Tuesday, 21 January 2020

More from Mums' garden


I spent a bit more time in Mums' garden today, the light the last couple of days has been pretty good for photography even if the mornings have had a hard sharp frost. 

Great Tit
 The Goldcrest visited a couple more times, and again let me creep quite close....




Both male and female Great Spotted Woodpeckers have been visiting the bird feeders for several weeks. It is coming up to the start of their breeding season and hormones are in the air. Every time the male chases the female off but then starts 'pecking' against a tree branch or trunk, a sign that he is trying to attract a female to his territory. On one day last week Mum and I saw four Great Spotted Woodpeckers in the garden at the same time, but the resident male soon saw off the other three. Today a pair were chasing each other around the next door neighbours birch tree, and this was the only photo I managed to grab....


There are at least two Robins frequenting the back garden. The other one has a leg ring which I've not yet managed to read...


A nice pleasant surprise was finding this Honey Bee warming up in the sun....


Red Kites in this area are a common sight, and we often see several over the back garden and swooping low over the field at the end of the garden. I watched one calling for a while and followed it as it landed in one of the tall trees that seperate the back of the field from the canal.

 There was another Kite already in the tree, and it immediately adopted the 'mating' position where the front is bowed down low. I missed that photo opportunity, but had my camera ready should they mate. They didn't and I did wonder if it is a bit early for mating, but the displays I was watching tells me it wont be long. The first bird eventually flew off and settled at the top of another tall tree, and both birds continued to call that wonderful eerie 'mew' 





Because of the vicinity of the back garden, backing onto a field that runs alongside the Grand Union Canal, we do see a good variety of birds. Today the pair of Stock Doves visited again, along with a pair of Collared Doves.
I really like Stock Doves. They're very attractive with their grey bodies and flashy green patch and beady black eyes. At home I only ever see these birds in Cranford Park Woods so it was lovely to observe them, even if it was through glass...
All three photos below were taken from a very odd angle through the glass patio doors....




A Reed Bunting also briefly visited but I wasn't fast enough to catch a photo. 

Below are a few photos that I forgot to post from the 27th December, also of the back garden. This was when the winter flowering daphne had just started to really bloom and I was testing some of my camera settings.....










Monday, 20 January 2020

Blue and gold in Mums' back garden


Due to the usual 'winter lurgy' I haven't been out much with the camera recently. I did plan on going to Maple Lodge NR this morning but the hourly coach didn't turn up. So I spent a few hours in my Mums' back garden. 

The daphne has been looking really colourful for a few weeks now, and the Blue Tits favour this shrub to perch in before going to the nearby bird feeders. I really wanted a nice colourful photo of a Blue Tit amongst the pink of the daphne but it was harder work than I thought it would be.....













There has been a tiny Goldcrest visiting the garden for several days. Although they are primarily insect feeders, it does seem to be attracted to the spilt food from the bird feeders and constantly pecks around the same area around the pots. Surprisingly this individual is quite approachable, so long as you don't move too quickly. Hopefully I'll get some better shots soon....











The back garden does seem to attract a really nice wide range of birds, so hopefully there will be plenty to 'tick' for the Big Garden Birdwatch 2020 which falls on the dates 25th to 27th January. So far in the last couple of weeks we have seen a Sparrowhawk, Reed Bunting, Stock Doves, Collared Doves, Long-tailed Tits, Goldfinches and more. 

Sunday, 5 January 2020

Overdue visit to the London Wetland Centre

I was at the London Wetland Centre today, a very long overdue visit and a chance to meet up with some old friends. 

A female Goldeneye was our first 'find', lovely and close to the hide....




We also had some cracking views of a Water Pipit thanks to the guys that had their scopes up in the Peacock Tower, but way too far away for my camera to focus on. 

Even though there are a reported three Bitterns on site, we couldn't see any of them. The water level is pretty high at the moment so they were probably hunkered deep in the reedbeds feeding. 

We also had a distant view of both of the Fulham and Barnes peregrines perched on the hospital they call home. 

The Headley hide gave up some lovely close views of Tufted Duck and Wigeon



And right in front of the hide a Sparrowhawk was patiently scanning the view. Sadly the only pics I could get were through glass so not very sharp. 


No more photos today, the light was awful and to be honest I spent more time catching up with old friends than I did bird watching. 

A very well needed day out with like-minded company. 

Thank you Phil, Joe, Martin, Nathalie, Stella, Sue, Keith and Duncan. 
Cannot wait to see your pics Duncan :) 

Saturday, 21 December 2019

Mrs King and Mr Kes at Cranford Park

On Wednesday I was at the park for a short visit with a good friend of mine, Nathalie (the godmother of the Fulham and Barnes peregrines, Tom and Flame ). We walked up and down the river, and I was really hoping two of the birds I've been watching recently, would be in their usual predictable perches. 

The female Kestrel was in her usual perch on one of the taller trees on the river bank, and as we watched she suddenly swooped down in front of us into the undergrowth on the bank we were standing on. Seconds later she came out with prey, which she proceeded to tear apart on the path just ahead of us. I didn't have my camera but Nathalie did, and this is one of the photos she took....

photo by Nathalie Mahieu 

We saw the Kingfisher several times, always along the same stretch of the river between the M4 viaduct and the Iron Bridge. As I've said before, one of the Kingfishers preferred perch is the grate at the M4 viaduct, and she didn't disappoint on Wednesday. In fact she positively posed ! And again I silently kicked myself for not having my camera. Below is one of Nathalie's pics...

photo by Nathalie Mahieu

This morning I was back at the park to hopefully capture Mrs Kingfisher in the same place but this is the sight that greeted me....


This is the grate by the M4 viaduct. The water level is very very high after all of this rain, and the banks had burst in several places. So I didn't get to see Mrs King in her favoured perch......but I did manage to see her later on...….

Also on Wednesday, Nathalie found this pellet on one of the twigs of the oak tree where the Fly Agaric fruited a few weeks ago. 


We were both fairly confident this is a Kestrel pellet. When I gently broke it apart there were hardly any bone fragments, just lots of short hairs and fur. However I wanted confirmation so I posted the photo on the UK Bird Identifcation Facebook page and the jury is out. Half the group think it is Kestrel and the other half think it is Little Owl. In Little Owl pellets I would expect to find insect casings and small bone fragments, but as a few people on the facebook group pointed out, the Little Owl may have decided to have a rodent snack instead that day.

Today I arrived at the park as it was raining but luckily for me, the clouds soon cleared and I had a lovely wander around Cranford Woods. The photo below shows just a fraction of all the mistletoe that's dotted around the woods. It is pretty amazing to think that every clump was accidentally placed there by a bird. 


Either love them or hate them, Ring-necked Parakeets certainly look handsome when the light is right...


Back at the river I checked Mrs Kestrels favourite perch and found Mr Kestrel instead. I have had to considerably lighten the photo as he was sitting quite far back against the sun....


I watched as he took off and flew above my head and landed in a much better place for me. It's almost as if he read my mind.....handsome chap isn't he ? 


I didn't get to see Mrs Kestrel at all today.

The Kingfisher, who Nathalie and I confirmed was a female, was whizzing up and down the river the whole time I was there. As the 'grate perch' was out of action, she tended today to stay mid way between the two bridges and I watched her successfully catch at least three fish.

Sometimes she was hard to get my camera to focus on with all the twiggy branches around, but I managed a few...



A dog walker was also fascinated by her almost 'bold' behaviour and we watched her for over ten minutes perched in the same place in the open.....





Also seen today but not photographed was a Sparrowhawk, probably a female given the huge size of her, a Red Kite, a large mixed flock of Long-tailed Tits, Blue Tits, Goldcrests and Great Tits, and a distant view of the Little Egret by Frogs Ditch. 

This will be my last blog before Christmas, so here is a seasonal Robin to end my blog post with....


Merry Christmas to all of you, and I hope you all have a great one with family, friends, food and drink.