Follow in Nigel's Footsteps

Friday, 26 February 2016

Cage Fighting...


Yesterday was the third day in a row that the beautiful male Brambling returned to the garden in Whitestaunton. I finally managed to grab some video of it late yesterday afternoon and added it to the clips I'd already taken of the Siskins and other birds visiting 'The Cage' over the last couple of days.  My father-in-law really should patent the idea. In a (successful) attempt to keep the Grey Squirrels, corvids and Wood Pigeons from decimating the bird food supplies, he constructed this huge cage around the bird table area of the patio and it works a treat. The smaller birds are able to get in and out through the tennis court netting and feel so safe inside that they don't even bother that much about the occasional cat or Sparrowhawk passing through!

It doesn't look elegant but the birds really love it, including the flock of 25 Siskin now fighting to feed on the sunflower hearts. It looks like the Brambling may have finally moved on though, no sign of him so far today.

'The Cage' - not pretty but effective.

And here's a short video highlighting the last couple of days activity...no sound on this one because it's all filmed from indoors. I took the background noise out as flushing toilets did nothing for the film.


Note: The Brambling appeared again late in the day on the 27th for what may have been it's last visit as it hasn't been seen since. Very nice while it lasted.

Brambling, male: R. Harris
Nuthatch: R. Harris
Siskin, male: R. Harris


Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Little Beaut!

It was a beautiful sunny day in the south today. Despite starting with a heavy frost once out of the light breeze it felt like Spring. With the sun came the Siskins, seven today in the garden including a couple of stunning males. They are just gorgeous little gems that light up the garden and a few of them fell asleep in the unseasonal warmth including this male that decided to bask on the patio just outside my window. One of my favourite birds:

Siskin, male: R. Harris
Sleepy head: R. Harris
Siskin, male: R. Harris
Siskin, male Phonescoped: R. Harris
While watching this one a flash of white caught my eye in the tree behind. It was a Brambling! Not only that it was a stunning male, the first Brambling I've had in the garden at Whitestaunton in three years. They've been a bit scarce this year so this was a total surprise:

Brambling, male: R. Harris
Brambling, male, Phonescoped: R. Harris
The garden has been coming alive at night too. At this time of the year the garden pond becomes host to a mass of breeding Common Frogs but this year the Common Toads have arrived early and the pond is heaving with a mix of both species. Two nights ago the numbers peaked with 134 toads and around 100 frogs. You really had to watch where you put your feet.

Common Frog Rana temporaria: R. Harris
Common Toad Bufo bufo: R. Harris
Taken on Galaxy S4
Common Toad Bufo bufo: R. Harris
Taken on Galaxy S4
Common Toad Bufo bufo two of 134present in the garden: R. Harris

The first newts of 2016 were back in the pond too with both Smooth Lissotriton vulgaris and Palmate  Lissotriton helveticus being seen. What a great start the year.

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Med Gulls...

Forty miles away in Weymouth Mediterranean Gulls could almost be described as abundant with gatherings of nearly 1000 birds being a frequent occurrence in winter. Come forty miles west to Lyme Bay and they are much more scarce, regular visitors but scarce. Two on the river at Axmouth this morning were two of only half a dozen I've seen locally this winter. It's such a shame we don't get more, they are one of my favourite gulls.

1st winter Med Gull, Axmouth: R. Harris
1st winter Med Gull and Black-headed Gull, Axmouth: R. Harris
Adult winter Med Gull: R. Harris
There happened to be a large number of Common Gulls on the river this morning too and they always seem to be indicators of potentially good gull watching, acting as a carrier species for their scarcer relatives. Waders were thin on the ground today though, just the regular species seen.

Curlew: R. Harris
Redshank: R. Harris
Redshank: R. Harris
Back at Whitestaunton the weather had brightened and the feeders in the garden were busy. We still have five Siskin visiting the garden each day - so different from when I lived in Chard just 4 miles away.

Goldfinch: R. Harris
Greenfinch: R. Harris
Siskin: R. Harris



Saturday, 13 February 2016

Firecrest...

A great find by local birder Aidan Gregory was this Firecrest seen briefly at Forton near Chard in the week. Although it didn't hang around for long it showed well for a brief time allowing Aidan to get some lovely pics of it. Stunning little birds - thanks for sharing your pics Aidan:

Firecrest: Aidan Gregory
Firecrest: Aidan Gregory
Meanwhile I've been getting a lot of Siskin through the garden at Whitestaunton over the last few days. Not easy to photograph through the branches but I managed a few shots.

Siskin: R. Harris
Siskin: R. Harris
Siskin: R. Harris
Siskin: R. Harris
Again, lovely little birds and often overlooked but one of my favourites.

Monday, 1 February 2016

Green-winged Teal...

This cracking drake was found by Phil Abbot back before Christmas but it's been an elusive bird to say the least. I don't know how many times I tried for it (to no avail) and it disappeared somewhere along the Axe valley floods for several weeks before resurfacing again at the weekend on Black Hole Marsh near Seaton. It's certainly a well-marked drake and can be seen from some distance with the naked eye. Dave Helliar saw it on Saturday and got some great photos:

Green-winged Teal: Dave Helliar
Green-winged Teal: Dave Helliar
Green-winged Teal: Dave Helliar
I couldn't get there on Saturday and by Sunday it had vanished once again only to be seen again by the original finder later in the afternoon back on Seaton marshes. So, when news came out that it was back on Black Hole Marsh late morning, I dropped everything and went for it. To my relief it was still there and showing well. It was even displaying and calling - Spring is definitely in the air!

Green-winged Teal: R. Harris
Green-winged Teal: R. Harris
Green-winged Teal: R. Harris
Green-winged Teal: R. Harris
Green-winged Teal with drake European Teal: R. Harris
...and the obligatory video. Best watched by changing the settings to full HD if viewing on YouTube. Sorry for the lack of sound but it was breezy so I decided to cut the soundtrack out altogether:

Green-winged Teal: R. Harris