Unusual sighting noted by Friends during bird survey

An unusual visitor was spotted in Mewsbrook Park during the annual Big Garden Birdwatch survey for the RSPB.
A coal tit is an unusual sight at Mewsbrook Park. Picture: Malcolm McCluskey G47058H8A coal tit is an unusual sight at Mewsbrook Park. Picture: Malcolm McCluskey G47058H8
A coal tit is an unusual sight at Mewsbrook Park. Picture: Malcolm McCluskey G47058H8

The coal tit was seen and heard calling by members of the Friends of Mewsbrook Park while they were checking the top of the park.

Di Larcom, from the Friends, said: “This is an unusual bird for the park, although it is a British resident.”

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The Friends, who have been carrying out the annual survey for ten years, started their tour by walking up the eastern side of the park, where they noted the resident pair of mute swans, coots, moorhens and black-headed gulls on the lake.

Mrs Larcom said: “A small number of mallard were seen resting on the island. In previous years, tufted ducks, little grebes, herring gulls and lesser black backed gulls have been counted but they were absent this year.

“The forecast rain had not yet arrived and conditions were bright with cloud. The strong, blustery winds had arrived, however, so the usual small birds, finches, tits and sparrows, were hunkered down and eluded the count.”

Larger individual birds were seen in the treetops, such as carrion crows, magpies and wood pigeons. A few small birds, goldfinches and house sparrows, were seen on the island in the lee of the wind.

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At the top of the park, as well as the coal tit, a small flock of sparrows were sheltering in bushes.

Walking over the bridge and down the western side, there were again only a few small birds, robin, dunnock, wren and house sparrows.

Mrs Larcom said: “The increasing winds hadn’t deterred four grey squirrels chasing and bounding in the branches of the evergreen trees.

“These animals will be included in the survey, which was broadened a few years ago to include a variety of other wildlife from deer and badgers to frogs, slowworms and stag beetles.

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“Last autumn, the group held a bat evening in the park to identify the different types of bat there.”

Most of the black-headed gulls have not yet developed their spring plumage, so they looked virtually white, except for a small dark spot at the side of the head.

Mrs Larcom said: “Mediterranean and common gulls occasionally join the flock but not this year. A group of mallards were now on the lake.”

Coming to the end of the hour, the group decided not to include the Ruby Conservation Gardens in the survey this year, as access is currently muddy and slippery, coupled with the loss of habitat to the new leisure centre and its surrounds at the moment.

The group finished at the café for complimentary hot drinks and a chat about the morning’s sightings.