Out On The Wiley, Windy Moors

To steal from Ms Bush it certainly was when I ventured onto the moors recently.

As soon as I stepped out of the car I was greeted by a pair of hunting kestrels who both hovered above my head before swooping away to try another spot. They were joined by a third at one point and there was always at least one clearly visible.

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The ground was frozen solid and there was a harsh wind which really bit through your clothes. It didn’t seem to bother a flock of fieldfares who were feeding on one of the fields. These winter visitors arrive each year from more Northern climes so the freezing moors were probably a milder place than their usual feeding grounds. There were around 20 mixed in with a flock of starlings who flew from field to wire and back again.

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A trip to the moors wouldn’t be complete without my usual shock from disturbing a pheasant, and this trip was no different as this handsome fellow jumped out from behind a wall just as I looked over it. He was joined later by a stunning female resplendent in the winter sun.

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Snow Birds

Over the Christmas break we finally had some snow which came down quite heavily for a couple of hours. So I wrapped up warm and went and sat in the garden to watch how my local birds coped.

I’d topped the feeders up as the snow had been forecast and it wasn’t long before they got over their nervousness and came in to feed,

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This male blackbird was struggling to find any food as they don’t use feeders and all the seeds on the ground had been quickly covered by the falling snow. I managed to move a plant pot which then sheltered a patch of ground where it could then get at the seeds.

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I usually get around 7 or 8 starlings visiting and they generally just fight each other on the fat ball feeder but this one came alone and posed nicely on the fence before tucking in.

The sparrows are my main visitors with a flock of up to 20 everyday emptying the feeders. This snowy day was no different.

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The Xmas Robin

Social media is full this time of year with the perfect shot of the Christmas Robin. And the recent snowfall has given everyone the perfect backdrop to the shot. Well I don’t think this guy will be making anyone else’s Christmas card so here’s his moment of fame!

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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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