Saturday, 21 December 2013

Winter's coming !!

 It's now late December; the weather has been dismal, 
dull, grey, and wet.

On the odd day when the sun has showed, there have been some glorious sunsets, like this one over the garden.

The pear tree feeding station still attracting good variety of birds.

House sparrow numbers seem to have dwindled from those recorded during the summer months,

A  Male Sparrowhawk has been seen twice this month, once making an abortive attack on  a Parakeet, the second on a Starling, both occasions when I have been tree trimming, which makes me wonder whether I am being used as a diversion tactic. May also be the reason why there are not many sparrows around the garden.

Other absentee's are the Goldfinches, the Niger feeders remain untouched all month.

Starlings on the other hand remain in good numbers feeding on apples, fat-balls, and peanuts.

A pair of Blackbirds coming to the garden regularly now, did not breed in our garden this year.

 Strange but true,
 On returning from my late evening dog walk, at 10.30pm in total darkness, I made my way to the garden,
as the security light came on I was startled as Blackbird flew over my head and flopped into the ivy behind me where it remained for some time, I had obviously disturbed it feeding from a nearby bird table, but in total darkness.
 I have heard Robins singing late into the night but never birds feeding.

Robin has been seen most days, usually skulking around the fish pond undergrowth

A pair of Magpies have been coming to the garden lately, one of which has become rather partial to the fat balls,  which it has discovered it can just reach from a strategic perch.

Ring Necked Parakeets still visiting  the pear tree, usually early morning and early evening. 

As you can see from the following photographs a very varied diet, very acrobatic and very watchable

This parakeet was taking peanuts from the feeder, it would then fly to a branch, hold the peanut in its claw and slowly enjoy its prize.

What a difference it makes when the sun is shining !!

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

Wintering Blackcaps !

 As Temperatures drop, and the first real winter frost sets in.
 Bird activity around the pear tree seems more manic.

 House sparrows feeding on the fat balls around the garden are pushed off by the more aggressive Starlings, 

Blue tits and the occasional Great Tit have been seen feeding hesitantly on the feeders when the opportunity arises.

 While the Robin and Blackbird skulk around the shrubs, darting out to take advantage of the food dropping from the feeders above.

Ring necked Parakeets still regularly visit the peanut feeders, maximum number at the moment is four.

Collared dove and the occasional Wood Pigeon seen most days.

New visitors recently, have been this juvenile Chaffinch feeding on bird seed, and a Blackcap seen darting around the top of the Laurel Bush, feeding on the last remaining insects.

Seeing the Blackcap got me thinking about the "wintering Blackcaps" they seem to be more common these days, with most people reporting at least one Blackcap wintering in their gardens.

I always assumed that these were our breeding birds over-wintering, apparently not,

RSPB have estimated that there are probably up to three thousand Wintering Blackcaps in the UK.

Normally Blackcaps migrate to this country in the late spring to breed and then leave again in September returning to the Iberian peninsular and Western Africa.

It is has been proven by ringing recoveries that the Wintering Blackcaps we see in our gardens have probably bred or hatched in Southern Germany and North east Europe, moving south they have found it viable to winter in Britain due to  sufficient food being available, from either berries or from garden feeders.

These birds then have the  advantage of a shorter return trip to their breeding grounds.

These are some of the  Wintering Blackcaps recorded in the garden, back in January this Year 2013.

Thats at least two Males,  and one female.

Looking forward to this winter, and seeing more of these Warblers.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Glossy Ibis "Twitch & Dip"

After seeing the Glossy Ibis at Dungeness,  all be it distantly, thought  I would try and see the Stodmarsh Glossy Ibis which has been showing extremely well in front of the reed bed Hide.

Some of the local Stodmarsh  birders were showing some excellent photographs on their various blogs, would have loved to get a close photograph of the juvenile Glossy Ibis.

 I left it for a few days to avoid  a crowded hide, not wanting to embarrass myself in the company of many seasoned photographers, being new to the game of photography.

The Ibis first reported on the 19th October remained until the morning of the 24th October, unfortunately missed it by a couple of hours.

Important lesson learned,  Don't wait,  go for it, 

The Ibis had been seen earlier in the morning but flew off  when the teal flock was spooked, its normal behavior was to  return within about 20 mins,  not this day,  a Glossy Ibis was later newly reported in East Sussex later that day, probably the Stodmarsh juvenile.

Not much else to see from the hide, Although I thought this Greylag  Goose posed nicely quite close and with a nice reflection.

The Great Crested grebe moved into the pool in front of the hide again.

I moved on for a walk around the reserve, heading for Grove ferry end in the hope of a Bearded Tit or Kingfisher sighting. Not to much to be seen, a couple of Marsh Harriers and a Buzzard flying high over the reserve.

I called in at the Marsh hide, very quite in fact no birds on view at all.

On reaching the David Feast hide at Grove, plenty of dabblers in the form of Mallard, teal and Gadwall.
Some crazy antics from the Mallards as they paired up for the new breeding season.

A couple of Gadwall drakes were trying to impress this female with some courtship display.

Not much else to photograph here, although a Little grebe put in an appearance, a few Lapwing and some Black Headed Gulls on the Rafts.

Still no Kingfisher or Bearded tits photographed yet.

Friday, 25 October 2013

Fly Agaric

 I came across this Fly Agaric fungi , while walking the dog the other day in Ashenbank woods.

They are supposed to be common and widespread, but I haven't seen many other examples as yet.

Very iconic this one, with its bright red cap and white stem.

As they push through the ground they look like  white eggs as the cap is covered in a white membrane, as the fungi develops the red cap breaks through the membrane, the white spots you see on the red cap are the remnants of this membrane which eventually fall off.

The newly emerged fungi is round , as it matures it flattens out..

These fly agaric fungi  usually found in Birch or pine woodland .

The fungi has tiny hair like roots which attach themselves to the roots of the tree, siphoning off nutrients, not causing any harm to the tree.

They are poisonous and hallucinogenic. 

As the name suggests it is said that if this fungi is crushed up and mixed with a milk it will kill flies.

I believe this theory has been put to the test, the flies were not killed but were stupefied, maybe making it easier to swat them.

[  The fly agaric does contain as one of its constituents "Ibotenic acid "  which is a mild insecticide  ]  

Another interesting theory, the hallucinogenic effect of this fungi relates to the distortion of size, loss of awareness of time and vivid dreams.

It has been thought that the effects experienced by Alice eating the mushroom in Lewis Carroll's novel ,
"Alice's Adventures in Wonderland"
 are based after the psychoactive effects of Amantia Muscaria 

 Fly Agaric.

Just look,  don't touch.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Dungeness & distant birds

There has been some good birds reported from the Dungeness area recently, so with all my DIY jobs completed.

 The call of the wild beckoned.

Dungeness is home to one of the RSBP's oldest nature reserves, created  back in 1931 to protect populations of seabirds, today it supports internationally important populations of wintering wildfowl.

 During spring or autumn the reserve is a good place to see migrating birds of all types, hence the attraction for many bird -watchers

Dungeness is the largest shingle formation in Europe, formed over several thousand years and covers an area of nearly a thousand hectares.

Its also home to one of  the UK's  nuclear power stations.

View from Makepeace hide

First stop was the ARC pit,  a walk up to the screen hide didn't produce anything unusual, but as I walked back from the screen hide towards Hanson hide, a Bittern was flushed, flew for a short distance and then crashed down into the reeds.

View from Hanson hide looking towards water tower.

As I opened up the hide shutter, and made myself comfortable, almost the first bird  I saw was a Great White Egret, one of the birds  I was keen to see, there has been reports of up to seven  Great white Egrets around the reserve, this one didn't stay for long, and flew across the front of the hide towards the reserve.

Great White Egret on ARC pit

Another target bird was also seen from this hide, a Glossy Ibis,
it never came close enough for a decent photograph, which seemed to be the general theme of the day, some good birds to see, 
but always a bit distant.

Glossy Ibis from Hanson hide ARC Pit.

The Bittern revealed itself once again, making a few short flights, 
 a short walkabout , then it was lost to view, hidden in the reed beds.
A couple of distant record shots were obtained only.
Very Distant Bittern.

There was plenty of wildfowl to be seen from here, I noted Teal, Shoveller, Pintail, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Pochard,  Gadwall, Mallard and Wigeon, as well as Canada geese, and Mute swans
Cormorant, Black headed Gulls, Common Gulls, there were also Golden plover, Grey plover, Dunlin, Lapwing and three Greenshank.


A Marsh Harrier flushed the water birds on several occasions, causing panic.
On one of these forays, it located a dead Shoveller on the water line
which it attempted to drag off into the vegetation.

Marsh Harrier

I moved on to the reserve stopping briefly at the entrance farm house, for a view of the Tree sparrow colony that has taken up residence here, once again the birds were too far away for a decent shot, although did manage a couple of record shots of tree sparrows on the roof of the farm house,

Along the entrance track towards the car park, a male Kestrel
was seen, scanning the shingle ridges from its vantage spot.

A  quick look from the Visitor center revealed more Great White Egrets , accompanied by some Little Egrets.

I remember chasing around Kent  several years ago, hoping to catch a  glimpse of a Little Egret, now quite common and sometimes taken for granted, I wonder if this will happen with the Great White Egret.

A walk up the track towards Firth Hide revealed a Wheatear which stayed long enough for a  photograph.


I walked on up to Makepeace hide, several Black Necked Grebes had been previously reported, one of these was pointed out by a fellow bird watcher, but once again never came close for a photograph, just a record shot but you can make out some of the salient features .

Black necked grebe

Another Great white Egret was showing, hard to work out how many actual GWE there were, as they seemed to be moving around the various pools. A large number of Grey Herons also in the area.

Great White egret

Grey Heron

Decided to finish the day with a quick look at the power station, as  a Black Redstart is usually around, but no sign today, just a very tired looking Wheatear contemplating the flight across the channel.


I couldn't  resist a photograph of this Spitfire which was flying around the area, 

Supermarine Spitfire

 Always nice to see.