Saturday, 7 April 2012

Nature Diary April 2012

April 1- 7th

April has taken the heat out of things in a very concerted way, but coinciding with the children's holidays, the cold weather is something of a godsend for my work, since it is almost certain that the kids who twice set fire and disrupted the hide would do it again.

In among the cold and rainy conditions, notably on Good Friday, a range of true spring emergent butterflies took to the wing in and around the clearing.

Speckled Wood
Orange Tip
Small White

Among the nesting birds, the long tailed tits that built in February had a rude shock when the council set about decimating the bramble growth, but they still managed a brood. Not so the nearby chaffinche's nest, that like so many other birds this disastrous spring, was a washout - with all hands foundering in the deluge.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Nature Diary March 2012


Chaffinch male in full spring plumage

Coal tit(mouse); considerably shyer than the blue tit and great tit, it has been a regular during the winter, but has been absent now for several weeks. On examining these images really closely, I noticed the bird was infected with red mites which may have been its demise.

The month started on a high note with a beautifully warm day - a true herald of spring. By the third the red admiral put in an appearance and the long tailed tits had completed the nest by the wire fence. The male little owl was around - a much more deeply marked bird than last year, but the squirrel has been in and out of last years nest hole - as has happened in previous years. This creature is invasive and a menace to many other forms of nature. I had the the pleasure of doing a brief woodland survey with Lewis - a tree specialist and he pointed out the difference in damage on trees that had been stripped of bark by our small population of deer, but also by the not small population of squirrels. The Squirrels attacked and stripped lower and the deer higher and while some trees were immune others were at very high risk, including the incipient oaks.

comma m

By the 11 the weather turned really warm and the woods really sprang to life. The feeders were becoming much less popular as the various pairs of birds got down to some serious courting. There was a small group of love sick jays making a whole squawking symphony of calls as they postured and displayed, head tufts flashing at what appeared to be a solitary female. The very welcome and reticent greenfinches were absent, though they were calling nearby and the coal tit of the winter months was completely absent. The comma butterfly put in its usual appearance - like clockwork it appeared in exactly the same spot by the willow  - this time it was a male.

Here is a trailer of the Little Owl Film, it falls into four seasonal sections - here is part one;

Early Spring.

Little Owl Part One  Click here to view in full screen HD

19-20th March

The weather has been substantially warm during the early part of this week and there has been a real change in the woods. Firstly, there have been three species of butterfly around - the comma, brimstone and a very ragged red admiral (at George Lane - the one I saw in January), but the birds have been going through their courtship rituals almost everywhere. The most pleasing were the pair of greenfinches I observed from inside the blackthorn thicket where the supply tent is erected - the female doing some vocal displays to the mail with moss in her bill  - the pair then flying off to a spot near the ditch that borders South of the clearing down to the stream. Then I saw a pair of greater spotted woodpeckers displaying in a very vocal way - sounds quite unlike its normal call a sort of cooing - this was mid way along the path up from the college. The blackthorn is still not in blossom.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Nature Diary February 2012 cont.

16th February 2012

A milder spell has begun and the cold and icy weather of last week now seems a distant memory. The fact that the long tailed tits are gathering nest material and chipping off bits of lichen from the concrete fence means they are on schedule for some early nesting. Andrew S reported a third little owl nest site in an oak on the edge of the field beyond George Lane towards the rugby ground. Roe deer were also in the area.

14th February 2012

Well the weather has broken and so has the loo. I turned up to do some photography on a much milder day after the frozen days of the past week and promptly found a chunk of lavatory porcelain on the floor beside the pan. Had I broken it, had the cold weather, in any case I have to pay, of that I am sure. The upside is that I got lots of great pictures. First a pair of goldfinches turned up on the apple tree and after I moved plot, a starling. After that a robin joined the party and all the time in the distance on the recently filled feeders chaffinches, the jay and the larger of the black and white pied woodpeckers. A sparrow hawk out on the prowl explained the sudden silences that descended from time to time, but generally the birds were making the most of the abundantly filled  feeders.

   Sparrow Hawk

12th February 2012 Sunday

The cold and frozen weather has emboldened all the animals and birds in their quest for food, making the job of a photographer that much easier.

The day started with a sight of a woodmouse creeping through the fence  to take advantage of the acorns along the narrow verge where I found the notes. I had stopped to speak to some from the allotment and the mouse made a show while we were talking. I put down some dried mealworms and reversing yesterday's stay in the loo, I went straight to the woods and to the clearing where I had seen the Buzzard. On the way, in the depths of the thicket, I again saw the woodcock, which was being harried by two crows and I got a better view this time as the large rotund game bird swooped over.
I readied my 7D with the 70-300 which makes a very portable camera compared with it, when the 500 is fitted. The clearing was clear, but within ten minutes and while in the deeper wood, the buzzard came sailing over again in company with about five or six mobbing crows.

It was over in ten seconds and I cannot particularly recommend the images, but least I came back with something. The buzzard seemed to be hanging around for twenty more minutes or so, judging by the excited sounds of the crows and even when Andrew turned up later, the crows were still unsettled. 

The way back was via the mainly frozen trout pond with sights of many sheltering wood pigeons and finally at the mouse hole an almost complete absence of the dried meal worms I had put out.

11th February 2012

blue tit foraging on bark and female chaffinch on the snowy ground under the feeders

male chaffinch on the snow



It has been a cold snow laden week in my patch and the past few days have been spent sitting on the loo in the allotment. Strange place to spend one's time you might think, but with the door open -  in sight of Mark and Debbie's bird feeders, it gives me the perfect concealed vantage from which to take some lovely shots. This started well enough today, as it had for the past two days - with a great shot of the starling on the 7D and the 500mm, but I found the sunshine, while helping with the photography, was bringing people out into the park and past the spot where the birds feed. So, from about eleven, it became a chore and I decided to go to Hayes for Lunch. Imagine my absolute surprise when my ideas about a large raptor taking up residence in the small clearing mid the thicket (near my field hide) came true in the form of a Buzzard. It was so out of scale in the confines of the small clearing it looked massive. First I flushed it from the big boundary and ivy clad beech, where it was immediately mobbed by crows, then later on my return trip, from the other large beech over my hide. I have no pictures to show of the buzzard, but amazing mind images and a resolution to get the photos. The flushing of a woodcock was also a nice winter surprise.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Nature Diary February 2012

Chaffinch male
5th February 2012

The much expected snow finally arrived on Saturday eveinig carpeting the roads and fields in a Sunday morning blanket of pure white. No photographer can ignore snow, not just because it covers up the ignamy of our rubbish archetecture, but because it make a great light reflector. Here is my selection for Sunday and Monday.

Monday Robin

Sunday Robin

Friday, 6 January 2012

Nature Diary January 2012

Red admiral

January 6th 2012

After a week of storm force winds and rain gusting in from the South West, a day of calm and sunshine ensued and, lo and behold a red admiral butterfly at George Lane, Hayes. Seen briefly in flight from a sunny West facing wall to the refuge of a dense conifer in the garden opposite, where it might be hibernating. Among the other sights, was a very tentative coal tit at the feeders, a small flock of redwing by the trout lake and some grey hair near an excavation in the woods at Norman Park, that might just be from a badger.                         


                                                                                          Coal tit

Mistle thrush at the foot of Hook Farm allotment

31st January 2012

The month started like spring and has finished like winter, with the merest hint of small dry snow flakes drifting down from the dark grey sky. Nevertheless, and for how long is not certain if the weather worsens, the woods are still full of berried trees, which is in stark contrast to last year, when our Scandinavian visitors, in the form of the Redwing, Fieldfare and Waxwing had made short work of anything and everything that resembled berried food. The reason for the disparity is twofold. Firstly, the exceptional spring of 2011 brought an abundance of blossom that resulted in an abundance of fruit and berries - not that the dry summer did much for swelling it. Secondly, the warm winter this year has meant that food stocks further North have been adequate for those winter visitors that have arrived. The patterns that I observed last year have however been repeated this year in respect of some of our indigenous birds, the mistle thrush for instance was active around the foot of Hook Farm allotment where the mistletoe grows. The pair of collar doves were also present in the clearing by the blackthorn thicket and looking a prospect for nesting, as have been the hedge accentors (dunnock), so prevalent last year and the year before around the feeders in the snow. So, it has been a story of fewer fieldfares and redwings (though I saw a sizable flock on the track from Leaves Green to Jewels Hill) and far fewer birds apart from the expected titmice on my feeding station in the woods. Mark's feeders in the allotment has been overwhelmed with bird visitors, especially the chaffinch and I have been mulling over whether to set up a hide in the conveniently placed lavatory shed nearby, (seat provided). My hide at the owls nest has been in use throughout January, but not so much by me, as instead by a steady stream of human visitors, hoping to get a look at the little owls - who have duly performed their evening ritual of branch sitting.

Hedge accentor (dunnock)