Thursday, April 11, 2013

Well I have just signed up for 1000for1ksq, and I see that I have quite a bit of catching up to do. I first heard talk of it from Robert Yaxley from Norfolk, when I met him in northern Norway in March when we were attending the memorable Gullfest 2013. I must have come in on the middle of a conversation, because I simply assumed that Rob was talking about a personal challenge rather than something that others were also involved in.  Anyway, I was subsequently rather pleased to learn more about it.

My main point of entry here is as someone who has been watching birds to greater or lesser extents over the course of about forty years, and taking a slightly more casual interest in the rest of nature.  Thus, my list will begin bird rich, but I will of necessity have to acquire certain skills and habits to enable me to notice, observe and identify other taxa. The main thing is habit. I can be anywhere doing anything and my consciousness will register the commonest of birds. The trick will be to develop this for all other taxa.  Above all, I hope to learn a lot.

My square is TM0025, which lies immediately to the east of the town centre of Colchester in Essex.  The greater part of the square is urban/suburban, so much of the plant life is in fact cultivated and not allowable. The other prominent feature is a large arc of the River Colne, which reaches its tidal limit in the square. A railway line also provides something of a corridor for wildlife to reach the town centre.  So here goes (apologies if I should be doing binomials as a matter of course):

1. Muntjac. In fact it's not a bird that kicks off.  This was actually recorded a few days ago, but I have documentary evidence of it occurring in 2013, because I tweeted a complaint about its seemingly incessant barking keeping me awake. It did eventually quiet down.  I hear muntjacs barking fairly regularly, and we have also seen them in our garden during the day from time to time. We are probably at least a mile from proper countryside in any direction, so I suspect that there may be a small population that is either resident within the gardens around here or, more likely in the nearby railway cutting.

2. Woodpigeon. Probably the commonest bird in the area.

3. Magpie. Always present, but not in large numbers. Always a pleasure to observe if one takes the time to watch them rather than just count them.  Omnivorous, rather like us (except that I do not eat meat). I was accosted at the weekend by someone complaining about them, and I did feel rather responsible...

4. Walnut tree, Juglans regia. At the end of our garden. I am reliably informed by our neighbours that it was self-seeded several years before we moved in. In fact it is a reasonable assumption that it was planted by a grey squirrel. The three fruits bountifully every year, but every year the local squirrels strip it completely before there is any chance of us harvesting the nuts. A large number of walnut saplings appear around the garden (including in plant pots) every summer.

5. Grey squirrel. The culprits! All of our bird feeders are now squirrel proof, so the squirrels will have to improve their memories of where the nuts are buried if they are to survive.

6. Blackbird.

7. Chaffinch. We seem to have a couple of pairs in and around the garden.

8. Robin. Now skilled in using the bird feeders.

9. Comfrey, Symphytum sp. Definitely not cultivated, but rampant.  Just starting to get going.

10. Bramble, Rubus fruticosa.

11. Green woodpecker. I regularly hear them calling in the vicinity of the garden, but this one flew low over my head yesterday, the first one I have seen in the garden for a few months.

12. Blue tit.

13. Black-headed gull.

14. Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale. The bain of the lawn. Not flowering yet, but it won't be long.

15. Groundsel, Senecio vulgaris. Young plants appearing.

16. Stinging nettle, Urtica dioica. Ditto.

17. Yew, Taxus baccata. I know for a fact that this was self-seeded, probably by an avian distributor.

18. Cleavers, Galium aparine. Getting a foothold in the front garden.  Action required. Great fun for attaching to the back of wife etc.

19. Purple dead nettle, Lamium purpureum. The square cross-section to the stems is quite distinct.

20. Rosebay willowherb, Chamerion angustifolium. Established in a vacant plot down the road (last year's seed heads). The neighbours will not be happy.

21. Collared dove.

22. Herring gull.

23. Great tit.

24. Dunnock.

25. Blackcap. I'm pretty sure that this is a lingering winter visitor, because it was feeding in a fatball, not the behaviour one would expect of a newly arrived summer visitor.

26. Common or lawn daisy, Bellis perennis.

Well, there's a long way to go.  Now should I be investing in a mothtrap?


  1. Hi Sven,

    Welcome to the club & good luck - the awful spring means you won't have missed out on much that can't be found during the rest of the year.

    A moth trap will definitely help boost your tally but I don't think it's essential.

    I'll let someone else break the bad news about bramble & dandelion...

  2. Hi Sven,

    According to rule 7. aggregates don't count - Rubus & Taraxacum are a minefield of cryptic species that require some good knowledge & careful study to tease apart. Other cryptic species groups to be wary of include the white-tailed bumblebee complex (Bombus lucorum s.l.) and the black bean aphid group (Aphis fabae s.l.).