Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Northern Long tailed Tits at Luddenden Dene

February 14, 2011:
Another visit to the Dene today was rewarded with much better views of the birds. Within a ninety-minute period Northern Long taileds (caudatus) were seen on five separate occasions and usually down to quite close range. There appear to be at least two present, one always with the small flock of resident birds (rosaceus), the other always solitary. It's also possible that a continental bird (europaeus) is here as there is at least one individual with a narrow black crown stripe and very pale underparts. More photos are below, including our normal resident rosaceus and the (possible) europaeus.

[Above, a possible europaeus and (both below) typical rosaceus]

[Looking up Luddenden Dene to the north-west]

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Northern Long-tailed Tits and Luddenham Dean, West Yorkshire, revisited

February 7, 2012:
Another visit today appeared unfruitful until I managed two separate sightings of a Northern in mid-afternoon. The first bird, strikingly prominent with its white head and underparts, appeared suddenly in a flock of about eight of the normal race and rapidly foraged amongst the branches of a leafless tree in search of insects. A little later, a second (or perhaps the same) bird appeared. Recently, one with a shortened tail had been seen here but both today's were normal indicating that at least two of the Northerns are still in the area. As the mist swept up this remote valley in late afternoon, I withdrew, satisfied.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Northern Long-tailed Tits (Aegithalos caudatus caudatus) at Luddenden Dean, West Yorkshire

February 1, 2011:
Since January 10, up to three individuals of this northern European race (caudatus) have been recorded intermittently near the head of this small remote Pennine valley. Scattered houses here have well-stocked garden bird feeders which attract tits and other small birds. Our native Long-tailed Tit race (rosaceus) is present here in small fast-moving, flocks and it is to these that the recent northern arrivals have attached themselves. However, a high degree of patience was required to gain sight of one of these stunning birds but once located they are unmistakeable with an all-white head and underparts and, especially when seen face-on, appear as a small ball of white fluff.

They are native to Scandinavia, northern Europe, and eastwards across northern Asia. Scarce visitors to this country, when they do occur it is usually on the eastern side in very small numbers. A few were seen in Kent late last winter but apart from the occasional doubtful sighting elsewhere, these seem to be the only birds present in the UK at the moment.

The Northern race caudatus (both above), our UK race rosaceus (below)

Luddenden Dean is a very pleasant upland valley with a good number of bird species. Today, amongst the commoner tits there was a surprisingly large number of Coal Tits and Great Spotted Woodpeckers (both below). Raptors seen here include Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and Peregrine. Let’s hope that the tits are aware of this!