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Wendy Birks' describes the fifty or so species of birds that may visit the club over the course of the year.

You can access Wendy's Endon Wildlife Blogg here

Mute swans and Canada goose use the Caldon Canal to guide them on their route between pools and lakes; water birds often use rivers and canals to help them navigate between different sites. Everybody knows swans, but the Canada goose is not so well recognised. They have a white “chinstrap” on their black heads and necks, a brown body and pale under parts. They generally fly in groups, mostly in the morning and evening as they travel between feeding grounds and overnight roosts. They sometimes take up the classic goose “V” flying formation, and they are almost always honking contact calls to each other whilst they fly.

Two ducks, the familiar mallard and also goosander also fly along the canal. The male mallard has a dark green head, a narrow white collar and blue patch on its wings - while the female is mottled brown. They may also be seen walking and feeding in grassy areas as they often nest away from water - the nest being hidden on the ground amongst tall vegetation. The cricket grounds has suitable sites, so be careful where you tread in the wildlife area! In flight, male goosanders look black with black and white wings, while the females are grey, with dark grey and white wings. Goosanders are unlikely to be seen in spring and summer as they do not breed in our area.

Pheasants cannot be mistaken for any other bird. The males have red fleshy wattles around their eyes and a dark green head. The females are mottled brown. They are quite common around Endon as they have escaped from commercial pheasant shoots (of which there are several nearby). They are not actually an indigenous bird, they were originally introduced to Britain by the Romans or Normans from their native Asia. When they are disturbed they fly upwards with a resonant “kork ok, ok. They may feed on the cricket ground if they could find any seeds or grain. They nest low down or on the ground, the nests are hard to spot as the camouflaged female does all the incubating and she will stay on the nest until you get very close. Each eligible male has a harem of several females – he leaves the females to rear the young on their own.

If you had a pair of binoculars you might sometimes see a grey heron at the edge of the canal as it watches for fish. They sometimes hunt for creatures such as frogs in damp fields, though I doubt if this would happen on the cricket ground while a match was being played. While you are at the cricket ground you are most likely to see a grey heron flying over. They look big and black and fly quite slowly, and you can see their long necks folded back while they are in flight.

Buzzards are also big. They look a bit like an eagle and have brown upper parts and are pale below. They are often seen over Endon as they soar on thermals, occasionally flapping their broad, fingered wings – they are looking for prey. They will eat pretty much any small animal, so they may land on the cricket ground at times if they spot a meal.

Another bird of prey that almost certainly visits the cricket ground is the sparrowhawk. In flight they can be difficult to tell apart from a kestrel. They fly at height looking for potential prey and also swoop low, crashing into trees and bushes hoping to catch small birds. Both males and females are barred underneath, the male being reddish - the considerably larger female is greyish.

Unlike sparrowhawks, kestrels are frequently seen hovering, as well as flying between feeding stations. They have a chestnut brown back and dark wing tips, and, if it has a grey tail, it is a male or juvenile. Like the other birds of prey, mentioned above, they may well feed on the cricket ground when no one is around. They eat small mammals such as voles and shrews.

There is also a small falcon called a merlin, which, like the sparrowhawk hunts for small birds. They breed on upland but often spend winter on lower ground. I have seen them in Endon. They can look like a blackbird, flying fast and low to the ground as they hunt their prey. If you see small birds being disturbed by a small falcon, it will be a merlin you have seen.

Lapwings (or peewits) sometimes breed in fields in and around Endon, so it would be possible to see a post-breeding flock fly over the cricket ground at the end of summer. They are also in our area during winter. In flight they are distinctive as the outer edge of their wings are rather rounded and alternate between flashes of black (top of the wings) and white (under their “armpits”).

Like the lapwing snipe and jack snipe are two waders that visit our area in winter, they are attracted by the wet and rushy grasslands in which they feed. I sometimes see birds fly over. A medium-sized brownish bird with a long bill and rapid wingbeats could be either.

You might be surprised to know that oystercatchers also fly over from time to time. No, there aren’t any oysters for them to catch in Endon, but these birds occasionally breed inland in areas such as the Peak District, and then the youngsters are sometimes seen flying over, generally in the morning or evening, in search of places in which they can find worms to eat. They fly in small flocks calling “peep peep” as they go.

You may also hear curlews on spring mornings as they perform their characteristic babbling trill. They are mainly found in the wet meadows towards Longsdon, but their song carries well, and as they feed in fields it is possible that they may be seen flying over the cricket grounds. They have a very long curved bill and often “curlew” as they fly.

Black-headed gulls are as good as their name. A white and grey gull with a black head – except in winter when the black shrinks to become just a black spot behind their eye. Like the ducks and geese they seem to use the canal to navigate. They will often feed on arable fields, especially during or after cultivation. They may visit the cricket field from time to time to feed on soil-dwelling invertebrates.

Other gulls, herring gull and lesser black-backed gulls are regularly seen flying over Endon. Like their smaller cousins, the black-headed gull, they will feed in fields. All the gulls will be attracted to use Stanley Pool at times, and so you may see them flying in that direction. Herring gulls are the archetypal seaside gull - big, with grey wings, a white body and a yellow bill. Lesser-black backs are big too with dark grey across the whole of their back between the wings and onto the wing to the tips, which are black. These two gulls may be seen high in the sky, making use of thermals.

You could see three types of pigeon either flying over or feeding on the ground any time of the year. Wood pigeons are fat, grey and have a distinctive white collar and wing flashes. Collared doves are smaller, pale brown and have a black collar around the back of their neck. They look pale when viewed from below. Feral pigeons look similar to wood pigeons but they lack the white collar, are slimmer and generally have a white patch between their wings. Feral pigeons are variable in colour as they are the result of escaped pigeon fanciers breeds and/or racing pigeons that have bred with wild pigeons.

If you are at the cricket grounds at dawn, dusk or night, you may be lucky enough to see ghostly white bird fly across the field. This will be a barn owl. They have been seen in the vicinity of the cricket ground. The rough grassland in the wild area of the cricket field will be home to the small mammals on which barns owls feed themselves and their young. Tawny owls also live near the cricket ground. Like the barn owls, they will be on the look out for small mammals to eat. The best time to hear their characteristic “twit hoo” is autumn and winter. The hoo call is the male marking out its territory; the females generally make a “kevick” call.

There are three fast-flying swallow-like birds that visit Endon during the summer. They all come from Africa to breed in our area. They are the swift (dark brown with a forked tail), the house martin (dark on its back with a white rump and under parts and a forked tail) and the swallow (bluish/black upper parts mostly white beneath and a red chin, and long, forked tail). They are all aerial feeders, catching small insects for their young and themselves. Animal dung, such as cattle poo, is a good source of insect prey for these birds, hence they are often seen feeding over fields of livestock. Swallows and house martins make mud nests on walls and inside buildings. Swifts nest in roof cavities (notably there is a colony in Alder House, Station Road, Endon). High summer is often marked by parties of screaming swifts flying around houses and shops in Station Road and Post Lane.

Corvid is the family name of the crows. Four species may be seen flying over or even feeding on the cricket ground at any time of the year. The pink and blue jay can be very noisy at times. They feed on acorns and also raid nestlings from small birds nests. When disturbed they swoop away showing a white patch on the rump. The magpie needs no description. They also raid nests, but they also eat other food including berries and undigested fragments in dog poo!! Jackdaws, the smallest of the crows, are all black with a greyish patch on the back of the head. In nature, they used to nest in hollow trees, but they often nest in chimneys these days. Jackdaws, like their cousins the carrion crow and rook can cause minor damage to grasslands when they use their strong bill to probe turf for soil-dwelling invertebrates. Carrion crows have a black bill and no shaggy “trousers”. Rooks have a bare skin patch around their bill and they do have shaggy trousers. Rooks may be seen flying at, and mobbing, buzzards which enter their territories. They are usually successful in driving the buzzards away.

Starlings are another birds species that may probe the turf of the cricket pitch. They are present all year round, particularly during the breeding season when the youngsters form large flocks that fly around looking for places to feed. Although there could be a flock of twenty or more their bills are too small to do much harm to the grass. Starlings are smaller than a blackbird and have shiny black and speckled bodies that can appear iridescent at times. They can form noisy roosts and may mimic other birds and human made noises such as telephones.

No need to describe the song of the cuckoo – it is so well known, though not often heard these days. However I hear cuckoos in Endon during spring. I suspect they don’t breed around here, so the ones I hear are singing as they travel on their way to more favourable habitat. If you are at the cricket ground on a quiet spring morning, you could hear one too.

And finally, if you are lucky you may see a kingfisher fly across the cricket pitch. They often feed on small fish in the canal, and sometimes cross fields if they are disturbed by people on the towpath or by boats. They have an unmistakable iridescent blue upper side and are orange below. They fly fast and level between perches.

Birds that may be seen on the cricket ground or in the shrubs and trees.

Pied wagtail is another bird that does what its name suggests. They are a bit bigger that a sparrow, black and white and their tail wags. They generally feed on the ground, picking off flying insects that emerge from the soil. They could be seen any time of the year.

Wrens are small brown birds with a characteristic cocked tail and a big voice. The males song is a cascade of notes ending with a trill. They flit about, generally low down, in places such as the bottom of hedges. They are present all year round. Another permanent resident is the dunnock. They are the size of a sparrow and look similar, but with blue-grey markings on the head and breast, though the bill is more like a robin’s than a sparrow’s. Dunnocks mainly eat insects, hence the shape of their bill, while sparrows are mostly seed eaters and their bill has evolved for this purpose.

Two species of sparrow may visit the cricket ground looking for seeds to eat; the house sparrow and the tree sparrow. Male and female house sparrows look different. The male has a black bib and chestnut nape and grey crown, while the female is brown colours with a pale eye flash. The slightly smaller tree sparrow has sexes that are alike. They have an all chestnut head and black cheek spots. Both these species have suffered big declines in their population in the past forty years so that they are locally extinct in some places where they were formerly commonplace. We are fortunate to have them living in Endon.

Another small bird that is present, and sings all year round is the robin. No need for a description – every one knows what they look like. Blackbirds and thrushes, close relatives of robins are equally familiar. Male blackbirds are very black with a bright yellow bill, females are brown with a brown bill, these are fairly easy to recognise. However, not everyone can tell a mistle thrush from a song thrush. Mistle thrushes are the larger of the pair and have a general greyish look. When they fly they are pale underneath and have white outer tail feathers. Song thrushes are more of a brownish bird with an orange underwing. Of course both sing beautifully and can be told apart by their song - the song thrush repeats phrases, while the mistle thrush does not. Song and mistle thrushes are present all year round, but during winter there are two more thrushes to look out for, these are the redwing and the fieldfare. Fieldfares are large thrushes with a chestnut back and grey head and tail in addition to the typical speckled breast of the other thrushes. Like the mistle fieldfares are white under their wings. Redwings are smaller than blackbirds and have a distinctive white “eyebrow” and bright orange underwings. Both the fieldfares and redwings come from Scandinavia to spend winter in the milder climes of Britain. They feed of hawthorn and other berries until they run out. When these are all gone they concentrate on eating soil-dwelling invertebrates. All members of the thrush family could find appropriate food supplies on the cricket ground.

Three of the British tits are familiar garden birds (blue, great and coal) while the long tailed tit has become a more familiar site in gardens in recent years. All four species are present all year round. The great tit is the largest and had a black band down its front. The blue tit is the only one with a blue cap. The coal tit is the only tit with a white patch on the nape of its neck, while the long-tailed tit has a long tail and has a white front, pinkish brown patches on the wings and black stripes above its eyes. All these species will use the hedgerows and trees surrounding the cricket field. When the trees mature and start to produce seed, these will be a supply of winter food for all four tit species.

Other species that will use trees, hedges and shrubs are the finches and a bunting. Like the sparrows, they eat seeds. The chaffinch male has a pink breast and blue head, while the female could be mistaken for a sparrow. The goldfinch is increasing in numbers. Both sexes have a red face and yellow patches on their wings. They form flocks in winter. Male greenfinches are green with yellow flashes on the wing and a pink bill, females are duller. Greenfinches are becoming less common as they have been affected by a bird disease. Bullfinches too are less common that they once were. The males have a bright red breast and a black cap, the females are a dull brown and with a black cap. Both have a white rump that can be seen as they fly away. These finches are present all year, but in winter they may be joined by bramblings and siskins. Both these winter visitors travel from Scandinavia to feed in our more amenable climate, though bramblings will only probably be seen in the harshest of winters. Alder and birch seeds are important winter food for these species, so you may see them in the plantation by the electricity substation. Bramblings are similar to chaffinches, but with a brighter red and black top parts. Siskins have streaky breasts and yellow flashes on the wings. Lesser redpolls may join winter feeding parties of finches. The males have streaky pale undersides and a red breast and face. The females are pale beneath and streaky on the breast and sides. Occasionally linnets may visit our area and join these feeding flocks. They breed on the moorlands and will overwinter on lower ground, such as that around Endon, feeding mostly on seeds. They are smaller than house sparrows, the male has a crimson breast and patch on his head, while the female is pinky below and brown above with grey markings on her head. Reed buntings are present all year. They breed in tall grasses by the canal, but will move to fields and gardens to feed during winter, mostly eating seeds. If you see a bird about the size of a sparrow with a chestnut and grey back and black head with a white collar feeding on the cricket pitch you will be looking at a male reed bunting. The females are similar but with a brown head and pale eyestripe.

If you are at the cricket pitch in spring you could hear a great-spotted woodpecker as it drums a hollow tree with its bill. This is the sound of the woodpecker pair marking out their territory. Most of the trees at the cricket ground are too young to provide the hollow trees in which these birds breed, but they could well be heard from the cricket ground, or seen feeding amongst the tree tops. They are black and white; the males have a red patch on the back of their head.

Two other tree-dependent species will probably be heard and possibly seen from the cricket ground. These are the nuthatch and tree creeper. Both are likely to use the mature horse chestnut and other trees that border the area. Both species specialise in picking insects from under tree bark and could be seen moving up and down tree trunks in search of food. The nuthatch is the size of a great tit, is grey on top, pale beneath with a black eyestripe and rusty around its bum. The treecreeper is smaller than a great tit, mottled brown on its back and pale beneath with a downcurved bill.

Birds that may be heard from the cricket ground.

In Endon we have four warbler species that can be relied upon to breed in our area. They all overwinter in either Africa (chiff chaff, willow and garden warblers) or continental Europe (blackcap). They are not likely to breed on the cricket ground, as the trees are not yet sufficiently mature. However they may use the plantation that is by the electrical substation, and they can be relied upon to breed amongst the trees of the disused railway line. As their song can carry some distance during the dawn chorus, these birds may be heard from the cricket ground on a quiet morning in spring. All four warblers can be difficult to see as they tend to spend most of their time looking for prey amongst the leafy canopies of trees. Two of these warblers have beautiful songs, the blackcap and the garden warbler, while the other two have distinctive vocalisations that help to identify their presence. Blackcaps are a little smaller than a house sparrow. They are mainly brown; the males, rather predictably, have a black cap and the females have a brown cap. The other tree warbler with a beautiful song is the garden warbler, they are similar size to a great tit and mainly brown/grey. Chiff chaffs and willow warblers have a similar appearance, both about the size of a blue tit with brownish upperparts and pale below with a pale “eyebrow” They best way to tell them apart is by their song. Chiff chaffs sing “chiff chaff”, while willow warbler’s song is a series of descending notes ending with a flourish.

(Our thanks go to Wendy Birks for this great reference guide)

Canada Goose

Male Mallard

Mallard (Male)

Pheasant (Female and male)

Buzzard

 

 

 

 

Lapwing (Peewit)

 

Common Snipe

 

Curlew on the Staffordshire Moorlands Coat of Arms

 

Wood Pigeon

Barn Owl

Housemartin

Blue Jay

Carrion Crow

Starling

Kingfisher

Wren

Tree Sparrow

 

 

Mistle thrush

 

Redwing

 

Blue tit

 

Coal tit

Chaffinch

Greenfinch

Linnet

Great-speckled woodpecker

Treecreeper

Willow warbler

Blackcap warbler

 

 

male goosander

Goosander (Male)

grey heron

Grey Heron

Sparrowhawk

 

merlin

Merlin

 

 

 

 

Jack Snipe

Oystercatcher

Black-headed Gull

Herring Gull

Collared Dove

Swallow

Swift

Jackdaw

Rook mobbing a buzzard (a regular sight over the Post Lane ground)

 

Pied Wagtail

Dunnock

House Sparrow

Song thrush

Fieldfare

Great tit

 

Goldfinch

Brambling

Reed bunting

Nuthatch

Chiff Chaff

Garden warbler

 

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