Sunday, 30 November 2008

Eagle Owl encounter

I went to the city of Bristol this afternoon to visit and catch up with a couple of birding friends that I hadn't seen for quite some time. Bristol isn't my most favourite place to visit, too big and sprawling for me, but after a short chat, we decided to try and see an Eagle Owl that has been roosting in the centre of Bristol for several months. As you can see, we did manage to find it in it's favourite roosting tree. Eagle Owls are resident in much of Europe. Recently they have bred in the north of England which has caused some controversy as they are blamed for taking cats and small dogs on occasion. They are Europe's largest Owl at between 60-73 cms (24 - 30 inches). I included this photo to show their fearsome talons! I wouldn't like to be a cat in this district of Bristol! While we watched, it did open its eyes briefly, but we were about an hour away from dusk so I don't think it was ready to venture out just yet! This is not a tickable species in Britain, but it was amazing to see such an enormous Owl in real life (I'd only ever seen one on television before).

Monday, 24 November 2008

Feathered friends on the feeders

Mum's feeders are so much closer to the house than mine so I'm able to get reasonably close and take photos through the window. This makes them slightly fuzzy, but still not bad. This Blue Tit and Great Tit together on the fat balls shows the difference in their size nicely.The Blue Tits seem to prefer the coconut. They get through one pretty quickly!
They're also pretty keen on the peanuts.Mum has a couple of small crab apple trees just past her patio area and these are full of apples this year. This Winter Wren was looking in amongst the apples hoping for spiders or other bugs.
The apples are still rock hard at the moment, but I'm hoping that when they've softened a bit later on in the winter, I will get some thrushes down on them so that I can get some good photo opportunities! Fingers crossed!

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Sky Watch Friday

This first photo is for SWF, please click on the icon on the right for more fabulous skys from around the world. Many thanks to the team that looks after SWF!
This photo was taken last weekend on a trip to the other side of the country. Chris and I went to Frinton on Sea on the east coast of England for a business trip and had a little time before our meeting to take a short walk along the sea front. The clouds and sun shining on the sea were wonderful, so I put my camera on a high shutter speed and hoped for the best. I love winter sunshine!
The shoreline had these beach huts all the way along and also these groynes to help stop tidal erosion.
The Herring Gulls certainly liked sitting on the groynes, but I think a couple were in danger of losing their perch shortly! It was great to get Chris out of the workshop even if it was a business trip, it was pleasure for him too as we were visiting a private Arts and Crafts house designed by Voysey, one of Chris's favourite architects/designers. I'm glad he got some fresh sea air!And of course, I never go out anywhere without my bins around my neck! (-:

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Local Yankee twitch!

Just 40 minutes away from my home, a male Dark-eyed Junco turned up in someones garden in East Coker, just outside of Yeovil in Somerset. Today was the first good opportunity for me to go to try and see this American bird.
On the way down, I got diverted due to an accident on the main road to Yeovil, this all added to the tension! Eventually I got there, a quiet road in the small village of East Coker. A lady waiting in a car (birding widow I think) directed me to knock on the door of the house where the bird has been showing and I was invited in by the owner to look for the bird from his conservatory! How gracious of this man to let total strangers into his home. I took my boots off and joined the many other birders packed like sardines (I exaggerate a little bit) into the conservatory which looked out onto the very small back garden. There were plenty of bird feeders out there and bird seed was scattered on the bird table and on the roof of the shed (I think the scattered seed had been put down specifically for this bird). Apparently the Junco had been seen about 1/2 hour before I arrived and not since! Sigh.....
The owner then came in and cheerfully mentioned that the bird very often disappeared for several hours at a time......more sighing......he then went upstairs to look out for it from a bedroom window and said he would let us know if it was about again.
About another 1/2 later, we knew something was up as there were hurried and heavy footsteps coming from above us! (-: The owner came bounding down the stairs.....apparently the Junco had just flown into the top of the large conifer which was dominating the small garden. We all craned our necks and bins to try to get a glimpse. Eventually I saw it in the conifer branches just above the shed and directed everyone onto the bird. It showed partially and briefly and then flew off! Nice to get a glimpse, but everyone wanted better views of this lovely bird. Another 20 minutes wait, and then it came back and settled in a small tree. It seemed to be pecking small insects off the branches. Again it flew off......another wait.........the tension had diminished somewhat amongst my fellow birders, but the atmosphere in that conservatory was still hot and steamy! After another small wait, it showed again, this time coming out onto the shed and showing well while eating some of the seeds that had been put out for it.
So, all in all, a very successful and well mannered twitch (they're not always like that!). The owner was a true gent for showing birders both inside his house and also looking after those that had to view from outside. He had a pot out for voluntary donations which would go to the RSPB which was a great idea. Here are some photos. They were taken in pretty poor light and through the conservatory windows so arn't the best but I'm very glad I've got them.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Maps of Buckland Dinham survey area.

A couple of my blogging friends tried to trace my route on my bird survey that I'd posted the last few days. So, I thought I would post a Google Earth map showing the area and also below is my Ordnance Survey map which I use to find my way around in the field.
The numbered areas show roughly where certain photos were taken and the blue line (a bit wobbly, sorry) shows my route taken. If you look on the OS map below, you will see various green dotted lines, these are either permissive footpaths or recreational routes or bridleways. When I'm planning my route, I want to try and keep to these paths and use country lanes too. I also want to try and include as much diverse habitat as possible, therefore hoping to get the most amount of bird species. All birds recorded on these surveys get sent up to the British Trust for Ornithology to be included in the bird atlas. This survey is running from 2007 to 2011. It might be helpful to click on the maps to enlarge them. 1. This is where I left my car and started my survey.
2. There is a footpath here between houses that leads to the pasture area where the cows were feeding.
3. This is where that one cow and I met at the gate, me luckily on the other side of the fence!
4. The long green field where my line wobbles alot is where I saw and photographed my pair of Stonechats. At the number 4 I also joined a country lane where I saw my Tree sparrows and photographed the lovely autumn colour in the hedgerow.
5. This is where I start the footpath that leads up the hill and to the field with the three trees in it.
6. You can see the three trees in the field just above my 6.
7. I'm nearly at the top of the hill. This is where I saw many Fieldfares and Redwings flying over in flocks.
8. The wooded footpath leading to the sheep field.
9. This light coloured field is where the sheep were feeding. It was green when I was there. Halfway down that field is where I took one of the photos of the disused colliery. I'm going downhill now.
10. This shows where the disused colliery is amongst the blob of trees. If you click on the GE map, you can see the shadow of the brick tower.
11. This is where the muddy stubble fields started and where I took photos of the Great Tit and further along the Guinea fowl. I'm guessing the belong to the farmer at number 12, though they weren't in any sort of enclosure.
12. The muddy farm entrance where I tried to clean my boots up a bit!
I then had a short walk back to the village and my car.
I hope you've enjoyed following me around my survey route, I've enjoyed working it out on GE etc! (-:

Saturday, 15 November 2008

Buckland Dinham bird survey - the end.

Leaving the 'sweaters on legs' or is that 'hurdle boxers' behind me, I walked down the hill past a disused colliery (you can just see the chimney in amongst the trees). If I'd had the time, I would have tried to get over there for a closer look, but it was away from my footpath shown on my ordnance survey map and my birding survey had to come first. At the bottom of the hill there was a very small brook lined with trees and it was here that I picked up birds like Blue Tits and this smart looking Great Tit. Now, it's a crap photo, but I couldn't resist putting this one in for my friend Evie . These aren't a couple of yours that have been beamed over here across the pond are they Evie? (-:There's the disused colliery in the background again. It was at this point that I had to walk along several of these muddy stubble fields. As I walked along I picked up more and more mud on my boots. In the end I felt like I had concrete blocks on my feet! I should have taken a photo of my boots at this point! (-: I love the look of these fields though and the colours at the moment are just lovely.
I finished my stomp through the stubble fields at this farmyard. The green grassy bit in the middle of this photo was a handy spot for scraping off the worst of the mud. Then it was back up the country lane....... the village and my car. It was a great walk with some lovely weather and some brilliant birding. I look forward to doing this route again in either January or February.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Bird survey part 2

Carrying on from yesterdays post, I left the muddy lane and took this permissive footpath which leads to....... ......this field with these three beautifully coloured Oak trees, they really stood out against the slate grey clouds. Behind me the sun was still shining strongly. As I walked to the top of this hill, there were lots of Redwings and Fieldfare in mixed flocks flying over me. These are thrushes that come over to winter with us from northern Europe and Scandanavia. They are generally pretty skittish and unfortunately so far I haven't had the chance to get any photographs of these beautifully marked birds. Another footpath along a wooded hedgerow leads me to...... ......some sheep pasture. I don't mind sheep at all, I guess this is because they're not 1/2 a ton of unpredictable meat on legs. (-: They did take quite an interest in me. I bet they thought, what's this mad woman doing wandering around the countryside with camera and binoculars! I'm away for a couple of days now, so the last installment of my Buckland Dinham bird survey will probably be on Sunday when I have a surprise photo for my friend Evie (-:

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Early winter bird survey at Buckland Dinham

I took my camera with me on my winter bird survey this morning so that I could show my route in photographs. I took so many that I will be posting this in three parts. So, I started my survey in Buckland Dinham village, that's my car parked along the lane. A bit further along this lane there is a pathway through to some cow pasture (yes, I know I had said I would try NOT to do any more surveys that involved walking through cow pasture, but I took this one on before making that decision!) (-: Actually, most of the cows took no notice of me and just got on with what they do best, which is eat! However, I did race this one to the gate and managed to get there just ahead of it. I think you can just about see the whites around its eyes! I'm sure my friend Roy would just say it was trying to be friendly! (-: Walking through one field, I was chuffed to find a pair of Stonechats together. Here is the female.
And here is the smart male. Stonechats are usually very cooperative and will perch up quite nicely, but this particular male was being a bit shy at first. I tried pishing which didn't work too well (never does work for me). Eventually, he did perch up for a couple of shots, but I couldn't spend as much time as I wanted as I was on a timed tetrad visit.
At the end of that field I entered another country lane and came across this lovely patch of autumn colour in the hedgerow. There has been quite a bit of rain recently which made for mucky conditions (I'll deal with this more in a later post). Along this lane, I was pleased to come across 4 Tree Sparrows. They have declined badly over recent years, so to find them here was great. I'll continue my journey around the fields and lanes of Buckland Dinham tomorrow.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

First day out for Poppy!

At last, the momentous day for our new kitten Poppy arrived early last week. We thought we'd start out by letting her have her first look from one of her favourite perches, on Chris's shoulder! After that, we took her back in and let her start out fresh on her own. Here are her first steps out into the big world outside!
There's certainly lots to sniff out there! She liked to slink amongst our various pots, her little nose quivering for all it's worth! Then the irresistible lure of the Cherry tree! She's been running up our curtains indoors for the past two months, so we're hoping that now she has some trees to climb up, our curtains will get a break! We can hope...... (-: It's great fun on the way up...... ....nice view of her domain from up there........ .......not so easy on the way back down though...... .......all sets of claws needed for this operation........ ....nearly there....... .......legs everywhere........ Not bad for a first outing. Since then she's got alot more confident and has explored next door too. I'm not sure she's met up with any of her feline neighbours yet adventure yet to come!