Friday, 31 December 2010

End of the Year

Due to the recent ice and snow I have not been birding, since the priority has been ensuring Mum can get out shopping, and with the state of the untreated minor roads it has been pretty difficult. Any trip to a birding hot spot was pretty much a non starter.
The last few days at work were interesting in that the large corvid flocks were still being seen going to roost, and on several days Meadow Pipits were heard flying west.
The thaw started just after Christmas, and as I managed to get my usual collection of illnesses I have been largely immobile. Got my bins stashed by the window waiting for something special to come down to the feeders or flying over. Has not happened yet.
Apart from the usual stuff mentioned recently, the only garden visitor has been a Wren in the ivy covered fence. The three Blackbirds have finally started on the Cotoneaster berries-not that there are many.
Managed to get out this morning to clean the feeders, and while I was doing that, a couple of Skylarks were heading north-presumably they were displaced by the cold weather.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Snow is Back

The Northern Harrier has been seen again in the Titchwell/Thornham area. Had hoped to get up there this weekend but the sub zero weather has returned.
Took Mum shopping on Friday as the ground was very icy, and while we were out there were a few snow flurries. Yesterday all I managed to get was get a paper and pick up a prescription. The overnight temperatures had dropped considerably and there was a lot of thick ice everywhere. Difficult to get the ice out of the birds drinking trays and I watched a few hardy souls try to extract their cars from a thick crust. Mid morning, the first snow flakes started to fall, but most arrived early afternoon. With the strong winds it looked to be very unpleasant outside and this has led to some drifting.
Woke up this morning to find the garden covered in several inches of the white stuff. Its grey and overcast so I don't feel like it's worth trying to get pretty landscape images-if it was sunny that would be different. Stayed in to see what the garden would produce. So far it's as follows-
3 Collared Doves
2 Wood Pigeons
2-3 Blackbirds fighting over three Pyracantha berries.
1 Robin
1 Dunnock
6 House Sparrow
2 Blue Tit.
1 Starling.
Outside there are a lot of gulls again-Black Headed, Common and Lesser Black Backs. Big flock of Starlings at one point, but no Waxwings among them. In view of the large number of thrushes in the area had hoped to see some fly over, and also expected to see a few more tits.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

A bit warmer this weekend

Had a call from my sister that when she walks the dog, they keep encountering a small silent Snipe, so yesterday morning I popped down with my camera hoping to get decent images of jack Snipe.
Called in at Amwell for an hour or so. A large part of the water is still iced up, but it was quite pleasant in the sunshine. The singing Cetti's Warblers thought so too-they seem to have survived the recent freeze. A single Egyptian Goose was about the best of the bunch at first, until I noticed a pair of Mandarin hauled up on the island. More exotica then ensued when the Harris Hawk put in an appearance again, soaring over the woods. Was a bit of a struggle but we eventually got on to a single redhead Smew before I left. Shortly after, Jan picked up a Mealy Redpoll again.
Arrived at Sarah's and after feeding the animals, we took Molly for a walk in the fields behind their house. The low lying areas were flooded and looked promising, particularly the tussocky stream, but despite searching the area, no Snipe. Found a large flock of Redwing adjacent to the A10 and there were a few Woodpeckers flying around.
Bringing the camera was not a complete waste.

This morning went for a walk along the river Beane. Encountered small numbers of Redwing, and the occasional Mistle Thrush scattered all over the area. One flock of Fieldfare numbered 35. Not much in the fields-no larks, pipits and very few finches, not surprising as the ground is still largely frozen.
Three Green Woodpeckers together was interesting, and the usual three Bullfinch were seen in the horse paddocks. Have not seen the Little Owls here for quite while.
Got a call this afternoon, the Snipe was seen again.

Sunday, 5 December 2010


Strange morning at Amwell today.
Arrived to find the usual crowd, and an Egyptian Goose which flew off soon after. Spent a while failing to see the red head Smew in one of the bays and got distracted when Tony saw a wing bar wader fly down behind the reeds. Turned out to be a Dunlin-only the third for the site this year, and as I don't live there, my first for many years. It was joined by a Snipe, Grey Wagtail and one of two female Pintail. We assumed that that was the days highlight.
A while later I saw a 'buzzard' fly down to the trees by the main hide and disappeared from view. It had a small white rump patch. As one had been seen recently Jan realised it was a Harris Hawk, and it entertained us for some time as it was being continually mobbed by Magpies and crows. A sudden commotion nearby saw everyone scoping an odd mammal in the water. As a Stoat was known to be hunting in the area hunting it was assumed to be that, but it looked wrong (and pale). Mink was dismissed as was Otter and then someone worked out that it was a Rabbit. It made it back to the shore, where the Stoat was waiting (as was the Harris Hawk). Nobody fancied it's chances but it's fate remained unclear.
Came home just after noon to hear that a Mealy Redpoll had been seen by Jan just after I left.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Big freeze

Have not heard of any Waxwings in Stevenage since Saturday. Not sure if anyone is going out looking for them though, due to the weather.
The freeze started last weekend, after several days of overnight frosts, and a continual easterly or northerly airflow has seen daytime temperatures barely getting above freezing on the warmest days. Nothing unusual has yet appeared in the garden, plenty of food is being put out and there is water available. The usual dozen or so House Sparrows, Wood Pigeons and Collared Doves are still around, as well as a pair of Dunnocks, up to five Blue Tits and one or two Robins. Have occasional visits by Goldfinches which had disappeared for a long time-they have been feeding on Salvia seed heads rather than the feeders. Not sure about thrushes like Blackbirds as I have not seen any for a few days now.

Coming home from work over the last few days I have noticed large numbers of Jackdaws-many hundreds, apparently coming in to roost in the southern part of Fairlands Valley in Monks Wood. I have occasionally seen large corvid movements from the garden on summer evenings and assumed they were heading for the Leisure Park mainly because I see big flocks (though mainly Carrion Crows) there when I get in to work early.

Nothing much to get excited about nationally, though a rumoured Hawk Owl somewhere near Swindon recently will tempt me out if genuine. The Norfolk Northern Harrier has not been reported for a few days now-hope it is still around somewhere. Otherwise it seems that there are now three Bittern and at least one Smew at Amwell.