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Thursday, 26 November 2020

Lockdown II, pt.1 - 5th to 18th November, 2020

We are currently in a Covid Lockdown situation which came into force on 5th November, one aspect of which is travel should only be local and for work, shopping or medical reasons, or to get to a local place to take exercise.  In the circumstances, with the number of cases of Covid-19 escalating exponentially, Lindsay and I have been happy to comply, This has, however, limited my birding and photographic opportunities. 

Thursday, 5th November

Strictly speaking, this first item should be recorded as being from 4th November. It was found in the overnight moth trap and photographed in the morning of 5th November, but it is moth recording covention that moths are recorded as being from the date that the trap is put out. The Green-brindled Crescent is a moth I have only ever recorded once before (on 29th September, 2019), and I was delighted to find this second one as the sole catch of the night. This one was a little less colourful than my previous catch.

Green-brindled Crescent (Allophyes oxyacanthae) - from garden on 4th November, 2020

I was busy in my study that morning, but had my camera at my side. I couldn't resist a shot of a Woodpigeon. This species always strikes me as looking less than intelligent, with a tiny head in comparison to its body. However, the moulting process on this one seems to emphasise this.

Woodpigeon (Columba palumbus) - garden on 5th November, 2020

This Goldfinch, also photographed through the glass of my study window, compensates for the ungainliness of the Woodpigeon with its contrastingly handsome features.

Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) - garden on 5th November, 2020

The sun came out in the afternoon, and I made a late visit to a lake close to my home, in the hope of finding an owl. The lake usually attracts a number of Greylag Geese and Canada Geese, and as it gets towards dusk, these birds take off and head to their roosting grounds. The sound is wonderful and it is a delight to behold. The Greylags left first. 

Greylag Goose (Anser anser) - Longmoor Lake

As there was a different area of the site that I wanted to visit in order to check for owls, I missed the later departure of the Canada Geese. At the north end of the lake, a couple were feeding the swans - something that they said they did on a regular basis, with the swans instantly recognising them, even from the far side of the lake, as they approached!

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) - Longmoor Lake
I hung around until darkness fell, but didn't find any owls, so made my way homeward.

Friday, 6th November

The moth trap went out on this evening and resulted in just one moth - the wonderful fur-coated December Moth! This one is a female of the species, being much larger than a male and having 'un-feathered' antennae.

December Moth (Poecilocampa populi) (female) - from garden on 6th November, 2020
Hedgehog numbers had been rising, with five or more visiting this night. The trail cams were witnessing around twenty visits to the feeding station each night as they prepared for hibernation. The Hedgehogs seemed to have sorted themselves out quite nicely, with some favouring one of our two feeding stations and the others the second station. Furthermore, encounters seem to be relatively amicable - there are three together at 27 seconds into this clip of the night at one of our feeders. Sorry, Diane, this is going to be a bit long for your internet connection!

Saturday, 7th November

Feeling the need to photograph something (anything!), I attempted a few shots of common garden birds. Coal Tit has, thankfully, started to put in a few more appearances, but rarely gives photo opportunities. The focus on this shot is, sadly, soft  but I'm intrigued as to what it has in its bill - it looks like a leaf.

Coal Tit (Periparus ater)  - garden on 7th November, 2020
There seems to have been a decline in numbers of Chaffinch this year. This one posed briefly outside my study window.

Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) (male) - garden on 7th November, 2020

Tuesday, 10th November

I made a late afternoon visit to nearby Hicks Lodge, noting the fabulous autumn gold as I walked to the lake.

Gold! - Hicks Lodge

Just before reaching the main lake, I usually take a devious route which allows me to stealthily approach the edge of the lake without disturbing any birds on the water. As I passed through a small thicket, I noticed a fungus that I do not remember encountering before, although it is considerd a common fungus. It was in deep shade and so my grabbed photos were not good.

Stag's Horn or Candle-snuff Fungus (Xylaria hypoxylon) - Hicks Lodge
Nearer the lake, a Kestrel flew past at a distance.

Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) (female) - Hicks Lodge
From my surveillance position I could see another birder standing outside the hide with a 'scope (the hide is currently kept closed due to the Covid crisis), and was not at all surprised to find that this was an old pal, Mick Smith. I walked over to join him (at a more-than-social distance) and we had a conversation that distracted us for a while. I did, however, take the odd chance of a photo or two in the fading evening light.

Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus) - Hicks Lodge
As with the previously mentioned Longmoor Lake, Hicks Lodge usually hosts a number of Canada and Greylag Geese, which have a nearby roosting site. On this occasion at Hicks Lodge it was the Canada Geese which departed first.

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) - Hicks Lodge
While chatting, Mick had mentioned a rather unusual-looking goose that had flown in with the Greylag Geese, but that he'd not picked up again. We were talking when the Greylags took flight and so I quickly raised my camera and was taking a few shots when  Mick said that the odd goose was near the front of the group. By the time I found it, it was rather far away, but I subsequently found that I had a very blurred shot of it right on the very edge of a frame. It does, however, show the odd features of this bird (more sharply, but less clearly, shown in the second image below), which Mick believes is probably a leucistic Greylag. However, local guru Rhys Dandy suggests either leucism or cross-breed.
Leucistic (or cros-breed) Greylag Goose (Anser anser) - Hicks Lodge

Greylag Goose, with leucistic (or cross-breed) bird (Anser anser) - Hicks Lodge
Wednesday, 11th November

No photos for this day, on which the peace was disturbed by an invasion of 32 Starlings in our garden!

Thursday, 12th November

After a long absence, we had recently seen the return of a pair of Stock Dove to the garden. Here is one of them.

Stock Dove (Columba oenas) - garden on 12th November, 2020
Friday, 13th November

In spite of the date, I decided on a return to Longmoor Lake. I arrived a little earlier than on my previous visit and so managed some shots of a few birds on the water.

Greylag Goose (Anser anser) - Longmoor Lake

Teal (Anas crecca) (male) - Longmoor Lake

Coot (Fulica atra) - Longmoor Lake

Just after taking that last shot, I was accosted by a lady with a camera asking what lens I was using. We had a short chat, during which I said how veratile the Sigma 50-500 was, being able to use it for macro shots as well as long-distance shots. Little did I know that a couple of minutes later I'd be using the macro aspect on a caddis fly that I saw fly down into the grass. I have no idea of the species.

Caddis fly species - Longmoor Lake
I didn't take any more photos after this as I explored an area of the site that I'd not visited before. It did, however, show promise.

Having returned to my car I set off homeward, stopping in Normanton le Heath to photograph a Kestrel on a wire. Sadly, it seems like a long while since I photographed a Kestrel sitting on anything more natural than a wire.

Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) (female) - Normanton le Heath
That night the moth trap went out again and, once again, yielded just one moth - another December Moth. This time it was a male - a smaller moth with 'feathered' antennae.
December Moth (Poecilocampa populi) (male) - from garden on 13th November, 2020

Monday, 16th November

Sitting in the conservatory, I watched in amazement and anticipation as a Grey Heron headed our way. Sadly, it stopped on the roof of the house behind us. I grabbed my camera and shot upstairs to get a better view. It moved from the apex of the roof to to a lower flat roof, and eventually took off again and headed in the direction whence it came.

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) - from our house
Unlike most birders, I only count birds that put a foot down in the garden as 'garden birds' so this one didn't make the grade!

I missed getting a shot of the Goldcrest that briefly did grace us with a visit.

Wednesday, 18th November

This day marked the end of the first fortnight of our four week lockdown period.

We had another visit from a Sparrowhawk. Yes, those eyes really are something!

Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) (male) - garden on 18th November, 2020

This ends this blog post. Hopefully, my next post will cover the last two weeks of Lockdown II, if I can gather enough material!

In the meantime, take good care and hang on in there - hopefully, help is on the way.


  1. Love the light on the Geese flight shots. Luckily it seems your garden has plenty to offer in these lean times. Keep up the good work. Take care.

    1. I was really lucky with those Geese shots, Marc. They weren't planned at all, just quickly grabbed the shots, having been warned a few seconds before by the sudden build-up in noise from them.

      Yes, the garden has been my salvation this year. I'm just hoping for a few interesting winter visitors now - have had a pair of Blackcap this week which makes a pleasant change.

      Stay safe - best wishes - - - Richard

  2. I think you did remarkably well considering. That first shot at the lake would make a great calendar shot. We seem to have a lot of Grey Herons around at present but also not in the garden. They seem to be following the fields where there are sheep. Sadly they are mostly distant or they see me before I see them they take to the air.

    You are still getting some interesting moths around as well. I can never get birds of prey they just take off the second they see me.

    Have a good weekend, and stay safe, Diane

    1. Just went back to look at the shot you mentioned, Diane (thank you!), and noticed that I'd managed to repeat the header shot in the blog post itself - I had intended to omit it from the post. Old age is overtaking me!

      I think our neighbours, behind, must have a pond as this was not the first time we've seen a heron on their roof.

      I'm trying to put the moth trap out every week to ten days at present, but only if a rain-free night is forecast. The last time the trap was empty, and only one moth on each of the previous three occasions.

      I hope that you are enjoying your relaxed Covid regulations, but taking great care to stay safe - best wishes to you both - - - Richard

  3. Happy to hear you were able to do a bit of exploring!

    You certainly included some diverse images. Birds, insects, hedgehogs, fungi and even autumn foliage. Something for everyone!

    Since we don't have much of an "autumn" here in Florida, we love your golden trees. The Greylags flying past are especially pleasing!

    When one views what you can accomplish when "locked down", imagine the treat we anticipate once you are unleashed!

    Gini and I certainly hope you and Lindsay are well and that your upcoming weekend will be a satisfying one.

    1. I'm still not getting out and about much, Wally, but we did have some fair weather days this week and I found a couple of places fairly local to me, one of which I have not been to before, which look as if they might be useful for finding birds.

      We also had a couple of very hard frosts last week, ands most of the autumn gold is now on the ground!

      Don't get your hopes up too high for future output from me. Most of the best birding places in these parts involve a lot of people, and hides/blinds with confined space, neither of which I'm prepared to risk until this Covid thing is under control.

      I hope that you have a wonderful week ahead of you, and if you find some spare sunshine, please send it our way - not so worried about the cold, but would like some decent light!

      Best wishes to you both - - - Richard

  4. There’s really interesting things to photograph and follow. A special colored goose! Do you have a cold there?

    1. Thank you for your visit, Anne. I think that what you are asking is 'is it cold there?' to which the answer is that it is not very cold (about 7 deg.C), but it is rather wet, and we have had a strong frost on two nights this week. The words 'do you have a cold' here mean 'do you have a virus of the sort which causes you to sneeze and your nose to contantly run'! Maybe I got it wrong and that was what you intended to ask? ;-}

  5. Hello Richard: I don't know whether you are familiar with the North American wildlife artist, Ken Zylla (he died this past February, I believe), but I have a signed, framed print of one of his works called "A Likely Refuge" which was selected for the Federal Duck Stamp of 1981. To win the duck stamp competition is the passport to instant fame and success in the US; in fact there is a fascinating book about the whole process called "Wild Duck Chase" by Martin J. Smith. (I must read it again!). In any event all of this preamble is to tell you that I really, really like the pictures of the Greylag Geese and the Canada Geese in flight; they are quite marvelous in fact, in my opinion, and remind me stylistically of the print I mentioned above. The Mallards in his picture are coming in to land, and I realize that your subjects are taking off, but the overall gestalt is very much the same to my eyes. Take first prize for these images! They are just so evocative for me. And that Sparrowhawk is not too shabby either!

    1. Actually, I think the work was created in 1981 but used on the 1984 duck stamp.

    2. I'm delighted that you enjoyed geese in flight, David. I find the sight and sound of geese taking off en-mass quite thrilling. Hitherto, I had been totally unaware of the Federal Duck Stamp, so have just briefly departed from Blogger to seek information on the subject. First impressions are that there is some really great art featured on the stamps, and that 98 percent of the revenue is going towards conservation of wetlands is wonderful. What doesn't sit comfortably with me is that the sale of this seems to be part of the process to get a permit to shoot wildfowl. I'll be looking into the subject more closely and might even buy the book you mentioned as I see it is still available. I have also had a look at Ken Zylla's 'A likely Refuge' (isn't the internet a wonderful tool at times!) and can see where you are coming from - I'd love to be able to re-create that in a photograph.

    3. As you say the funds raised are tied up with gaining a hunting permit, and that doesn't sit well with me either, but a good deal of wetland preservation and restoration has taken place as a result of this revenue, so I have to hold my nose a little!

  6. Excellent images Richard, I love the Moths, and, the male Sparrowhawk.

    1. Thank you, Bob. I won't be seeing many moths now, until next spring, but I expect the Sparrowhawk will be showing up from time to time! Stay safe - - - Richard

  7. Well you seem to be managing very well in lockdown and getting some great shots through your window. that last couple of shots ae superb Richard. yes "the eyes"!!! Have a great Sunday and week ahead.

    1. Thank you, Margaret, we are managing quite well in lockdown and are being extremely careful, and we will continue to be so after lockdown finishes. Stay safe, and enjoy the week ahead - - - Richard

  8. Hello Richard, I agree with David about the photos you took of the Geese in flight. Just perfect!!! The Sparrowhawk is indeed a great bird and those eyes are something. As a little bird it must freeze when they stare at it. Have a nice day today en a great week ahead.

    1. Your kind words are much-appreciated, Roos, and it is good to see you back in Bloggerland again with your wonderful photography. Take great care and have a good week - and be sure to keep those batteries charged up! Best wishes - - - Richard

  9. Hello Richard
    Covid changes a lot, with us it is getting closer and closer to the lockdown
    a crazy time that makes it difficult to get some nice photos because there are many closures, nice to see that there are some motifs near you with the lake, nice to see the many geese. The heron is beautiful too ...
    Greetings Frank

    1. It is difficult in these Covid times, Frank, but if we are careful we should, with luck on our side, get through it. It is the people that are not taking the situation seriously that are the main danger to the rest of us! In the meantime, we just have to do the best we can with what is available to us. Stay safe - - - Richard

  10. Toujours de très belles images ! j'aime particulièrement celle de l'épervier et son regard perçant !

    1. Merci, Phil. Je suis toujours excité par l'arrivée d'un épervier dans le jardin, et j'aime beaucoup les oiseaux de proie en général. Prenez soin de vous et restez en sécurité - - - Richard

  11. Hi Richard,
    I'm a bit behind but I'm glad I can still see these images :-) A beautiful series and the flying images of the geese are really sublime. Nicely sharp, clear and full of beautiful details that are very clearly visible.
    You have the birds such as the goldfinch and the pigeon up close and these are also exceptionally beautiful. What is also very beautiful are the super sharp photos of the moths !!!!
    A sparrowhawk in your garden is also nice to see :-)))))
    The video of the hedgehogs is also very beautifully made and I am glad that so many hedgehogs come to hibernate in your garden.

    Greetings, Helma

    1. Hi Helma. Thank you for your kind words. The Hedgehogs this year have just used our garden as their favourite restaurant and fattened themselves up nicely before hibernating. However they are hibernating somewhere else, and have totally ignored the Hedgehog houses in our garden! We have not seen them at all now for a few weeks.

      Take great care - - - Richard


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