Thank you to everyone that gave me kind words of encouragement on my last blog post featuring my first (protracted) steps into the world of leatherwork, which you can find here, if you missed it :-http://peglerbirding.blogspot.com/2021/01/wildlife-inspired-leatherwork.html. I have already started formulating ideas for my next project which will take me away from belt-making - a man can only use so many belts!
It is now time to get this blog back to wildlife, although opportunities are somewhat limited at present due to the highly critical state the UK finds itself in with regard to Covid-19, with the whole of UK in lockdown once more, and the English police dishing out heavy fines to anyone found away from home for leisure purposes. It seems that, although excercise close to home is OK, if you look as if you are enjoying yourself during the process, doing things like looking through binoculars, taking notes, taking photographs or taking a sip from a flask of coffee, it becomes leisure rather than exercise.
Herewith, my account of the first two weeks of 2021 - a year that I hope will turn out to be better than its predecessor for everyone.
Saturday, 2nd January
A light fall of snow, followed by freezing conditions at night, meant that I was constantly having to use hot water to melt the ice on our bird drinking stations. I suspect that it was a shortage of water elsewhere that brought a Pied Wagtail to our garden. You may find it surprising that Grey Wagtail has been far more common than Pied Wagtail in our garden in the past twenty or so years, with Grey Wagtail being an annual visitor but Pied Wagtail not showing most years. We used to have a large koi pond in the garden and this brought the Grey Wagtails, sometimes with their young. The pond was filled in more than 10 years ago now, with just a tiny part left as a bird bath. However, the Grey Wagtails kept coming (I think that there must have been some sort of genetic imprint), although their visits have become far less frequent with just one sighting in 2020, on 11th October.
I'm delighted to say that the Bullfinches are still regular visitors.
|Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrellii) - garden on 2nd January, 2021|
Monday, 4th January
|Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) (female) - garden on 2nd January, 2021|
A fairly unremarkable day as far as garden birds was concerned had me taking a visit to nearby Hicks Lodge. This can be a useful place for birdwatching, but my other reasons for visiting were to see how busy it might be with people, now that our open spaces are being overrun with visitors, and also to see if the new parking app on my phone worked.
The parking app worked fine, but what they didn't say, until after you booked, was that they load another 18% onto the standard parking fee.
I did see some birds, although nothing of great interest, but I was most put off by all the people who were ignoring social distancing, steaming on along the centre of the path and leaving me to side-step into the muddy land to the side of the path to avoid them - and not so much as a thank you from even one of them. I shan't be returning in any great hurry.
Here, however, are some of the birds that I encountered, photographed mainly to give some exercise to my shutter button finger.
|Greylag Goose (Anser anser) - Hicks Lodge|
I had never noticed the attractive shape a Coot's facial 'shield presents when looked at head-on!
|Coot (Fulica atra) - Hicks Lodge|
|Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) - Hicks Lodge|
Sometimes I have to remind myself just how handsome a bird the ever-present drake Mallard is.
|Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) - Hicks Lodge|
|Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) (male) - Hicks Lodge|
|Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) - Hicks Lodge|
|Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) - Hicks Lodge|
Tuesday, 5th January
Blackcap is not a common visitor to our garden, but lately we have been having almost daily visits from both male and female of the species. The female seems to just pass through, briefly stopping in our Viburnum at the bottom of the garden. However the male tends to linger a little longer, but still tends to stay in the rather dense branches of the Viburnum. Furthermore, they only seem to visit when the day is extremely dull. Photography, therefore, has been extremely difficult.
That afternoon, in my quest to find somewhere quiet to walk, and partly prompted by recent reports of Ring-necked Duck and Great Northern Diver, I set off to Staunton Harold Reservoir.
|Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) (male) - garden on 5th January, 2021|
There was no sign of either of these birds when I arrived at the bridge which is at the south end of the reservoir, but I did take some shots of a distant Grey Heron.
I took the decision to walk up the road to the hamlet of Calke and then along to what is usually referred to as 'the round car park'.
|Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) - Staunton Harold Reservoir|
On my way up to Calke I stopped to look at a a flock of Greylag Geese in a field beside the road.
Along the road to the round car park, by the exit from Calke Park, I spotted a Goldcrest - the smallest of all British birds - up in a tree. As I don't see too many of these, and most years I don't even succeed in getting a photo of one, particularly as they are constantly on the move, I spent some time trying to photograph this one and was quite pleased with the outcome.
|Greylag Goose (Anser anser) - Calke|
As I reached the round car park about a quarter of a mile (450 metres) down the road, I spotted another Goldcrest. This one was staying close to the ground - and I managed some more shots. I just love that face!
|Goldcrest (Regulus regulus) - Calke|
I was over the moon at having had the opportunity to photograph two of these wonderful kinglets in such a short space of time.
|Goldcrest (Regulus regulus) - by Staunton Harold Round Car Park|
The round car park was closed to vehicles, presumably to reduce the number of visitors because of the Covid situation. There was still food in the bird feeder there, and a Buzzard was in a nearby tree.
WARNING! - you do not want to be standing behind a large bird of prey when it raises its tail as shown in that last image!
|Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) - Staunton Harold Reservoir|
I then took the path down to the water's edge, stopping to photograph some of the several delightful Long-tailed Tits en-route.
|Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus) - by Staunton Harold Reservoir|
Other than one female birdwatcher who apeared from a side-path as I passed, and who seemed intent on breaching the social distancing guidelines, it had been a walk that had been useful, and filled me with confidence for future visits. Little did I know that, within a few days, there would be reports of police dishing out £200 fines to people from my home town visiting this very same area - less than 4 miles(6 km) away - as being too far to travel from home for exercise!
Wednesday, 6th January
Notable this day was a male Siskin which visited our garden. This was the first of the winter and I hope not the last. I can only offer a record shot of it on one of our feeders.
Corvids seem to be increasing their visits to us, but, sadly, not Jay.
|Siskin (Spinus spinus) (male) - garden on 6th January, 2021|
After lunch, I went out for another walk to an area which I used to refer to as 'my local patch' and where I used to see Little Owls (sadly none seen here for a few years). I was prompted to go here because it is a quiet country lane to walk along, and I used to regularly see Yellowhammer here. Yellowhammer seem to have become a little scarce locally and I have not been seeing them in their local haunts. I was, therefore, delighted to see a distant group of five or six of this delightful bunting, albeit at some distance.
|Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) - garden on 6th January, 2021|
|Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella) (female) - my 'local patch'|
Later on in my walk I was asked by a lady, passing in the opposite direction and nicely 'social distancing', if I'd seen anything interesting, to which I replied 'just a group of Yellowhammer'. She was quite excited by this and said she'd not seen them on the lane in a long while. I hope, therefore, that this was not an isolated visit by these birds.
|Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella) (male) - my 'local patch'|
On a different section of the lane, I had views of Fieldfare foraging in the wet mud.
I ended my walk here, again feeling extremely comfortable, and suspect that it will not give me any problems if I take a walk along here again.
|Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris) - my 'local patch'|
Thursday, 7th January
Freezing foggy conditions brought the birds in again, including Blackcap and the Pied Wagtail. Also of note was a visit by four Bullfinch (2 male, 2 female). I only managed to get a shot with three of them in-frame.
|Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) (2xmale 1xfemale) - garden on 7th January, 2021|
Greenfinch has, again, become rather scarce in our garden, so it was good to have a visit from one this day.
|Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrellii) - garden on 7th January, 2021|
We are now starting to get the occasional visit by a pair of Jackdaw, but they only singly come into the garden. That eye is piercing!
|Greenfinch (Chloris chloris) (male) - garden on 7th January, 2021|
Goldfinch are still regular visitors to the garden, but their numbers seem to have declined significantly this winter.
|Jackdaw (Corvus monedula) - garden on 7th January, 2021|
Friday, 8th January
|Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) - garden on 7th January, 2021|
Freezing frosty conditions persisted and, while having a coffee in the conservatory, I noticed a movement in the fuchsia in front of me. Fortunately, my camera was at the ready when a Goldcrest appeared!
Three photo opportunities with Goldcrest in just four days was the stuff of dreams!
|Goldcrest (Regulus regulus) -garden on 8th January, 2021|
A male Bullfinch was cooperative on this day also.
Fortunately, I have a huge supply of peanuts, as there is a Grey Squirrel that visits us which is rather fond of them. I just wish that it had the intelligence not to bury many of them at various places in the garden!
|Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) (male) - garden on 8th January, 2021|
|Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) - garden on 8th January, 2021|
The first week of the year had been an exceptionally good one with 25 species of bird putting a foot down in our garden. These are shown on the summary section of my weekly recording sheet for Week 1 (4th to 10th January), as shown on the right. The previous week had resulted in 20 species visiting.
Sunday, 10th January
This was the last day that we saw the Pied Wagtail in the garden. The weather had warmed up and, as I found out later in the day, ponds and lakes were starting to thaw, so I guess it felt it had no further need of us.
Covid infection rates had been rising dramatically and I was still seeking places which I could reach on foot from home and where there were natural places where I could walk and not encounter Covidiots. I walked about 6 miles (10 km) that afternoon and the few people I encountered were nearly all considerate. However, I saw virtually nothing of interest, and only raised my camera twice - once to photograph a very distant tree as it looked as if it might have been good for an owl (it wasn't!) and a second time to photograph a distant Buzzard (the results weren't worth bothering you with).
However, I was fully dissuaded from taking this route again when, as I was getting close to home on a narrow country lane with no sidewalk, walking facing the oncoming traffic as was drummed into me when I was a child, I heard the scream of a high-powered car accelerating as it passed from the 30 mph limit into the 50 mph limit, giving me just enough time to throw myself into the bushes at the edge of the road before a low-slung BMW passed me at an estimated 80-100 mph!
Monday, 11th January
The week got off to a reasonable start, with 16 species of bird visiting the garden on this day. Both male and female Blckcap visited, but the female continues to be camera-shy, with the male only a little better!
That afternoon, just as we were finishing lunch in the conservatory, I noticed a movement in the Hebe, just in front of where I was sitting. I grabbed the camera and waited - and just managed to get a quick shot of the Wren as it briefly popped its head out of the foliage!
|Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) (male) - garden on 11th January, 2021|
Wednesday, 13th January
|Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) - garden on 11th January, 2021|
Most excitement on this day was caused by the arrival of a Reed Bunting into the garden. This was our first visit by this species since March, 2020. Sadly I only managed a record shot.
The male Blackcap was back and, for the first time, decided to go for some of the old and shrivelled Rowan berries, a few of which had been left by the other birds.
|Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) (male) - garden on 15th January, 2021|
I'll end this blog post, with some photos of a bird that is, undeservedly, often ignored because it is so common. It is, however, handsome - whichever way you look at it!
|Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) (male) - garden on 13th January, 2021|
|Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) (male) - garden on 13th January, 2021|
Many, even most, of the photos in this blog post have been taken in extremely dull, sometimes misty, weather, and some have had to be considerably post-processed to compensate for these conditions. I'm hoping for some brighter days soon, but the immediate future does not look too promising with severe rain and flood warnings in place for the next three days - fingers are crossed!
I hope to be back with another blog post in approximately a fortnight's time. As things stand, it is likely to only contain garden observations, as it does not look as if I will be going anywhere anytime soon!
In the meantime, take good care and stay safe - and please take the vaccine if offered it!