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

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The century

Well, we've finally done it, after nearly four years.

This morning I went to stand outside - in the frost - to see if I could hear any Lesser Redpolls flying over. It looked to be a good morning for a bit of visible migration.

And lo and behold, after 10 minutes, a couple of redpolls - got to presume they're Lessers - did indeed fly over, calling as they went. And that brought us to Number 100 on our garden bird list.

To tell the truth, it couldn't feel any more underwhelming.

I'm not really sure what number 101 might be. There are some reasonably obvious things that we ought to target next... Turtle Dove, Merlin, Marsh Harrier, Tree Pipit, waders, wildfowl, Mediterranean Gull, perhaps a passage Sedge Warbler (I'll have to grow some Phragmites). But none of them seems particularly likely, especially not for the next few months.

What will spring bring?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Toadstools are psychedelic

Fly Agaric

Fly Agaric

Fly Agaric Wayne Coyne would probably agree.

photos taken with iPhone and Hipstamatic app

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Flamborough Head

I've been on holiday in East Yorkshire for a week. We stayed in glamorous Flamborough, on the sticky-out bit halfway up on the right-hand side.

The birds were alright, though. There were tons of migrants early on - Goldcrests and Redwings were in every bush and every scrap of hedge - but they all cleared off by Wednesday. But not before we'd seen two Pallas's Warblers (Darren found one of them) and a Yellow-browed on Flamborough Head.

However, I won't dwell on our two failed attempts to see the Dusky Warbler at Scarborough, or the way things went really rather quiet after midweek.

There were other compensations, however... watching two Roe Deer jump a barbed wire fence; seeing the last Gannet chick of the year still sitting fluffily on the sheer cliff at Bempton; a skein of Pink-footed Geese arriving from over the sea; a handful of Ring Ouzels (including one picked up dead near the lighthouse); watching a Jack Snipe try to land in a gorse bush, a Redstart and a small flock of Bramblings in the hedge right outside our window.

Migrant Wheatear at North Landing

Male Redstart
This first-winter male Redstart appeared in the hedge outside our luxury accommodation. The chalet, I mean

Male Brambling
And this was the first Brambling I'd ringed!

Lesser Whitethroat
Here's one Mark caught earlier... a Lesser Whitethroat, possibly of the central Asian race halimodendri

Flamborough Lighthouse
Here's the lighthouse

South Landing
And the cobble beach at South Landing

Flowers on the bench
Flowers on a bench at t'North

Thornwick Bay
Thornwick Bay

Dawn at Flamborough

Revisited Forge Valley Woods, where I saw my first-ever Nuthatches 20 years ago!

Humour is subjective...
Somehow, these jokes have raised a lot of money for charity...

Kittens in a basket
Lovely decor in the chalet

Spot the typos...
You'd think they could at least spell YORKSHIRE correctly

photos taken with Canon EOS 30D, EF 300mm f/4L IS USM or Canon Powershot A640

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

A sunny autumn day at The Lodge


Fly Agaric
Fly Agaric

Fly Agaric
Fly Agaric

Common Puffball
Common Puffball (edible at this age, I think)

Sweet Chestnuts
Sweet Chestnuts...

Happy squirrel
...beloved of Grey Squirrels

Red Admiral
Red Admiral



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

Monday, October 04, 2010