


In the nineteenth century dippers were actively persecuted in many parts of Britain with rewards offered and paid for dipper corpses. It was believed that dippers competed with angling interests, and unfortunately in some areas of Scotland nests are still knocked into the river.!

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