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Monday, 24 November 2014

The First Half of November - 2014

Whilst the first half of November was reasonably rewarding from the point of view of sightings, it didn't offer much in the way of photographic opportunities - due to distance, light, wind and rain!


I've only one owl image that is just about good enough to offer, and that was taken on 1st November whilst doing a bit of solo owling. Little Owls were seen at five different sites that afternoon.

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.48
Odds and Sods

The same day that the above image was taken, I paid a visit to Launde Abbey, where I had a (distant) sighting of a Kingfisher for the first time in a few months!

Kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) - Launde Abbey
Soon after this, my session was interrupted by the arrival of The Hunt. I've never seen a bigger hunt gathering - there were hundreds of people involved! I understand that it's a legal loophole that is exploited which leads to a falconer accompanying the hunt wherever it goes. This one had a couple of guys in tow - one with a Golden Eagle and one with a Harris Hawk. The Golden Eagle was kept hooded but I did get a shot of the head of the Harris Hawk. I won't give scientific names for these birds as a lot of interbreeding and hybridisation takes place in these circles.

Harris Hawk (domesticated) - Launde Abbey
I gave up here and headed off to find fuel for the car. En-route I found myself being approached at great speed by a runaway horse. Fortunately, it was intercepted by some guys who came careering down the road in buggy, nearly losing control at one point! I'm surprised that the passenger didn't get spread all over the road!

Five days later, I was back at Launde with Titus. There were a couple of very skittish Teal on the fishponds there, which fled to the next pond whenever we saw them - at over a hundred metres distance. Just before we left, I spotted one asleep on the lower, very brackish-looking, fish pond at only about 50 metres distance.

Teal (Anas crecca) - Launde Abbey
Our Garden

One aspect of our garden which gives me concern is that we've lost a more-than-acceptable number of birds to window strikes this year - possibly four (I don't keep records of this). On a wet and windy 12th November this Goldfinch hit my study window. At first I thought it was dead as it lay with its wings spread, so I took a photo of an aspect of Goldfinch that is not usually seen for a long enough time for the eyes and brain to register - what a fabulous looking bird! I'm delighted to report that I picked it up, saw that it was alive, put it somewhere comfortable and that it suddenly regained consciousness about half an hour later and flew off.

Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) - our garden
 We're starting to see the winter visitors in our garden. We'd had our first Lesser Redpoll (Carduelis cabaret) in late October (exceedingly early - usually not until late December!), and then again on 14th November (and once since then), but no photos were obtained. Our main excitement has been the continuing visits by Grey Wagtail (which insists on coming only in bad weather) and regular visits by Goldcrest, with two birds on two occasions. We usually only have two or three sightings, of a single bird, each year. I've still not managed any decent shots of the Goldcrests, which favour a shady place outside my window where the leaves are still on the tree.

Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea) - our garden

Goldcrest (Regulus regulus) - our garden
You can see the problems with trying for shots of the Goldrest. Those leaves really interfere with attempts at focus, by which time the bird has gone! For a bird that seems to have such a happy disposition as it flits around, it certainly has a very sad expression when viewed front-on!

That's all for this post. The next one will feature some owls!

Thank you for dropping by.


  1. What kind of hunt is this, Richard. When I think of the hunt I have visions of red-jacketed people on horses, with brass instruments and cries of Tally Ho. This sounds like something quite different.

    1. It's exactly the type of hunt that you mention, David. I was located in the biggest hunting area in UK. I could hear the hunting horns for a good half hour before they arrived. I'm not happy about hunting and in the past I'ver found the hunting fraternity to be extremely arrogant. However, on this occasion, I was very pleasantly surprised by their politeness. Maybe they realise that, with the tide of opinion being against them, they need to do something about their image. The main problems to being in the area of the hunt whilst they are out is not the hunters themselves, but the convoy of vehicles of the hunt followers who choke up the lanes with their parked vehicles, and the high level of disturbance to anything in the area. The loose horse had, presumably thrown its rider. I have to admit that it was quite a spectacle. The horses are mainly quite magnificent, and I've never seen the hunt operating on this scale before.

      Whilst fox hunting is banned by law in UK, The Hunting Act, 2004 law states that it is not illegal to use dogs to flush mammals for quarry for birds of prey. There is no limitation on the number of dogs in a pack that can be used for this activity and, presumably, there is no limitation on the numbers of people that can accompany those dogs and their mode of transport. Presumably, foxes still get caught and torn to bits by the hounds. This is the abhorrent bit!!

      Best wishes - - - Richard

  2. HI Great selection of birds and great shots. That is a marvellous close up of the Harris Hawk and a wonderful capture of the open wings of the Goldfinch. I saw 2 Goldcrest yesterday but never managed 1 shot so it was great to see yours.

    1. Thank you, Margaret. Those Goldcrest are quite a challenge to photograph, aren't they!!

  3. Another fab post Richard,love your Garden Birds,I see you have the healing hands.Love goldfinches,nice happy ending there.
    Also well impressed with your Goldcrest,and Grey Wagtail,but,your head portrait of the Harris Hawk is top notch.

    1. Thank you, John. Although the Harris Hawk was, in a manner of speaking, 'a sitting duck' it wasn't that easy to photograph. Getting the dark feathering of the head nicely exposed resulted in the pale yellow on the face being burned out. In the end I had to under expose and then do a little post-processing.

  4. I have to agree the Goldcrest does look grumpy. The bad light due to leaves is an issue I face with my garden goldcrest's. I find if I crumble some mealworms and place them onto a more favourable position normally works well but I also soak mealworms overnight that spiked them on branches too. I really like the greywagtail images.
    The hunt, hmm if it's the hunt I think it is (Cottesmore area?) the sabs posted on Facebook how they disrupted the hunt forcing it to stop by noon etc shame the people who like hunting use birds of prey

    1. Thank you for the tip with mealworms for the Goldcrests, Doug. I shall deploy some today.

      Not sure if it was the Cottesmore - I suspect not, as my photo 13:18 and, to the best of my knowledge, the hunt had not been disrupted. There's concern amongst the Falconer fraternity that birds of prey are being bought by hunts and kept by people with little or no training in their keep. However, I had no such concerns about these particular guys. They seemed to be very knowledgable and experienced.

  5. Lovely pictures of the Goldcrest, I have not seen these in my garden for a few years.

    1. Thank you Linda. Don't give up on the Goldcrests yet - they seem to be having a good year in most areas this year.

  6. Oh dear, Richard, you've got the Goldcrest!
    How I would love to see one and take pictures!! LOL!
    About the birds hitting windows, one thing I have learned from my grand-mother is that you can give a drop of red wine to the bird as long as it has regained some consciousness, from a drop off the tip of your finger. It will give it a boost. I have done it myself many times it works well.
    I love those goldfinches, I have saved and raised quite a few when I was young, they are a splendor.
    Well, I see you managed pretty well with the Grey Wagtail! ;-)
    Sad so many hunters are allowed to gather, I don't even want to think about the massacre...
    About the Harris hawks, the owners would probably not hybridize them but the falcons, yes.
    Keep well and warm, it is miserable too here!
    Great post

    1. In UK, seeing a Goldcrest is not too difficult, Nouoshka, but taking its photo is another matter, as far as I'm concerned - they seem to be constantly on the move.

      I like the idea of giving a stunned bird a drop of red wine (although, under some circumstances, it could get you into trouble ;-} ). However, we don't often have an open bottle of red wine in the house - I wonder if a cup of tea would do as well?!

      Sorry to hear that you've been getting bad weather too. Our weather is up and down like a yo-yo at the moment. I nearly didn't go out this afternoon as it was misty from low cloud, then suddenly it brightened up and I managed to find 8 owls in the end. Didn't do well with the photography, however.

      Have a great weekend - - - Richard

      Thank you so much for your kind comments, Noushka. They are always very much appreciated

  7. It's wonderful to catch up on your postings, Richard! Sorry to have been absent for a bit. Everything is relative and I would love to just SEE a Goldcrest and I happen to think your photos are brilliant! Likewise the distant but colorful Kingfisher. And the Teal. My entire day was made brighter by your inclusion of a Little Owl peering from his perch!

    Hope your upcoming weekend is wonderful!

    1. Hi Wally. I always look forward to hearing from you. Thank you so much for dropping by and leaving such kind comments.

      I'll swap you two Goldcrest for an Ovenbird - maybe I should make it ten Goldcrest as there's not much meat on two (to the rest of the world - you'll have to look at my comment on Wally's blog to understand this comment!).

      My reciprocal best wishes for the weekend - - - Richard

  8. Amazing photos as always. We had a Firecrest in the garden the other day but it was so hidden in the bushes that a good photo was impossible. It was good enough that I could use it for identification but that is all. Yesterday we had a wren here which I have ever seen before either. Average shots but it was very active!

    I used to work with a falconer when I was in Rhodesia, I used to go out every evening with him training them, it is amazing to see how the birds respond, Have a good day Diane

    1. To have a Firecrest in my garden would be the highlight of the decade for me. They're not common at all, although I did see one on the Scilly Isles last month. How lucky you are to have one in your garden, but how frustrating for you not to get a good photo. Mind you, I'd be happy to get any photo (good or bad) of a Firecrest.

      I agree, it's amazing to see the raport with his birds that a good falconer can get.

      Thank you for your kind comments, Diane, and take good care - - - Richard

  9. I feel the same way, I can never get the Goldcrest. Fantastic birds Richard,

    1. I'm very sorry, Bob. Somehow I missed your comment until now!

      I'm pleased to hear that it's not just me that has difficulty with Goldcrests. They are delightful though!

      Best wishes - - - - Richard

  10. I too am having 3 or 4 Goldcrests visit my garden of late, I haven't managed any images as good as yours though. I think I will have a go at employing Doug's tip, sounds a great idea.

    1. Sadly, Paul, I haven't seen the Goldcrests since this post, so I've no idea if it will work for me! It's a pity, really, as the leaves are now going off the Cotoneaster outside my window that they favoured, and I'd stand a much better chance!

  11. Greetings from Dubai! Really enjoyed going through your blog. Have a great week ahead! Will be back soon...


    1. Thank you, Shantana. Your Leopard images are absolutely beautiful. Thank you for dropping by.

      With best wishes - - - - Richard


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