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Sunday 7 April 2024

Slow March Pt.1 - 1st to 15th March,2024

For reasons previously explained, I didn't get out much during March, and most of the excursions I did manage have been covered in previous posts. This will be an account of some of my other observations in the first half of the month.

Friday, 1st March          Garden

Much to our delight, the male Brambling was still visiting us on most days. I was pleased to get a shot of this bird in flight - albeit a rather poor one.

Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla) (male) - our garden

Saturday, 2nd March          Staunton Harold  :  Melbourne Pool

On 29th February, Lindsay and I had visited Melbourne. During that visit, we'd called in at a charity shop in the grounds of Melbourne Hall and Lindsay had spent a little while browsing through the books there. After we'd got back home again, she did some resaerch on a cookery book she'd seen there and come to the conclusion that she wished she had bought it. That day, I'd also taken a walk beside Melbourne Pool and thought I'd seen what might have been a Red-crested Pochard in the distance. This bird is rated locally as being 'uncommon, probably feral'. It is, nevertheless, a very attractive duck.
A Saturday is not a good day to visit Melbourne as it gets very busy, and car parking can be hard to find. It made sense, therefore, for me to visit Melbourne on my own this day, not having to worry about parking too far away from the shop for Lindsay to walk. It also meant that I could take more time out to walk round the pool.
Due to a long-term road closure and the official diversion route being a long one, I took a short cut through Staunton Harold deciding to stop there briefly to see if the Cattle Egret was still there. A swan greeted me as I arrived.

Mute Swan (Cygnus olor) - Staunton Harold
It took me a little while to find the egret, as it was tucked down in some reeds. Eventually it woke up and became more visible and, by moving further along the road, I got a better photo.
Cattle Egret (Bubulcus ibis) - Staunton Harold

Having returned to my car, I headed off to Melbourne and did manage to find a parking space quite close to Melbourne Hall. I hurried to the charity shop and was relieved to find the book that Lindsay wanted was still there. I quickly took it back to the car, and set off to Melbourne Pool with my camera.

I won't trouble you with most of the photos that I took, but this one, of a Black-headed Gull landing on the water, I thought was a bit unusual.

Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) - Melbourne Pool

From the road on the east side of the pool I could see a Red-crested Pochard in the far distance - this was with my lens at the full 400mm.
Red-crested Pochard (Netta rufina) (male) - Melbourne Pool

If the duck stayed in the same area, I would be able to photograph it from a well-used footpath that ran closer to its location, so I set off in that direction, taking another shot of Black-headed Gull as I did so.

Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) - Melbourne Pool

I got to a point where I could get some closer shots, but the bird was still at quite a distance.
Red-crested Pochard (Netta rufina) (male) - Melbourne Pool
I then stood behind the trunk of a tree, in the hope that the bird would come even closer - I suspect that this was to the amusement of the several passing dog-walkers. It did, eventually come a little closer, and I got some better shots, although far from perfect, before it drifted out into the centre of the pool. In the first image, below, it is enjoying a good scratch.
Red-crested Pochard (Netta rufina) (male) - Melbourne Pool

I returned home, happy to have seen my target, whilst earning a few brownie-points with Lindsay.

Sunday, 3rd March          Garden

The Hedgehogs came out of hibernation early this year, and we have had up to three different ones visit us in a night. On this occasion, there was a bit of an altercation between two hogs, as can be seen in the video below. The cat that appears is one of many that visit our garden (at least five), and I have named 'Ghost'.
Hedgehog (Erinaceus europaeus) - our garden
Monday, 4th March          Garden
A female Blackcap had now become a regular visitor, and was very fond of the 'flutter butter' that I make (blitzed peanuts in lard). She was back to this treat several times a day.

Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) (female) - our garden
Tuesday, 5th March          Garden

On this day, the male Brambling brought a female with him. Sadly, it seems that she was not impressed enough to return.

Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla) (female) - our garden

We were still getting frequent visits by three Carrion Crows. This is one of them on that day.

Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) - our garden
Sadly, Stock Dove has become a less frequent visitor, and when we do see one, it is usually a single bird.
Stock Dove (Columba oenas) - our garden
Friday, 8th March          Garden
Here is the Blackcap again on her favourite twig from which she launched herself into the 'flutter butter' feeder.
Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) (female) - our garden

Saturday, 9th March          Garden
A visit by Great Tit is not unusual in our garden, and they usually go for our sunflower hearts or flutter butter. However, I don't recall ever before seeing one probing in the moss on the wall, like a Wren often does. I missed the shot of the probing, but here is the bird.
Great Tit (Parus major) - our garden

Sadly, this next shot is my last one of the male Bullfinch that had been visiting our garden several times a day all winter. Three days later it was taken by a Sparrowhawk, dashing our hopes that, one day, he'd find a mate and bring her to visit.
Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) (male) - our garden

Tuesday, 12th March          Garden
It had been mainly male Siskins that had shown up in our garden, so the arrival of a female this day was a real pleasure. I only managed shots on a feeder, however.

Siskin (Spinus spinus) (female) - our garden

I was quite excited when a female Sparrowhawk landed on the trellis at the bottom of the garden as, usually, it is male Sparrowhawks that we see.

Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) (female) - our garden

It did not stay long in that position, but shot off to the left round the back of our viburnum, reappearing a second or two later, landing on the ground in front of its previous position. I didn't spot anything in its talons, but could tell from its actions that it had got prey. I still couldn't spot the prey when it saw me and departed at speed. However, when I zoom in close to my photos of it on the ground I can just detect the red breast of a male Bullfinch in its talons, and the lack of subsequent sightings of our Bullfinch bears this out.
Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) (female) - our garden

Wednesday, 13th March          Garden
This day was quite remarkable, in that we had a group of six Siskin visit - four males and two females. The best photo that I could manage, however, was of just three males on a feeder.

Siskin (Spinus spinus) (male) - our garden

Friday, 15th March          Garden

This day, a male Sparrowhawk stopped briefly in the Rowan outside my study.

Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus) (male) - our garden

I'll bring this account to a close now. With luck, Pt.2 will follow in about a week's time. In the meantime, please take good care of yourselves and Nature. Thank you for dropping by - - - Richard


  1. Lovely water birds, the Red-crested Pochard is speculator, and the Hedgehog, beauty. The Sparrowhawk is superb photos, thanks Richard.

    1. I am usually quite pleased to see a Sparrowhawk in the garden, Bob, but when it takes a Bullfinch I am not so happy!

      Thank you for visiting - take good care - - - Richard

  2. A couple of standouts for me in the post Richard, the rear view of the BHG coming in to land (on water) impressed, as did the RCP enjoying a good scratch. As for the Sparrowhawk taking out your garden Bullfinch....Arrrrgh!


    1. I know it's silly, but I find myself wishing the Sparrowhawks would be a bit more selective when taking birds in our garden, Pete.

      Thanks and best wishes - - - Richard

  3. Hello Richard :=)
    It was so enjoyable to see such a great series of bird photos and I was also amused by the hedgehog video. You finally got good photos of the Red-headed Pochard, a very satisfying outcome for all your well deserved efforts. The female Blackcap is a delightful little bird to see in your garden, and all the Siskin, but although beautiful birds, the Sparrowhawk is a menacing presence,...good photos though!:=)
    All the best,

    1. Thank you for your kind supportive words, Sonjia - there were definitely some highs and lows in that first half of February.

      I hope that things at your end are improving - take good care - - - Richard

  4. On balance, it seems like a good thing that Lindsay did not buy the cookbook when you were at the charity shop the first time. Sometimes things work out for the best. The Red-crested Pochard is a stunning bird. The last one I saw was in Slovenia several years ago. I was reading a piece on the Outer Hebrides the other day and it got me wondering whether you are going to make your planned visit this year. Looks like quite a chore just to get there! Glad that Lindsay is making good progress. Best wishes to you both - David

    1. We are booked to go to the Outer Hebrides just three weeks after my gallbladder removal, David. If all goes to plan and it's performed via keyhole surgery, I'm counting on my ability to manage the long drive there. If they have to resort to open surgery, I'll be cancelling as I will not be recovered enough. The other potential problem is the ferry service, as it has become extremely unreliable over the past few years. The ferry fleet is getting old and the replacement ferries are years late on their delivery schedule.

      My best wishes to you and Miriam - - - Richard

  5. Wow Richard, that Red-crested Pochard is lovely, I have never heard of the before. I have yet to see a Bullfinch, maybe one day, some will come my way. That Blackhead Gull with its wings open is fascinating, at my first glance I thought there were two eyes at the base of the wing - I have a great imagination!!

    I have seen Bramblings and Siskins here, but having been away I have missed them and they are not common visitors. Thankfully (as much as I like the birds of Prey) I have not spotted a Sparrow hawk since I have been home, Not that I have had much time for viewing!!

    Glad that you earned your Brownie points, that is always important

    Thyroid medical today, no change and he does not want to see me again for 12 months :-)))

    Take care you two, very best wishes to you both, Diane

    1. Now you mention it, Diane, I can see what you saw at the base of the wings of that Black-headed Gull.
      Our Siskins seem to have gone now, but we are still getting daily visits from the male Brambling, and a female has started accompanying him sometimes.

      That's great news about the thyroid!

      Best wishes to you and Nigel. I hope that the weather lets you get on with taking back control of your garden - take good care and don't over-do it - - - Richard

  6. Hello Richard,
    The pochard is caught very well, the female sparrowhawk between the branches is a great picture. Top selection also the swan in the large view..
    Greetings Frank

    1. Thank you, Frank. Your visit is much-appreciated. Take good care - - - - Richard

  7. Good morning ! The Fringilla montifringilla is a very interesting bird, and its plumage is original! Its big beak is not very elegant but I think it's a seed-eating bird, right? I don't see any in my area. Glad that health is improving for your wife and yourself, see you soon!

    1. Yes, Philfff, it is a seed-eater, but I happen to think that beak is rather fine! Thank you for your visit - take good care - - - Richard

  8. Hi Richard!!! I envy your garden.. Wow!!!An oasis of life :-))) Happy week

    1. Thank you, Ana. I am very thankful for my garden, as without it I would fear for my sanity!

      Best wishes - stay safe - - - Richard

  9. It's terrific to see you are both out and about.

    Your garden visitors are really wonderful. We have similar feelings about our respective raptors taking birds which we have been luring to feeders with copious amounts of food. "Take the dove, not the cardinal!"

    The Circle of Life is non-discriminating.

    You are correct. The Pochard is quite the handsome specimen.

    Gini and I are well but have a busy medical schedule in the coming weeks. Mostly routine stuff. Funny how when we reach a certain age, the meaning of "routine" medical "stuff" becomes much more frequent.

    All the best to you and Lindsay.

    1. Hi Wally. I'm having to slow down a bit now as it is only two weeks until my operation and I do not want to risk putting myself in a situation, such as physical damage or catching a virus, that will jeopardise me having the operation - I need to recover in time for a booked vacation involving a lot of driving. I think that I'm going to be spending even more time garden-gazing in the next few weeks!

      Yes, our life these days seems to revolve round avoiding things clashing with medical appointment dates.

      Best wishes to you and Gini - - - Richard

  10. Hello Richard :=)
    You did your homework didn't you! :=) It's a great pity that the river ave is polluted, I didn't know until you mentioned it. Thank you for the Cricket ID I will alter what I wrote. I think you do well to stay home until your surgery.Playing it safe makes good sense.
    All the best to you and Lindsay.

    1. Yes, Sonjia - I so so interested in this place that you visited that I looked it up on Google and Google Earth.

      Thank you for your kind words. I'm still being very careful about going to places where I might come into close contact with other people as I don't want to catch anything that jeopardises my surgery. There seem to be a lot of bugs doing the rounds at the moment. Less than 12 days to wait now!

      My very best wishes - stay safe - - - Richard

  11. Un precioso reportaje como siempre, me encantan las aves. Un abrazo.

    1. Gracias Teresa. Amo toda la vida silvestre, pero las aves son particularmente maravillosas.

      Mis mejores deseos - - - Richard


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