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Friday, 26 March 2021

Well, That Was Unexpected! - 15th to 21st March, 2021

Keeping going with my weekly updates, this one features a week which was, by and large, fairly routine, but with one somewhat bizarre happening! It was a week when I only managed to get out birding once, with unexceptional results, and out for a picnic lunch with Lindsay on another day, again with little sighted.

This is how the week unfolded.

Monday, 15th March

The numbers of bird species seen in the garden each day is now declining, but the female Blackcap was still with us, as were visits from the Stock Doves and Siskins. I only managed shots of a female Siskin that day. I was nearly fooled by that second shot as she'd positioned herself so that a shadow fell on the crown of her head, suggesting a male at first glance!

Siskin (Spinus spinus) (female) - garden on 15th March, 2021
Tuesday, 16th March

It was a wet morning, and I only managed a grabbed shot of a Coal Tit that alighted briefly on a branch that the House Sparrows have stripped of its bark for nesting material.

Coal Tit (Periparus ater) - garden on 16th March, 2021
In the afternoon, the weather had brightened up a bit, and so I went for a walk through Willesley Wood to Thortit Lake.

If you read my post where I mentioned a magical collection of figurines in Willesley Wood, placed there by schoolchildren (you can find it with this link), you will understand my disappontment at finding all had gone and the descriptive note that was with the figurines had been cast into a nearby ditch. 

Thortit Lake and surrounding Willesley Wood were looking particularly beautiful in the sunlight.

Thortit Lake (north end) and Willesley Wood
Wildflowers were in bloom and looking attractive
Lesser Celandine (Ficaria verna) - Willesley Wood

Primrose (Primula vulgaris) - Willesley Wood
There was nothing unusual in the way of birds on, or around, the lake. Lindsay had been here a few days beforehand and had been warned by a passer-by that there was an ugly scene going on at the lake, with the resident pair of Mute Swans seeming to be violently trying to persuade their five youngsters to depart. When I arrived, there were two youngsters looking very relaxed near the water's edge, and the adults on the water, acting as serenely as ever!

Mute Swan (Cygnus Olor) - Thortit Lake
There were Coots and Moorhen around, as usual.
Coot (Fulica atra) - Thortit Lake
Having turned round to head back, I'd not gone far before I saw a small bird fly into some reeds. I waited patiently and eventually a Reed Bunting showed itself. However, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't get a view of it without intervening foliage. This is the best I could muster.
Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) (male) - Thortit Lake
That night, the moth trap went out, and I only managed three moths of two species!
Clouded Drab (Orthosia incerta) - from garden on 16th March, 2021

Common Quaker (Orthosia cerasi) - from garden on 16th March,2021
Wednesday, 17th March
Wren doesn't seem to visit us very often, but when we do get a visit, it is usually visible for a while. On this day, we first got a sighting when it landed on one of the trail cams late in the afternoon. 
Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) - garden on 17th March, 2021
It spent a while wandering around, most of the time in shade, but I did manage a few shots.

Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) - garden on 17th March, 2021
I couldn't resist a shot of the Magpie that arrived during this session.
Magpie (Pica pica) - Garden on 17th  March, 2021
Thursday, 19th March
I didn't manage to get a shot of the Sparrowhawk that momentarily put a foot down in the garden without catching anything. We did have a visit by four Siskin (2 male, 2 female). One of the females did der best to conceal herself against a branch, and a male obliged by sitting out in full view but, sadly, didn't pose side-on.
Siskin (Spinus spinus) (female) - garden on 18th March, 2021

Siskin (Spinus spinus) (male) - garden on 18th March, 2021
Friday, 19th March
It was late in the morning, and I was sitting at my computer sorting out, with Lindsay's input, a click & collect shopping order for a local supermarket when I noticed something large drop down outside my study window. "What the heck was that?" said I, and Lindsay peered out of the window and pronounced 'it's a pheasant!'. I recently commented that I was surprised to get a Yellowhammer in our small suburban garden, and I was nearly as surprised to see this pheasant which, usually, would enjoy a similar sort of habitat as a Yellowhammer. However, we have had a pheasant visit the garden once before, maybe about twenty years ago after a strong gale. That was a female, and this was a male. It wandered around for a while, pecking at the spillage from the feeders, before disappearing round the corner to outside our back door from where it must have taken off and departed .

Common Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) (male) - garden on 19th March, 2021
Saturday, 20th March
The trail cams caught a couple of altercations between hedgehogs during the night. This is, I believe, purely one hog defending a food source from another. I think that we possibly have had a reduction in numbers of hogs visiting over the past month, although I am confident that we still have at least three on a regular basis.

Sunday, 21st March
Lindsay and I decided to break the 'stay at home' monotony by taking a picnic lunch to a place we could park at by my 'local patch'. This was a totally acceptable activity under current regulations. It was a very pleasant experience, although nothing of great interest was seen, and the only photos taken were of a Blue Tit. 

Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) - my local patch
That evening, one of the trail cams caught a Magpie helping itself to the dried Black Soldier Fly larvae that I'd been a little premature in putting out for the Hedgehogs. Black Soldier Fly larvae are a safe high-calcium alternative to  mealworms which are very low calcium and potentially dangerous to Hedgehogs and birds if consumed in any quantity as they can cause catastrophic bone disorders. It seems that this trail cam is much better at capturing the irridescence in the plumage of these birds than my DSLR is.
This brings me to the end of my report on this past week.
Leather Dragonfly Bag
A few weeks ago I showed a leather 'patch' that I'd created to mount on a leather bag, specifically for my dragonfly hunting activities, that I was about to start making. I had some very kind remarks about this, including expressions of wanting to see the finished result. The bag is now finished and, although there is room for improvement, I am quite pleased with the result. Here are a couple of photos of it.

I now have to make a couple of straps that will enable it to attach to the front of my OP/TECH USA dual camera harness so that it sits on my front just at lower rib-cage level.
Lindsay has requested a larger version of this for a shoulder-bag, with a modified design (central clasp, rather than two side straps), as a Christmas present. I shall be happy to oblige!
This week has been a very strange week so far, and so I suspect that next week's post will be rather short. In the meantime, take great care, stay safe, and make the most of any opportunities that come your way. Thank you for dropping by - - - Richard


  1. Another super set of photos of some excellent garden birds. Well done with the leather bag. It looks brilliant. Take care.

    1. Thank you, Marc. I think that I would have been lost this winter, without the garden to keep up the interest. Really looking forward to using that bag out in the field - pots for exuviae, secateurs for cutting stems with exuviae, etc.

      Stay safe - - - Richard

  2. What a beautiful bag! Congratulations!

    1. Thank you, Anne. It took a lot of time to make - with most of the time being just thinking what to do!

  3. Congratulations on the completion of your leather bag complete with the superb 'patch' you made.

    Things are looking like loosening up soon. Meanwhile, continue to take care Richard.

    1. Thank you, Pete. We seem to be in a bit of a Covid 'back spot' here, so we are keeping our fingers crossed that we don't have extra sanctions imposed on us when they start relaxing the rules. I hope that you will soon be free to roam. Stay safe - - - Richard

  4. Hello Richard, great photos of your visitors in your garden. Was the Phesant perhaps hiding from game hunters? Lovet that leather bag you made. It is beautyful. My compliments.

    1. Hi Roos. We do sometimes hear distant shooting, but I have not heard any recently. It did occur to me, however, that this bird might have been frightened by hunters somewhere, although it seemed quite relaxed in our garden!

      I was sorry to hear of your frustrations with Covid vaccination supply there in Belgium. I shall keep my fingers crossed that all these arguments will be resolved soon and you will soon be offered a shot

      Thank you for your kind words about the bag - I enjoyed making it and I will even more enjoy making one for my wife!

      Stay safe - - - Richard

  5. Your leather pouch is outstanding, Richard. As soon as you begin taking custom orders be sure to let me know. I have my theme planned already! Then I will be able to flaunt my "Pouch by Pegler" and the entire birding fraternity here will be green with understandable envy! What size is the one you made, by the way? I can hardly imagine having a pheasant in the backyard. It must have been very exciting. Wild Turkeys here are rapidly becoming regulars in suburbia and they have no hesitation in feeding on seed spilled from bird feeders. Males, fuelled by spring hormones, can get quite aggressive and there have been a few reports of turkey/human and turkey/pet confrontations. It is quite comical I can tell you to see a dozen turkeys wandering along the sidewalk in residential areas. We had the excitement of an Eastern Towhee visiting us for the first time earlier in the week. Miriam managed one reasonable shot so I will feature it on my next blog post. Oh, by the way, I shall want a belt too! You are going to be busy!! But just think of all the new lenses you will buy with the money you will make!

    1. The pouch is fairly small (22 x 15 x 5 cm), David. I would love to make you a pouch and a belt, but I will have to turn you down, and just stop at making the bag that I have now promised to make for Lindsay, otherwise I'll never get out to see the light of day! Seriously though, materials on the small scale that I would be buying them at would to too expensive, and the time taken too long, to make it a viable concern. I've priced up the materials I will need for Lindsay's bag at being around GBP 80, and that is on top of some items required that I already have.

      I can imagine the chaos Wild Turkeys could cause in back yards! This week a group of up to 20 Greater Rheas have been causing problems on a housing estate just outside London. They can't trace owners and have come to the conclusion that they're a feral flock. I don't think that they've yet decided what to do with them. I suspect that a Rhea could do a bit more damage than a Wild Turkey!

      Eastern Towhee sounds like a remarkable back yard visitor. I look forward to that blog post.

  6. I love your leather work Richard it is outstanding, I am more then impressed.

    I was sad to hear about the figurines in Willesley Wood, what a shame as I thought they were delightful.

    Beautiful photos as always, I was surprised to see a pheasant just down the road from us the other day but I guess that they are taking advantage of the end of the shooting season here. We often used to get one in our garden in Wantage and we were surrounded by houses there!

    I am struggling to keep up with my blogs, the garden is taking over at present so no time to walk and photos are few and far between.

    Take care and have a good weekend, hopefully we will get back to normal living one day. Cheers Diane

    1. Thank you for all your kind words, Diane. I know what you mean about gardening taking over. At my age, I am definitely a fair-weather gardener, and so the garden has become a jungle over the past six months. This week I have spent much of my time trying to tidy up a bit in the garden, but there's a limit to how long I can keep up the heavy or kneeling work for before needing a rest with a mug of coffee! Coupled with things like a day at the hospital and a pipe leak which flooded our kitchen floor, this week has been extremely flat on the wildlife side, and few photos taken.

      I was interested to hear of you getting Pheasant in your Wantage garden. I'd missed the fact that the Pheasant shooting season has finished here too.

      I look forward to your next blog post. In the meantime, stay safe - - - Richard

    2. Hope the trip to hospital was not too serious, and a flooded kitchen is no fun. When I was here in France on my own and N was still in the UK we had a massive hailstorm. 18 roof tiles broken and the rain poured in soaking the ceiling and flooding the kitchen hall and bedroom. It was at night and the water kicked all the electricity off as well. Long story but the insurance paid up with out a quibble! The garden is still running my life....... also back in full lockdown yet again!! Keep safe Diane

    3. I'd had a visit to the optician early on the Wednesday morning, Diane, and the first thing that he said to me was that I needed to see a doctor about the lump on the bridge of my nose. Half an hour later he was telling me that I needed to go to the hospital immediately as he thought I might have a tear (as in rip) in my eye. After several hours in the Eye Casualty area they declared that all was OK! Since been to the doctor and the lump is a cyst which I will, at some time, be invited to hospital to have sorted, but 'nothing to worry about'.

      Your water leak sounds like an absolute nightmare - especially as you were on your own there. As for our water leak, I have not yet managed to find a plumber, so am getting by with judicial use of the stop-cock and a bowl to put under the leak when we need the water! Going to contact the insurance company after the Easter holiday to see if they can find and supply a plumber.

      It must be very frustrating for you to be back in lockdown - stay safe! Richard

  7. Hello Richard,
    Another interesting and excellent post. I will remember your leatherwork next time I need my shoes repaired. Take care and stay safe.

    1. Thank you, Mike. My advice to you is not to trust me with any work that your shoes, or any other leather item, might require. Get a professional to do it! ;-}

      Stay safe - - - Richard

  8. Wonderful photographs as usual Richard I especially love the wren adn Siskin. I am VERY impressed with the bag. Well done on making that. I hope you have a great week ahead

    1. Thank you for your visit and your kind words, Margaret. I'm hoping that our week ahead is better than the one just ending, and that yours is a great one too! Stay safe - - - Richard

  9. Hello Richard
    a lot of hours of work for your bag, but the result is great, very nicely made, I like the pheasant in the garden, I've already released 8 pheasants here with us and it's always a great moment to see these birds in the wild
    Greetings Frank

    1. Thank you, Frank. I am hoping that the bag will be a good practice-piece for the bag that I now have to make for my wife. She deserves nothing but perfection! However, she ended up with me!!

      Well done on releasing those Pheasants. Both times that Pheasant have visited us they managed to fly away unaided.

      Take great care and stay safe - - - Richard

  10. Beautiful images of birds and Hedgehogs.

    1. Thank you, Bob. I am delighted that you enjoyed them. I hope that you are taking it easy after your recent health problem. Stay safe - - - Richard

  11. Beautiful serie photos Richard, I like the siskin. Have a nice sunday. Greetings Caroline

    1. Thank you, Caroline - it has been a busy Sunday, but I hope for more relaxation next week. Take good care - - - Richard

  12. I had read (although it may not have been recently) that the Pheasants in England were revolting, but had no idea they were falling from the sky! Goodness. You shall need sturdier umbrellas.

    Your photographs are simply superb and the Tits and Siskins have put us in a nostalgic mood as we recall our days Volksmarching in the German forests. Wrens are definitely a favorite species. Small bundles of attitude!

    Thank you, Richard, for sharing the beauty of your garden and nearby environs as the world keeps its collective fingers crossed that we will soon return to a "normal" life.

    Warmth and sunshine abound here in sub-tropical Florida! We will send a bit your direction.

    1. That warmth you sent arrived safely, Wally. We've just had our warmest March day for 53 years!!! Seems like it will be short-lived, however, as they are forecasting a chance of snow at the weekend!

      Your comment about the Pheasants revolting, put me in mind of a book that gave me much amusement in my younger days, and I was wondering if you'd come across it. It is "1066 And All That" and was written in 1930 and I suspect that it would give me a good chuckle still today! UPDATE: just mentioned this to Lindsay and she told me that she was still looking after my copy of the book which has a 'belongs to' note in it from my schooldays!

      I'm delighted to report that this Covid thing seems to be moving in the right direction here, and fingers are crossed that the trend continues.

      Best wishes to you both - - - Richard

  13. Hi Richard,
    even though there is not much you can do yet, you still have some nice poultry with good results. I really like the series of the wren and male pheasant also comes out beautifully :-)
    The moths are very beautiful in color and detail. And my compliments for the beautiful bag with the dragonfly !! You have done this really beautifully and cleverly.

    Stay safe Richard because we're not there yet.
    Greetings, Helma

    1. Your kind words are much-appreciated, Helma, and I always look forward to your 'visits'! Thank you.

      Take great care - as you say, it's not over yet. Best wishes - - - Richard


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