The Patch: Placrug
I thought it might be interesting to share some information on various ‘patches’ here in the beautiful seaside town of Aberystwyth on the Welsh coast, where the majority of my photographs are taken.
Today we are looking at another of my favourite locations, which I don’t visit nearly as often as I would like, something I aim to improve on!
Plasgruc avenue is small strip of parkland nestled right in the centre of the town here in Aberystwyth, in between a busy retail park, railway and residential areas.
A map of the area (marked in green)
Despite it’s very urban location this area is quite the wildlife hotspot and even home to a few surprises. The area is a narrow strip of land lined with pathways, through which a small stream (known as the ditch flows through.
During the spring plascrug bursts into colour with daffodils and crocus flowers emerging among the trees.
Crocus flowers emerging through the grass
Bluebells can also been seen here early in the year, although these tend to be of the hybrid variety rather than true native bluebells.
Bluebells in the borders
The stream provides a home for a few mallard ducks who often raise their ducklings here in the relative safety away from the main river. In summer months the waterway often turns a vibrant green under a carpet of duckweed as seen in the photo below.
Ducklings in duckweed
Male mallard preening
The ditch is also home to a very elusive bird, the water rail. I have only managed to photograph on one occasion successfully, despite a handful of sightings but I’m still delighted to have this on record!
The elusive water rail!
The trees fringing the water are also home to many small species of birds who feed on the insects, berries and seeds they provide. The vegetation also provides plenty of cover and shelter in which to nest and hide from predators (and my camera!).
Four species of tit can be regularly seen in this area, with the blue tit being the most common. They are usually seen high in the canopy hopping about, searching for caterpillars and insect prey.
A blue tit calling high in the trees
Most conspicuous is the larger great tit, often making it’s presence known with it’s distinctive two-syllable song before you actually spot the bird. It is easily recognised by the striking yellow, black and green plumage.
Pair of great tits among the branches
The delightful long tailed tits are often seen travelling through the canopy in small, noisy flocks. They are so quick and agile that getting a decent photograph of them can be tricky and so I was delighted when this particular bird posed beautifully on a branch right in front of me.
Long tailed tit
The smallest tit found here is the coal tit. Much drabber in appearance than it’s colourful cousins it is still quite a striking bird. I am particularly pleased with this shot as a coal tit forages on a bright winter morning, showing off it’s black cap and white cheeks.
Plasgruc is also home to Britain’s smallest bird, not the wren as is often reported, but the colourful little goldcrest. This diminutive bird weighs just 6 grams and has a yellow stripe on top of the head which gives the species it’s name.
Goldcrest with it’s yellow crest not visible here unfortunately
The second smallest bird, the wren also resides here. Despite it’s small stature the wren has a surprisingly loud song which it uses to defend it’s territory along the banks of the stream.
Another family of birds that inhabit the trees are the finches. My favourite of which is the goldfinch, a stunning bird but one I have always found somewhat difficult to get close to and photograph. The goldfinch has a very distinct tinkling song which is a delight to hear!
Goldfinch feeding on blossom
Chaffinches are common here as they are throughout most of the UK and tend to be much easier to photograph than the shy goldfinch.
Rather than hop among the branches another bird here behaves rather differently. The aptly named treecreeper can be seen circling the tree trunks in search of it’s insect prey. Their camouflage makes them particularly difficult to spot among the lichen.
Descending down from the trees to ground level, there is no shortage of bird activity either. The grass and leaflitter provides an abundance of food in the form of grubs and earthworms, a particular favourite of the blackbird and song thrush.
Male blackbird with earthworm
Female blackbird among the leaves
Song thrush with a muddy beak
Robins are also very common here and they tend to be quite bold and approachable. I had a particularly memorable in counter with one of these birds, as seen in this previous blog post.
Robin & daisies
Another ground dweller is the dunnock, a rather plain bird but with a distinctive deep red eye. They are usually seen shuffling through the undergrowth, nervously flicking their wings.
Dunnock (also known as the hedge sparrow)
Whilst most of the previously mentioned birds can be seen year round, there are a few species here that are only seasonal visitors. Here is a beautiful redwing, another member of the thrush family that migrates the the UK from it’s Scandinavian home during the winter months.
This urban habitat also has it’s share of opportunists including carrions crows, jackdaws & herring gulls all of which have adapted to thrive in our towns and cities.
Jackdaw eating food scraps
Although happy to feed on human leftovers, their is also plenty of natural food to be found here.
Herring gull with a scavenged mallard egg
Carrion crow foraging in the soil
As well as feral pigeons, in Plascrug you also find their much larger cousins, the pink chested woodpigeon. You can often here their soft, repetitive ‘hoo-hoo’ calls overhead. Here a pair are affirming their bond with a behaviour known as ‘billing’.
Bonding wood pigeons
I have compiled a list of all the bird species (with links to relevant blog posts) that I have seen on the patch to date, which I will update as and when there is a brand new sighting.
Water rail, mallard, herring gull, jackdaw, feral pigeon, magpie, carrion crowcarrion crow, greenfinch, house sparrow, dunnock, robin, goldfinch, goldcrest, long-tailed tit, coal tit, great tit, blue tit, nuthatch, treecreeper, redwing, wren, pied wagtail, siskin, blackbird, song thrush, chaffinch, blackcap, chiffchaff, woodpigeon.
— All photographs copyright of Claire Stott/Grey Feather Photography © www.greyfeatherphotography.com
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