Female Blackcap in winter.

Throwback Thursday travels back to Cheshire in the early 1990s. This is a female Blackcap feeding on a windfall apple in the winter. Sometimes known as the Eurasian Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) it is a member of the Warbler family. The male Blackcap has a black cap on its head, the female a brown cap.

They were traditionally a summer visitor, arriving in the U.K. to breed. However, in the 1980s a few birds were being recorded in gardens in the winter. In the early 1990s when this photo was taken they were still uncommon in the winter. A few years later they were becoming common. If I recall correctly this bird was reported to the county recorder for inclusion in that years county bird report.

Since then numbers have continued to increase. Research has shown that the winter birds are different than the ones that breed in the U.K. in the summer. The wintering Blackcaps arrived from Germany. Isotope analysis has also shown that the German birds wintering in the U.K. tend to mate with other Blackcaps that wintered in the U.K. when back in Germany for the summer.

Another interesting point is that Blackcaps prefer mature deciduous woodland for breeding in the summer while the birds that arrive from Germany to spend the winter prefer gardens. It’s thought that the birds started wintering in the U.K. because of the milder winters and the availability of food with people feeding birds in their gardens.

Wintering female Blackcap.

Bohemian Waxwing at -30°C.

Throwback Thursday is a follow-up of sorts to yesterdays Wordless Wednesday post. Here’s a Bohemian Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus) at -30°C.

Both birds were photographed in Saskatchewan, Canada in the winter. I’m always impressed by the way small birds survive winter temperatures.

Nowadays some digital cameras make a big deal about a freezeproof rating of -10°C. I find that rather humourous having shot film at -40°C and digital at -20°C.

I found a small flock of Bohemian Waxwings feeding along a fence line one morning. I briefly considered putting up a portable hide (blind) until I thought about how hard it would be to peg down given how frozen the field would be. In the end I followed them along the fence line for a while before leaving them to finish stripping the berries.

A Bohemian Waxwing at -30°C.

 

Preening in the shallows.

Throwback Thursday travels back to Hurleston Reservoir, Cheshire, England in the 1990s.

A group of Black-headed Gulls (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) in winter plumage standing in a shallow section of the reservoir. I noticed that a surprising number of the birds were taking the opportunity to preen while standing in the water.

I’ve mentioned in previous posts about species having their common English names or their scientific names changed after DNA testing. In this case the scientific name has been changed since the photo was taken and captioned. So many species have had a name changed that these days l Google a species before I write a blog post or caption photos.

Winter plumage Black-headed Gulls.

Squares.

This week’s Cosmic Photo Challenge is Squares. I had a few ideas for the challenge but this ended up an obvious choice with squares of wire mesh holding peanuts for the birds.

This is a male Eurasian Siskin (Spinus spinus) feeding on peanuts in a garden in Cheshire, England. Although a year round resident in the U.K. it is more commonly seen in the winter when it comes to bird feeders.

This is the way most people see Siskins which probably explains why a magazine editor used this photo over others shots of the species in natural settings that I had submitted.

Eurasian Siskin on peanuts.

Being watched at sunset.

One from the archives taken in Lancashire, England in the 1990s. I spent most of the day at Martin Mere Wetland Centre, a Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust nature reserve. There’s a selection of wooden hides (blinds) overlooking various areas of the reserve.

I made sure that I was in the most suitable hide as the sun was setting with the intention of shooting silhouettes of the wildfowl on the water. This male Common Pochard (Aythya ferina) appears to be staring at the lens although I suspect that it is a coincidence as the birds generally ignored the hides. I like the way the last light is catching the grey portion of the birds bill.

Being watched at sunset.

Fly Agaric.

One from the archives taken in Cheshire in the 1990s. Fly Agaric are the classic Toadstool beloved by illustrators of children’s stories.

But they’re far more interesting than that. With the red cap and white spots some people assume it’s highly poisonous. It is poisonous but human deaths from ingestion are extremely rare.

It contains psychoactive substances and some cultures have used it for its hallucinogenic properties. The mushroom was used as an intoxicant and entheogen by the indigenous peoples of Siberia.

I picked this shot because I like the way the Bracken fronds have wiped the white spots off a section of the cap. The white spots are the remains of a white veil that enclose the mushrooms when they emerge from the soil.

Fly Agaric and Bracken.