Saturday, January 2, 2010

Decorations by Mother Nature

Roosting: Hundreds of wagtails line the branches, giving the impression of Christmas lights.

Over the holidays, strings of lights and glowing decorations adorn most streets especially in the centre of town. On the surface, this tree looks like it has been decorated with lights; but, someone forgot to turn it on. However, look very closely – all is not what it seems.

Close-up of wagtails.

Hundreds of pied wagtails have come to this tree to roost for the night. They cover every twig and branch as they all struggle for room.

Wagtails got their name because of a common trait of standing on the ground frantically wagging its tail up and down. The long-tailed, black and white bird is usually seen singly as they search endlessly for insects; but, at night they all gather together in large numbers.

This flock was spotted by photographer David Tipling among the decorations in Tunbridge Wells.

He said: “At first I thought they were lights that weren't working. People were walking underneath oblivious. It has been so cold recently that perhaps they find it warmer roosting in the middle of town rather than out in the countryside. 'They did look a little spooky, all of them gathered there together.”

Dr Nigel Collar, from conservation group BirdLife International, said: “There are two theories as to why so many wagtails roost together. The first is information exchange – they're all sizing each other up to see who's put on weight, lost weight and where the best food is to be found. The second is that it helps protect them from nocturnal predators as the larger numbers mean there's always one bird with his eyes open.”

Wagtails are found across most of Great Britain and can be found in the highlands and northern areas of Scotland in winter.

They are a sub-species of the White wagtail, which breeds in much of Europe, Asia and North Africa.

Via MailOnline

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