Let me know when that tide's coming in won't you

Let me know when that tide's coming in won't you

Friday, 19 February 2021

Garden Goings On

Still in lockdown, still not going out with the camera. So I have resorted to poking the camera lens out of the lounge window on my lunch breaks, as I am working from home. Thankfully there is a lot of activity out there at the moment, and the cold weather is helping to keep the birds very interested around the feeders. Coal Tits and Long-tailed Tits are busy on the fat blocks, but far too quick to capture as I stand at the window. Blue and Great Tits are always around and the odd Redwing pays me a visit.

I tried to pick out the easy targets, and some of those happened to be the ground feeding birds.

Dunnocks are looking good at the moment.


Female Blackbird.

Not exactly a bird, but I couldn't resist this little guy.


Robin

A distant Treecreeper has been a nice surprise visitor on a few occasions. Tends to move around with the Long-tailed Tit flock. 

Long-tailed Tit. Apologies for the blur. I am hand holding without a rest or monopod.




Saturday, 13 February 2021

Spring will soon be here.

I'm taking a look back at some pictures I took in the Spring of last year, as I can't get out at the moment. Not birds this time either.
I saw this Brown Hare while at Cley in Norfolk. It spent a good time chasing around the surrounding fields. Nothing unusual you'd think about that, but then it did something I've never seen a Hare do before. It got into the water and swam from one side to the other. It really shocked me, and had me watching open mouthed.

 

Not where you'd usually expect to see a Brown Hare.

This Stoat came back to see if I was really watching him. I sure was, and I knew he'd pop his head back up.

Friday, 5 February 2021

2021 Year List Begins

On New Years Day I headed out to try and kick start my new year list. I stayed local, but concentrated on an area I knew would give me a good number of birds across different habitats. With woodland, open farmland, hedgerow and water, I thought I'd be in with a good chance of seeing a variety of birds. I actually ended the day on 46 species, so was very pleased for just a few hours.

It was cold, with some fresh snow having fallen in the early hours, but already starting to melt. I knew the birds would be out and eagerly looking for food.

This Robin gave me an almost picture postcard pose in the snow.


I've found a really good Tree Sparrow location, with around 30 birds. Not easy to find these days, so I always take my time when around them to observe and enjoy these secretive little birds.


Lovely chestnut brown caps and the black markings on the cheeks.


The real surprise of the morning was finding these Whooper Swans. 25 in total, and a really good early year tick. They didn't hang around long, but just long enough to ID them at distance through the binoculars and to take a couple of record shots. As you can see, these differ to our native Mute Swans with their yellow bills, and are just visiting here for the winter. They will head off back to the arctic tundra to breed in the Spring.



Friday, 22 January 2021

Redesmere Lake, Siddington

These pictures were all taken just after the new year, when we were still allowed out and prior to the latest lockdown. 

Redesmere lake, just a short drive from home, is where I have spent a lot of time over the last 18 months or so. Since taking on the monthly Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) count here for the BTO I have found myself gravitating to it more and more. It is a large lake, about half a mile in length and is surrounded by woodland. This attracts some good birds all year round, with winter thrushes, Siskin and Redpoll, while in the summer I have had Spotted Flycatchers as the stars of the show.

The water itself also brings in some great wildfowl and geese. Last year I found 3 Greenland White fronted Geese and on the 1st of January this year I found 25 Whooper Swans on it. Add to this, Smew, Great White Egret and Red Crested Pochard, it has really turned out to be a surprising bit of water. I feel it is rather under-watched, so I am trying to visit more, as I am sure lots comes and goes unnoticed.

Here are a few of my sightings in early January.

Male Chaffinch in very poor light.


Female Chaffinch

Goldcrest with that rather sad looking downturned moustache.

These little guys do not stop still for a second, but fascinating to watch.

Greylag Geese on the march in the snow.

One of four Lesser Redpoll. These small birds don't hang about either.

Quite a few Redwings around, now down to the leaf litter having devoured all the berries.

I'd never really noticed how elegant they are from behind. A stunning winter thrush.


Friday, 15 January 2021

The Cold Snap Continues

 We seem to be stuck in this constant cold spell at the moment. I don't mind too much if it is cold and frosty, but cold and wet just won't do. Pre the latest lockdown I went out when there was still a little snow on the ground, but the skies were battleship grey. Not ideal for photography, but that's never stopped the need for a bird to feed. So off I went.

There was plenty of activity as usual, with good numbers of our more common species, but a lot of the others seemed to stay at a distance and the light didn't help me with them. I got myself tucked into a bush and they came quite close without even noticing me.

Blue Tit


Great Tit



A bit gloomy for this Nuthatch, but I always enjoy seeing them.

I was quite annoyed at the electricity cables that ran along the background of this Grey Heron, but I liked the light underneath the bird from the snow, so I thought I'd share it anyway.


Friday, 8 January 2021

A Lovely Winters Day

Just after Christmas we had a nice amount of snowfall. By nice, I mean not enough to keep you indoors for days or the roads clogged up. It was just enough to enjoy a nice morning walk before it started to melt. So I was out early to see what birds it would bring out to play. I headed to Lapwing Lane pool, which has a really nice perimeter walk and a good variety of habitat, and then just down the road to Redesemere lake. First thing I noticed was how nicely the snow reflects light onto the underside of birds in flight. Buzzards and Geese looked very good in particular. 



Where the snow didn't reach, the frost took hold.

There was a lot of activity, as is always the case on a cold day. The birds seem to take more risks to find food. They will stay around longer as you walk by them rather than dash off at the first sign of a human form. This makes photographing them a little easier when utilised with fieldcraft.

Blue Tit


A Dunnock trying to find a patch where there is no snow.

Greylag geese were particularly busy on this morning, but looked fantastic with the snow reflecting.

The Kingfishers perch was well protected from the snow, and again, she was very active.


A Robin in snowy wintery conditions. One of those moments that looks like a classic Christmas Card.



Thursday, 31 December 2020

My 200 Birding Year List

 My year started very early, before dawn broke on the 1st January. It was my first attempt to tick off 200 species in a year, so wanted to get up and running nice and early. I didn't foresee the lockdowns that would take place during the year potentially curtailing my challenge. I did however manage to get to 200 and finished the year on 202.

Within a few hours on the 1st January I had two lifers ticked, in the form of a Ring-necked Duck and Purple Heron. Other highlights that day were Tree Sparrow, Whooper Swans, Golden Plover, Willow Tit and Snipe.

Purple Heron

I finished the month on 101, with Water Pipit being that last bird of the month. I did manage another two lifers though in January with a Long-billed Dowitcher and a long staying Siberian Stonechat. It would take another 8 months to get the next 100 birds.🙄

Long-billed Dowitcher on the right, with a Teal on the left.

Spring was a real highlight of the year. Despite being in lockdown, it made my daily walks so much more interesting and reminded me that I didn't have to go too far to see some really good birds. I found both a Lesser Whitethroat and Garden Warbler within walking distance of home, when I really wasn't expecting to, or had in 8 years here.

My trips to Norfolk to see my parents really did boost my numbers, with good numbers of waders, heathland birds and gulls.

Dartford Warbler is a bonus on any year list.


I was really pleased to track down a pair of Woodlark after many failed attempts.

My favourite winter wader, the Purple Sandpiper.

I remember hearing my first Willow Warbler of the year, and it was a really nice moment. There were times during lockdown that I really did think that I wouldn't get to see or hear some of the birds that I take for granted. For me it was a sign that all was well, and nature was just fine on it's own.

The first Willow Warbler of the year.


Tree Pipit

Being able to catch up with a Ring Ouzel most years, is a real highlight of my birding year.

I was really pleased to find a pair of Spotted Flycatchers when things opened up a bit. These birds kept me entertained for a good few weeks.


A trip to Padley Gorge, had me searching for a singing Wood Warbler. I managed to tick that off along with many Pied Flycatchers and Common Redstarts.

Wood Warbler made it 167 for the year.

I stopped off on my way back from Padley Gorge to collect a Whinchat. There turned out to be a pair.

Things got tougher through the summer, with not much new to tick off, but it didn't stop me going out and trying to find new birds, or just enjoy the usual ones. One bird that really became a pain in the neck for me was the Bearded Vulture (Lammergeier) that had been doing the rounds for some time in the Peak District, not a million miles from home. I made numerous early morning starts and trecked across some horrible terrain all to no avail. It then relocated, but it was still a pain to get to. I think it was on my fifth or sixth attempt that I actually got to see it in flight, and then at it's roost site. The image of it gliding across the thermals with a Kestrel mobbing it will be forever etched in my memory. This bird is MASSIVE!! Unfortunately I didn't get any images of it. It was more about making sure I saw it and enjoying it in the binoculars and telescope. The Lammergeier took me 191 for the year.

A couple of trips to Spurn was a massive boost for my numbers, as I managed to add another half a dozen to the list. A few lifers too in the form of some Shearwaters, a Jack Snipe and a Barred Warbler.
Again I didn't get any images of these, but here is a Siskin and a nice looking Stonechat.

Siskin

Stonechat

I crossed the line of 200 in September with a Pectoral Sandpiper at Rudyard Lake in Staffordshire. It took me a good bit of hunting and some shoe leather as it didn't make itself easy to spot, but I wasn't giving up. It was so distant I needed my scope, but that is all you need to see it. Job done!
Number 201 followed soon after with a Hoopoe that performed superbly well for all that gathered to see it.
Hoopoe


Here are some of my other bird highlights of 2020, when I made it to my target of 200 birds seen.

Barn Owl

Snow Bunting. Never easy to find on a beach that looks like a million Snow Buntings.

Common Sandpiper at RSPB Frampton Marsh

A Curlew in the Peak District

Green Woodpecker at Beeston Regis, Sheringham

Sanderling on the North Wales coast

An unusual bird to see in Cheshire, a Shag at Astbury Mere