In England, during most of November and the beginning of December, we were subjected to a four-week lockdown period, due to a serious second spike in Covid-19 infections. My last blog post covered the first two weeks, and can be found here:- http://peglerbirding.blogspot.com/2020/11/lockdown-ii-pt1-5th-to-18th-november.html. This post covers the second two weeks of that period.
Thursday, 19th November
I'd had a message from our local Forestry England Community Ranger, about a Goat Moth she had found in 2019 at a local woodland site. This was an extremely rare moth in the county, the last record being in 1990 and from the other side of the county. She had recently had a message from the County Recorder to suggest that it would be interesting to have the area surveyed for evidence of its continuince presence. This is most easily achieved by looking for bore holes in tree trunks made by the larvae. This location is quite close to my home, and is one that I had not visited before. The afternoon was fine, and so I decided to visit this day.
Having parked, I set off to wards the area that the moth had been found in, which was some way away, but I was immediately struck by the beauty and potential of the area. As I neared the target area, I stopped to photograph a Grey Squirrel.
|Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) - Feanedock Wood|
I spent about half an hour checking tree trunks in the area, but didn't find any concrete evidence, although a couple of items had me wondering for a while. I know nothing about lichens and mosses, but this one trunk intrigued me as it looked rather attractive, and I believe that this may be lichen and moss together.
|Lichen and Moss? - Feanedock Wood|
I then spent an enjoyable couple of hours exploring some of the rest of the area. At one point I arrived at an elevated open area with a view, and a Buzzard flew past in the distance.
Even though I saw little in the way of wildlife to photograph, I really enjoyed this place and hope to return in the not-too-distant future.
|Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) - from Feanedock Wood|
|View from Feanedock Wood|
Saturday, 21st November
There was much excitement this day when, for the first time since early July, we were visited by a pair of Bullfinch. I only managed records shots, but here they are anyway!
Sunday, 22nd November
|Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) (female) - garden on 21st November, 2020|
|Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) (male) - garden on 21st November, 2020|
Another exciting day as we were visited by a pair of Blackcap. Sadly, the male was only present for a few seconds, and I didn't get any shots. The female hung around for a while, however, but was not very cooperative photographically.
|Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) (female) - garden on 22nd November, 2020|
Starling numbers were building up, and there was one bird that decided it would stay and live in our garden when the rest of the starlings departed after each mob visit. I suspect that it was either mentally or physically impaired, and it seemed totally incautious if I approached it.
|Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) - garden on 22nd November, 2020|
We have had a lot of fungi in the garden this year, although nothing at all spectacular. A few Stink Caps have made their presence known although not in a photographable position. Here are a couple of examples of other types that I have no idea of the ID of.
|fungus - our garden on 22nd November, 2020|
|fungus - our garden on 22nd November, 2020|
Monday, 23rd November
The Bullfinches were back this day, and the male was a little more obliging.
They might be a very common bird but it is always a pleasure to see a Blue Tit.
|Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) (male) - garden on 23rd November, 2020|
Tuesday, 24th November
|Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) - garden on 23rd November, 2020|
A pair of Stock Dove have recently become almost daily visitors once more. Here is one of them on this day.
|Stock Dove (Columba oenas) - garden on 24th November, 2020|
I have, above, mentioned the build-up of Starlings. These frequently congregate on the apex of the roof of a house behind our garden. I attempted a shot of these on this day. However, I am only showing this one because of the bird that snuck into the right-hand side of the photo. I just cannot work out what it might have been. We had a group of 24 Starling visit that day.
Wednesday, 25th November
|Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) + ?? - from garden on 24th November, 2020|
I missed getting shots of the Goldcrest that came in with a mixed tit flock and briefly put a foot down in the Elder in our garden. The flock included at least six Long-tailed Tits and I missed photographing any of those too. This was partly because it was a very dull and wet day. I did get some photos, however. The first is, I believe, of the other one of the pair to that shown above.
|Stock Dove (Columba oenas) - garden on 25th November, 2020|
The female Bullfinch also obliged this day. I was sorry to see that she had a bad case of 'scaly foot', caused by parasitic mites.
Thursday, 26th November
|Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) (female) - garden on 25th November, 2020|
In the morning, I took some photos of a House Sparrow from my study window. I don't take many photos of House Sparrows but, for a reason that I cannot put my finger on, I quite like this shot.
|House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) (male) - garden on 26th November, 2020|
I have not been getting out much (and am still not) but I came to the conclusion that I needed to do a bit of local exploring, and also to revisit some places that I'd not been to for a while. The Saltersford Valley Country Park is a place I first visited earlier this year and found it an interesting place for damselflies and dragonflies, but surprisingly short on bird life. The old Oakthorpe Colliery site used to be a great place to sit and watch birds coming to the feeders and often produced interesting birds. This, however, changed somewhat when they refurbished the car park and moved the feeders. Having looked at a detailed map, I came to the conclusion that I could park at Oakthorpe Colliery and walk through to Saltersford Valley, so this is what I did!
I didn't see much en route to Saltersford Valley, but was pleasantly surprised when I got there. Having traversed the boardwalk on the off-chance that a late-lingering dragonfly might still be around, I returned to the main path, and was soon photographing a Robin.
|Robin (Erithacus rubecula) - Saltersford Valley|
My photographing this bird was cut short when a person arrived from the opposite direction. He too was carrying a camera and was here for the wildlife and we had a chat at a good 4 metres distance. While talking, I found myself being ditracted by a Goldcrest high up in a tree behind this person. In the end I had to excuse myself and attempt a few shots of this bird. With this tiny bird (UK's smallest bird species) up high in a tree at some distance I was never going to get a good result, but at least I got an identifiable shot!
|Goldcrest (Regulus regulus) - Saltersford Valley|
The bird disappeared when two other people arrived and after a further few minutes chatting we went our separate ways.
In the summer, the birds that I'd photographed here were Coot, Moorhen and Mute Swan. On this day, the golden light on the water added to this shot of a Coot.
There was far more bird activity than I'd seen in the summer months, probably partly explained by the presence of several bird feeders dotted around the site.
|Coot (Fulica atra) - Saltersford Valley|
I hadn't noticed the out-of-focus red berry when I was taking this shot, which is a pity as, otherwise, I rather like the light on and behind the bird.
I spent a while waiting for a Treecreeper to head round to the sunny side of the tree. However, when it did so, the light was so strong on this contrasty-plumaged bird that the photos were unusable. With a bit of work, I did manage to just about salvage one image from when it was in deep shade.
|Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus) - Saltersford Valley|
The paths on which I had to return to my car are much used by dog-walkers. Unfortunately, too many of these are irresponsible dog owners who do not clean up after their dogs. It is for this reason that I was keen to return to my car before it got dark. I am sure that I'd see twice as many birds as I do if it was not for the fact that when I am walking on paths I am constantly having to watch my footing to avoid stepping in it.
|Treecreeper (Certhia familiaris) - Saltersford Valley|
My way back took me along Pastures Lane. Soon after setting off a flock of birds flew past at a considerable height. While I was trying to ID these, they decided to give me a clue by forming a giant image of themselves!
OK, so that might have been a bit fanciful. However, they were soon pursued by another flock who had formed themselves into a shape that suggested to me that their purpose might be sinister!
|Gulls - near Oakthorpe|
Some crows were worrying a buzzard in a tree at the edge of a field. I tried for a stealthy approach, but it soon had me spotted and departed.
|Gulls - near Oakthorpe|
At the far end of the lane I tried for my first Fieldfare shot of the winter. There were three of them but they were typically nervous, and I could not get a clear shot.
|Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) - near Oakthorpe|
Friday, 27th November
|Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris) - near Oakthorpe|
In order to have a change of scenery, Lindsay and I decided to go out for a picnic lunch, followed by a short walk for exercise, as permitted by the rules of lockdown. As I'd seen on the previous day that there were plenty of benches in the vicinity of the Oakthorpe Colliery car park, and Lindsay needs frequently to sit down to regain her breath when out walking, this is where we went. The picnic was, intentionally, a basic one and we were soon finished and heading off into an area that I'd not visited for probably well over twenty years, although just down the road from us.
I was very pleasantly surprised as, on my previous visit, there had been informal grass paths and I'd had to turn back at one point as I could not find a way forward without stepping in dog dirt - hence my long absence. There were now all-weather paths which, although not totally dog dirt free, were relatively clean. The paths took us to an area of water variously known as Willesley Flashes (this is an old coal mining area) or Thortit Lake.
At first I just saw Mute Swan, Coot, Moorhen, Tufted Duck, and Mallard on the lake.
Soon, however, a female Goosander came into view. She seemed quite at home here, but I could not spot a male of the species anywhere.
|Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula) (male) - Thortit Lake|
|Goosander (Mergus merganser) (female) - Thortit Lake|
Back home after our short walk, I took a few more photos from my study window. If only there'd been some snow around for this next shot!
We had two female Bullfinches visiting together this day, and I think that this is a different bird to that shown above as it does not seem to have the same extent of scaly-foot.
|Robin (Erithacus rubecula) -garden on 27th November, 2020|
Tuesday, 1st December
|Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) (female) - garden on 27th November, 2020|
This was the penultimate day of lockdown, the weather was fair, and it was time for me to make a return visit to Saltersford Valley. On arrival, I made my way directly to the lake and had not been there long before I had the pleasure of seeing a Kingfisher flash through.
I spent some time round by one of the areas where feeders had been set up. There were a lot of intervening trees from my postion on the path, and it seems that the birds were not used to people. I did get a few photos, however.
Great Tits are usually very smart-looking birds, as in the second image below, but this first bird had something strange going on. If it had been wet, or dirty, I could have understood the situation better.
|Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) -Saltersford Valley|
|Great Tit (Parus major) - Saltersford Valley|
True to character, the Bullfinches were the most nervous of the birds here, and were quite a challenge.
|Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) - Salterford Valley|
|Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) (female) -Saltersford Valley|
|Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) (male) -Saltersford Valley|
I then headed off to Oakthorpe Colliery with the intention of seeing if I could find a drake Goosander on Thorpit Lake. I'd not got far from the car park when I found a tree beside the track that was being visited by a group of Redwing. These are also extremely nervous birds, so I picked my spot and stood still and waited. They were just returning, when some people came up the track and the birds were gone again. I stood my ground and about five minutes after the people had left the area the birds started coming back again - and again some people arrived and frightened them off again. This happened about five times before I decided to call it a day with just a few vaguely usable shots in the can. Here's one of them
I carried on with my intention to circumnavigate Thorpit Lake, but I suspect that my delay with the Redwings had caused me to be a bit too late, and little was seen, and no Goosander at all were found.
|Redwing (Turdus iliacus) - Oakthorpe Colliery|
This ends my report of the two weeks leading to the end of Lockdown II.
Lockdown ended on 2nd December and the whole of my home county, Leicestershire, was placed in Tier 3 (highest level of control) of the three tier system. We will see what happens on 16th December when the situation is reviewed. Lindsay and I are quite happy to be in Tier 3 as we believe that Tier 2 is too relaxed.
I'm hoping to have enough material for another blog post in a week or so's time. In the meantime, take good care and stay safe.