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Monday 9 January 2023

The Last Days of 2022

My last blog post covered a period which terminated on 8th December - the day that Lindsay and I departed on a journey to have her fitted with a new right knee. The time since then has had a number of ups and downs, with rather more downs than we expected or would have wished for. I'm sorry to say that, as I write this, Lindsay's recovery is still being marred by an infection that could have serious consequences.

Saturday, 10th December

I returned home this day after a meeting with Lindsay's surgeon, with Lindsay remaining in hospital.

In my last blog post I said that I was a little disappointed that my departure from home with Lindsay had coincided with the arrival of avian winter visitors. In spite of only getting home at mid-day, this day I managed to record 17 species putting a foot down in our garden before sunset four hours later, and I did photograph a few of the more common birds.

The Magpie was being greedy, and stocking up on peanuts.

Magpie (Pica pica) - garden on 10th December, 2022
Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto) - garden on 10th December, 2022
Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) - garden on 10th December, 2022
I did also get some shots of one of our much less common winter visitors. At this point in time, there were still plenty of berries left on our Rowan tree.

Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus) - garden on 10th December, 2022
Sunday, 11th December

We had a very cold morning, with a sprinkling of snow. I was called mid-afternoon to collect Lindsay from hospital, but I did manage to get a few shots of the two wagtails that visited that day - (possible - doubt due to a comment from 'Conehead54, see below) White Wagtail and Pied Wagtail. My records list them as two different species but, technically, one (Pied) is a sub-species of the nominate (White) species.

(possible) White Wagtail (Motacilla alba) - garden on 11th December, 2022

Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrellii) - garden on 11th December, 2022
Monday, 12th December

At the start of the week, we had a little more snow and we were still being visited by Pied and (possible) White Wagtails.

(possible) White Wagtail (Motacilla alba) - garden on 12th December, 2022

Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrellii) - garden on 12th December, 2022
Tuesday, 13th December

Dunnock is a daily visitor to the garden and sometimes we get up to three of them. However, I don't often photograph them. This rather dull day was an exception, however. I find the faces of this species to be particularly attractive.

Dunnock (Prunella modularis) - garden on 13th December, 2022

We also had visits by Mistle Thrush and Redwing this day, although only Redwing was photographed.

Redwing (Turdus iliacus) - garden on 13th December, 2022
Both Pied and (possible) White Wagtails were still with us, and the Pied Wagtail offered itself up for some more imtimate shots.

Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrellii) - garden on 13th December, 2022
Thursday, 15th December

This was a very cold day, although I did not record the termperature. I did, however, photograph frost on our conservatory window, which made an attractive pattern.

Frost on our conservatory window, on 15th December, 2022
Fortunately, it was also a sunny day. We were pleased to welcome the winter visitors again.
I was pleased to get the first image, below, of one of the two Redwings that visited as it shows how the top-of-head plumage overhangs their eyes - a fact that I don't recall noticing before.

Redwing (Turdus iliacus) - garden on 15th December, 2022
A first winter male Blackcap, with its black cap fringed with brown, was back with us this day also, and has continued to be an intermittent vistor.
Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) (1st winter male) - garden on 15th December, 2022
There was beautiful golden light towards sunset, and I photographed two of our visitors which were still around.
Redwing (Turdus iliacus) - garden on 15th December, 2022
Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus) - garden on 15th December, 2022
Friday, 16th December
It had been a while since we last saw a Bullfinch in the garden so I was delighted to spot a male visiting, although it was a very dull day, the bird was about as far away as it was possible to be in our garden, and so my shots were not good.
Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) (male) - garden on 16th December, 2022
I was rather pleased with the background colours in this next image, so please excuse yet another Mistle Thrush.
Mistle Thrush (Turdus viscivorus) - garden on 16th December, 2022
I was pleased to get some video clips of the (possible) White Wagtail that visited just before sunset.
Saturday, 17th December
Needing to keep my trigger finger exercised, I took some shots of a Redwing in the garden.
Redwing (Turdus iliacus) - garden on 17th December, 2022
Sunday, 18th December
We had a remarkable 23 species of bird put a foot down in our garden this day (in summer it's an execeptional week when we get 20 species in the week). We had all three wagtails ((possible) White, Pied, and Grey), although White Wagtail was not photographed.

Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrellii) - garden on 18th December, 2022
Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea) - garden on 18th December, 2022
For me, the most exciting visitor that day was a Song Thrush - a species that rarely visits us, with the previous visit being on 28th November, 2021.
Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos) - garden on 18th December, 2022
The male Bullfinch was back. I've said it before, and I'll say it again - Bullfinches are some of the messiest eaters in the avian world I know of.
Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) (male) - garden on 18th December, 2022
A little more excitement was caused by the Redpoll that showed up. I only managed a record shot on one of our feeders at the top of the garden.
Lesser Redpoll (Acanthis cabaret) with Goldfinch - garden on 18th December, 2022
Wednesday, 21st December
We had another visit by Song Thrush, which put on a good show. Fortunately, there were still a few berries left lower down on our Rowan - they have all been consumed now.

Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos) - garden on 21st December, 2022
I was also delighted when Stock Dove made a return visit.
Stock Dove (Columba oenas) - garden on 21st December, 2022
Thursday, 22nd December
The star visitor this day was a male Sparrowhawk. Sadly, it did not linger long enough for me to get a decent shot, and it left without its dinner.

Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) (male) - garden on 22nd December, 2022
Friday, 23rd December
A non-wildlife item to report for this day. Last Christmas I made a leather bag for Lindsay. On seeing it, our daughter asked if I would consider making one for her, but to a different design, and with a cat motif. How could I refuse !?  I'd promised her it would be her Christmas present, but that was before we learned of Lindsay's pre-Christmas knee operation. Much to my relief, after working on it for a couple of months, I finished it just two days before Christmas. I think that she was pleased with the result.
the bag that I made for our daughter for Christmas 2022
Sunday, 25th December
The week ended with what I believe is possibly our highest ever weekly tally of birds setting foot in our garden - 27 species (although I confess to a slight cheat here as Pied Wagtail is a sub-species of White Wagtail).  These were (in alphabetical order):-  Blackbird (5) ; Blackcap ; Bullfinch (2) ; Chaffinch (5) ; Crow, Carrion ; Dove, Collared (4) ; Dove, Stock ; Dunnock (2) ; Goldfinch (14) ; Greenfinch (3) ; Jackdaw ; Magpie (4) ; Redpoll, Lesser ; Redwing ; Robin (2) ; Sparrow, House (3) ; Sparrowhawk ; Starling (8) ; Thrush, Mistle (2) ; Thrush, Song ; Tit, Blue ; Tit, Coal ; Tit, Great ; Wagtail, Pied ; Wagtail, (possible) White ; Woodpigeon (5) ; Wren.

Due to a number of factors, no further significant photos were taken before the end of the year.

I am sorry if you find the subject matter in this blog post is too repetitive, but the winter visitors are something that I have really cherished and I wanted to give them a level of coverage that reflected their importance to me. Having the garden, and the winter visitors, has been a real benefit to my wellbeing while I am confined to home looking afdter Lindsay.

Hopefully I will be able to publish another blog post in about a week's time, but I have little material to offer as I write this as the winter visitors seem to have now departed! In the meantime, please take good care of yourselves and Nature.

Thank you for dropping by - - - Richard

Sunday 1 January 2023

Observations from 24th November to 8th December, 2022

Header image - while this post is current - White Wagtail (Motacilla alba)  in our garden on 2nd December, 2022.

I'm going to try and get back into blogging again as things are easing a little at home, with Lindsay making progress, following her knee replacement on 9th December. This blog post will mainly feature observations of wildlife in our garden, but I did have one afternoon out birding during this period.

Thursday, 24th November                  our garden

We had visits from Sparrowhawk and Stock Dove (2) this day, although neither were photographed. Of the other twelve species of bird that visited the garden - a relatively average number for this time of year - I only photographed a Magpie. Although the shot doesn't show the wonderful irridescent colours that appear in a Magpie's plumage, I rather like the setting of the shot.

Magpie (Pica pica) - garden on 24th November, 2022
Friday, 25th November                   Thornton Reservoir

There had been reports of a female Common Scoter at Thornton Reservoir. I'd not been to Thornton Reservoir for probably a couple of years or more, and as it is quite close to home, that is where I set off to in the afternoon. 

As I got out of my car in the car park, which is close to the water's edge, it was obvious that the birds here had been well fed by visitors, as they crowded round me when I went to see what was around. Many of these birds seemed to be ducks and geese of dubious providence.

It was sunny, and the light was strong, but quite low, making photography a little difficult for much of the time. I had decided on a walk round the whole of the perimeter of the reservoir, and gave some thought as to which direction I should take in order to minimise adverse light. I decided on a clockwise direction, but suspect that this might have been the wrong decision.

By the car park, a Black-headed Gull - extremely common on our inland lakes and reservoirs - looked splendid in the sunlight.

Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) - Thornton Reservoir

A little further on, through the trees, I started seeing Little Grebes. The light was a little more difficult here with the dappled shade from the trees.

Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) - Thornton Reservoir
Moorhens presented themselves in somewhat better light.

Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) - Thornton Reservoir

Other birds were seen, but not adquately photographed, and I had got three quarters of the way round the reservoir when I met a gentleman who was also there to photograph the birds. We got into conversation, and he told me of a dark bird he'd seen on the water near the southern end of the dam, shortly after his arrival. It dived before he could raise his camera and he didn't see it surface again. He was also a dragonfly enthusiast.  Time for me to return home was approaching and my new aquaintance asked if he could accompany me back to the southern end of the reservoir - a request that I was delighted to accept. Views to the water were into the sun, but I did manage a few shots.

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) - Thornton Reservoir
Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) - Thornton Reservoir
Having parted company on reaching the dam, I headed north across the dam to my car, checking over the dam wall from time to time, but seeing nothing of interest. I got to my car and noticed Andy Smith ('Mr. Thornton Reservoir') scanning for birds, and went over to say hello and ask after the Common Scoter. Andy kindly pointed out that the scoter was over near the far side of the reservoir, pretty-much where my earlier companion had seen his diving bird. Andy also said that he had been timing its dives and it was usually down for around a minute each time! It seems likely, then, that this had been the bird that my companion had seen earlier and I was pleased to be able to communicate this information to him at a later date. Here's my very heavily cropped record shot of the scoter.

Common Scoter (Melanitta nigra) (female) - Thornton Reservoir
It had been a useful and enjoyable afternoon out, but I was not aware that this would be my last photographic outing for well over a month!

Saturday, 26th November               our garden

The Grey Wagtail that had been giving us so much pleasure was still with us.

Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea) - garden on 26th November, 2022

Sunday, 27th November                   to Rutland Water 

This was not a photographic outing, although I did take my camera, but a meet up with my brother who lives in Cambridge for a chat and exchange of Christmas presents. I did take my usual owling route to get to Rutland Water, but no owls were seen.

At Rutland Water, while waiting for my brother to arrive, I was intrigued by a clump of rather large (maybe 15cm across) fungi at the edge of the car park. I'm unable to come up with a specific identity for these but believe them to be an Agaricus species.

fungi (Agaricus sp.?) - Rutland Egleton car park
On the way back I took my owling route once more for the first part of my journey. Again, no owls were seen, but a Great Spotted Woopecker was in the tree at my Little Owl Site No.34.

Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) (male) - my Little Owl Site No.34
Monday, 28 November                    our garden

I'd recently rebuilt, and slightly repositioned, one of our bird feeding stations as the previous incarnation was not getting as much use as I would have liked. This seems to have worked as it is now being used quite regularly and is only about 4 metres from my study window. It has not yet attracted any rarities, but has given me a few shots of common birds.

Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) (female) - garden on 28th November, 2022

Great Tit (Parus major) - garden on 28th November, 2022

Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) - garden on 28th November, 2022
We don't often see Wren in the garden these days, so it was good to get a record shot of a visit this day.

Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) - garden on 28th November, 2022

Thursday, 1st December                    garden

My redesigned feeder station has proven to be attractive to squirrels too.

Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) - garden on 1st December, 2022
Friday, 2nd December                    garden

I have, in previous posts, stated that the more common Pied Wagtail is rarely seen in our garden and we have had more sightings of Grey Wagtail than Pied. For the first time ever, on this day we had a visit by what I believe is a White Wagtail, although it does look a little dark in this light - my header image, while this post is current, shows the same bird on the same day. These are winter visitors from the continent. This bird has now been a regular visitor over the Christmas period.

White Wagtail (Motacilla alba) - garden on 2nd December, 2022
Wednesday, 7th December          garden

Every winter, I keep my eyes open for the arrival of winter thrushes to the garden. If we are lucky, we get an occasional visit from Redwing, Fieldfare and Mistle Thrush and, if we are very lucky, we might have a Song Thrush visit us too. On this day, we had our first visit of the winter by Redwing.

Redwing (Turdus iliacus) - garden on 7th December, 2022
Thursday, 6th December                    garden

Frustratingly, we had an unusually high tally of birds visiting the garden this day as cold weather set in. The frustration was because I was going to be away from home for a day or two as Lindsay had to check in at the hospital the next day at 07.00 and, as it was some distance from home, with a dire weather forecast, we felt the need to stay overnight closer to the hospital.

In spite of  making preparations for the above event, I managed to record 20 species of bird setting foot in our garden, and was also able to photograph a few of them.

Robin (Erithacus rubecula) - garden on 8th December, 2022
Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrellii) - garden on 8th December, 2022
Grey Wagtail (Motacilla cinerea) - garden on 8th December, 2022
Stock Dove (Columba oenas) - garden on 8th December, 2022

Redwing (Turdus iliacus) - garden on 8th December, 2022
Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) - garden on 8th December, 2022
Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) (male) - garden on 8th December, 2022
Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) (female) - garden on 8th December, 2022

After our evening meal we set off in the car for a night in Rhodesia - no, not THAT Rhodesia, but a place in the north of Nottinghamshire, just west of Worksop. The brand-new Premier Inn there had only opened three weeks previously and was more 'hi-tech' than any hotel I've been in before. This was to be my base for the next 48 hours as I awaited a call to collect Lindsay from the hospital after her operation.

This brings me to the end of this account. My time is still rather limited at present and it will be some time before Lindsay is not dependent on my services, so please excuse late visits and responses. However, things are progressing nicely now, and the future looks bright.

I suspect that it will be a week or two before my next blog post, but there's already a stack of material from my garden observations awaiting sorting. 

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




P.S.   - Blogger now seems to be playing silly devils with photo captions. For most of the later captions in this blog post it would only give me much small or larger fonts than my usual font size.