Llanelli Naturalists Newsletter - No. 74 - July 2008
Kath Pryce

A regular visitor to the peanut feeder during January to April 2008 in our Pwll garden was a male Greater Spotted Woodpecker but no female was seen until April 11th and even then she only made a couple of visits.  At least this prompted me to clarify in my mind the differences between male, female and juveniles of these birds. All have a red vent (under the tail), males have a red nape, juveniles have a red crown and females have no red at all on the head.  Just recently (mid June) newly fledged birds have been regularly gorging on the nuts.

Great Spotted Woodpecker. Photo: R.PryceChiffchaff and Willow Warbler are not easy to distinguish by sight in the field but have very different and distinctive songs.  We heard a Chiffchaff singing in the garden from March 25th  onwards, so when we saw a bird looking like a Chiffchaff in the pear trees close to the house on April 6th, although not singing, we assumed that that was what it was.  However, it had pink legs, so Richard photographed it and emailed the evidence to Barry Stewart who confirmed it as a Willow Warbler, the pink legs distinguishing it from a Chiffchaff which has dark grey legs.  Barry said the Willow Warbler was not singing yet, as it was passing through on passage and had not yet taken up breeding territory.

We have seen very few Siskins on the feeders this year, with sightings on only three consecutive days in January and one day in March.

I have recently come across an interesting old book about birds called “The Call of the Birds” by Charles S Bayne, first published in 1929 and revised 1945.  I bought it mainly for the lovely  illustrations by C. F. Tunnicliffe.  However it is proving to be a very interesting read and seems to be based on the author’s own observations.  I find the identification of birds from their songs and calls quite difficult and wonder if there is any hope for me after being out with a friend who is a skilled musician.  She gently chided the Chaffinches as they were not always finishing their songs in the proper manner!  But the descriptions of bird calls in the book are very helpful.

Recently on TV we were told by Bill Oddie that the name ‘Coal’ Tit refers to its black plumage but I remembered reading about the Cole Tit in this book:  “I use the old spelling of “cole” because the original meaning of the word was not black combustible matter, as we understand it to-day, but a flame or blaze, and this suggests that the name refers to the white patch.”  I wonder when the name was changed to ‘coal’ as I am quite familiar with the old name of Cole Tit but am surprised to find that both my main sources of bird information from childhood (The Observers Book of Birds and Ladybird books) refer to the newer name of Coal Tit.  Any ideas?