Saturday, 30 April 2011

Putting the Royal Wedding in the Shade

The initial view - surely more than a silvery-winged Blackbird? Ring Ouzel

On the way to a drink

Just before a bath!

The other week I thought a Reed Warbler was rather an unusual and exciting bird to get in an urban garden, but yesterday evening's bird easily eclipsed the Reed Warbler. At first I thought we had an unusually silvery-winged Blackbird in the garden, but then I caught sight of a white mark just visible on its side, and I could hardly believe my eyes. Sure enough it turned round and the full white crescent was visible. This stunning male stayed at least 15 minutes when it was seen to pick up bits of the fat slab from the grass dropped by other birds on the feeding station, then it had a drink from the font, and even had a bath. It allowed me to approach the glass windows, and seemed less nervous than our Song Thrush, but there were no Blackbirds present at the time, which would probably have shortened its stay. After its snack and its ablutions it disappeared, never to be sighted again. One of the best birding delights of the year so far - and all seen from the comfort of the living room - who would have thought it?

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Early Morning Treats

Wood Warbler - the penny spinning on a slab of marble

Pied Flycatcher

Pied Flycatcher - Full throttle

Pied Flycatcher - in repose

Dipper - adult above & juvenile below

Mandarin [drake]

Mandarin [drake]

Mandarin [duck]

Kingfisher - in really strange light

Goosander [female]

Mallard [drake]

Baby Rabbits


John Sadler had the brainwave of setting off at 5am to visit the amazing summer visitors only to be found singing locally in North Yorkshire at this time of year. It wasn't his fault I woke up at 2.23am & I wasn't able to get back to sleep before setting off at 5am! The morning started quietly, but we did see a Common Sandpiper & plenty of Dippers. When the sun began to break through the more unusual songsters began to break cover & sing beautifully. The first star was an exquisite Wood Warbler followed by a Pied Flycatcher, but we had to work much harder for the Redstart. A timid Mandarin on the river was followed by a much bolder grass-striding-pair! There were also at least 2 female Goosanders on the river. Also seen or heard: Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Grey & Pied Wagtails, Great Spotted & Green Woodpeckers. I'm writing this post before the after effects of the early start begin to makes themselves felt! ZZZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Nightingale Special

Nightingale (c) 2011 David Tasker

Nightingale Nightingale in full song
Closest to showing the rufous tail

Open Wide (c) 2011 David Ware

Among Blossom (c) 2011 David Ware




Orange-Tip on Cuckoo Flower (Ladysmock)

15 keen souls drove for at least an hour south to participate in our annual appointment with the UK's supreme songster. I heard at least 8 soloists singing, and 2 were relatively confiding. One sang in the open for 5 minutes among some hawthorn blossom until it took fright because of a passenger train passing within a few feet of its song post. One particular bird was a true virtuoso, and some class members were left with a slackened lower jaw after they heard its amazing performance! The Nightingales were much harder to track down in the afternoon, but the class members were treated to several superb bursts of sound. Even at this reliable site Nightingales seem to be in decline. 16 males were singing 3 years ago, only 12 last year, and so far this year only 10 have been heard. Are the dreaded Muntjac Deer to be blamed here? As the links has been scientifically proved, surely it's time to rid ourselves of another destructive non-native species, which is wiping out a poetic icon! Other birds heard were Garden Warblers, Blackcaps, Willow Warblers, Chiffchaffs, Whitethroat and Lesser Whitethroats. We also saw three 3-week-old Great Crested Grebe chicks, and at least 6 Common Terns. The Hobbies weren't back yet, but it won't be long! Normal services resume next week!

Sunday, 24 April 2011


Reed Warbler



Lesser Whitethroat

Common Frog

The lack of rain in recent weeks has resulted in an unprecedented stampede of unusual birds to visit the garden pond and other water features in the garden. The Magpie & Great Spotted Woodpecker aren't that unusual I suppose, but we've had our first ever Reed Warbler in 42 years of garden observations last week, and since then we've had a pair of Whitethroats and even a Lesser Whitethroat popped in this afternoon. Please keep your garden water filled up and fresh, as our wildlife benefit hugely from this, and if you enjoy watching your garden wildlife, you will benefit too!

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Next Term's Wildlife 2: Warblers

Grasshopper Warbler Whitethroat

Lesser Whitethroat
Sedge Warbler
Reed Warbler Blackcap Garden Warbler

Willow Warbler

Non-birding experts tend to find Warblers difficult, but my course starting in a fortnight's time will help you differentiate your Chiffchaffs from your Willow Warblers; your singing Garden Warblers from your singing Blackcaps, & singing Reed Warblers from singing Sedge Warblers. We will spend time learning the visual & vocal differences of this large & varied family, so that by the end of this summer session you should be able to tell me whether you are looking at a Common Whitethroat or the slightly less common Lesser Whitethroat. They are not just Little Brown Jobs, but are an integral and interesting part of the May birdsong. By the end of the course you will just love Warblers! See panel on the right for course details!

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Next Term's Wildlife 1: Hobby


Because of the late Easter the spring term starts much later than normal this year. This gives the classes an excellent chance to catch up with this dashing little Falcon. Only a few participants have been lucky enough to connect with this species so far, but in May we are visiting a new venue, which is reputedly very reliable for this species, so hopefully almost everyone on the course will have seen great views of a Hobby, including its orange 'trousers' before the end of May!

Saturday, 2 April 2011

Countryfile Snakes

Grass Snake

Grass Snake 2 Grass Snakes
Grass Snake
Adder about to Slough its Skin
Male Adder
A pair of Adders
Pair of Adders
The 2 Adders' tails & a 'fat' body of female
BBC Countryfile this Sunday should be featuring Adders filmed at one of our local sites, so I went to photograph them before the place was swamped with viewers trying to find them. There were at least 3 Adders on display in one small area. A pair were just laying on each other in a casual way, but on a second visit the snakes were all separate from each other. Meanwhile at another location, which also has Adders there were at least 5 Grass Snakes, but these were much harder to photograph. I was able to approach them carefully a few times to rattle off a few shots, but the Grass Snakes were much more wary than the calmly basking Adders. Also at the Grass Snake location was a confiding Woodlark singing by the side of a road on a tree stump - that's the closest I've ever been to this species which is most often glimpsed performing one of its songflights, when you can hear its melodious liquid song at its best.

During the Countryfile programme the intention was that Julia Bradbury had breakfast at Robert Fuller's Gallery so she could see the Kestrel which visits his garden. In addition to the snakes Robert showed the film crew some local Hares & tried to get them a chance to film a Barn Owl, and the wildlife around one of his favourite rivers. Meanwhile Matt Baker went to RSPB Bempton where he spoke to Steve Race & saw the spectacular seabirds both there & around Flamborough Head!