Berry Christmas

I’m still spending time watching the birds strip the berries from the trees and over the last couple of days the Fieldfares have arrived to stuff themselves. Although there’s been a lot of redwings around the fieldfares were absent and these two birds commonly flock together during the winter months. Its interesting to watch how the trees get stripped from the top down and three of them are now totally bare of berries. The smallest tree in the street is still covered and the birds seem to be leaving this to last as they will be more exposed on this one. There are a number of song thrushes about and they get very territorial over particular trees spending as much time nosily chasing away other birds as they do eating. Another week or so and the berry bonanza will be over.

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Summer Visitor Staying for Winter?

I read awhile ago on the RSPB site that Blackcaps were being seen more and more overwintering in the UK. I just assumed it would be down South where the winters aren’t quite as harsh as they can be in Yorkshire so was surprised to see a female enjoying the berries on the trees near my home. I’ve never noticed one in the area before so to see them here at this time of year was a very pleasant spot this morning. Its quite a suburban area with lots of big gardens and plenty of feeders around so there must be enough food to see her through till Spring.

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The Framing of the Shrew

I’ve had the title of this blog drafted out since I first spotted a shrew under the bird feeders at work. It was definitely something I decided to get a picture of but I’ve struggled. Like the voles I spotted them in the retaining wall but unlike the voles the only shots I’ve got have been blurred or blank. The first thing you might spot is their quite long nose sniffing the air before shooting out to grab any food and then disappear. Quite simply they are the fastest thing I think I’ve seen! The picture below is one of 4 I took in rapid succession at 1/160 sec and is the only frame on which it appears, on the second of the four there is a smudge of grey and the others are blank. Its definitely got me wanting to improve on this picture!

There are three types of shrew in the UK and this is the Common Shrew. they live in woodland are are constantly foraging for food. They have to eat their body weight of food each day and are susceptible to dying of starvation if they don’t. They are a favourite food of owls and kestrels but are not really taken for food by other predators as they have a scent gland which makes them unpalatable to most animals.

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Have You Ever Wondered What Happens to the Carrot When Your Snowman Melts?

When the thaw sets in and your snowman begins to slowly disappear spare a moment to think about what happens to all his wardrobe. The arm sticks may eventually become part of a nest, the coal eyes will get kicked around and eventually join the gardens edge and his scarf will end up down the cellar until next year.

But his carrot nose just disappears! Where does it go I hear you cry and I’m here to tell you that by a miracle of nature it’s reborn and begins a new life around our lakes and shoreline as an Oystercatcher! So this winter when it snows and you dash out to build one why not build two.

It’s true HONEST!

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Next Stop Africa

There hasn’t seemed to be as many Swallows around this year near me so it was great to see plenty on a recent weekend visit to North Yorkshire.

The cottage where we were staying had a regular stream zipping overhead and hoovering up insects above the paddock opposite. After spending an hour failing to get any decent flight shots I decided to concentrate on the young being fed on the rooftop. The juveniles would fly with their parents for a period and then a number would decide to perch and wait to be fed.

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Every time a parent flew in the whole row of young would start to screech mouths wide open awaiting a tasty insect treat. There was an almost tangible feeling of disappointment when they realised it wasn’t their parent or that the parent was going to feed a sibling. Open mouths turned to grumpy pouts as the insects disappeared into another waiting mouth.

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In and out the parents would come until the juveniles were full or ready to try again chasing down their own food and off they would go performing acrobatics inches above the ground. It won’t be long now until they set off for the winter on the long haul to Africa. When they return we know summer isn’t far off, even if it is another British summer.

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Weedy Grebe

When I spotted this Little Grebe on a recent visit to the RSPB reserve at Old Moor I didn’t really think I’d get more than a distant shot due to the heavy weedy vegetation in the channel. But as I sat and watched the grebe came closer and closer before submerging below the weed. It popped back in to view and I shot a few pictures thinking it would soon find an easier place to feed.

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The grebe continued to disappear from view but each time it resurfaced it  edged nearer and nearer allowing me to get some decent pictures.

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