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Thursday, 19 December 2019

Season's Greetings! - December, 2019

My apologies for being absent from Blogger for a while. A planned maintenance on my PC had an unexpected result when a hard drive failed during the process. I now have two new 2 TB drives in my PC and a whole lot of data to reinstall from back-ups. I hope to catch up with everyone soon.

Photographically, it has been a quiet end-of-year for me. We've had relatively poor weather, with lots of rain and plenty of wind and it seems that, every time we've had a spot of good weather, I've had commitments that have prevented me taking advantage of it. Herewith, therefore, a few shots of wildlife in the garden ('back yard' to those on the western side of the Atlantic), taken through the window glass from my study, or from the conservatory, during November and December.

Nuthatch is an infrequent visitor to our garden and has been noticeable by its absence for most of the year - hence it was exciting to have a brief visit on this day. The weather was dull and the bird was at the far end of the garden.

Nuthatch (Sitta europaea) - our garden on 2nd November, 2019
As the camera was out, I took a few shots of a Blue Tit that was close to the window.

Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) - our garden on 2nd November, 2019
We then went away to Dorset for a dew days. On our return, we were delighted to find that the Brambling that had been visiting before we left was still around - again, the light was dire for this shot.

Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla) - our garden on 10th November, 2019
A couple of days later, I managed a few shots of a Sparrowhawk. This juvenile is an occasional visitor and, whilst I would not wish it any harm, I'm rather glad that it doesn't seem to have much success in catching the birds in our garden.

Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) (juvenile) - our garden on 12th November, 2019
Three days later, I got some more Bramblings shots - at a much greater distance and still in poor light. I think that this is the same bird as that on 10th November.

Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla) - our garden on 15th November, 2019
We now wind forward a week. I'm a bit fond of woodpeckers, and disappointed that we rarely see one in our garden these days. However, one (a female) showed up on 30th October. She has been an occasional visitor since then, showing maybe twice in three weeks on average. I managed to catch her on camera on 15th November. This is a sequence of her spotting something she was unhappy with, instantly dropping round to a position under the 'branch' that she was on, then coming back up when she was happy that all was OK.

Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) (female) - our garden on 22nd November, 2019
The moth trap has been out a few times but, since 22nd October, this was the only time I've caught a moth. This is the splendid December Moth - just look at its 'warm winter coat'!

December Moth (Poecilocampa populi) - from our garden on 26th November, 2019
The female Great Spotted Woodpecker was back on 28th November - in the rain.

Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) (female) - our garden on 28th November, 2019
We had some excitement on 3rd December, with the arrival of two birds that we had not seen in the garden since last winter - Blackcap and Redwing. We managed some sunshine that day!

Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) (female) - our garden on 3rd December 2019
Redwing (Turdus iliacus) - our garden on 3rd December 2019
During the summer, we had two Hedgehog feeding stations in the garden, as well as three hedgehog houses. A few weeks ago, one of the feeding stations was dismantled as it was now only being used by mice, and was attracting cats. We currently have four trail cams deployed in our garden - three of them are pointing at the hog houses (one of which also covers the remaining feeding station) and another is pointing at a bush, under which a Hedgehog has built himself a nest of leaves. 

At one point we were worried about both the hogs that were visiting our garden. One (a very large hog) appeared one night dragging its rear right leg which seemed twisted at a strange angle. At that time we did not know where the hog was coming from, and I was not up to staying up all night in the cold in the hope of catching it to get its leg attended to. Instead I kept monitoring it on a trail cam in case it got worse. Soon after this, it started building its leaf nest at a place that I just happened to be observing with a trail cam. I helped it by piling dry leaves outside the nest, so that it had less distance to travel on its poorly leg. Over a period of a few weeks I was delighted to see the leg improving, and it got to the point that I could not detect that there'd been a problem.

The second hog that was a cause for concern was a rather small one that was running round the garden at night at great speed and only sniffing at the food and water in the feeding stations. This was probably going to be too small to survive the winter.

On 6th December, the hog in the self-built nest had already hibernated (he's since been waking up and repairing his nest after wind-damage), and the small hog, which had suddenly started using the feeding station and was visibly putting on weight, was busy supplementing the bedding that I'd put in one of the hog houses (a Hogitat - the other two houses are wooden constructions, purchased from Leicester Hedgehog Rescue, but currently 'vacant'). Here is some video of the small hog using some of the extra leaves I'd supplied to cosy-up its 'hogitat'.

In the summer, we had two pairs of Bullfinch that regularly visited the garden - then we had the youngsters. By the end of October, the garden was, sadly, devoid of Bullfinch. There was, therefore, some excitement when a female Bullfinch appeared on 1st December. This female has continued with occasional visits since then and even brought a male with her on one occasion. I have only once managed a photograph, and this was not very good!

Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) (female) - our garden on 8th December, 2019
This will almost certainly be my last blog post until after Christmas, so I take this opportunity to wish my readers a very Happy Christmas and all the best for 2020. 

The header, which is current as I write this, harks back to what is probably going to be the lifetime highlight of my birdwatching interest – a Snowy Owl on Tresco, Isles of Scilly, on 17th March, 2018 – a rare bird for UK, but snow on the Scillies is even rarer!

Thank you for dropping by.


  1. Another good selection Richard. Seasons greetings to you and yours.

    1. Thank you, Adrian. Best wishes to you, Alf, and Molly too.

  2. A pretty stunning gallery for a suburban backyard if you ask me, Richard. And superb photographs. It was good to get caught up on the Hedgehog news. Miriam is out right now, but I will be sure to show this to her so that she can keep apprised too. I had to shovel my driveway yesterday and again today. Not something I suspect you have to do much of in Ashby de la Zouche, so that will give you more time for window gazing. Enjoy the holidays. May 2020 be a fabulous year of wildlife sightings - and good health!

    1. Thank you for all those kind words, David, and your support and inspiration throughout 2019. While we don't get snow as deep as as yours, I'm more than happy when we do get snow, as it can give some great photo opportunities - even in the back yard. However, I think I'd turn my nose up at anything much over 10 cm, as I don't relish shovelling !

      We'll be starting our holidays on Tuesday with a Christmas Eve Thai lunch, and then a picnic lunch on a nature reserve on Christmas Day - looking forward too it.

      Have a wonderful Christmas, but don't overdo it! My very best wishes to you and Miriam for 2020 - - - Richard

  3. Looks like you have your very own nature reserve out of your back door. Some lovely photography Richard. Wishing you a great Christmas and a busy 2020 with the camera.

    1. It's only a small plot, Marc, but I try to make it as wildlife-friendly as possible whilst keeping down the maintenance requirements.

      I'm looking forward to 2020, and more inspirational blog posts from yourself. Have an excellent Christmas, and I wish you a host of photographic opportunities in the New Year.

  4. Precioso reportaje fotográfico, todas las imágenes son fantásticas y el vídeo del Erinaceus europaeus me ha gustado mucho también. Amigo Richard te deseo una FELIZ NAVIDAD y un próspero Año Nuevo, que venga repleto de buenos momentos en la Naturaleza y extraordinarias fotografías. Un fuerte abrazo desde España.

    1. Hola Germán, mi amigo. Gracias por sus amables palabras de apoyo a lo largo de 2019. Han sido muy apreciadas.

      Espero seguir sus aventuras fotográficas en 2020, y espero que tengan un año maravilloso, con buena salud y mucha vida salvaje.

      ¡Que tengan una excelente Navidad! Con mis mejores deseos - - - Richard

  5. Beautiful birds Richard, lovely to look at.

    1. Thank you, Bob. Take good care, and have a wonderful Christmas, With my best wishes to you and the family - - - Richard

  6. Hello Richard, a little paradise your garden with so manny birds. Fantastic you have so manny Hedgehogs living in your garden. Loved the movie. Your Christmas card header with the Snowowl is indeed the best place for such a bird. Also for you and all your loved ones happy holidays and for the next year good health and lots of birding.

    1. Hello, Roos. I do enjoy my garden, and sometimes I feel I want to stay at home and observe the garden instead of going out. However, I'm not too keen on doing a lot of work in the garden, and find it encouraging when people say that an untidy garden is a wildlife-friendly garden!

      Thank you for your kind words and encouragement in 2019. Have a great Christmas and I hope that 2020 brings you everything that you wish for. Take good care - - - Richard

  7. Wow you have so much going on there and great photos to go with it. This year we have what looks like several hundred Sparrows (!) one Robin, a couple of Great tits and very few Blue tits. Very boring, I do not know where all the other birds have got to.

    So interesting re the hogs. I have only ever seen two here in all the years we have been here. One the neighbour’s dog killed (got through our fence!!!) and the other I disturbed that was asleep at the bottom of our wood pile. Think it survived though until it had warmed up a bit.

    Wishing you both a very Happy Christmas and all the very best for a healthy 2020. Diane

    1. Ours is not a pretty garden, Diane, and it's sometimes very untidy - which some say is good for wildlife. We have a small lawn, and it is my intention to dig most of it up next spring and sow wild flower seeds to make a mini flower meadow to encourage the insects. I've already ripped up some of the more 'traditional' flower besd and sown wild flower seed this autumn.

      I'm sorry to hear that you don't see Hedgehogs much. They are a threatened species in UK now, and need all the help they can get. I used to take in rehabilitated rescue hogs, but had to stop when they started building work behind our house about three years ago.

      I hope you both have a great Christmas and wish you the very best for 2020 - - - Richard

  8. A fine selection, I hope you many more in 2020. Mike.

    1. Thank you, Mike. My best wishes to you for 2020 too. - - - Richard

  9. Very beautiful photos Richard. You are lucky to have them in your garden. I love your snow owl. I wish you a merry christmas and a happy new year. Greetings Caroline

    1. Thank you, Caroline, I do feel lucky to get these creatures in my garden - but it's not all luck!

      My best wishes to you too, for Christmas and 2020 - - - Richard

  10. My goodness! Why ever leave the house when you have such a diverse wildlife population just beyond your window pane!

    Superb images, despite poor light and shooting through windows. I have seen Sharp-shinned Hawks (Accipiter striatus) over the past three days, which is somewhat uncommon for our area, and they are very similar to your Sparrow Hawk.

    Gini and I hope you and Lindsay have the Happiest Christmas ever and we're looking forward to hearing about your outstanding health during the New Year!

    1. I do confess, Wally, that sometimes I find that stopping to observe the wildlife in my garden is more rewarding than than going out into the great outdoors. Unfortunately my experiences earlier this year have dampened my enthusiasm and confidence somewhat, and I'm not getting out as much as I should do. I am, however, fully aware of this, and intend to make amends as soon as we get some reasonable weather and I don't have other commitments - I'm already being actively encouraged to move in this direction by Lindsay!

      I'd noticed that your Sharp-shinned Hawks have great similarities (in appearance & character) to our Sparrowhawks. I'm always excited to see one in our back yard, but Lindsay's not so keen.

      Christmas is almost upon us now, and I hope you both have a wonderful time, and that the coming year brings you happiness and health, and is filled with wonderful wildlife. Take god care - - - Richard

  11. Hello Richard
    I wish you a nice end to the year
    Merry Christmas to you and your family and a great year 2020 with lots of health
    Many greetings

    1. Thank you, Frank. My very best wishes to you too for the festive season. I hope that 2020 is filled with wonderful wildlife sightings for you!

      Take good care - - - Richard

  12. Hello Richard,
    when I see these photos you have a beautiful and valuable garden :-))) Wonderful to see these photos and you even had a bullfinch female.
    I also had problems with the PC. I had sent a wish card to many people via e-mail at the same time, but my provider immediately blocked me. He thought I was hacked because so many emails were sent out at once. It took a while before I was unblocked.

    I really enjoyed your photos and I wish you and your loved ones a very nice new year. That in that new year we can again experience many beautiful moments of nature.

    Compliments also for your beautiful headere.

    Kind regards, Helma

    1. Dear Helma, I'm sorry to hear of your troubles with your PC. These things are great when they are working, but a real pain when they do not work!

      Thank you for your kind words. I am not a keen gardener, but I do enjoy the garden. I am also grateful that my wife, Lindsay, leaves all the gardening to me, which means that it is never 'too tidy'! It seems that tidy gardens are rarely the best wildlife gardens.

      I hope that 2020 is a happier year for you, filled with love and wildlife. Take good care - - - Richard

  13. That's so cool about the hogs. Hopefully they didn't mess up the garden too much! I will have to look at the Sparrowhawk closer again next time I visit. I briefly saw it while I was in Wales. I looks like our Cooper's Hawk here. The Bramblings are stunners! It has been slow and go here in my yard. The garden has its regulars and they are very defensive if a new bird comes to visit. I'm catching up with your blog posts. It has been crazy over here. I want everything to slow down.

    1. Sadly, everything HAS slowed down for me at the moment, Chris.

      Our Sparrowhawk has, I believe, also got similarities with your Sharp-shinned Hawk - all three are a menace to the garden birds, but magnificent to see in action!


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