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Tuesday, 16 February 2021

Confined to Barracks - 1st to 14th February, 2021

As I write this,  other than a trip to the pharmacy to pick up our monthly supply of medication, a visit to our local medical practice to get our first Covid vaccine shots, and a click-and collect visit to Aldi last night I have not left the premises since 22nd January. However, things have to change and I reckon that, unless it is raining continually, this week I will get out for a walk in the countryside.

In view of the above, you will not be surprised to hear that this post will totally feature sightings in the Pegler garden. So here we go . . . . . . . .

Tuesday, 2nd February

The highlight of this day was a visit by a Song Thrush, as it is very rarely that we get a visit from this species. Sadly, it did not stop long and my attempts at photography failed. I did, however, get a few shots of a female Bullfinch that was now visiting us regularly, and one just about usable shot of a Coal Tit, which also visits us regularly at the moment.

Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) (female) - garden on 2nd February, 2021

Coal Tit (Periparus ater) - garden on 2nd February, 2021
I was surprised to find that the trail cams showed that a Hedgehog had come out of hibernation that night (actually in the early hours of the morning of the next day). This resulted in me quickly checking that all was in tip-top condition in the one remaining Hedgehog feeding station set up in the garden.
Hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus)
Thursday, 4th February
We had been having a female Blackcap visiting relatively regularly, although she was a little camera-shy. However, on this day, we were delighted to have two male Blackcaps visit together. My attempts to get both in the same shot didn't come to much, but I did get some shots of single birds.

Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) (male) - garden on 4th February, 2021
Just as exciting was the return of the male Siskin, this time accompanied by his lady. Sadly my attempts at photography failed.
I did, however, manage a couple of shots of the male Bullfinch that arrived. We are getting frequent visits by one lone female Bullfinch with a bad right leg, but infrequent visits by a male/female pair. Here's a shot of the male.

Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) (male) - garden on 4th February, 2021
The Hedgehog was still visiting and feeding well.
Friday, 5th February
We had a quite interesting day, with 18 species of bird visiting, including the male Siskin and the female Blackcap.
The Hedghog was still visiting, and we know for certain that this was one of our Hedghogs from last year as it went straight for the feeding station on its first visit on 3rd February, and we had total confirmation when it was also seen 'mountaineering' on subsequent visits. Last year, one of the hogs (this one!) found that I tended to leave a dish of mealworms out on a ledge that a 'stone' pelican sits on above what we jovially refer to as 'the duck pond'. As mealworms are seriously detrimental to the health of a Hedghog if consumed in any significant quantity, I had to ensure that the mealworm dish was empty each night. This one had obviously not forgotten the mealworms and went looking for them - it was disappointed!
Saturday, 6th February
Another interesting day with 19 species visitng, and the arrival of a Reed Bunting in the garden. However, the only bird that I managed to photograph was a male Blackcap.
Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) (male) - garden on 6th February, 2021
Sunday, 7th February
It had turned very cold overnight, and the only birds photographed that day were a pair of Magpie that had taken to scoffing the mealworms left by Pippin (the 'stone' pelican).

Magpie (Pica pica) - garden on 7th February, 2021
Disappointingly, one of the trail cams revealed our first visit by a Brown Rat in several months, just as snow was starting to fall. This is one creature that fills me with dread!
Monday, 8th February
We awoke to a light covering of snow, and our trail cams were still running when the Blackbirds started their day. Blackbirds and Robins are always the first up in the mornings and the last to bed at night.
To my delight, the cold weather brought us another visit by Song Thrush, and this time I did manage a record shot.
Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos) - garden on 8th February, 2021
The the snow had gone by the evening and trail cams showed that the Hedgehog was still around, feeding well, and had not given up looking for the mealworms. Note that the camera shows a temperature of -7°c (20°f) as it starts mountaineering but that soon rises by a couple of degrees. This seems to be a phenomenon caused by the camera warming as it operates, with the batteries giving out heat.
Tuesday, 9th February
We had more snow during the night and temperatures stayed low. This brought in the birds. I was continually having to go to 'the duck pond' at the top of the garden with a kettle of boiling water to melt some ice so that the birds could drink. There was an outstanding tally of 22 species of bird visit our garden that day.
Our most notable visit was by three Reed Bunting. We rarely get this species in the garden, but had been having one visit occasionally since 6th February. I don't believe that we have ever had a pair before, let alone three! There were two females and a male. The females came down and fed on the spillage under the feeders.

Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) (female) - garden on 9th February, 2021
The male kept a watchful position on top of the fence, looking down at his ladies.
Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) (male) - garden on 9th February, 2021
A male siskin also visited.

Siskin (Spinus spinus) (male) - garden on 9th February, 2021
A female Blackcap managed to get to the remains of the mealworms after the Starlings had raided them.
Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) (female) - garden on 9th February, 2021
The Pied Wagtail was still visiting and, momentarily, we had two in the garden. 
Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrellii) (male) - garden on 9th February, 2021

Currently, we are getting more sightings of this species in our garden each day than we have had in total over the past 35 years that we have lived here! However, this looks as if it may be the first winter in about 20 years that we have not had a sighting of Grey Wagtail in the garden.
The two Fieldfare (our first of the winter) were, unfortunately, not photographed. 

I couldn't resist some shots of a Starling standing on Pippin's head.
Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) - garden on 9th February, 2021
Wednesday, 10th February
The cold spell was still with us, and we had plenty of snow in the early part of the day. Again the tally of birds visiting was 22 species, although of a slightly different mix to the previous day. 

If you are not familiar with wagtails, and wondered how they got their name, I offer the following as evidence!
Only our second observation of a visiting female Siskin this winter resulted in just a record shot.
Siskin (Spinus spinus) (female) - garden on 10th February, 2021
Our resident Wren spent some time looking for food in the moss on the wall surrounding the bit of garden that used to be a large koi pond.

Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) - garden on 10th February, 2021
The pathfinder Long-tailed Tit briefly visited, but forgot to bring his friends along later.

Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus) - garden on 10th February, 2021

Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrellii) (male) - garden on 10th February, 2021
As you can see in this next clip, most of the snow had gone by late afternoon.
Thursday, 11th February
Sightings for the day were down a little, but we still had some 'foul weather friends' visiting us. It was especially gratifying to see Song Thrush again, albeit briefly.
Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos) - garden on 11th February, 2021
Although the female Blackcap was still visiting several times a day, sightings of a male have continued to be sparse. It seems that this winter has been an absolute bumper winter for Blackcap sightings, especially in gardens, and this is reckoned to be due to a large influx from mainland Europe.
Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) (male) - garden on 11th February, 2021
Friday, 12th February
I'm not sure that 'making hay while the sun shines' is an appropriate expression here, considering the weather (!), but I have found myself concentrating on trying to get shots of special visitors, notably the Pied Wagtails and Blackcaps, and these seem to be particularly difficult to achieve to an adequate level of satisfaction. Here are two of the female Blackcap from this day, and probably some of my better ones of this bird.

Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) (female) - garden on 12th February, 2021
Saturday, 13th February
A trail cam caught a Robin trying to get a drink at 'the duck pond' before I'd had time to defrost it. You can see from the data on the following clip that the temperature was still quite low.
Wren was busy fishing grubs from the moss on the walls again.

Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) - garden on 13th February, 2021

The usual Pied Wagtail, recognisable by an isolated black spot on its left breast (but not in this shot), was still with us and spending much time at the Duck Pond, fishing mealworms out of the water after they'd been scattered there by the Starlings.

Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrellii) (male) - garden on 13th February, 2021
Sunday, 14th February
We had another good tally of species this day, with 20 species visiting. However, in deference to Lindsay and the significance of this date, I did not pay much attention to garden photography. However, I did take some more shots of that irresistable character - the Wren!
Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) - garden on 14th February, 2021

This was the last day with any snow. The following day, the snow had all gone and all that was left was a thick covering of ice on the pond.
Thus ended what I believe to be another record-breaking week for us, with a total of 26 species stopping off in the garden - so many that they would not fit in the spaces on the recording sheet and I had to put 'Wagtail, Pied' at the bottom of the sheet! 

Thus ends my report on the first half of February. I take this opportunity to apologise to Diane, and anyone else who does not have the benefit of high-speed internet, as I have included rather a lot of video clips. I have, however, tried to keep them short, and hope that they will not give you too many headaches! 
I guess it will be another fortnight until my next blog post, and hopefully there will be a little more variety included in it.

In the meantime, take great care and stay safe!
Since writing the above, I did get out today (16th February). I had a two hour walk, saw very little, and was disappointed at the lack of social distancing observed by the majority of people I crossed paths with. No wonder that we in England have one of the worst Covid records on the planet! I will not let it put me off, however, but just continue to be ultra-cautious!


  1. Some lovely wildlife in the garden Richard. Lovely videos documenting what goes on under darkness and that Bullfinch. Brilliant. Take care.

    1. I used to use those trail cams purely for observing the Hedgehogs, Marc, but during that cold snap I took to letting them start a little before sundown and running for a while after sunrise and I have had some interesting observations. I will possibly leave it that way as the nights get shorter.

      Stay safe - - - Richard

  2. Really lots of birds! Did you get vaccinated? Did you get sore from it?

    1. Hi Anne. My wife and I have both been vaccinated. I didn't feel my vaccination and was quite surprised when the nurse said "you can go now" as I didn't think that that she had done it. I was a little tired the next day, but that might have been for other reasons, and I was not at all sore. My wife, however, felt sore for a few days and a little unwell too, but she always gets tense when she has injections, and it does not help!

  3. Hello Richard,
    the lockdown will be longer with us as it was said, exactly the same as with you, nobody sticks to the distances and wonder and complain that the shops stay, here they say idiots about it ... but now about yours Pictures, a very nice and large selection that come by in your garden, has certainly got around in the bird world that you are defrosting the duck pond ...
    stay healthy
    Greetings Frank

    1. Hi Frank. It does seem that we have a lot of stupid people here. The situation seems to be getting worse, with the vaccination programme going well so that the idiots out there think that it is even less necessary to be careful. In my recent experience only about 30% of people are now making any serious attempt at social distancing. It has recently been announced that infection rates have now dropped to the level that they were in the month before lockdown so we should now come out of lockdown. They don't seem to be able to comprehend that it was those pre-lockdown infection rates that resulted in an increase in the virus and sent us into lockdown!

      With the departure of the snow and cold weather, I am no longer having to spend a lot of time defrosting the duck pond - but many of the birds no longer need our services anyway!

      Take good care and stay safe - - - Richard

  4. I am amazed at all these photos, apart form the Magpies and the very occasional starling I have never seen any of these other birds in our garden. No I lie, I once saw a Wren many years ago! Several of the typed names on you list we have here but some of the others I would love to see.

    I did have the pleasure of seeing several Brimstone Butterflies yesterday though which cheered me up, and the Cranes have been flying over the house back North for the past 10 days.

    Take care, keep safe and enjoy your garden. Very best wishes to you and the family Diane

    1. Ah, Diane, but you see so much in your garden that I don't see in ours, but would love to do so. A somewhat different climate to ours and a far more rural location. I have never seen a Crane fly over anywhere in UK, let alone my garden, and although I have seen Brimstone in the garden, not at this time of year. You have wonderful insects and then there's your lizards - you don't do so badly!

      Best wishes to you and Nigel - take good care - - - Richard

    2. I think we do very well, but there are so many other birds I would love to see and after being in lockdown for so long everything is the same. Missing holidays and not getting the area changes has got a little harder. A month in Italy last June was so well planned and then cancelled. I now wonder if we will ever get there as health and age are not on our side. RSA is always top of our list if we are able to travel. Keep safe, Cheers Diane

    3. I fully understand your frustration with the inability to travel and see different aspects of nature, Diane. My own local observations are getting a bit 'samey'. With our government's announcement on lockdown measures this week, it is now confirmed that our booked visit to the Isles of Scilly next month will not happen and, depending on what the situation in Scotland is, our booked visit to the Outer Hebrides is looking far from certain.

      Stay safe - - - Richard

  5. What a delicate ball of feather this wren! He is too beautiful !

    1. The Wren is not a rare bird, but one that always gives us much pleasure when it appears in our garden.

      Before UK currency was decimalised, the Wren appeared on our smallest denomination coin - the farthing. This was one quarter of a penny - 240 pennies to the pound, so there were 960 farthings to the pound. Today, our smallest coin is a one pence piece - 100 to a pound.

      Many people think that the Wren is UK's smallest bird, but it is in fact the Goldcrest that has that distinction! It is a fact that quizmasters frequently get wrong!

  6. Hello Richard: I am a little late getting to your post due to household chores that needed to be done and a glorious day out yesterday along the shore of Lake Ontario. Both Miriam and I are happy to hear that the hedgehogs are still finding your garden to their liking - and why wouldn't they? I actually have a couple of books on hedgehogs - one is an RSPB Spotlight book simply called "Hedgehogs" and it is quite informative and well illustrated. The other, "A Prickly Affair", is more detailed by a fellow named Hugh Warwick who from what I can gather is the pre-eminent UK expert on hedgehogs. We may not have them here, but they are fun to read about. Wonderful assortment of birds visiting your yard, the Wren being especially endearing. I was surprised to see the Reed Bunting. Without the benefit of knowledge one way or the other, I would have thought it was a migrant rather than a winter resident.

    1. I do not have either of those two books on Hedgehogs, David, but by coincidence, I had received a circular email from Hugh Warwick just a couple of hours before I got the email notifying me of your comment. Yes, he is a highly respected leading light in the conservation of Hedgehogs.

      Reed Bunting is with us all year, and has always been attracted to rural feeding stations in winter, foraging the spillage on the ground. However, we rarely get a visit to our garden.

  7. Un reportaje espectacular que me ha entretenido un buen rato viendo fotos y vídeos. Los erizos ya huelen la primavera. Enhorabuena Richard y gracias por compartir. Un fuerte abrazo desde el norte de España. Todo lo mejor amigo mío.

    1. Hola, Germán. Estoy encantado de que hayas disfrutado de esta publicación de blog. El clima frío hizo que el erizo se diera cuenta de que había cometido un error y que era demasiado temprano para despertarse, ¡así que se ha vuelto a la cama ahora!

      Cuídate mucho y mantente a salvo mi amigo español - - - - Richard

  8. Life in the Pegler garden looks incredible. It will be good for you to get out and about..... go exploring again, life is far too short

    1. I'd be out like a shot, Dave, if I had a Woodchat Shrike close at hand. I hear that some people even have them in their gardens! ;-}

    2. Just seen your update.
      some people are obnoxious when out and about. I make sure that I do the right thing. I drove through my village yesterday and it is just like normal, far too many people about in one place yet I am scared of driving to an out of town area that I know will be quiet with very low foot fall but it isn't seen to be the correct thing to do.... doesn't make sense anymore.

      Anyway Keep well

    3. Hi Dave. I felt the need to get out and get some exercise, but, like you, my options for walking from home were unsafe. One way takes me into a built-up area with busy roads, narrow pavements and virtually nobody taking any precautions, and the other takes me down a narrow lane with bends, no pavements and roadside hedges and which too many people speed along in spite of a 50mph limit. I tried it a few weeks ago and had to dive into the hedge to avoid being hit by a car that must have been doing at least 80!

      I now feel that it is my safest option to get into my car and go a couple of miles to what I always used to refer to as 'my local patch'. It's not very productive bird-wise these days, but at least I get some exercise and feel safe with virtually no one else around.

      Stay safe - - - Richard

  9. Beautiful images, especially the Hedgerow, I love the searching food and is to retire in his/her home.
    All of time was birds, Song Thrush, Bullfinches and Pied Wagtails, fantastic Richard.

    1. Thank you, Bob. It is always a great pleasure to hear from you. Take care and stay safe - - - Richard

  10. Hi Richard,
    I read that you had the first covid vaccination.
    We haven't had it yet and it will take a while.
    Your list of birds has been nicely supplemented and I especially love to see the bullfinch and also the black head.
    Actually all birds are great to see because the long-tailed tit and the wagtail are also very beautiful, as are the siskin, the starling and the wren.
    I really enjoy watching your videos of the hedgehog.
    I enjoyed it again.
    Stay safe until you've had the 2nd shot.

    Greetings, Helma

    1. Hello Helma!

      I'm sorry to hear that you have not yet had your first Covid vaccination. I hope that you get offered it soon. This is one aspect that we do seem to have managed to do correctly in UK. My wife and I are hoping to get our second shots at the end of April. In the meantime we are continuing to be careful, and will do so, even after the second shot!

      The Hedgehog has been back out again for the past two nights, and is still mountaineering!

      Best wishes - take good care - - - Richard

  11. Hello Richard, Corona dous strange thing to people. I do notice that I have less patience, less interest in things, and when I am confined to home because the weather is not good for taking photos it is worse. We can not go to vissit family because they live in The Netherlands and Belgium discouraged leving the country. So I have not seen my daughter, brother, sister for more than a half year. But I went out because we had some Spring here after a cold spel and with that the good mood came back. So sorry for responding so late to your blog. I was good to see all that came to vissit your garden and you are so lucky to have that in these dreadful times.
    Take care,

    1. This virus is a nightmare for most of us, Roos, and I am sorry to hear that you have gone so long without seeing your family. I find that it is difficult to concentrate on doing things that need to be done, and all tasks seem to need so much more thought to achieve. Getting out into Nature, certainly soothes the mind - particularly now we are getting some warmer weather and some flowers are out.

      Stay safe - best wishes - - - Richard

  12. How fortunate you and Lindsay have the sanctuary of your garden! What a terrific collection of visitors you cataloged!

    Your final photographs of the Blackcaps are really nice. Each species you display is special and as I look at them I can imagine them exploring, hunting, eating, preening - simply a very satisfying virtual experience!

    Sorry for the late response, Richard. Some extended family issues prompted some unplanned road trips so our "normal" routine was interrupted for a bit. All is well with us personally, which is a good thing!

    We certainly hope you and Lindsay continue to be safe and well. Spring is on the way!

    1. I feel so sorry for those people who do not have a garden and are unable to get out, Wally. It must be soul-destroying in these difficult times. Lindsay and I consider ourselves to be fortunately placed. We're coping just fine, thank you, and hoping that your family issues are now resolved and that you are now able to relax and enjoy life to the full once more.

      Thank you for your much-appreciated supportive words - take good care - - - Richard


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