30 Days Wild 2018 – Day 25

This evening I went with a friend to Bampton Cemetery in Oxfordshire.  They visited a grave while I had a look around the Cemetery.  Filling the watering can was a slow process, the tap produced no more than a dribble. While I was stood waiting for the can to fill, I noticed the ivy that is making its way up the tree by the tap, a robin briefly sat on the wall then quickly flew off once it had noticed me.  Walking back along to the grave I noticed that the horse-chestnut tree has leaf-mining moth damage (you can record this data via an app called Leaf watch where the results are submitted to the Conker Tree Science project).  I recorded this tree last year with roughly the same amount of damage.

I noticed that it also had conkers starting to form.  The squirrels that live there like the conker tree, however they also like that my friend leaves them a pile of hazelnuts when he visits.  They have in the winter traded conkers for hazelnuts! Leaving him the conker and running of with the hazelnut, they are quite friendly in winter! 

There are quite a few birds in the area.  The blackbirds were eating the fruit off of what I think is a Japanese Crab tree and I managed to get a single photo of the song thrush before a passer-by scared it off.  There were blue tits and chaffinches in the branches of the trees and woodpigeons grazing among the grave stones.  

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2018

So I had planned to do my Big Garden Birdwatch on Saturday morning, what I hadn’t expected was the rain! I have to admit I’ve done two counts this weekend and submitted the best! The reason being neither was a good representation of the normal garden visitors.  Saturday afternoon are the figures I have used.  Sunday morning only produced 3 individual birds and 2 species!!! As you can see this years numbers are well down on previous years.  The wind and rain really has affected numbers, if it had been last weekend I would have had all the regulars plus 4 greenfinches and a siskin too!!  Lets hope next year the weather is kinder.

  2018 2017 2016 2015
Coal tit   1 2 1
Blue tit 1 2 2 3
Great tit   1   1
Long-tailed Tit       1
Blackbird 4 7 4 2
Woodpigeon 4 4 2  
Goldfinch 1 7 9 2
Blackcap   1 1  
Greenfinch     1  
Robin   1 2 2
Collard dove   2 3 1
Starling   3 1 1
House sparrow   3 1  
Dunnock 1 1   1
Pied wagtail       1
Siskin   2    
Chaffinch 1      
Total no. of species 6 13 11 11
Total no. of birds 12 35 28 16
Weather Wind, rain      

In addition to the birds in the garden in the past 12 months there have been hedgehogs, a fox and a squirrel visit.  All of whom get fed – the fox helps herself to anything that has been left by the birds or the hedgehogs in the summer! 

RSPB Radipole – April 2017

My second day at the coast was spent at RSPB Radipole.  I had seen online the locations where certain species had been seen on site so I had an idea of where I wanted to go. I headed out towards the new screen.  Having never been to Radipole before I was a little puzzled by the number of people with shopping bags – it all became clear when I realised there is a housing estate on the other side; what a lovely route to walk into town. It was an overcast day and I soon realised on arrival at the screen that I should have been better prepared and worn more layers! The wind was blowing in the right direction to come straight through the viewing slats!

The Marsh Harriers were active, with three riding the thermals at one point.  They didn’t come over the screen on this occasion, staying on the far end of the site, it was lovely to see them gliding gracefully across the sky, I kept thinking about the houses that look over the site wondering if the people there stop to watch.  There were a couple of Little Egret and a Grey Heron who were constantly moving around feeding in front of the screen. 

I finally saw a Cetti’s Warbler, I had been hearing them all day but they are so difficult to locate.  I saw something fly into the base of a bush, I got down to its level and could just see it though the twigs and leaves.  It isn’t a great photo, but it is the first one I’ve actually seen! I would have thought there must be about 15 on site.

When visiting an RSPB site I always have lunch in their Café, that most of the sites have, I think it’s a great way to help fund the charity and also help local suppliers; they always use local produce where possible.  The food, drinks and especially cakes are always of a superb standard ☺

It was sad to see that the Mute Swan next to the Discovery Centre no longer had eggs, there was a Mallard sat on the nest when I was there. I don’t know why they were gone but I did hear someone say it could have been rats and later during the afternoon I saw a Brown Rat so I guess that could explain it.  I liked seeing the Hooded Merganser trying to take control of the waters and chasing the Tufted Ducks at every turn.  He has now been living there for 10 years, he obviously found a good home when he flew off course all that time ago.  

Late afternoon I headed to the concrete bridge to watch the Swallows over the reeds.  I saw something out of the corner of my eye, got the camera lined up, took one shot and it was gone – it was a Bearded Tit!  Unfortunately it had a reed in front of it but I am still please with the shot, it’s the first picture I have managed to get of one actually in reeds!  RSPB Leighton Moss is a great place to take pictures of them on the grit trays.  The Swallows were not so easy to get a shot of!    

My full sightings list:
Birds: Gadwall, Canada geese, Marsh Harrier, Moorhen, Swallows, Grey Heron, Little Egret, Mallard, Coot, Teal, Magpie, Great Tit, Cetti’s Warbler, Carrion Crow, Tufted Ducks, Herring Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Great-crested Grebe, Dunnock, Bearded Tit, Hooded Merganser, Blackbird
Mammals: Brown Rat 
Butterflies: Speckled Wood

RSPB Lodmoor – April 2017

I decided it was time to take a few days off work, so that’s what I did just before Easter and headed to the coast.  I have been following Weymouth Wetlands on Twitter for a while now, knowing that it would be a destination I would be visiting. I think Twitter is great for researching what wildlife you can spot around the country, specifically when you are going to a named site.  

I arrived in Weymouth in the afternoon and quickly visited the Discovery Centre to have a look at their recent sightings board before moving on to Lodmoor.  Lodmoor is about 4 miles along the coast from the Discovery Centre and really easy to find.  Both of the car parks for the RSPB sites in Weymouth are council owned so make sure you take change with you.  The worse part it deciding how long you think you are going to stay!

I decided to walk the Marsh Trail and the Reedbed Trail which join together to make a loop.  One of my first sightings was a Canada Goose sat on a nest on an island fairly close to the path, it was nice to see. There were quite a few people out in the reserve, so I walked on until I found a free bench to sit on.  I could see, over to the left a small flock of Black-tailed Godwits but they flew off before I could get a proper look.  They did fly back over later and I managed to grab a quick photograph.

I was suddenly aware of movement to my left and a Rabbit hopped out of the grass, it didn’t seem bothered by me which is always concerning.  As I walked passed it only moved a few feet, it looked like it had been hit in the head, but I am more inclined to think it had Mixamytosis 🙁

It was a lovely sunny day though and as I moved along the Reedbed Trail I became aware of the Swallows that were flying overhead, my first sighting this year 🙂

There were about 20 House Sparrows darting in and out of the hedgerow opposite the houses and Blackbirds that kept hoping about on the grass.  All afternoon there was one bird that I heard continually, I had no idea what it was but was sure I was being stalked by it!! I would think I heard approx. 10+ of them on the site.  I am still in the very early stages of learning bird song’s but this one I will now remember – a Cetti’s Warbler! 

I ended my afternoon with a quick walk across the road to the beach, no trip to the coast would be right without seeing the sea 🙂

My full sightings list:
Birds: Canada Goose (1 on nest), Shelduck, Coot, Little Egret, Mute Swan, Moorhen, Black-tailed Godwit, Mallards, Herring Gull, House Sparrow, Blackbird, Dunnock, Pochard, Teal,  Gadwall, Woodpigeon, Tufted Duck, Cormorant, Goldfinch, Magpie, Great Tit, Swallow, Grey Heron, Carrion Crow, heard Cetti’s Warbler, Black-headed Gull
Mammals: Rabbit
Butterflies: Speckled Wood

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2017

Every year the first date that goes in my diary is the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch. I always notice the birds in the garden, whether its the Woodpigeon’s squabbling over the grain, the Blackbirds digging around in the flower borders or the small charm of Goldfinches that are on the feeders.  But once a year I stop for a whole hour and really pay attention, counting them all.  

I perch myself on the kitchen counter to make sure I can see as much of the garden as possible and get as comfortable as I can! This year I felt more prepared. I invested in some binoculars last year which made identification quicker; its easy enough to complete the count without binoculars but there are loads of shrubs in the garden and the smaller birds hide in them, so with the aid of binoculars this time I could figure out who didn’t want to be counted 😉  In the past I have used a 500mm lens on my camera which gets a little heavy when holding it for an hour! This year I just used it to take some photos 🙂

I like to keep a table of what I have seen including previous years data for my own interest.

  2017 2016 2015
Coal Tit 1 2 1
Blue Tit 2 2 3
Great tit 1   1
Long-tailed Tit     1
Blackbird 7 4 2
Woodpigeon 4 2  
Goldfinch 7 9 2
Blackcap 1 1  
Greenfinch   1  
Robin 1 2 2
Collard Dove 2 3 1
Starling 3 1 1
House Sparrow 3 1  
Dunnock 1   1
Pied Wagtail     1
Siskin 2    
Total no. of species 13 11 11

 I had a surprise visitor today; the Siskin.  I have seen them in the garden before but only on one occasion, I was just lucky they turned up during my count 🙂  15 mins after I had finished counting I spotted a Greenfinch on the feeder! There have been Long-tailed Tits in the last few days but sadly none turned up today. I’m so glad the Sparrowhawk didn’t turn up or it would have really altered my count! When it shows it can be seen sitting on the fence waiting for the Goldfinches, we found a pile of feathers a few weeks ago!

The RSPB also ask what other animals you see in the garden throughout the year, we have: Hedgehog, Fox and Slow-worm.

Below are a few record shots of some of the birds I counted…

Lower Moor Farm – May 2016

05:30 seemed a horrendous time to be getting up on a Bank Holiday Monday but I had heard a while ago that Otters had been seen at Lower Moor Farm and this was the first chance I’d had to get there early.

Lower Moor Farm Nature Reserve - Mute Swan

It was overcast when I got to the site at 07:30. I popped into the first hide to have a quick scan and was greeted by the site of a pair of Mute Swan’s and their 2 Cygnets, the rest of the lake was quiet. I then headed to the hide at Swallow Pool where the Otters had been seen. After a fair few hours of watching, unfortunately I hadn’t seen any.  I did however see Mallard’s fighting (trying to drown each other might be a better description!), Greylag Geese flying over, Blue tits feeding and a Kingfisher that did a few flybys! The Muncjac Deer took me by surprise as it was just to the right of the hide, about 25ft away. It was spooked by a man that came into the hide though unfortunately so I only managed to take a couple of photographs before it ran off.

On my way back to the car park I again popped into the hide on Cottage Lake. I like that the bird table is quite close so you can clearly see the smaller birds that come to feed.  I wasn’t expecting a squirrel to show up though! but it obviously had learnt the bird food is there and was happily eating what it could. On the way out I walked around the pools to see what smaller creatures were about. I’m still learning which insects are which and still get confused, so have to rely on the Internet when I get home to help me out!

My full list of sightings for the day were:
Birds: Mute Swan, Robin, Chaffinch, Mallard, Reed Bunting, Blackbird, Long-tailed tit, Blue tit, Bullfinch, Woodpigeon, Carrion Crow, Kingfisher, Moorheen, Dunnock, Great tit, Canada Geese, Great Crested Grebe, Greylag Goose
Mammals: Muntjac Deer, Grey Squirrel
Insects: Common Blue Damselfly, Green Nettle Weevil

Below are a few record shots of some of my sightings…

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2016

January 30th was again time for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch so I settled in the kitchen with my camera and notebook to mark down what I saw.  I have included the figures here against last years as a comparison.  This time, as last year, I saw 11 species of bird though not exactly the same as 2015.

2016 2015
Coal Tit 2 1
Blue Tit 2 3
Great tit 1
Long-tailed Tit 1
Blackbird 4 2
Woodpigeon 2
Goldfinch 9 2
Blackcap 1
Greenfinch 1
Robin 2 2
Collard Dove 3 1
Starling 1 1
House Sparrow 1
Dunnock 1
Pied Wagtail 1

I have, since completing the count, seen a Long-tailed tit and a Dunnock in the garden. I have not seen the Pied Wagtail for some time now.

Below are a few record shots of the birds that took part in the count…

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2015

On Saturday January 24th I settled on a stool at the kitchen window and counted our garden visitors for an hour for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. We have been getting quite a range of birds visiting and thankfully the majority decided to turn up for breakfast while I was counting…

Blue tit – 3
Great tit – 1
Coal tit – 1
Long-tailed tit – 1
Robin – 2
Starling – 1
Dunnock – 1
Goldfinch – 2
Collared Dove – 1
Pied Wagtail – 1
Blackbird – 2

We normally get Woodpigeon’s, a Magpie and a Jay who visit too.

I took the below images of our feathered friends through the kitchen window so not to disturb them.