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Tuesday, 2 February 2021

The Second Half of January - 15th -31st January, 2021

The second half of the month has been somewhat of a mixed experience. More tightly controlled lockdown resulted in me only taking one short excursion into the countryside in that period, and that was not overly productive. However, an unusual cold spell, accompanied by snow, changed the garden bird dynamic a little. Herewith, some of the highlights of the period.

Thursday, 15th January

An unremarkable day in the garden, other than visits by a Carrion Crow and a Jackdaw. Hitherto, these have been relatively rare visitors to our garden (particularly the Jackdaw), but their visits have been increasing in frequency this winter.

Jackdaw (Corvus monedula) - garden on 15th January, 2021
Monday, 18th January

We had visits by Carrion Crow and Jackdaw again, but most notable was the female Blackcap which arrived for the third day running.

Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) (female) - garden on 18th January, 2021

Stock Dove (Columba oenas) - garden on 18th January, 2021
Thursday, 21st January

The highlight of this day was a return of the Reed Bunting, We had had our first visit of this species, since March 2020, on 13th January. This time I managed some slightly better shots.


Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) (male) - garden on 21st January, 2021

Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) - garden on 21st January, 2021
Friday, 22nd January

As previously mentioned, visits by a Carrion Crow have become a little more frequent than we are used to. However, on this day, we had two visit. Although two Magpies visiting is not a rare occurrence, I don't recall getting a pair of them in one shot before. I can't resist, therefore, putting in this poor shot which records all four birds in our Cob Nut tree at one time on this day!

Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) (2) + Magpie (Pica pica) (2) - garden on 22nd January, 2021
That afternoon, I found myself getting stir-crazy and came to the conclusion that I just had to get out for a while, so headed down to 'my local patch' for a walk down the lane. 

Having parked my car I headed eastward along the lane. I'd been hoping to see Yellowhammer again, but none were spotted and, ironically, having seen only a few Reed Bunting in 2020, and having had a sighting in our garden the previous day, the only birds of interest were a pair of Reed Bunting. I only got a distant shot of one of them. It didn't help that the hedge had recently been flailed.

Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) (male) -my 'local patch'

Having turned around and reached my car, I decided to leave the road and check out some of my old Little Owl sites. I was not too hopeful, and any hopes I had were soon dashed by too much mud and water in my path. I had only come prepared for road walking and, to go further, wellingtons would have been essential. Distant checking of four sites, however, revealed nothing.

Back at the car, I set off on foot down the lane in the opposite direction to that recently taken and soon found a pair of Linnet in the hedge. This is a species I seldom see locally. The pair were sitting low in the top of the recently flailed hedge, and not photographable. However, they then flew up into a small tree and I just about managed a shot of one before they departed. Sadly, it was straight into the sun.

Linnet (Linaria cannabina) (female) - my 'local patch'
Further on down the lane I heard the chattering of Fieldfare. There was a good-sized group (probably 50+) commuting between a field behind the hedge and trees beside the lane. These are, typically, very nervous birds but, by staying still for a while and waiting, I managed some shots from probably only about 20 metres away.


Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris) - my 'local patch'
It had been a very enjoyable walk, even if not the most productive. However, as I write this, I have not managed to get out since then, partly due to concern about rising Covid infection rates, but also influenced by the weather.

Saturday, 23rd January

An unremarkable day, with some sunshine which allowed me to take a shot of a Starling in the top of our elder tree, affectionately known as 'the black bush' .
 

Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) - garden on 23rd January, 2021
Sunday, 24th January

We awoke to the forecast flurries of snow which intensified during the day giving a good covering by the end of the day. I believe that it was five years ago that we last saw this amount of snow, and so I spent much of the day trying to photograph some of the birds that visited. This was not easy, due to the continual dense cloud giving low light levels, but the snow tricking the camera into trying to cater for high light levels. I was constantly adjusting compensation values. Snow falling against the window glass that I was trying to shoot through didn't help matters!

I think of this Pied Wagtail as being our 'foul weather friend' as he seems to show up when all the water around us is frozen, and I'm out there from time to time making sure there's water in our garden for the birds to drink and bathe in. He also picks up a snack of dried mealworms which I leave in a pot beside the water for him to enjoy. This is this bird early in the day before the snow really started.

Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrellii) (male) - garden on 24th January, 2021
As I do not get many opportunities to photograph birds in snow, here are quite a few more, taken when the snow was deeper, starting with more of the Pied Wagtail.

Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrellii) (male) - garden on 24th January, 2021
Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) - garden on 24th January, 2021

Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) (female) garden on 24th January, 2021



Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) (male) garden on 24th January, 2021
Sadly, the male in that last image is exhibiting a case of 'scaly foot' - a problem that is common in this species.
 
Monday, 25th January
 
The snow was still with us but already starting to melt. However, I did spend a little time trying to make the most of the snow.

Blackbird (Turdus merula) (female) - garden on 25th January, 2021

 
Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) - garden on 25th January, 2021


Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) (male) garden on 25th January, 2021

I had recently taken to setting a couple of my trail cams to take stills, rather than movies, through the day, and was quite pleased with this shot of House Sparrows and a Starling. It was taken when I had not had time to clear the ice that had re-formed on what we jokingly refer to as 'the duck pond'!

House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) + Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) - garden on 25th January, 2021
Wednesday, 27th January

The female Blackcap visited us again this day, but I failed to get a photo. At the risk of boring you with Chaffinches, here is one of my better shots of a male Chaffinch showing the scaly foot problem more clearly.

Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) (male) garden on 27th January, 2021
Friday, 29th January

The highlight of this day was a visit by a male Siskin. They have been a bit thin on the ground in our garden so far this winter.

Siskin (Spinus spinus) (male) - garden on 29th January, 2021
Sunday, 31st January

The week, and month, ended with seventeen species of bird visiting us this day, although there was nothing very exciting. I did take some shots of a female Bullfinch outside my study window.

Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) (male) - garden on 31st January, 2021

This brings me to the end of my account of my observations in the last half of the first month of what I hope will be a better year for us all than 2020 was. For Lindsay and I the light at the end of the tunnel is shining a little brighter as we now have appointments to get our first shot of vaccine. However, unless something totally unexpected happens, lockdown restrictions will prevent us taking up our March booking for a week on the Isles of Scilly. Our fingers are crossed for our booked visit to the Outer Hebrides in early summer, when we should both be fully and actively vaccinated.

I suspect that my next blog post will be in about two weeks time, and whether I have anything to show will, as always, be in the lap of the gods.

I hope that all is well with you and, if it has not already done so, a vaccine comes your way in the near future. In the meantime, please take good care and stay safe!

36 comments:

  1. Lovely report and selection of photos Richard. A right good garden. I was waiting for a male Bullfinch in the snow shot. Now that would have finished me off I think. Take care.

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    1. You're not the only one who was waiting for a Bullfinch in the snow shot, Marc - I too was hoping for that - even a Robin in the snow to use on next year's Christmas card would have been a bonus!

      Thanks and best wishes - stay safe - - - Richard

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  2. Beautiful series, birds and the Squirrel, they are everywhere. Wonderful garden, thanks Richard.

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    1. Thank you, Bob. We are not seeing so many Squirrels in the garden at present, although this one visits us most days. Take good care - - - Richard

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  3. Absolutely lovely photos of lovely destinations. Is there still snow? Is it frost? I hope you both are well.

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    1. Thank you, Anne. That snow disappeared quite quickly and it is now quite warm in this part of England (around 5°c during the day). However, much colder weather with snow again is forecast for much of next week. We are both well, thank you and had our first Covid vaccinations this afternoon. I hope that all is well with you and the family. Take care and stay safe - - - Richard

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  4. Lovely photos as ever & an enviable garden list! Did you partake in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch?

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    1. Thank you - I think that we do quite well in our garden, but it's possibly because I put in an inordinate amount of time feeding and observing the birds. For reasons that I'm not sure of, I've not participated in the Big Garden Birdwatch for the past few years. However, I do submit my sightings to the County Recorder each month. Stay safe - - - Richard

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  5. Hello Richard,:=) It's been A sheer delight to see all your garden visitors. Such beautiful captures, all of them, but the Starling, and Chaffinch, and Bullfinch images, are breathtaking. I also like your stunning Chaffinch header.
    Glad you have had your shots, although we are both over eighty, hubby and I are still waiting.

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    1. Hi Sonjia. I hope that you both get your shots soon. Ours went well this afternoon. Thank you so much for your kind words - I'm delighted that you enjoyed this post. Take great care and stay safe - - - Richard

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  6. I am unfamiliar with this scaly foot condition, Richard. Is there a reason why Chaffinches are particularly susceptible, and does it clear up eventually? Or does it worsen and impede the bird's ability to perch. The problem seen here from time to time with American Goldfinch and House Finch is conjunctivitis. For some reason it only affects one eye, and the birds seem to cope well, but they have a blind side and accipiters appear to quickly recognize this, and the affected bird becomes easy prey. I chuckle that snow is a bit of a novelty for you and that you were keen to get shots of birds dealing with snow. It's a daily occurrence here of course. Once, about twenty years ago, I saw an American Tree Sparrow emerging from under the snow at first light, providing prima facie evidence that it had spent the night under an insulating blanket of snow. It has rarely been documented for this species and I wish I had been able to get pictures. Good luck with the vaccines. Whether that will enable you to travel within the next few months, given the general state of the pandemic, is another question entirely.

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    1. Hi David. Rather than answer your question at length, can I refer you, plese, to the BTO website here: - https://www.bto.org/our-science/projects/gbw/gardens-wildlife/garden-birds/disease/warts. From my own observations, it seems that this does not clear up, and that it sometimes results in loss of digits or use of legs! Until the end of last year I had only ever seen it in Chaffinches, but I was extremely disappointed to see a female Bullfinch afflicted with this problem a month or so ago. I do not know if it is the same bird but having seen a female Bullfinch with scaly (or warty) legs last year, the female that is visiting several times a day at the moment seems to have lost the use of one leg or, if she's not keeping it tucked up into her feathers, she may have lost the one leg.

      I had never heard of conjunctivitis in birds, and it seems that it is not (yet?) present in UK. Sounds horrible.

      Next time we get a good snowfall - which looks as if it might be next week! - I'll keep my eyes open for birds emerging from under the snow. Not sure that our birds are intelligent enough to adopt this survival technique, however!

      All went well with the vaccines this afternoon.

      Please tell Miriam that we had our first sighting of a Hedgehog this year last night on the trail cams. They've been hibernating since mid-November. This one may have had its hibernaculum disturbed, or may have just got hungry.

      I noticed your apparent uncertainty of the sex of the Great Tit on Sonjia's blog - I'm pretty sure it's a male - explanation on my comment on her blog.

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  7. Hi Richard,
    You've had a busy month with snow as well. Nice to see your wildlife. Stay safe.
    Mike.

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    1. Hi Mike. Was thinking of you this morning - I found that we had a hedgehog visiting the garden and showing on the trail cams.I susepect that it was feeling a little peckish and has now gone back to bed for a few months! Take good care - - - Richard

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  8. Stock Dove and Reed Bunting, quite impressive records for your garden Richard, never going to happen in ours. I think we had a Blackcap twice over the years, but with a few turning up in gardens recently a little further afield....We live in hope.

    Take Care Stay Safe.

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    1. We're currently getting Stock Dove most days, Pete, and have been for a few months now. Sometimes it's a dedicated pair and sometimes one on its own. Never more than two. Hoping that they'll bring youngsters sometime. We're still seeing Blackcap. To start with it was just a male, then a pair, and now it seems to be just the female - she was here again briefly today.

      Lindsay and I had our jabs today and it all went like clockwork.

      Best wishes - take good care - - - Richard

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  9. I just took a second look at this post and I am struck by what a supremely handsome species the Stock Dove is. I wonder how many people see it casually and take it for a Rock Dove?

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    1. Hi David. The Stock Dove is a very handsome bird, and I never manage to capture the change of colours in that irridescence adequately. It seems to be a lot more intelligent than the Woodpigeons and Collared Doves. It also moves more elegantly - altogether an attractive bird - apart from its penchant for ousting Little Owls from their nests. I can only ever recall seeing Rock Dove on the coast, and you can't get much further from the coast in UK than we are. I think that most non-birders, if they saw a Stock Dove would think it was a feral pigeon. Strangely, although feral pigeons are a damned nuisance in many places, expecially urban areas, we have never seen one in our garden and they are rare in Ashby de la Zouch. We have, however, had a racing pigeon invite itself into our kitchen. The owner obviously wasn't impressed by this bird's lack of homing intincts and didn't want to make arrangements to pick it up. We fed it for a few days, and then it vanished - I know not where.

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    2. A couple of seasons ago we found the identifying ring of a homing pigeon in the nest of the Peregrine Falcons when we cleaned out the enclosed nest platform we had erected for our local breeding pair. We declined to advise the owner for fear of some hysterical response advocating removal of the falcons, or pigeon fanciers taking matters into their own hands. I still have that band somewhere.

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    3. Sorry to hear that you have the same problems as we do with pigeon fanciers, David. I'm sure that you made the right decision.

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  10. Hello Richard, what is more beautyful than birds in the snow and sunshine. A joy for the eye. A great series indeed. Spring however is also peeping around the corner so hold on, things will get better. Only that damn vaccin ... March for us.
    Take care,
    Roos

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    1. Hi Roos. That snow soon got replaced by warmer weather in the centre and south of England, but it is forecast that the weekend will bring a lot more snow for most of next week - so maybe some more photo opportunities?!

      Our vaccinations went well today. I shall keep my fingers crossed for you getting yours soon. Thank you for your kind words. Stay safe - - - Richard

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  11. I would so love to spend a couple of days in your garden and see many birds that I never see here. We have chaffinch, sparrow, blackbird and the occasional starling. Yes, also the thugs, magpies, but they only arrived this year. I also see the scaly foot problem with chaffinches from time to time despite washing and disinfecting feeders and watering areas, I have also seen it on a Greenfinch. I can though enjoy the nightly calling of the Little Owls, hopefully when the evenings get lighter I will get to see them as well as hear them. This week both Goldfinches and Greenfinches have arrived, the Bluetits are not impressed as the finches are stealing all the food!

    Love all your photos and so nice to see birds that I have never seen. Love the Wagtail with its snowy head piece 😊

    Still no sign of vaccinations here yet though they sat they will phone when available!

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

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    1. Although I do see some interesting birds in our garden, Diane, they do not arrive to order, and some days, particularly in the summer month, we can be down to around a dozen species a day. We're doing OK at the moment however, and today we have had two male Blackcaps together (a first for us) and a pair of Siskin (the first female Siskin we've had this winter). If you're ever in this area, you will be welcome to spend some time in our conservatory watching the birds. I'm looking forward to seeing your Little Owls when they give you a showing!

      We too were amused by the wagtail with the snowflake on it head - made us chuckle when we saw it!

      Sorry to hear that you have not had any indication of vaccine yet. I'll keep my fingers crossed for you both. In the meantime, take good care and stay safe - - - Richard

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    2. Phone call yesterday, vaccine 17h30 on Monday!!! I have seen the Little Owls on our barn roof the last two evenings. Seems like I will have to earn their trust again though as they fly the second they see me. Diane

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  12. Hello Richard
    I also only do small rounds and stay close to the living area but due to the lockdown there are so many people who now all have dogs that it has become almost impossible to get wild animals in front of the camera but you managed to take very nice pictures, thanks for showing them and stay healthy
    Greetings Frank

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    1. Hi Frank. We have the same problem in UK. So many people seem to have decided to get a dog during lockdown (for company?) and, as well as the problem of disturbance to wildlife, are either irresponsible or unintelligent enough to not clear up after their dog, and dog mess is now a greatly increased problem. There are even some particularly stupid people that, if they do pick it up and bag it, hang the bag of mess up in a bush or tree, rather than take it home.

      Take good care and stay safe - - - Richard

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  13. Hello Richard,:=) I have just been admiring your captures again, and they are really lovely. I want to thank you for the ID sex of my Great Tit post. You probably noticed that I didn't write anything, because I was uncertain of the sex, mainly because the bird was so chubby, and other Great Tits in my garden are quite slender birds. I was hoping that a birder follower would say something, but you were the only one who did. Thank you again.

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    1. Hi Sonjia. I'm not very knowledgable about birds, but that was one ID item that I did know, and I was pleased to help. However, there are many birds that I cannot sex - particularly when winter plumsage of some species makes sexual dimorphism more difficult to observe than it would be if the birds were in mating plumage!

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  14. Superbes photos ! Dans la neige blanches les couleurs sont admirables !

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    1. J'aurais aimé avoir plus d'occasions de prendre des photos dans la neige car j'ai besoin de plus de pratique car il peut être difficile de s'adapter aux conditions de lumière. Cependant, les effets peuvent être merveilleux, surtout si le soleil brille sur la neige fraîche. Restez en sécurité - - - Richard

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  15. Between your garden and a jaunt to your "local patch", you produced an outstanding collection of wonderful photographs!

    Since it is almost unheard of here, the "snow birds" are especially appealing! The Pied Wagtail image with snow on its head and your header picture are really special.

    You may have to rename the "duck pond" to the "sparrow spa".

    Good news that you and Lindsay are scheduled for your vaccine. Here is hoping we will all soon begin to resume our lives again.

    We are seeing signs of spring already. Birds building nests, a few flowers in the forest and bugs starting to buzz about.

    Gini and I send all our best wishes!

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    1. I wish that we had more opportunities for bird photography in snow, Wally. We have had a bit more snow overnight here, but it is going again now, and I have not had too much success. I have come to the conclusion that, provided conditions underfoot are not too dire, I shall have to have a trip out to a local 'natural place'inside the next day or two as it has now been nearly three weeks since my last trip out!

      The vaccination went well and we are looking forward to leaving the house with a little more confidence after it has had another couple of weeks to 'mature'.

      We too are seeing the first heralds of spring, with daffodils and crocuses coming into bud, but no bugs yet.

      Best wishes to you and Gini - stay safe - - - Richard

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  16. Hi Richard,
    great to see these beautiful pictures of the birds in the snow :-)
    the squirrel is also really a beautiful picture.
    I love snow and in the Netherlands we actually have a real winter for a while :-)
    You show many beautiful birds here, but the birds in the snow such as the wagtail, the finch and the starling win it lol ....
    Let's hope the covid is going to be eradicated and stay safe.

    Greetings Helma

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    1. Thank you, Helma, for your kind words. The snow soon went, but it came back for a while this week, but is now nearly all gone again. I have been very busy with my camera, but not done so well with the results.

      I am pleased to say that things seem to be improving in UK with Covid infections, and the deaths are now starting to reduce as well. Fingers are crossed that vaccination will prevent yet another large spike in infections.

      Take good care - - - Richard

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