Monday, 29 April 2013

Urban birding

As I drove to East Park, I saw my first House Martin of the year. Once there, a large mixed flock of Swallows and House Martins flew around the lake. After many attempts to photograph a House Martin in flight, the top photo was the best (I got lots of empty skies). Other than the hirundines, the Greylag goslings were the stars of the day. I tried not to get too close, as the parents get nervous easily, but unfortunately, I witnessed a dog attacking and injuring a Greylag, and then the dog latching onto its owner's hand when he managed to separate goose and dog. The greylag had a bit of a limp as he joined his family, but otherwise seemed OK.
Pied Wagtail
This Coot rushed to me - probably expecting to be fed - and then lunged at some mallards that had joined her.
Greylag Geese family. There were a number of families in the park. Several of them with 6 goslings. The adults walk carefully with their necks down low, leading the goslings. 
A walking gosling.
The goslings fed on the grass.
so fluffy!
All that walking leaves them tired! Gosling feeding while sitting down.
A poor Chiffchaff shot
Goldcrest flying towards the camera
Bird list

  1. Black-headed Gull        
  2.  Blackbird        
  3.  Blackcap        
  4.  Blue Tit        
  5.  Carrion Crow        
  6.  Chaffinch        
  7.  Chiffchaff        
  8.  Coal Tit        
  9.  Coot        
  10.  Cormorant        
  11.  Dunnock        
  12.  Feral Pigeon        
  13.  Goldcrest        
  14.  Goldfinch        
  15.  Great Crested Grebe        
  16.  Great Tit        
  17.  Greenfinch        
  18.  Greylag Goose        
  19.  Herring Gull        
  20.  House Martin        
  21.  House Sparrow        
  22.  Lesser Black-backed Gull        
  23.  Long-tailed Tit        
  24.  Magpie        
  25.  Mallard        
  26.  Moorhen        
  27.  Pied Wagtail (yarrellii)        
  28.  Robin        
  29.  Starling        
  30.  Swallow        
  31.  Tufted Duck        
  32.  Woodpigeon        
  33.  Wren     

Monday, 15 April 2013

More than birds in North Cave Wetlands

Today really feel like spring at the Wetlands. I decided to do the perimeter walk clockwise. There was a splash of colour with Colt's Foot joining Lesser Celandine flowering and several non-avian species for a change. Although windy, it was a warm wind that is bringing the migrants in. It was lovely to watch the little bunch of Yellow Wagtails feeding with Pied and White Wagtails in the new area of the reserve by Crosslands Hide. A couple of Pipits joined them, I'd go for Meadow pipits, but hard to tell. A Little Ringed Plover joined them. Some sand Sand Martins, the first of the year few overhead. I thought I saw three Swallows on the ridge by a farm in my way to the reserve, but I couldn't have a good look, so my first swallow of the year will have to wait.
 Despite the new birds for the year, for me the stars of the day were the toads. Several dozens, at least, appeared to be gathering in the ditch at the north side of the reserve. I think, judging by their small size, most of them must have been males. There was a single pair in amplexus, and I didn't see any spawn. I laid down trying to get better shots and got my hand full on some growing nettles. Ouch, it still hurts! but well worth some toad photos.
 There were many Avocets, and I witnessed a pair mating in the water, with only the female's head visible over the surface. Black-headed gulls were mating, and nest building.
Yellow Wagtail
A sluggish queen Buff-Tailed Bumblebee Bombus terrestris
The Mute Swans in Reed Lake sitting on the nest. The other one was resting just to the right of the photo.
Toads. Some of them were calling intermittently.
Pair of Common Toads in amplexus
Male Andrena sp. probably A. bicolor in Colt's Foot (thanks to Ian Beavis for ID).
A particularly spotty toad
Record shot of the handsome Black-Tailed Godwit in Reed Lake.
There was a large group of Shelducks by the rabbit warrens. I wonder if they are planning a take-over. Shelducks like to breed in old rabbit burrows.
Three jumping spiders were sunbathing on the fence by Turret Hide. Looking lovely and curious, as always.
Another Yellow Wagtail
A White Wagtail
Male Reed Bunting feeding at the bottom of a hedge
Avocets resting
Black-headed gulls. Hard to keep balance with the wind. 
Pair of Rooks

Bird List

  1. Avocet        
  2.  Black-headed Gull        
  3.  Black-tailed Godwit        
  4.  Buzzard        
  5.  Carrion Crow        
  6.  Chaffinch        
  7.  Coot       
  8.  Dunnock        
  9.  Feral Pigeon        
  10.  Gadwall        
  11.  Goldfinch        
  12.  Great Tit        
  13.  Greylag Goose        
  14.  House Sparrow        
  15.  Jackdaw        
  16.  Lapwing        
  17.  Little Grebe        
  18.  Little Ringed Plover        
  19.  Magpie        
  20.  Mallard        
  21.  Meadow/Rock Pipit?        
  22.  Moorhen        
  23.  Mute Swan       
  24.  Oystercatcher        
  25.  Pied Wagtail (yarrellii)        
  26.  Pochard        
  27.  Redshank        
  28.  Reed Bunting        
  29.  Robin        
  30.  Rook        
  31.  Sand Martin        
  32.  Shelduck        
  33.  Shoveler        
  34.  Skylark        
  35.  Starling        
  36.  Stock Dove        
  37.  Teal        
  38.  Tree Sparrow        
  39.  Tufted Duck        
  40.  Wigeon        
  41.  Woodpigeon        
  42.  Wren        
  43.  Yellow Wagtail 

Friday, 12 April 2013

Breeding time!

As light rapidly increases day after day, and temperatures rise - not so rapidly! life prepares for reproduction. Building up body condition, attracting or finding a mate, building a nest, laying eggs. No time to lose! Birds, frogs, invertebrates too. You can easily notice even in the middle of a city. This afternoon, after the light overnight rain, some frogs came our of their hiding places, and - with the smaller male tightly embracing the female - moved in search of a suitable pond for spawning.
Male blackbird singing atop a building
Female collecting nest lining material
A blue tit by its nest box Blue Tits pairs check their nest in the local wildlife garden
Carrion Crow pair collecting nest lining material. One of three pairs I have seen doing this only this week around town.
Chaffinches sing now regularly, strongly, with inexhaustible energy their monotonous phrase.
A Moorhen carries a large stick towards a nesting site in the park
Its partner sat, with head low and tail up, as if signalling where the nest should be built. When the Moorhen carrying the stick arrived, the other one pick it up and put it in place.
A sudden 'ke-ke-ke-ke' call alerted me, and as the displaying Sparrowhawk, with its undertail covert feathers spread out, passed over my head I took this lucky shot. 
Tonight, this male blackbird was collecting worms. To feed an incubating female or chicks already?

Note: all photos taken this week, except for the singing blackbird from the 20th of March.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

A spy in the garden

I got a Bushnell Natureview HD cameratrap less than two months ago as a birthday present. The camera takes either video or stills, and works at night too, as its has got a battery of LEDs that activate at low light levels, but only black and white photos are taken at night. It can record the time, date and temperature on the photo itself. You set it on with the memory card in place, and wait as long as your patience allows before checking what has been photographed.
 I have been using it in the garden, to see what visits at night, or when we are not around. Our garden is quite small, with a fence on one side and a brick wall on the other, but the garden door has a large gap under it to allow cat access. First, I attached it to the small apple tree, pointing to the bird table, but the camera only took photos of Woodpigeons and Blackbirds, and not all the visits by these species resulted in photos - judging by the disappearing seed. In contrast, within a week, I got a fox photo - three in fact, as you can set the camera to take three shots every time the motion sensor is activated. It took me a bit by surprise, as we had no prior evidence of a fox visiting. After this, I set the camera on a tripod, as low at it allowed, quite often. Every time we roasted a chicken for dinner we had taken the bones and carcass outside, and recently I had noticed that even the big bones had been cracked and eaten, so I wondered if a large cat could do that, or it had to be a fox.
 The two following times we had chicken and placed the bones in front of the camera, it only got cat photos, loads of them. I wasn't expecting so many different cats to visit (about 11 so far in my garden cat list). No wonder our little female cat was afraid of feeding outside.
 I have been placing the camera on the tripod, overlooking the base of the bird feeder and a drinking bowl. This was a bit of a compromise between trying to get more photos of the visiting fox and getting some bird shots too. This location indeed has been quite successful, as birds and cats come to drink regularly, especially in spell of dry weather.
 I have to say something about bird photos with this camera. The smaller bird I got was a robin, but the quality for small birds is not very good, as they take a very small area of the photo, as the camera is set to focus about at 3 m in distance. There is a little clip on lense you can purchase to be able to take close ups, which apparently works very well with birds. A newest model of the camera includes this in the box.
 I set the camera with a fully charged battery set while we went away last week.  The drinking bowl had been emptied completely, despite the cold. I got the card out today and there were about 1600 photos in it. As I was downloading them into my photo editing software I glimpsed the profile of a fox in one of the shots. After checking them all, twelve fox shots had been taken, including one of the fox drinking on the bowl.
It is always such a thrill to download the photos (and it is only my garden!), I can't imagine how exciting it must be to check it after having set it up in the wild. It has been truly enjoyable to use the camera, and I shall continue setting it up every day. I now have nicknames for all the cats visiting my garden.
 Follows a selection of the best of last week's photos.
First glimpse of the fox head
The fox was thirsty too
A bushy tail
This is my neighbour's cat Lewis
and my other neighbours' cat Blackjack
A blackbird visits
Another thirsty cat, Yellow Collar
I have called this one Mia, looks like a female
This is Fatcat I (yes, there is a II, see below)
A very disappointed Collared Dove checks the empty water bowl
A pair of Woodpigeons
Fatcat I and II together
Black Chin...
...and our cat Mai