Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Birds are all around...

There's a male Firecrest hiding somewhere at The Lodge at the moment, so this lunchtime I spent some time looking for him.

'Looking' suggests some sort of active searching, but to be honest, I spent more of my time standing dead still and waiting for something to happen.

It wasn't entirely fruitless, though. I found an area among the rhododendrons and sweet chestnuts where there seemed to be a lot of bird activity, and stood there in hope.

I don't think it was too unreasonable, to hope that I could just bump into the Firecrest. And staying still was much quieter than tramping about among all those dry, rustly chestnut leaves and noisy twigs.

I've thought for a long time that time spent standing in one place, listening and looking around you, is actually time well-spent, especially in woodland. If you wait for long enough, birds don't notice you, they forget they're supposed to be afraid of humans, or decide you're not worth bothering with.

Looking down to a small woodpile about six feet away, a Wren flew from a bush and perched on top of a log. I'd already been standing there for five minutes when it arrived, and it carried on its business, poking about for insect food, even though I was only a short distance away. Yes, only a Wren, but I enjoyed the encounter. I heard the leaves rustling as it moved about on the ground.

From ahead of me, on the hill, came a sound like children kicking autumn leaves for fun. A litter-picking gang of Blackbirds, searching for food among the fallen leaves.

On a horizontal branch a short distance away, an upside-down Treecreeper inched its way along. With its stiff tail propping it up against the tree, it inspected the bark for moth eggs or something equally microscopic (but obviously nutritious).

High up in a tall, dead tree in front of me, a flash of black, white and red came into view - a male Great Spotted Woodpecker. Working his way quickly to the top, he selected a chunk and began some gentle, exploratory pecking - perhaps auditioning it for a possible drumming post for a few weeks' time. To my untrained ear, it sounded good and rotten.

Some slightly less heavy-duty pecking sounds were those of Nuthatch on chestnut. Always a fantastic bird to watch - like a mini-woodpecker. I heard some quiet song (or sub-song?) that I didn't recognise from the top of a pine tree... Coal Tit the likely culprit, I think. A Goldcrest - yes, just a Goldcrest - appeared in a holly bush to taunt me.

No Firecrest, but not a waste of time, either.

photo taken with Nikon Coolpix 995

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Woodwalton on a cold day

Frosty log and moss

Reed-stems cast shadows on pea-green algae

Backlit Phragmites

Frosty mole-hill (see below for close-up)

It's really frosty!

photos taken with Nikon Coolpix 995

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Lodge pond

Male Chaffinch

A nice, bright Blue Tit

Tried at the hide again for some small bird shots but I came away with even less than last time! Digiscoping can be very frustrating...

photos taken with Nikon Coolpix 995 + Leica Apo Televid 62 with 16x eyepiece

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Blossom


Strange blossomy-type stuff in the gardens at The Lodge today. I don't know what it is. Do you? Please leave a comment.

photos taken with Nikon Coolpix 995

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Frosty stuff








A hard frost overnight followed by continued low temperatures meant everything was still iced-up at lunchtime. So the predictable frosty leaf photos etc from me.

As a bonus, I managed to accidentally scare a Woodcock which must have been rummaging around in the frosty leaves. It flew off at speed, scaring small birds nearby which must have mistaken it for a Sparrowhawk or perhaps a Tawny Owl.

photos taken with Nikon Coolpix 995

Friday, January 20, 2006

Lodge lunchtime/bathtime


Male Siskin taking a dip (they were very quick so unfortunately this is the best shot I got)


Male and female Great Tits in the pond together


Male Chaffinch


Robin


Male Chaffinch awaiting his turn on the feeder


Great Tit doing the same


Male Great Tit


Blue Tit

A very gusty day which seemed to spook the birds a bit, with alternating periods of bright sunshine and dull cloud. Some more work to be done here, I think... Watch this space.

photos taken with Nikon Coolpix 995 + Leica Apo Televid 62 with 16x eyepiece

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Aversley Wood









A few photos from a very muddy walk around Aversley Wood. A new site for me, but it looks like it must be a nice place on a sunny spring morning.

photos taken with Nikon Coolpix 995

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Frosty leaves



Couldn't resist getting my camera out and snapping these frosty oak leaves in the car-park at work this morning...

photos taken with Nikon Coolpix 995

Sunday, January 08, 2006

Friday, January 06, 2006

Norfolk

Extract from my 'other' blog, The Not Very Big Year...


Hunstanton Cliffs - home to Fulmars and Feral Pigeons

Sometimes, when it's cold, grey and miserable, I wonder why it is I bother to go birdwatching. Wednesday was a good [bad] example. Crap weather and no birds.

I think the setting must make all the difference, because today Norfolk was cold, grey and miserable - the sun never came out - but there were some great birds to be seen and I wasn't quite as grumpy as normal.

We hadn't even reached our first planned stop when long skeins of Pink-footed Geese began crossing the skies above us. Birds going from their night-time roost sites to their daytime beet-field feeding hang-outs. It's a Norfolk birding cliche, but always an awesome sight, not to be sniffed at.

On a cold January Friday morning, it was quiet on Hunstanton seafront and Turnstones scuttled around in the gutter, in the manner of Starlings, while Herring Gulls lurked in gardens and car-parks.


Herring Gull - king of the British seaside resort

But they weren't our 'sunny-Hunny' target birds. No, we wanted Fulmars, and we got them, as they glided stiffly around the cliffs on their mini-albatross wings.

Below, family parties of Brent Geese indulged in a little breakfast-time surfing and pecked at the seaweed which encrusted the boulders below the cliffs. More Turnstones, Oystercatchers and Redshanks there, but sadly no Purple Sandpipers.


Oystercatcher hammers mussel while Redshank can only watch

Time to look out to sea. Well, into The Wash, anyway. With no wind, seawatching conditions weren't exactly ideal, but it made it a lot more comfortable.

It wasn't too long before one Red-throated and one Great Northern Diver came into view. Not close by normal birding standards, but good for seawatching. Much closer was a Guillemot, to Darren's great delight. They don't get many in Bedfordshire so he hadn't seen one before.


Darren's first Guillemot

I think that means he owes me a pint.


RSPB Titchwell meeter-and-greeter

Darren is quite derogatory about 'Titchwell Zoo', as he calls it, but I reckon you can't knock it too much. Wander down the track to the beach and there are Spotted Redshanks feeding, unperturbed, virtually within spitting distance.


Spotted Redshank

On the sea, a slick of Common Scoters was forming. Trails of birds from further offshore made up a flock of around 3,000 birds - another impressive sight which included about eight Velvet Scoters. Slightly closer, a couple of smart, piebald Slavonian Grebes (another lifer for DO-M, and it wasn't even lunchtime) pootled about, and a small group of Red-breasted Mergansers bobbed around on the waves.




The scoter flock off Titchwell beach

A drive up to Choseley found a flock of around 400 Corn Buntings and some very pleasant, canary-yellow Yellowhammers. Titchwell drew us back again, with news of a Bean Goose with a flock of Pinkfeet on fields by the entrance. More than an hour's scrutiny of the flock, in terrible light, failed to nail the bird conclusively... Still, it's not a British breeding species so we don't need it for our list anyway.

Species added today:
Pink-footed Goose
79. Herring Gull
Turnstone
80. Oystercatcher
Brent Goose
81. Fulmar
Bar-tailed Godwit
82. Guillemot
83. Red-throated Diver
Great Northern Diver
Sanderling
84. Shelduck
85. Curlew
86. Little Egret
87. Cetti's Warbler
88. Egyptian Goose
Spotted Redshank
89. Black-tailed Godwit
90. Ringed Plover
91. Dunlin
Knot
Grey Plover
92. Common Scoter
Velvet Scoter
93. Slavonian Grebe
94. Red-breasted Merganser
95. Avocet
96. Corn Bunting
97. Grey Partridge
98. Merlin
99. Barn Owl


photos taken with Nikon Coolpix 995 + Leica Apo Televid 62 with 16x eyepiece

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Tame Robin



The audacity of some of the Robins at Bluebell Wood is quite amazing. There are a couple of 'feeding stations' in the wood, where food is placed regularly - attracting a constant stream of birds - Chaffinches, Blue, Great Long-tailed and Marsh Tits, Nuthatches and, of course, Robins.

You can stand at a respectable distance to watch the birds going about their business, and suddenly hear a burst of song from somewhere near your ear lobe. Very often, a Robin will have seen you standing there and will come to perch in the hedge just beside your shoulder.

The food attracts a large number of birds into a small space and territorial arguments are quite frequent, with birds chasing each other around and engaging in breast-to-breast sing-offs.

Presumably, the Robins must learn quickly that people bring food with them, and can be persuaded to dispense it if 'cute' behaviour is exhibited. They become expert beggars and seem to spend most of their time asking old ladies for breadcrumbs and birdseed.

photo taken with Nikon Coolpix 995