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1. I have a policy that I always reply to comments on my blog, even if it's just to say thank you.

2. Please don't submit comments that include your own web address. For obvious reasons, they will not be published.

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Friday 23 December 2022

Seasons Greetings - December, 2022

The run-up to Christmas has been a bit of a difficult time in the Pegler household. Lindsay had a total knee replacement on December 9th. Things didn't go well with the operation - they managed, by mistake, to give her a left-sided femoral component in a right-side knee! She's not done too well since, and had a spell back in hospital on 18th and 19th with suspected DVT, spending nearly 24 hours on a hospital trolley as no bed was available. Fortunately it was found to be cellulitis rather than DVT and she's now home again and being treated for this. She is now able to move from reclining chair in our lounge into a hospital bed that was installed in the lounge yesterday (22nd December), and can also walk around a little with the aid of crutches or a frame.

You can probably understand that, during the past two weeks, I have been a bit pre-occupied with caring for Lindsay, looking after the household duties, and trying to create a semblance of Christmas ambience in the home. This has left me with very little energy (physical and mental) or time to respond to comments on Blogger or create a blog post. We've not even managed to send out any Christmas cards this year! Please, therefore, excuse my lack of responses to your comments. I have read them and do very much appreciate them, but cannot get into the right frame of mind to respond.

I hope that you will forgive me for using a recycled Christmas banner header for this blog. The greetings behind this, however, are fresh. 

I hope this will regain an element of normality soon. In the meantime, please take good care of yourselves and Nature - and have a wonderful Christmas. 


Tuesday 6 December 2022

Home, and a Visit to Melbourne (no, not THAT Melbourne!) - 19th to 23rd November, 2022

(header while this post is current :- view over Melbourne Pool)

Herewith, a short account of a few days in the second half of November. The weather was not so good during this period, but I did manage one short excursion.

Saturday, 19th November                  Garden

This day was quite remarkable, in that we had a visit to the garden by a Pied Wagtail. In UK, Pied Wagtail is far more common than Grey Wagtail. However, although we get sightings of Grey Wagtail in the garden most years, Pied Wagtail has not been seen on an annual basis. Grey Wagtail was here that day also, but not photographed

Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrellii) (female) - garden on 19th November, 2022
On the other hand, Robin is a relatively constant visitor, and we currently have one male holding territory which seems to have found a mate. She will usually disappear over the depth of winter, but will reappear during the spring.
Robin (Erithacus rubecula) - garden on 19th November, 2022
Sunday, 20th November                  Garden

An embarassing situation unfolded this day. I was sitting in my study when a dark shape passing overhead momentarily blotted out the daylight A Grey Heron had flown over and landed on the apex of the roof of the bungalow behind our back garden. The view from my study was partially obscured by the Sambucus on our boundary, so I grabbed the camera and rushed upstairs to our bedroom for a better view, calling to Lindsay as I did so as I knew she'd want to see the bird.

I was busy taking photos when Lindsay alerted me to the lady in the bungalow on whose roof the heron was perched. She was looking very concerned at me with my big lens, and pointedly pulled across the blinds to her window. I ended up going round to the bungalow to apologise for any concerns and took a photo of the heron to leave with them and assure them that I was not spying on them. I shall be more careful in future!

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) - from our bedroom window on 20th November, 2022
Tuesday, 22nd November                      Garden

Another dull day, but we were visited by Grey Wagtail once more.

Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea) - garden on 22nd November, 2022
Without a shadow of doubt, at this time of year, the most numerous birds visiting our garden are the Goldfinches, the Starlings having departed to form into much larger groups elsewhere. With them being so common, it is easy to overlook just how spectacular these little birds are. OK, so this next image doesn't really do them justice, but you get the picture.

Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) - garden on 22nd November, 2022
Wednesday, 23rd November            Garden ; Melbourne Pool ; Staunton Harold Reservoir

I was determined to go out this day, and settled on an afternoon visit to Melbourne Pool, in the south of Derbyshire. Although my home county is Leicestershire, Melbourne (with its attractive pool) is closer to my home than most of Leicestershire's avian hotspots. 

I have recently installed a new bird feeder, close to the kitchen window, as Lindsay had been saying for a while that she'd like somewhere close to hand where she could put bird-friendly food scraps, rather than put them in the refuse bin. This has been a great success, primarily in attracting Magpies and is tending to take them away from the other garden feeders where they disturb the smaller birds. Here's one of the Magpies, just arriving in the Rowan, prior to coming down for its breakfast.

Magpie (Pica pica) - garden on 23rd November, 2022
I set off for Melbourne after an early lunch. Sadly, soon after my arrival, the weather started falling short of the relatively bright forecast. Melbourne Pool is not a particularly 'birdy' place, but is a rather attractive one, and not very busy with people mid-week. Those people that are there seem to be dog owners and with a more responsible attitude to the handling of their dogs than is the norm in other 'doggy' places that I am familiar with. I was last here in February, when I had the pleasure of watching and photographing Red-crested Pochards.

Nothing was interesting enough to make me raise my camera until I had passed by the outlet weir and started out on the grass path round the pool. Here I found a drake Pochard (sadly, not Red-crested!).

Pochard (Aythya ferina) (male) - Melbourne Pool
There were plenty of Mallards around, including a few that showed signs of being domestic hybrids to varying degrees. This one looked as if it might be pure.
Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) (male) - Melbourne Pool
Close by were three immature Mute Swans, one of which was doing what swans do when looking for food.

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) (immature) - Melbourne Pool
At the end of the grassed section, the path round the pool enters a wooded section. I was not prepared for the stream running down the path, caused by continual torrential rain in the preceeding days, and I got wet feet. I persevered, however, and was rewarded with sightings of a few distant Grey Heron and Cormorants.

Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) - Melbourne Pool

Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) - Melbourne Pool
On my way back, along the grassy section, I took some shots of Tufted Duck. The light was getting a bit low by now and creating what I find to be quite attractive effects on the water. I sometimes find myself getting more excited by the water than the subject matter in the water!
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula) (female) - Melbourne Pool
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula) (male) - Melbourne Pool
From the edge of the private road that runs along the edge of the pool, between the pool and Melbourne Hall, I took a few more photos, including one of a very distant grebe that seemed to have already turned in for the night.

Coot (Fulica atra) - Melbourne Pool
Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) - Melbourne Pool
Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus) - Melbourne Pool
I had not visited Staunton Harold Reservoir since May this year, so decided to call in there briefly on my way home. I parked just outside the round car park, being unsure of my membership status with regard to the car park charges.
On reaching the reservoir, I was astounded at how low the water level was. I know that it would have been low because of the drought in the summer, but thought that, with all the rain we have had (it has been the wettest November on record in some areas of UK!) and the huge amount of water coming over the weir at the inflow, the water would be much higher. In the image, below, the water level would normally have been right up to the tree-line.
Staunton Harold Reservoir - on 23rd November, 2022
At the point from where I accessed the reservoir, I found three people admiring the scene. They asked what was on the log at the far side of the reservoir. It tiurned out that they were looking at Cormorants and a Grey Heron on a nesting platform (probably designed for terns to breed on).
Platform with Cormorants ((Phalacrocorax carbo) and Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea) - Staunton Harold Reservoir
These people told me that, a month ago, it had been possible to jump from one side of the reservoir to the other at this point on the inlet arm - that's across the water from the furthest spit of land on the right of the above image of the reservoir to a point on the left.
Out of curiosity, I decided to walk to the inlet on the dry reservoir bed and found my feet crunching on thousands of freshwater mussel shells.
Painter's Mussel (Unio pictorum) - Staunton Harold Reservoir
It was now getting dark and time to go home. It had been an interesting afternoon out, although nothing unusual in the way of birds had been seen.
Footnote:  There is a very positive connection between Melbourne in Derbyshire, and Melbourne, Australia. Melbourne Hall in Melbourne, Derbyshire, was home to William Lamb, 2nd Viscount Melbourne, British Prime Minister from 1834 to 1841. Melbourne, Australia was founded in 1835 and incorported and named (after the then Prime Minister) as a Crown settlement in 1837.

Lindsay and I are headed into uncharted seas later this week as Lindsay goes into hospital to have a total knee replacement. If all goes according to plan she will only be in hospital for the day (amazing, isn't it!), but is going to be heavily dependent on me for weeks - maybe months - so I am going to be busy. I'm going to try and get another blog post prepared before this event, but I suspect that I may be a little short of time to keep up with Blogger, so please excuse me if I am tardy in visiting your blogs or replying to comments.

In the meantime, please take good care of yourselves and Nature. Thank you for your visit - - - Richard


Tuesday 29 November 2022

A Rather Good Day! - on 18th November, 2022

I have lately been putting more effort into trying to get out with my camera to view and photograph nature. On this particular day, there was a bit of a break from windy rainy days, with a day that was relatively calm with sunny spells. My chosen destination this day was Calke Park, where there are two hides and some fine habitat.

The morning started well with the Grey Wagtail that had been visiting us for the past three days (and probably still is as I write this) arriving in the garden when there was a reasonable amount of light available. You can see, however, that it had recently been raining.

Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea) - garden on 18th November, 2022
Because there was still a threat of rain, I thought it prudent to concentrate on the two hides, rather than set off  for a long walk which might find me in a deluge a long way from shelter. I didn't get out until after a relatively early lunch, but was established in the first hide shortly after 1 p.m. and was, initially, the only occupant.

I was a bit disappointed that the arrangements in front of the hide had changed a little, and the set-up was not nearly so photogenic. There were, nevertheless, good numbers of birds visiting the feeders. These were primarily Great Tits, Blue Tits, and Coal Tits.

Great Tit (Parus major) - Calke Park
Blue Tit  (Cyanistes caeruleus) - Calke Park

Coal Tit (Periparus ater) - Calke Park
That last image is there to show the broad white stripe at the back of the head which helps to identify this species.
In the background, Dunnocks were showing occasionally.
Dunnock (Prunella modularis) - Calke Park
Nuthatches were flashing in, grabbing seed, and flashing out again, and it was difficult to catch one on camera that was not on a feeder. This is about the best I could manage, and it didn't help that it was in the shade - much adjustment had to be made to this shot!
Nuthatch (Sitta europaea) - Calke Park
This location used to be good for Reed Bunting, but only two were seen during this visit and neither of them were very cooperative. My shots of the female were not worth showing and this one of the male is not much better.
Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) - Calke Park
While in the hide, I was joined by a gentleman that I'd previously met at another location and who I'd mentioned a couple of blog posts ago as the person who'd missed getting a shot of the Water Rail as he was at the wrong position to see it when I had, and had only glimpsed it when it flew. It was then, a delight for both of us when a Water Rail came into view here!
Unfortunately, the rail spent most of the short time that it was present picking seed from a mass of seed on the ground - which didn't make for very pleasing photos. The shadows from the low sun didn't help either. Here are some of the more acceptable results.

Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus) - Calke Parke
We both hung around for a while after the rail had departed and then, simultaneously, decided it was time to move on. I headed for the hide by the main car park and my companion went I know not where.
The area in front of this second hide was also less photographically arranged than it had been on previous visits. Again, the three species of tit seen at the first hide were present, but here there were numerous Goldfinch, Greenfinch, and Chaffinch also.
Blue Tit  (Cyanistes caeruleus) - Calke Park
Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) - Calke Park
Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris) - Calke Park
 The supporting cast was also rather different.

Stock Dove (Columba oenas) - Calke Park
Jackdaw (Corvus monedula) - Calke Park
Common Pheasant ((Phasianus colchicus) (male) - Calke Park
It was getting late, the birds were thinning out, and the light was fading fast. I decided to give myself another minute and if nothing appeared I'd depart. I had just counted up to sixty seconds when a woodpecker showed up. At first, it was in a not too photographable position as shown in the first image below, but it did fly off and then fly back again stopping in a more useful position.

Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) (male) - Calke Park
The woodpecker departed, and I left the hide. Outside, in the distance, were a number of  Fallow Deer. Typically, this species is a gingery-brown and attractively spotted on the back, but it is not uncommon for colour variations to occur, ranging from quite dark brown and unspotted to almost white ones. Some examples are shown in the next group of images - sadly, all taken at a distance, with two of them partly behind a rise in the ground.

Fallow Deer (Dama dama) - Calke Park
Thus ended a rather splendid time out with my camera.
I'm hoping that I'll be able to offer another blog post in about a week's time which will probably feature other visits and garden observations. In the meantime, please take good care of yourselves and Nature.
Thank you for dropping by  - - - Richard

Monday 21 November 2022

A Slow-ish Two Weeks (almost) - 5th to 17th November, 2022

My resolution to get out more didn't materialise as hoped for, with only one excursion in this period and, when I did get out, it was a rather unproductive visit. The period was not without its excitement, however. Nevertheless, this will be an unusually short blog post from me.

Wednesday, 9th November                  Saltersford Valley Nature Reserve

Nothing much had been seen and recorded for this period up until this day. Determined to get out, I set off for Saltersford Vally NR. With autumn now firmly established, I arrived to find much of the car park covered in fallen leaves. What I didn't realise until it was too late was that the leaves hid the boundary between the edge of the car park and mud that was extremely soft after an extended period of heavy rain. I spent some time trying to extricate the car before phoning for Lindsay to come out with a tow-rope and carpet scraps from the garage.

There was just one other vehicle in the car park at this time and, before Lindsay arrived, the owner of this car, a lady with her dog, came onto the scene. I told her of my predicament and, between us, we managed to get the car out. A quick call to Lindsay got her stood-down before she set off. I then moved to a different area of the car park!

Undaunted by this experience, I started out round the reserve. I was disappointed to find the boardwalk closed, so set off on the western side of the water. From the first stockaded platform I photographed a Coot, but won't bother you with the results. From the second platform, two Moorhen were visible on the far side of the lake. Here's one of them:-

Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) - Saltersford Valley NR

Heading round to the second lake, the only bird visible was a very distant gull at the far end of the lake, nearly 200 metres away and unidentifiable through my binoculars.

There is a wooded area in the reserve where, in the winter months, feeders are put out for the birds. I stopped near here for a while, noting that the feeders were full - but nothing was visiting them!

On my way back, I stopped at the second platform once more and observed a Coot that was diving on the far side of the lake. I am not sure what it was doing, but think it was probably uprooting rushes of some sort to get at the tuber-like base. 

Coot (Fulica atra) - Saltersford Valley CP
Wanting to get home to hose the mud off the car before it dried hard, I made an early departure. 

It had not been a very satisfactory excursion, but at least I had been out.

Tuesday, 15th November             Garden

The weather had been none too pleasant for the past few days, but this one was a particularly wet day. It did, however, have a plus side, in that it brought a Grey Wagtail to our garden. We get a short visit by this species most years, but it is always a cause for excitement when it happens. Grey Wagtail is not a rare bird, but is Amber Listed and it would be reasonable to class it as 'uncommon'. It stayed for a good length of time, allowing for photography, but the light was grim and I was having to shoot at very high ISO and slow shutter speeds.

Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea) - garden on 15th November, 2022
Wednesday, 16th November              Garden

To our delight, the Grey Wagtail was back, in slightly better weather and light - in fact, it has been with us daily since then as I write this on 21st November.

Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea) - garden on 16th November, 2022

That's all for this time round. I expect my next post to be in about a week's time, and will probably feature a rather productive visit I made a few days ago.

In the meantime, please take good care of yourselves and Nature. Thank you for dropping by - - - Richard