Monday, 12 January 2015

Penduline Tits ....Second Helping

Knowing that the three Penduline Tits that have been visiting RSPB Darts Farm rather erratically over the last few weeks have now started to stay for the majority of the day, I decided to pay them a second visit. Although they haven't been arriving there very early, I still decided to get there for 9am yesterday morning, the reason being I was concerned that being a Sunday the car park would soon be full. I wasn't the first to arrive and the hide was already quite full of birders who were all looking at the Black Brant. I stood outside and to the side of the hide and as luck would have it I didn't have the long wait that I'd expected. At exactly 9.08 the three Penduline Tits flew into the tree beside me and then dropped down into the reedmace to feed. Everyone from the hide moved out and enjoyed superb views for just over and hour before the birds flew off high to the north. Half an hour later they were back and were still feeding in the reedmace when I eventually tore myself away at 1.30. They were very entertaining and easy to photograph. It was great to see Roger, Dave and Andy (Chard Birders) there seeing them on their fifth attempt, they looked quite happy. See Roger's write up and superb video footage here.


Penduline Tit incoming.


All three in this one...well just!


..and two here


Some of the many happy birders, one of whom had driven up from Dungeness overnight!

I've tried to get photos of each of the three birds to see if I can tell what sex /age they are, but I think it's a very hit and miss affair. Initially after having seen and photographed them on December 30th I thought there were two females and a first winter. None looked well marked enough to be an adult male. Yesterday though, the most well marked bird with the biggest mask did look a bit different than it had 12 days previously, I still thought it was a female though until I looked at my photos when I got home. I now think this one is a male and that it's slowly developing into a more striking breeding plumage. The bird which looked like a first winter bird with a barely discernible mask on the 30th of December now looks very much like the female bird having developed a much more defined mask in the 12 days since I last photographed it.

The male bird.


There are some very colourful russet patches forming on the mantle, which I didn't think were as prominent last time I saw the bird. The black around the eye also seems to be getting broader.




In these two front on views there is also a very noticeable russet patch on the forehead and a few russet coloured spots on the breast are beginning to show. 

Female




 I think this might be an adult female due to the black but less extensive (straight sided) eye-mask and drabber colouring.

First winter bird


This bird has a much less clearly defined mask, but still looks quite similar to the bird above. 
It is however the same bird I photographed on the 30th of December when it looked like this....


Obviously the same individual but the mask is much duller and more grey than black.
In fact in some lighting conditions on the 30th this bird looked like it had no mask at all, as seen here...


The mask is all but invisible, especially from a distance.
Therefore this bird is highly likely to be a first winter bird which is now developing an adult's mask.
At no time yesterday did the bird appear not to have a mask whatever the light was like.

It was also very fascinating to discover what the birds were feeding on. It would be easy to assume that they were feeding on the seeds from the reedmace (which they may well do) but  they were also finding and eating the larvae of Limnaecia phragmitella, the Shy Cosmet Moth (or Bulrush Cosmet Moth).



There are lots of seeds available but the bird is digging after the juicy caterpillar hidden within the seed head.


Nearly there...


Got it!

Dave and I were wondering how the birds detected if there was a caterpillar in the seed head. We wondered if they listened for them. I suspect so, because it certainly looks like what is happening here.....

There were also several Chiffchaffs and a pair of Stonechats in and around the ponds. It would have been rude not to photograph them too especially as they kept posing nicely and were by and large ignored.


Fed up with being ignored this Chiffchaff tried the photo bomb approach.


Last but not least the ubiquitous and ever obliging Stonechat.

3 comments:

JRandSue said...

Well done yet another fantastic tick,complemented by wonderful
captures.
Very jealous.
John.

Karen Woolley said...

Thanks John.

Jennifer Tulip said...

You couldn't have asked for a better background. The colours of the reed and the soft fluff are perfect next to the tits. Wonderful!
Miss Tulip
The Thrifty Magpies Nest