Thursday, 30 December 2010

That Was the Year That Was

Back in January, I listed 20 things to do before.... well, soon anyway.

Four of the twenty were achieved:

  • Watch the waders at high tide at Snettisham

  • Visit Ranscombe Farm in north Kent for Corncockles and Cornflowers, Cudweed and Ground Pine (failed to find the Ground Pine tho')

  • Find a Late Spider Orchid on the downs, and

  • Visit a place I know where Fly Orchids flower, but for once at the right time.

So that's a good start to the list, and hopefully a few trips around Britain this year should tick off a few more (where are those blasted shearwaters?).

What else did I see this year?

Some glorious birds .....

.... lovely butterflies and some beautiful flowers........

I also met some great people, but I've not got photos of them.

What will 2011 bring? Perhaps I should add some more lines to my to-do list, to bring it back up to twenty again, because it would be damaging to reach the end of the list and have nothing to look forward to.

How about trying to see Great Bustards, Large Blues and Cirl Buntings in the West Country for a start? That would be good.

May the new year be good for my readers, and for those writers whose blogs I enjoy. I hope you realise how much pleasure you give.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Escape to the Country

Cabin Fever had taken hold, and I was bored watching the resident male Blackcap scaring off all comers from the feeders, getting fatter by the day (both the Blackcap and myself). A flythrough by half-a-dozen Waxwings was a pleasant but brief excitement.

So a chance to escape was taken gladly today, with the first stop at the rifle range. Plenty of gulls were roosting on the rocks, with Great Black-Backs, Herrings and Commons dotted amongst 200 Black-Headed Gulls. It was too cold to look closely.

Along the path, two Green Woodpeckers bounced along in front of me, looking nervously around like........ um, two Australian opening batmen, perhaps?

A slow, meandering drive through the Ash Levels gave good sightings of large numbers of Fieldfares and Redwings, to Stodmarsh, where most of the water was still frozen.

Duck numbers were high, with more arriving all the time in large flocks, the Teal twisting in formation and flashing light and dark like waders.
A Bittern flapped lugubriously over the reeds in front of me, looking large with its feathers fluffed out - I could have tried for a photo, but the sight was so impressive the thought didn't cross my mind.

Friday, 24 December 2010

In the Bleak Midwinter

In this bleakest of bleak midwinters (snow on snow) I hope you will settle down beside the Yule log, and eat, drink and be merry.

May your God rest you, merry Gentlemen (and Ladies).

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Jay and Rockie

More birds are coming to the feeders now, which is irritating the aggressive Blackcap that likes to have them all to himself. He was hard-pressed to fend off a flock of Long-tailed, Blue and Great Tits, and a Coal Tit hid behind one of the feeders and filled its boots while the Blackcap was occupied with the others.
The Blackcap and two Blackbirds seemed to agree a truce (which is a moral victory for the Blackcap) but this Jay had no opposition when it arrived to feast on the peanuts.

A walk along the rifle range produced little more than Fulmars ....
.... but the Rock Pipit flock had increased to five, with the arrival of two littoralis-type individuals (that's a know-it-all way of saying that they had eye-stripes).

Using Latin words in italics conveys authority, and (while I read somewhere that Carl Sagan urges us to be be cautious with arguments based solely on authority) if you've got little knowledge but a bit of authority - why not use it?

Anyway, the Rock Pipit of whichever sub-species is a bit of a dull brown job, so here's another picture of the Jay.....
While on the subject of sub-species, does the greyish mantle indicate that this might be a continental G.g.glandarius or am I seeing too much?

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Waxing lyrical about Hoar Frost

[Stop press...... the waxwing flock is up to 500 by the 11th December, and I saw about 16 flying over Upper Street in Kingsdown]

At last Waxwings have returned to B&Q at Folkestone, to the same trees in which they perched in December two years ago. This morning there were a dozen and by lunchtime the numbers had doubled - new travels fast. They don't seem as voracious as the last flock, spending most of the time in the tall trees, only dropping down to harvest the bright red berries occasionally.
The twitching crowd was only three strong, presumably because there are other irruptive flocks nearby - at Hythe, Sandwich, Broadstairs.... common as muck, but quite beautiful. That would be the birds, not the twitchers.
A fellow blogger of a quite different class tells the story of how Waxwings have a 'super-efficient liver' to cope with the effects of fermented berries. This may explain why the birds are happy hanging around dodgy areas of towns, near supermarkets.
Up in the hills Jack Frost had spread a hoar frost on the trees, clinging to every surface, turning this silver birch into a, well, silver birch. Narnia came to mind.
A little research indicates that this was advection frost or wind frost, clinging only to the windward side of each stem as the cold wind laid particles of ice on anything in its way.
As the day warmed up (comparatively) the ice started to melt, falling out of the trees in showers.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Mallard v. Teal

The snow has gone from the coastal region, so I headed inland to find more, and a drop in temperature - fool! At Stodmarsh, the berries of Guelder Rose shone red in the half-light, another name - Water Elder - seeming more appropriate in the flooded land.

A flock of about 60 Siskins twittered from alder to alder, and among them another call rang clear - it sounded like "pushmi-pullu". Can anyone help with an identification?

The lake was half frozen, and hundreds of Mallard and Teal lined the edge of the ice like supporters on two touchlines.

At Seaton, there were large numbers of Gadwall (50+) and more Teal (probably 200+). In smaller numbers were Widgeon, Shoveller, Pochard and Tufted Duck - is it my imagination or are there fewer Tufties around this year?

Pride of place went to a splendid male Goosander with two attendant Redheads.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

What we did on our holiday

At last, after much threatening, it snowed with a vengeance. Who it was avenging, was not clear.
For record, the snow was about 5" deep - more fell but was blown into west Kent.

It's not worth pretending to 'work from home' because the heart's not in it, so it was a day's holiday - and if you're on holiday you should enjoy it - right?

Birds were scarce in the garden, with a couple of blackbirds, a blue tit, a few pigeons and a robin. Then a blackcap arrived, looking evil and chasing off whatever came near, just like the aggressive individual that stayed for much of last winter.
Come and get some if you're hard enough.

A black-headed gull settled down on the makeshift bird table.

A walk of the circuit also found few birds, just a score of blackbirds and thrushes raiding the hawthorn bushes, a similar number of skylarks gleaning from a bare field that were spooked by a sparrowhawk, and a snipe that flew down the lane in front of us.
Why grow up?