Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 in pictures

Sunset over the Ivel Valley
January: sunset over the Ivel valley

Loch Ken
February: Loch Ken

Lesser Diving Beetle
March: Lesser Diving Beetle in the garden pond

Blackthorn blossom
April: blackthorn blossom at Castor Hanglands

Ringing Starling chicks
May: ringing Starling chicks in the nestboxes at Hope Farm

Large Skipper
June: Large Skipper at Beeston (taken with my phone!)

5.06 am, 20 July
July: moth trapping frenzy at just gone 0500 hrs...

Painted Lady
August: Painted Lady on buddleia in the garden

Southern Hawker in flight
September: Southern Hawker over the garden pond

Coming down...
October: sweet chestnut time for a Grey Squirrel at The Lodge

Smooth Newt
November: newt rescue at The Lodge

Whose footprints?
December: Woodcock tracks (I think) in snow at... The Lodge

Sunday, December 26, 2010

1,000 posts later...

Believe it or not, this is the thousandth blog post I've written here. How on earth did that happen?

Maybe 'written' is too strong a word, as recently most posts have consisted of photos accompanied by the barest of captions. Hopefully next year I'll get round to being a good blog writer, with proper writing and everything. But it's still 1,000 posts though, words or no words.

Great Crested Newt eft
Things have changed a bit. I've moved, and left my garden out in the sticks - and the pond - behind. I'm sad about it but I'm trying to look on the bright side. If it wasn't for me, there would have been no pond there - no breeding Great Crested Newts, no dragonflies or beetles or caddis larvae and all the rest of it. I've done my bit for the Million Ponds Project (well, sort of - it doesn't meet the criteria but the newts and the clear water say it's OK!).

I just hope the next tenants appreciate the pond, so I'm in the process of writing some stuff about it for them to read.

On the other hand, some things don't change. I'm visiting my mum and dad for Christmas and I still enjoy watching the birds in their garden, which I suppose is where my interest in nature started...

This morning I peered out of the window and saw a Goldcrest feeding in a conifer - I'd have been quite excited about that as an eight-year-old. Actually, it's still good. Eight-year-old Katie would have liked the Reed Bunting and Yellowhammer feeding on the snowy lawn, the Goldfinches in the tree and the Pied Wagtail sitting on the trellis, too. But I bet there aren't as many Starlings and House Sparrows now as there were back then.

Here's to the future!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010





Been outside all day, bird ringing (predictably). Though it's quite cold outside and times are hard for wildlife, we didn't encounter any problems with the birds, except the fact that there were tons and tons of them, and we didn't catch them all! - "only" 102 in total.

The stars of the show included an adult female Kestrel (pictured), about 30 Blackbirds, c20 Yellowhammers (including one from 2004!), a Woodpigeon and a decent assortment of Redwings, Song Thrushes, Bullfinches, Reed Buntings, Dunnocks, Robins - even a few Blue Tits...

photos taken with Canon EOS 30D

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Frosty finch


This beautiful male Brambling was the star bird of our monthly ringing session at Beeston.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Frost and snow

Whose footprints?
Think these are Woodcock tracks

Frosty trees

Birch leaves

Birch leaves

Frosty leaves

The Lodge
Add caption

Spider's web
Icy spiders' webs

The Lodge
An icy, frosty Lodge

The Lodge
Manx Loghtans grazing in the frost


Bitter orange
Bitter oranges

The Ivel Valley
the Ivel valley

Frosty windscreen
icy windscreen

photos taken with Canon EOS 30D or Canon Powershot A640

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Cute newt

Smooth Newt
A Smooth Newt I rescued this morning from hiding underneath a door. Good luck, small amphibian.

photos taken with Canon Powershot A640

Sunday, October 31, 2010

An unusual visitor

Tree Sparrow

Don't get many of these in the garden. It appeared for just one morning only and promptly vanished. It makes the one we actually trapped and ringed in 2007 seem even more remarkable - Tree Sparrows are notoriously tricky to catch.

photo taken with Canon Powershot A640 + Leica Apo Televid 77 with 20x eyepiece

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Birds in the net

Early start - got up at 4.45am. Didn't get home til about 9.30pm. Between these times I was at Castor Hanglands, one of my old stomping grounds near Peterborough.

Lesser Redpoll
Lesser Redpoll
Net full of redpolls!
11 in the net!

We caught about 120 birds...
  • Lesser Redpoll
  • Siskin
  • Chaffinch
  • Great Tit
  • Blue Tit
  • Coal Tit
  • Long-tailed Tit
  • Marsh Tit
  • Treecreeper
  • Blackbird
  • Redwing
  • Song Thrush
  • Tree Sparrow
  • Goldcrest
  • Sparrowhawk!

Juvenile male Sparrowhawk
For me, this was the highlight: a juvenile male Sparrowhawk. I haven't handled many birds of prey so it was a really good opportunity to deal with a bird that actually could hurt me - if it wanted to, and if I wasn't careful enough.

We got it out of the net without too much trouble, and put it in a cotton bird bag until we were ready to ring it. Then, I had to put my hand into the bag containing the hawk, and get the bird out again without letting it escape.

I could see the sharp talons sticking out through the cotton, so at least I knew where they were...

the eyes have it

Normally you identify the bird, put the ring on, and then do the ageing, sexing and biometrics (weighing, fat and muscle scoring, and measuring wing length).

With Sparrowhawks there's such a size difference between males and females they take different ring sizes (males being smaller). The wing length confirmed it was a male, and the chestnut-brown edges to the back and wing feathers show it hatched earlier this year.

The Sparrowhawk was surprisingly docile while I handled it. It had a look of rage in its eyes, though. When we were finished, it was a pleasure to release it. What a bird...

Sparrowhawk wing
Sparrowhawk wing
and upperwing

Female Siskin
now for something smaller - a female Siskin

and Lottie, who kept us entertained between net rounds with her stick-chasing and chewing

photos taken with Canon EOS 30D