12 Mar 2018

New species for the patch and garden list

The recent cold weather has resulted in good numbers of birds visiting our local pond - all viewable from the comfort of the bedroom thats now been commandeered as my study. The great thing about this vantage point is that the pond can't really be seen from ground level as you can't easily see over the hedge. Its probably 200m from the house but with the scope permanently set up and the mornings and evenings getting lighter I'm able to check it twice a day if I'm working from the office.

The last week has seen some pretty decent records. Following on from the Jack Snipe that dropped in with 20 Common Snipe during the snow I've added both Curlew and Black-tailed Godwit recently - on the same day! The Curlew was present in the early morning and the Godwit appeared in the evening. Record shots only I'm afraid as the distance is t ofar for the DSLR and the weather was appalling.

The next day saw the appearance of 5 Ruff. I had a single Ruff last autumn but the appearance of 5 birds was something special.
The usual Teal and Shoveller were joined by a pair of Wigeon but the real highlight was coming home from work and seeing not one but five Pintail swimming around or resting on the banks. What a bird for the garden list!

The picture below shows the view from the window during the snow with the pond visible just to the left of the telegraph pole.

 Below: sunset overlooking the pond. Above sunrise from the back garden.

Above: some of the 20 Common Snipe present during the snow and feeding right out in the open - no need to flush them to count from my viewing point.

5 Mar 2018

Cold weather movements

Back from Oz and back to a vengeful British winter. With windchill temperatures down to -10 C heavy frosts turned into  lots of snow locally the countryside was transformed into a winter wonderland as the 'beast from the east' hit.

Wrapping up i nas many layers as possible I took the opportunity to walk the local fields and lanes and add a good few species on the patch year list - including two new ones. Little Egret and Jack Snipe.

The Little Egret was expected but still a bit of a surprise as  I expected it fishing for newts on the pond opposite the house but it was actually in a ditch alongside a field of maize stubble. This is the first I've seen here even though theres a large breeding colony at nearby Burton Mere Wetlands RSPB about 8 km away as the Egret flies.

With the cold weather came large numbers of thrushes and Lapwings. 138 Lapwings on a freshly manured field was the record count but they moved on when the snow came. 10 Snipe round a small pond were expected as I'd seen them here before. What was totally unexpected though was the numbers that built up round the pond viewed from the window. I assume the10 from the smaller pond relocated across the field to the larger one that hadn't completely frozen over due to the Canada and Greylag Geese roosting on it at night as we could see them feeding out in the open from the window. The numbers quickly built up to a high count of 20 on Sunday morning.

Lapwings also took advantage of the open muddy areas where the sheep had been feeding and in managed to get a few shots over the farm gate.

Whilst crouched in the freezing weather photographing the Lapwings a Snipe flew in and started running towards me!

Another sign of cold weather was the arrival of the Coots and Moorhens. We've got a 'resident' pair of coots on the pond but 11 others turned up with the back up of 3 Moorhens. The local pair went ballistic and tired to chase off the interlopers but eventually gave up and sulked in their own chosen corner of the pond.

2 Mar 2018


One of the strangest animals on the planet - the Kangaroo! Actually Australia is full of strange animals but the Roo's are the most visible. Where my daughter lives theres mob that comes down from the hillside to feed in the evenings and its become a bit of a ritual standing on the balcony with a cold beer Roo watching.......

24 Feb 2018

Little Penguins

Whilst in Melbourne we took the opportunity to visit St Kilda. Ostensibly for a nice lunch and a walk along the seafront. Taking the tram from Melbourne city centre we arrived just as it started raining so we had an early lunch before walking out along the sea defences that were originally built for the sailing events of the 1956 Olympics.

Little Penguins have colonised the boulders of the sea defences and there is now a thriving population. You can now go at dusk and wait for the adults to come ashore rather than making the long journey to the big colony at Phillip Island. If you;re lucky you can see the youngsters among the boulders - we were lucky! We saw quite a few bums or heads sticking out but one youngster was in full view from the board walk.

Almost fully fledged it was losing its down and beginning to show the blue feathers that gave it it's alternative name of Little Blue Penguin.

20 Feb 2018


I've been visiting my daughter and family in Australia for a couple of weeks and reacquainting myself with the local bird life. We also spent a few days in Sydney coinciding with the Chinese new year celebrations and visited the calm oasis that is the Chinese Friendship Gardens near Darling Harbour.

The gardens are fabulous and full of wildlife including these amazing looking Water Dragons. They're native to Australia and have found the perfect home here.

18 Feb 2018

More patch birding

Theres nothing better than standing in the study as the dawn breaks with a mug of tea in hand and watching the pond opposite the house through the scope as the light reveals whats dropped in over night! Unfortunately thats all to rare an occurrence as I usually leave for work this time of year in darkness and get home in darkness but one day this week I had the chance to stand and watch......

The result was another species for the patch year list - a pair of Shoveller had arrived overnight but left soon after dawn. The 4 Wigeon remain though and the Canada geese have started arriving occasionally joined by a couple of Greylags.

Shoveller and Teal above. Greylags below:

Canadas below:

We are also getting regular visits from at least two Rabbits who seem to have taken a liking to the extremely rotten windfalls left out for the birds!

5 Feb 2018

Hawfinches at Wimpole Manor, Cambridgeshire

The weekend saw the 48th Bird Observatories Council meeting being held at the BTO's headquarters in the Nunnery, Thetford. Four of the Hilbre Bird Obs committee made the journey to deepest, darkest Norfolk and a good time was had by all! It was great to catch up with representatives of most of the other UK bird observatories and be present when Alderney Bird Observatory got their accreditation. It was also a good opportunity to meet up with old contacts at the BTO and put faces to names of those people we'd dealt with either by phone or email.

With Steve and Chris commencing their birding and gastronomic, sorry birding,  tour of north Norfolk on the Thursday it was left for Al & me to travel down on the Friday. With my car needing two new tyres after failing its MOT it was down toAl to drive and he picked me up around 09.30.

An uneventful journey had us pondering where to stop off for a bit of birding and checking the map we found that a group of Hawfinches had been seen regularly in the car park of the National Trusts property at Wimpole Hall. A quick detour and we soon found ourselves watching 5 Hawfinches as they performed brilliantly a few metres away feeding on  seeds from some kind of tree with winged fruits. It didn't look like Ash and it doesn't look like Lime.

 Apart from having the privilege of ringing one of these huge finches on Fair Isle a couple of years ago and being relatively close to a well known site in N Wales these were the best views I've had of a group of Hawfinches.

A great couple of days at the conference and good views of Muntjac Deer from the Nunnery windows, Kingfishers in Thetford town centre and Red Kites along the A14!

Many thanks to Al for the use of his photos.