The Big Garden Bird Watch

This morning we carried out the big garden bird watch. Well more accurately your father carried out the bird watch whilst I enjoyed edited highlights.

(I have had my paper accepted for publication. The proofs came through on Thursday and had to be returned within three days. Consequently I spent this morning carefully checking the text and figures for errors and we posted the corrections back before midday.)

As you know we have been putting out mixed seed, fat balls, Niger seed, meal worms and sometimes fruit. We lay this on the ground as well as on the feeders. This has encouraged both more species to visit the garden in addition to greater numbers of each species. The ground feeding birds have particularly enjoyed our generosity.

Six wood pigeons have taken up residence around the garden waiting for free hand outs.

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Whilst a pair of collared doves fed on the seed feeders balancing precariously on the platform.

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As a result of all the free food on the path we had five blackbirds in the garden at once. The territorial rules have apparently been suspended  in the quest for food. A flock of nine goldfinches landed on the feeders and proceeded to feed. Over the course of the hour there was not a moment when there were not goldfinches on the Niger seed. However, since the dramatic decline in the numbers of Greenfinches  a few years ago, we rarely see these birds in the garden.

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The chaffinches are prospering and we had seven of these on the seeds. They appear to prefer to feed on the ground, and, since we have spread seed on the path, the numbers of these birds has increased.

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Likewise the pair of Dunnocks and the house sparrows have taken to visiting the garden daily.

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The fat balls were host to a pair of blue tits and a pair of great tits. These birds also search the current bushes and roses looking for invertebrates to scoff. A wren was searching these bushes this morning. A magpie watched from the damson tree at the bottom of the garden.

A few days ago a coal tit was seen on the currant bushes, today it was on the apple tree. We have also seen the odd Goldcrest on the bushes.

Unfortunately the over-wintering male Blackcap did not visit during the alloted hour.

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With so many of these birds in pairs I suspect that various species are already pairing up ready for the breeding season.  So one hour 12 species and good numbers of most of them. The only usual ones absent this morning were the robin, the goldcrest, the coal tit and the blackcap.

Most of the photos are from either the wikipedia website or the RSPB  and many thanks for these.

Tundra Bean goose and Whooper Swans

Dear Lads,

Well it is almost the end of the month and a twelfth of the year has nearly passed. I have not lost any of the extra kilos I gained over Christmas, the house is no tidier and I am struggling to keep up with everything ( i.e. the swimming, the reading, the languages, the housework as well as work and trying to slim).

Anyway we are healthy and not too badly off which is much better then many people in this world. Accordingly we decided after a morning of chores to head out to look for Whooper swans at Thumpton just off the A453 near the power station. We had distant views at first but having negotiated the back roads we found a whole flock of geese and swans in a field near Thrumpton.

There were four whooper swans  among over 23 Egyptian geese, approximately 35 mute swans Some were hiding in hollows a few Greylag geese and a few Canada geese.

Thank you to Clifton grove birds for this photo again  the birds were too distant to obtain a good clear image

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We were very pleased when amongst them but out on its own we found a tundra Bean goose. a very obliging bird that gave us excellent views as we noted all its salient features.

Thanks to Sean Browne for this photograph it was too far away for us to photograph

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Encouraged by our success we decided to Head for Attenborough where a starling murmuration had been reported. Unfortunately this is where our luck ran out as we exited the car the rain hurled down and we got soaked so no murmuration for us. The result of all this rain was that the car park cleared faster than usual the only busy place was the cafe where families sought to dry out and warm up with drinks and food. We had a very cheeky Egyptian goose approach us just above the sign advertising bird food. You can see how wet it was.

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At the bottom of the ramp a pair of mandarin ducks were loitering in the hope of obtaining food. There were no rings on their legs nor were their wings clipped so I concluded that these were part of the increasing feral population of these ducks. Whilst we have seen female Mandarins here before we had never seen a male. As he was obviously strutting about to attract the female I wondered if this was why he had turned up at this location.

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Before the telescopes and binoculars were full of water we decided to abandon the starling flock and return home.

We hope you are both well and happy. We had a very enjoyable weekend last weekend and we are eagerly anticipating another visit sometime. Please can you let me know dates when you will be free around Easter so we can plan a trip to see you.

Lots of love

Your mother

 

 

A walk on the cold side

Hi

As you aware this week was my birthday. I had planned for us to go away for the weekend do a couple of walks enjoy a pub meal and visit the odd tea shop and potter home in tie for an early night before work on Monday. However when the weather reports forecast high tides, snow and gales and people on the coast started to be evacuated I reconsidered.

Despite the worst predictions of the weather forecasters today started off dry if rather cloudy. We decided to use the time to catch up on a bit of bird watching so we drove to Nottingham looking for waxwings. These rather endearing birds arrive in the UK from Scandinavia every few years when their numbers rise. They spend the winters here feeding on berries alongside the redwings, fieldfares thrushes and blackbirds. These four had chosen to Station themselves alongside a busy road in the suburb of Carrington in Nottingham where a row of trees full of berries were just ready to be eaten. They really were this clear

(Your father didn’t take his camera so this is one from LentonCliftongrove Birds – official website Cliftongrove Birds – official website534 × 640Search by image

Waxwing – Lenton)

 

waxwing2aWe also found a number of redwings enjoying the berries not to mention blackbirds and a mistle thrush.

(You can see the author of the image in the top)

redwingWe became a bit cold and decided to drive to Eyebrook Reservoir. We parked at the edge of the reservoir and found at least three male smew with attendant females.

Smew – Mergus albellus | NatureSpot NatureSpot773 × 563Search by image

Mergus albellus – Chris Lythall – Eyebrook Reservoir

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canstock13875012There was a shoot over the far side of the reservoir but we did manage to find a kingfisher at the dam . It was an excellent sighting of a male as it didn’t move for quite a few minutes. I also saw a great spotted woodpecker unfortunately it flew off before I could share it.

(owls about that then!: November 2015 Owl’s about that then!700 × 626Search by image

Kingfisher No 2)

kingfisherThe little owl was sitting in the sunshine against the tree but on the side out of the wind.  For once it looked more sleepy than grumpy.

(Rod’s Birding: A afternoon’s birding in Leicestershire and Rutland …Rod’s Birding800 × 450Search by image)

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We had a lovely few of fields of fieldfare and redwings.  Before we headed to Rutland Water. We were welcomed to the car park by the sight of a red Kite soaring above our heads.

Rod’s Birding: A day’s birding at Rutland Water, Rutland …Rod’s Birding800 × 450Search by image

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We found goosander on the main lagoon but instead of walking round we headed off to the North arm to see if we could find the black necked and slavonian grebes that have been about.

As we parked the car we found this bird in the edge of a lagoon along with grey heron and little egret just for comparison.

David Gray on Twitter: “One of the Great White Egrets on Lagoon 3 …Twitter1200 × 900Search by image

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We found both the slavonian grebe and black necked grebe 2 of each.

Slavonian Grebe – Podiceps auritus | NatureSpotNatureSpot1024 × 720Search by image

Podiceps auritus – Steve Mathers –

We heard that there was a red necked grebe on the Hamilton peninsula so we ended our day with seeing this bird.

Moysie’s Birding Blogmoysiesbirdtrips.blogspot.com400 × 296Search by image

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We found quite a few canny red legged partridge that had escaped the slaughter.  All in all we saw sixteeen new species had a lovely day out and were home before it got too dark

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Thank you to everyone whose images I have used to illustrate this narrative.

 

Books I read over the Christmas holidays

As I mentioned in an earlier post my Christmas holidays included the following activities

A walk every day

We managed a walk most days but with our visitor in his eightieth year the walks were sometimes quite short ones.  However we did get to connect with the natural environment every day.

Lots of board games

We played scrabble, whist, dominoes, rummikub, trionimos, charades, settlers of Catan, zombicide and plague (a brand new game). The last three were my son’s games.  I approached them as a duty, but found all three really good fun and would recommend them to anyone not put off by the titles. I bought a set of pick up sticks for a few pounds, as a stocking filler and these proved to be very popular. We also tried charades but the three of us understand each other so well there is not much mystery. I also bought some wooden puzzles that kept us occupied on Christmas morning.

Reading a long list of books

I have read a blog (Dovegreyreader Scribbles if you are interested) recommending Robert Macfarlane’s Book ‘Landscapes’ and had bought a copy. After the first sentence I was hooked and ordered all the other books by this author I could find from the library.

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My favourite book so far by this author is ‘The Old Ways’ where he explores ancient ways on foot looking at the landscape, natural history, archaeology, and history. I was completely mesmerised by the language, and the mental images they engendered.

 

The smallest book by Robert Macfarlane is ‘Holloway’ an exploration of the hollow lanes of South Dorset. Written in memory of Roger Deakin another great writer of natural history, it had all the beauty of lyrical poetry. The artwork was stunningly beautiful. Of all these books it is the one I would most like to own. I still have ‘Mountains of the Mind’ and ‘Wild Places’ to read. I also need to order ‘Underland’ an exploration of the world beneath our feet. I cannot express how much pleasure these books have given me my mind traveled to all these wonderful places and I could picture them so clearly thanks to the excellent writing.

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Dovegrey reader scribbles also recommended a publisher porsephone books. Accordingly I searched the library catalogue for books from this publisher and came across ‘Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day’ by Winifred Watson. This proved to be a real Cinderella story set in the 1930s. Some of the scenes resembled a French Farce but it was charming and light. I loved seeing this very moral and repressed spinster gradually softening and becoming more human.  Who could not like a frothy book for the winter when outside the rain is lashing the windows and the wind is howling.

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From the same publisher came Miss Ranskill Comes Home by Barbara Euphan Todd. An elderly spinster is rescued from a desert island where she has been marooned for four years and arrives home in the middle of the second world war. Her struggles to re adjust are both funny and poignant. I enjoyed it thoroughly. The end papers are truly lovely.

‘Saplings’ By Noel Streatfeild was also on the list. Most famous for the childrens’ novel ‘Ballet Shoes’, this novel examines the effect of the disturbance and uncertainty of the second would war on the lives of children. More specifically the children of a seemingly perfect middle class family. It was rather long but very moving. The trouble is it is hard to get too emotional about the trauma of a perfectly nice middle class family, when at that time people including children were literally starving and being murdered. Despite this it was thought provoking.

I read ‘The Miniaturist’ by Jessie Burton. This was gripping and as a thriller quite a page turner.It is beautifully written and the denouement is quite a condemnation of the Calvinistic attitude prevalent in Amsterdam at the time. At this time a similar intolerance is present in the world and the parallels were quite startling. It has the distinction of making me cry something very few novels manage to do these days.

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I also read ‘Various Pets Alive and Dead’ by Marina Lewycka. her first novel “A Short History on Tractors in Ukrainian” was a fantastic book. I had forgotten so much of my childhood and that book brought it all back from the pet words, to the mind set of the father and the attitude of Ukrainian women of that era. the clash between Ukrainians now and then is sympathetically protrayed. Her next two books I found disappointing. However in this latest novel the clash of attitudes and lifestyles is again explored and her voice is back as clear as ever. This novel is the story of a group of adult children, of a couple of hippies. Having grown up in a sort of commune in the 1970’s, the adult children rebel or reinvent themselves or try to move on. Their troubles and conflicts were both funny and sad. I couldn’t put the book down and finished it in a day. So what a wonderful fortnight of reading.

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Swimming wherever possible. I managed this on several occasions revelling in being nearly the only person in the pool. Despite the cool temperature of the water I find the joy of swimming and having the time to meditate at the same time delightful. Some people sit to meditate others run, however I swim and as I pace the lengths of the pool I reflect on my day, my life and any problems I have. I clamber out tired but refreshed.

Good meals

I cooked any number of roast dinners and desserts, not to mention all the bottles of wine we drank. All were eaten by my family and friends. As always, it took hours to cook everything and a matter of minutes for them to be devoured. Still we didn’t eat too much rubbish food, as a result we are facing the new year feeling a lot healthier than we usually do.

Playing some music every day I managed 2 days when I played so an abject failure there. I did manage to play a Haydn sonata this afternoon. I bought myself a book of Haydn piano sonatas as a treat and have just commenced playing the easiest ones.

So this was my Christmas and New Year. New Years day was rounded off by the first of the new season of Sherlock. Pure escapism but very enjoyable all the same. I hope that you have all had an equally pleasant Christmas Holiday and I wish you all a very happy New Year

 

A reflection on 2016

So the old year has fled and the new year is entered as the song goes. It has been a turbulent year. Some events I found hard to believe and at the risk of sounding like Victor Meldrew I found myself amazed. Yet I still find myself believing that somehow through all the disasters and mistakes of the last 12 months things will sort themselves out.

 

I couldn’t believe that we voted to leave the EU and though I am resolved that when the majority of people vote we should follow their decision I still worry about what will happen in this country.  Perhaps if we succeed in those things that we excel at and improve in those things we are worse at, it will not be too bad. I seems that I am not alone in believing this.

http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/748918/britain-brexit-eu-referendum-positive-opinion-france-italy-netherlands

I couldn’t believe that the Americans voted for Donald Trump. This frightens me more than our own situation. However as there is nothing to be done about it it is a waste of time bemoaning the decision. There are enough people predicting doom and disaster. I prefer to concentrate on the positive things in our lives.

Finishing off the negative events

Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq and Yemen are so awful they are beyond words.  I dare not dwell on the things that happen in these countries lest I despair.

This year we lost some of my favourite public figures Alan Rickman  was my favourite along with  Victoria Wood but I also liked Andrew Sachs, Jimmy Perry, Gene Wilder and Caroline Aherne, not to mention Ronnie Corbett and Terry Wogan. I all seems very sad. The list is available here. I always thought Alan Rickman was a very attractive man and Victoria Wood made me cry with laughing.

http://www.mirror.co.uk/3am/celebrity-news/celebrity-deaths-2016-debbie-reynolds-7797848

Finally there were the natural events earthquakes and floods. These also wrung our hearts.

The positive things

These have to be excavated from the general negativity of news. British athletes did incredibly well in Brazil as did the Para-Olympians.

Closer to home we live in a country where we can say what we want as long as we don’t  incite hatred and violence. We can do what we want unless we break the law . We can believe what we want and worship freely. Political debate is open and fair.

We have one of the best broadcasters in the world the BBC is renowned throughout the world.

We have a free education, free healthcare and a benefits system however overstretched these facilities are. Many countries do not possess these things.

The police and armed services work very hard to protect us from terrorists.

We have more top universities that most other countries, we have excellent schools. We have extraordinary museums, art galleries and libraries.

We have some of the most beautiful countryside in the world.

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We are never too far from the sea. We cherish our wildlife and our access to the countryside as few other nations do.

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We have a rich and diverse history that we celebrate and we produce some of the best scientists, engineers, actors, musicians, writers, and poets in the world.

Above all, despite the constant negativity of much of the media, I have found most people to be kind and courteous, welcoming and friendly.

I think on reflection that we have much to be proud and thankful for and that for us our lives have fallen in a good land.

I am facing this year with optimism in the belief that we will survive and prosper.

Happy new year