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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

Monday 14 November 2022

Out At Last! - on 4th November, 2022

Having not been out with my camera since returning from the Isles of Scilly on 3rd October, I resolved to put things right. The weather forecast this day was for sunny periods in the afternoon. I had some chores to perform in the morning, but just to check that the camera was still working, I took a shot of a Goldfinch outside my study window - it was a poor shot, but not a total failure.

Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) - garden on 4th November, 2022

After an early lunch, I set off for Kelham Bridge - a local reserve, managed by the Leicestershire and Rutland Wildlife Trust. I arrived to find numerous cars on site, making it obvious that the Wildlife Trust were busy here, although it was not immediately obvious where. The situation became rather more apparent, however, as I got nearer to the first hide. There was a sizeable team of volunteers strimming and clearing the land round the first pool - no point in lingering there!

As I neared the first hide, I was surprised to see a Common Darter dragonfly briefly alight on a branch beside me and disappear before I could raise my camera. I was not expecting to see dragonflies this late in the year.

At the hide, I found three other people present. They informed me that they'd been seeing almost nothing for a couple of hours or more and, indeed, they gave up and departed around half an hour after my arrival. By this time, I had just seen a Moorhen and attempted to photograph a very distant Little Grebe, the results from which I will not bother you with here!

After about another half hour I was joined by a gentleman, and soon after his arrival I was photographing a rather pale Moorhen and thinking its colours, if it was lurking in the growth at the edge of the pool and only partly visible, might easily be mistaken for a Water Rail.

Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) - Kelham Bridge NR

The Moorhen had dipped back into the growth at the side of the pool and a few minutes later I noticed movement about half a metre nearer than where it had entered, and briefly saw what I was relatively convinced WAS a Water Rail. There was, however, that small nagging element of doubt. 

After what seemed like an eternity, but was probably only about quarter of an hour, the Water Rail popped its head out enough for a few shots before dipping back in again.

Water Rail (Rallus aquaticus) - Kelham Bridge NR
Sadly, although I'd alerted my companion to its showing, he was at the wrong angle to see it. He moved into a more favourable position and we waited for quite some time before it shot out of the undergrowth, in flight, and disappeared into the vegetation on the far side of the pool. I'm relatively sure that I have not seen a Water Rail in flight before - but then I would probably not be sure I'd seen one if it shot past me at that speed!

We waited, hoping it would return, but it didn't, and my companion left after a while, commending me on my patience. In reality, patience didn't really come into it - I was just enjoying being out in the countryside, even if not much was happening.

I did take a few other shots and, with the exception of the Mallards which stayed at the far end of the pool and I didn't bother with, these next shots represent the only other species that I saw to photograph from this hide.

Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) - Kelham Bridge NR
Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) - Kelham Bridge NR
Wanting to get home before dark in order to put out the moth trap, I headed homeward at around 15.00. As I approached the first hide, it was apparent that the work round that pool had finished so I popped into the hide to have a look. There was little to be seen, but three Pheasant (one male and two females) were appearing as I arrived.

Common Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus) (female) - Kelham Bridge NR
It had been a highly enjoyable trip out, even if few birds were seen, and the Water Rail (a species that I rarely see) had been a real bonus.

That night, the moth trap only presented two moths. Both were Light Brown Apple Moths - the most common by far micro-moth from our garden.


I have been out once, since that day, but this was not a successful excursion, so I have no idea as I write this as to what and when my next blog post will be.

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

Monday 7 November 2022

October Garden Observations - 2022

At the end of October I came to the sad realisation that I'd not been out for an excusion into nature with my camera since my return from the Isles of Scilly on 3rd October. The reasons for this were several, including processing hundreds of photos from the Scillies visit, maintenance jobs in the home and garden, and a seemingly endless chain of health related visits for both myself and Lindsay. The wet and windy weather did not help either, although the rain was much-needed after the dry summer.

Nevertheless, my camera was not totally idle during this time as I managed to get a few shots of visitors to the garden. We have started to some some of our much-loved winter visitors returning, and I am looking forward to more of them appearing with, hopefully, som better photo opportunities.

This post, therefore, will illustrate some of the highlights and some of the regular visitors to the garden in the month of October. The month started fairly slowly but bird sightings started  to get more interesting as the month progressed.

Sunday, 9th October

Only twelve species of bird put a foot down in the garden this day (I don't record fly-overs) and there was nothing out of the ordinary so all I have to offer is a Blue Tit shot, taken whilst sitting at the desk in my study.

Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) - garden on 9th October, 2022
Monday, 10th October

The week got off to a grand start with our first sighting of Brambling for the autumn period. We see Bramblings occasionally in the garden most winters, usually between December and March, and this was the earliest date we have seen one on. I don't like showing photos of birds on feeders, but there will be a few exceptions to this ideal in this post as in some cases those are the only shots I got and I feel that they should appear 'for the record' - this was one of those occasions.

Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla) (male) - garden on 10th October, 2022
Sunday, 16th October

Nuthatch rarely visits our garden, so I was delighted to see one this day. It took me a while to make my mind up as to whether to include the second shot below because of the soft focus and blurred movement, but decided to do so on the basis that, for me, it captures the zooming nature of this bird when it's not bumbling up and down a tree trunk.

Nuthatch (Sitta europaea) - garden on 16th October, 2022
Tuesday, 18th October

Up until the middle of October, we had gone a quite long while without being visited by a Sparrowhawk, but we were now starting to think that one was making a nuisance of itself in the garden. On this day, a male Sparrowhawk arrived and landed on one of the feeder trays (sorry - another shot of a bird on a feeder!).

Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) (male) - garden on 18th October, 2022

Wednesday, 19th October

For us, this was an utterly remarkable day in that we had a pair of Nuthatch visit. I don't recall this ever happening before in our garden. This did give me some photo opportunities. The third image is in there because photos of Nuthatch seem to rarely capture that wonderful spotting on their backsides. I may have gone a bit overboard with the Nuthatch images, but I feel that I want to show just how versatile they are with their ability to travel in any direction on a tree trunk.


Nuthatch (Sitta europaea) - garden on 1th October, 2022
We have not seen a Nuthatch since this day.
Saturday, 22nd October
A male Blackcap visited this day - our first for the autumn, and another bird that does not usually show up until December or January, with the earliest previous garden sighting being 22nd November in 2020. Sadly, I did not manage any photos of it.
In recent years, we have had one particular fungus grow in our lawn which I find to be rather attractive. This year it has been more abundant than in past years. I am relatively confident that this is Oily Waxcap. 

Oily Waxcap (Hygrocybe quieta) - garden on 22nd October, 2022
Monday, 24th October
Earlier in the year, we had been seeing Bullfinch on a daily basis but, in the past few months, we'd not seen one, so the appearance of a female Bullfinch on this day was most welcome. The same can be said for Stock Dove which, again, appeared for the first time in a long while on this day. I only got very poor shots of the Bullfinch, and none of the Stock Dove

The moth trap went out this night, for the first time in over two months. It was a slim catch of 13 moths of 9 species, with nothing particularly exciting in the catch, although Red-green Carpet was a first for the garden.

Juniper Carpet (Thera juniperata) - from garden moth trap on 24th October, 2022
Red-green Carpet (Chloroclysta siterata) - from garden moth trap on 24th October, 2022
Wednesday, 26th October
On this day, it was a female Sparrowhawk that caused a stir in the garden. 

Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) (female) - garden on 26th October, 2022
Thursday, 27th October
The male Blackcap returned, and this time I did get some photos, although not great.

Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) (male) - garden on 27th October, 2022
Friday, 28th October

The female Bullfinch was still visiting us on a daily basis, although she was still reluctant to present herself in a photographable position.

Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) (female) - garden on 28th October, 2022
Saturday, 29th October
At this time of year, we tend to get sizeable groups of Starling visiting the garden. Initially it's fun to behold, but they do wear a bit thin after a while as they are very noisy, put off the other birds, and cost us a small fortune in bird food. We are, therefore, usually somewhat relieved when they go off to form into huge murmurating groups elsewhere. We are currently getting groups of around 30-40 birds. Here are a few of them pillaging the suet pellets.
Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) - garden on 29th October, 2022
The butterfly season is at a close, so we were surprised to see this Red Admiral on the Pieris this day.
Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta) - garden on 29th October, 2022
I mentioned in a note to friend David in Canada that I was expecting this to be my last sighting of Red Admiral for the year, unless I happened upon a hibernating one (they like to overwinter in outbuildings). However, we had one visit the flowers high up on our Viburnum on 3rd November - sadly, too high up to photograph on that occasion.
This brings me to the end of my account of my October garden observations. I am pleased to report that I did get out with my camera on 4th November - the first time in a month - so I guess that my next blog post will feature that visit and, hopefully, a subsequent one or two?

Thank you for your visit. Please take good care of yourselves and Nature - - - Richard