30 January 2011

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2011

Took part in this years RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. Activity in the garden has been high in recent weeks (see here), but despite the ridiculous number of feeders I've got hanging up and a thick layer of 'Robin Seed and Insect Blend' on the lawn, today was rather disappointing. The Goldfinch swarm that has been plaguing the sunflower hearts recently was down to a pitiful 2, and the regular Great Spot decided it had better things to do. The remaining tally was: Blackcap 1 male, Nuthatch 1, Coal Tit 1, Long-tailed Tit 2, Great Tit 2, Blue Tit 2, Robin 2, Dunnock 1, Chaffinch 3, Blackbird 4, Ring-necked Parakeet 4, Woodpigeon 4 and Magpie 7.

For some proper feeder action click here.

10 January 2011

Caution, Waxwings on road!

Driving through Tolworth (Greater London) actually became exciting today with a flock of 17 Waxwings seen from the car. The birds spent most of the time perched at the top of a London Plane overlooking Ewell Road (junction with Derby Road), occassionaly dropping down to feed on Rowan berries. Ewell Road is extremely busy so I was very surprised when a couple of birds flew down towards me and landed on the tarmac, right in amongst the traffic, to drink water that had collected in a drain cover situated in the middle of the road! Unfortunately though, there weren't many gaps in the traffic and after a couple of attempts they gave up. Suffice to say I didn't have my SLR with me (it's not often I take it to Waitrose) and I didn't manage to capture this great moment. However, I did manage a few record shots, which are quite possibly the worst Waxwing photos in the history of photography!

7 January 2011

Garden birding

During the recent snowy conditions I was surprised to find a large drop in the number of birds visiting the garden (did anyone else notice this?). However, since the thaw numbers have steadily increased and the past few days have seen a large number and diversity of birds coming in, including an impressive flock of 60+ Goldfinch, 30+ Redwing, 8+ Blue Tit, 6+ Long-tailed Tit, 4+ Great Tit, 4 Blackbird, 2 Coal Tit, 2 Chaffinch, 2 Nuthatch, 2 Robin, 4 Ring-necked Parakeets, 6 Magpie, lots of Woodpigeon and singles of Great Spotted Woodpecker (photo above), Green Woodpecker, Pied Wagtail, Greenfinch, Mistle Thrush, Jay, Wren, Dunnock, Blackcap, Goldcrest, Collared Dove and a flyover Skylark!

This list reflects population trends in gardens throughout Britain. Goldfinch, Blackcap and Great Spotted Woodpecker are amongst the species that have increased in gardens over the last 40 years, whereas House Sparrow, Starling and Song Thrush continue to decline (incredibly, in 11 years I've not once recorded House Sparrow in the garden). Another species that has declined sharply in the last five years is Greenfinch. This has largely been attributed to trichomonosis - a parasitic desease that prevents birds from swallowing food.

3 January 2011

Waxwings at the sales

Finally caught up with some Waxwings today, with a flock of 17 seen while shopping in Teddington (several flocks have been in the area for a couple of weeks). But lets face it, with so many Waxwings around this winter, the shiney new pair of New Balance running shoes I picked up at a bargain are far more noteworthy!

2 January 2011

Whistle-stop sea watch

Another look at the sea of Budleigh Salterton this morning revealed a steady westerly movement of Red-throated Divers, with 40+ past in 30 minutes. 4 Common Scoter east, a Gannet, several Fulmar and 10 Skylark out at sea heading east were the only other birds noted. A dusk vigil for the world's most elusive Barn Owl produce cracking views of an empty grassy field.

1 January 2011

All is quiet on new years day

My search for a local patch continues and until I find one my birding forays will remain rather erratic to say the least. Still, spending the new year at good friends Jaffa and Helen down in Devon meant a wander around Jaffa's fantastic local patch at the Otter Estuary (photo below). Things were pretty slow, hindered further by the hoards of 'Jo' milling about, but 400 Wigeon was a good site count along with 7 Black-tailed Godwit, a Bar-tailed Godwit, 2 Dunlin, a male Gadwall and a female Goosander. On the sea there was a Great Northern Diver and a fairly decent movement of Red-throated Divers.