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Sunday, 6 December 2020

Lockdown II, pt.2 - 19th November to 2nd December, 2020

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.

Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) - from Feanedock Wood
View from Feanedock Wood
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.

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!

Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) (female) - garden on 21st November, 2020
Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) (male) - garden on 21st November, 2020
Sunday, 22nd November

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.

Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) (male) - garden on 23rd November, 2020
They might be a very common bird but it is always a pleasure to see a Blue Tit.

Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) - garden on 23rd November, 2020
Tuesday, 24th November

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.

Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) + ??  - from garden on 24th November, 2020
Wednesday, 25th November

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.

Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) (female) - garden on 25th November, 2020
Thursday, 26th November

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.

Coot (Fulica atra) - Saltersford Valley
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.

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.

Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus) - Saltersford Valley
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.

Treecreeper (Certhia familiaris) - 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. 

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!

Gulls - near Oakthorpe
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.

Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) - 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.

Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris) - near Oakthorpe
Friday, 27th November

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.

Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula) (male) - Thortit 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.


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!

Robin (Erithacus rubecula) -garden on 27th November, 2020
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.
 
Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) (female) - garden on 27th November, 2020
Tuesday, 1st December

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.

Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) -Saltersford Valley
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.


Great Tit (Parus major) - Saltersford Valley

Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) - Salterford Valley
True to character, the Bullfinches were the most nervous of the birds here, and were quite a challenge.
 
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
 
Redwing (Turdus iliacus) - Oakthorpe Colliery
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.
 
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.


18 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. Thank you, Anne. It is good to be back with the birds again.

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  2. Looks like we have both had encounters with Mergus merganser of late, Richard, and very pleasant it is too. Your picture of the Long-tailed Tit serves to remind me just how captivating a species it is. Who could fail to appreciate such a charming bundle of fluff? And as you point out, common though it may be, a Blue Tit is an appealing visitor to a bird feeder too. Goldcrest I have seen several times (very similar to Golden-crowned Kinglet here), but Firecrest has been a nemesis for me. In Slovenia, Miriam saw it, albeit fleetingly, but I missed it. Given that you have been in virtual lockdown, it seems to me you have done quite well. The vaccine is on the way, so if they can get the distribution organized and people actually vaccinated we may be able to get back to normal soon. We can only hope.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Mergus merganser does tend to reliably show up on small lakes in winter in this area, David, and are always a welcome sight.

      I think I have probably only ever seen Firecrest five times, and never managed a good photo. When they are found, they seem to stay around for days or weeks.

      If all goes well it looks as if Lindsay and I might get the vaccine around March/April time. It is being rolled out on a priority based on vulnerability and age, and Lindsay and I will probably be in the third tranche based on our age. What is the situation like there?

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  3. Bullfinch in the garden. How I dream of that. One of my favourite birds. A lovely write up and selection of photos Richard. Take care.

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    1. Is Bullfinch uncommon in your area, Marc, or is it just your garden that doesn't attract them? We can go months without seeing a Bullfinch in the garden, but when they do arrive they often stay for a week or two. The real delight is when they bring the youngsters.

      Stay safe - it's not over yet! Best wishes - - - Richard

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  4. i Richard,
    a very nice series of images of our feathered friends but also of mushrooms. Your opening photo of the squirrel is really great. Sharp, clear and beautiful in color. Beautiful mosses underneath and I like that too.
    Your flying images of both the buzzard and the other birds are beautifully displayed. You saw tits and you could also put the bullfinch nicely on the picture, just like the blackhead and the starling :-)))
    The robin is great and I also see a goldcrest :-) You had a great time there.
    We too are still in partial lockdown and things are still not getting any better. We also have to celebrate Christmas very sober with only 3 guests. more is not allowed.
    Stay safe Richar and luckily we can still enjoy nature.
    Greetings, Helma

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    Replies
    1. Hello, Helma! Thank you for your kind words of encouragement.

      It was starting to look as if the Covid virus situation was improving here, but we have recently seen an upturn in infections and deaths. There are too many selfish people out there who do not obey the rules and put the lives of others at risk. Hopefully, the vaccine will come to us before it is too late. In the meantime, take care and stay safe.

      Best wishes - - - Richard

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  5. Hello Richard,
    You make me jealous, those pictures I only have in my dreams. In the last 12 months I have recorded sparrows, starlings perhaps 3 times the rest of your sitings do not exist here in Sussex. I am limited to gulls and pigeons. Oh! to get a bit of freedom and travel a bit further and perhaps my luck will change. In the meantime stay safe and keep making me jelous.
    Mike.

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    Replies
    1. I'm sorry that my postings are causing you some frustration, Mike, and sad to know that your garden is not being visited by many birds. I'll try and keep future postings down to a dull roar! I hope your luck does change soon. I hope that, one day soon, we'll manage to get this dreadful virus under control. Until then, take great care.

      Best wishes - - - Richard

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  6. We have been having trouble with our slower than slow WiFi over the past week and I have go far behind in blogging and visiting. So very frustrating when I cannot even get one photo to download.

    How I would love to see a Bullfinch, a Long-tailed tit or a Treecreeper in the garden, we seem to have all the same birds all of the time. At least now I can get out and walk I am seeing a few different birds but often I only discover what I have taken when I get home as they are too far away!!!

    It would have been great if you had discovered the Goat Moth, but if they were on a tree they would be very difficult to see anyway I would think.

    Take care as always and stay safe, Diane

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    Replies
    1. I reckon your WiFi problems are due to the internet getting overloaded, Diane. Ours is also suffering. It is probably because of a massive increase in on-line shopping for Christmas, and also due to people working from home, and students and school kids having on-line lessons and lectures.

      You might wish for some of our birds to be there but, equally, I would wish for some of your birds to be here! And I assure you that you are not the only one that sometimes only works out what they have seen when they get the photos up on the computer!

      It seems that Goat moths are more frequently detected by the presence of their caterpillars than by seeing the adult moths - which are rare these days anyway. However, having investigated further, I'm beginning to think that what I saw, and dismissed as lavae holes, possibly were.

      Best wishes to you both - stay safe - - - Richard

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  7. Amazing species of birds, the Bullfinch are terrific and the Fieldfare. Richard, you are fantastic.

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    1. Your very kind words are much appreciated, Bob - thank you. Take great care and stay safe - - - Richard

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  8. Hello Richard
    The birds have no interest in Corona and you got great pictures despite the virus, the two crows with the buzzard are an eye-catcher
    stay healthy
    Greetings Frank

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    Replies
    1. I wish I had managed to get photos when the crows were more actively worrying the buzzard, Frank. They were trying to scare it away, but seemed to have given up by the time I got close enough to get a photo.

      I hope that the Corona vaccine reaches you soon. It looks like my wife and I might get the vaccine around March/April time. I shall do my best to still be around at that time!

      Best wishes - stay safe - - - Richard

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  9. I'm exhausted trying to keep up with you, Richard! Two weeks of walking while sipping coffee. Physically drained.

    But what rewards! Your photographs, as usual, are simply outstanding! The diversity of birds is wonderful.

    When we first moved to Germany, we set up a feeder and bird bath. The first visitors to the bath were Robins, Great Tits and Blue Tits. Needless to say, we were in love with birding in Europe!

    That Bullfinch is certainly a handsome bird.

    More coffee and once more through your hypnotic album.

    Gini and I hope you and Lindsay will have a wonderful new week!

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    Replies
    1. It seems that you have been doing my walking for me, Wally, as I've not been out for a walk for the past 12 days - a combination of too much to do in the build-up to Christmas, and dire weather! However, I have managed a few photos in the interim, so I may be able to offer you some further exercise soon.

      Thank you for your visit and your much-appreciated kind words. My very best wishes to you both - - - Richard

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