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

Monday, 19 April 2021

Sunshine Birds

Okay, a couple of days late for one reason or another.

Saturday was bright sunshine with warmth right from the off. I decided to head down the lane with bins and camera - maybe something new in the hedgerows or skies.

There was, albeit brief and silent - a Whitethroat skulking in the hedgerow and quite likely fresh in and a bit knackered. Yellowhammers and Skylarks were more evident though ....

Also along the lane, this intensively reared chicken was unphased by an approaching human or passing cars.

Whilst out, I picked up a Tweet from Neil Hagley - a proper birder who lives on the same estate but further over with better all-round aerial views from his garden and slightly less motorway noise. He is far more likely to be out and about earlier in the morning than me, and he'd picked up both Wheatear and Yellow Wagtail. I mis-read the Tweet though and thought he meant he'd had them along the lane, which seemed unlikely for Wheatear at least given the fields are all sprouting with Autumn-sown crops - no nice bare ploughed fields or short grassy/weedy pasture. I checked in with Neil, turns out he meant he'd walked down the lane and carried on across the main A426 onto Whetstone Gorse Lane and past the PYO. Which was good, as it meant my birding skills were not completely rubbish. By the time I had that bit of news I'd already enjoyed Ravens flying over, along with several Buzzards and Red Kite filling the sky and a pair of Swallows milling about around the farm, and I'd headed back home.

But the enjoyable walk kind of made my mind up for what I might do for the rest of the day - which was get back out with bins and avoid that televised funeral! I grabbed something to eat, made up a coffee to take out and a couple of bits of fruit. First off I headed back down to the PYO - I expected the Wheatear to still be present, doubted the wagtail would be. I was right.

Quite possibly the worst Wheatear record shot I've ever taken - distance wasn't the problem, it was the heat-haze rising up from the bare soil. It was turning out to be quite a sun blast out there. Sadly this one is not in the square, but of course is in the 5MR.

I then headed out to Barlestone, outside of the 5MR, but home to a trio of Ring Ouzels for a couple of days. I've seen several Ring Ouzels in the county over the years, and none have been particularly photographic when I've seen them. These were no different - loitering right on the edge of a sheep field, and watchable from the next sheep field only.

The two red arrows mark the rough position and range of two birds fairly close together on the left, and a single bird on the right. When they first turned up, they were on the almost adjacent football pitch giving some cracking views. Apparently! This time distance and the heat really did make for some shocking record shots. All appeared to be male, but I can't rule out a well-marked female for the out-of-range more distance one (bins only, can't be arsed lugging a scope around these days).

Other thrushes in the field were more obliging.

After that I headed back towards home and checked in to the balancing pool at Grove Park and a quick walk around Jubilee Park on the patch. But nothing new or exciting at either. The pool at Jubilee Park seems to be dropping in volume very quickly. Still a handful of Wigeon loitering there but not a lot else. Seeing how low the river is now and walking around the once flooded but now parched grassy areas reminded me that it really it a fair while now since we had any rain. We've had mild and sometimes warm sunny days, very clear cold nights, but it's been bone dry.

In other bird news from Saturday, we were awoken by an almighty clucking from a pair of Blackbirds loudly proclaiming their agitation. Had no idea what was going on, but when I was home after the first walk down the lane, we realised there was a pathetic fledgling in the garden which was barely able to get more than a couple of feet off of the ground. It was almost like it had fledged too early; usually the first fledglings I see in the garden have full tails and are almost bigger (certainly fatter) than the parents - this was slightly smaller than the adults and lacking much of a tail. It can't have flown into the garden, and I surmised that it had launched itself from the nearest bramble on the embankment onto the neighbours shed roof, and from there either flopped into our garden or over to our shed roof before dropping in.

It wasn't happy, but at least the parents were feeding it regularly. But I knew that it would not survive - if not from ours or another local cat (it may as well have had a Nestle Purina logo on its crown) it was going to be another cold night. Later in the afternoon I decided enough was enough and it needed some sort of rescue plan, but it wouldn't let me get anywhere near it to give it a hand up. Eventually it was sat on the edge of a plant pot at the back of the shed, and with some other junk I've got behind there including a pallet, I tried to make a series of steps that it might be able to get up high enough to get back onto the shed roof and jump back into cover. I had no expectations that it would, but after leaving it for half an hour I noticed the parents were not coming onto our fence anymore. A quick check and there was no sign of the fledgling; either my half-baked plan had worked or perhaps it had just hopped through the hedgehog hole at the bottom of the fence line. I checked again after an hour and, amazingly, quite close to the neighbours shed sat a very familiar looking brown blob on the edge of the bramble. A happy ending perhaps ....

Except that yesterday there was very little noise coming from the embankment, not as much calling and squeaking as you might expect. Cut to this morning, and just whilst I made a cuppa the adult pair were making the same raucous agitated racket again. I nipped into the garden just in time to see a Magpie fly out of the scrub with a brown feathery blob dangling from its beak. I knew they would predate nests, but I always assumed it was much younger naked chicks that they'd be after. It must have taken some effort to fly off with this sized breakfast. I'm assuming that on Saturday it raided the nest causing the remaining chicks that were not quite ready to fledge to scatter. Likely that the Magpie has been coming back and searching them out ever since. Still that's life (or death) but at least it's early enough for another brood in perhaps a better nest location.

Sunday was a little more overcast though still with some good sunny spells. But it was a day of sport for me, with the F1 and FA Cup sandwiching a return trip to Croft Pasture with the suction sampler - which I'll cover separately.

Today was, perhaps, my last chemo session - the drug I have on IV is very neurotoxic and some of the side-effects are now lingering beyond the cycle so it is likely to be knocked on the head after this one. They'd already dropped the dose to 75% . Overall since the dose dropped, the side-effects are less intense and more bearable, but they shouldn't be lasting like they are. I can feel my finger tips tingling as I type and there is a chance this will be long-lasting or even permanent.

I was determined to get out though whilst I feel okay as it was an absolutely lovely warm early evening with clear skies and more sun. Whilst I was either preoccupied yesterday or incapacitated this morning, there had been another Ring Ouzel but this one was at a regular but difficult to watch area generally referred to as King's Lock Paddocks on Aylestone Meadows - just outside the patch boundary but within the 5MR. Despite giving the scrubby field and adjacent fields a good grilling for a couple of hours I had no joy - but given that Ring Ouzels generally migrate at night, and it was there this morning, it is possibly that it was still around and just elusive with the extensive scrub and viewing from across the canal. Still, it was very refreshing to be out - even if the inside of my nostrils did start to tingle thanks to the chemo.


Brian Moore said...

Tried both Aylestone Meadows and Jubilee Pool over the past few days but no luck with the Ouzel though a couple of Wheatears there this morning...only day I didn't go!!

Skev said...

Yes, those paddocks are hard to get a good look over - easy of ran Ouzel to remain undetected there for hours!

Skev said...

of ran = 'for an' ....