Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Smew on the Ribble near the M6 bridge

December 29, 2010:
Much of yesterday's daylight was taken up attempting to locate the female Smew reported earlier on the Ribble near Brockholes Wetlands. It proved to be a very elusive bird and readily flushed but was eventually found late in the afternoon near the north bank of the river just downstream from the bridge. Failing light and heavy drizzle meant that any attempt at photography was hopeless. However, returning this morning in better conditions and light, the bird was still in the same place, diving and feeding around and amongst a huge mass of blocks of floating river ice.

Soon afterwards it climbed onto one of the ice floes to rest and preen. Although the light was still poor, its reddish head and faint crest could be seen.

It was accompanied for part of the time by a juvenile Goldeneye, although the latter usually kept some distance from the ice.

Eventually the Smew crossed to the south side of the river where it continued to dive. Presumably there was another good food source there. On the whole though, it favoured the ice-choked part of the river when diving.

Several other Goldeneye and Goosander were on the river which at times was partly covered by floating ice. Being a sub-Arctic bird, presumably the Smew felt quite at home here.

[The ice-choked part of the river favoured by the Smew. It can be seen (very small dark object) on the edge of the ice in the centre of the photo]

Monday, 27 December 2010

Another view through the window

December 26-28, 2010:
Continued hard weather brought more new birds to the garden. A single Redwing was the first one seen here since last winter......

............but wasn't made welcome by the more aggressive of the sixteen resident Blackbirds.

Perhaps the greatest surprise was the Waxwing attracted by the apples.

A fine male Bullfinch paid a short visit to seed put out under the protection of the feeder cage

In addition there was a large number of House Sparrows, several Starlings, three Robins, three Collared Doves, a Wood Pigeon, the usual three Tit species, several Chaffinches, a Jackdaw and, yet an other surprise...four Pheasants.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

The view through the window

December 19, 2010:
Being more or less snowed in over the weekend, birds could only be photographed in the garden via the double glazing. That, and being taken against the low sunlight, unfortunately resulted in some very indifferent images.

Several Robins chased one another around the garden disputing their feediing territories whilst a Fieldfare and up to ten Blackbirds made the most of some fallen apples.

Starlings and the three commoner species of Tit made use of the fat balls......

......whilst dozens of House Sparrows, a few Chaffinches and a single Pied Wagtail fed on seed scattered in the snow......

......and a thirsty Collared Dove, one of eight resident in the garden, pecked snow off a branch to melt in its beak.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Green-winged Teal at Caerlaverock, Dumfries & Galloway

December 16, 2010:
A male Green-winged Teal had been reported as being spasmodically present at Caerlaverock over the past few weeks. With prolonged hard weather conditions forecast, the chance was taken to pay a visit before travelling became too hazardous. On arrival, it was not surprising to find most of the water iced-over but on each of the pools at least a small area remained ice-free where the wildfowl were able to swim. There must have been about 200 common Teal on the pool where the Green-winged was thought to be but, despite this, it was easily located as it cruised about in a small unfrozen area whilst most of the other ducks rested on the icy bank close by.

However, the Teal soon tired of swimming and climbed out onto the ice to preen before deciding to sleep for a while. It is a north American bird which has presumably gone wildly astray on its migration south

Nearby, two Bramblings fed along the wall top amongst a flock of Chaffinches.

There were also several thousand Barnacle Geese on the surrounding fields and a large flock of Whooper Swans on another pool together with many Wigeon and Mallard. It was freezing hard as the sun set so the birds would have another harsh night ahead.

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Winter Thrushes at Brockholes Wetlands

December 12, 2010:
A bright sunny day and a lull in the hard weather made it a good opportunity to see how the birds were faring at the site. High water levels, the great majority of which was still frozen, meant that wildfowl were very scarce, presumably having made a move to the Ribble estuary not too far away. What was quickly apparent though was the frenzied feeding activity amongst at least three species of the Thrush family.

Towards the north end of the reserve, several clumps of hawthorn were still laden with ripe berries and it was these that provided the main attraction. Several Song Thrushes came within camera range and fed greedily on them. The arrow-shaped spots on the breast and the brown underwing when in flight showed up well in the strong sunlight.

Blackbirds were also present in good numbers and seemed equally hungry.

....but Fieldfares were more wary and nervous and reluctant to come close although, no doubt, just as hungry as the others.

Redwings and Mistle Thrushes are often found here but none were seen during today's short visit.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Grey Heron at Silverdale, Lancashire

November 13, 2010:
A belated addition of this Grey Heron, photographed a few weeks ago, which settled briefly in a reed bed only 5 metres away.

It was an opportunity to get some decent close-up shots, so close in fact that it was necessary to zoom out so as to fit the bird into the frame. It's not often that's necessary! The detail in the feathers has shown up quite well. However, within 30 seconds it was away, not to return.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Reed Buntings, Song Thrushes, and some more Waxwings near Preston

November 28,2010:
A short visit on a bright cold sunny day to Brockholes Wetlands was rewarded with sightings of many commoner birds, including Reed Bunting, Song Thrush, Bullfinch, Chaffinch and Fieldfare. However, a text message from Derek to say that a flock of Waxwings had been reported nearby on the outskirts of Preston caused the visit to be curtailed. Unfortunately, the Waxwings were in a very mobile flock and weren't where they were supposed to be but, when on the point of abandoning the search in failing light, about fifty alighted for a few minutes in a tall tree by the roadside.