Blackcap Warblers have visited my garden every winter for the last 5 years at least. I place apple pieces on exposed branches in clear view of my kitchen so that I can observe and photograph the birds through the glass. In my experience the birds that visit my garden always come to feed on apple pieces exclusively and not fat balls. In fact, I have not once seen the Blackcaps in my garden, feeding on anything but apple which they seem to seek it out. This picture was taken "handheld" through the window which is slightly tinted with Pilkington K glass so it's remarkable that I could get a result. One of the interesting features of the female Blackcap is the slight hint of peach on the cheek patches which is hardly noticeable until you look really closely.
I really like to travel and in November I visited Sri Lanka for almost two weeks. Tomorrow my wife and I will be flying to South Africa to stay with her brother in Cape Town. We will be away for two weeks. I will be blogging as often as possible with regular updates of my sightings with as many photos as possible. I have a few things planned already including a Pelagic Trip on the 12 or 13 when I hope to get pictures of Albatross, Petrels and Terns with a good strong chance of Dolphins and even perhaps a Whale. As well as birds I am hoping to photograph Baboons (a certainty I am told) and small antelope species would be good.
We are in the middle of a winter storm here in Devon, UK. It's cold and wet but brightening slightly. I tried very hard to get something decent to post and it was difficult. You can rely on the Robin to be with us always and the Blackbird is a common bird seen in almost every garden in every city and village in the UK. For my visitors from other continents, the Blackbird is a member of the "Thrush" family. The one pictured here is a male, females a a rich brown colour. In size it is much the same as an American Robin which is not surprising as they are the same family and share the same Latin name "Turdus". The other bird here is a European Robin and not related at all to either the Blackbird or American Robin. You may wonder as I do, why the early European settlers to the Americas failed to see the American Robin as a Thrush and decided because of the red breast to name it after the Robins they were familiar with back in their homeland.In my experience the American Robin fills the niche exactly in the USA that Blackbirds fill here in Europe.
At this time of the year wrens can be heard in and around the garden but they are very hard to spot, in fact I rarely see them. This morning was a surprise as I watched from an upstairs window I saw and then snapped a Wren perched on the fence. I was pleased to catch a glimpse, I always enjoy seeing them. They are one of Britain's favourite birds and almost anyone could put a name to it. I remember as a 5 year old ..... 53 years ago ......... learning about them because they were depicted on the farthing coin, that was a quarter of an old penny if you are wondering. The sun is bright this morning, we are promised a storm later on and its a bright crisp start to the day with a cloudless blue sky. The Coal Tits are in the apple tree but for some odd reason not coming down to the feeder. I caught sight of this Blue Tit as well. For some reason, even though I hear them all the time they havn't come down to the feeder so far and I don't really understand why not. These images can be viewed by clicking on them but they are not part of my galleries as they are not crisp enough!
The promised bad weather did materialise but before I got soaked I managed a few more stonechat photos. Again the confiding female was in her territory and on her favourite lookout bramble.
I do like this one, shame she didn't show her head though. I took several and this is just a selection of the ones I like that were taken today.
I have a plan to get even better shots, watch this space........ but it is going to depend on getting some bright weather over the next few days. Here is another one with prey in her beak.
......... and another portrait as she rested on one leg.
Nearby to the Stonechat I watched a Female Kestrel mob a Buzzard and then a few minutes later the Kestrel perched high on a post and was harassed by another female. Click on the image to see it larger.
Bad weather was forecast but at 8.30 it was still bright with a hint of sun peeping through. I immediately noticed the Coal Tits feeding on the dish put out for the Robin. I made coffee and went out to get in to the hide. A much better way to start the day than listening to endless doom a gloom stories about the economy on Breakfast TV. One of the problems of the hide is getting in and out without making too much of a disturbance and then having to sit it out for a while before feeding activity is resumed. This wasn't the case today and a Coal Tit soon flew to the dish to take a Sunflower heart. I am not sure if this is the same bird as yesterday but you can see that it is moulting some new feathers. Still no Blue Tits on my feeder, but I know they are in and out of the garden because I can constantly hear them from behind me as I sit in the hide.
Eventually the rain came in and now we are in the midst of another heavy downpour. I am deliberately mentioning the weather because with the Blog in to it's second year I have noticed how interesting it is to refer back to the weather on this day last year.
Well this is turning into another wet and miserable summer as far as I am concerned. We seem to have so many days that are written off as bird watching and photo days. We have had a few birds back in the garden today though and as I dodged the showers I caught sight of a Great tit in the apple tree as well as Blackbirds Collared Doves and a solitary Blue tit. Then in the early evening we had a first visitors to the Niger feeder that I set up about a month ago. Three or Four Greenfinches were enjoying it and stayed long enough for me to snap this nice image.
It's just a little after 8 o'clock and the evening of a wet and miserable day that has had very little to offer the amateur naturalist and photographer. Then a really special encounter in the garden, a young sparrowhawk came into the garden and made a swoop at my pair of Parrotlets in an outside aviary. This has happened 3 times now since I have lived here, 23 years. Having realised it couldn't get in to its intended prey it perched just 6 foot away and looked at me for 10 for seconds or so before sweeping away and out of the garden. This gave a chance to see it's beautiful plumage and marvel at it's agility. I took this photograph last year when we had this bird in the garden for over an hour before it finally had enough and left. You can see that this bird damaged its face when it tried to get through the wire at the birds inside.
Its nice to actually report something good again in the garden. For the second time this week we have had an interesting,
attractive and by all accounts rare day flying moth. I have seen these around for quite a while, about two weeks or so and in previous years, but have never taken pictures or been able to accurately name them. It is in fact the Jersey Tiger Moth Euplagia quadripunctaria As well as the Channel Islands they are found on the South Coast mainly in Devon and a few other places as well as a population in London apparently. Read about that on the Lewisham web site
My photo just shows the upper wings but the covered lower wings are a very attractive shade of orange/red as well as a body colour to match. So is this the rarest visitor to the garden, I wonder?
A brand new addittion to the blog today....... sound! Not just sound but a recording of a Pippistrelle Bat this evening on my brand new Bat Detector. We have had bats for as long as I can remember and as its my birthday tomorrow my family bought me a Magenta bat Detector. These little gadgets convert high frequency sounds made by bats into lower frequencies that are audible to humans. I am sure its a bit more complicated than that but roughly speaking thats what happens. It was quite a thrill at dusk to stand in the garden and hear the bats fir the first time in my life. Then by comparing previously recorded sounds on the net I am able to narrow it down to a particular species. As well as just the sound the Pipistrelle is the most likely bat to have in a suburban garden environment. My occupation is Audio Recording so with the software and equipment that I already own it was a simple matter to include it here. So watch or should I say listen to this space! Just click on the black box here and it will play. I will take the recorder and detector out onto the River and Canal so that we can have a listen to some other species to make a good comparison
In addition this evening the weather cleared for an hour at dusk so I went out onto the marsh and took this photo of a Green Sandpiper. Apparently there are Wood Sandpiper present as well. I met the warden who confirmed that this was a Green but I am sure if the Wood sticks around I will be able to post some photos of that. This Green Sandpiper was one of three tonight. I first saw them on Saturday evening but didn't manage a good enough photo. I guessed that they were not Common Sandpiper but wasn't absolutely sure to be honest. Tonight the light was fading but this bird did come out into the open for a while but with just a bit of sun this could have been such a good shot. It was very interesting in flight , very dark and almost arrow like with a contrasting white underside. The camo clothing did it's stuff as I am sure that this bird had no idea that I was near by.
I usually find it hard to discover interesting things in the garden to put on the blog but today the interesting things came to me. My wife called to say that there was a moth in the living room. I expected a small clothes moth or something equally as insignificant but there it was a very interesting Magpie Abraxas grossulariata. They are said to be common but I have to confess to never noticing them before. However I did take a photo earlier in the year of the caterpillar of this moth in the garden and had not been able to put a name to it until now. We have had such a very hot day here and tomorrow it is set to be even hotter. At times like this who knows what may turn up. The Collared Doves were feeding babies in the garden yesterday but insect activity is really slow apart from the moth and Brindled hoverfly thats just about it. Bats are in the garden at dusk on most nights at the moment. I have just purchased a bat detector , it hasn't arrived yet but when it does `i will be able to put a name to the species that visit us.
The Brindled Hoverfly - Helophilus pedulus is the easiest of Hoverflies to identify as it is the only species with vertical stripes on the thorax. This species is sometimes called the footballer as its stripes resemble a footballers jersey....apparently! It is a garden first and the first time I have seen one as well! It now brings the confirmed species of Hoverfly in my garden to 11.