13 Mar 2021

Horse leech

A few weeks ago, after heavy rain and flooding in the front garden, I found what I first thought was a New Zealand Flatworm in the front lawn. Further investigation and some advice from several friends suggested it was actually a Horse Leech (haemopis sanguisuga). A new species for me and a new one for the garden.They don't feed on horses although there is anecdotal evidence of them getting up the nostrils of animals drinking from the water courses they live in.

They'll move onto land to search for earthworms they they ingest but will also feed on midge larvae and other small aquatic invertebrates. 

They're widespread throughout the UK but under recorded. They're hermaphroditic and each leech becomes impregnated at the same time when they mate.

Incredible creatures and a real surprise to find in our garden! 

5 Mar 2021


 We don't often get Redpolls in our garden. Usually they're a spring passage bird heard buzzing overhead. However, this year I found a small party in the village feeding in a silver birch on January 5th approximately 1 km away as the bird flies.

I was surprised to look out the window recently one morning to see a superb male Lesser Redpoll feeding with Gold & Greenfinches on one of our sunflower heart feeders. later that day it was joined by two more and the following day, following a break in the wet and windy weather we'd had, I put a mist net up to try and catch and ring a few finches.

What great little birds. In total I caught and ringed six new birds with two recaptures on subsequent days. The last time I'd ringed a Redpoll in our garden was 2018! 

All the birds caught had a good fat score suggesting they hadn't moved far so could have possibly been the birds I saw nearby in January. All of them were 2nd calendar year birds (Euring 5) identifiable by a combination of tail feather shape and wear and the presence of a moult contrast in the greater or median  coverts (although this was hard to photograph).

 Redpoll Euring 5 tail feathers showing how pointed the retained juvenile tail feathers are.

In total there were 6 males (above) with varying amounts of red on their breasts and 3 females (below)
Beautiful little finches and a privilege to see them in the hand.

I also ringed a few Goldfinches and Greenfinches including this brightly coloured second calendar year male (Euring 5) that had 2 retained juvenile greater coverts. This is quite unusual and made ageing easy. Most juvenile Greenfinches moult the majority of their greater coverts in their post juvenile moult with only a smaller percentage retaining the two outer ones.

Hopefully I'll cathc a few more Redpoll and possibly Siskin as they start to move north again