Wednesday, August 29, 2007


Straight after the bank holiday I had to head up to Whitehaven to attend another meeting, which meant a long trip up and an overnight stay. On the way up, I stopped off at the RSPB's Hodbarrow reserve ( The weather was set fine so I managed a walk at pace out to the hides, a quick mooch around and a walk back to the car park in just an hour.

The view from the spit is spectacular taking in the land, the lagoon and the estuary. The reserve was quiet, it being evening, these Black-headed Gulls appeared to be enjoying some later summer sun:

Along the spit I followed this unusual looking bird, with a white rump flash and Wheatear looking markings. My field guide confirmed this as a juvenile Wheatear:

A very pretty bird, and a breeding success amongst all the reports of failure up and down the land. The last bird that caught my eye before I had to head on was this Meadow Pipit, as it appeared unusually green, both to the naked eye and on 'film':

Again a very attractive bird. Hodbarrow is a very attractive location in the Western Lake District and one I hope to return to, although with much more time to soak it up...

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Monday, August 27, 2007

Harlestone Heath

Bank Holiday Monday and with tired(ish) legs time for a walk closer to home. We set out from Kingsthorpe across to Harlestone Heath and to the (Wyevale) garden centre at the main entrance (who do a very good cup of tea and have an improved value and quality menu).

On the way out to the garden centre we spotted a very busy flock of Spotted Flycatchers, feeding begging youngsters, who must be recent fledglings. Lots of calling and wing flapping with occasional darts from the tree and back again to feed. Here's one of the juveniles:

A couple on another part of the same tree:

Also close by was this juvenile Chiffchaff:

It was sad to read this weekend that some nesting sites for our rare birds have suffered 100% failure with the wet weather causing drowning chicks, washed out nests and an absence of foodstuffs, average fledgling numbers are down by 50-100% in places. Let's hope next year is a boom year or some birds will become much rarer sights.

Back into the woods we headed out along the path, espying more Willow Tit and small flock of Goldcrests, though they were in cover and impossible to photograph. We walked back along the Northampton and Lamport Railway line. At the crossing with the A5199, we were surprised to see this Little Egret wading in a mud pond, he was using his feet to stir up the mud at the bottom then stabbing down to feed on whatever he was washing up:

It's amazing to think that as recently as 5-years ago an Egret was a very unusual sighting in the UK!

A 25-mile bank holiday weekend with excellent birding and excellent company.

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Lyveden New Bielde walk

From the car park at Fermyn Woods Country Park we followed the walk to Wadenhoe, then extended it by walking along the river to Aldwincle before heading back to pick up the trail through more woodland and finally, after 11 miles, back to the car.

Sunday was another excellent day for raptors, including the local Red Kite population, and I finally managed to get some snaps including these top and bottom record shots of what I believe is a juvenile Peregrine Falcon, first from underneath:

Then a view of the birds' back as it banked and turned:

There were two birds together but they moved off very quickly. The walk was quieter overall but we did some interesting sights, including this Yellowhammer female, collecting food and then returning to a hedgerow nest:

Heading back in Southern Wood (part of a larger wood) we heard a repeated high-pitched calling and could make out this bird in the distance. After some persistence we got a clear view of this Hobby:

The bird was calling very loudly, then flying out catching and eating a dragonfly on the wing then returning to perch and call, putting on a great show!

Finally as we head back to Fermyn Wood we spotted this Chinese Muntjac deer. It's a sad thing to see as back in the woods they have deer hides, so they clearly shoot the deer to 'control' their population, not that food resources and natural balance can't cope. It's also remarkable that so rare an animal has to be 'controlled'... any excuse for those scumbags.

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A busy day at Pitsford

Our first walk around Pitsford for quite a while. It's wader migration time, so we're hoping to see some 'stray' birds, although the water level is at peak height so there's little or no mud around for them to feed on. In the end we saw just two waders on our way around, both from the causeway and both Common Sandpipers:

Walking along the causeway always disturbs the Lapwings settled there:

Into the nature reserve itself, this juvenile Willow Warbler was hopping around feeding:

We encountered a flock of Tits including Long-tailed, Blue, Great and a few Willow Tits too, including this ringed individual:

On the water there was no sign of the reported Red-crested Pochards but there were plenty male Pochard drakes, including this chap:

The markings are very distinctive as are the deep red eyes, he looks very dozy, enjoying the sunshine.

Further round we spotted a small group of Gadwalls, including these two:

In addition the Ruddy Ducks had managed to breed, which is no mean feat considering the extermination attempt underway (shame):

One thing the photographs don't show however was the large number of raptors we observed, including Peregrine, Kestrel, Sparrowhawk, Common Buzzard and Hobby all visible over the reserve.

A very pleasant four and a half hour, seven and a half mile walk, and quite a good birding trip considering the prevailing conditions!

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Wednesday, August 22, 2007

A case of mistaken identity

The juvenile Green Woodpecker is back today, however on closer inspection the dark patch under the beak really does have a red centre, which makes him a male. Another case of an early conclusion causing embarrassment!

A very fine looking bird though, and you can see the progress of the moult, and the fact the lawn needs mowing very soon :)

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Monday, August 20, 2007


I was sat in the dining room, working, when I heard a lot of bird noise, mostly the sound of about 40+ birds taking off together. Then the magpies kicked up a real racket, which isn't unusual except, they kept going, so I headed upstairs to look out the window. There was a juvenile Sparrowhawk, sat atop an inverted Collared Dove, so I dashed down to grab my camera to take this photo, you can see it covering it's prey with extended wings, waiting for it to expire:

Here, with the Dove deceased, the Sparrowhawk is tucking in, having made a substantial mess of the bird feeding area:

For this last shot I moved to the lounge, slowly parted the blinds and got a much sharper, clearer shot of the Sparrowhawk eating. The bird stayed in the garden for about 20 minutes before taking off with a now much lighter carcass, leaving me to clean up this evening:

We had over the weekend counted a peak 14 Collared Doves which is a big increase from the 6 we counted last year. I'm guessing we'll get 12 to 13 at peak now. What was remarkable was that on the feeders above this there were still Greenfinch and Great Tits feeding as well as Magpie's and Woodpigeon's still wandering around the garden.

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Juveniles, everywhere!

For the local domestic birds this year has been a good year. The extensive cat population has, to our knowledge, only taken 3 juveniles (2 Robin, 1 Starling), though we remain vigilant. We have watched over 50 juvenile Starlings feeding on occasion, 6 juvenile Greenfinch, 1 juvenile Robin, 1 juvenile Song Thrush, at least 8 juvenile Blackbirds (from 3 clutches), 4 juvenile Chaffinches, 6 juvenile Collared Doves, over 30 juvenile House Sparrows and over 10 juvenile Goldfinch.

The Sedge Warbler is still about at the moment but no indication as to his success or otherwise, and no sign of the Common Whitethroat or Willow Warblers seen in April and May.

We've also recorded new birds over the garden including Common Buzzard, Lesser Black-backed Gull and a Peregrine Falcon.

Today was a special day for the Garden birdwatch though, as I finally managed to photograph one bird we've been hearing a lot of these last few weeks and who appears to like to the large numbers of ants infesting parts of our lawn - she's a juvenile Green Woodpecker (juvenile due to the spotted chest and female as the colour bar under her 'chin' is black not red):

The resident magpies don't quite know what to make of her and seem reluctant to pick on a bird their own size (they positively 'leg it' when the Crows come in and the fights with the rabbits are funny!):

Apologies for the slight misty quality, she's still very skittish so the pictures are taken through a bedroom window.

The weather does look to have confused just about everything though, we've noticed Wren, House Sparrow and Woodpigeon clutching in August, which is very late in the year (do Woodpigeons actually observe the seasons at all !?).

Out in the real world however the news is worse. Seabirds in Scotland have suffered from the decline in their food-stock species including Sandeels, mostly ascribed to rising sea temperatures. some species recording their poorest ever seasons. In addition waders have suffered from the rising water levels, with many nests being washed out. Birds of prey in Scotland and The Peak District, and other areas, are still being deliberately killed off by land owners, gamekeepers and farmers, to protect their 'sport' later in the year - e.g. killing vast quantities of young, confused birds specially bred to be poor flyers, slow, noisy and colourful out of the sky, not to mention the other species they kill for pleasure or just by accident.

Finally many migrants had their first clutches washed away or drowned in the heavy rains of May and June, who knows how they fared in July, so whilst we have done well locally the big picture for birds and birding is worrying.

To end on a positive note, we're actively planning a trip to Lincolnshire and East Anglia next Easter to take in The Wash and the coastline along both Norfolk and Suffolk (can't wait!).

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