Monday, 27 February 2012

Bridlington ….. out of season

Normally, there is nothing quite as depressing as a seaside town out of season. Hardly anyone around; all the cafes and arcades closed or boarded up. The wind is chilly, and the sunshine, when it is out, weak.

Bridlington was just like that today, but for one element. Birdguides had put out a report of Purple Sandpipers near the harbour, and it was that that had attracted me. I wandered around the harbour but other than a small group of Turnstones, which seemed to be imitating pigeons picking up crumbs from the pavements, there was no sign of the Sandpipers. I walked to the end of the pier hoping to see them roosting opposite where the seafish are landed, but still none.
Turnstone cum pigeon

So off I went down towards the Spa where the rocks are used to break the waves at high tide. Sure enough there they were, feeding amongst the barnacles, muscles, and seaweed. The tide had not long reached its height, and the birds were picking off titbits as the waves ebbed. As well as about 20 Purple Sandpipers there were plenty of Knot, Turnstones, a few Dunlin and Oystercatchers, and even a Rock Pipit.

Purple Sandpiper

Purple Sandpipers

Purple Sandpipers

Purple Sandpiper

Rock Pipit

It seems, after all, that Bridlington has plenty of offer, even out of season!!

Friday, 10 February 2012

Repeat Thrushes

The past few days have been quite overcast. That has been quite frustrating; despite lots of avian subject matter, the quality of the photography has not been as high as I would have liked. Today was different. with a big improvement in the light.

I cleared the overnight snow from the paths and a large section of the lawn, filled the feeders and scattered some apples. In no time the birds began to arrive, desperate, I suspect, to recharge the batteries and replace the energy lost overnight keeping warm. There seemed to be an increase in confidence, with increased numbers of finches as well as the thrushes, pigeons, doves and corvids. Today we had seven Fieldfare, a pair of squabbling Mistle Thrush, a single Song Thrush, and up to a dozen or more Blackbirds.

Apart from the improved shots, the other delight of the day was the appearance of a single Brambling amongst the Chaffinches and Greenfinches. We haven't seen very many this winter, so it was great to see at least one turn up.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

More Winter Thrushes

Following on from my last blog, I thought I would post some more photos of the winter thrushes that continue to visit the garden. The cold is driving more and more birds into the gardens. Yesterday I had just the single Fieldfare. Today I have had five at one sitting.

I told last time, of the apparent pecking order as the birds squabbled over the apples I had put out. I have now had chance to refine that order, and have found that all thrushes (excluding Mistle Thrushes - which I have yet to see) defer to Starlings of all things!! I was surprised.

New visitors, and ones that rarely make an appearance, have been a solitary Redwing and a magnificent Great Spotted Woodpecker. It is such a shame that both came along when the light was poor. Still never mind - they all add to my garden list for the year. 

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Thrushes Galore

The bad weather continues, and the residents are struggling to find things to eat. So as well as stocking up the feeders I threw out a few more of the apples I have been saving from the summer’s crop, along with some raisons. The feeders were well used, but nothing out of the ordinary came along - although I did get some good shots of a twitchy Dunnock. However, my foresight with the apples was much appreciated by the thrushes in the area, and was rewarded with some terrific views.

The garden was inundated with Blackbirds for much of the afternoon. It was only later that we had our first Song Thrush of the year. It paraded around the garden, chasing off any Blackbirds that came near.

Much later though, as the light was failing, two Fieldfare made an appearance. Interestingly, because the Song Thrush returned, I was able to determine that the pecking order among the species was Song Thrush, then Blackbird adults, then Fieldfare, then juvenile Blackbirds. Both Fieldfare stayed until it was too dark to take photos. Perhaps they will be back again tomorrow. I still have some apples, so we will see. Watch this space……

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Life in the Undergrowth

For many of us with an interest in birds, there is a natural pull towards the unusual or the exotic. Some of us will travel miles to see something out of the ordinary, particularly at this time of year – those specimens that have come south or from the continent to overwinter with us; those that should have gone but have stayed over; or those that have arrived back early from their winter sojourns.

However, there is a danger of overlooking those residents that are here every day, which tend to blend into the background, but which provide the staple basis of our hobby. For many birds that share an urban or semi-urban environment with us, finding food can be quite straightforward, especially as many of us feed them. For those that live in the countryside things can be more difficult, and it is those for which I have great admiration. Some are equipped with bills for multi-use, tailored for different foods, making foraging easier when one source disappears. For others their beaks have become quite specialised, making survival a bit more touch and go.

While walking around the scrub and wooded areas of Tophill, and my attention was continually drawn to movement amongst the foliage and leaf litter, showing that birds were having to work hard to feed themselves. There were plenty of the generalist Great and Blue Tits, Blackbirds and Dunnock, but I had to work harder to find the specialists.

Song Thrush

Given that many of these are insectivorous, it really was a question of understanding where those food sources may be found. So I started to look at areas within the woods and undergrowth where the frost was unlikely to penetrate, and which may be unlikely to completely dry out. If insects can survive, then perhaps the birds would. Sure enough, there they were.
First of all I found a couple of Wrens, then four or five Goldcrests, and finally one of my favourites, a couple of Treecreepers. I’d like to say that I was able to stand and watch those birds for ages. Unfortunately, the pressing need to find food meant that they didn’t hang about for very long.



Great Tit

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Cold Days on the Sands

It was a lovely sunny day at Blacktoft, but boy was it cold!! Being orientated east-west meant that there weren't too many places to escape the easterly wind. Still there was no ice and the lagoons were all clear.

The down side was that there weren't too many birds around. I spent an hour looking for the reported Cetti's Warbler without any luck, and I witnessed only one Marsh Harrier. However, that bird, a juvenile, turned quite aggresive when a Buzzard turned up, and very quickly saw it off.

Juvenile Marsh Harrier
That aggresion seemed to spill over to the Coots. Normally one would back down and scuttle off before things get too serious, but today I saw one pair lay back in the water trying to inflict as much damage to the other as they could with their feet. Eventually one nearly drowned the other, ending the battle and reaching an uneasy peace.

Duelling Coots

Blue Tit

Resplendent Pheasant

Cheeky Robin

Shelduck - paired up for the spring
At the Ousefleet end of the reserve I was able to see the Konik ponies that the RSPB have brought in to help control the vegetation. There are only four of them, and the old grass is pretty high, so I'm guessing they have their work cut out. Perhaps they will need a few more.

Konik pony with lots of grass to clear