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Sunday 28 January 2024

The Third Week of January

My last blog post was a bit of a marathon event, so I am trying to keep it down to a shorter length by just covering one week.

Monday, 15th January          Garden  :  Peggs Green

At this time, we were still being visited by the Pied Wagtails, although their visits now seem to have dried up. They tended to arrive as a pair, the female of which had a distinctly black crown. However, we also had a grey-headed female visiting occasionally, as on this day.

Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrellii) (female) - our garden
The weather brightened up in the afternoon, and I went to have another session with the relatively local Waxwings. I didn't fare much better than on my previous visit to this location. I'd been hoping to get some side-on shots clearly showing the yellow tips to the primaries and the red appendages on the secondaries, but failed on this count. I think that these were probably a group of 1st year birds (maybe females?), which would explain my failure.

This will probably be my last experience with Waxwings this winter, so here are a few more shots than usual!

Bohenian Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus) - Peggs Green
I was rather pleased by the fanned tail-feathers in that last shot.

Tuesday, 16th January          Garden

The female Siskin has become a regular visitor to the garden, but I guess she'll be gone when the weather improves. On this day she obliged by spending a little time just a few metres from my study window.

Siskin (Spinus spinus) (female) - our garden

Wednesday, 17th January          Garden

It was a good day for bird sightings in the garden but, sadly, I failed to get a shot of the briefly visiting Grey Wagtail.

Here are a few shots of some of our other visitors that day, all taken from my study window.

Stock Dove (Columba oenas) - our garden

Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) - our garden

Siskin (Spinus spinus) (female) - our garden

The Pied Wagtail I photographed this day was the female with the black crown to her head, usually accompanied by the male.

Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrellii) (female) - our garden
Thursday, 18th January          Garden

A female Blackcap has recently become a frequent visitor to the garden, but remains rather elusive photographically. This day, I caught her out in the open, but not well posed or in a photogenic location.

Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) (female) - our garden

Starlings are now starting to appear in the garden on an almost daily basis, but only in small numbers.

Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) - our garden
Friday, 19th January          Garden

The only bird photographed this day was a Greenfinch on a frosty morning. Greenfinches went through a really hard time a few decades ago, due to trichomonosis, a parasite-induced disease that prevents the birds from feeding properly. Just recently, however, they seem to be bouncing back and we are seeing greater numbers than I recall from any previous years.

Greenfinch (Chloris chloris) (male) - our garden
Saturday, 20th January          Garden

An exciting start to the day was given by our second visit of the winter by a Redwing. Sadly, only a single record shot was obtained, as it departed as soon as I managed to get to my camera.

Redwing (Turdus iliacus) - our garden
We have seen little of the Sparrowhawk of late, but it did put in an appearance this day. It departed without succeeding in taking prey from our garden.

Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) (male) - our garden
Sunday, 21st January          Garden

Nothing was photographed this day, but we did end up with a healthy total of 22 bird species seen visiting the garden during the week.


I expect that my next blog post, featuring the remainder of the January observations, to be in about a week's time. In the meantime, please take good care of yourselves and Nature. Thank you for dropping by - - - Richard

Sunday 21 January 2024

The First Two Weeks of January, 2024

Header image while this post is current - Yellow-browed Warbler - Oakthorpe

Well, my prediction in my last post that my output, and attendance at other blogs, might be a bit limited at the start of the year came true, and will probably stay that way for the next couple of months or so. The reasons are mainly concerned with Lindsay's condition, for which steps are now in hand to rectify, but also due to some issues with my own health which have been under investigation since mid October, with answers not expected to be forthcoming until late February. In the meantime, please bear with me if I am slow to visit your blogs, or to reply to your kind and much-appreciated comments on my blog.

For my own sanity, I am trying to get out with the camera on an approximately weekly basis, if only for a couple of hours. I am however very busy with extra household duties, but still finding time to occssionally look out of the window to observe and photograph birds and, maybe occasionally, other wildlife.

Here are a few of my observations. 

Monday, 1st January          Garden

The year started a bit slowly with bird observations in the garden, with just 13 species of bird seen putting a foot down in the garden. A female Pied Wagtail was amongst the visitors. Here she is, sitting on the garden bench - note the cob nut shell left by a squirrel.

Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrellii) (female) - our garden
Tuesday, 2nd January          Garden

We were down to 12 species on this day, and I only photographed a common Blackbird. At one time, I could have been complacent about visits from this species as it used to be a daily visitor and one memorable day we counted 24 together (a pie's worth - as in 'sing a song of sixpence'). Nowadays, we can sometimes go for weeks without one

Blackbird (Turdus merula) (male) - our garden
Friday, 5th December           Garden  :  Oakthorpe

We had 7 Long-tailed Tits visit the garden on this day. We do not see these delightful birds very often in the garden, although they are quite common in the surrounding countryside. I only managed a poor shot of one of them at lunch time on this dull day.

Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus) - our garden
Drawn by reports of a Yellow-browed Warbler at Oakthorpe, which is less than five minutes from our home, I decided to try and see it. I have only seen this species twice before - once in Northumberland, when I failed to get any photos, and once on the Isles of Scilly, when I got a distant record shot.

I arrived to find two people in attendance and was soon put onto the bird. It was not easy to photograph as it was constantly on the move in an area that was full of intervening branches. I did, nevertheless, get a few shots which I find acceptable. I'll probably never see this species again, so I'm including several shots

Yellow-browed Warbler (Phylloscopus inornatus) - Oakthorpe

While there, a small group of Long-tailed Tits came through. This is one that afforded me a better view than those in the garden that morning - I wonder if they were the same birds?!

Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus) - Oakthorpe

Saturday, 6th January          Garden

At one time, in 2023, Jackdaw was almost a daily visitor to the garden, but in recent months it has been a a bit of a rarity. This day, one stopped off in our Sambucus which, sadly, seems to have died over the past year. This will be a significant loss at it is a main stop-off point for birds visiting our garden.

Jackdaw (Corvus monedula) - our garden
We also had another visitor that had been noticable by its absence. Starlings can congregate in large numbers and be most disruptive in the garden to the extent that we tend to be greatly relieved when they disperse. We were starting to believe that we should be more careful as to what we wish for as we were now missing them. This one was also in the top of the Sambucus.

Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) - our garden

Sunday, 7th January          Garden

I end the week with the female Pied Wagtail, that continued to visit regularly.

Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrellii) (female) - our garden
We ended the week with a healthy tally of 20 different species of bird having been seen visiting our garden during the week.

Monday, 8th January          Garden

I had only just finished bemoaning to Lindsay the fact that we'd not seen a winter thrush (Redwing. Fieldfare, Mistle Thrush) visit the garden this winter, when I noticed a bird up in the top of our nut tree - which turned out to be a Redwing! I only managed a record shot before it departed without stopping for a snack

Redwing (Turdus iliacus) - our garden
I had previously noticed a Grey Squirrel in the garden that had unusual white patches behind the ears. It was with us again on this day.

Grey Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) - our garden
Tuesday, 9th January          Garden

The Pied Wagtails were still visiting regularly, and this time I got some shots of the male.

Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba yarrellii) (male) - our garden

I was also quite pleased to get this shot of a Blackbird with the light allowing some feather detail.

Blackbird (Turdus merula) (male) - our garden

Wednesday, 10th January          Oakthorpe

The news came through on the county Rare Bird Alert WhatsApp Group that there were now two Yellow-browed Warblers at Oakthorpe, and that just a few hundred metres away, a Waxwing was feeding at a crab-apple tree. I was in need of a trip out, so went to investigate, taking the shortest driving route, but by far the longest walking route, to get there.

On my way there, along the course of a long-disused railway line, on the far side of one of the flashes to the west of the track was a tree with Black-headed Gulls roosting. While I was taking some shots of this, some of the gulls took to the air.

Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus)  - near Oakthorpe
I never found the Waxwing, and I only had two very brief views (no photos) of one of the Yellow-browed Warblers at the original site. I did, however, get my first photos of this winter of Fieldfare, although the light and locations were not good. These two shots at one location were the best that I could manage.

Fieldfare (Turdus pilaris) - Oakthorpe

At the Yellow-browed Warbler location, I only managed shots of a Robin that seemed very interested in what I was doing, keeping close to me for much of the time. Perhaps it thought that I was going to offer some tasty titbits.

Robin (Erithacus rubecula) - Oakthorpe

Thursday, 11th January          Garden

This was a joyful day as we had our first Siskin of the winter. This was a female - although the male Siskin is very brightly coloured, I favour the subtle beauty of the female. Here she is, in the company of a somewhat less subtly plumed male Bullfinch.

Siskin (Spinus spinus) (female) + Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) (male) - our garden
The Stock Doves, which used to visit us several times a day, have also become somewhat sparse with their visits. This one was observed from my study window.

Stock Dove (Columba oenas) - our garden
Friday, 12th January          Garden

Although Lindsay reckons that the Wrens live behind the brick wall at the end of our garden, I'm not convinced. We don't often see Wren, but when we do, it tends to be omnipresent for a few hours. This is one of several shots I took this day.

Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) - our garden
Saturday, 13th January          Peggs Green  :  Garden

I'd been hoping for reports of a Waxwing sighting closer to home than those that were currently being reported in the county. I then saw that four Waxwings were at a location that is just 10 minutes from our home, so off I went on a bright sunny morning. 

The birds were all present when I arrived. In spite of the fine weather, there were limited positions to view them from, all of which were less than ideal for the direction of the sun, and the birds were either up in a tree almost above the viewing locations, but largely behind intervenig branches, or down in a 'Pink Pagoda' Sorbus that was against the house, the drive to which we were at the entrance of, about 15 metres away. I did manage some photos before, after about 40 minutes, something spooked them and the birds departed.

The first image, below, is a poor one, but I find it interesting because it shows the markings on an outstretched wing.

Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus) - Peggs Green

In December, 2010, we had Waxwings on our short cul-de-sac, just 60 metres from our home. These were feeding on Sorbus 'Pink Pagoda'. I was so taken by this sight that I was determined to source this tree to plant in our own front garden. I eventually found one. It has been very slow-growing and has not fruited very proficiently - until this year. This year it has been so laden with fruit to the extent that we feared it would break. Fortunately, it has not done so, but it seems that it is still too small to attract the birds.

Anyway - back to this day! The female Siskin had become a regular visitor to the garden, and this day I managed some slightly better shots.

Siskin (Spinus spinus) (female) - our garden

A Coal Tit also put in an appearance.

Coal Tit (Periparus ater) - our garden

Sunday, 14th January          Garden

Wren was with us again this day. This time, it was rummaging around in the leaf litter outside my study window.

Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) - our garden

That brings me to the end of the second week in January, when the tally of birds observed setting foot in our garden came in at 21 species for the week. 

I suspect that my next blog post will not be much before about two weeks away as there's a lot going on in our lives at the moment, but time will tell. In the meantime, please take good care of yourselves and Nature. Thank you for dropping by - - - Richard