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Friday, 14 January 2022

The Christmas Period - 2021

This blog post, which is a little shorter than my previous post, covers the period from Christmas Day to New Year's Eve.

Saturday, 25th December

This was, of course, Christmas Day! I'm pleased to say that I did manage to finish Lindsay's Christmas present in time. It was what she requested after I'd finished a messenger bag for myself around a year ago - a leather shoulder bag in black, based on my bag, but larger and somewhat modified in design. Although Lindsay had input to the design, and saw the initial part of its construction, I managed to keep the latter part of its production from her eyes. I'm pleased to say that her reaction on the day greatly exceeded my hopes and expectations! This is a photo of it before the shoulder-strap was sewn and rivetted on - this was done on Christmas day to avoid kinking the strap.

It now seems that I have to make another one as our daughter, Melanie, has said she would like one. The design will change again to feature a cat motif and it appears that I'm going to have to make it in grey! 

Since my mother, who used to come to stay with us at Christmas, died almost exactly 18 years ago, it has been our custom for Lindsay and I to have a picnic lunch in the countryside on Christmas Day. These days we tend not wander too far from home and its facilities. This year we parked in a car park roughly two miles (3 km) from our home where there are bird feeders. Unfortunately it appeared that the feeders had not been filled lately and there were few birds around. I had taken bird food with me, and deployed some, but it didn't bring much in. The only shots I took were of a Magpie.

Magpie (Pica pica) - Oakthorpe Colliery
We had a short walk after lunch before returning home, but little was seen.

Sunday, 26th December

I did take some photos on this day, but none were kept. However this day marked the end of a fairly remarkable week in that 25 species of bird set foot in our garden. The list is as shown on the right. Please excuse my poor handwriting!

You can see that my recording sheet has a static 17 species listed. this was first used many years ago when we could have reasonable expectations of seeing those species at some time. However, two of those species, Great Spotted Woodpecker and Wren, are rare occurrences these days.  Sadly, it seems that Bullfinch might soon join them.

As noted in my previous blog post, the arrival of a male Great Spotted Woodpecker during the week was a real bonus.

The three Siskin (one male and two female) was exceptional.







Monday, 27th December

With the male Brambling and female Blackcap still being with us, I was determined to try and get some better photos. However, the weather was against me, and these were the best that I could manage on this day.

Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla) (male) - garden on 27th December, 2021
Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) (female) - garden on 27th December, 2021

Tuesday, 28th December

Attempts to photograph the Brambling didn't fare much better than on the previous day.

Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla) (male) - garden on 28th December, 2021
Wednesday, 29th December

Feeling the need for a change of scenery, I headed off to Swithland Reservoir. It was a bit busy with people at the south end so I continued to the north end, where I parked on the dam. It was about 15h00 when I arrived and a bit misty but with some sun trying to break through. 

There were a couple of juvenile Mute Swan out on the water, and I attempted some shots of one.

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) (juvenile) - Swithland Reservoir
I do like to take shots of birds, on water. Reflection shots can be interesting, but I am partial to 'splash shots' or when low light angles create a dramatic effect on the water surface. I failed with my splash shot attempts on this day, but did get some other shots that I am quite pleased with.

Great Crested Grebe (Podiceps cristatus) - Swithland Reservoir
Whilst there, I heard the distant sound of a steam locomotive whistle. In due course the train arrived and passed over the viaduct that bisects the reservoir. It was the first time I'd seen a train on The Great Central Railway from this spot.

train on Great Central Railway, hauled by BR Standard Class 5 steam locomotive 73156
I'd made up my mind that I wanted to be at Cossington Meadows by sundown to see if any owls were around, so returned to my car where, looking over the dam wall, I saw a Tufted Duck at the water's edge.
Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula) (male) - Swithland Reservoir
Having arrived at Cossington Meadows at almost exactly 16h00, I quickly made my way to an area where owls are sometimes seen. Two gentlemen kindly informed me that they had just been watching a Barn Owl but it had disappeared into another area. We didn't manage to re-locate it so I went further into the site. Here I met up with two more people who were looking for Barn Owls but had not seen one yet.
After it had got too dark for photography we all gave up and headed back towards the entrance gate. I did manage a few shots of Canada Geese as they flew over on their way to the roost for the night.

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) - Cossington Meadows
There were two of us that were last to leave and as we neared the exit my companion noticed a distant owl. We were both of the opinion that it was too dark and too large to be a Barn Owl. We'll never know!
Friday, 31st December
The last day of the year and we had some sunshine. After lunch I got some shots of our garden Brambling that were a small improvement on previous efforts.
Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla) (male) - garden on 31st December, 2021
I'd recently become conscious of the fact that it was over two years since I last photographed a Barn Owl, and that I'd not even seen a Barn Owl in 2021. It was time to put that right, so I set off for Cossington Meadows once more. 
Eventually, at about 15h00, a Barn Owl showed, but kept at a distance that was beyond meaningful photography. It disappeared to the far end of the area and one of the two people that I was with took the five minute walk down the track to the next gateway to try and get nearer to  it. I stayed put for a while and eventually managed some distant shots which, although not showing the owl in detail, I feel convey the atmosphere and action quite nicely.

Barn Owl (Tyto alba) - Cossington Meadows
When the owl disappeared, I wandered down to the other end of the area to see if it was down by the next gate. It wasn't - but it had been, and I was shown a very nice shot that had been taken with the owl on a fence post.

It was getting rather dark and it was agreed that it was time to leave. The others headed back to the entrance, but I decided to have a stop at the first gate and was rewarded by the owl returning. It didn't come very close but it did provide a little more action and, at one point, crossed over the track and into the opposite field. Unfortunately, a shot of it dropping, feet dangling, onto prey came out a bit to blurred to use

Barn Owl (Tyto alba) - Cossington Meadows
I'm not sure when I might see and photograph another Barn Owl, so please excuse this excess of photos. It was a joyous occasion in some respects, but my thoughts were constantly with the late John Truman who was passionate about Barn Owls and in who's company I have spent many happy hours at Cossington Meadows.
That brings me to the end of my year and the end of this blog post. I hope to be returning with a new post in a week or so's time. In the meantime, I once again wish you a Happy New Year. Please take care of yourselves and Nature - - - Richard


  1. Hello Richard: The bag, of course, is spectacular. I am willing to place a large bet that Lindsay's reaction made it all worthwhile. She will never go out with it and see someone with the same item, which is part of the delight of custom made products. Many hours of work no doubt went into that one, and now you have another one to make. When the weather keeps you housebound you will have lots to occupy your time. The fabulous shots of the Barn Owl had triggered in my mind the question of what happened to John's owls and I was happy that you recalled your time spent together. I still wonder, however, whether someone has been able to maintain their houses on his property. At the same time, it occurs to me that perhaps Veg is no longer able to stay in their home. I know that her health had been compromised for year. Again, great job with the bag. I am sure that you are proud of your work. Best wishes to you and Lindsay. David

    1. Sadly, David, I do not know what happened to John's owls. I will message you privately on the subject sometime soon.

      I'm actually looking forward to making that next bag, but I am never short of anything to occupy myself with on rainy days. I seem forever short of time - but then I'm not good at time management these days, mainly because I easily get distracted!

      Best wishes to you both - stay safe - Richard

  2. Lovely to have Brambling in the garden and a Blackcap. Good bonus birds and some lovely photos too. Love the atmospheric Barn Owl shots. Excellent. Take care.

    1. We are now getting a male and female Brambling on a fairly regular basis, Marc, and for the past couple of days we've had a male Blackcap as well as the female. I've not yet had any real success with photographing them, however.

      Seeing and photographing the Barn Owl has ignited the owling passion in me again, and I'm getting out regularly at the moment - currently only with limited results, but fingers are crossed.

      Stay safe - - - Richard

  3. Hello Richard,:=) Your wife Lindsay is a lucky lady. Your hand crafted bag is both beautiful and unique. I can well imagine how thrilled she was on receiving such a lovely present. The atmospheric action shots of the Barn Owl are beautiful too, as are The Tufted Duck, and Magpie images. Your garden visitors are a treat to see. The female Blackcap, which is one of my favourite birds is lovely, and I'm pleased to see the Brambling is still with you too, but 25 different species of birds in a week is an amazing number of garden visitors, and really exciting when you see new ones.

    As always a delightful post. My best regards, and have a good weekend.

    1. Thank you for your encouraging comments on that bag, Sonjia. I'm delighted that you enjoyed the birds in this blog post too.

      What would make me really happy is to have a Jay visit the garden again. We did have one arrive for a few seconds a few weeks agao, but it is a long time since I last photographed one. I might have to resort to asking you to send me one of yours! I was rerally impressed by your recent blog post.

      Take good care andf stay safe - - - - Richard

  4. What a beautiful bag !! You're really good. Awesome observations!

    1. Thank you, Anne. I have always enjoyed making things, but it is only in the last few years that I have started making things out of leather. My problem is going to be finding something else useful or ornamental to make after I finish the bag for our daughter!

      Best wishes - - - Richard

  5. Lovely post Richard, I am full of envy with you getting all the wildlife and me having to put up with the polluted rivers feeding our coastline. Perhaps I should go and live up there.

    1. I should stay put if I were you, Mike. Although house prices here are probably less than half the price that they are in your area, your weather is, in general, much more accommodating than ours. THe other problem in these parts is that too many deranged people think that it's acceptable to kill Foxes and Badgers, and many other forms of wildlife!

      Stay safe - - - Richard

  6. Hi Richard
    I am thrilled that you with her present (Lindsay), the bag of such beautiful.
    The Brambling was a delight, and you caught the Great Crested Grebe, excellent.

    1. Thank you, Bob, for your kind words, which are very much appreciated. Take great care and stay safe. Best wishes to you and the family - - - Richard

  7. Beautiful photos. Especially the owl. Have a nice week.

  8. Hi Richard, was you a cyclist ? In the house of my grandmother were cyclists living from thee UK for several years.

    1. No, Caroline. I used to run rail tours for railway enthusiasts. My friend in Belgium used to work for NMBS and assisted me with many rail tours in Belgium and also in other parts of the world.

  9. Wow! What a beautiful work of art, Richard! I know Lindsay must be more than pleased. Very impressive!

    Is the Brambling by any chance a sign of impending spring like weather? Great images of all the birds.

    The Barn Owl photographs are stupendous! Although you would like (as all of would) technically perfect photos, the series of this bird hunting is really quite special for me. Our area has seen a significant decline in Barn Owls over the past three decades so a sighting is an event.

    Thank you so much for a special Christmas post!

    Gini and I are well and hope the same may be said for you and Lindsay!

    1. Thank you for those kind words about the bag, Wally. I find myself scratching my head thinking about what I should do in the way of leather work after I do a bag for our daughter. There's only so many leather belts that I can wear and I've already made three - more than enough to see me out!

      Brambling are usually a winter visitor in these parts, and not at all common in our garden, although we now have two visiting on a daily basis at the moment - a male and a female, but they don't seem to be a pair. It does seem to be a good winter for Brambling this year. I read of "several hundred" feeding, today, in a field of dead sunflower heads less than 10 miles from our home!

      Barn Owls have been in decline here for many years, but I think that there are signs that they are starting to make a recovery. Sadly, it is very rarely that I see one these days.

      We're both doing OK here, thank you, apart from a few age-related aches and pains. It's good to be told that you are both in good health. Best wishes - - - Richard

  10. Hello Richard, wow amazing what great skils you have and talent as well. A loveley handbag! A great gift for Christmas indeed. The birds you encounterd are wonderful as well. Love the Bramlbing, so colourful.
    Warm regards from Belgium,

    1. Thank you for those very kind words, Roos, which, coming from such a talented artist as yourself, are very much appreciated.

      The Brambling is one of my favourite winter visitors, and brings a wonderful splash of colour to the garden when one visits - especially tha male, although the female is quite colourful too.

      My very best wishes from central England, where we have now had three days with sunshine but temperatures hovering around freezing.

      Stay safe - - - Richard

  11. Hi Richard, :=) Your comment made me smile,as they often do. I really wish you had had the courage to say what you think you saw. it's not an ink blot, only a bubble, like clouds, or pieces of wood, where I'm always seeing images. I'll tell you what I saw. I saw an infant in a fetal position on its side. arms drawn up to face and knees drawn up to tummy. I see an eye nose and mouth which is smiling, and a shiny bit on cheek. the bottom is defined, and there is a dark shadow on it's back, suggesting that it is clothed with a garment with a yellow collar. on the upper part of it's body. My imagination running riot, perhaps, but it's what I thought I saw in the small bubble, that is why I enlarged it. I won't mind of course if you prefer to keep your thoughts to yourself, but at least I have told someone, a very nice someone, what I saw
    All the best my friend.

    1. We must be of similar minds, Sonjia, as that is precisely what I saw too - even down to the blue top with the yellow collar. I'm amazed!

  12. Extraordinaria sesión!!! Por aquí ha habido una gran entrada de Fringilla montifringilla, me gusta mucho este ave. Las fotos de la lechuza en vuelo son impresionantes, enhorabuena Richard!!! Un fuerte abrazo desde el norte de España.

    1. Yo también creo que Fringilla montifringilla es un pájaro maravilloso, Germán, y ahora tenemos un macho y una hembra visitando nuestro jardín todos los días, aunque espero que se vayan pronto.

      Ojalá tuviera más oportunidades de fotografiar lechuzas en vuelo: vuelan con tanta gracia y son hermosas de ver.

      Ten mucho cuidado y mantente a salvo - - - Richard


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