Friday, 31 December 2010

Haw haw haw! [er...ho]

Yet another new species for the garden today! We arrived back from having seen almost nothing on the reserve, and there were two Hawfinches perched high in the trees on the east side of the garden - result. Also today, the Brambling record was well and truly smashed - 42 feeding on the lawn.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Coldest yet

It was SOOOOO cold yesterday morning - maximum of -9 degrees. Ouch. The early thrushes actually had hoar frost visible on their tail feathers.

The big wildlife news was actually on the reserve today, however. Five successive bitterly cold nights at the Lapwing Hide (punctuated only by a temporary scare with a Goosander which showed some featrues of Common Merganser) finally did the business - not one but TWO Blashfrd ticks. The minor one was a redhead Red-breasted Merganser in with the very distant Goosanders on the only open bit of water in the middle of the lake. But the major one was a new species for the reserve - a superb LONG-EARED OWL flew in from the left, perched briefly on the post in front of the hide, and then vanished into the darkness! Below is the world's worst photo of any bird. Clearly, all the necessary ID features are there for you to enjoy.....

Saturday, 25 December 2010

Christmas at The Willows

Christmas Day, and we're just back from a long walk around Ibsley and Rockford Commons - bitterly cold and still lots of snow (and more ice) on the ground, though a thaw is promised early next week. The birds certainly need it - lots of evidence of struggle against the elements in the last few days, not least in the garden.

Yesterday there was an absolute feeding frenzy - the birds have really hit panic stations with the snow turning to ice in the last couple of days, especially the thrushes. Absolute minima in a concentrated 10 minute garden watch were: Reed Bunting 14, Fieldfare 7, Redwing 5, Song Thrush 9, Mistle Thrush 2, Blackbird 18 (5 thrush species in a binocular view not 10 feet from the window - roll on that Naumann's....!), Chaffinch 35, Brambling 15, Greenfinch 25, Goldfinch 4, Redpoll 2, Robin 6, Blue Tit 10, Great Tit 6, Coal Tit 1, Long-tailed Tit 4, Starling 8, Nuthatch 1, Great Spotted Pecker 1, Wren 2, Dunnock 3 (there's a shock...), Jay 1, Rook 2, Jackdaw 2, Moorhen 2, Pheasant 1, Collared Dove 2, Wood Pigeon 1, plus Buzzard, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Gadwall, Mallard and Goosander as flyovers - blinding birding with hot coffee and a mince pie. And higher counts still at other times for some of those species, notably Brambling (22), Fieldfare (18) and Redwing (11).

By night, we've had Tawny Owl and Fox, plus a surprise visit from a mystery long-haired black cat, which put our lot on panic stations! We've also been able to do some slightly more serious photography in the garden - see below....


Blue Tit



Reed Bunting

Male Chaffinch

Female Chaffinch

Male Brambling

Mistle Thrush, defending his Cotoneaster stockpile


Song Thrush

Male Blackbird

Female Blackbird

Grey Squirrel

Arch-nemesis of all the above.
Actually, Fionnbharr never catches any birds!

The reserve has also been exciting of late - 4 Waxwing, a hunting Goshawk, a Raven near the Mute Swan carcass, but of course far less open water so fewer wildfowl. Goosander now at "only" about 130 at dusk (only!), and rather fewer gulls, although a higher proportion of Common Gulls, as ever in cold weather here. Still lots of Yellow-legged Gulls (mainly adults), and a really good look at an adult Caspian three nights ago - followed by not one but TWO adults the next evening, all from the Lapwing hide. And while looking fruitlessly for the Bittern at Ivy North yesterday, we managed to get great views (and a rubbish photo) of the two Bearded Tits which have been present for a week or two now:

The female Beardie at Ivy Lake

Wednesday, 15 December 2010


Snails Lake

The back garden

"Our" newly resident ponies at sunset

Snails Lane in the snow

Well, it's been more or less Arctic for about three weeks now, and more icy air is promised before this weekend. We've effectively battened down the hatches on doing anything in the garden - we've even had to postpone our tree and hedging delivery until (hopefully) it's a bit warmer in the new year.

Feeding the birds has been as productive as last year, or possibly more so - already plenty of Bramblings, Reed Buntings and even some Redwings and Fieldfares right close to the house, plus the usual other garden species. And in the last day or two, Redpolls have started appearing - just ones and two as yet, but this very morning we saw flocks of 72 and 50 within a mile or so of the house, so they're definitely increasing!

We're also keeping an eye open for a Great Grey Shrike which Bob Chapman saw flying onto the reserve from this direction yesterday! On the reserve itself, the numbers of wildfowl have been great, with over 200 Goosanders, over 1000 Gadwall, 100s of Greylags, carrying 5 White-fronts and a small race (possibly Dusky) Canada Goose, and even a redhead Smew for one day only - see here for full details! And a second-winter Iceland Gull a couple of weeks back in the evening roost was good - along with plenty of Yellow-legged Gulls every evening, and occasional sightings of the Caspian Gull, too. On the moth front, activity has ground (inevitably) almost to a complete halt, although a trap run on a fractionally milder night a few days ago did (predictably) collect December Moth (or, better, Eggar) and Dusky Thorn.

December Moth - a stunner! Note the festive berries....very artistic