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59


WITH JOHN ASHTON A


utumn and winter are probably the best times to see Europe’s smallest birds


... GOLDCRESTS and FIRECRESTS can be found associating with various tits as they forage the hedgerows. The thin, high-pitched calls are a good indication of their whereabouts, although they can be higher than the hearing range of old folks like me. The females have a slim yellow crest which is a brighter orange in the males of both species. Firecrests have a “cross” look about them while the latest Collins Bird Guide (for some reason known only to themselves) has changed the description of the Goldcrest from having a “cute” look to an “appealing” look. Most of the Firecrests we see have migrated from Northern


Bird watching


in association with


Spoonbill flying


Above Goldcrest. Right: Goldcrest. Below: Drawing of Hawfinch (by John)


Europe and this year we have unprecedented numbers arriving ... Perhaps they are anticipating an exceptionally hard winter back home. A welcome


stranger to South Devon


is the striking HAWFINCH. This is the largest of our finches


but very shy and tends to hide away at the top of fruit-trees. They are extremely partial to cherries and


crack the stones with an impressive 50kgs of force generated by their massive, triangular beak and huge jaw muscles. This year we have had more of these flying nutcrackers than usual and Eric the fag-filcher has suggested that the recent Portuguese fires may have been a factor, as large swathes of their habitat have been destroyed in the conflagration.


Birders often report other types of wildlife and it’s always interesting to hear of unusual butterflies, whales etc., so I was intrigued when Eric told me of a strange spider he had come across on the marsh, near to the local bird-hide. I high-tailed it over there to find a beautiful, colourfully-striped creature. It was a female WASP SPIDER guarding her ping-pong ball sized crèche. Due to increasing climatic temperatures these European spiders now feel quite at home in Devon. They are apparently harmless, unless you happen to be her tiny husband. However, I wasn’t going to put my finger anywhere near it.


Binoculars www.king–print.co.uk


Binoculars, Scopes & Astronomical Telescopes Tel: (01548) 856757 www.king-print.co.uk TOP of the TOWN, Fore Street, Kingsbridge, Devon. TQ7 1PP


Left: Wasp Spider guarding her nest of eggs Scopes


Instore, Online or Mobile


Top of the Town, Fore Street, Kingsbridge, Devon. TQ7 1PP Photos Tel: (01548) 856757


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