Friday, 31 December 2010

How Time Flies.

Just over a year ago I entered a new phase in my life ... no work and time on my hands. Looking back at 2010 I wondered how time seems to has flown by so quickly ..... so here is a snapshot of my year.

At the beginning of the year the garden visitors were much the same as in previous years (Starlings, House Sparrows, Parakeets, Greenfinch and Blue Tit) except we had the pleasure of a male Blackcap who hung around together with his mate for quite a few weeks during the very cold days from mid January into February. Interestingly some 11 months later the Blackcap reappeared on 26th December for a brief visit .
When Spring arrived the morning chorus slowly increased in crescendo with Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Common Whitethroat adding their voices to the resident Blue Tit and Song Thrush. Quite a few migrant visitors including Nightingale failed to be captured by the lens but with luck I'll get another chance next year.
From mid Spring into late Summer my attention was once again drawn towards the ever increasing array of flutters .... above are just a few of the 30 species that I found within a half hour drive from home.

Dragonflies and a few other insects also found themselves as quarry for the lens. Capturing these endearing creatures demanded a lot of patience and with all the time in the world at my disposal I spent many hours watching these fliers. Unfortunately Santa didn't produce a macro lens so I may have to raid the piggy-bank in time for next season! 
As we moved into Autumn the woodland scene eventually produced glorious tints above our heads plus the diverse colours and shapes from the fruiting bodies errupting from the soil below.

Throughout the year I was fortunate on a few occasions to be able to get close to many of our common bird species and also spending some quality time in the company of the parkland Deer.

At the end of the year the weather made a distinct impression with deep snowfalls followed by a thaw and then freezing mist and fog invaded the local ponds ..... more bird listening than birdwatching!

I have no idea what 2011 will produce .... more of the same will be just fine but with hopefully a few different species appearing in front of the lens.
Wishing everyone a HAPPY 'Wildlife Watching' NEW YEAR ........ Cheers FAB.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Xmas Greetings.

Greetings from the 'real' Early Bird.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all my followers for their visits, comments and support throughout 2010 and to wish you all a very HAPPY CHRISTMAS and  a
peaceful NEW YEAR full of memorable wildlife encounters.   FAB.

Window Watching.

Misty days plus snow and ice around my local patch has meant that very little wildlife has shown itself for any photos. Despite the cold weather I was delighted to catch brief views of two Goldcrests busily feeding within the woodland, so hopefully they will survive. The Corvids (Crows, Jackdaws, Magpies and Jays tend to dominate the landscape at the moment. Blackbird, Song Thrush, Wren, Robin and Dunnock scour under the hedgerows for food. Flitting through the treetops were Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits, Goldfinch, plus Nuthatch and Great-spotted Woodpeckers calling as they move from bough to bough.

Over recent days most of my wildlife watching has been through the windows (which need cleaning!) so here are a few images of the regular visitors to the feeders.
 Coal Tit, Greenfinch, Woodpigeon, Starling and a female Chaffinch which is very rarely seen in the garden.
 Collared Doves waiting patiently.
 House Sparrows and Blue Tit.
 Ring-necked Parakeets - the ultimate acrobats.
Grey Squirrel - The opportunistic seed scrounger.    FAB.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Front-Heavy Duck.

Another species that I finally managed to get a little closer to during a recent walk in the park was the (Northern) Shoveler (Anas clypeata).
At a distance the male  is easily recognisable by its broad white chest bordered by the chestnut coloured flanks and the distinctive front-heavy appearance that dominates this bird's silhouette both on the water and in flight.
Closer views show the green iridescent head with its pin-prick sized yellow eye and occasionally a glimpse of the pale blue upper forewing (see below).
The spatula shaped bill is an adaptation for the Shoveler's main feeding method of sieving or filtering. As if carrying a heavy weight the bill is rarely lifted far above the surface of the water except while defending territory in the breeding season when the male pumps his head up and down with the bill pointing slightly upwards.
This species prefers shallow water with plenty of edible particles in suspension so is often seen on freshwater marshes and lakes.
At first there was one ... and then there were six ... all going round and round in circles. I have subsequently read an article by a well known birding journalist who actually witnessed two hundred Shoveler feeding one behind the other while forming one complete circle .... now wouldn't that be a sight to see?

Each bird benefits from the mud stirred up by the feet of the one in front and with it more food particles including crustaceans, snails, insect larvae, seeds and plant material. Despite eating such very small items, the Shoveller can consume up to 10% of its body weight in one day. 
Doing just what his name implies ..... FAB.

Please check out more birds from around the world at World Bird Wednesday.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Final Farewell.

Today will be a difficult day when I and the rest of my family say our final farewells to PJB .... I have no idea how I will react but at least there will be the comfort of friendly faces around me and memories of better days.

So here are a few images of the birds PJB would have seen, some more frequently than others.

 Grey Heron in waiting mode.
 Dabchick (Little Grebe) fluffed up against the cold.
 Mrs. Mallard.
 Mr. Mallard in a flap.
 His garden regulars ... House Sparrow, Blue Tit and Magpie

Farewell PJB ... we'll meet up again sometime .... FAB.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Common (Mew) Gull.

The Common (Mew) Gull (Larus canus) is not as common around here as the name suggests. I generally only see a few individuals mixed up amongst the large flocks of Black-headed Gulls.

I was delighted to find that I had unknowingly catured this one in flight.   FAB.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

The Ice Walker.

As promised here is the second follow up to my recent post Walk in the Park when I tempted a Coot to exit the water by scattering a few tit bits on the ice while I knelt on a frozen mound of grass close to the waters edge patiently trying to keep the still and composed in the freezing air.

Now from my previous encounters with this species during the winter months it certainly has no fear of walking on frozen water. Those lobed feet act like suction pads and the sharp toes are probably better than a pair of crampons so you rarely see a Coot slipping and sliding like many of the ducks and gulls.

The foot placement was slow are careful as it hesitantly closed the distance towards the lens while searching the ice for the tiny morsels. Once located the single seed was delicately extracted from the icy surface .... 

..... and then it decided that was close enough and exited stage left. 

The ultimate footwear for an 'Ice Walker'.

I am joining in with Watery Wednesday and World Bird Wednesday,
so please click the links for more interesting watery and wildlife images.   FAB.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Return to Papercourt with SBC.

I returned to Papercourt on Sunday morning for a field trip with the Surrey Bird Club (SBC). A small gathering of five lead by Steve Chastell started off from the car park at Newark Bridge. Initial views over the damp, frozen meadows and surrounding trees produced Blue Tit, Great Tit, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Bullfinch (not seen by me), Greenfinch, Reed Bunting, Jackdaw, Crow, Blackbird, Jay, Magpie, Cormorant, Fieldfare, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker. After crossing the road to head towards the main pit a Sparrowhawk flew over being mobbed by a Crow with six companions in tow just in case it needed support!

The single area of unfrozen water was a great deal smaller than on my previous visit last week and contained a concentration of Coot, Mute Swan, Little Grebe (1), Great Crested Grebe (1), Gadwall, Mallard, Tufted Ducks, Pochard (18 males), Wigeon (1m and 1f) with Moorhen hiding beneath the overhanging vegetation. The majority of the gulls perched on the ice were Black-headed with a couple of Common Gulls and a Lesser Black-backed.
Tufties and a Common Gull.

The small pit was still totally frozen and the only new sighting added as we crossed through the farmland was a Common Snipe disturbed from its resting place.  Alongside the River Wey Navigation we searched the tree tops and eventually found Siskins feeding. Nuthatch, Goldcrest, Dunnock, Robin, Long-tailed Tits, Pied Wagtail, Lapwing and Canada Geese were also spotted. We had hoped to find the Goosanders but with the pits frozen and probable disturbance by walkers along the open waterway I guess they had relocated somewhere else. While following the Wey Navigation back towards the car park a male Stonechat was perched like a sentry on the remains of a tall thistle and unusually there were 5 Tufties on the waterway. Meadow Pipit was heard flying overhead but never sighted. 
After the walk I returned to the main pit to take a few snaps of the ice walkers - Mute Swan and Mallard. The Swan gingerly placed each foot carefully on the ice as it creaked and groaned beneath its weight. I also located a vibrant blue Kingfisher perched above the water but it .flew off before I could point the lens through the branches.
Mr. Mallard had to put the brakes on every now and again to prevent himself from sliding!

An excellent morning walk in good company with a decent tally of species seen.   FAB. 

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Gull preparing to land.

I am not usually very successful with in-flight shots but a couple from my recent walk in the park came out ok so I'm happy to share them.

Captured this Black-headed Gull (Chroicocephalus ridibundus) as it was coming into land on the only clear bit of water on the frozen pond.
Unfortunately I didn't capture a quality slash-down!  For anyone not familiar with this gull it is an adult sporting its winter plumage ... the hood will change to a dark chocolate colour next summer.    FAB

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Walk In The Park.

A recent stroll in Richmond Park on a chilling but sunlit afternoon started out quite bleak with just Jackdaws and Crows pecking through the fallen leaves under the woodland canopy and attempts to capture an image of a small mixed group of Fallow Deer feeding was thwarted by the depth of the brown undergrowth, their constant movement and interruptions by other walkers so only a rear end view!
Despite this disappointing start to my leisurely walk it actually turned out to be a series of unexpected photo calls. So here are a few images [ Click for larger views] to set the scene for some future posts.

First up were two Red Deer stags enjoying some quality time together .....
..... one sleeping with his friend on sentry duty. Without getting too close I stood and watched some interesting interaction between these two ... so watch out for a future post.
As I crossed the open parkland a Kestrel hovered overhead hoping to spot a tasty meal but moved on to search somewhere else.
When I reached the larger of the two Penn Ponds most of the water was frozen over with nearly all of the inhabitants (Coot, Moorhen, Tufted Duck, Mallard, Gadwall, Mandarin Ducks and Black-headed Gulls) some distance away so I was doubtful that any close photography would be possible ... but you never know!
 While waiting for some closer action on the pond I was visited by a couple of Ring-necked Parakeets.
A Coot finally decided to brave the ice and I spent quite a while watching this character and eventually coaxed it to get much closer to the lens by scattering some seed .... more pics to show in a follow up post.
Initially the view over at the smaller pond looked even bleaker ... more ice and no ducks in view BUT all that was to change.
First I was greeted by Mr. Crow giving me the once over .... "So who are you starring at?"
As I got closer to the edge of the pond I was delighted to see that there was some clear water and a few species that I needed photos of including this female Pochard who swam over towards me.
 Next I spotted a (Northern) Shoveller tentatively pacing slowly across the frozen floor to get into the water.
Not just one but a group of 7 Shoveller were paddling round and round in circles as they dredged the surface with their spatula shaped bills. I took a lot of shots of these guys .... so something to show in future.
As the activity both on the water and in the air increased a Moorhen popped out from behind me to see if I had anything to eat .... and of course I had. 
When there is any chance of a free meal you can be assured that the Black-headed Gulls will get in on the act.
When I turned around to look over the main pond once more there was just a lone Mute Swan on the ice.
With plenty of shots in the can it was time to take my leave as the late afternoon sun shone through the woodland ...... the end to an interesting and productive stroll.   FAB.


Related Posts with Thumbnails