Sunday, February 18, 2007

A quiet spell

Sat in the conservatory reading and listening to the birds singing - a pleasant Saturday morning. Suddenly it all went very quiet except for the occasional tweet from a Blue Tit. Then I noticed something unusual sat just above the peanut feeder and ran to grab my camera:

This female Sparrowhawk was sat there, I guess hoping the smaller birds would forget she was there, waiting...

I only got one snap before she was away. What was interesting though was the Blue Tits. They stayed within the tree and close to her, tweeting away, I guess they felt safe in the tangle of branches.

On Sunday when we were out digging (still trying to create a vegetable patch, still mainly digging up rubble) the noise level dropped away again, this time the Sparrowhawk flew across the garden and along the path behind our fence. On the return flight she was mobbed by some smaller birds, so I guess she'd caught one.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

It snowed!

The weather forecast was for heavy snow, so the day before I legged it to the South Coast to make sure I could attend my client meeting. Luckily my wife was snowed in! Thursday from the back of the house:

We have been heavily feeding the local bird population throughout the winter and today it really paid off. We have been seeing Bramblings in the garden for at least 2 weeks now, but they are very nervous birds, so no snaps possible. However today Helen scraped a small patch of snow away and put a load of seed down. This female Brambling was one of the first to show up:

You can actually make out the male at the bottom of the picture too. However this snap captures the male better (note the yellow beak):

Also today we had another garden first, a Yellowhammer but he didn't hang around long enough to be snapped. We are now up to 29 species in the garden in 10 months, and the hedge is only just in the ground! Complete species record, including maximum numbers so far:

Blackbird (4), Blue Tit (5), Brambling (3), Bullfinch (1), Chaffinch (20+), Collared Dove (8), Crow (3), Cuckoo (1), Dunnock (3), Feral Pigeon (1), Goldfinch (40+), Great Tit (3), Greater Spotted Woodpecker (1), Greenfinch (3), House Martin (1), House Sparrow (50+), Kestrel (1), Long-tailed Tit (6), Magpie (10), Reed Bunting (4), Robin (3), Song Thrush (1), Sparrowhawk (1), Starling (30+), Swift (1), Willow Warbler (1), Woodpigeon (10), Wren (2), Yellowhammer (1). I haven't included the Black-headed Gulls overhead, or the Whitethroat in the hedgerow beyond our fence either..., maybe next summer he'll be back!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Draycote Water

A beautiful winters day in early February, excellent light and a chilly -2c, perfect walking and birding weather! We set off to Draycote not really knowing what to expect. When you get there the first impression is how few wildfowl there are around. We paid for our parking and then headed round clockwise from the visitors centre. Most of the way to the first causeway and even half-way along it we were sure it was going to be a quick 5-miles around, as there was really very little on the water and only a few garden-type birds in the hedeges and trees.

It was none-the-less a beautiful day, so I stopped to take this snap across the water, at the start of the first causeway:

Walking towards the end of this causeway we spotted a funny looking Cormorant, pale chested, but the same size. I took a couple of snaps as it was up close anyway then spotted these Goosanders a little way behind:

Two males and a female (brown head) showing well here, though about as far away as I can usefully snap at the moment. There was definitely something strange about the Cormorant though, still close by, the straight beak and the markings on the back, so I took a couple more photos and reached for the bird guide. It's a Great Northern (Loon) Diver, a new bird! We we're chuffed to bits at how close this was and how good the snaps turned out to be:

We tracked it along the causeway for about fifteen minutes as it dived and snorkelled alongside:

This is the best snap of the lot:

Round the corner and into a small wooded area this Wren was showing very well although briefly, before flitting off:

We'd also seen a number of Wren's busy amongst the stones on the side of the causeway. Once you're beyond half way around it has quite a different feel to it, quiet and secluded. As you head back to the visitor centre though the number of people starts to pick up again.

About three-quarters of the way around, we spotted this Smew drake, without doubt one of my favourite birds:

I marvel at their plumage, their energy levels and just how distinctive they are. This chap was keeping close to a couple of Goldeneye and with all the human activity was staying distant, but an excellent way to round off what had been a very rewarding walk!