Sunday, 27 January 2013

27th January - Now It's All in Technicolour With You

What a difference a week can make.  This time last week I was photographing a snow scene down Brislands and today its all gone.

Over the last week, with the grey skies and the white snow everything seemed like it was in black and white, a monochrome world.  Yesterday there was still a substantial amount of snow around, but overnight it has all gone, and we have returned to a technicolour world.  It reminds me of when I would come home from University and the black and white television to the colour television of my parents, everything looks so bright and vivid.

The Fieldfare has gone from the garden, and there were quite a few thrushes feeding in the horse paddock, including one Fieldfare.

With the snow gone there was water everywhere.  As we walked down Brislands we walked alongside a gentle trickle of water, there were also puddles everywhere, some of which were very deep.  As a result we decided not to risk the footpaths of the wood and continued down the lane.

Around the house the birds could be heard singing, Robin and Great Tits being the more vocal.  However once we got into farmland it went quiet, even the numbers of Wood Pigeon were down.  At cow sheds though we could hear House Sparrows calling, and we managed to find them in the hedge by the barn.  At first we thought there was the usual flock as we could see them in the hedge.

As we walked past they came out of the hedge and headed for the puddles by the barn.  They just didn't stop coming out of the hedge.  I thought at first there was about 50 - 60 birds in all, but Helen felt there was more.  In this photo I have counted 49, and this must have been about a third of the flock, so I would estimate there must have between 100 - 150 birds present.  I would imagine the numbers have swelled as a result of the snow, but they were wonderful to see and hear as they fed and drank around the barn.

A little further on we stopped to let a car pass, and as I looked back towards Old Down, I found three Roe Deer in the field.

i mentioned earlier how vivid the colours appeared, and nowhere was this more evident in the fields next to the Watercress Line.  With the sun out the woods behind the line threw shadows, and the field was a beautiful green.  The train looked quite good too.

We made our way towards Swelling Hill, and stopped when we heard Bullfinch.  The female disappeared into the trees, but the male showed enough of itself to get me interested.  I waited for a better view, but it never came, this was the best.

In the fields along Swelling Hill, the sheep were joined by a flock of about 50 Common Gulls.  Unusually there were no Black-headed Gulls to be seen.

The snow has gone, only to be replaced by Snow Drops, the verge along Swelling Hill was covered and gave a good show in the afternoon sun.

We passed the pond, but didn't walk around it.  There was still quite a lot of ice on the pond which was a surprise, so it must have been quite thick.  The paddocks by Lye Way were empty of birds, and as we made our way along Kitwood it was very quiet, with only a male pheasant by the side of the field attracting our attention.

I imagine that most of the birds headed away from us last week as the snow came, and as we had full snow cover with several fresh falls through the week, it probably pushed more away.  We scanned the fields but without any luck, but as we started walking again a single Skylark flew over calling, and heading south.

Everywhere there were large puddles, and some with the reflections turned the road surface into an abstract picture.  The branches in the puddle reflection contrast against the blurred tarmac.

At the bottom of Kitwood the Snow Drops were out, but are difficult to see due to the old grass and bracken still being in place.

We walked up Willis Lane, and again there was nothing about.  One tree held quite a few tinkling Goldfinches but we could see them as they were hidden in the ivy.  A lone Mistle Thrush was feeding in the horse paddock at the top of Willis Lane.  The Mistle Thrush seems to be the bird of focus for the RSPB's garden watch this year, as they are claiming that it is declining as a garden bird.  There are several pairs around here, and I know regular spots where they can be seen and heard.  I have not had one in the garden though.

Along Telegraph Lane we heard a strange call, I wasn't sure what it was and we looked through the trees.  Helen found a bird at the top of one, and as I got on it I saw this.

I still wasn't sure, and it kept calling.  As I watched it put its head up to reveal its identity.

a preening Nuthatch.  It would call in between vigorous preening, I am not sure if this was why the call sounded different or if it just had a sore throat.

We made our way home through Badger Close, and stopped at the garden with the feeders by the footpath.  With the Goldfinches and Greenfinches in the trees and on the feeders was a smart male Siskin.  Where have they all been this year?

There is plenty of activity here as the garden is right next to a thickly wooded footpath, providing ideal cover for the smaller birds.  Helen found this very smart Jay, and I was able to frame it perfectly between the trees.

We made our way back home from here.  I hope the birds start to return soon.

Saturday, 26 January 2013

26th January - Garden Bird Watch

Finally the temperatures have risen, and along with the overnight rain, the snow is beginning to leave the garden.  This weekend is the annual RSPB garden watch weekend, and I set out to do my hour early this morning.  I was hoping that the birds that had been around all week continued to be present this morning despite the rapid thaw, and the sunshine.

The birds were obviously enjoying the warmer conditions, as there was plenty of singing with the calls of Great Tits, Goldfinches and of course Robins being heard.  The Fieldfare was still with us, guarding the apples of course, I wonder how long it will stay.

The next visitor to attract the attention of the camera was a Pied Wagtail sitting high in the acer tree.  The background produced by the branches, and the light from the snow producing a lovely scene.

The warm conditions were having a real effect on the Blue Tits, they seemed to be more interested in the fences, and foraging around in the ivy than using the feeders, and they were doing so in distinct pairs.  Love this picture as if you look closely you will see there are two birds in the shot.

The count for Blue Tits was four which was a lot down on the numbers I had seen at the start of the week when the snow arrived.  I only hope the cold weather has not killed them off.

About half way through the hour I was rewarded by the Great Spotted Woodpecker returning to the garden, and feeding on the suet block.  It was a female again so it is probably safe to say it was the same bird that I saw at the start of the week.

Blackbirds were present in good numbers with a maximum of six birds being seen at one time.  There normal feeding behaviour is to wait under the feeders, and before the Fieldfare turned up they would feed on the apples in the tree.  This female though has learnt to use the feeders.  She is quite comfortable wedging hers elf into this covered feeder.

But more impressively she has learnt to use the perches on the feeders, although she does need to use the wings to maintain balance.

Wood Pigeons put in an appearance with three birds patrolling the area beneath the feeders.  There was also a pair of Collared Doves that put in an impressive air display before popping in to have a drink.

House Sparrows were also quite vocal, but also quite flighty, and were easily scared off the feeders.  This female was quite happy to sit on the snow on top of the hedge.  In the hour we had two pairs present at any one time

There were two Robins around, but they did not get on, and would chase each other away.  It was difficult to see who was actually the dominant territory owner.

The Fieldfare stayed for the whole hour, but was joined occasionally by another, but it never stayed long because the moment our regular bird saw it, then it would fly at it and chase it off.  Apologies for more photos but it is a spectacular thrush, and you do not get the chance to photograph them like this.  The colour of the branches and the grey background matches well with the bird's plumage.

Only one Blackcap today, the female, she crept through the branches of the tree to feed on the apples away from the Fieldfare.  Her approach and feeding methods appear so gentle.

Goldfinches were present in good numbers, peaking at an amazing 14 at one time.  They were extremely feisty with each other, squabbling and engages in fights in the air.  However they seemed to tolerate the other species that would join them on the feeders.

Greenfinch numbers have been down this year, there was only Four this morning.  We also had four Linnets, and a single Siskin, which have been extremely rare this winter.  The Goldfinches are very photogenic, and once again the background frames them very well.

The other bird that was present in good numbers was the Starling.  I counted 12 in the garden, but there was a flock of approximately 50 birds flying around the area.

The count is only for birds in the garden, flying over there were Magpies, Jackdaws and Rooks, but the most bizarre event was a Buzzard that I picked up in the distance.  I watched it as it flew over the tree.

As you can see there is a nest in the tree, and as I watched the Buzzard turned back and dropped into the tree, and it then settled into the nest.  This did not go down well with the Magpies and Rooks, and they started to Mob the Buzzard.

The Buzzard didn't seem to care and it just sat there in the nest.  It reminded me of how children when asked "where do birds live?" reply "In a nest".  Maybe it was checking out a possible nest site for the spring?  I don't know, but it stayed there for some time, much to the distaste of the Magpies and Rooks.

We didn't go out around the patch today, but decided to try and find some special enigmatic birds.  You can find details of this here.

Monday, 21 January 2013

21st January - Had Chosen Thus to Fling His Soul

We haven't gone far these last few days, and truth be told the best bird watching has probably been in the garden.  There have been reports of Skylarks, Thrushes and Wood Pigeon flocks being seen flying high to the west and south, and with the ground still with a thick cover of snow, they will be gone for a time.

Sunday saw a steady fall of light snow for most of the day, and the feeders in the garden were very busy.  The Starlings are always good entertainment, and in the snow they also look gorgeous with the white spots highlighted along with the buff tips to the wing feathers.

There has been a female Blackcap for the last few days, and she has been quite accommodating with the other birds, sharing the apples, and even feeding with the Blue Tits on the same apple.  This morning the male turned up, and looked splendid with it's black cap, and would feed from the apples like the female.

However unlike the female it was not prepared to share the apple with anyone else.

The lone Pied Wagtail was back, and today it was quite prepared to feed on the snow.  With the overnight frost the surface was a little crustier, and it would run around chasing dropped seed from the feeders like a little clockwork toy.

The Chaffinches too take advantage of the food falling from the feeders rather than expend energy either fighting others off the perches or hovering to try and land on the perches.

Sunday saw my largest count of Chaffinches in the garden with eleven males and five females at one time.

The Blue Tit count also reached a high with twelve in the garden at one time.  They are always busy moving from the feeders, the apples and the ground feeder.

In the early afternoon the snow fall became heavier, and the Pied Wagtail settled for a warm spot on a neighbours roof.

Monday morning saw the sky clear, and there was no snow flurries.  This seemed to have an amazing effect on the birds.  The Blue Tits were seen chasing each other, while the Wood Pigeons and Collared Doves were doing display flights over the garden.  It was as if the snow wasn't there.  After a while though things settled down and the serious work of getting food returned.

I came down to get a cup of coffee when I noticed a flash of red in the tree in the garden, a closer look revealed it was my first Great Spotted Woodpecker ever in the garden.  It was a female and she was feeding on the suet block.

She seemed to have difficulty dealing with the suet, and would peck away at the block, then throw her head back to help the swallowing.  In doing so she would close her eyes.

Another nice surprise a little later was a beautiful Song Thrush feeding on the apples.  The throat and chest looks gorgeous in the reflected snow light.

I love it when thrushes look straight at you!

The House Sparrows were now chirping in the weak sunshine.  This male doing so from one of my trees.

On Friday there and been a female Blackcap, and she was back to day, creeping through the branches so as not to disturb any one feeding on the apples

This morning though she was joined by the male.

The question I was waiting to see answered was would they both feed from the same apple.  The photograph provides the answer.

They did not like each other at all!  The BTO is conducting a survey in January on wintering Blackcaps.  If you have seen Blackcaps in the garden they go to their web site and fill out the survey.

As the Blackcaps flew off I noticed a big bird in the distance.  Once again the unmistakable shape of a Red Kite drifted over the garden.  Wonderful a year tick from the garden!

Following the report of two crossbills in the larches at the top of Reads Field I thought I would have a look at lunch time.  Unfortunately other than a few Starlings and Goldfinches I couldn't find any.

I walked around the roads for a while.  In one garden there was a large flock of Rooks.  I don't know what the attraction was, other than the Jay last year, corvids never seem to come into my garden, despite many flying over.  These two Rooks posed nicely in the conifer.

As I made my way back home large flocks of Fieldfare flew over.  I counted 63 in total.  A little later in the afternoon I looked out into the garden to see one Fieldfare tucking into an apple in the tree.  Now I know that once a Fieldfare finds a stash of apples it is not going to give them up that easily.  The trees are full of them and it made the most of them.  Once again they are so photogenic when looking straight at you.

It stayed until dusk and as it was getting dark took advantage of the bird bath to have a wash and scrub up.  It then had a good preen in the tree before heading off to roost somewhere.

I am sure it will back tomorrow and probably the next day.