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Tuesday 19 January 2021

The First Two Weeks of 2021

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 :- 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.

Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrellii) - garden on 2nd January, 2021
I'm delighted to say that the Bullfinches are still regular visitors.
Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) (female) - garden on 2nd January, 2021
Monday, 4th January

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

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) - Hicks Lodge
Sometimes I have to remind myself just how handsome a bird the ever-present drake Mallard is.

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.

Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) (male) - garden on 5th January, 2021
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. 

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.

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) - Staunton Harold Reservoir
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'.
On my way up to Calke I stopped to look at a a flock of Greylag Geese in a field beside the road.

Greylag Goose (Anser anser) - Calke
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.
Goldcrest (Regulus regulus) - 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) - by Staunton Harold Round Car Park
I was over the moon at having had the opportunity to photograph two of these wonderful kinglets in such a short space of time.
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.

Common Buzzard (Buteo buteo) - Staunton Harold Reservoir
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!
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.
Siskin (Spinus spinus) (male) - garden on 6th January, 2021
Corvids seem to be increasing their visits to us, but, sadly, not Jay.
Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) - 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.
Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella) (female) - my 'local patch'

Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella) (male) - 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.
On a different section of the lane, I had views of Fieldfare foraging in the wet mud.
Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris) - my 'local patch'
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.
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

Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrellii) - 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.
Greenfinch (Chloris chloris) (male) - 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!
Jackdaw (Corvus monedula) - garden on 7th January, 2021
Goldfinch are still regular visitors to the garden, but their numbers seem to have declined significantly this winter.
Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) - garden on 7th January, 2021
Friday, 8th January
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!

Goldcrest (Regulus regulus) -garden on 8th January, 2021
Three photo opportunities with Goldcrest in just four days was the stuff of dreams!
A male Bullfinch was cooperative on this day also.
Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) (male) - garden on 8th January, 2021
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!
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!

Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) (male) - garden on 11th January, 2021
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!
Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) - garden on 11th January, 2021
Wednesday, 13th January
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.
Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) (male) - garden on 15th January, 2021
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.

Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) (male) - garden on 13th 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!

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!


Sunday 10 January 2021

Wildlife-inspired Leatherwork

A number of years ago - maybe as many as 15 - Lindsay and I diverted from the M5 on our way down to the West Country, and called in at Cleveden Craft Centre. Here we found a pleasant assortment of craft shops and a café. I was particularly impressed by the workshop of Mr. Arnold Smith, who is one of the finest leather-workers in UK, and who has special talent for portraying wildlife in leather. On this first visit, I purchased a simple leather belt that was decorated with stamped oak leaves and acorns.

Turn the clock forward to 2010, after a few more visits and a couple more belts purchased, when Lindsay kindly commissioned Mr Smith to produce a picture of a Little Owl for our wedding anniversary. Mr Smith is a very busy man, and it was a few months before my Little Owl picture arrived, but I was delighted with it, and pleasantly surprised by the price charged. You can find Mr Smith's web site here:-  - I am sure that you will be impressed by his work.

my Little Owl  - by ACA Smith

Now this is where I find that I've lost track of the timeline of how it all happened, but Lindsay and our daughter, Melanie, had been attending a number of short crafting courses at 'Crafts in the Court' at nearby Barwell. At one point, they decided to book on a short leather carving course being conducted by a gentleman by the name of Malcolm (I'm sorry to say that I've forgotten his surname) and asked if I was interested in joining them. My answer was a resounding 'yes please!', as I was already contemplating making a leather belt. 

The course was excellent and lasted probably only two or three hours and there was a follow-up a couple of weeks later.  The girls both made decorative Christmas items, but I was trying out some potential designs for a belt. 

After these sessions there was a long period of several months getting a raft of tools and materials assembled and then doing a few practice pieces. Some of these items were obtained from Mr. Smith, some via the internet, and some from The Identity Store, an excellent leathercraft supplier in Matlock. Eventually, over the Christmas period of 2017, I started work on the belt itself. I had in mind that I would like to make three belts, each one featuring one aspect of my wildlife interest. Wanting to leave the most important one to last, I started with a butterfly-themed belt, inspired by the Chalkhill Blue butterflies that I'd been seeing during that summer. The belt was eventually finished in February 2018, and although it shows my lack of skill, I am nevertheless quite pleased with it, as it is not that easy a task carving detail into an item that is only an inch and a half (3.8cm) wide. The photo below shows a section of it.

 section of Butterfly Belt - finished in February, 2018
It was not until late summer of 2019 that I embarked on the second belt, having totally gone rusty on any skills I might have developed during the production of the first one. I wanted this one to be totally different to the first, and to feature dragonflies. I knew that it would be virtually impossible for me to carve dragonflies at such a small size, but the main supplier of leatherworking materials in USA, Tandy, once offered a dragonfly punch tool, now discontinued. I managed to get one and, although it was quite basic, found that with some additional cuts I could make the dragonflies a little more detailed. I also spent some time working out a reedmace design to cut into the leather, and sorting out what I wanted to do with the 'background' leather to give a suggestion of water. The trial pieces took a long while, but the belt itself was quite quickly produced. Again, I am relatively pleased with the result.

section of Dragonfly Belt - finished in October, 2019

There was then a huge gap without doing any leatherwork at all until early 2020. For the third belt, to feature owls, I spent months on and off trying various different designs and processes as I had a pretty clear idea of what I wanted to achieve. By early December, 2020 I was ready to go. I had decided on something roughly in the style of the first belt, with a simple design, but somewhat more elaborate finishing processes. I hope that I will not now bore you by explaining some of the steps taken to produce it.

Swivel Knife
For the design of the leaf and flower motif, as shown in the first belt, I used a commercially produced stencil. This has a raised design on one side. The leather is then moistened (a process known as 'casing'), the stencil is placed on the moistened leather, and pressure applied to the stencil so that it leaves a mark on the leather where cuts are to be made.

Fairly deep cuts are then made in the cased leather using something called a 'swivel knife'. The swivel knife has to be kept razor-sharp by stropping before each session. The result is as shown below.

pattern cut into cased leather
The leather is cased again, and an assortment of punches is then used with a nylon-headed mallet, with the leather sitting on a stone slab, to give contour and texture to the design, and extra detail is cut in to the design, as shown below.

design after the leather is punched and extra detail cut in
I then used a similar process to produce what were intended to be a few representations of Little Owl between the leaf/flower pattern sections. This used similar processes, but the design was my own and printed onto tracing paper which I then used a stylus on to press the design into the cased leather. Lindsay pointed out to me, after it was too late, that I'd managed to make the owl cross-eyed! A texture was then punched into the 'background' of the design. At this stage things look a little messy, but the design is starting to come to life.
section of belt after all cutting and punching finished
After this, there was a complex process of colouring and finishing the belt. This involved applying coats of masking liquid, and a couple of different stains with a fine brush, then applying an antiquing compound, before smoothing the edges of the belt and applying a protective finishing coat - all of which took rather longer than the cutting and punching (usually referred to as 'leather carving'). All I had to do then was attach a fine brass buckle!
OK, so I'm no artist, and my leather-working skills are rather basic, but I'm quite pleased with the result.
section of the finished Little Owl belt
I'm not sure what my next leatherworking project might be if, indeed, there ever is one, and will probably, by then, find myself back to square-one skills-wise!
Thank you for your visit. This was an absolute one-off blog post. My next post will be back to my wildlife observations and, primarily, feature birds
I wish you all the best for 2021. Take great care, stay safe, and make the most of the wildlife that surrounds you.

Friday 1 January 2021

The End of 2020 - Phew!!! - 10th to 31st December, 2020

The end of 2020 has come as a relief, it being the worst year that I (and many other people too) can remember. However, I am mindful that there are very many people out there for whom life has been horrific, even without the threat or event of Covid-19, and so I consider myself to be extremely lucky (so far!) and am very grateful for the support offered by so many people, not least of which are my wonderful wife, Lindsay, and daughter, Melanie. I hope that, when this is all over, I will be in a position to repay, or pass forward, all the kindness shown.

Because of restrictions imposed by virus and weather, I have not been out much at all in the past three weeks, so this will probably, once again, be a fairly short post.

Friday, 11th December

Having spotted a male Bullfinch visiting for the first time in a while on the Wednesday, we were delighted when a pair visited us on this day when the weather was a bit grim. I only managed a shot of the female which was outside my study window. This one was, unfortunately, exhibiting scaly feet.

Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) (female) - garden on 11th December, 2020
Sunday, 13th December

A highlight on this day was a visit by a Carrion Crow. We see them regularly around our home, but they rarely drop into the garden. The following is not a good photo by any measure, but I can't resist posting it as the subject looks so very magnificent.

Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) - garden on 13th December, 2020
Monday, 14th December

This was a day that I managed to get out for a while. I started by parking at Oakthorpe Colliery, which is relatively close to my home and walking to Saltersford Valley, taking a route that I had not previously traversed. It turned out to be a bit muddy and slippery in places and, at one point, the path (designated a 'public footpath') seemed to split, with the southern fork heading over over a muddy field and the northern fork heading down a grassy ride. As I passed some farm buildings, a Peafowl (I think that it was a female) watched me from on top of some plastic covered bales. That morning, anti-avian flu regulations had come into force, and I did wonder why it was out in the open, but it seems that the regulations don't embrace Peafowl. Unfortunately I was shooting straight into the light.

Peafowl - Lowlands Farm, Oakthorpe
After about 400 metres I found myself at a dead-end and was starting to think that I'd have to set off back to the fork, and was not relishing the muddy field alternative. Trying to cross the barbed wire boundary meant risking tearing my trousers and I did not want to take that risk. I then noticed that there was a very short section without barbed wire, and made my escape, coming out directly opposite the entrance to Saltersford Valley.

It seems that I can fully rely on Coot to be present when I visit this place.

Coot (Fulica atra) - Saltersford Valley
Further on, I found a few birds to watch. There can never be too many Long-tailed Tits!

Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus) - Saltersford Valley
The heavy rains of the past weeks had caused considerable flooding of the pathway at one point, and so I turned back to where the photo, above, had been taken. A pair of Great Spotted Woodpecker were in the distance, which was quiote exciting for me as I rarely see a pair of these birds. They came a little closer at one point in time, but I only managed a vaguely usable shot of the male.

Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) (male) - Saltersford Valley
I waited for some time and was on the verge of giving up as the female had moved even further away, when the male moved to a nearer uncluttered position.
Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) (male) - Saltersford Valley
It was now time to head back to my car via the old route, with little seen on the way.

Tuesday, 15th December

Prompted by reports of Russian White-fronted Geese and a potential Ferruginous Duck at Longmoor Lake, which is quite close to my home, I set off to take a look. I was a little disappointed at the number of cars in the car park, but my walk down to the lake didn't reveal too many people. As I got near the hide, a person was just leaving and informed me that there was no one else in the hide, so I decided to take a chance.

There were few geese on the water, and no white-fronts could be seen. However, there were good numbers of Greylags and Canadas in the tall vegetation beside the lake. 

Greylag Goose (Anser anser) - Longmoor Lake
I had the occasional very brief glimpse of the bill of a white-front but never enough for a photo. After a while, there was some movement and the geese started making their way towards the water. Unfortunately two more people then entered the hide and did not seem over-concerned about keeping a safe distance. I stayed for a while and took a few shots of some Greylags that came a little nearer to the hide, but then felt a bit insecure and so left.

Greylag Goose (Anser anser) - Longmoor Lake

The hide is at the south end of the lake and I took a walk to the north end, and a bit beyond. The light was fading fast, and I took very few photos. Here's one of a pair of Wigeon.

Wigeon (Mareca penelope) (male + female) - Longmoor Lake
On my way back, I found the couple from the hide had moved round to the lakeside path, having had good sightings of the white-fronts from the hide. There were five of them now, swimming alog beside the far bank of the lake at a distance of about 120 metres. With the light now being very poor, I only got record shots. However, these birds were a 'lifer' for me.

Russian White-fronted Goose (Anser albifrons albifrons) - Longmoor Lake

I didn't see the Ferruginous Duck, but I'm not upset at this as it was later declared to be a hybrid!
Thursday, 17th December
With restrictions in place, I felt that I should continue to stay as close to home as possible for my walks. I therefore returned to Oakthorpe Colliery and Saltersford Valley. The exercise was much-appreciated, but it was not a very productive walk. Any help with the fungus ID would be appreciated.

Great Tit (Parus major) - Saltersford Valley

fungus - Saltersford Valley

Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) - Oakthorpe Colliery
Wednesday, 23rd December
This was a reasonably good day for garden birds in spite of extremely dull weather, with fifteen species visiting. The absolute highlight, however, was a Goldcrest, but I only got a record shot.
Goldcrest (Regulus regulus) - garden on 23rd December, 2020
Friday, 25th December - Christmas Day
As always, we had our breakfast in the conservatory and, in my case, I didn't deviate from my usual fare of cornflakes with dried fruit either. Although our regular pair of Robins graced us with their presence (as all good Robins should do at Christmas) I did not take any photos of them, but I did take some of a Bullfinch (sorry, Marc!).
Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) (male) - garden on 25th December, 2020
Since my mother, who used to come and stay with us at Christmas, died some fifteen years ago, it has been our custom to go out into the countryside for a picnic lunch on Christmas Day. This day we were confined to staying close to home, but we did have our lunch in the car park at Oakthorpe Colliery. The car park was all but empty and I was just trying for some shots of a Redwing when a car arrived and, instead of parking in one of the wide-open spaces, parked right beside us, blocking our view. We didn't stay long after that!

Redwing (Turdus iliacus) - Oakthorpe Colliery
Saturday, 26th December

While having a coffee in the conservatory, a Wren popped up out of a Hebe and onto the 'owl' in front of me. Unfortunately, a reflection in the glass has bleached out the head area somewhat.
Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) - garden on 26th December, 2020
Sunday, 27th December

In an effort to work off some of the excesses of Christmas, Lindsay and I went for a short walk at Saltersford Valley. My wanderings were a bit more extensive than Lindsay's and I came upon a lone Canada-type goose with a pair of Mute Swan. This goose seemed rather small and seemed to have a short neck, and I wondered if it was a goose of the Cackling, rather than Canada, group. However, an enquiry to a member of the records committee, brought back the verdict that it looked like a small Canada, with a note that there are a lot of variants and hybrids amongst our feral flocks.
Mute Swan and Canada Goose (?) - Saltersford Valley

Canada Goose ? - Saltersford Valley

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) - Saltersford Valley
Tuesday, 29th December
The most remarkable thing about this day, apart from the small amount of snow that fell (and is still with us as I write this), was the noisy arrival of at least 24 Starlings. I did, however, just about manage a shot of a Robin in the gloomy conditions.
Robin (Erithacus rubecula) - garden on 29th December, 2020
Wednesday, 30th December

Another day with a reasonable tally of 16 species of bird visiting the garden. So far this winter it seems to be around 14 species most days, which is slightly disappointing as, in past winters, numbers have  usually been around the 18 mark.  For those that think these numbers are generally low, please bear in mind that I only record birds that actually put a foot down in the garden - even a Sparrowhawk skimming through less than 2 metres off the ground doesn't count!
Sorry, but I can't resist putting up this next shot as, although it is not particularly unusual to get two Bullfinch visiting the garden at one time, I don't think I have ever got two males in one shot before. So here we are - complete with bird-feeder clutter!
Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) (male) - garden on 30th December, 2020
Just recently, the occasional visits by Carrion Crow have been getting a little more frequent. On this day we had two but, although one didn't stay for long, the other was more obliging.

Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) - garden on 30th December, 2020

This brings me to the end of this account.

If all goes according to plan, my next blog post will be totally different to anything that I have posted before! In the meantime, please take good care and stay safe - for your own sake, and for the sake of those around you.
It just remains for me to thank you for your past visits to this blog and your much-appreciated kind comments, and to wish you all a very much better year in 2021, with good health and plenty of wonderful wildlife to enjoy.
Thank you!