Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Coal Tit returns and Mother gets a tick aged 92.

A Coal Tit has visited the garden for only the second time, whether it is the same bird or not I am obviously unable to say, but its behaviour was almost identical. The last sighting was on 16th October last year when it was first seen on the feeders. It then flew off to a position where it was out of view returning a few minutes later to take a second sunflower seed. It never returned. Until (possibly) today, when the same happened. It was again first seen on the feeders, it took a sunflower seed then flew to a nearby tree where it devoured the seed, this time in view. It then returned to the feders where it attacked the peanuts eating for a few seconds enabling this photo (the first was not photographed) to be taken. It then sat in the Ribes bush, flew to the sunflower seeds, took one and then disappeared altogether not to be seen again up to the end of the day nor in subsequent days. Strange business.

The 'occasional Coal Tit' finally captured.

We have also had other activity in the garden, the Chiff Chaff that has been singing away for the last week finally put in an appearance sitting outside the window.

Common Chiff Chaff

A Jay a rare visit too, We get Carrion Crows and Magpies every day, the Jackdaws that were regular have apparently deserted us and it has been ages since we saw a Rook down the field.

Eurasian Jay helping himself to the mealworms.

Changing the subject a little, although I'm not sure how she has achieved this feat, my mother had managed to get to her 92nd year without seeing a Long-tailed Tit! This must surely count as a bogey bird! Admittedly she is not an active birder and admittedly they don't visit her garden, but she is the mother of an active birder who has them in his garden on a daily basis! Anyway, she and Dad came over to visit for a cup of tea and a Belgian bun and finally she got to see her first Long-tailed Tit. I wonder what tick I'll get when I'm 92?

Long-tailed Tit

The Great Spotted Woodpeckers have been seen a couple of times as a pair, they don't come to the feeders as regularly as they did last year but they do seem to have formed a pair. We know that at least one great spot was taken by a Sparrowhawk last year but whether it was one of the pair or the youngster we are not sure; however we are inclined it think it was the latter.
Great Spotted Woodpecker

The other day we came across this unfortunate Starling in the car park at Tesco. Its bill was grotesquely distorted and it had to tilt its head to one side to feed. Reminded me a bit of the Wrybills we saw in New Zealand, but its bill turned to the left not right and it was a lot more colourful.

Deformed Starling doing an impression of a Wrybill.

We also saw some 'Starlings with normal bills, they rally are an incredibly lovely looking bird close up.

Eurasian Starlings feasting on cat food. Gorgeous birds. Male at the front, female in the middle and one or the other behind that.

And to think I twitched one of these back in the 1980s! We see them from our cottage window now.

Little Egret

Finally, the toads are at it again, a sure sign that spring is here.

Common Toad love in the long grass.


Monday, 23 March 2015

The last thing a Blue Tit wants to see - but often does!

A sparrowhawk locking-on to it!

Not a sight that will make your day if you are a passerine I think!

This beauty spent some time sitting on our bird bath beneath the feeders today...

before moving off to the fence and then away empty taloned.

Fantastic prolonged views of this handsome fellow that as a youngster I could only dream of.  Mind you having these birds around may be good for us, but not so much fun for the other birds in the garden.

Here are three victims starting with what is for us a very rare bird; House Sparrow. Since January 1st we have been visited by sparrows on just three occasions, however on one of those 8 individuals were present. It was two months after we moved in that we got our first House Sparrows visiting. They then got quite regular with 9 visits in June and 10 in July, however since then we have only had a total of 8 occasions when they have been seen in the garden. Pretty amazing really since we are talking about what was our beloved and ridiculously common House Sparrow.

Sparrowhawk with House Sparrow Passer domesticus.  (Not taken in our present garden).
Another victim we caught on camera was a Collared Dove. They are daily visitors now but again it took two months to find us. When I was a small boy they were newcomers to the country and I remember well the excitement of seeing my first in my local neighbourhood in southern Hertfordshire. Quite exciting to get a lifer like that especially as it was a bird that was seldom shown in the British Bird Books that I had (they were all rather old). We also know these hawks have taken a starling, a tit (probably blue) a female blackbird, a greenfinch and most distressing of all, a Great Spotted Woodpecker!

One less Collared Dove Streptopelia decaocto in the world.

As I was writing this blog incredibly a sparrowhawk struck again. This time sadly taking out one of our garden robins. We have, or had, a pair feeding together and they were beginning to build a nest in an upturned pot in a bush. The male is singing away forlornly now. Tough gig this living in the wild thing is it not?

Sparrowhawk with Eurasian Robin Erithacus rubecula prey. Shame it couldn't take out one of the dozens of tits and not one of our robin pair!

It is amazing how times have changed, sparrowhawks in the garden and Common Buzzards overhead...

Common Buzzard Buteo buteo.

not to mention the Red Kites that drift over from time to time.

Red Kite Milvus milvus.
When I was young these raptors were rare around where I lived, Red Kite was non existent outside Wales but Kestrels were common everywhere however these days we rarely see them or at least not nearly so much as we did. Along with the House Sparrows they are one of the many British species in decline.

Common Kestrel Falco tinnunculus.

Hobbies are still rare now as they were when I was young, so it is always a pleasure to see one, especially when it is on the garden list. We had just one fly over last summer; I was expecting more.

European Hobby Falco subbuteo.

But I would be happy to swap that single sighting for one of these one day an adult Red-footed Falcon; magic bird.

Red-footed Falcon Falco vespertinus.

While on the subject of wished-for falcons, I wouldn't mind seeing one of these scythe by one day, that really would be a sight for sore eyes and not impossible since they nest in some of our towns now like Aylesbury for example; here's hoping.

Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Goldeneye in eclipse!!! And it's only March!

Not eclipse plumage then obviously. Today we were lucky enough to witness a partial exclipse of the sun here in Newport Pagnell where the sun forever shines. Here is a photo Elis took of the event.

Solar eclipse 20/03/2015 from Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire, England. Looking like a big happy smile!

As if this wasn't exciting enough upon deciding to check out the lake as there seemed to be a fair amount of duck activity, I espied our first Goldeneyes, a pair. This brings our Cottage total up to just one short of the magic 80. (Not sure why it is magic actually but it is a sort of landmark).

Common Goldeneye pair. Snittisham, Norfolk, England30/03/2013

This month has seen a surge in new birds for the Cottage year list with five added. Including the two new birds, Green sandpiper and Common Goldeneye we have added Eurasian Oystercatcher, Northern Shoveler and Eurasian Skylark bringing our year list to 56.

Eurasian Oystercatcher. Cley next the Sea, Norfolk, England. 25/06/2012

Northern Shoveler. Slimbridge, Goucestershire, England. 03/10/2012
Eurasian Skylark in song flight. Newport Pagnell, Buckinghamshire, England. 26/05/2012
Here are a couple of the duck species that were on the lake today.

Tufted Duck. Slimbridge, Gloucestershire, England. 04/02/2013

Common Pochard. Slimbridge, Gloucestershire, England. 04/02/2013

Happy days!

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Birds are on the move providing another unexpected garden tick (No 78).

Every morning we scan the field and lake for birds, time and light permitting, to see what is about.

View from the window showing the lake and the puddles.
This morning was no exception and I saw what I thought at first to be a single lapwing sitting by the edge of one of the large puddles in the field. I scanned across the lake to find many fewer ducks, the majority of the tufties, pochards and wigeons having moved on it seems. I then turned my attention back to the lapwing and saw that it was now teetering around in the puddle pumping its back end for all it was worth. This was no lapwing.

Green Sandpiper in a puddle in the field.

This pump-action bird could be only one of two things, common or green sandpiper. It is still a little early for summer migrants and sure enough on closer inspection this turned out to be our first Green Sandpiper; species number 78.

Green Sandpiper at Lemsford Springs, 14/03/2015.

A few days ago we had a pair of oystercatchers on the same puddle. This species bred locally last year so we hope they will again and that they will become a regular sighting.

Oystercatchers on the puddles.

March is supposed to be a good time of year for unusual birds to turn up at feeders (not that I'm expecting the sandpiper to hit our sunflower seeds) as a result of winter forage being much scarcer due to most of it having been eaten, and the increased movement of birds beginning to think about returning from whence they had come to breed. On the 12th of March we will have been here a year, will we get to 80, just two more species, by then? It shouldn't be impossible we still haven't been visited by a siskin and nor have we seen any redwings (for certain) I will just have to spend more time gazing out of the window and less time working obviously!

Siskin at the feeder in our last house. A sight we hope to see before too long here too.

Sunday, 15 February 2015

Garden list crawls to 77 with unexpected addition.

Spring has sprung... well some of our birds think it has anyway; Song Thrush, Dunnock, Wren, Great Tit and of course the local Robin are all in full song in the early morning. Whilst we still hang on in the hope of a stray Siskin or even Brambling on the feeders, and still hope that we can find a Redwing, which incredibly we still haven't seen, we did not expect our next new bird to be a winter visitor in the form of a goose.

Dunnock; an early songster willing Spring to arrive.

Since local birder Rob Norris reported that there was an Egyptian Goose hanging around with the swans near us I have been checking the goose flock with more attention, and perhaps it was this that highlighted among them this morning a smaller, stubby-billed individual, which, once the scope was on it revealed itself to be a Pink-footed Goose.

Pink-footed Goose (centre)  with Greylags (foreground) and Canada Geese (behind) for company. Not choosey then!

Now my suspicions are a) that it has been there for ages, I just haven't been checking the grey geese hard enough and b) that it is a feral bird; but since I admit to the list Greylags and Canadas, this would not seem to be an impediment for me including this bird too.

Pink-footed Goose with Canada Geese.

This brings our 'cottage list' to 77 and our 'cottage year list' to 50 with the additions in January of Common Teal and Herring Gull.

A couple of small thrushes that flew over today failed to call or show any evidence that they were as I both suspected and hoped, that they were in fact Redwings; I'll keep looking.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

Tragedy, pheasant pluckers and ticks in paradise!

The day started well enough with one of the infrequent visits from one of the local jays, the feeders were buzzing with Blue and Great Tits and a small gang of greenfinches squabbled at the sunflower heart feeder.

Our occasinal jay

All was well with the world but, as I was working on the Wader Quest accounts and Elis was vacuuming upstairs prior to a visit from friends, my computer went off and the sound of the vacuum cleaner emanating from above momentarily died and then started up again. My computer turned itself back on in safe mode and I was about to start a rant about electrical companies when Elis called to me from upstairs.

I went to see what she wanted and found that she had seen a swan lying in the field, under the power lines.

Swan lying in field near the power lines.

That swan had not been there earlier, I had just scanned for lapwings, it was evident that the bird had flown into the lines, killing itself and caused a blip in the supply.

We ventured down the field and as we approached I thought that we may be mistaken, the bird looked as though it had been there some time, all dirty and its insides looked eaten away, but closer inspection reveal fresh blood oozing from a wound on the fore wing and the nostrils and the palpable smell of burnt flesh in the air, a smell that took me back for an instant to my Fire Service days. There were no rings on the bird.

Unsure of what to do, we certainly didn't want to leave the bird in the middle of the field to look at every time we scanned for lapwings, so we carried the corpse to the hedge and left it there. Perhaps the local foxes will at least feel it is their lucky day.

A little later Elis again, spotted a buzzard sitting in the field, it was eating something right where the lapwings usually rested.

Common Buzzard (right) with Carrion Crow.

We could not see what it was so once again we traipsed down the field, this time the corpse was a female pheasant.

I then heard a sound that was familiar to me, but I couldn't place it at first, it was an excited short soft whistle. As we approached the lake it suddenly dawned on me that what I could hear was a wigeon or actually several of them. Panic stations! Pausing only to photograph a couple of implausibly large mushrooms, we dashed back to the house and set the scope on the lake.

Sure enough, there they were about 10 wigeon, a cottage tick.

Long view of Eurasian Wigeon with Eurasian Coots and Tufted Ducks.

I spent a couple of minutes thinking that it was strange that we hadn't yet seen a teal on the lake from the house and mused about the possibility of pintail later in the winter. I was just starting to suggest another duck species, when lo and behold I found one, a gadwall.

These two ducks now bring us up to 66 on the Cottage list, which takes us one higher than our new garden list rival Frode in Norway who accepted the challenge of a garden year list competition, his 64th bird being a Marsh Tit.

We saw this dragonfly sitting on a twig on the way down the field, 

A little later we saw what we feared was going to be another swan death. This bird flew along the length of the power lines at the same height and suddenly it veered towards the lnes and then thankfully it saw them and turned away again.

Mute Swan flying up the field.


Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Danish garden list.

OK, it's not my garden, but it is the garden of the house of our friends with whom we are staying, having a rest after the Dutch Bird Fair and the long drive up through The Netherlands and Germany to Denmark.

Crossing the border from Germany to Denmark

The day started well when I looked at the local trees and noted that many are elder with loads of berries. I told Elis to look out for Icterine Warblers among the many warblers that were feasting on the fruit. There were Common and Lesser Whitethroats,

Common Whitethroat

Chiff Chaff,

Common Chiff-Chaff

and Willow Warblers,

Willow Warbler

a single Reed Warbler the odd Garden Warbler,

Garden Warbler

and many, many Blackcaps.

Female or immature Blackcap

Male Blackcap

Elis started to make her favourite squeaking noise, and bird dropped down from the canopy of the lagrer trees behind the elders, it them popped momentarily into view, it was an Icterine Warbler.I felt very smug, but it didn't sit still long enough to be photographed!

The second morning we repeated the walk around the local area and found that many of the warblers were gone, the only addition to the list of birds was Pied Flycatcher, which also eluded Elis' camera.

Other birds seen uncluded;

High flying migrating Grey-lag Geese
Young Bullfinch

Marsh Tit sitting in a very twee fashion.

Last but not least House Sparrow.