Sunday, 31 December 2017

New Year's Eve...

It’s New Year’s Eve and a family walk by the sea at Seaton was on the cards. No rare birds to twitch this year - no Blue Rock Thrush, no Brünnich’s Guillemot, no White-billed Diver. The Hawfinch is still kicking about in the garden at Whitestaunton and a male Siskin plus 50ish Brambling just 300 metres from the house, which went some way towards consolation though.

Rough seas at Seaton today, great day for a walk.
Stonechat above the sea front, Seaton.
Hawfinch, still showing occasionally at Whitestaunton.

Highlight of the day though was chatting to a retired gentleman in Pebbles cafe in Seaton. An interesting guy who spends six months of the year living in the UK (near Axminster) and the other six months living in the south of France. Prior to moving to the UK 20 years ago he’d spent his life in South Africa where he was born, raised and managed a private game reserve on the outskirts of Kruger National Park.

After discovering my interest in wildlife he started to recount tales of the times he came across Puff Adders, Boomslangs, Cobras and a large resident Black Mamba that he saw on numerous occasions. Once, while trekking along an overgrown path through the bush with his head tracker, he came face-to-face (literally) with the mamba. It had sensed their imminent arrival and reared up (they can elevate a third of their body length off the ground). It looked him in the eyes! Luckily they knew just what to do and froze on the spot. No longer feeling threatened the mamba lowered itself and hurried away into the scrub. This individual was as thick as his forearm and 15-16ft in length - it must have been a scary moment for all concerned. I could have spent a lot more time talking to him - fascinating stuff! But as the rain set in, it was time to head home.

Here's to an exciting and wildlife filled 2018 for everyone - catch up again next year!

Saturday, 9 December 2017

Hawfinch on the feeders...!

I don't think I've ever posted so many times about a single bird. But then I've never been in the position before of having a Hawfinch regularly visiting the garden daily for the last month. It's a beast of a bird, dwarfing almost every bird that dares to sit near it. To watch it feed and take apart the field maple seeds so deftly at such close range is a treat I'll probably never get to experience again. So here it is again from this morning, shortly after which it turned its attention to our bird table feeders where it's been coming and going ever since.

Friday, 8 December 2017

The long-staying Hawfinch...

I've been seeing this bird every morning recently and today when I got back from dropping my son at school I took a quick look and sure enough, there he was. Happily munching his way through the supply of Field Maple seeds just beyond the garden. For a brief moment the sun came out and I managed to get my first reasonable photos of him in good light. Without the Nikon P900 none of this would be possible...

Hawfinch, male: R. Harris

Hawfinch, male: R. Harris

Hawfinch, male - chewing on a Field Maple seed: R. Harris

And a little video too, though the sun had vanished by this time:

Sunday, 3 December 2017

At last...the Hawfinch shows well!

There have been between 1-3 Hawfinches hanging around Whitestaunton now for about a month. One in particular has been showing from the garden each morning but only for a minute or two at most before disappearing to feed somewhere.

Yesterday that changed. Yesterday it showed well for half-an-hour and although the light was poor (it still only appears early in the morning at first light), it allowed great views. Thankfully my brother, who missed it last weekend, was on hand to see it this time around and it put on a fantastic performance:

We also had at least one other flyover bird whilst we were watching this one, so still a few in the area. Just as well as I never tire of seeing them and looking for the regular single bird has become a morning vigil for me now and will continue to be so until it chooses to depart.

UPDATE: 5th December, 2017 - nine in the garden briefly this morning! An amazing sight to see and totally unexpected. Not sure how long they had been there as it was too dark to see any prior to doing the school run. Unfortunately they flew to the west all too soon but hopefully some sunflower seeds can tempt them back.