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Monday, 21 December 2020

Lockdown II ends in Tiers! - 3rd to 9th December, 2020

The second English Covid lockdown period ended on 2nd December, with the country entering a 3-tier system of regulations to control the spread of the virus. Very few regions (our beloved Isles of Scilly was one) were in Tier 1, for those areas deemed to be at 'Medium' risk level. Tier 2 was for 'High' risk areas and Tier 3, which included us, was for the 'Very High' risk areas. However, the official restrictions on us were not as strict as Lindsay and I were voluntarily imposing on ourselves in order to try and stay safe.

This blog post covers just the first week of our Tier 3 experience, and will be rather short as I find myself a little short of time and energy at the moment, and I want to get a blog post out before Christmas!

So here we go:-

Friday, 4th December

We were lucky enought to have continuing visits by Bullfinch at this time, although these visits now seem to have ceased. This day we had both male and female visit us, and they were very much a pair.

Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) (male) - garden on 4th December, 2020

Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) (female) - garden on 4th December, 2020
Monday, 7th December

This was a good day, in that we had  a female Blackcap visit and also ten Long-tailed Tits - none of which were photographed. However, I did manage a shot of Coal Tit - a species that we are always delighted to see.

Coal Tit (Periparus ater) - garden on 7th December, 2020
Tuesday, 8th December

Not having seen my brother, Joe, who lives in Cambridge, since December 2019, we decided on an outdoor meet-up at a mid-point between us for a chat and exchange of Christmas presents. Cambridge is about 100 miles (160 km) from my home and I suggested a good half-way point, considering distance and travel time, as the informal car park beside Eyebrook Reservoir. As my journey, being rather more cross-country than Joe's, would be less predictable than his, I allowed an extra hour for my travels and set off late morning taking a picnic lunch with me. This also allowed for some leeway should I chance upon something interesting en-route.

As it happens, little was seen during the journey, but I did stop for a Kestrel on wires along a country lane.

Common Kestrel (Falco tinnunculus) (male) - near Burrough on the Hill
With little to distract me, I arrived at Eyebrook Reservoir in good time and parked by the bridge at the inflow end.

A quick look over the bridge parapet revealed a female Goosander feeding in the Eye Brook which is the inflow to the reservoir. 

Goosander (Mergus merganser) (female) - Eyebrook Reservoir
A little further towards the reservoir was a Little Egret that looked a little fed up with the cold weather.

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) - Eyebrook Reservoir
The Goosander continued to bumble around feeding in the brook before going onto an island of weed for a rest in the company of Mallards.

Goosander (Mergus merganser) (female) - Eyebrook Reservoir
The Little Egret stood up and decided to move down towards the reservoir.

Little Egret (Egretta garzetta) - Eyebrook Reservoir
It was then time for me to go back to my car and have my sandwich of extra-mature cheddar cheese with caramelised onion chutney. 

Having finished my lunch I took a quick look over the parapet and found the Goosander was back in the water, and I got a shot with the bird in a more favourable attitude to the light.

Goosander (Mergus merganser) (female) - Eyebrook Reservoir
I then headed off to the car park where I had arranged to meet Joe. While waiting for him to arrive, I took some shots of a Cormorant. I was shooting directly into the light, but I'm quite pleased with the effect.
Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) - Eyebrook
I didn't have to wait long for Joe to arrive, and we parked our cars with a good-sized gap between them so that we could place the folding chairs that we'd brought with us at a spacing that meant that we were well-over the recommended two metres apart.

We sat catching up with each other's news for an hour or so, but the cold started to get to us and it was time for our farewells. It had been a very welcome meeting. We were sad that our wives could not have been with us but there are practical reasons why this was not possible.

I was very glad of the heated seat in the car as I set off homeward!

Wednesday, 9th December

Nothing exciting this day, but I did take some shots of a Goldfinch from my study window.

Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) - garden on 9th December, 2020
This ends my account of our first week in Tier 3. 

The header that is current with this blog post is from a photo that I took in December 2010, in a location that is local to me.

This past week, it has been confirmed that we now have a new virulent mutation of Covid running rampant in the population. We do not yet have the measure of the implications of this, other than the certainty that is significantly more contagious than previous strains. The result is that infection rates are escalating wildly, and we have added a fourth tier to the system. We, however, have retained our Tier 3 status.

Lindsay and I have been cautious from the very beginning, but we now feel the need to retreat into our shells even more, so my trips out may be even more limted for the foreseeable future. I do, however, have a little more material to work on from sessions between the above date and the present time. I hope to be posting again sometime between Christmas and the New Year. In the meantime please take great care, and have as enjoyable a Christmas as possible while staying safe in these difficult times.



  1. Happy Christmas Richard. I will take that male Bullfinch photo as a present to me. I'm sure you post these to wind me up! Stay safe over the holiday period and fingers crossed, we may get out next year at some point... although don't hold our breath as I suspect another lockdown will happen in the new year.

    1. Thank you, Marc. Sorry if my Bullfinches cause you some frustration. If the male returns, I'll have a quiet word with him and ask him to pay you a visit.

      We've currently got four breaks already booked for next year, but have absolutely no confidence that any of them will happen. The situation is looking particularly grim at the moment and I'm sorry to see that you appear to be in the thick of it down there in Kent. Do take very great care, particularly if you have to carry on teaching.

      Have a good Christmas, even if it will be a very different one. Best wishes to you and yours for 2021 - - - Richard

  2. Always a good set of images in your accounts Richard. Continue to take great care, and stay safe for a healthy and Happy Christmas to yourself and Lindsay.

    1. Thank you, Pete. Very best wishes to you and KT too for Christmas and 2021. Take good care - - - Richard

  3. It's great that you were able to meet up with your brother, Richard, and spend an hour catching up on a whole year. In terms of the birds you present for us today, the outstanding picture for me is the Kestrel. I have a real fondness for small falcons and our American Kestrel (Falco sparverius) has become dismayingly scarce in recent years. It is hard to believe that the first time I ever took Miriam birding the first three birds we saw were male kestrels each with a vole (it was an irruption year for microtus voles). These days, if we see one kestrel in a whole month we are delighted. The news out of the UK about this mutation of the coronavirus is disturbing indeed, and Canada has imposed flight bans between our two countries. It is hard to predict when and how this is all going to end. When I was forced to cancel my visit to Australia this year, it was far from my thoughts that I may have to cancel again next year. It looks like you and Lindsay are taking all possible measures to stay safe, but isolation is becoming the norm I fear. Enjoy the holidays as best you can and make sure that COVID does not sneak in through the back door. With love to you both from Miriam and me. David

    1. The Common Kestrel is not nearly as common in this part of the UK as it was just a few years ago, David. I could virtually guarantee to see one every birding excursion in these parts a few years ago, but its decline has been very noticeable and I do n't see one very often at all - maybe one in five or six outings. I feel sure it is due to the collapse of the food-chain from invertebrates upwards.

      That mutated virus is giving us great concern, with its estimated more than 70% increase in transmission rate. I'm hoping that we get more information soon on which part, or parts, of the transmission mechanism is causing this, so that we can guage what activities are least safe. Is, for example, it lingering longer on surfaces?, do we need to increase the 2 metre social distancing guidelines (which I think was probably a little inadequate anyway)? Is it now resistant to conventional hand-washing? OK, so I may be a bit paranoid, but I'd rather be paranoid and alive than careless and dead.

      We're now on self imposed total lockdown, although we do still intend to find a quite place nearby for a Christmas Day picnic lunch, sitting in the car, maybe followed by a short walk if not many people about.

      Wishing you the best possible for Christmas and 2021. With our love to you and Miriam - - - Richard

  4. Hello Richard and Linsey, first of all I wish you Merry Christmas and for 2021 all the best but most of all good health and that this horrible virus will be stoped at last. Living in Belgium it makes that I did not get to see family sinds February. So good that you did get to see your brother and exchange presents for Christmas but most of all to have been able to see him and talk with each other. Than your photos you were able to take on your outings in nature. They are stunning and the Goosander and the Bullfinches are my favorit. Looking forward to your next anounced blog for the last week of the year. Take care stay healthy and I am sure everything will turn out alright.
    Warm regards,

    1. Thank you for your very kind and encouraging words, Roos. I am sorry to hear that you have not seen your family for so long. This terrible virus has caused many difficulties for everyone but, for those that manage to stay healthy, being kept apart from family, and not being able to exchange hugs, has been the most difficult.

      I hope that your Christmas will be a happy one, even if it will be different to the one that you wish for, and that 2021 will bring the vaccine and safety to you.

      Looking forward to following your uplifting blog in 2021. My very best wishes - - - Richard

  5. Unas fotos extraordinarias, enhorabuena Richard!!! Te deseo unas felices fiestas de Navidad y un inmejorable año nuevo lleno de aves y rodeado de naturaleza. Un fuerte abrazo desde el norte de España.

    1. ¡Saludos, Germán! Espero que 2021 sea un año mucho mejor para ti y para el resto del mundo, y que este terrible virus pueda ser derrotado, pero creo que tomará algún tiempo todavía. Mientras tanto, tenga mucho cuidado, manténgase a salvo y tenga una buena Navidad. Nos vemos del otro lado - - - Richard

  6. Hello Richard,
    this is the right decision of you to take even better care, the virus is slowly getting out of control but still have a nice Christmas time for you and your family,
    stay healthy,
    Regards Frank

    1. We will do our best to have an enjoyable Christmas this year Frank, and I hope that you and your family will do the same. Thank you so much for your kind wishes. With luck, we will all be offered a vaccine before it is too late, so we can look forward a better time in 2021 and a more traditional Christmas next year. Take good care and stay safe - - - Richard

  7. Beautiful photos. We are in the Netherlands in a lockdown too. I wish you a merry christmas. Greetings Caroline

    1. Thank you, Caroline. I think that being in lockdown is the safest position in these difficult times. Have a good Christmas! My best wishes to you for 2021 - - - Richard

  8. Hi Richard,
    I envy you. You get more in a week than I get in a year. Happy Christmas and a Prosperous New Year.

    1. Greetings, Mike! If you count quality rather than quantity, Mike, you don't do too badly - Fox and Hedgehog together is something to cherish.

      Incidentally, our Hedgehogs all seemed to hibernate early this year - at least, I hope that is what happened! They all disappeared in early November, shortly after bonfire night.

      I hope you have a most enjoyable Christmas in these difficult times. Best wishes to you for 2021 - Take care and stay safe - - - Richard

  9. Season's greeting to you Richard and Lindsay. You have a collection excellence.

    1. Thank you, Bob. I hope that you and the family have a great 2021 and that Covid is soon sent packing!

  10. We are happy to hear you were able to meet with your brother for awhile.

    As usual, you've managed a superb series of photographs for us to enjoy! Jealous that you have Bullfinches and we don't. Love that Kestrel! Our local area experiences a surge in American Kestrels as several migrants remain here throughout the winter. We were especially excited yesterday to discover a mated pair is still in the spot where we found them nesting last spring. The Florida sub-species of this falcon is becoming less frequently encountered so we're hoping this pair will have another successful breeding season.

    All here is good. We are blessed with excellent health and the ability to find remote locales for birding and enjoying nature.

    Here is hoping we all experience a better New Year!

    1. It's good to know that you are both still doing OK over there in these difficult times, Wally. I'm more than a little concerned that Florida keeps being mentioned as a Covid hot-spot in USA.

      Currently, we do feel blessed by visits from Bullfinch to the garden. They were absent for couple of weeks recently, but have started to show again from time to time - two males together yesterday and a lone female so far today. It seems that there are even people in UK that envy these visits! However, they are an extremely handsome bird in my opinion, except when they are eating - they are the messiest of eaters and end up with food all round their bills. Their bull-headed outline is also quite unusual.

      I'm pleased to hear news of the American Kestrels, and that you have a nesting pair. Sadly, falcons, and birds of prey in general, are in decline here. This is, it seems, partly due to farming practices and partly through persecution.

      Wishing you both a happy and health 2021 and keeping fingers crossed that vaccines can be administered world-wide in the near future. It currently looks as if Lindsay and I will get ours February/March time, but priorities are changing on a regular basis.

  11. Hi Richard,
    it is also really bad now that almost the whole world is in a lockdown.
    Let's hope that in the new year we are heading to, we will have some more freedom and that this nasty virus will be brought under control.
    Your photos are amazing and especially those of the little egret. You have also been able to photograph the bullfinch nicely. I am always happy when I see the bullfinch :-)
    I wish you a very nice end and a very nice start to 2021 with hopefully more possibilities.
    Stay safe and healthy.
    Greetings, Helma

    1. Hello Helma. I am just hoping that it will not be too long before the whole world has access to a Covid vaccine, and that everyone has the good sense to take it! It seems to be the only way that we will overcome this terrible virus, as too many people are ignoring the safety rules unnecessarily.

      I think that a male Bullfinch will always bring a smile with it!

      Have a safe and healthy 2021, with plenty of opportunities to show us your wonderful photography

      Best wishes - - - Richard


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