Sunday, July 26, 2009

juvenile Robin

Not much to report I'm afraid on the basis we attended a worky type Barbecue on Saturday and then I spent over six hours on Sunday working on a dissertation I have less than six weeks left to complete.

I did manage to film this juvenile Robin on Saturday morning however, one of a group of four spotted in the garden for the first time on Friday and the third brood by our resident pair so far this year:

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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Starling fight club and the evil one

Saturday, July 18, 2009

First films

It's been ages since we did some local birding and with Helen improving week by week we decided to stretch our legs around Pitsford.

We parked in the causeway car park and deposited around 5 kilos of wheat for the local ducks and geese then set off around the nature reserve.

From the first hide we watched the activity on the Tern rafts which mostly consisted of adult birds luring the youngsters into the air by drawing them to food. Here a juvenile Common Tern is calling for a meal:

Whilst the Adult has stopped off from flying around the juvenile and rafts for a breather and to sound more encouragement:

It looks like it's been a good year for the Terns, which is excellent. Anglian Water and the warden do an excellent job at Pitsford, they really do. Further round the reserve a juvenile Long-tailed Tit was part of a large group moving through the hawthorns:

At one point we can have been no more than twenty yards from this deer, I think a Muntjac, but it took ages for it to realise we were watching it

Further still we managed to get pretty close to a hare on the path too, this is the best view we've had of a hare yet:

Whilst busy enough with birds, we didn't see that many. However the reserve is absolutely bursting with life, with damsel flies and particularly butterflies everywhere. Amongst many others we saw this unidentified species:

A Small White:

A Ringlet:

A Painted Lady:

A Meadow Brown:

A Large White:

and finally a Gatekeeper:

I reckon we probably saw at least another eight species on our walk today, perhaps even more. A few more birds did show themselves, I believe this is a juvenile Willow Warbler:

and this a juvenile Chiffchaff:

Having completed the walk we headed back home. I have been persuaded by a friend of our ours to invest in a small video camera to compliment my photography but also to bring a bit more life to the garden birds and wildlife. I have included here my very first attempts, recorded this afternoon, please excuse the very poor quality of the camerawork, but I hope you enjoy the content. First up a wild rabbit chilling out in the garden, which we always take as a compliment:

Next one of the many juvenile Blackbirds, raised on mostly sultanas judging by our bird food bills, and like the rabbit, enjoying the sunshine and the opportunity to relax:

Last-up for today, Common Starlings fighting over a fat lump. The juveniles have taken to waiting around for one to 'appear' which they tend to do every couple of days. The fastest they've consumed one is a little over an hour:

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Sunday, July 05, 2009

First steps, part 2

Yep I had to split the post again after 3 hours of trying to get it to work in a single posting...

So, to continue, also on the scrape a mixed flock of Waders with both Black-tailed Godwits and Spotted Redshanks roosting together:

I like this picture because it shows both species in their summer breeding plumage together with various stages of moult.

One of the features of Minsmere in Spring and Summer is the Barn Swallows around the Sluice gates, usually one of them is kind enough to perch on the sign, today we enjoyed watching this adult, whislt the juveniles were arrayed along the sluice structure itself:

Heading back toward the visitor centre we spotted this very young deer, I think Red Deer:

It was so small it had to a very recent addition to the wildlife at Minsmere.

Back home the garden is as busy as usual (and the pond project as stalled as usual!), with a flock of juvenile Starlings hanging out together, we get about 30-40 of them at any one time, when the adults all show up too we have over 60 starlings marching across the lawn. The House Sparrows look to have had a very productive summer so far too, so much so that we now have three regular Sparrowhawks, a female, a juvenile and this male, stood no doubt on one of those Sparrows:

Of course the cats are causing carnage, they love this time of year with all the young inexperienced wildlife around. We had some rabbits again then one very noisy night later (we had a cat lover staying and even she was put off by the noise of rabbits being killed by cats) - no rabbits. And the numbers of blackbirds grows then shrinks again, two Blackbirds have been cat killed in the three days alone. We've invested in a Super-Soaker as the next stage of our ongoing cat deterrent battle though frankly a .22 rifle would be better, but then would that make me a 'shooter'? I think not as I'd be killing to preserve and protect rather than killing for fun but it's a very tough dilemma. On a lighter note, we watched a very pleasant moonrise last evening, this is what it looked like at 840x:

It's great to have got back out again and to be able to do so. We've resolved again to get out and about more often, so hopefully the lens will be fixed and returned soon and my new addition (watch out for wildlife videos from August time) will help us to share more of our experiences of our learning journey with you.

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First steps

My apologies for the prolonged absence. Helen has her arm out of the cast now, though it's still broken - we actually stopped on the way home to buy a splint - the doctor who saw her didn't even check the injury when discharging her...

I took the opportunity of sending my 100-400x lens in for repair and cleaning, with a 7-10 day estimate of repair, at the end of which time they phoned me to say they couldn't access the optical unit so it needs another one, so another 150 quid and another 7-10 days...

At least with both Helen's arms 'free' we can start walking again and with only the super-telephoto lens to rely on decided on a quick 24 hour trip to Minsmere, probably my favourite overall single spot for birding in the UK. As usual our strategy was drive close, early night, early alarm and get a lot done and seen before the flocks of humans arrive. We always visit the Island Mere hide first as you get to walk through the woods when the deer are about and it's frankly usually a magical experience. However this time for a change we decided to pop into the North Hide and then head clockwise around the scrapes. The walkway out to the beach hide abounded with warblers. Some Sedge Warblers, with their 'ecstatic' song:

Reed Warblers were also still singing but in a more subdued voice:

Even though there were plenty of fledged juveniles around too:

We got our best views yet in the UK of Cetti's Warbler along the causeway:

And the odd Whitethroat was singing prominently

A brief glimpse of four Bearded Reedlings was enjoyed, as was this brief encounter with a female Cuckoo, though distant and not a very good picture you can just make the bird out in the tree:

She appeared to be feeding rather than looking for target nests. Out on the scrape there were many more Sandwich Terns that we've seen in previous years, about the same quantity of Common Terns but fewer Little Terns. A Roseate Tern had been reported but we dipped out on that one. We did however get a chance to do some gull learning. We've had a good hard look at the guide book and believe this first one to be a Baltic species (Larus fuscus) Lesser Black-backed Gull, due to the yellow legs and the lack of contrast between the main upper-wing plumage and the tail, a Western European Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus graellsii) would have pink/grey legs:

Whereas we think this is a Yellow-legged Gull, again because of the yellow legs but this time the contrast between the upper-wing plumage and tail is significant:

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