DALS WILDLIFE SITE { WILDLIFE OF NORTHERN ENGLAND}

WILDLIFE OF NORTHERN ENGLAND

Children-get to know nature.

The following page is for the Young readers who would like to get to know nature.. For it is you, the young reader, that will be the future custodians of our countryside  and its inhabitants.. In this series we will look at the common species of birds and wild flowers  that share the countryside with us. Once you recognize these species  your enjoyment of nature will be enhanced. 

Get to know garden birds. The Bluetit..

The blue tit is a very common bird seen often in gardens especially those with trees. They are commonly seen at bird feeders and especially where peanuts are hung in bags.  Blue tits are very agile and are often seen hanging upside down in order to feed on nuts and to get at insects on trees.

 

 Courtesy of Francis C Franklin   CC BY-SA 3.0 License.

photograph the cheeky blue-tit on a satellite dish

The blue tit is a small bird, smaller than the sparrow and may be told by the bright blue colour on its head, wings and tail from which it takes its common name. They have white cheeks and patch just behind the head called the nape.  The under parts are yellowish. Its beak {bill} is tiny and black and its legs are dark blue-grey.

When the bird flies it has an up and down motion this is called undulating. It hops on the ground and will creep up tree trunks searching for insects.  In the summer they feed in the main on insects alone while in winter they will turn to seeds and food from bird tables.

Blue tits take readily to nest boxes providing they are placed in a suitable position away from the danger of prowling cats. The nest boxes give the birds a choice from the the more natural places it usually makes its nest. away fro nest boxes the birds build  in holes that are found in trees,rocks, banks, and old walls. In villages and towns the cheeky amusing bird will build its nest in some strange places such as in the tops of street lights and flower pots. They choose holes {especially those in nest boxes } that are small enough to keep sparrows and other birds out.

Francis C Franklin CC BY-SA 3.0 license. {Taken in Lancashire UK}

Photograph--the blue tit is an amusing little bird. Dal.

 THE NEST is a shapeless mass of soft material where the female -----

 Richard Crossley CC BY-SA 3.0 license.

 

lays a varying number of eggs from 7-10. reports of very large numbers such as a nest containing 18 eggs is usually because two females are using the same nest. It is rare but does happen.

The parent birds defend the nest bravely the male staying close by will run off other birds by biting and hissing loudly. The young birds are fed very frequently and the parents are kept busy bringing them food all through the daylight hours. The young chicks are fed on caterpillars. The parent birds time when their young is born to coincide with the time when thousands of caterpillars are available to them.  Blue tits only have one nest per season so the timing is important to them. If caterpillars are not available when the the chicks are born there is a good chance that they will not survive.

During winter the birds form little flocks with other species of tits and finches and roam the countryside and gardens looking for food.

The  Blackbird

During the winter months they depend on berries such as hawthorn,holly and cotoneaster,when the ground is frozen and their usual prey is not available to them. They normally feed on earthworms, slugs,snails, spiders and other insects.

The blackbirds song is a song which carries loudly across the spring air. It has a fluty melody which is as good as any other bird song you are likely to hear.

The blackbird is an early breeder. They build a nest that is cup shaped made of twigs and roots and mosses. The bottom is lined with mud, but unlike its cousin the song thrush the blackbird covers the mud with grasses or leaves. The nest is usually placed well down in a bush ,hedge or low tree. Sometimes it may be placed in a hollow of a wall, rock or banking.

The birds defend their nest with courage against cats,forcing them to retreat with vicious attacks. This aggressive determination is also employed against the grey squirrel a notorious egg stealer. Image courtesy of Tony Wills CC BY-Sa 2.5 license.mination is also employed against the grey squirrel a notorious egg stealer.

The eggs of the blackbird are longer than those of the song thrush. Their typical colour appears as a pale green back ground freckled with reddish brown. Although the markings can vary a great deal. The nest usually contains four to five eggs. The mother blackbird sits on the eggs for around two weeks. this is called the incubation period. When the eggs hatch the young which are born helpless are fed by both parents.

The birds may raise two families during the spring and summer.

At night when they are going to roost blackbirds make a noisy alarm call telling other blackbirds it is time to go to bed for the night.

Get to know the Blackbird

It is easy to forget that this bird is a species of forests and woodlands, for it has adapted to gardens so well it could be its natural habitat.

BLACKBIRD---The name is a bit misleading for it it is only the male bird that is black the hen and juveniles of the species is brown and spotted. The yellow beak and eye ring are a distinctive feature of the male who is so familiar to everyone. However, his wife and children have a brown plumage and beak.

The birds we see in our gardens during the cold winter months are probably birds that have come across the sea from the Continent during autumn to escape the bitter weather there to over winter in our relatively mild climate.        

Nest of the blackbird   courtesy of L Kenzel   CC BY-SA 3.0 license.

Get to know common flowers - the Red clover.

Red clover is a common wild flower of grassland.  Has its name suggests it has red flowers which grow at the top of the stems. The heads are round or oblong. What we think of as being the flower is in fact a flower head. This means there are a lot of tiny individual flowers which make up the flower head.  This species has a leaf right below the flower head.

The leaves are easy to recognize because they have three leaflets  which usually have a white V shaped markings.

Red clover flowers.

Dal.

look at the images above.

Look carefully at the picture above. You will notice the three leaflets each have the white V shaped markings. Notice also the tiny individual flowers that make up the flower head.

How tall do they grow and where do I find them ?

RED CLOVER grows to about 20-50 cm tall. They flower from May until September. They grow in grassy places , old meadows, waste land  and roadside verges.

SIMILAR SPECIES. The only other common plant that has red flowers similar to the red clover is the zigzag clover.

Zigzag clover. 

Dal

Look at the photograph above.

Notice that on the zigzag clover,s leaves  there are no white V shaped markings. Notice that even though the flowers are similar there is no leaf right beneath the flower head. There is on the red clover.

Get to know the Coot {water bird} .

Wherever there is a a large pond or lake in the countryside, or in parks, you likely to see this bird on its water. The coot is noisy bird that often picks fights with other coots especially in the breeding season.

The plumage of the coot appears to be black especially from a distance. In fact it is a blackish grey with, with black head and whitish mark on the wing {known as a wing bar}. Young birds are browner with a whitish face, throat and belly. nestlings have a orange head and neck.

Adults have a white bill and frontal face shield. The legs are greenish the eye is a beautiful red colour. The toes are long and have lobes. The bird  has a roundish body.

When the bird is flying it is slow and laboured with its legs trailing behind it. When they first take off from the water they patter their feet as though they are running on the water.  when they are swimming they have a bobbing action. They also dive beneath the surface. On land they walk.

Coots feed on small fish,worms and the tender parts of water side plants and those that grow in the water. Where they are used to people they can become very tame

Courtesy of jans canon {Flickr}  CC BY-SA 2.0 license

 

Any one who would like to know more about the coot click on link-COOTS AND MOORHENS at the top of the page.

Get to know the Moorhen- {water bird}.

Where there are coots you are likely to see the moorhen . The feet of this bird are like those of a hen. The plumage is blackish brown above and grey below. There is a white line on the birds side {known as the flank} and they have white under tail feathers {known as coverts} The young birds are mostly olive brown with a whitish throat tail and belly. They also have white under tail feathers. The beak of the adult is red tipped with yellow and they have a red face shield. The legs are greenish with a red garter. The eye is red.

Shy bird..

Unlike the quarrelsome coot the moorhen is a shy bird and will take to cover as soon as it is disturbed. The coot defends its nest but the moorhen is just the opposite and will abandon the nest and eggs if danger threatens.

The bird is also known by the name of waterhen.

Anyone who wishhes to learn more about the moorhen can click on to the link COOTS AND MOORHENS at the top of the page.

Below adult moorhen Courtesy of J M Garg {India}. CC BY-SA 3.0 license.

Get to know the dandelion and dandelion like flowers

Dandelions are very common flowers both in the wider countryside and in gardens,along roadsides and grass verges. What we think of as the flowers are  in fact flower heads made  up of tiny individual flowers known as florets. The dandelion has strap shaped florets which have tiny teeth at their tips. The stems which hold a single flower head has no leaves. The leaves of the dandelion grow close to the ground and are known as being rosette leaves. They can be up to !2cm {6 inches} long and are cut in to along their edges almost down to the middle on some leaves.

Below---dandelion seeds are carried on plumes like parachutes by the wind. The heads are now known as dandelion clocks. BOTTOM --Dandelions can soon fill a meadow.

photos by Dal.

Dandelion look alikes.---                   

Dandelions flower from early as March until June but most flower in April and May. They then tend to fade away and their place is taken by similar looking flowers of a related but completely different species --The cat's ear. Like the dandelion the leaves grow in a rosette  close to the ground.  Take a close look at these leaves they are very different from those of the dandelion. 

Below, cat's ear flowers. Bottom cat's ear leaves. Note how rounded the edges of the leaves are , not jagged like those of the dandelion. They are also very hairy while those of the dandelion have no hairs on them

Photos by Dal.

Hawk bits. 

Other flowers that have dandelion like flowers are hawkbit and hawk weed. These tend to flower late in the summer and autumn. 

Below the flowers of hawkbit. Below notice how thin the leaves are. You may have to move the grasses to find the rosette. 

Dal.Dal.D

Goat's beard another dandelion like flowering plant.

Goat's beard are tall plants of long grassland which have dandelion like flowers that are unusual in that they open in the morning and close at noon. The leaves of this species are grass like not like any of the other species. These plants produce dandelion like clocks which can be the size of a tennis ball.

BELOW-- The new leaves of goat's beard BOTTOM-- the dandelion like clock of the goat's beard


Dal.

 Next time you---

Next time you see yellow flowers that look like a dandelion look closer it may be one of the other species we have discovered. Good hunting.

Get to know the red campion.

Red campion is a common plant of woodland rides and other shady places. In early spring the plant produces tufts of oblong leaves. The bright pinkish red flowers on the reddish flower stem is familiar to most people even if they do not know the name of the plant.

When the flower fades the seed capsule {container} becomes a swollen flask with ten turned back teeth at the top . these open when the seeds are ripe and allow the seeds to be tossed out by the wind.

The plant grows to 50-60 cms high. The flowers are 1.8-2.5 cm wide. They flower from May to August so there is plenty time to see them.

The leaves on the stem have no stalks and grow opposite to each other.

The white campion as its name suggests is very similar but the flowers are white.

Below---Top White campion a close relative. Below bottom red campion. Photos by Dal.

below--the seed capsule is top right of the photograph. Bottom the young foliage of the campion

Dal.

Thank you for visiting.