Winters Coming

Lets hope these guys do as well

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Sprucing Up For Spring

I recently went South for a few days and its interesting to see the difference a couple of hundred miles make to the seasons. Nearly every bird I saw was carrying a twig or nesting material or was singing loudly to attract a mate, back up North and we’re still a couple of weeks away from this.

I visited the London Wetland center which served up a pair of courting kingfishers checking out a potential nesting site and this male shoveller duck who was making sure he looked his best. For about 20 minutes he barrel rolled in the water and then groomed every single feather. Lets hope some lucky female found all his efforts worthwhile!

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Another Returning Visitor

When I first started visiting my local nature reserve a lot of the regulars mentioned Redpolls and how they were a regular visitor in the colder months. Well I never saw any for the first two years as they seemed to forget about visiting us. When I did finally see my first one I thought for a moment it was a sparrow with a very sore head!

They are a greyish brown sparrow sized finch with a very distinctive red cap and the males often have a breast speckled though with pink and red. They are partial migrants moving South in small flocks as the colder weather takes hold, then back North as Spring arrives. I guess the one on the reserve this weekend was heading back North.

They are generally forest dwellers eating seeds and nesting low down in trees and bushes where they lay between 3 and 7 eggs. 

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Siskin Spotting

Like the Reed Bunting I blogged about recently the Siskin is another bird you’re going to find tricky to spot for most of the year. They are one of our smaller finches with a long, narrow bill perfect for extracting seeds from plants and trees and spend most of the year in woodlands and conifer plantations. Their distinctive yellow, green and black plumage means they are very hard to spot once the leaves are back on the trees. However in winter they are a regular visitor to garden feeders especially enjoying niger seed and peanuts. For the first time this year I’ve had a couple visit the feeders set up at work and at the weekend this striking male kindly posed for me.

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Rocking Robins

Over the last few weeks there have been 6 or 7 Robins regularly visiting the feeding area at my local nature reserve. They have been quite well behaved with very few chasing incidents. I guess they weren’t quite in territorial mode but that all seems to have changed this weekend.

The robins are much more feisty with two seeming to try and assert their authority, continually harassing and chasing the others. I guess a well stocked feeding area would be a great territory to offer a female as a potential nesting site.

A short walk away from the feeding area and you’re very likely to meet the friendliest robin on the reserve. Quite a few times he has fed from my outstretched hand, an amazing experience as he sits and pecks the proffered seeds. The weirdest thing is the lack of weight, the lightest touch on your hand  almost as if there’s nothing there. This week however he wasn’t interested in food and sat belting out an array of songs, a robins greatest hits as he staked his claim to his territory and to the passing people who he hopes will have a pocket full of seeds!

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Boxing Day Bonanza

With every tree stripped bare down the road it was unlikely that I was going to see any waxwings on my doorstep, however a brief chat with a friend from the nature reserve sent me off in the right direction.

I’d been in this vicinity looking before and not seen any but today I hit lucky. The first birds I spotted were a couple of redwings but then  a high pitched chirruping started up and suddenly they descended.

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They didn’t stay long so I wandered around the corner to see if I could see where they’d gone and noticed a tree with around 100 birds perched high in the branches. Every so often a flock would break away and fly behind some nearby houses so off I set again and found the trees they were stripping bare.

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Absolutely stunning birds with an array of colours and very approachable hardly disturbed by my presence or the home owner who was busy gardening just feet away from them. Backwards and forwards they would fly gorging themselves on the berries. I counted forty in the tree with even more waiting their turn in the trees opposite.

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A very special Christmas present, because as soon as these trees are stripped bare they’ll be off.

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Small is Beautiful

I’ve recently noticed a lot of Goldcrests out and about and it’s definitely one of the birds I’ve been hoping to get a picture of. However, being not only the countries smallest birds it’s also the countries biggest fidget. In the past I’ve described trying to photograph them as like nailing jelly to a tree whilst wearing welders gloves and a blind fold.

I have got some really poor shots in the past which were definitely record shots and I’m not saying the following are that much better but they are definitely an improvement. These were taken at Cromwell Bottom my local nature reserve in the main feeding area, not somewhere I have ever seen one before. Not only did the bird never sit still but it was some distance away and with some leaves still on the trees a tricky target.

But as anyone who’s read my kingfisher blogs knows when I get a bee in my bonnet it can take some time to be resolved. I’m guessing there’ll be more of these little devils to come!

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It’s All About My Nuts!

It’s that time of year when I start filling up the feeders and helping out the birds as the nights draw in and the temperatures drop. It seems as though peanuts seem to be the number one protein choice at the moment with a variety of  both feathered and furry friends.

The magpies, jays and jackdaws are able to grab a beak full in one visit, the squirrel sits and takes his time while the vole zips in and out taking one at a time and stashes them away for the odd occasion I run out. The shrew on the other hand is just too QUICK, but I know he’s there!!

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