Saturday 28 January 2017

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2017

The photo above shows one of the feisty Robins, and one of the first birds to clock-in to the count.

At this point I would like to point to the RSPB's rationale behind the Bird Count: facts and figures can be fun (or not), but this key annual survey began with a purpose in mind, as you will see if you click this link. You might also find this page helpful, which mentions the conservation status that can be assessed for individual species when numbers are known and charted.

I did the bird survey between noon and 13.00 hours this morning, about an hour later than a year ago and I sense the later time produced fewer results. My hunch is that the birds in our Suffolk garden are active early in the morning and shortly before dusk.

So who failed to show up? Well, the Wren, the Starlings, most of the Magpies, the Jay, the Great spotted Woodpecker (who has not been around often of late) - and a fine male Bullfinch who was here yesterday.

Sadly the Greenfinches who were around when we moved in four years ago are rarely seen. The lone Redwing was here a few days ago.

As for the survey section on 'other wildlife', I was able to to say that I have seen stag beetles, foxes, hedgehogs and a stoat 'less than monthly' in the last year here in the garden. There was not a box for the Grey Squirrel who comes to the berry-and-fat feeder most days.

I wonder how your surveying went - or will go if you have yet to take part before the end of this weekend. My results have been submitted to the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch site.

I see I got seven this year out of the top ten birds on last year's list.

These are a few of the other birds who put in an appearance today...

Female Blackbird

Blue tit

Great tit

Long-tailed tit

And here is the one who got away (by showing up a day early)...

male Bullfinch

Wednesday 25 January 2017

Gold(finches) for a Grey Day

All these photos were taken in poor conditions through double glazing - sorry!

 What a grey day. 

The car thermometer registered two degrees, but it felt more like zero in the damp air and relatively thick fog. It has been a good day for bird sightings. Thus far I have spotted the following...
  • a charm of 19+ Goldfinches on the Silver Birch, presumably feeding off its winged seeds.
  • One Starling on the coconut fat-feeder
  • Several Blue tits
  • At least two female Blackbirds, and a male on the coconut fat-feeder
  • A Wren among the dead stems near the window
  • A couple of Great tits on the feeder
  • At least a couple of Long-tailed tits on the feeder
  • At least five Wood Pigeons
  • A Robin
  • A Magpie on the next roof

I wonder why we see so few Chaffinches here. As I was tidying up this post a flock of about 20 Crows flew past, presumably in advance of the evening's roost.

I am hoping that some of these species will stay to be counted in the forthcoming RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch this weekend.

Incidentally, a few Waxwings apparently made a brief appearance less than a mile up the road earlier this morning...

Saturday 21 January 2017

Shingle Street - What No Owls?

There are times when you learn as much about wildlife by failing to see something (and sadly the crab above will never again see out of these vacant eye sockets) as by spotting a bird or animal successfully at a given place.

We have been on a Short-Eared Owl quest for some weeks, having enjoyed wonderful photos taken by others of this bird we have yet to see for the first time. Once again it eluded us this afternoon.

But the desire to look made us go out in the cold to see what was about. We noticed a few Cormorants in formation and a Little Egret in a brackish stream. There were gulls and corvids.

We scanned the sea at Shingle Street for seals, but there were no seal heads bobbing about today. However, there are always unexpected treasures on a beach... such as the mermaid's purse, the oyster shell and whelk in the pictures below.

Shingle Street is an evocative place, out on 'the edge'. It was particularly eerie this afternoon with the fading light, the empty shore and above all the tolling of the bell. But this was not Dunwich where some are sure that they have heard the bells from the succession of churches claimed by the tide. This bell off Shingle Street resides in the buoy in the next photo, warning all within earshot of the perilous Orfordness sandbanks. It brought to mind words from a poem I encountered at school many years ago, 'The Inchcape Rock', by Robert Southey. Here is the verse that rang in my ear:

The Abbot of Aberbrothok
Had placed that bell on the Inchcape Rock;
On a buoy in the storm it floated and swung,
And over the waves its warning rung.

You can read more about the Inchcape Rock and the lighthouse here. The poignant fact, from my point of view, is that while Inchcape is many miles from here, off the east coast of Scotland, the distinctive red and white lighthouse at Orfordness, recently abandoned to its watery fate, can still be seen from Shingle Street. 

We waited for the sun to set, then turned for home, passing a couple of deer on the way.

The photo above shows the shoreline and the one below, the flat meadow and marsh on the landward side of the Shingle Street lane. 

Friday 20 January 2017

A 'First' Garden Sighting - Redwing (I think...)

I looked out of my window this afternoon just before sunset and noticed an unusual bird on the branches of the Acer negundo, which rarely attracts avian life. 

Wondering if it could be a Redwing, I grabbed my camera and was able to take three record shots through the double glazing before it flew off. I apologise for the quality, but I think the photos show a solitary Redwing (unless you can advise me of some other ID) - a 'first' in my home patch; and, in fact, my first migratory Redwing of the year. There is a clear superciliary stripe and just a hint of the characteristic russet colour around the wing area on the photo above. You can see a few stray berries in the background which had perhaps lured the bird into our garden in the first place.   

I note from the RSPB website that Redwing have been given Red conservation status. I had never seen these birds before we moved to Suffolk five years ago. 

Thursday 19 January 2017

Bullfinch in the Garden

This fine male Bullfinch landed in our garden just over a week ago. There were rustlings and I suspect there was a second (probably female) bird out of sight. The photo was taken through glass on a rather dark day, so apologies for the lack of clarity.

We usually have a couple of garden sightings a year, particularly when there is blossom on the trees. I see from a previous Tree Following post that I recorded a Bullfinch in my home patch in the first part of 2016. Perhaps the bird above was finding some early buds. Bullfinches have been classed 'amber' in terms of conservation status.

Don't forget (reminder to self!) to register for the forthcoming RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch, which takes place over the weekend of 28th and 29th January.

Monday 9 January 2017

Wonderful Waxwings

All photos displayed in this post were taken on 8 Jan 2016

We have been following reports on the flight-paths of Waxwings in our local area for some days in the hope that we would eventually be in the same neck of the woods at the same time as one of these groups. As you can see, we were finally rewarded.

I have only ever seen Waxwings once before, and that was also in Suffolk at exactly the same time of the afternoon (if a month later) just as the last of the gloomy winter light was fading. We had been scouring the area for trees with berries, but I expect these had already been stripped bare. The Waxwings we saw were high up (and at some distance) in a leafless, berry-less tree. There were also a few Starlings.

One of these days perhaps we will be able to view the exquisite Waxwing in decent light! My photos are little more than record shots, but they are a happy reminder of a dreary afternoon in early January. I had so hoped to catch more of the distinctive flash of red - but I guess there is always next time.

And meanwhile, if you would like to see Waxwing photos taken by others, you could do worse than the Google Image display here.

Thursday 5 January 2017

Seals are Wild Animals

This afternoon we came across a couple of people watching over a Grey Seal pup, a 'white-coat' in its fluffy lanugo (suggesting an age of two weeks or thereabouts), on a Suffolk beach. They were keeping an eye on the pup and trying to ring for help.

I stood some distance away and ensured that dog owners restrained their pets in the vicinity.

David managed to get through to a local RSPCA representative, who said that a staff member would be sent to the beach. The couple stayed at their post, waiting for help to arrive, and we left them to their vigil once everything had been arranged.

I came back home to find that there had been an article in the Eastern Daily Press only yesterday, offering advice for those who find seal pups on their own. Please take a moment to read it.

Only two days before we had spotted a group of adult seals off the coast of Dunwich. These were some way out, and were splashing around individually and together, and belly-flopping in the water near a fishing vessel. It was a delight to take our binoculars and watch these wild animals behaving naturally.

Seals off Dunwich, 2017