Saturday, 26 January 2013

Two garden Waxwings today

At first ligh, déjà vu, with the Waxwing back up on the Larch preening in the sun.  An hour later it was feeding with a second bird on the hips very close to our patio doors. Too close to photograph without scaring it away. With the sun shining I thought I'd try and photograph the eight Stock Doves that had been visiting the garden the previous week, but no such luck as the sky crackled to pheasant shoot gunfire; the garden was mostly birdless. Fieldfares and Redwings are abundant at the moment with many still visiting the garden and large flocks frequently flying over.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Posy Fieldfare and Starling

Last week's snow gave us a daily list of exciting winter birds feeding in the garden. The most fun and charasmatic bird has to be the Fieldfares.
As is there nature, Fieldfares zealously guard any garden bird table or feeding area especially if apples are on the menu. They can also be quite tame; I swear our bird below squawls at us for more apples.
Our birds are typical Fieldfares, chasing off Blackbirds and each other out of the garden. When the snow was on the ground (it has since melted), the local Starlings also fed on the apples chasing off all intruders and giving the Fieldfares a taste of their own medicine.

Don't let me leave the impression of sunshine, the never-ending grim skies meant I had to use flash for these pictures.

Too tough for the Fieldfares to scare off, this Starling still has its black winter bill colour.

Garden Waxwing - finally finds the Rose hips

Waxwing - image taken through the kitchen window
 For more years than I can remember, I've been letting wild Rose spread and grow in height, climbing over any ornamental shrub in its way. In blossom and in fruit it looks stunning, that's as long as you like a wildlidfe garden. With dreams of Waxwings and Fieldfares feeding on the garden Rose-hips, this year's berry crop, not touched all winter, looked to remain just that.. .. until today.

Pulling the bedroom curtains open this morning, sitting at eye-level at the top of the garden Larch was a fine male Waxwing. After a few minutes preening, it dropped down into the rose hips. What joy!
It quickly devoured no more than three buds then flew back up to preen in the trees.

An hour later, the Waxwing finally made it to the wild Roses at the back of the garden, landing just outside the kitchen window to pose for just a few pictures.

The flocks of Waxwings I saw before Christmas were ravenous feeders, stripping Hawthorns of berries as fast as they could. By contrast this solitary Waxwing seemed to have all the time in the world to leisurely knock back a few Hips and then preen. Perhaps, this lovely male has some spring courtship on its mind.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Winter visitors and the first snow of the year

Plenty of Fieldfares along Hornash Lane at the moment, and this one has taken up residence in the garden.

The first real winter weather arrived last Saturday, and compared to the weather forecast, brought a rather underwhelming amount of snow. It carpeted the garden with perhaps an inch and froze the ground and ponds with it. Frustratingly, not enough to close my boys' school (as certain people here wished), but enough to bring plenty of birds in to the garden and in a variety that will not be matched when the weather subsides.

So, two Fieldfares have been driving out our Blackbirds and hoarding apples. Rather pathetically, the bolshy Starlings easily fight off these much bigger intruders, leaving the Fieldfares to carry on chasing the hapless Blackbirds trying to keep their pride in store.

Further down the garden and minding their own business, two Mistle Thrushes are pulling Rose hip berries down from straddling branches, too thin and prickly to perch on. On the lawn, there is a mixed flock of Yellowhammers (7), Chaffinches (20) and House Sparrows (60) that together feed and watch out for our local Sparrowhawk. They are sharing seed with one Red legged Partridge, half a dozen Pheasants, Collared Doves and the odd Jay and Jackdaw.

The seed we have scattered on the lawn is also bringing in a troop of Wood Pigeons, accompanied by up to five Stock Doves. As I've mentioned in an earlier post the Stock Doves are the highlight, we've never had them coming into the garden regularly before. On the garden boundaries where the snow has thawed, Redwings and Song Thrushes and a Green woodpecker are going about there business trawling through leaf litter. Up in the trees, GS woodpecker are drumming away and occasionally coming down for fatballs. Coal, Blue, and Great Tits with Nuthatch and Greenfinch are frequent at the feeders - the cold weather and the winter bird bonazza will hopefully re-occur soon.

It might be winter, but Blue Tits are now looking at their best sporting some electric head gear

Having just seen off the Fieldfare it's time for some apple munching
Two of a group of five Stock Doves. They're very flighly, and this is as close as I can get at the moment.

Friday, 18 January 2013

Three village Little Egrets

Unintentionally flushed  by dog walkers, the birds quickly return to the stream or sit-it-out in the field
Two of the three birds viewable by the stream by the Shadoxhurst football pitch
Winter Little Egrets have become a not uncommon sight around the village in recent years. At the moment we have three birds all using the same stream which, crucially, in this present cold spell, has running water preventing it from freezing.

The stream has steep sides and shallow water and the Little Egrets are probably feeding on Water crickets and Sticklebacks which occasionally can be seen in the few clear areas of open water.

Much of the ditch is choked in undergrowth and it's hard to imagine it being much of a wildlife refuse, and yet in the past it has held Water Voles and the occasional sighting of a kingfisher.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

An early year Sparrowhawk display

Into the sun  - a composite of 5 poor images of today's Sparrowhawk display.
At sunrise today, in brilliant sunshine high in the sky, a local female Sparrowhawk patrolled back and forth across the village making small stoops and climbs as she flew. When the bird lifted her wing high in display, it gave the appearance of a longer winged bird - more like a small Harrier.

Every spring I love to watch Sparrowhawks doing this, and its quite a bonus to see so early in the year.

I've photographed Spaarrowhawks' displaying before -

Further afield, seven Marsh Harriers into roost at Walland Marsh, a fly-over Peregrine and two Buzzards to enjoy last night. In the reed bed, Bearded Tits and Water Rail called but were not to be seen.

Last Harrier into roost on Walland Marsh

About to flush a flock of Teal, an evening's dash by a Peregrine

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Great Northern Diver in Scunthorpe

Great Northern Diver, about to make a very late dive to avoid the New year's day Jet-skiers

Back in my home town, a Great Northern Diver has been hanging around Ashbyville Lake for a week or so now. Despite the steelworks backdrop and lakeside jet-skiers narrowly missing squashing it, the bird seems in no rush to move on, much to the admiration of many visiting birders, myself included.
 Tata Steelworks overlooking Ashbyville Lake

Muscovy Duck, one of a pair by the lakeside showing-off in front of the G.N. Diver admirers