Thursday, 28 February 2013

End of month bird count at Lake Farm and a little history lesson.

Spring is in the air !! The whole of the front of Lake Farm, where the toddlers  playground and Skylark statue are situated, is smothered in purple and yellow crocuses. These were planted by the local primary school back in 2000. They also planted daffodils to spell out 2000 but it will another month or so before I can see that again. The crocuses have naturalised really well. Ironically these bulbs are in part of the proposed new school building area !
It was a pleasant and quiet day at Lake Farm for the end of month bird count. It wasn't as cold as it had been recently, but there was still a bit of a chilly breeze, and the sun tried very hard to break through the clouds.
 As always I separated the site into four, and worked each quarter, adding tallys to my little book.
The Reed Buntings were, as usual, in the hedgerow running alongside Botwell Common Road. They were more active than when I last saw them eight days ago. A lot of the males were chasing each other around. I also flushed quite a few from low down in the long grasses, so there may have been more than I actually added to my total tally today. I'm not sure why they are hankering down in the long grasses, the breeze wasn't that strong, and it was fairly mild weather. But the ones I did see were vocal, and I got a total of nine birds today. The males definitely out numbered the females.
The Skylarks were even more vocal. And trying to photograph them is like trying to photograph Lord Lucan !! Impossible. Every time I heard one calling its raspy song, I tried to locate it without fail. Three birds seen in the air but I reckon I heard at least another five or six birds on the ground. Last year, as the weather got warmer, the Skylarks became more and more visible until I had my crowning moment in July when I managed to photograph a juvenile perched on a post. Fingers and talons crossed that I get the same this year.
Not one Stonechat could I find ! Such a comparison to January when I had guaranteed sightings of at least four every time I went to LF. There were also no Redwings or Fieldfares, and the Meadow Pipit that hung around for three or four days early on in February, has also gone.
The gull field had good numbers. Counted 49 birds, took photos and done my identifications from them. At least 12 Black-headed gulls, 34 Common gulls and 3 suspect Herring gulls of various juvenile plumage stages. I immediately thought of my friend Sue Barry, who came to LF with me on 20th Feb to see the gull field, and not one gull was there !! (but she did go away happy with sightings of Reedys and Skylark)
Other good numbers on site were the House Sparrows, at least 28 were in the scrubby hedgerow, Woodpigs, over 25 scattered over the site and singing Blue Tits, at least 13 were seen today, most of them in pairs. Magpies are also doing well, over 20 today, mainly in small groups but at least two pairs seen gathering twigs.
As well as the Reedys, Skylarks and Blue Tits singing, there were three Robins singing from various corners of the site. I'm surprised how low that number is. Lake Farm is almost 60 acres so I would have expected more numbers of Robins.
No Mistle Thrushes today and just one solo Song Thrush. Again, not quite the numbers I would expect to see at this time of year.
After doing my bird count I trotted off back to the front of the site to have a look at the resident feral pigeons. The numbers here exceed 50-60 some days, but some of the colours and plumage's are quite interesting. One bird stood out from all the others. It was pure white with dyed purple tail feathers and purple markings around its eyes. It has one blue plastic leg ring. Its fairly tame, and you can get quite close to it, but not close enough to pick it up. The ferals seem to have accepted it as one of their own. I emailed Sean Huggins, my LNHS point of contact, and he thinks its escaped from a private collection. Its not a racing pigeon, and as the ring is un-marked, its going to be very hard to locate its owner. I'm going to email the photos to a contact I have at the local paper. Maybe I can track down its owner, and hopefully ask why the bird is dyed and ringed.
female Reed Bunting
Long-tailed Tit
All in all not a bad day.

A few of my friends have queried why Lake Farm is called that, especially as its not a farm and doesn't have a lake. So here is a short history lesson.......

 Are you sitting comfortably ? Then I'll begin.......

The 60 acre site now known as Lake Farm, was originally part of the grounds to a house called Lake House, owned by the Shackle family and dating back to around 1840. It was called Lake House after a large ornamental man-made lake which used to lay just north east of the site as it is now. The lake was filled in back in 1954 for reasons unknown.

The site as it is now, was used by the Shackle family for making bricks back in 1850. This continued for some years and there are at least two recorded gravel pits on this site during this time.

I then have a huge gap in my research from 1850-1945. Its a work in progress, and I'll update on this blog as further information is found.

After the Second World War, the Lake Farm site was used for the testing of radar equipment for armoured vehicles. The company Thorn-EMI continued to use this site until 1991 though I cannot find out what that company used the site for. Some radar relics still remain on site.

If anyone can help me with more of the history of the site, please feel free to contact me. I have found a couple of areas on site in the winter months which puzzle me. One of them is a large flat concrete 'door' flush to the floor, with iron 'handles'. These are not easily seen during spring, summer and autumn when the grasses and scrub grow over them.

monument at the Dawley Road car park entrance
plaque from the above monument
So there ends my blog for today. A good bird count, a dyed purple dove and a call out for a historian. I'm off work tomorrow and hoping to get to another site in Kent, so having a couple of glasses of well deserved Echo Falls before an early night.

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

The day the Waxwings visited me at work......

Had a good last shift at work today. Weather was really overcast all morning, and I was kept busy in the office with paperwork and drivers. About lunchtime blue sky started showing, and as I'd been such a good Wino all morning, I took myself off for a break down to the paddocks to see my horsey chums. Nelson has become a bit of a bully towards me, he'll tug at my hi-vis jacket and nibble my arm. I read up on it and I'm completely at fault. Because I nearly always give him a carrot or pear when I see him, he now expects that all the time. Lesson learnt by moi, all the horses will now get one treat per day now, and I'll try to fit in as many visits without treats as well, so they don't just see me as an easy touch. Star and Stevie were as welcoming as ever, and new girl Kate is a little darling, so gentle that when she takes a pear from you, she'll take a small bite of it first, then take the rest out of the palm of your hand. Nelson just takes the whole pear.
I had my camera with me, and started taking snaps around the paddocks. Only a handful of Redwing and Fieldfare remain now, and they stay over the other side so no decent pics for me. I spotted three birds sitting on top of a tree on the far end of the paddocks, fired off a couple of pics, zoomed in on them, and found they were Waxwings ! Could only see these three birds, but apart from a brief sighting back in late November when five flew over the yard, this was the first time I'd seen them at work. Upside was they were very stationary, downside was there was two fences between me and the tree they were in, so all my pics (except one hastily taken photo) were from a distance. As I was taking photo after photo after photo, I heard a rumble behind me. A Skip lorry was coming up the avenue. Skip Man has his own little muddy yard at the back of the paddocks, where he keeps his empty skips. He stopped and asked me what I could see so I pointed out the Waxwings, and as I did one flew down onto brambles right level with his truck. I managed to grab one quick shot before it spooked and went back to the tree top. Skip Man then proceeded to tell me all the wildlife he sees at the back of the yard, including a Little Owl that perches on some old machinery. He pointed me in the right direction then ambled off. I watched the Waxwings for another half an hour before the phone started ringing and I had to make my way back to the office.
Two hours later I managed to get away again and shot back down the paddocks but the Waxys had gone. I couldn't relocate them anywhere.There are no berry bushes or trees in the paddocks, so I had half expected them to fly off.
 From the fields at the very far end I had a large Buzzard come up and start soaring but the sun was against me, and all the photos I got were just silhouettes. A Wagtail was very obliging, and a large flock of Linnets and Chaffinches were also showing well, but again the light was against me and I couldn't photograph the Linnets very well at all. Turning away quite disappointed I spotted a Kestrel sitting on the fence. He didn't see me, so I did get some lovely pictures of him. In the low light his colouring was beautiful.
So a good end to my four shifts at work. In a funny sort of way I'm really looking forward to going back in four days time. Cant wait to investigate the old machinery where Skip Man sees the Little Owl ! Might even pop down to work on one of my days off !
Got a lie in tomorrow so enjoying an bottle of Blossom Hill Crisp and Fruity Rose.
Cheers :)
Waxwings one and two.....
and Waxwing number three
Linnets......and a Chaffinch or two
Waxwing as he landed in front of the Skip lorry
Kate having a roll around
Goldcrest in the paddock
Pied Wagtail
Beautiful male Kestrel
and last but by no means least, Nelson !

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Back to work with more Redwings and Fieldfares (and a very obliging horse called Star)

Back to work today. Weather was bitterly cold again, a couple of snow flurries in the morning, and no sign of the yellow orb. Took my camera with me anyway, you never know what you might find. After doing all my paperwork, and seeing off the remaining night drivers, I popped down the paddocks with some carrots and pears. Only four horses are there today. Pregnant Lizzy has been moved, I hope she comes back soon as I really wanted to capture her soon-to-be foal, on camera.
Fieldfares and Redwings were abundant again, though the Fieldfare count was down, the Redwing count was up. Goldfinches, Blackbirds, Starlings, Chaffinches and Dunnocks were also very busy feeding in the straw and mud, and bathing in the over-flowing water tanks.
The small pony, Star, was very attentive. I've found with Star and Nelson, that once you've given them a carrot and a cuddle, they follow you along the paddock fences. And they make a great place to hide behind to get closer to the birds. Nelson proved this last week, today was Stars turn. I ended up half under Stars neck today to get within 3 metres of Goldfinches bathing in the muddy puddles. Out of 50+ shots I eventually managed to get a few in focus, and the out of focus shots weren't down to my hands shaking from the cold or my camera mis-firing, it was down to Star occasionally nudging me in the ribs, trying to eat my work jacket, or nuzzling the back of my neck. Bless her.
Star. With her new pink winter jacket.
Goldfinch reflection

Goldfinch in puddy muddle

Friday, 22 February 2013

A pleasant but very cold trip to the London Wetland Centre

It's really no wonder my nick-name is Wino ! Blogger is fast turning me into an alcofrolic. Over an hour trying to upload photos, three not posted, and none posted in order. I enjoy my wine while Im going thru my photos and posting them to various sites, but over 30 mins to post just one photo to Blogger is turning me Wino-Wild !!!!! I know its not my internet connection as Im not having problems with other sites like Flickr or Facebook (though FB not prefect either) Blogger - you really need to sort this out, my patience is fast running out !!!!
Anyway, rant over, back to today (memories of which have been soured by blasted Blogger ucking me about). I decided very last minute this morning, to head off to Barnes, the London Wetland Centre. I briefly popped up to Lake Farm but it is so exposed there, the wind was biting thru me, and all the Reed Buntings had hunkered down in the usual hedgerow, so I jumped on the bus to Hatton Cross station and made my way to Hammersmith. The first birds I saw were a very obliging pair of Shoveller on the pond right in front of the cafe. They were doing what Shovellers do best.....shovelling. Going round and round in circles, stirring up the mud to release all that lovely juicy goodness. There was a photo of them doing that, but Blogger has chosen not to share it !
Gorgeous male Shoveller on pond in front of cafe. The photo of the female is lower down my page.
There wasn't a great deal about today. The wind was strong and cold, and there were snow flurries for the better part of the day. The bird feeders were very busy, as to be expected in this kind of weather. Not only were the usual Blue and Great Tits around, but plenty of Chaffinch and a Robin, and the usual ground feeders of Moorhen and Coots. I was hoping the cold weather would bring out a Water Rail but it didn't. A male Great Spotted Woodpecker and a Jay took advantage of the easily accessible food, though the woodpecker had somewhat more success than the Jay. The Jay was hanging around the feeders every time I passed by, but I don't think it once got a successful meal by jumping on the feeders. If anything it seemed to be getting more and more frustrated (a bit like me with Blogger tonight !) and kept flitting to the ground after getting nowhere with trying to grab some food from the feeders. Photos of the Jay are, again, further down my post, as Blogger seems unable to post my photos in order !

female Shoveller
The Peacock Tower at Barnes was closed today, due to loose roof tiles. I would share the posted notice with you, but Blogger wont let me. Nearby to the tower, I found the below Great Crested Grebe, solo, pulling up reeds and mud, and trying to shove them into the reeds. If its building a potential nest, I don't think it will be successful. The site is too near to the paths that go thru the site, and this bird doesn't appear to have a mate with it. It may be that it was 'practising', therefore it could be an inexperienced grebe. Only time will tell.

Anyone would think it was MY fault this Jay couldn't get food from the feeders. It certainly took its frustration out on me by raising its 'crest' and glaring.

Despite looking for Bitterns for most of the day, I didn't see any, and that's with an old friend of mine, Michael, a well known and experienced birder at Barnes, checking the site with me. Michael suggested it was because it was just too windy today. It was desperately cold, but none of the pools or lakes were iced over. Best conditions for Bitterns and Water Rails to be seen, are a cold but still day, ideally with waters iced over so the birds have to come out in the open to feed. We think today most of them were just hunkered down against the wind, just like my Reed Buntings at Lake Farm.

Amongst other birds seen today was a male Tufted Duck with a tagged bill. Again I would love to show you the photo I took, but Blogger hasn't let me upload it. So below is a copy of my photo uploaded to Flickr (that site seems able to cope with my pics......)

bill tagged male Tufted Duck

I also got a nice shot of a male and female Teal standing on a log by the Bat-house. I always check that log as if the light is good, you can get some great picturesque photos of any ducks that choose to sit there. Luckily for me today it was the Teals turn to sit there, unluckily for me Blogger again wont let me share this photo. I'll be posting it to my Flickr account tomorrow, three hours of trying to do this blog is enough for me tonight.

So apologies if I come across as being a tad grumpy tonight, I actually came home in quite a good mood, but I am becoming increasingly more frustrated with Blogger. If anyone can recommend an alternative FREE blog site, please feel free to.......

Cheers :)

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Spent a pleasant morning with three friends today. I had invited Sue, Paul and Sheila to visit my patches, Lake Farm and Cranford Park. The weather forecast wasn't looking too great...thick cloud and cold wind, but the wind blew away the cloud so the latter part of the morning was blue sky's and an occasional gust of biting cold wind.
We started off at Cranford Park where the first birds we saw before even leaving the car park were two Mistle Thrushes, three Song Thrushes, a female Blackbird and two Great Tit, all feeding together on the grass.
 I really wanted to show them all the ancient woodland, and I also wanted to check on last years woodpecker nests for signs the parakeets had moved in. So off we ambled and slid and carefully made our way thru the muddy patches. The old beech tree that had come down last week, was still across the path and ha-ha. Mac the Ranger wasn't there today, so I couldn't ask him why it hadn't been removed, but I'm guessing it possibly needs some heavy duty gear to lift it. It really is a big beast of a tree.
Once inside the woods I checked on one of last years GS Woodpecker nests, but no signs of parakeets in it or even near it. While I was doing this and showing Paul all the holes in the dead tree, Sue called me back. She'd seen a raptor land in one of the trees, and it was still there, but she couldn't see what it was. My first thoughts was it was a Kestrel. The area we were in was used by the Kestrels last year, and Mac and I had rescued a chick that had fallen from its nest on the very same path we were on. Sues mystery raptor flew over us carrying something in its talons. But it wasn't prey, it was carrying twigs. And it wasn't a Kestrel, it was a Sparrowhawk, medium sized but with no rufous red on its chest and glimpses of a grey back and a bright yellow eye with a fairly small black iris (this all spotted between the branches) so I'm guessing a female. It landed in one of the old fir trees, deposited its twigs on a flattened area at the end of one of the branches, then flew off. This was exciting for me. I've never seen a Sprawk nest inside the ancient woodland, and it was so near to last years Kestrel nest. This will be one tree I will definitely be keeping an eye on over the next few weeks.
Other birds seen in the ancient woods were a lovely obliging Nuthatch, numerous Robins, Blackbirds and marmite Parakeets, Green Woodpecker (that Sue and I flushed from feeding on the woodland floor), lots of GS Woodpeckers flitting around the tops of the trees, and at least one heard drumming, good numbers of Jackdaws and Carrion Crows and the usual Blue, Great and Long-tailed tits. Last years Green Woodpecker nest had no squatters, but there was a marmite parakeet sitting very nearby. One lovely sighting we did see was a flock of Goldfinch feeding fairly high up, and looking through the bins we could see at least two Redpoll with them. In the tree next to it was a solitary Goldcrest picking its way through the branches. We checked the usual haunts for the Little Owl but to no avail. Theres still a few weeks left to see if they do return this year. Talons crossed.
In all the excitement I took hardly any photos at Cranford Park today. I was so caught up in pointing out stuff to Paul, Sheila and Sue and checking birds through my bins. Hopefully will get back down there over next couple of days.
From there we went over to Lake Farm. Before we'd even got out of Pauls car we saw a Kestrel being mobbed by a crow, and moments later had a Red Kite over being mobbed by a gull.

Sue really wanted to see Reed Buntings and Skylarks, so I took them all over to the favoured hedgerow where I know the Reedys like to sit out of the wind. And they didn't fail me. As we walked along the hedges, Reed Bunting after Reed Bunting after Reed Bunting popped out and flew ahead to land again. I estimated we saw about 15 today, and got a couple of photos too. I was hoping the Stonechats would be visible today, but it was very windy at Lake Farm, and I know from previous trips the Stonechats like it to be still and sunny, so we didn't see any. But a nice end to the day was having a Skylark come up and flap its wings in that lovely way that only they can do. I think Sue was quite happy by the time we all said our goodbyes. And Paul and Sheila seemed to enjoy our brisk, if somewhat chilly outing.
I didn't feel 100% well today, so cut short our day out fairly early, but I hope Paul, Sheila and Sue had a good morning visiting areas that I consider quite special.
I've still got three days off work before my next shifts start, so am hoping after a good nights sleep, I'll be back on full form tomorrow.

male Reed Bunting
female Reed Bunting


Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Frosty and foggy morning at work

My buddy Nelson in the morning frost and mist
Yesterday I didn't take my camera to work and before I'd even completed two hours of my working day, I was really regretting it. By 9am yesterday morning I'd already seen displaying Kestrels, a fine male Sprawk sitting on the fence and over 40 Fieldfares, all in the paddocks behind my work yard.
This morning the first thing I did after waking, was pack my camera into my work bag.
As one of my friends quoted earlier after I had a moan, it was a case of complete 'sods law'. My journey to work was shrouded in thick cold fog, and for the first couple of hours in the yard, I could barely see a truck or a horse, let alone any birds.
However the fog did lift eventually, though everywhere was coated in frost. I got my drivers on their way, diverted the phones and went off for a gander around the paddocks. The light made for some great photo opportunities, and Nelson (my favourite horse at the moment, but shhhhhhhh don't tell the others !!) made a great 'hide' for me. As he followed me up and down the fence, stopping for regular nuzzles and strokes, I was able to lean around his neck and over his back and get close up pics of the Redwings and Fieldfares. They don't seem to mind being almost trodden on by a horses hoof !
Frosty the Redwing

It might have been my lucky morning, but maybe not for this Buzzard. I watched this poor beauty being mobbed by two crows for over 20 minutes before they soared away in the distance. This sort of behaviour has always baffled me. Theres Mr Buzzard merrily making his way looking for something to scavenge, and along comes a crow (or two) to mob him, peck at him and generally ruin his day. What threat are Buzzards to crows ? Its not as if Buzzards behave like Sprawks or Peregrines, and would kill a crow without a second thought. From what Ive seen, they have the same liking in worms, road kill etc. But Ive not heard of a Buzzard attacking a crows nest, so why do crows find Buzzards (and Red Kites) so threatening ? If you want to add your opinions, please do.....

Buzzard being mobbed by crows
I spent another half hour with the horses after the Buzzard and crows floated off.  Nelson is fast becoming a favourite of mine. Lizzy (the pregnant mare) is his paddock companion, and I've had a couple of lovely moments where the pair of them have got me in a bit of a head-lock. Nelson nuzzles into one shoulder and Lizzy nuzzles into the other, and all of a sudden I find my head caught when they move up to my neck. This might not sound like a big deal, but I have never been a 'horsey' person. I'm a cat person. I have three cats. Horses have never appealed to me in all of my life time. I get on fine with dogs, I love dogs. I love cats. Ive just never loved horses. My cousins daughter has had a few ponys, but Ive never bonded with them, or been that attracted to them. If I was out birding and came across a field of horses or cows, I'd walk the long way round to avoid them. Yet these horses at work have really 'touched' me.
We (as a work company) have only been here since last June, but its only since December that Ive really started to take an interest in the horses in the paddocks at the back of the work yard. I now visit them every morning with a handful of carrots, pears and apples. Often I don't even need to call them, as they see me and come running over. Ive learnt all their names. I know which ones I can stroke straight away and which need to 'snuffle' me first. I'm becoming very fond of my 'work' horses. I've now met all their owners too. I know sod all about horses (I had to look up 'gelded' a couple of days ago !) but I do get a really lovely sense of achievement on my part, and acceptance on their part, when I enter the paddocks avenue.
Nelson is a favourite of mine. He is such a character. And I really like Sunny, the yard owners horse, but Sunny has been moved to stables for a couple of months. Lizzy (Nelsons companion) is due to foal in 4-5 weeks so will take over Sunnys paddock. My lovely mate Nelson will be going to horse-camp soon, to give Lizzy some 'foal' time. A new mare was bought in today. Her name is Kate and shes in the same paddock as Nelson and Lizzy. She was very nervous and I didn't go down the paddocks, so she can adjust without having a camera lens pointed at her. The owners, knowing that Nelson would be thoroughly excited, took his coat off. Nelson loved it. And he rolled on the muddiest patch he could find before chasing poor Kate for a couple of laps. Lizzy, being the docile mother-to-be, carried on chomping her feed. Stevie and Star in the opposite paddock were also excited at the new arrival, and ran up and down their fence several times. Next Sunday I'm back at work, so will hopefully get some pics of Kate to show you. But for now, you'll have to make do with my mate Nelson at 9.30am this morning in that freezing mist. Yes that white stuff on the floor is frosted grass...

So back to the birds. These two female Blackbirds below were having a proper 'ruck' at the back of the paddock avenue. I was always under the impression it was the males that fought for territories, but this pair certainly put that theory away !! They were really squabbling and stabbing out with their beaks and using their feet. After a rough few minutes, one flew off and the other sat (quite triumphantly) on the avenue for several moments before calling and flying off into the brambles.
Blackbird Fight Night
I had several more photos to post on today's blog, of the Buzzard, of the Blackbirds Fight Night, of the Fieldfares and of course, of the horses, but again Blogger is not playing nicely and they didn't get uploaded. The pics that did make it, lost me over an hour trying to get them in to the order I wanted.

I'm really hoping these problems get sorted soon. I enjoy doing this blog, and it was my New Year resolution to write up a blog. I chose Blogger as it claimed to be the simplest and easiest way....

Lets hope so !

Four days off as from tomorrow, so will be blogging every day. Hope Blogger co-operates.

Wendy-wine-time for me now. Ive got a lie in. Don't need to be up at 5am tomorrow, instead the alarm is set for 7am :) Cheers.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

At work and learning about the horses...

It was fairly quiet at work today, so I diverted the work phones to my mobile and wandered down to see the horses for a couple of hours. Met the owner of two of them and finally got all their names. There are five horses and three owners. Nelson and Lizzy are in one paddock, Star and Stevie are in other, and Sunny is the yard owners pony in her own paddock. Now when I go wandering down there I don't have to call 'cooeee', I can actually call out their names. Not that I need to call out at all anymore, as I've found over the last couple of weeks that as soon as they see me with carrots in my hand they head straight over to me.

Lizzy is pregnant. Her foal is due in about 5-6 weeks time. Her companion in their paddock is Nelson and while Lizzy bonds with her foal, Nelson (who is a gelded racehorse) will go go to 'horse-camp' for some training and to give Lizzy and her new foal free reign (or rein lol) in their paddock. Lizzy got extra pears and carrots from me today, and I'm really looking forward to photographing her and her baby.

The horses weren't alone in their paddocks. Good numbers of Woodpigs, Starlings, a lone female Kestrel and about 20+ Fieldfare and a solo Redwing were in the paddocks too. Also had several Cormorants flying over the yard. I'm guessing these are being flushed from the dis-used fishing lake next to my work yard. I've noticed a lot of activity at the lake recently so maybe its back in use.

As Blogger has been unkind to me the last few times, and wouldn't let me post my pics in order, I'll just post randomly and be done with it. Its late, and I'm up early again for work tomorrow so haven't really got the time to keep uploading a photo then having to delete it as its in the wrong place. I really hope Blogger sorts this out. My New Year Resolution was to keep a blog, and I don't want to have to stop after just a couple of months......

Squiffy the Fox hasn't been seen for over a week (and secretly I'm glad as the yard owner is not a fox fan) but this little cat seems to have taken over as the yard mascot. Very pretty cat, but you cant get near it. No collar but appears to be well fed.

Cormorant photo 1

Cormorant photo 2

Sunny and Nelson playing
Stevie - the old boy on the block
Cormorant photo 3
Lizzy - the proud Mum-to-be

Friday, 15 February 2013

Fulham and Barnes Peregrines and a trip to Kensington Gardens

What a beautiful day. Cold enough in the morning to wear my hat, snood and gloves, warm enough in the afternoon to remove them. That golden orb was out again. I'd heard love was in the air for Tom and Charlie, the Fulham and Barnes peregrines, so off I went to Charring Cross Hospital, where they successfully hatched and reared three eggs last year. The first one I saw was Tom perched on the side of the hospital, and it didn't take long to find Charlie sitting on the top left of the Ark. Nathalie (the birds over-seer) joined me soon after, and then Charlie decided to come down too. I couldn't get any in focus shots of both the birds together on the hospital, but can honestly say, it still makes me go 'ooooh' when I see the difference in size between them.

Charlie the Falcon
Tom the Tiercel
Both Charlie and Tom were very active this morning. Both flew off a couple of times but were back within minutes. Tom was doing his duty guarding his 'patch' by taking off and scaring several crows that had dared land on the hospital roof. Considering this is only his second year of being Charlies mate, he is certainly acting the imminent proud parent. Nathalie mentioned she could see big differences in his behaviour between this time last year and now.  Best news was that Nathalie had seen them mating again early this morning. That's at least twice this week (that we know of). So egg laying is imminent. Nathalie estimates in around 3-4 weeks times.

If you have the fortune to meet Nathalie this year, please remember that without her these lovely inner city falcons would have never become so well known. Nathalie has put in so much time and effort over the last few years to establish this nesting site. Before Tom came along there was another male, a certain Mr C. He sadly disappeared, but Tom appeared one day, and last year became a Dad for the first time. Nathalies knowledge of these birds, and of peregrines in general, is really outstanding. If anyone has spare time this early summer, please consider spending at least a few days of it helping Nathalie during the 'fledge-watch' season. I done it last year and its an experience I will never forget.

And more good news.......the web cams are back up and running. That means lots of distraction for me at work again for the next few months, nothing new there then lol.

link to Charlie and Toms nest box and ledge web cam

My very good friend Gina joined us at the hospital, and in between watching the peregrines, we also saw good numbers of Blackbirds, Goldfinches and Carrion Crows. Charlie and Tom eventually flew off towards the Kensington area so Gina and I said goodbye to Nathalie and made our way to Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park.

As always at this special place, you can always guarantee great close up views of Blue, Great and Coal Tits. The birds here are so used to being hand fed, they will happily pose for any camera in sight, just so long as you feed them a few scraps too.

Coal Tit

Blue Tit

Great Tit
There was no sign of the resident male Tawny owl, but according to Ralph Hancocks blog, he hasn't been seen for a couple of weeks now. The female will be incubating eggs, so we don't expect to see her and the male will be collecting food for the pair of them during this time, so maybe he's just tired out from all that hunting and keeping himself tucked away during the day (the male Tawny that is - not Ralph lol)

link to Ralph Hancocks blog - Kensington Gardens and Hyde Park birds

The two famous female Bearded Tits were also not in their usual place. It has been reported over the last few days that they have been acting restless. Lets hope they have fluttered away to the east coast to meet up with some gentlemen friends.

As well as the Coal, Blue and Great Tits on site, the Jays, Ring-necked Parakeets and squirrels also like to be included in the feeding festivities. The Jays wont come to your hand, but they will fly down to the iron gates to grab whatever you have left them. A couple of the Parakeets will feed from your hand (as demonstrated below by today's hand-model...... Miss Gina Curry)

The one on Ginas hand is a ringed bird and very gentle. Its mate, seen behind, is much shyer.
And last, but by no means least, this is Arthur the squirrel. We nick-named him this last December as he has the top of his tail missing (Arthur Tail = half a tail). There are loads of grey squirrels at Kensington Gardens, but Arthur does stand out from the rest. Several of us, myself included, have had Arthur climb up your legs for a bit of attention when you're busily cooing and ahhhing over the small birds and parakeets. He isn't vicious but does tend to grab the food in your hand or fingertips, and has nicked a couple of my fellow bird-watching mates, but its not done intentionally, Arthur's just trying to get his share before his fellow fully bushed tailed mates get there before him.
So another lovely day for moi, finished off with a couple of rather large glasses of Tesco finest Simply Rose, and a some lovely memories of the last three days before I go back to work tomorrow.
Cheers :)