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Wednesday 15 December 2021

November Round-Up, Pt.2 - 16th to 30th November, 2021

The second half of November was, in terms of my birdwatching, even quieter than the first half, with my only trip out being on the last day of the month. It was not, however, without interest in the garden.

Tuesday, 16th November

Coal Tit is an occasional visitor to our garden. Sometimes we can go for months without seeing one, but at the moment we are seeing one most weeks. However, they tend to zoom in, grab a seed, and then immediately disappear to consume it - I tend to think of them as smash-and-grab artists. All this usually takes place at the top end of the garden, and I rarely manage a photo. On this occasion, one stopped momentarily outside my study window, and the camera was at the ready!

Coal Tit (Periparus ater) - garden on 16th November, 2021
Thursday, 18th November

We had been having some fine sunsets around this time, and Lindsay called me through to the front of the house to see this one.

Sunset - from front of house on 18th November, 2021

Sunday, 21st November

We had a pleasant surprise this day with the arrival of a Pied Wagtail in the garden. Whilst this is a relatively common bird, it has been a very infrequent visitor to the garden. I am not sure whether this is a male or a female, as all the reference books I have show, and discuss, males in breeding and non-breeding plumage, and females in breeding plumage, but make no mention of females in non-breeding plumage and even mention confusion over this aspect! At first I had this down as a female, but I'm now inclined to think that it is probably a non-breeding male. Comments will be welcome!

Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrelli) (male?) - garden on 21st November, 2021
Monday, 22nd November

The wagtail returned this day but was not photographed. We did, however, see Wren which is undoubtedly present more often than seen, and always a delight to behold.

Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) - garden on 22nd November, 2021
The Viburnum was coming into flower and already filling that corner of the garden with its wonderful perfume.
Viburnum splendens - garden on 22nd November, 2021
Saturday, 27th November

One of life's greatest mysteries will be - how ever did a caterpillar get into the bath in our upstairs bathroom, when all the windows had been closed for weeks? I can only suggest that, as I had been doing some gardening over a couple of days, it had dropped onto me and I had brought it in on my clothing. I have not been able to positively identify this caterpillar, but think that it is probably the larva of a Dark Arches moth.

Dark Arches? (Apamea monoglypha?) - from the house on 27th November, 2021
Sunday, 28th November

Sadly, Song Thrush is in desperate decline and now rarely visits our garden. We did, however, have a very brief vist from one this day.

Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos) - garden on 28th November, 2021
Monday, 29th November

This was a remarkable day in that, in the morning, I was greeted by snow when I looked out of my study window.

view from my study window on 29th November, 2021
Robin put in an appearance. All snow needs a Robin!

Robin (Erithacus rubecula) - garden on 29th November, 2021
Later, the skies brightened a little and the snow began to thaw. For a brief moment we had two Pied Wagtails together in the garden. I did not have time to check them out or take a photo and it didn't register whether they differed in plumage (i.e. whether the were a pair), but two together was a first.

I took a few photos of other common  birds.

Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) - garden on 29th November, 2021
Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) (male) - garden on 29th November, 2021

Tuesday, 30th November

The snow had all gone and I did spend some time trying to photograph a few birds in the garden. A Pied Wagtail found my garden mini-pond. I'm even less sure about the sex of this one, and it looks a little different to the one shown earlier in this post - although that may be just a trick of the light and the pose of the bird(s).

Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrelli)  - garden on 30th November, 2021
Nuthatch (Sitta europaea) - garden on 30th November, 2021
Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) - garden on 30th November, 2021

I find that Carrion Crow can look quite menacing sometimes.

I took a late afternoon trip out to the nearby Longmoor Lake in the hope of finding some owls as I have, in the past, seen both Short-eared Owl and Barn Owl at this location at this time of year. This was my only trip out in the second half of the month.

The light was already fading by the time I got to the lake at around 15h00. Shortly after I arrived, the numerous geese started to depart in groups, each group shouting their intentions to each other before departing. This is behaviour that I have witnessed many times before at the end of the day.

departing Greylag Geese (Anser anser) - Longmoor Lake
It wasn't long before they were all gone. I continued along the lake towards an area where I'd seen owls before, stopping to try and photograph a distant Reed Bunting in the lakeside reeds. It was now 15h15 and light levels made it difficult enough to find the Reed Bunting with the binoculars, let alone through the camera viewfinder. After many attempts, I did, however, manage a record shot as shown in the heavily cropped and light-manipulated image below.

Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) (female) - Longmoor Lake
A little further on I found some Wigeon.

Wigeon (Mareca penelope) (female + male) - Longmoor Lake
Wigeon (Mareca penelope) (male) - Longmoor Lake

I did not succeed in finding any owls and so started heading back past the lake. When I was about halfway along the lake, a cacophony of sound started building up to amazing levels and, to my utter surprise, all the geese returned to the lake. This is something that I have not witnnessed before. I'd assumed that when these birds had departed, just before sunset, they were heading off to an overnight roost. I'm now wondering if they departed to find their supper, before returning to roost on the water. This image, below, is just a small part of the returning birds.

Canada Geese (Branta canadensis) + Greylag Geese (Anser anser) - Longmoor Lake
This happened at 16h05 - it was much darker than this image would suggest! Ten minutes later it was dark enough that I had to use my head torch in order to pick my way back to my car without stepping in dog excrement, although I have to admit that this unpleasant factor was not as bad as on previous visits.


Thus ended a month in which I largely relied on my garden to maintain my wildlife interest. So far, in December, I have not fared much better, and the run-up to Christmas is not likely to improve that situation. However, the garden has been rather more interesting than usual, so I already have enough material for another blog post, which will probably appear between Christmas and New Year as I intend to take a short break from blogging, although I will try and visit your blogs.

In the meantime, I hope you have a wonderful Christmas and that 2022 will bring some sanity to the world for us all - please take good care of yourselves and Nature. Best wishes - - - Richard


Tuesday 7 December 2021

November Round-Up, Pt.1 - 1st to 15th November, 2021

November was, sadly, another month in which I got out into the wild far less than I should have done. As I have mentioned before, this was due to a number of reasons, which I will not trouble you with again. Most of what follows, therefore, is from my garden observations during the first half of the month.

Tuesday, 2nd November

In spite of autumn setting in, Red Admiral butterflies continued to visit us throughout most of the month when we had spells of sunshine.

Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) - garden on 2nd November, 2021
The moth trap went out that night, but only resulted in three moths - all of the same species! The December Moth is a delightful species, and I always think of it as wearing a fur coat against the onslaught of winter.
December Moth (Poecilocampa populi) (male) - from garden on 2nd November, 2021
Thursday, 4th November

On this day, I did manage to get out for a few hours and visit Sence Valley Forest Park. My main objeectives were to try and find some 'winter thrushes' and to see if there was anything on, or around, the water. 

On the first leg of my wanderings, I did see a few Redwing, but these were very skittish (as always!) and I did not get any usable photos.

On Stonebridge Lake there was a family of Mute Swan, with both adults, plus three juveniles. This shot was taken from the hide at the opposite end of the lake.

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) - Sence Valley FP
Also from the hide, I managed to grab some shots of a Long-tailed Tit.

Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus) - Sence Valley FP
I then took a stroll to Horseshoe Lake to see what might be around. I spent most of my time here trying to photograph the Pochard that were out on the lake but at some distance. I still have not managed to work out whether to pronounce their name as 'Poe chard' or 'Potchard' as both seem to be in use. Pochard are far from rare, but I don't seem to come across them very often.

Pochard (Aythya ferina) (male) - Sence Valley FP
I don't usually bother much with gulls (I can sense David cringing as he reads this!), however, this one seemed to want me to take its photo, so I felt obliged to do so.

Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) - Sence Valley FP

The light was fading fast, and it was time to head homeward. It had not been a very productive outing, but it had been good to get out and about.

Friday, 5th November

I'll start by saying that I'm sure that I'm not the only person in UK that thinks that the whole thing of celebration with fireworks has got out of hand. It seems that too many people have money to burn on fireworks that make the loudest of bangs. It's like Armageddon going on out there on Guy Fawkes night, scaring the crap out of wildlife, livestock, and pets, let alone many children too! And it's not only on November 5th (as it always used to be), but for a week or so either side of that date. It now seems that any celebration event, be it international, national or personal, has to be accompanied by fireworks. We've even had them going off long after our bed-time. It's time that these things were restricted in time, and only permitted for licenced organised events.

And don't get me started on gas-filled balloons!!

Anyway, back to this day before the countryside exploded with sound. I managed to take a few shots of the wildlife that graces our garden with their visits.

Nuthatch (Sitta europaea) - garden on 5th November, 2021
Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) - garden on 5th November, 2021
Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) - garden on 5th Novemeber, 2021
Stock Dove (Columba oenas) - garden on 5th November, 2021
Tuesday, 9th November

Having been informed of the location of a hornets' nest close to home, I felt that I had to investigate, so headed of to Willesley Wood. I had a good look round but couldn't find the nest, so decided to take a walk through the woods, circumnavigating Thortit Lake in the process.

There was little about and all I had photographed as I approached my start pointonce more were various fungi. I know virtually nothing about fungi, so am not attempting any sort of ID on the following. If anyone cares to offer ID suggestions I'd be delighted to receive them.

various fungi - Willesley Wood
I'd found so little to photograph during my walk that I resorted to taking some shots of a slug on the pathway. There's nothing like a bit of variety!
Black Slug (Arion ater agg.) - by Thortit Lake
Wednesday, 10th November

I was busy in my study when Lindsay called me through to the lounge, where a Pheasant had landed on the sill of the lounge window. I was able to get my camera and take a shot before it departed. This was only our second ever 'garden record' of this species!

Common Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) (female/juvenile?) - garden on 10th November, 2021
Saturday 13th November

The moth trap went out again this night and, although there was nothing in the trap the next morning, there was a moth on the Virginia Creeper beside the trap. In accordance with normal practice I will record that as being from the date the trap was deployed.

The moth was a first for the garden - a Scarce Umber. This was a male of the species - the females are 'wingless'.

Scarce Umber (Agriopis aurantiaria) (male) - from garden on 13th November, 2021

This brings me to the end of my account of my observations for the first half of November. Thank you for dropping by. My account of the second half of the month will probably follow in a week or so.

In the meantime, take good care of yourselves and Nature. Best wishes - - - Richard