Friday, February 27, 2009

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Any frogs in there?

A nice, sunny morning, so I ventured out into the garden to stare into the pond. I'm really hoping for some frogs and newt action this year, and wondered whether the weather would provoke some activity.

Of course, there isn't any yet. Not even any water boatmen or pondskaters moving around today. Some blanketweed (that fine, stringy algae that accumulates into thick masses) has grown around some of the pond plants, so I thought I'd try to remove it. 

Plunged hand into pond. Aaaarghh!

No wonder nothing's moving. It's flipping freezing. Not literally, of course, but it didn't feel far off. My fingers soon felt frozen to the bone. Maybe I need to wait til it's warmed up a bit.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Raving mad

Yet again, I've been punished for going to work. Darren was off sick this morning but managed to see a Raven heading west over our house. That's garden tick #89, hot on the heels of last week's Tufted Ducks. I think we'll struggle to make 100 species (seen or heard from or in the garden or house), but spring is coming and you never know what that will bring.

On the plus side, I did enjoy a veritable cacophony of birdsong today at work. I only stepped outside to top up the birdfeeder and my eardrums were assaulted by Robins, Blue Tits, Great Tits, Coal Tits, Chaffinches and my first Mistle Thrush of the year (a bit late, that). Which reminds me that I heard a Goldfinch singing at home yesterday.

It felt like spring today. I feel I can see the light at the end of the wintry tunnel.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Snow more

Shadows on snow

Well, it snowed and snowed and snowed. We had literally several inches of the white stuff! Apparently this copnstituted a "major snow event". The country "ground to a halt", naturally, but I drove to work every day and managed not to stuff it into a hedge, a ditch or any other vehicles. 

Now, the snow is on the way out. It's good news for wildlife, but even when it was at its worst, I watched two Blackbirds chasing each other around in the garden, and a pair of Robins doing the same. You might expect them to suspend their territorial disputes in those extreme conditions, but they didn't. 

Last weekend, we watched a herd of Fallow Deer trot and canter their way across the field, including one striking cream-coloured hind blending in well with her surroundings for once. The stag was hardly the monarch of the glen, with rather feeble antlers it would be generous to describe as a 'pair'. 

Great Tits seem to have begun singing in earnest this week. Outside my window, there's a Chaffinch singing rather half-heartedly, a Dunnock twittering away and earlier, a Greenfinch made a half-baked attempt at the "butterfly" display flight. A male Reed Bunting briefly in the garden is a typical winter bird for us, but the pale tips to the feathers on his head and throat were few and far between, leaving smarter black plumage ready for the breeding season. Male Tawny Owls have been calling in the small hours lately, waking me up on several occasions, but I've yet to hear a female answer.

The next thing will be to see if any amphibians turn up in the pond once it's ice-free.

photos taken with Canon EOS 30D + EF 300mm f/4L IS USM

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Garden ringing

Goldfinch wing
How old is this Goldfinch? Click through to find out...

Another ringing session in the garden today. A few interesting things: we only retrapped one bird, a Dunnock. Even at the last session, when no ringing had been done for 13 months, we had 5. The Great Spotted Woodpecker and Starling that was caught in January are still around, as are a few ringed Coal Tits, and we saw a Marsh Tit but didn't catch it, so clearly they're not all dead - they're just somewhere else.

The Blackbird was an adult male with a long wing, weighing about 120g, so maybe he's come from Scandinavia. The Kestrel was a female and was hanging onto the net by the tips of two toes when we got to it. Nearly the one that got away...

We caught:
  • Blue Tit, 23 (12 adults)
  • Chaffinch, 10
  • Great Tit, 8
  • Goldfinch, 5
  • Dunnock, 3 (1 retrap)
  • Blackbird, 1
  • Greenfinch, 1
  • Kestrel, 1
  • Robin, 1
Previous sessions: 3 January 2009; 17 November 2007

photos taken with Canon EOS 30D + EF 300mm f/4L IS USM

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Il neige


The Lodge in the snow in black + white

Icy drips
Another day of snow. It's stopped falling, but landscape looks rather lovely with its white coat on.

As I was de-icing the car before leaving for work, I heard my first singing Chaffinch of the year, cooing Stock Doves, a drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker in the tree just across the road, and watched two Blue Tits in some kind of courtship display - there was much high-pitched calling and wing-quivering before they flew off. At work, I've spotted a pair going in and out of a nestbox and making adjustments to the entrance hole, so it's all another reminder that spring's waiting behind the snow.
photos taken with Canon EOS 30D, EF 300mm f/4L IS USM or Canon Powershot A640

Monday, February 02, 2009

Es schneit

View from my window

As usual, now that we've had about two inches of snow, the useless Brits - or, perhaps I should clarify, the English - can't cope. I had to drive to work at a top speed of 30mph, but it was do-able and by the time I went home (earlier than usual) the roads were a bit damp but otherwise fine. Apparently it's the heaviest snowfall in the south-east for 18 years.

Whilst at my desk I couldn't help but stare out of the window at the snowy scene outside, and wonder how the birds were coping. I watched a few Goldcrests pecking and fluttering amongst the pine needles. They seemed to be finding tiny morsels to eat, but it must be tough for them.

A flock of Long-tailed Tits was calling when I went outside to top up the birdfeeder, but today there was no sign of the Nuthatches that have been whistling noisily for the past couple of weeks.

Sound-wise, I heard my first Song Thrush song of the year last week. It was an unlikely setting: I was waiting in the car outside the Co-Op while Rizlas were being purchased inside, and through the fog and the car window I heard the repeated notes from a Song Thrush. I wonder what made him start singing? It was a horrible morning.

photos taken with Canon Powershot A640