Monday 31 January 2011

The Tree Year (2): Winter Visitors to the Larch

Some of you may know by now that I am 'watching' a Larch in Carmarthenshire, Wales, UK, as part of The Tree Year.

We returned to the Larch on Saturday, not expecting to see anything very different. However, the feeders had been re-filled and there was a buzz of activity in the area. We were thrilled when this Great Spotted Woodpecker put in an appearance.

The Tree Year: my second post

As you can see, he has fine black and white markings on his back. Every so often you catch a glimpse of his scarlet plumage, too. You can see the ivy on the trunk.

With Bluetit

Amazing wing markings

The Woodpecker's Tea Party
We really enjoyed watching the birds. The temperature was hovering around freezing and the light was beginning to fade. The car made a useful 'hide', but it is hard to take good pictures behind glass. However, they serve as a pleasing record of a lively visit! There were still more takers to come at the feeder . . .

A Starling enjoyed the nuts ...
... and so did a Nuthatch and Bluetit
Suddenly a Grey Squirrel arrived
What a character!
We saw a Greenfinch ...

... and a Chaffinch.

We also had a better look at the cones from last year.

A tiny streak of white caught our eye ...

... it was a Treecreeper
I don't think he likes being enlarged!

We were so busy watching the feeders on the tree, that we nearly missed the male Blackbird below, scurrying about in a pile of mixed deciduous leaves. I wonder whether he found the worms or grubs he was trying to excavate. All in all it had been a very profitable visit. I wonder what we will see next!

Previous TTY Post

Now you see me, now you don't!

Saturday 29 January 2011

Beautiful Birds (13): RSPB BIG GARDEN BIRDWATCH 2011

We sat down with mugs of coffee, camera and binoculars in our Swansea home in Wales, UK. The plan was that David would do the 'census' this morning and that I would spend my hour recording birds while we were out (along with representatives from the RSPB) in the National Botanic Garden of Wales this afternoon. The photo from home (below) was taken behind glass.

The Starlings gather . . .

Birds in our garden were certainly down on last year's count. Perhaps it was just the result of a cold morning (minus 7 degrees Centigrade at 8 am), but I fear it may be a true reflection of the damage wreaked by this unusually harsh winter as a whole.

The results of the survey from our home were as follows:

Sent from Big Garden Birdwatch Log  
My spottings:

Number Spotted:0.

Number Spotted:0.

Song Thrush.
Number Spotted:1.

Number Spotted:2.

Number Spotted:2.

Number Spotted:2.

Number Spotted:4.

House Sparrow.
Number Spotted:4.

Number Spotted:20.

David also spotted two unidentified birds. The sun was low and right in our faces so it was hard to see some of the birds that flew in. The gulls and pigeons circled round but were not counted as they failed to land until our time was up!

We had high hopes for the afternoon, but were actually very disappointed with our recordings.

The Crow was happy enough, despite freezing conditions

Fun and games on the Ice

I love the reflection

The National Botanic Garden of Wales, hosting the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch

Remnants of hoar frost in the Botanic Garden


 In the whole of one hour in the Botanic Garden, I only recorded the following:

Number Spotted:2.

Carrion Crow.
Number Spotted:3.

Number Spotted:1.

Number Spotted:1.

To cheer ourselves up after a lean hour in the Botanic Garden (where, to our great delight, we had seen Lesser Redpolls on a previous Big Birdwatch), we drove home via the Larch that I am observing as my part in The Tree Year project. The creatures we saw in the vicinity of this tree will not count for the Birdwatch, but they really lifted our spirits, as you will see if you click to my next post when it is 'up'.  

if you live in the UK and have not yet undertaken a bird survey, you might like to visit the RSPB site and have a go before the end of the weekend. Happy sightings!  

Tuesday 25 January 2011

The Tree Year (1): Introducing the Larch

WELCOME | CROESO ... to my chosen tree
I have had a tree in mind for a few days, and had the chance to 'visit' it last weekend when we were out and about in Carmarthenshire in South Wales, UK. I have visited this tree many times, but have never studied it in any sense before. Allow me to introduce the LARCH. The pictures below show the trunk and the ivy that is growing up the tree.

This LARCH probably has tales to tell, and has sustained a few injuries over the years. However, although it looks fairly dead at the moment, Spring usually comes early to South Wales, so I am hoping that there will be signs of new life before long. The tree inhabits a fine landscape of oxbow lakes and castles (Dryslwyn, Dinefwr and Carreg Cennen). The river runs close by, and the wildlife is plentiful. The tree often has feeders hanging from it, and we have seen the following birds in the vicinity . . . so far:


Table for two at the bird feeder!

Last year's cones

* * *

If you would like to join in with 'The Tree Year' project, please feel free to click on the orange tree badge in the column on the right of this page. I have another tree in mind, too, but meanwhile I look forward to finding out about some of the other 'chosen trees'.

Monday 24 January 2011

Canidae (1): Ice Victim

P.S. The fox when we first saw him - added in response to Jeremy's comment. Thanks, Jeremy!
 * * *

We were out and about this last weekend. There was still a fair amount of ice around.

Suddenly we spotted a fox on the lake in broad daylight at about 2.15pm.

It had been trying to reach some Coots across the ice when it fell in.

It was quite a way away from us . . .

. . . but with the help of my zoom lens, I just managed to catch it on camera. What a fine white tip to its muzzle.

I love a happy ending, but I guess there are times when nature has to take its course. The only consolation is that at least the Coot colony survived intact on this occasion.

Thursday 13 January 2011

Beautiful Birds (11): Oystercatchers at Oxwich

We enjoyed photographing Oystercatchers, using our monopods. This was my only 'in-flight' photo.

Ugly Duckling or Belle of the Ball?
'Ugly Duckling' apart, did you know that this group is apparently a 'parcel', a 'Rockerfeller' or a 'stew'? I love collective nouns . . . (though I'm not sure about the stew!).

Saturday 8 January 2011

Beside the Sea (1): Mermaid's Purse and Crab

Happy New Year, 2011!

Mermaid's Purse on the beach at Oxwich Bay
We stumbled across this curious object on our way back to the car this afternoon, after an hour or so photographing Oystercatchers at the edge of the water. We thought it might be a Mermaid's Purse, but the only ones I have ever seen have been black. I am grateful to the Seashore site for helping us to make an identification. How amazing to think that a metre-long member of the Shark family could emerge from this small sac (once fully grown, of course!). I wonder if we should have popped it back into the sea? We felt - in our ignorance - that it was best not to interfere.  

A Shore Crab of some kind ... I think
Edible Crab? ... the one with the crimping!

Oxwich Bay, Gower, near Swansea, Wales, UK
  • Jewellery in the shape of Mermaids' Purses (thanks to Google!)