Wednesday, 23 December 2015

23rd December - Earth Stood Hard as Iron, Water Like a Stone?

More rain and strong winds overnight, but this did not seem to affect the Tawny Owls.  Over the last few nights we have heard a female calling in the early hours of the morning, and last night it would appear that that her calls were answered as a male bird followed up her "keevit" calls, with a lovely "whoo" from a male.  Love is in the air, but where they roost through the day remains a complete mystery.

Despite the wind and rain it is still very mild.  The morning dawned clear with a lovely pale blue sky, and a stillness that was very welcome.  The garden was suddenly invaded by Goldfinches, a huge flock dropped in and occupied all the feeders, while others waited in the trees.  The maximum I could count was 19 but there may have been more

The House Sparrows seem to have arrived in the hedge, in the late afternoon there is cacophony of sound as the Sparrows chatter away to each other.  I am still not sure how many there are, but I had noticed that there was a special male amongst them.  It is partially leucistic meaning it is partially white.  In leucistic birds,the  affected plumage lacks melanin pigment due to the cells responsible for melanin production being absent.  This can be in all the feathers or just partially.  The lack of pigment can make the feathers weaker, which can affect flight.  Also being white they are more conspicuous and open to increased predation.

In the case of this Sparrow it has lost pigment around the head, almost all the underparts and the rump.

As I watched the birds in the garden alarm calls rang out and a Red Kite drifted over, heading west.

With the sun out, and it being relatively calm, I decided to head to Old Down Wood.  I walked from the pond, and as usual I could hear Bullfinches calling from the hedge.  Finally I managed to get a glimpse of a male, and was able to photograph it through the branches as it sat in the sun.

It was not alone there were three females, and at least four males.  Another bird appearing in the Oak tree above the hedge.

And another sitting in the sunshine.

Just beyond the entrance there was a large puddle that would have made a lovely garden pond.  The water was an attraction to the birds, Chaffinches were drinking along side the puddle, and all flew up into the trees as I approached.  A female sat looking down and waiting to see if it was safe to come out into the open.

One Goldfinch had just bathed and was preening it feathers in a sunny spot in amongst the branches.

I heard a familiar call behind me and turned to find that the owner was very close, a quite smart male Siskin.

It did not seem too concerned about me being there, and sat in the tree quite close to me.

I had one in the garden in October, but this is the first one I have seen in the wood since they stopped all the forestry work last winter.  Lets hope the numbers begin to build up once again.

They are a lovely little finch, whilst they are green they are a lot more delicate looking than the larger and bulkier Greenfinch.

Seeing a Siskin made me a little more confident of finding the other small finch that can be found in woods such as these in the winter.  I walked down the main path, and stopped in the open area and stood and listened.  I could hear a Great Spotted Woodpecker and watched it fly over my head.  Both Great and Blue Tits were calling and from in amongst the Larch cones there was a Coal Tit.

As I stood watching I could hear the familiar calls of Goldfinch, and a huge flock flew over, and took over the top of a Larch Tree.  I roughly estimated 65 birds, then tow more flew in making an estimate of 67.  Then as quickly as they arrived they were off with the tinkling calls and undulating flight.

Then another familiar call, and the bird I was hoping for, a Lesser Redpoll flew over and alighted in the top of a larch tree.  I could see the slightly forked tail, but the bird was against the sun, and was only a silhouette.

A very poor record shot, but the call was conclusive. My first again for some time, the last well before the work started here two years ago.  This takes me to 82 birds for the year.  This is my second highest count, and more remarkable when you think I have not been around the patch as much as previous years this year.

With the clear skies, and the low sun the larches were looking quite impressive.

I walked towards the Gradwell path, and then took the perimeter path towards the Kitwood entrance.  As I came out once again into the open area another Lesser Redpoll called and I picked it up calling as it flew away from me.  Two, its getting better.

At the Kitwood path there were two Goldcrests feeding in the fallen branches, moving quickly and flitting under the branches looking to catch insects or spiders.

I made my way back to the Old Down entrance, more Goldfinches flew over, and these were then followed by the "seep" calls of Redwings, then they appeared, heading out towards the trees that line Swelling Hill.

Back at the pond the Moorhen were feeding in amongst the dying Lily pads.

I walked around the pond moving a single drake Mallard off the bank.  Looking across to the far side, close to the sunny bank, a clump of Daffodils had appeared, not in bloom yet but close.  This weather is really crazy.  What will happen in the real spring, will there be any plants to flower when they should?

I walked out on to the pier, and flushed the Mallard from the reeds, it swam out and was below me, and looked to be moving through silvery water.

It was almost midday, but the sun was very low, the winter solstice being just yesterday.  Looking across the pond the reflections in the water were creating a lovely scene along with the emerald green of the moss and grass.

Back home later in the afternoon the garden became busy once again.  A Goldcrest appeared and crept through the trees close to the feeders, and then dropped on to the lawn, and made its way to the spot on the lawn where the Goldfinches drop the seed.  The Goldcrest picking up the small bits they had dropped.

Away out across the garden a large flock of Jackdaws appeared.  As I watched them I realised that one of them was completely the wrong shape.

It was in fact a Sparrowhawk, and soon attracted the attention of small birds, they flew around it calling.

Then as it came close to the house it attracted the attention of a larger bird, a Crow.

And the Crow was determined to chase it away, pursuing it, and pecking at the tail of the Sparrowhawk.

This crazy weather is turning nature completely on its head.  Bumblebees and Honey Bees can be seen knocking into the windows.  Primroses are in flower, and in places so are Daffodils.  Just around the corner from me there is the bizarre sight of Daffodils in flower with Christmas lights behind them.

They are always early here, but I have never seem them before at this time of year..The Bleak mid winter seems such a long way away this year.

I would just like now to take the chance to wish everyone out there who reads this blog a very Merry Christmas (or is that Easter, I am not really sure!)

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