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Thursday, 26 November 2020

Lockdown II, pt.1 - 5th to 18th November, 2020

We are currently in a Covid Lockdown situation which came into force on 5th November, one aspect of which is travel should only be local and for work, shopping or medical reasons, or to get to a local place to take exercise.  In the circumstances, with the number of cases of Covid-19 escalating exponentially, Lindsay and I have been happy to comply, This has, however, limited my birding and photographic opportunities. 

Thursday, 5th November

Strictly speaking, this first item should be recorded as being from 4th November. It was found in the overnight moth trap and photographed in the morning of 5th November, but it is moth recording covention that moths are recorded as being from the date that the trap is put out. The Green-brindled Crescent is a moth I have only ever recorded once before (on 29th September, 2019), and I was delighted to find this second one as the sole catch of the night. This one was a little less colourful than my previous catch.

Green-brindled Crescent (Allophyes oxyacanthae) - from garden on 4th November, 2020

I was busy in my study that morning, but had my camera at my side. I couldn't resist a shot of a Woodpigeon. This species always strikes me as looking less than intelligent, with a tiny head in comparison to its body. However, the moulting process on this one seems to emphasise this.

Woodpigeon (Columba palumbus) - garden on 5th November, 2020

This Goldfinch, also photographed through the glass of my study window, compensates for the ungainliness of the Woodpigeon with its contrastingly handsome features.

Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) - garden on 5th November, 2020

The sun came out in the afternoon, and I made a late visit to a lake close to my home, in the hope of finding an owl. The lake usually attracts a number of Greylag Geese and Canada Geese, and as it gets towards dusk, these birds take off and head to their roosting grounds. The sound is wonderful and it is a delight to behold. The Greylags left first. 

Greylag Goose (Anser anser) - Longmoor Lake

As there was a different area of the site that I wanted to visit in order to check for owls, I missed the later departure of the Canada Geese. At the north end of the lake, a couple were feeding the swans - something that they said they did on a regular basis, with the swans instantly recognising them, even from the far side of the lake, as they approached!

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) - Longmoor Lake
I hung around until darkness fell, but didn't find any owls, so made my way homeward.

Friday, 6th November

The moth trap went out on this evening and resulted in just one moth - the wonderful fur-coated December Moth! This one is a female of the species, being much larger than a male and having 'un-feathered' antennae.

December Moth (Poecilocampa populi) (female) - from garden on 6th November, 2020
Hedgehog numbers had been rising, with five or more visiting this night. The trail cams were witnessing around twenty visits to the feeding station each night as they prepared for hibernation. The Hedgehogs seemed to have sorted themselves out quite nicely, with some favouring one of our two feeding stations and the others the second station. Furthermore, encounters seem to be relatively amicable - there are three together at 27 seconds into this clip of the night at one of our feeders. Sorry, Diane, this is going to be a bit long for your internet connection!

Saturday, 7th November

Feeling the need to photograph something (anything!), I attempted a few shots of common garden birds. Coal Tit has, thankfully, started to put in a few more appearances, but rarely gives photo opportunities. The focus on this shot is, sadly, soft  but I'm intrigued as to what it has in its bill - it looks like a leaf.

Coal Tit (Periparus ater)  - garden on 7th November, 2020
There seems to have been a decline in numbers of Chaffinch this year. This one posed briefly outside my study window.

Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) (male) - garden on 7th November, 2020

Tuesday, 10th November

I made a late afternoon visit to nearby Hicks Lodge, noting the fabulous autumn gold as I walked to the lake.

Gold! - Hicks Lodge

Just before reaching the main lake, I usually take a devious route which allows me to stealthily approach the edge of the lake without disturbing any birds on the water. As I passed through a small thicket, I noticed a fungus that I do not remember encountering before, although it is considerd a common fungus. It was in deep shade and so my grabbed photos were not good.

Stag's Horn or Candle-snuff Fungus (Xylaria hypoxylon) - Hicks Lodge
Nearer the lake, a Kestrel flew past at a distance.

Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) (female) - Hicks Lodge
From my surveillance position I could see another birder standing outside the hide with a 'scope (the hide is currently kept closed due to the Covid crisis), and was not at all surprised to find that this was an old pal, Mick Smith. I walked over to join him (at a more-than-social distance) and we had a conversation that distracted us for a while. I did, however, take the odd chance of a photo or two in the fading evening light.

Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus) - Hicks Lodge
As with the previously mentioned Longmoor Lake, Hicks Lodge usually hosts a number of Canada and Greylag Geese, which have a nearby roosting site. On this occasion at Hicks Lodge it was the Canada Geese which departed first.

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) - Hicks Lodge
While chatting, Mick had mentioned a rather unusual-looking goose that had flown in with the Greylag Geese, but that he'd not picked up again. We were talking when the Greylags took flight and so I quickly raised my camera and was taking a few shots when  Mick said that the odd goose was near the front of the group. By the time I found it, it was rather far away, but I subsequently found that I had a very blurred shot of it right on the very edge of a frame. It does, however, show the odd features of this bird (more sharply, but less clearly, shown in the second image below), which Mick believes is probably a leucistic Greylag. However, local guru Rhys Dandy suggests either leucism or cross-breed.
Leucistic (or cros-breed) Greylag Goose (Anser anser) - Hicks Lodge

Greylag Goose, with leucistic (or cross-breed) bird (Anser anser) - Hicks Lodge
Wednesday, 11th November

No photos for this day, on which the peace was disturbed by an invasion of 32 Starlings in our garden!

Thursday, 12th November

After a long absence, we had recently seen the return of a pair of Stock Dove to the garden. Here is one of them.

Stock Dove (Columba oenas) - garden on 12th November, 2020
Friday, 13th November

In spite of the date, I decided on a return to Longmoor Lake. I arrived a little earlier than on my previous visit and so managed some shots of a few birds on the water.

Greylag Goose (Anser anser) - Longmoor Lake

Teal (Anas crecca) (male) - Longmoor Lake

Coot (Fulica atra) - Longmoor Lake

Just after taking that last shot, I was accosted by a lady with a camera asking what lens I was using. We had a short chat, during which I said how veratile the Sigma 50-500 was, being able to use it for macro shots as well as long-distance shots. Little did I know that a couple of minutes later I'd be using the macro aspect on a caddis fly that I saw fly down into the grass. I have no idea of the species.

Caddis fly species - Longmoor Lake
I didn't take any more photos after this as I explored an area of the site that I'd not visited before. It did, however, show promise.

Having returned to my car I set off homeward, stopping in Normanton le Heath to photograph a Kestrel on a wire. Sadly, it seems like a long while since I photographed a Kestrel sitting on anything more natural than a wire.

Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) (female) - Normanton le Heath
That night the moth trap went out again and, once again, yielded just one moth - another December Moth. This time it was a male - a smaller moth with 'feathered' antennae.
December Moth (Poecilocampa populi) (male) - from garden on 13th November, 2020

Monday, 16th November

Sitting in the conservatory, I watched in amazement and anticipation as a Grey Heron headed our way. Sadly, it stopped on the roof of the house behind us. I grabbed my camera and shot upstairs to get a better view. It moved from the apex of the roof to to a lower flat roof, and eventually took off again and headed in the direction whence it came.

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) - from our house
Unlike most birders, I only count birds that put a foot down in the garden as 'garden birds' so this one didn't make the grade!

I missed getting a shot of the Goldcrest that briefly did grace us with a visit.

Wednesday, 18th November

This day marked the end of the first fortnight of our four week lockdown period.

We had another visit from a Sparrowhawk. Yes, those eyes really are something!

Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) (male) - garden on 18th November, 2020

This ends this blog post. Hopefully, my next post will cover the last two weeks of Lockdown II, if I can gather enough material!

In the meantime, take good care and hang on in there - hopefully, help is on the way.