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Friday 3 February 2023

Getting There - January, 2023

January has been a strange month in the Pegler household.

Lindsay's condition continues to improve as her cellulitis gradually settles down after her knee replacement, although she's just had to go back onto a fifth course of antibiotics as it started to deteriorate again a few days ago. I'm sure that she'd be well-recovered from her knee operation if it was not for the cellulitis.

To my disappointment, when I went for what I hoped would be my final eye injection on 10th January, I was told by the consultant that my eye had deteriorated, and it rather looks like I'm going to have to have injections into the eye every 8 weeks for the rest of my days. He then told me that I needed to attend a glaucoma clinic as I had an exceptionally high pressure in my 'good' eye. I'm still waiting for that appointment.

The weather has been quite strange too. The month started extremely wet and the garden had become quite waterlogged, and this was followed by a rather long cold spell with temperatures hovering between -12°c and -3°c for a couple of weeks. We even had a light fall of snow at the beginning of the cold spell. I did, nevertheless, manage to get out three times during the month, although only for short periods in case Lindsay needed my attention, although she is now attaining an encouraging level of independence. 

However, the garden has been quite bountiful as far as bird sightings are concerned, so here are some of my observations for the month.

Sunday, 1st January                    Garden

The year got off to a reasonable start, with 15 species visiting the garden this day. However, I only photographed Greenfinch and Blackcap, and I won't bother you with the only Blackcap image I kept (for 'record' purposes). Greenfinch is a relatively common visitor to the garden but I very rarely get an opportunity to photograph one as they tend to head straight for the feeders at the far side of the garden.

Greenfinch (Chloris chloris) (male) - garden on 1st January, 2023
Tuesday, 3rd January                    Garden

In a comment on my last blog post, 'Conehead 54' stated that he thought my 'White Wagtail' was, in fact, a Pied Wagtail. As the bird had seemed to be getting darker over the weeks, this caused me to investigate further and, with the kind confirmation of the Pied Wagtail ID from Rhys Dandy on the County Records Committee, I am happy to accept that I was mistaken. My excuse is that the three main reference works that I turn to are all lacking in detail when it comes to separating the two, omitting much about seasonal and sex differences.

Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrellii) (female) - garden on 3rd January, 2023
Thursday, 5th January                    Packington

On this day, four weeks after Lindsay's operation, we felt confident enough that she could safely be left unattended for an hour or two. I felt that it was time to see what the situation was at my most recent Little Owl site. In the event, it was a great disappointment as there seemed to have been even more chainsaw destruction to the trees, including the one that I had been seeing the owl in. It was even disappointing in the lack of wildlife sightings during the 15 minute walk each way, with the only birds seen being Blackbird, House Sparrow Chaffinch and Great Tit, apart from a small group of Redwing that passed through as the light was fading, and this was the only bird that I photographed.

Redwing (Turdus iliacus) - near Packington
It had, however, been good to get out, even if it was not a productive excursion.

Saturday, 7th January                    House

Whilst in our lounge this day, I noticed what appeared to be a small dark streak on the glass of a picture frame. It turned out to be a pug moth. Pugs are some of the smallest moths to be described as a macromoth in UK and I usually consider them to be relatively plain and uninteresting. I potted this one to photograph later and, when I did return to it and took some shots, I realised just how beautiful it was. This moth only has a wingspan of 8-10 mm, and its flight season is stated to be late March-May and July-August, so what it was doing arriving in our house in January, I don't know! Maybe it's something to do with climate change?

Double-striped Pug (Gymnoscelis rufifasciata) - from house, on 7th January, 2023
Monday, 16th January                    Garden

It is not often that we have a Brambling visit the garden, but when we do it is usually round about February. Numbers seem to have dwindled over the years, so this one (our first for the year) was a very welcome visitor on a mainly dull day.

Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla) (male) - garden on 16th January, 2023
Bullfinch is a sporadic visitor to the garden, and rarely present themselves in a good photographic position. Sometimes a pair will arrive at the same time, but I have only ever succeed to get shots of them together when on the feeders.

Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) (female + male) - garden on 16th January, 2023
Even rarer in our garden than Brambling, sadly, is Song Thrush. The day had brightened up by the time this one visited.

Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos) - garden on 16th January, 2023
Wednesday, 18th January                    Garden

The 'big freeze' had started to arrive and we'd had a sprinkling of snow. The Song Thrush visited again, as did the male Pied Wagtail that had become an occasional visitor.

Song Thrush (Turdus philomelos) - garden on 18th January, 2023
Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrellii) (male) - garden on 18th January, 2023
Friday, 20th January                    Calke Park

I made a somewhat longer excursion this day and had a couple of hours out from mid-afternoon, visiting Calke Park which is just 15 minutes down the road from home.

I first went to the hide near Calke Explore where I had a most enjoyable session in pleasant company. It was a sunny afternoon, which actually made photography difficult. Much of the area in front of the hide was in deep shade, but there was still snow on the ground, and the trees in the background were brightly lit by the sun. Much twiddling of the exposure compensation on the camera was required. I did manage to get a few shots that I am quite pleased with, although nothing unusual was seen. Here are a few items.

Great Tit (Parus major) - Calke Park
Marsh Tit (Poecile palustris) - Calke Park
Coal Tit (Periparus ater) - Calke Park
Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) - Calke Park
Robin (Erithacus rubecula) - Calke Park
Nuthatch (Sitta europaea) - Calke Park
It is not often, these days, that I get the opportunity to photograph Reed Bunting in a reedy situation, hence me offering the first image below.
Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) (male) - Calke Park
Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) (female) - Calke Park

A person that came into the hide here stated that he'd spent some time in the other hide, which is by the main car park, and seen nothing of interest. It was not much of a diversion to drop in here on my way out of Calke Park, so that is what I did.

As I arrived there was a stag Red Deer in the park, not far from where I parked my car. It seemed to eye me with curiosity and was quite obliging for photography.

Red Deer (Cervus elaphus) (male) - Calke Park

The hide was empty when I entered, and stayed that way during my time there. It was much as the person had said, with very little happening, so I said to myself that I'd give it half an hour, as this place seems to attract Great Spotted Woodpecker, especially towards sundown. Sure enough, right on cue, a wooodpecker arrived - shortly followed by a second one, which caused the first one to depart. I then observed strange behaviour from this second one. It kept flying from tree to feeder, but veering away from the feeder as it reached it and then circled back to the tree. I think it did this six times before giving up and departing, but it did give me some photo opportunities.

Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) (female) - Calke Park
After a splendid trip out, I now felt that my batteries were well and truly recharged.

Saturday, 21st January                    Garden

A real highlight this day was the arrival of a Fieldfare. This was our first, and almost certainly our last,  of this winter.

Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris) - garden on 21st January, 2023
Lindsay is convinced that we have a Wren living in our garden, but we do not often see one as they tend to skulk in the undergrowth, only emerging when it suits it.  Lindsay will sometimes say "it looks like a Wrenny sort of day today", and she is often right! They don't stay still for any length of time at all, so photography can be difficult and all opportunities are taken when they arise. This was obviously a Wrenny sort of day! They do love to probe around in the moss on the garden wall.

Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) - garden on 21st January, 2023
Sunday, 22nd January                    Garden

We had been getting a Lesser Redpoll visiting us on an almost daily basis, but I was having difficulty trying to photograph it away from a feeder. I just about managed this day.

Lesser Redpoll (Acanthis cabaret) - garden on 22nd January, 2023
Monday, 23rd January                    Garden

A male Blackcap was still visiting occasionally.

Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) (male) - garden on 23rd January, 2023
Wednesday, 25th January                    Garden

The previous day, a female Blackcap had visited, and became a regular visitor to the extent that it was unusual to look into the garden and not find her on a feeder. On this occasion, I found her eating an apple that had been put out for (and ignored by) the winter thrushes.

Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) (female) - garden on 25th January, 2023
Thursday, 26th January                    Hicks Lodge

I had another excursion this day, with a mid-afternoon visit to Hicks Lodge, which is very close to our home. As I walked in from the Oakthorpe Colliery car park there were distant geese (Greylag, Canada and domestic), Lapwings and Black-headed Gulls in the fields beside the track, but the photos aren't worth showing here. 

I arrived at the lake to find approximately 50% of the surface covered in ice. The hide was open so I decided to sit in there for a while. In front of the hide, the water at the edge of the lake was still frozen for a short distance and the lapping of the water was crumbling the ice and making an eerie sound, which you may be able to hear in this video clip (taken with my phone) below - if it works!

 Near the island on the far side of the lake, numerous Black-headed Gulls were resting on the ice.

Black-headed Gulls (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) - Hicks Lodge
There were several Coots, and one came drifting by.
Coot (Fulica atra) - Hicks Lodge
The sun was starting to come out and a pair of Mute Swan approached, with 8 immatures following. Unfortunately the youngsters were spread out so I didn't get them all in one shot. One of them then started bottom-feeding.

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) (immature) - Hicks Lodge
At one time, the gulls took to the air. Maybe I missed something that had disturbed them.

Black-headed Gulls (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) - Hicks Lodge
There were a few Little Grebes around and I spent some time trying to photograph them. They are quite charming to observe.

Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis) - Hicks Lodge
A flock of Lapwing arrived and made a circuit of the far side of the lake before coming in to land on the ice.

Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus) - Hicks Lodge
Having ignored Lindsay's suggestion that I should take gloves, I was now well and truly regretting it, and so headed homeward after a most enjoyable session.

Friday, 27th January                    Garden

We had a remarkable 4 Lesser Redpoll arrive in the garden this day, but I only managed a reasonably decent shot of one of them.

Lesser Redpoll (Acanthis cabaret) - garden on 27th January, 2023
A Coal Tit outside my study window was a welcome sight. They seem to be always busy - dashing backwards and forwards between feeders and perch.
Coal Tit (Periparus ater) -garden on 27th January, 2023
Saturday, 28th January                    Garden
I could not resist trying for better photos of Redpoll, as soon they will be gone from here until, hopefully, next winter.

Lesser Redpoll (Acanthis cabaret) - garden on 28th January, 2023
Sunday, 29th January                    Garden
It is now quite rare for us to get a Reed Bunting in our garden. Up until ten or more years ago, they used to be relatively frequent visitors. To have one visit this day was, therefore, rather special. This bird also was attracted to the apple - well it was a rather tasty Braeburn!

Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus) (male) -garden on 29th January, 2023
The Redpoll were now regular visitors (and still are as I write this) and I managed to get a record shot of three of the four that were with us for much of the day, and also a shot of the fourth one..
Lesser Redpoll (Acanthis cabaret) - garden on 29th January, 2023
Blackcap and Reed Bunting were not the only things that found my apple offering to their taste. A Grey Squirrel was also a fan. However, it also took to some bread that I'd put out.

Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) - garden on 29th January, 2023
Tuesday, 31st January                    Garden
The highlight of this day was a visit by a Sparrowhawk. It seems that this bird has now become a bit of a nuisance as I am seeing it flash through quite frequently. From the wing feathering, I believe it to be a juvenile. It does not seem to be overly adept at hunting which, with the good numbers of relatively unusual birds we have around at present, is a bit of a blessing.
Sparrowhawk (Accpiter nisus) (immature) - garden on 31st of January, 2023

That brings me to the end of January, and this rather long blog post. I expect the next one to be very much shorter and possibly in about a week's time.
In the meantime, please take good care of yourselves and Nature. Thank you for dropping by - - - Richard


  1. On no. Sounds like the both of you have really been through it. I wish you well and a speedy recovery. A long but lovely post. The usual superb photography Richard and some cracking species captured. Take care.


    1. Thank you, Marc. Hopefully, the future is looking brighter. We'll see how it goes.

      Best wishes - stay safe - - - Richard

  2. Some stunning images as we've come to expect! You do get some great birds in your garden too.
    Sorry to hear of your eye issues-getting older isn't always fun. Good to hear your wife is improving slowly. Wish you both the best.

    1. Thank you for those much-appreciated kind words. I am mindful of a statement from my blog friend Wally - "growing old is not for the faint-hearted"! Best wishes - - - Richard

  3. This is a kind of good news/bad news post, Richard. Lindsay seems to on the road to independence after her long recovery from the knee replacement, but it is daunting news about your eyes, especially the prospect of glaucoma lurking in the wings. Keep us posted. This issue of Pied Wagtail versus White Wagtail is always a bit of a mystery to me. Are they considered separate species in the UK? My references seem to indicate that White Wagtail is a full species with the pied form a subspecies. The sight of a Sparrowhawk right at a bird feeder made me chuckle a little, although I am sure it is no joke for the songbirds. It may be an amateurish hunter right now, but its level of proficiency will doubtless improve. I have only seen one Cooper's Hawk here all winter. All the best to you both - David

    1. Yes, White Wagtail is considered to be the nominate species in UK, David, with Pied Wagtail being one of several recognised subspecies and the only one regularly seen in UK. Seeing a Sparrowhawk in the garden (or anywhere, for that matter!) is always a treat, but I do keep my fingers crossed that they don't take one of our rarer visitors.

      Best wishes to you and Miriam - - - Richard

  4. Replies
    1. I certainly am, Anne, and I hope to be back again soon! Best wishes - - - Richard

  5. Hello Richard
    the new year starts just as badly as the old one ended, I keep my fingers crossed that you both get well again.. and your post has it all, a large selection of different birds and the deer rounds it off perfectly,
    Best regards

    1. Don't worry, Frank - I'm sure that it will all work out OK in the end! I thought of you when I added those images of the deer.They are not as exciting as your intimate photos of deer in the wild, as this one was in an enclosure, although it is a very large enclosure (67 acres, = 27 hectares).

      My best wishes - - - Richard

  6. An excellent roam with the birds in your bountiful garden Richard, also good to hear you got in a trio of brief trips out and about with more birds and wildlife to enjoy.

    Knees and eyes Richard....I'm really wishing you continue to improve, with my Kind Regards to you both....Pete.

    1. Thank you, Pete, for your concern. We'll get there in the end, but it's just a bit frustrating in the interim! Best wishes to you and KT - - - Richard

  7. Hello Richard:=)
    Your Header of the dear little Nuthatch is lovely. Brilliant captures of all your garden birds. You are extremely fortunate to see so many different species in your garden. Superb photo of the magnificent Sparrowhawk but it's menacing presents may keep your regular visitors away..I agree about the Little Grebe being an endearing water bird, it has such a sweet face, and the moth and deer photos are rather special. .I'm pleased you managed to get outdoors for a few hours, now that Lindsey is feeling more independent, but sorry to learn about the your eye condition getting worse, but hope that both of your health issues will improve over time.
    My best wishes to you both Richard, and thank you for this enjoyable post.:=)

    1. I fully appreciate how lucky I am to get these wonderful birds in my garden, Sonjia, but it is not without considerable time (and money!) spent in feeding them. The garden has been a great consolation for me not being able to get out as much as I would like to.

      Thank you so much for your much appreciated kind words. My very best wishes - - - Richard

  8. February 2023 at 11:28

    Great images Richard, especially the Fieldfare, Woodpecker, and the Red Deer Stag.

    1. Thank you, Bob. I was particularly pleased to get the Fieldfare. Best wishes to you and the family - - - Richard

  9. Eyes and knees! Sounds all too familiar. Here is hoping the future will let all of us walk and see just a bit longer!

    What a fabulous collection of photographs you offered this morning! Gini made strawberry bread which, along with this strong coffee, makes a great snack for perusing your images. We're very happy you have been able to get out and about. Hopefully, you will be able to increase your number of outings as Spring is lurking around the next bend.

    As I examined each of your photographs, I tried to visualize where you were, how you brought the camera up to your (good) eye, achieving focus, gently pressing the release ... vicarious pleasure, especially knowing I would not have to process all those shots! Your results are stunning and, as usual, selecting a "favorite" is not possible.

    We have a relative of your Sparrowhawk here (Cooper's Hawk - Accipiter cooperii) that has been stalking our feeders this winter. Likely a migrant, he/she is particularly fond of the large White-winged Dove which show up by the dozens. Easy pickings.

    We continue to enjoy good weather but I complain about windy days. Neither the wind nor my objections will change over time.

    My new absolute favorite saying as we look forward to a new day shall now become: "It looks like a Wrenny sort of day today"! Please pass along my thanks to Lindsay. (It just occurred to me that this sounds very much like something Winnie The Pooh might say. One of the world's greatest philosophers, as we all know.)

    These two old American birds wish our British counterparts less pain and more birds!

    1. Strawberry bread is something that I've never encountered, Wally, but sounds fabulous. Will be looking for a recipe as soon as I've completed this!

      Our Sparrowhawk is now getting a bit more adept at hunting, and took a Chaffinch on Monday.

      We have now returned to cold frosty weather, but with sunshine and very little wind, so quite pleasant really. I have even managed to get out on the past two days, but not with any great results, however.

      Here, the light at the end of the tunnel seems to be getting nearer, even if a little fuzzy!

      Thank you for your kind and supportive words. My very best wishes to you and Gini - - - Richard

    2. Recipe found! Looks good to me, so will give it a whirl when I see strawberries at a sensible price.


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