Sunday, 14 February 2010

Dove is in the air

Wake to "cooing" close by.

Nope Trish is still asleep - its a bloody collared dove sitting in the tree outside the window!

Can't really complain, can I? After all, it is St. Valentines Day and no doubt they are feeling amorous as well? The sap may be rising (in the trees) and things begin to pop up unexpectedly, so it will soon be time for these stupid birds to continually lay eggs on the roundest branch of the (council owned) Whitebeam outside my house and watch them roll onto the pates of unsuspecting passers by. Why don't these birds build a proper nest? Just imagine if we all built houses like that!They'd be marketed by Barretts!

Do you birders know that single girls who want to find out who they will fall in love with should go birdwatching on Valentine's Day, according to an ancient art called ornithomancy? The practise of  reading signs from birds dictates that the first bird an unmarried woman sees is an omen of her future husbands character. Are you worried?

My Shamen tells me that anyone lucky enough to see a dove can be sure their future marriage is happy.

Good job the curtains were closed then! Or was it..........?

After this rude awakening, what better way to mark this VERY special day than huddling up in the Holywell hide, twiddling with my new scope and taking in the wonders of nature? Well, I am sure I can think of something better! Especially with the reserve being so quiet!

The weather was very still, with barely a wisp of wind and the sun at a low angle making the pond obsidian and gloomy. Meagre fare as well, with two drake goldeneye being the pick of the bunch. A few pochard, couple of tufted duck and a shy grey heron lurked around the far end of the pond, while a handful of greylags spend some time being bossed by a canada goose before settling down by the public hide. There were not many gulls either, a few black headed, herring and greater black-backed

Lots of robins singing and the feeding station was busy, with a good gathering of greenfinch, goldfinch and the ubiquitous tits darting from feeders to treetops and filling the air with excited calls. The male Great Spotted Woodpecker made a transitory appearance before disappearing east, almost as if he had heard that most birders would be busy ensuring their other halves would be in receipt of love and affection, scant reward for months of absence in pursuit of ticks.

Luckily for me, my lovely lady is also a fantastic companion on trips out and even encouraged the purchase of the Nikon scope after we found my Spacemaster had more mould than a Stilton (following a drenching and inadequate storage)! Tom has therefore inherited the old scope, which appears to be encouraging him to take a greater interest.

As we left, we were treated to an influx of fieldfare into the far edge of the village, feeding amongst stubble. A total of 96 was counted but there must have been more out of sight.

Not the best of days perhaps, but my favourite bird was, as always, the one on my arm.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Planes, Sprains and Automobiles

I take my hat off to Heather Mills. 

It must have been hard enough to have to put up with that whinny over-rated soppy scouse fop when she married him, apparently for her "share of his fortune" (which condemned her to more public vilification than Saddam Hussein), but she then took a massive risk by becoming the Long John Silver of  Dancing on Ice, only to fall in mid Choctaw Turn. 

Following a smattering of the white stuff and a brief appearance from a solar flare, the glass like pavements of Whitley Bay brought me down to earth with more than just a bump as I cartwheeled into the air and landed heavily on my back. In futre years, I will remember with some fondness all those good samaritans who walked past me as I lay gasping for air outside the Salvation Army Charity Shop. Perhaps the absence of empty bottles of "dog" could have provided a clue that I wasn't waiting for a place in the hostel but was actually injured?

Anyhow, the resulting neck, back, rib and shoulder strains played some part in restricting this weekends outings. The need to jump in the Volvo and chug up to Town to open up the work space, so lots of Batty folk could meet and discuss all things myotis, meant that we had to be in Newcastle, so a trip to Big Waters looked the best bet.

Arriving at the reserve, prospects for birding looked poor as the cloud layer had descended so far that it was like walking under a suspended duvet! Piercing this gloom at frequent intervals, the shriek of aero engines sounded as if EasyJet had determined to reduce costs by landing in Dinnington and asking passengers to walk the last few metres to the airfield.

Pressing on regardless, there was little of note along the paths to the main hide (except meeting an old friend I hadn't seen for years!). It was bitting cold and quite depressing but this soon changed once we reached the hide (increasingly reminiscent of a gentlemans club) and changed from wellies to carpet slippers. First views into the feeding station showed it to be chocka with birds, almost wall to wall with blackbirds and great tits vying with moorhens (25) for the prize of "how many can we squeeze into a mini". But not for long as a superb male Sparrowhawk made the first of many forays to ground zero that afternoon, scattering the small birds from their gastronomic distractions like seed sown across a field. This was obviously an american accipiter though, as it never hit its target that day! 

Despite the threat, the feeding station was busy, with all the usual suspects present, together with a few yellowhammer, reed bunting, 25 tree sparrow, a single long-tailed tit and a superb male great-spotted woodpecker.

The main lake was still (!!!!) frozen, and this provided a platform for over 70 lapwing, hustling a decent number of mallard, teal and wigeon for space. A couple of coot, three cormorant and two female tufted duck made up the number with a single drake goldeneye being the pick of the crop. Now this guy must have something about him as he was slowly joined by a hareem until 11 females were drifting to and fro with him darting between them and throwing his head backwards in a wonderful display of optimism. Perhaps this was well placed, as I later learned that other goldeneye recorded elsewhere that day were all males!

Throughout this display and the periodic honking of overflying grey geese (greylag I think), the blanket of cloud remained firmly fixed above us. Every ten minutes or so, the roar of aircraft broke the perfect silence. At no point did any bird stir in response to this, not a single one wanted to take to the sky and intercept the metal monster as it ploughed overhead. It's really disappointing that such avian selfishness was displayed - surely everybody knows that birds are destined to commit self-sacrifice in the face of man's ingenuity and temerity in taking to the sky, forcing birds to consider themselves unworthy of sharing their natural element?

Perhaps I am totally missing the point here? Perhaps hundreds of goldeneye had actually minced through the turboprops, producing that miasma of fog, above which the great god, Aviation, could rule? I think not! But then again, I am partially responsible - my eldest works in aerospace design.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Brilliant Bittern

What a great picture from my mate in Worcs. Would love this as a garden tick!