Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Wags are back in town

The image above is of a male Pied Wagtail Motacilla alba yarrellii and was taken on 21/11/10 on my back lawn. Compare it to the image below which shows the female.

The female has a lighter grey back and less of a black bib than the male, and they often come down to feed together which would indicate that they are already paired up for next spring.
They always seem to return to the garden in the autumn and stay through the winter months. I have been recording the dates when they first appear each autumn and examples are as follows:
2003 - 21st October.
2004 - 21st December.
2005 - 2nd October.
2006 - 14th October.
2007 - 13th December.
2008 - 21st November.
2009 - 9th November.
2010 - 7th November.
Their diet consists of insects, insects and more insects, which in winter are in short supply. In the late autumn, they tend to leave their traditional feeding grounds and favour more urban areas where they can often be seen on warm rooftops, which might just house a few remaining goodies.
In my garden, they do seem to like suet or finely grated cheese, and this may just make the difference between survival and death in prolonged frosty spells.

On leaving the Madejski football stadium tonight after another goal shy performance by our well paid heroes, my son Paul noticed there were a lot of birds flying about between the trees that fringe the car park. On closer inspection they appeared to be Pied Wagtails, and they must have been looking to roost there after the crowd dispersal. In days gone by, there was always a Pied Wagtail roost in the old sewage works, just down the way from the stadium. This has now disappeared, but perhaps the wags still like this end of town and decided to stay put. My guess is that the two wags that visit my garden every day commute backwards and forwards from the Mad Stad.