I did not manage to get out as much as I would have liked to during this period as I spent a whole lot of time sorting out photos and blog posts on our return from the Isles of Scilly. Furthermore, we had an extremely thin time as far as wildlife activity in the garden was concerned, with just the Hedgehogs bucking the trend. Here are a few of my observations.
Friday, 9th October
One of the probable reasons that we were not seeing as many birds as usual was that we were getting visits from Sparrowhawks, and the birds had departed to safer feeding grounds. Most of the time it was a male that visited. This one, with its dark orange (almost red) eyes, is a mature bird.
|Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) (male) - our garden on 9th October, 2020|
This day, we had the female Sparrowhawk, which was not photographed. I was, however, more disappointed at missing getting a shot of the Grey Wagtail that visited for a few seconds. We used to get regular visits by this species when we had a large koi pond, and latterly an adult brought a youngster. When we filled in the pond, more than ten years ago, we continued to get visits, which makes me wonder if something was built into their genetic code. Visits have slowly dwindled, to the point where a Grey Wagtail is now quite rare, although still annual (just!), in our garden, but not as rare as Pied Wagtail.
Tuesday, 13th October
Sadly, Great Spotted Woodpecker has also become a rarity in our garden, and so it was very exciting to have this female visit us briefly on this day. I do not usually like to post images of birds on feeders, but this occurence was important to us, and I didn't manage a reasonable shot of the bird away from the feeder. This one is a female - males have a red patch on the back of the neck.
|Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) (female) - our garden on 13th October, 2020|
We had a team of three tree surgeons in to do some tree pruning work in the garden, and also lick into shape some ivy that had got out of control. This, however, did not stop a squirrel from visiting. I know there are mixed feelings about these out there, but we happen to think them rather cute and do not consider them a problem.
|Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) - our garden on 16th October, 2020|
Sunday, 18th October
The next image is probably the worst that I have ever posted, but it marks one of the more interesting events seen from our conservatory. A flock of 40+ small birds flew into our next-door-neighbours' birch tree in their garden, about 25 metres away. Unfortunately, they mainly stayed on the opposite, sunny, side of the tree to our position. It took a while to get a shot, into the sun, to enable me to ID them, but they were Redpolls. This is the largest flock of this species that I have seen anywhere. We hoped that they'd visit us so that we could add them to the garden record, but they disappeared after about ten minutes.
The moth trap went out that night, and resulted in a very meagre catch of just five moths of three species - Angle Shades (1), Grey Shoulder-knot (2), Light Brown Apple Moth (2).
Lesser Redpoll (Carduelis cabaret) - next door's garden on 18th October, 2020
|Grey Shoulder-knot (Lithophane ornitopus lactipennis) - our garden on 18th October, 2020|
Little happened this day, but I did photograph a Chaffinch outside my study window - an extremely common bird with good-looks that are usually undeservedly overlooked.
When putting the recycling bins out, I found a shieldbug on top of the garden refuse bin, so moved it to a safe place.
|Birch Shieldbug (Elasmostethus interstinctus) - our garden on 22nd October, 2020|
We also had, unusually, two Carrion Crows stop off in the garden that day, and for the first time in a few months we had a Fox show on one of the garden trail cams that night.
Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) (female) - our garden on 22nd October, 2020
Friday, 30th October
Thisa autumn has been good for fungi, which is a subject I know virtually nothing about. We have had several in the garden, and I had not bothered to photograph them, which I now regret. I did, however, get the camera out to take photos of a group at the base of our Rowan tree. These had already 'gone over' but still, to my eyes anyway, look interesting.
Feeling the need to photograph something, the only thing I found was a Robin outside my study window!
|Robin (Erithacus rubecula) - 3rd November, 2020|
It had been announced at the end of the preceding week that, faced with exponentially escalating Covid infection rates, England would return to 'lockdown' conditions on Thursday 5th November. This would mean severe restrictions on my travel until, at least, 2nd December. As I'd resolved to get back to birding, with an intended emphasis on owls, I decided that I'd have an attempt while I could.
Taking a picnic lunch with me, I set off late morning on my traditional owling route. The weather was forecast to be mild with sunny intervals.
I was soon disappointed by how busy everywhere seemed to be as I was obviously not the only one to be making the most of a last day of freedom. At one point I got held up by an incident on the road involving the local hunt, large numbers of bystanders with their vehicles, and the police.
I messed up with a brief opportunity I had with a Kestrel en route, and drew a blank at all the traditional Little Owl sites. At my favourite lunch stop I was disappointed to see that the nest hole at LO Site No.34 was now largely blocked by twigs, indicating that probably Stock Doves or Jackdaws had taken over the nest. Subsequent sites were also unproductive, so I decided on a visit to Eyebrook Reservoir.
At one point, on a single track road, an estate vehicle was parked on the road, and only passable by driving round it on the adjacent muddy field. Fortunately, I was in our 4x4, or I don't think I'd have made it. The vehicles owner was nowhere to be seen, otherwise I'd have had words!
At Eyebrook I had a look to see if the Willow Emerald Damselflies were still around but couldn't spot any. I spent a while at Eyebrook with the only photos taken being distant shots of the scene from the bridge. In the second zoomed-in image, below, taken from the same spot as the first, there are Mallards, Grey Heron, Cormorant, Mute Swan, and Little Grebe.
|Eyebrook Reservoir inflow|
At first the conditions were mainly 'cloudy bright' and, although I took many shots, my efforts were not entirely to my liking. I'll show this one, however, as it shows one of the birds in moult. Like most (all?) birds of prey, feathers are shed symetrically over a period of time to reduce impact on flight capabilities.
|Red Kite (Milvus milvus)|
John had to depart after a short while as he has to care for his poorly wife. I stayed on, and tried to get some shots of a bird that was in a tree almost above the other person's position. If he'd not been there, I'd have moved to try and get a clearer shot.
Red Kite (Milvus milvus)
|Red Kite (Milvus milvus)|
|Red Kite (Milvus milvus)|
The time came that I had to depart as I had a delivery to make to our daughter on the outskirts of Leicester and then I planned to visit a potential Short-eared Owl location just before dusk. The visit to our daughter, at a distance on the drive at the front of the house, was shorter than I'd have liked it to be in other circumstances.
At the potential Short-eared Owl location, I drew a blank, getting back to my car after dark.
The next day, we went into lockdown, with such journeys against the spirit of lockdown and probably against the rules anyway. My next blog post, therefore, if I do manage to produce sufficient material, will feature sightings much closer to home.
In the meantime, please take very good care and stay safe, for your sake and for the sake of all those around you.