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.