Monday 27 January 2014

Wildlife Survey ~ RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2014

Well, how did you do, those of you who were counting?

These were my results from my RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. I did my survey on Saturday morning from 10.45 (coffee time!) to 11.45 am, and I have to report that there weren't any real surprises.

Sadly our regular flock of Long-tailed tits did not show up until the afternoon, so couldn't be counted. Our Wren didn't appear either, but the Wren is a shy bird so I wasn't very surprised. 

By the time I logged my results, over 53.000 results had been submitted - despite a temporary glitch (or so it seemed to us) with the RSPB website. 

STOP PRESS ... a new kid bird on the block today ... I had just finished lunch when the graceful white wings of a Little Egret flapped over our garden, presumably from the local nature reserve nearby. It's the first time we have seen one of these birds from our window ... I saw my first one ever just over 20 years ago, on my first visit to the Gower Peninsula. 

There was no time today to grab a camera, but here's a pic. of three I took some years back on a visit to Laugharne in South Wales ...

Friday 24 January 2014

Home Patch ~ Spiders and Frost

We have had some strange weather recently, with frost and fog interspersed with sleet, rain and sunshine. We woke up to a frosty morning earlier in the week, and when I looked out, I could see that the spiders had been working on their webs. The frost was beginning to melt, and while the webs might have looked better an hour earlier, I quite like the effect of the melting water droplets.   

I don't know where the outdoor spiders were hiding, but this one (alive or dead?) has been keeping us company indoors. It seems a shame to spoil the web, though to my eye it is not such a thing of beauty as the ones in the garden! 

And a final photo for this post, just to show you our foggy outlook! But the sun has been shining today, there are two tiny daffodils in the garden and the shrub next to the front door has small flecks of new green growth. 

Wednesday 22 January 2014

Beautiful Birds (and other wildlife) ~ 2014 Update

With the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch scheduled for this coming weekend, it seemed a good moment to post my updated 2014 list. All the birds in my Home Patch list also appear in my complete list. I am only noting my initial sightings of a species, but have been surprised at the number of Turnstones I have seen in 2014, largely at Woodbridge on the Deben estuary and at Southwold (where I got wet feet in my attempt to get a wave-edge photograph).
Goldfinch - I saw my first one of 2014 today

Blue indicates that the bird was seen somewhere other than on my home patch or at Minsmere.
Yellow indicates my home patch.
Purple indicates Minsmere. 

If you click on the bird names in the list immediately below, you will be taken to the RSPB site about the species mentioned.

  1. Bar-tailed Godwit (1 bird, 9 January, Pin Mill) 
  2. Barn Owl (1 bird, 12 January, Minsmere) 
  3. Blackbird (1 bird, male, leucistic stripe, 8 January, home patch)
  4. Black-headed Gull (about 25, 3 January, Woodbridge)
  5. Blue tit (2 birds, 2 January, home patch) 
  6. Buzzard (1 bird, 11 January, near Eyke)
  7. Canada Goose (small flock, 9 January, Wherstead)
  8. Carrion Crow (about 20, 5 January, field near Leiston)
  9. Chaffinch (2 birds, 5 January, Minsmere)
  10. Collared Dove (1 bird, 5 January, up the lane from Minsmere reserve)
  11. Common Scoter (1 bird, 12 January, Minsmere) - red conservation status
  12. Cormorant (several, 4 and 5 January, Minsmere and Ipswich Waterfront)
  13. Curlew (2 birds, 19 January, Minsmere)
  14. Dunnock (1 bird, 5 January, Minsmere) 
  15. Egyptian Goose (4 birds, 1 February, near Lackford Lakes)
  16. Goldfinch (1 bird, 22 January, home patch)
  17. Great Northern Diver (1 bird, 16 January, Alton Water, Shotley Peninsula) 
  18. Great Spotted Woodpecker (1 bird, 27 January, home patch) 
  19. Great tit (2 birds, 4 January, home patch)
  20. Green Woodpecker (1 bird, 12 January, Minsmere)
  21. Greenfinch (7 birds, 5 January, Minsmere) 
  22. Grey Heron (1 bird flying over, 4 February, home patch) 
  23. Greylag Goose (small flock, 16 January, Wherstead)  
  24. House Sparrow (4 birds, 12 January, Minsmere)
  25. Herring Gull (1 bird, 3 January, Woodbridge) - red conservation status
  26. Jackdaw (4 birds, 1 February, Ickworth)
  27. Kestrel (2 birds, 5 January, Rendlesham)
  28. Lapwing (9 birds, 4 January, Woodbridge) - red conservation status
  29. Little Egret (1 bird, 27 January, home patch) 
  30. Long-tailed tit (3 birds, 2 January, home patch)
  31. Magpie (2 birds, 2 January, home patch) 
  32. Mallard (1 bird, 5 January, Minsmere) 
  33. Marsh Harrier (2 birds, 12 January, Minsmere)
  34. Moorhen (1 bird, 5 January, Minsmere)
  35. Mute Swan (2 birds, 3 January, Woodbridge) 
  36. Oystercatcher (1 bird, 16 January, Wherstead)
  37. Pheasant (1 female bird, 5 January, Minsmere)
  38. Pied Wagtail (1 bird, 15 January, Waterfront, Ipswich) 
  39. Redshank (2 birds, 9 January, Pin Mill) 
  40. Redwing (about 9 birds, 26 January, local hospital) - red conservation status
  41. Reed Bunting (2 birds, 19 January, Minsmere)
  42. Robin (1 bird, 1 January, home patch) 
  43. Shelduck (8 birds, 19 January, Minsmere) 
  44. Shoveler (2 birds. 19 Januray, Minsmere)
  45. Song Thrush (1 bird, ringed, 17 January, home patch) - red conservation status
  46. Teal (about 20 birds, 19 January, Minsmere) 
  47. Turnstone (15 birds, 3 January, Woodbridge)
  48. Wigeon (about 10 birds) 16 January, Wherstead)
  49. Wood Pigeon (11 birds, 4 January, home patch)
  50. Wren (1 bird, 8 January, home patch) 

Home Patch list for first sightings ...

  1. Blackbird (1 bird, male, leucistic stripe, 8 January)
  2. Blue tit (2 birds, 2 January)
  3. Chaffinch (1 bird, 8 January)
  4. Dunnock (1 bird, 8 January) 
  5. Great Spotted Woodpecker (1 bird, 27 January)
  6. Great tit (2 birds, 4 January)
  7. Greenfinch (1 bird, 8 January) 
  8. Grey Heron (1 bird flying over, 4 February)
  9. Little Egret (1 bird flying over, 27 January) 
  10. Long-tailed tit (3 birds, 2 January)
  11. Magpie (2 birds, 2 January)
  12. Robin (1 bird, 1 January) 
  13. Song Thrush (1 bird, 17 January, home patch, ringed) - red conservation status
  14. Starling (1 bird, 10 January)
  15. Wood Pigeon (11 birds, 4 January)
  16. Wren (1 bird, 8 January)

First wild mammals of 2014 ...
  1. Grey Squirrel (1, 12 January, Minsmere) 
  2. Fox (1, 1 February 2014, Lakenheath)
  3. Muntjac Deer (1 doe, 11 January, Rendlesham Forest) 
  4. Otter (2, 12 January, Minsmere)  
  5. Rabbit (several, 5 January, Minsmere) 
  6. Red Deer (2 does, 12 January, Minsmere)
  7. Stoat (1 fleetingly, 12 January, Minsmere)

First arachnids of 2014 ...
  1. Unidentified spider (8 January, home patch)  

First flies of 2014 ...
  1. Unidentified flies, ?Blue bottles (25 January, home patch)  

Monday 20 January 2014

Nature Reserves ~ Sunset at RSPB Minsmere

There were a few Teal dabbling as we watched from North Hide at Minsmere ...

... as the sun moved towards the horizon.

The Koniks (and here) were grazing peacefully ...

... and apart from the sound of the geese ...

... it was a very tranquil scene.

A pair of Mute Swans graced the far bank of the scrape.

Suddenly there was a flurry followed by a flutter of activity ...

... before peace returned. I love the bill in the reeds!

We saw a few Shoveler ...

... in winter plumage, like the one on the left.

Skeins of geese graced the sky as the cloud began to build.

Pastel shades of sunset highlighted my favourite line of trees ...

... providing a contrast with the vibrant light as we looked to the west. 

I couldn't resist a reflection ...

... knowing that dusk was upon us.

It was time to follow the example ...

... of the geese, and head for home.

Saturday 18 January 2014

Home Patch ~ A Thrush (with a ring)

We have had a visiting Thrush for some time now. I think it is a Song Thrush, but am not entirely sure. Mistle Thrushes are paler in colour and their speckles are almost black.

Song Thrushes are classed as Red in terms of their conservation status. 

As you can see, this this Thrush is sporting a ring. I had not spotted the ring until I saw these photos, which once again proves to me (whether the picture quality is good or not - and these photos were taken through double glazing) that my camera is a useful tool in my wildlife watching adventures.

It would be interesting to know where the bird was ringed and where it was last recorded. I was astonished to read on the British Trust for ornithology (BTO) site that 'over 900,000 birds are ringed in Britain and Ireland each year by over 2,600 trained ringers'

As you can see below, there was also a Blue tit in our silver birch. In fact, there was a small flock in the garden.

Thursday 16 January 2014

Beautiful Birds ~ Great Northern Diver quest, Alton Water

There have been reports (see here, for example) of a Great Northern Diver on Alton Water on the Shotley peninsula. I made my way over to the reservoir Water Park this afternoon to see what could be seen.

Some time later I left to come home, feeling that the main feature of my afternoon had been my first rainbow of 2014 ... or rather, a hat trick of three rainbows.

I read Arthur Ransome's tale, Great Northern, back in the summer. When I heard about the sightings of the Diver, I particularly hoped to see one here in Suffolk, Ransome's home county from 1935, when he left the Lake District.

There were a few people with binoculars at Alton Water Park who seemed to be on the lookout for the Diver, but I did not think I had been lucky on this occasion. The rainbows were magnificent against the winter sun and so were the Greenfinches (in the photo below), who were tucking into seeds provided by the Water Park staff. There were also a good number of Chaffinches about.

On my journey out to Alton Water, I had spotted an Oystercatcher at Wherstead; and on my way home, I pulled in to watch a flock of Greylag geese and a small gathering of ducks which I think are Wigeon.

Later, when I uploaded my photos, it began to dawn on me that perhaps I had been more vigilant this afternoon than I had realised. What I had clicked away at in great haste and had then dismissed as a Cormorant (it dived and disappeared along the edge of the reservoir with great speed) may well have been the Diver after all. I only have one poor shot ... but take a look below and see what you think. My hunch is that it is a juvenile and that it is definitely not a Cormorant: for a start the bill does not tip downwards.

In my wildlife watching there has only ever been one other occasion when I came home feeling a little disappointed, only to find something unexpected in my photographs ... and that occasion was when I was in Greece, looking out for Caretta caretta, the sea turtle.  

Monday 13 January 2014

RSPB Minsmere ~ Otters and Marsh Harriers

We had barely sat down in the hide at RSPB Minsmere when we saw this Marsh Harrier coursing the marsh ...

... in the fading sunlight.

An eerie juxtaposition: the stately Marsh Harrier flying in front of Sizewell Nucear Power Station.

Swans were flying inland towards Island mere ...

... while the Harrier kept turning and swooping,

hovering and lifting ...

hovering ...

... and soaring.

Suddenly there were two ...

... followed by two Red Deer does.
This little dyke seemed pretty still ...

... when all of a sudden there was the flick of a tail ...

... and the telltale ring of bright water

It became apparent that there were two Otters swimming backwards and forwards.

Every so often a dark shape would emerge ...

... and at one point this Otter swam across with a fish in its mouth.

Such a magnificent sight, and one I have never seen at Minsmere before ...

... though we kept looking in the hope that it was only a matter of time.

What fabulous creatures!

Soon there was a scuffle and a ripple ... and the otters disappeared. 

But there was one last surprise in store ...

... our first Common Scoter (a drake).

This is such a magnificent reserve ...

... with its history (chapel remains of the former Leiston Abbey), Harriers ...

... and swathes of East Anglian light.