Monday 29 February 2016

Greenfinches at Alton Water

We went for a drive yesterday afternoon to Alton Water on the Shotley peninsula. As you can see, this stretch of water is a reservoir. It is managed as a leisure park for those who wish to walk, sail or do a spot of birding.

I was particularly pleased to see that the wardens have placed bird feeders in front of the Blue Badge parking area, providing interest for those who park in these bays.

It was lovely to see Greenfinches, a bird I have not seen in our own Suffolk garden (on the other side of the river Orwell) for some years. These beautiful birds have been badly affected by Trichomonosis in recent times, and this may be the reason.   

With Great tit in flight on left

I noted Chaffinches, Blackbirds, Blue tits, Great tits, Wood Pigeons and a Wren in addition to the Greenfinches. Unfortunately the feeders were in a shady area under the trees, and I had my camera on the wrong setting, so my photos are far from brilliant. But never mind, they are fine as record shots, reminding me of an early spring afternoon.

We drove on to Shotley at the end of the peninsula to look across to Felixstowe and Harwich in the glowing light of early evening, enjoying skeins of geese, a pair of Mallards and the call of Oystercatchers. 

View from Shotley

Thursday 25 February 2016

Visit from a Sparrowhawk ...

Two amber eyes confronted me this afternoon as I peered out of the window.  

The male Sparrowhawk was back.

I believe this species is one of Chris Packham's favourites (and fine birds they are indeed), but my immediate concern was for the small birds that come to our garden to feed - the Long-tailed tits and Blue tits in particular. There is also a Wren, but (s)he keeps a very low profile.

The RSPB have a helpful section on their site for those like me who feel a certain ambivalence over the arrival at close quarters of a 'top predator'.

Sparrowhawks rarely hang around here for long and I was glad that my camera was to hand.

I was separated from the bird by our double glazing, 
so the photographs are not the best, but it is always good to have a record. 

I can't be entirely sure, but, unlike one of the Long-tailed tits,
I don't think this bird has been ringed.

This seems to be the time of year
when these birds of prey seem most likely to arrive in our garden.

I see previous visits were noted
on 5 March 2015 and 20th March 2013,
though I have also recorded sightings
in the months of May and July.

Monday 22 February 2016

Frogspawn in Felixstowe - our first sighting in 2016

David took these photographs of frogspawn in Felixstowe yesterday. This is a first sighting for us in 2016.

Fair Acre Press have been running the Maligned Species project, and frogs are one of the four species that constitute the project.

You can buy the Fair Acre eBook of poetry about frogs here.

You can listen to the Fair Acre podcast on the Common Frog here.

Thursday 18 February 2016

Bird leaves Imprint on Glass Window

We woke to another frosty morning yesterday, but it was not only the frost that had left its mark. As you can see, it looks as though a bird collided with the glass in our sliding door. I have only seen these imprints on a couple of previous occasions. One was on the window at a house in Swansea, and was clearly made by a large bird, perhaps an owl.

I was relieved that there was no other evidence of yesterday's accident, but I have no means of knowing if any real damage was done. Judging by the size of the imprint (something that the photo does not show well), I would guess that the bird was about pigeon-sized.

These imprints or images seem (in many cases) to be caused by 'powder down', which you can read about here - or, if your server allows access, here.

Richard Heeks began a Flickr group for sightings of bird imprints. He suggests that head-on images may be caused by birds who mistake their own reflection for a rival or enemy. I have certainly watched a Blue tit pecking away at its reflected self in my wing mirror.

Here is some sound advice from the RSPB: it looks as though we need to buy some hawk silhouettes.

 The photos below show the frost, which looked rather beautiful in the morning light.

Friday 12 February 2016

After last night's frost ...

There have been two Robins in the garden this morning. This one is busy collecting leaves ...

... for her nest. We even had a pair of Jays yesterday: spring must be nearly here!

This Silver Birch twig makes the perfect perch.
I had not see the female Great Spotted Woodpecker since the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch ...

... so it was good to watch her feeding a few minutes ago.

Other birds seem to give way to the male Woodpecker, but the tiny Blue tit was not perturbed by the female.

We have not see a Sparrow here for some time, but the Dunnocks are regular visitors. 

All these photos were taken with a zoom lens through a glass door. Robins do not like to be disturbed when they are preparing their nests!

Monday 8 February 2016

Tree Following - January and early February 2016

 Welcome to my Tree Following post for January and early February 2016. 

These tree posts form part of a wider project initiated by Lucy Corrander from the Loose and Leafy blog and continued by Pat at The Squirrelbasket. May I express my thanks to you both.

I am based in Suffolk, UK, where I have been keeping an eye on an Acer negundo (aka a Box-leaf Maple). I am also continuing to watch my Silver birch, B. pendula. Those of you who have read my previous posts will know that I love following the Silver Birch; but, for some slightly indefinable reason, I have not found the Acer negundo a very rewarding tree to follow. I may exchange it for a small flowering cherry sapling that we were given four years ago. I will let you know my thoughts on the matter in a month's time! 

You will find the other Tree Follower links by clicking the Mr Linky link here ... so do take the chance to have a look at these new posts!

Once again, the main activity this last month concerns the birds who live around my home patch. Many of them showed up on cue - in, on, around or under the Silver Birch - during the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. You will find my report here.

Since my last TF post, I have noted the following ...

  • The feisty Robin (and another Robin)
  • Blue tits, a large cluster
  • Great tits, again a good number of these
  • Long-tailed tits, always in a small group
  • Starlings, every so often
  • Blackbird, around the tree, rather than on it
  • Magpies
  • Wood pigeons, the usual suspects 
  • Carrion Crows, three noisy ones!
  • Greater Spotted Woodpecker - a male and a female
  • Bullfinch, male - seen once during its brief spell in our patch
  • Grey Heron, seen overhead twice, going in opposite directions
  • Sparrowhawk, which flew past the Silver Birch and on over the fence
  • Goldfinches, a large charm
  • Collared Doves, a pair 
  • Jay, a few days before the Birdwatch.

There has also been a Grey Squirrel, who is perching precariously at the top of the Silver Birch as I type. A large black and white cat has visited the base of the Silver Birch on occasions, leaping up at a Magpie who was hovering by the coconut feeders.

On the insect front, I have one early moth to report, but it flew off before I was able to identify it or take its photograph. I also watched a queen Buff-tailed Bumblebee fly past the Silver Birch, and I gather from friends on Facebook that there have been other sightings of these bees during the past month.

And now for a few photos for this month ...

Silver Birch - this morning

Slow signs of spring (Silver Birch)

Acer negundo, looking pretty wintry still

Great spotted Woodpecker, male

You can see his back-of-the-nape red band very clearly
The Grey Squirrel managed to knock the lump of fat (with berries) to the ground ...

... ate as much as it could, and managed with some difficulty to carry the remains over the fence.

One of the Dunnocks at the foot of the Silver Birch

Blue tits feeding in peace

One of the Starlings
Above and below: Magpie (before the cat leaped up)


I mentioned in January that I would post my full TF species list once again this month. I shall probably continue to do this every other month or at intervals as it is becoming rather long! Here it is:

(Largely) Silver Birch Sighting Update
The few Acer negundo entries have been marked as such.    

Avian sightings (on, in and around the Silver Birch, seen at any time since I began the Tree Following project over a year ago) are shown in pink.

I have marked the 'wild things' seen during this last month in yellow.

To date, the only birds seen on the Acer negundo are TFb13 Goldfinch and  TFb19  Chaffinch

  • TFb1   Great Spotted Woodpecker (a male and female)
  • TFb2   Great tit (several, often on feeder) 
  • TFb3   Long-tailed Tit (large family, including juveniles)
  • TFb4   Blackbird
  • TFb5   Song Thrush   
  • TFb6   Blue tit (several frequently on feeder)
  • TFb7   Robin (the feisty Robin has put in frequent appearances)
  • TFb8   Magpie
  • TFb9   Wood Pigeon (up to ten perching around the feeder area)
  • TFb10 Dunnock (two occasionally below the feeder)  
  • TFb11 Starling (one or two)
  • TFb12 Carrion Crow 
  • TFb13 Goldfinch 
  • TFb14 Jay
  • TFb15  Green Woodpecker
  • TFb16  Wren 
  • TFb17  Bullfinch (a single visit from a male)
  • TFb18  Sparrowhawk
  • TFb19  Mallard
  • TFb20  House Sparrow
  • TFb21  Chaffinch
New bird species this month ...

  • TFb22 Grey Heron (I have seen these in our home patch before, but apparently not since the start of my Tree Following observations. There is a stream in the local nature reserve at the back of our garden, so we see these birds occasionally). 
  • TFb23 Collared Dove (a pair)

Mammal sightings include ...

  • TFm1 (?Wood) Mouse
  • TFm2 Bat ... first 2015 garden sighting 7 May 2015 [Apr/May 2015]
  • TFm3 Shrew
  • TFm4 Grey Squirrel (high up on the Silver Birch) [Jan/Feb 2016]
  • TFm5 Stoat
  • TFm6 Hedgehog, a single sighting 
 No new mammals this month.

Insect sightings include ...

  • TFi1 Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly [March 2014]
  • TFi2 Buff-tailed Bumblebee [March 2014] [Jan/Feb 2016]
  • TFi3 Brimstone Butterfly [April 2014]
  • TFi4 7-spot Ladybird [April 2014] [October 2014] [Apr/May 2015] [Jul/Aug 2015] [Sept/Oct 2015]
  • TFi5 Skipper Butterfly [July 2014]
  • TFi6 Meadow Brown Butterfly [July 2014] [Jul/Aug 2015]
  • TFi7 Large White Butterfly [July 2014]
  • TFi8 14-spot Yellow Ladybirds [July 2014]
  • TFi9 Small White Butterfly [May 2014] [Apr/May 2015] [Sept/Oct 2015 - caterpillars]
  • TFi10 Orange tip Butterfly [May 2014]
  • TFi11 Harlequin ladybird  [May 2014] [October 2014] [Sept/Oct 2015 - on three on Acer negundo!]
  • TFi12 Garden Chafer (Phyllopertha horticola) [June 2014] 
  • TFi13 Ruby-tail Wasp [June 2014] [May/June 2015]
  • TFi14 Blackfly [June 2014
  • TFi15 Marmalade Hoverfly [July 2014] [Jul/Aug 2015]
  • TFi16 Shield bug [July 2014] [Apr/May 2015]
  • TFi17 Migrant Hawker dragonflies [July 2014]
  • TFi18 Unidentified Damselfly [August 2014]
  • TFi19 Comma butterfly [August 2014]
  • TFi20 Red Admiral butterfly [August 2014] [October 2014] [Jul/Aug 2015]
  • TFi21 Peacock butterfly [August 2014] [Jul/Aug 2015] [Nov/Dec 2015] - flew past window
  • TFi22 Green bottle flies [August 2014] [May/June 2015]
  • TFi23 Ants [August 2014] [Apr/May 2015]  [May/June 2015] [Jul/Aug 2015] [Sept/Oct 2015 Acer negundo]
  • TFi24 Squashbug aka Dock Bug, Coreus marginatus [August 2014]
  • TFi25 Birch Shieldbug (late instar?) [September 2014]
  • TFi26 Lacewing [October 2014] [Sept/Oct 2015]
  • TFi27 Cereal Leaf Beetle [Apr/May 2015]
  • TFi28 Unidentified Moth [Nov/Dec 2014] [Feb/Mar 2015] [Jul/Aug 2015] [Sept/Oct 2015]
    [Jan/Feb 2016]
  • TFi29 Rosemary Beetle [[Sept/Oct 2015]
  • TFi30 Hawthorn Shieldbug [May/June 2015] 
  • TFi31 Forest Shieldbug (Pentatoma rufipes) [Sept/Oct 2015] 
 No new insects this month.  


 No new insects this month. 

And finally ...


Monday 1 February 2016

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2016 - Results

My count, 2016

The four Long-tailed tits

Great Spotted Woodpecker (female, no red on nape of neck)
Up and away ...

We were thrilled to have both the male and female Great Spotted Woodpeckers during the hour.

The usual suspects who failed to show up were ...
  • the Wren
  • the Starlings
  • the Goldfinches

Still on the subject of birds, it is worth noting that a couple of days in advance of the survey we had a Sparrowhawk. A Grey Heron flew over on Sunday, but would not have been counted as it did not touch down. The Chaffinch (just one) showed up minutes after the hour was up ... and a magnificent male Bullfinch was noted this afternoon.

I also logged the Grey Squirrel as a regular visitor on my count in the 'other wildlife/mammals' section - and the Stoat and Hedgehog as rare garden sightings.

The current statistics on the RSPB site are as follows:

Surveys submitted: 150295
People who have taken part: 231756
Birds spotted: 4696305

It will be fascinating to see the final numbers and the trends that develop. You can see my 2015 count here