Birds, Leps, Observations & Generalities - the images and ramblings of Mark Skevington. Sometimes.

Friday, 25 January 2013


In most years I'll see both Fieldfare and Redwing around the garden - either in the trees briefly perched, feeding on the adjacent embankment or just passing over. Up till now I've had very few ever actually come down into the garden to feed. So in that sense I was pleased to see a lone Fieldfare in the garden this morning, and grabbed a few gainy shots in the early morning gloom through the windows. I was also pleased to see it feeding up, but this also brought home how hard it is in these recent conditions for some species that are much more likely to forage naturally than the garden tits and finches that come in all weathers. I was less pleased though to see the bullying tactics it used to stop everything else feeding!

Thursday, 24 January 2013

Gullden Opportunity

Had to head up to Yorks on business today, and took the opportunity to nip into WCPS on the way back late afternoon. Ostensibly I was looking for CR gulls, but I was happy to stand and point the camera at the confiding naked ensemble and some common round Rallidae.

In fact the only CR gull I saw was the ever-present JAN4, which has developed a BO complex

The forecast heavy snow has scuppered part of my weekend plans, as I've had to postpone the much anticipated Pushing the Boundaries talk by Martin Garner and Tormod Amundsen at Rutland Water. I'm still heading down south to the Eurotunnel though for a quick weekend soiree in France with work colleagues - which ensures that my Foot It total will remain static.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Garden tick in the snow

After another 9km or so in wellies yesterday, adding another five species to my Foot It list (Skylark, Yellowhammer, Sparrowhawk at last, Reed Bunting in the morning and Meadow Pipit in the afternoon) today was spent largely indoors apart from collecting Alex from a Cubs camping weekend (I kid you not). I've revised my Foot It target up to 68 (so I'm back to 100%) as I think this is a better reflection of a couple that I should have foreseen and that there are genuine surprises like Barn Owl. There are still a couple of species that I really should see from my original predicted list, plus a couple that I have a chance of seeing given the time and effort. Main constraint is that next weekend I'll be away in France.

But today I added nothing to the list. We had snow falling to some extent throughout the day, though it was mainly piddly little flakes that were not doing anything until mid-afternoon when it got heavier and added another layer on to what we already had. I spent a bit of time looking out at the various feeders in the hope that an elusive garden Coal Tit might drop in, and pointing the camera at various bits (though the shots through double-glazing in low light produced predictably soft or grainy shots). No Coal Tit, but much better was a garden tick Stock Dove. It wasn't a dodgy flyover either, it actually came in with a group of six Woodpigeons and spent time feeding on both the back and front gardens. I'm sure Stock Dove must fly over here quite frequently but I don't tend to spend time out in the garden looking up in hope - virtually all of my garden ticks these days are completely random or fortuitous moments.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Footing It

One of the things I am enjoying about the January Foot It challenge is getting into local areas that I've either forgotten about, ignored or never thought of going to. One such area is Bouskell Park in Blaby. On the face of it there's not really too much to it, but a walk around there this morning during a 15.4km 4hr 35min slog in my wellies was pretty rewarding. Main highlight was a couple of Nuthatches chasing each other around - I had no idea that there were any sites within my 3km challenge radius for this species. Great Spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker, Bullfinch and Goldcrest were also seen in the park, and c200m away on Mill Lane I picked up a small group of Lesser Redpoll drinking from a ditch. Great local birding which is what the challenge is all about.

Yesterday morning I also took a round trip to Narborough Bog. I set out in the dark and arrived for first light, heading straight through the reserve to a small wooded area south of the railway line where I eventually managed to find a Woodcock - sadly just the usual arse-end view of a disappearing Woodcock but they all count.

As it stands I've walked c38miles and I'm on 63 species for Foot It, which equates to a nice round 100% of my target. I've seen a few unexpected species, but there are still some expected or possibles that have eluded me - most notably Sparrowhawk. I've only seen one Sprawk so far this year and I was in the car at the time.

Friday, 11 January 2013

Looking at birds rings ....

Nipped over to WCPS this afternoon after work for a bit of a diversion from birding on foot from home and trying to identify every living thing in my home square. My intention was to look for colour-ringed gulls and get some photos, but by the time I left work and got there the fog had descended and it was dank with no decent light for photography. Didn't see any colour ringed gull either, but managed to get some grainy shots of a couple of metal rings that are barely discernible and are incomplete. I've made the shots greyscale and reduced the noise in photoshop to produce something just about worth posting.

First-winter Black-headed Gull, ?????27 from ????land - not much use then

Adult Black-headed Gull ???-975 from Denmark

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

A Pair of Ticks

I've managed to sneak in two PSL ticks into my 1000 in 1kmsq challenge so far - both acquired whilst rooting about haphazardly in the garden. First up was this nice new woodlouse found on Sunday during a between-coats break whilst decorating ....

Rosy Woodlouse

I'd like to find another to try and get a better shot - this one was constantly on the move and trying to get back under stones. The other tick came whilst searching around the garden moth trap last night with a torch. No moths in or around the trap one of two harvestman noted was this .....

Odiellus spinosus

Currently on 59 species without really having made a concerted effort away from the garden, and most of the list at the moment comprises birds seen whilst out on Foot It walks. No vascular plants listed as yet - I'll have a dedicated effort on those sometime soon.

I've created a page up at the top where I'll periodically update the list.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

A Morning Walk

Once again, up early enough to get out early to slog around my local environ in wellies. Before I set out though I quickly checked through the 80W/20W Actinic/CFL combo trap that I'd out in the garden overnight. Nothing actually in the trap, but I did find my first identifiable adult moth of the year on the adjacent fence (having noted a few moths fluttering in the car headlights last night as well). Probably the drabbest looking geometrid you could imagine, but very pleased to see this one nonetheless ...

Early Moth

When I did get going, it was just starting to get light. It was mild but pretty cloudy and dull - highly unlikely to make for any good photos. I had a really good morning seeing some excellent local birds (all good for the square challenge and also a few for Foot It). As I ambled down Springwell Lane, a Green Woodpecker was yaffling away and one of the regular Little Owls was obligingly sitting out in the open. I carried on down the lane and headed over to 'Countesthorpe Meadow' - or at least that's what I'm calling it. A small series of damp meadows with Whetstone brook running through it. The northern half of this is within my square, and so were Jay, Kestrel, Kingfisher and best of all a couple of Treecreepers. I then got a message that there was a decent flock of Waxwings over in Cosby so I started walking west. Cosby is still within my Foot It area but well outside of my 1k square unfortunately.

When I got there, 35+ Waxwings were still knocking about - making tentative feeding forays down to a single berry-laden tree. Not entirely sure what the tree was, but looks very similar to what the Enderby birds were feeding on late in the 2010 influx. I think it may be Himalayan Tree-cotoneaster, but with so many berries on it still it's obviously not favoured by anything until there is no choice.

The Waxwings were not quite as obliging as they can sometimes be, mainly due to an ageing Staff Terrier barking its head off from one of the houses around the green. The same mental dog had earlier barked agressively at me when it arrived home with its owner - thought it was going to come for me so I was fully prepared to shut it up with my right welly. So with wary Waxwings, crappy light, a demented twat of a dog and to be honest little time and patience, I got no good photos. So here's a rubbish one and some arty efforts which hide my lack of photographic prowess.

By now I'd walked a good way and needed to head home to get stuck into some decorating .....

By the time I arrived home, I'd walked another 9km and been out for 2.75hrs. Aside from the above mentioned birds that were all Foot It ticks, I also picked up Wren, Black-headed Gull, Redwing and Mistle Thrush for my 1k square. Just as I got to the door I also noted a large harvestman on the wall - Opilio canestrinii.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

A Challenging Start

Yesterday morning, bright and early, I set out from home on foot to start my 2013 challenges. After all the recent shite weather, it was really nice to set out into clear, still skies with the sun rising, and not too nippy either with the merest hint of a ground frost. I was also stone-cold sober - a feat in itself for 1st January - due to having been on Dad's Taxi service for Isabelle.

I'd planned to head straight through the village and on to Jubilee Park, but on the way I took a slight diversion through a local park in Whetstone and eventually found my way through fields and across the railway line following a path that I didn't know existed. All being well, if you click the links under the following photos you see where it was taken on the map.

Sun rising and moon still high in the sky - Warwick Road park

Stop, Look, Listen, ignore the pants graffitti - railway crossing

I thoroughly enjoyed the early morning birding - nothing scarce or unexpected but good to see the common finches, tits and all five expected thrushes. I carried on walking to Jubilee Park where the Soar was still very high but the floodwaters had receded a little. Plenty of Wigeon around the pool, masses of gulls including a menacing Great Black-backed, big flyover flock of Lapwing and a nice male Shoveler on the pool to boot.

By the time I left Jubilee Park, I was on 34 species for my Foot It list, and 28 for my Patch Challenge list (some overlap north of the railway line, but my home estate is not in the patch area). I decided to keep going and headed to Narborough Bog in the hope of picking up Woodcock. Turned out to be a bad idea on the whole - despite the nice conditions on the day, the wet woodland at the Bog was very boggy indeed. Trying to walk through all of that was energy sapping to say the least and I was flagging a bit.

Turns out that wellies are great for bog trotting, but completely rubbish for a lengthy yomp from home.

Who ate all the mince pies - it would help if I wasn't so lardy
(some may recall an abandoned attempt to shift some lard last year).

By the time I'd hiked back home, I'd done a 13 and a bit kilometer circuit and walked/birded for 3.5 hours and was on 41 for Foot It, 35 for the patch - if the links work you can see my respective Bubo lists. I was in need of some hot tea and a light brunch.

I pottered about for a bit, headed into the loft to get the boxes down for the Christmas decos, and had a mooch about in the garden with my 1000 in 1kmsq challenge in mind.

After a tip off from Neil Hagley, I was out again in the afternoon for another hike to the Guthlaxton Trail where the flooded marsh that I noted last year was still looking good and was holding Snipe and Teal - two good birds for the lists. Also Goosander on the canal, plus Grey Heron and (oddly) Mallard that I'd missed earlier taking me to 46 Foot It, 40 Patch.

That really was it for the day - aside from getting some records onto BirdTrack and MapMate.

Today was back to work, so no hiking around in wellies (thankfully), though I did nip out to the balancing pool at Grove Park at lunch - a good move as Pochard, Gadwall and Little Grebe were good patch additions, along with Coot an Greylag Goose.

Back home after work, I ponced around in the garden for a few minutes with a torch and camera.

I'm hoping to get down the lane sometime this weekend - which will be good for the Foot It list and really kick-start my 1kmsq list.