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Monday, 18 December 2017

The Best Laid Plans - 1st to 18th December, 2017

With Mrs. P. going away with our daughter and granddaughter for six days for a stay in a 'crafting hotel' in Devon, I was looking forward to some wall-to-wall birding - but more about that later!

December tends to be a busy month for most people, and we are no exception, with the preparations for Christmas, and meeting up with family over a good lunch taking up a significant amount of time. Apart from the 3-owl day on 3rd December which was the subject of my previous post, it had been a slow start to the birding month. In fact, most of the excitement (for want of a better word!) came from the garden. Here's how the first half of the month panned out.

Friday 1st December - our garden, Oakthorpe Colliery, Packington, and home again

The month got off to a good start with a Goldcrest visiting the garden. Sadly, I only managed a record shot through the glass of my study window at a range of about 14 metres.

Goldcrest (Regulus regulus) - our Garden
Later that day I paid a quick visit to Oakthorpe Colliery. Most of the birds there were relatively common and quite numerous, but it is always a treat in these parts  to see a Willow Tit - they're becoming worryingly scarce.

Robin (Erithacus rubecula) - Oakthorpe Colliery
Blue Tit (Cyasnistes caeruleus) - Oakthorpe Colliery
Willow Tit (Poecile montanus) - Oakthorpe Colliery
Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus) - Oakthorpe Colliery
From Oakthorpe Colliery, I moved on to a farm near Packington. Here I found a Buzzard on a fence post, and later a Kestrel.

Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) (juvenile) - near Packington
Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) (male) - near Packington
I was back at home by early afternoon, and a racket from outside caused me to look out. A Buzzard was being hassled by a Crow. I only managed a few shots before they went out of view.

Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) - from our garden
Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) + Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) - from our garden
Sunday 3rd December - travelling eastward in Leicestershire

This was the previously mentioned and posted 3-owl day. However, I have one other image to share with you from that day. A small downside of heading out into the countryside in these parts at this time of year is the amount of filth on the road. It's not unusual to come back after an afternoon out to find the lower half of the car thick with mud and other detritus. Fortunately there is a car cleaning operation close to home where I can get the car washed for £6. However, I think these people will be retiring soon on the money I'm spending with them!

Just to give you a taste of what I'm faced with, this is a shot from my car window as I waited on the verge for this group to pass.

Here's a slightly different shot of one of the day's owls, given a different treatment to those in my previous post - I quite like the result!

Little Owl (Athene noctua) - my Site No.41
Saturday 9th December - our garden

Nothing much happened until this day as I was very busy with other commitments and preparing for my wife's departure on holiday. However, on this day, we had Goldcrest and Grey Wagtail visit our garden, neither of which I managed to photograph - nor did I get a photo of the male Sparrowhawk that visited. Here are a couple of photos that I did manage to take.

Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) - our garden
Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) (male) - our garden
Sunday 10th December - our garden, and Baggrave Hall

The original plan was for Lindsay to go over to our daughter's in her Smart car in the late morning, and then for the three girls to head on down to Devon in Melanie's car. However, heavy snow had been forecast for the Saturday/Sunday night and so we put a contingency plan in place. We woke up to a good covering of snow, and so the contingency plan was implemented - I was to drive Lindsay to Melanie's in our 4x4 Yeti.

Before we departed, we had a Fieldfare briefly stop in our garden, shortly after another visit by the Sparrowhawk. The Fieldfare only stopped for a few seconds as our berries had all now been consumed, and I only managed a record shot - we don't usually get Fieldfare visit the garden more than once or twice each winter. 

The 25 mile (40km) journey to Melanie's place took two and three quarter hours (instead of the usual 35 to 40  minutes) with very icy roads. A large part of the delay was caused by a large rig belonging to the Walkers Crisp company. The inconsiderate driver of this rig spent from 10h00 to 11h30 shunting backwards and forwards on a gradient on a dual carriageway trying to get traction, holding up all who were behind him. He could have just rolled back to the side of the road and allowed everyone through. I'm amazed that no one went and hauled him out of his cab. One comment from the bus driver two vehicles behind him was that he was probably empty and so did not have enough weight to get traction, but I suspect that a full load of crisps (potato chips to some of my non-UK readers) weighs the square root of bugger-all and would have made no difference.

Having, eventually, dropped Lindsay off at Melanie's I headed off into the countryside with the hope of finding owls in the snow and finding a nice location to enjoy my picnic lunch. I soon found some nice snowy scenery, but I was not seeing many birds at all.

Although there was far less snow here than there was at home, the road was very icy and, having stopped for that second shot,  I struggled to get traction - even with the 4x4! After about five minutes I managed to get up the hill, but decided that I'd find a place nearby for my picnic, and then head straight home again, avoiding single-track country roads!

Monday 11th December - our garden

On the Monday I'd had to go to a nearby village to post letters and parcels, and found the roads to be still quite difficult, and it was apparent that, no matter how careful one was, there were too many idiots on the road who were driving without due care (as witnessed by the ones that were already in the roadside ditches!), so I spent most of the day indoors. We had one of our occasional visits by Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) (male) - our garden
Tuesday 12th December - our garden

By the Tuesday I realised that I was going down with a cold, and that going out in the cold was probably not sensible.

This gave me another opportunity to observe the birds in my garden. As well as a second Fieldfare (missed the shot!) I had my first Garden Redwing of the winter. However, I only got 'record' shots as I was looking up at it through the double-glazing of our conservatory at an angle of 45°, though intervening branches. Here are some images from that day.

Blackbird (Turdus merula) (female) - our garden
Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) (female) - our garden

Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) (male) - our garden
Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) (male) - our garden

Redwing (Turdus iliacus) - our garden
Thursday 14th December - Cropston Reservoir

On the Wednesday I'd been out in the morning to the south of my home dropping cards in to some of my owling hosts. There was still plenty of snow around. I'd taken my camera, but didn't see any owls and didn't take any photos. However, I did have the good news that a Little Owl was seen only three days previously at my site No.03. By that afternoon I was feeling decidedly off-colour so did very little.

On the Thursday, I still had a card and present to deliver to a farm some way from my home, so I set off in the morning, taking a picnic lunch. We'd had more snow in the night, and the roads close to home were worse than they'd been on the Sunday morning. On one bend I found four vehicles off the road. Fortunately, by the time I got to the outskirts of Leicester you'd never know that it had been snowing, although there was a little more snow when I neared my destination. As I was seeing virtually nothing of interest during my travels, I set off back homeward.

An enforced diversion due to a road closure sent me past the end of Cropston Reservoir. Determined not to get home with nothing in the bag, I stopped when I saw a space in the lay by.

There was little to see that was identifiable through my binoculars, but at least I took some shots, even if they were of common birds, and into the sun!

Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus) - Cropston Reservoir

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) - Cropston Reservoir
Since then, I haven't managed any photography, so I suspect that this will be my last blog post before Christmas. I, therefore, take this opportunity to wish my readers a peaceful and happy Christmas, and the best of luck and good health for 2018. Thank you for your kind support in 2017, which has been much appreciated. 


  1. Fantastic Richard, every one is the winner. I hope that you have a holiday.

    1. Thank you, Bob. I think I'm headed for a busy Christmas! Have a good one yourself. Best wishes - - - Richard

  2. Lovely post Richard. Some super photos. Wishing you a peaceful and Happy Christmas.

    1. Thank you, Marc. all the best to you and yours too - - - Richard

  3. A merry Christmas to you and yours. I don't really know why but the first Chaffinch picture is perfect.

    1. PS. 2nd Chaffinch. The male one on a bush.

    2. Thank you, Adrian. I too am rather fond of that Chaffinch image - to me it really has the 'cute' factor! Have a great Christmas - - - Richard

    3. Wrote that last reply before I saw your PS! I still prefer the first one, mainly because the second one is a bit too 'soft' for my liking.

  4. How wonderful pictures! You have snow there! Merry Christmas!

    1. Hi Anne. Sadly, the snow has now all gone and the temeperature has shot up to 8°! I hope that you and the family have a wonderful Christmas - - - Richard

  5. Hello Richard, first of all wishing you and your loved ones Happy Christmas and for the New year great birding. Thank you for your wishes on my blog. As Always hart warming. Love that winter wonderland you took captures of and ofcourse the birds.
    Warm regards,

    1. Thank you, Roos, for your kind wishes and comments. It is always a great pleasure to hear from you. I hope that you and your family have a wonderful Christmas and a happy and healthy New Year. Keep warm and safe - - - Richard

  6. Good morning Richard: It's always a bummer to be sick, but especially to be sick when there is no one around to administer a little TLC. Looks like you persevered through it, however, and you got some great shots. All the very best for Christmas and the New Year. With love to you both, David and Miriam.

    1. It wasn't so bad, really, David, but I just felt it was prudent not to spend too much time out in the cold, and so kept to the warmth of my car. I'm nearly ready to venture out on foot again now! I hope that you have an excellent Christmas, and wish you both all the best for 2018. Thank you for your support and friendship in 2017. With my love to you and Miriam - - - Richard

  7. Oh my, what a rich and interesting post again, Richard!
    But first I had a wide smile as I discovered your Xmas pecker on the banner! LOL!
    The Redwing is a must, I've never seen one.
    But probably my favorite pic is that of the tree alone with the snowy band along the trunk. you have a good eye for lovely landscapes :)
    I sincerely wish you wonderful festivities with Lindsay and your family, have a great time and for the new year, many fabulous photo opportunities... naturally!
    Warm hugs :)))

    1. We're having quite a good year for Redwing this winter, Noushka, but Fieldfare seem to be a little thinner on the ground. I was pleased to get those snowy shots, particularly the one you mentioned. They look as if I have converted them to monochrome, but that's the way they were - just a colourless scene!

      Thank you for your very kind words, and all your support in 2017, which has been very much appreciated.

      I hope you have a great Christmas and wish you all the best for 2018. I still hold on to the hope that one day we will meet up. Until that time, take good care - - - Richard

  8. Pretty smart selection of garden birds Richard. Always a pleasure to get Goldcrest dropping into the garden.
    I feel for the truck driver, I will say 40 tonnes of crisps weighs 40 tonnes and was probably empty. It doesn't help with automatic gearing in most trucks people forget to go manual and more importantly traction control off and diff-lock engaged helps. So does common sense, he should've pulled over at the bottom let other traffic through, other traffic might have helped with the actual road conditions. The other option of dropping the trailer and returning later is always an option, yet the ultimate blame rests up the ladder of command, how many times do you hear don't travel unless necessary, bosses need to take heed at times

    1. Hi Doug. I'm always excited when a Goldcrest shows up - I just wish I could have more success with them photography-wise! I nearly wrote a complaint to Walker's about that incident, but decided to let it lie. Have a great Christmas, and best wishes for 2018 - - - Richard

  9. Fantástico reportaje, las fotos son extraordinarias. Richard te deseo unas felices fiestas y mis mejores deseos para el año nuevo. FELIZ NAVIDAD!!!

    1. Hola Germán. Muchas gracias por sus amables comentarios, y por visitar mi blog en 2017. Les deseo a ustedes y a sus seres queridos una maravillosa Navidad, y salud y felicidad en 2018 - - - Richard

  10. Absolutely stunning landscape and wildlife shots. This is my fist visit to your blog and I really love your photography! Following now! :)

    1. Thank you for your visit and your kind words, Mersad.

      I have only once visited the country of your birth, and I enjoyed it very much and hope to return one day. One of the highlights for me was an evening visit to Vrelo Bosne, where I had my only ever sighting of Grey-headed Woodpecker. I also remember the crazy guys diving off the Stary Most bridge in Mosta. I don't know if you can help me, but I have been trying to remember where I visited a bridge which had hundreds of padlocks attached to the railings. It might not have even been in Bosnia-Herzegovena, but in a neighbouring country!

      I hope that you and yours have a wonderful Christmas, and wish you all the best for 2018 - - - Richard (following you back!)

  11. beautiful pictures
    Merry Christmas to you and your family
    and a happy new year
    Greetings Frank

    1. Thank you, Frank. A very happy Christmas to you too, and my best wishes for 2018 - - - Richard

  12. Richard this is a fabulous set of winter shots. I was trying to pick a favourite but so difficult especially when you add birds of prey which I always have a soft spot for. Love the long tailed tit, wish we had them in our garden.
    Have a fabulous Christmas and I wish you all the very best for 2018.
    Cheers Diane

    1. Thank you, Diane! My very best wishes to you too, for a wonderful Christmas, and a great New Year - - - Richard

  13. First, I hope your cold didn't develop to anything serious! Feel better!

    How amazing you have managed to produce a "winter" post which is so full of warmth! I searched for a favorite image to gush about and, as usual, found myself selecting all of them. Very nice work! As Noushka has astutely pointed out, you have a good eye for landscape photography. Of course, I'm easily impressed by pictures of snow as we never see the stuff here. The Little Owl in black and white works very nicely, in my opinion.

    Gini is quite jealous of Lindsay and now has me researching "craft hotels" here as she never heard of such a thing.

    We are about to start a road trip westward. We'll visit our son and family in Texas, then he and I plan a week in the desert mountains of New Mexico. Should be fun!

    We hope the new year brings you Peace and Joy!

    1. I'm fine now, Wally, thank you - just a little chesty.

      This was the fourth or fifth time the girls have been to that hotel. It offers a full day's programme of craft workshops every day, and also one of sports activities. I don't know if you have anything like it over there - this one is pretty unique in UK. You can find details of the UK one at

      I hope that you have a great time with family and find some wonderful wildlife in Texas and New Mexico.

      It looks as if the world is going to face some serious challenges in 2018. I hope that life treats you and yours with kindness and comfort, and a large measure of wonderment. Take good care - - - Richard

  14. Hi Richard,
    I enjoyed the pictures of the birds in this post.
    I love birds and I also love all nature,
    I thank you for your messages and the sympathy after the death of our dear grandson Jahnay.

    I would therefore like to wish you a nice ending and a very good start to the new year 2018.
    I keep reading you.

    Dear greetings, Helma

    1. Dear Helma. Thank you so much for visiting and leaving this kind comment on my blog. I can understand how difficult it must be for you. I hope that you can find happiness in 2018. You are in my thoughts - - - Richard


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