Thursday, 31 March 2011

Female Wheatear

Digiscoped using Canon Powershot A640 and Kowa TSN-883 x30

Another visit to Maxey GP yesterday produced another Wheatear. This time it was a female, which provides a chance to compare the two sexes. This bird is a lot sandier in colouration and the face is not as well marked, but still a lovely bird. The white rump is clearly visible in this photo. The bird was a lot jumpier and it took me ages to get a shot of her after she decided to perch up on a tree just before the rain came.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Spikey`s back!

Last year we had a hedgehog regularly coming to our garden which we called `Spikey` (I know this is highly unoriginal). I have been putting out mealworms in the hope that he would come back after hibernation and so far I have only seen the signs of a visiting hedgehog. That was until last night when I looked out of the kitchen window and saw `Spikey` sitting in the middle of the lawn munching away on dried mealworms, sultanas and suet. He was with a friend who was a bit camera shy, so I only managed a quick shot of the one hog.

Hopefully he will keep coming back and bring his friends with him and help keep my garden slug and snail free.

Monday, 28 March 2011

First Wheatear of the year

Digiscoped using Canon Powershot A640 and Kowa TSN-883 x30

After a couple of visits to Maxey GP in the hope of seeing my first returning Wheatear I finally succeeded in seeing a lovely male today.

The Wheatear is a bird that comes to Britain in the summer months to breed mainly in the western and northern parts of the country, but during migration it can be seen all over the place (I have even seen one on return migration on the pitch at The Oval cricket ground in Surrey)! Maxey GP is a place where you are likely to see a few birds on their journey and over the next few weeks there will be more.

The bird is larger than a Robin, neat, sleak and short-tailed with an extensive area of white on the rump and upper tail, indeed its name is a corruption of `white-arse`. The male is blue-grey with black wings and white underparts with an orange flush on the breast. It has black cheeks and a white stripe over the eye and across the forehead. In the autumn after moulting it is much browner but retains its dark cheeks and the pale stripe over the eye (known as the supercilium). The female is sandy brown with a less well-marked face and browner wings. The juvenile has spotted/mottled upperparts and breast.

The Wheatear breeds in rocky/stony places, upland pastures with dry-stone walls and on moorland. It also breeds on short grassland in lowland areas, often in coastal areas. They lay between 4 and 7 eggs and these are brooded by the female and they take around 13 days to hatch when the young are fed by both the male and female. The young leave the nest at around 10 days old and can fly from 15 days where they become independant after 28-32 days.

The birds start to arrive in Britain between March and May, with most starting to leave in August. Movement is south-west through Europe and many land on the coast of North Africa before setting off again for their wintering grounds in central Africa. The slightly larger Greenland race of this bird migrates from Africa to its breeding grounds in the Arctic. On its return journey it flies non-stop for 30 hours and 2,400 km from Greenland to western Europe!

There are over 55,000 pairs of this bird that breed in Britain and Ireland, but over the past 60 years they have suffered a slight decline. This could be due to a number of factors, including the ploughing of old grasslands and successive droughts in Africa.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Singing Corn Bunting

A flock of 50 Corn Buntings is quite a rare sight these days, but there is one close to where I work. The air was filled with the sound of `jangling keys` as males were competing for territory on a beautiful Spring day. Hopefully this year there will be lots of successful fledging of young `stubble larks` and the species will take a step in the right direction.
Below is a short video of one male Corn Bunting singing. Hopefully you will hear the `jangle of keys` in the song!

All photo`s and video are digiscoped using Lumix FS15 and Kowa TSN-883 x30

Monday, 21 March 2011

Frogs galore!

At the moment most ponds in the country are filled with the Common Frog and frogspawn. It is the perfect time of year to get close to these fascinating amphibians whilst they gently croak and frolick in the water of your garden pond.

The resulting frogspawn is also a source of easy food for birds such as Blackbird and Magpie, two birds I have witnessed tucking into the jelly-like substance, a good source of protein for the trials that lie ahead for the birds in their breeding season.

All photo`s taken using hand-held Lumix FS15

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Little Owl

Digiscoped using Lumix FS15 and Kowa TSN-883 x30

The Little Owl is Britains smallest owl, about the size of a Starling. Small and plump with a rather flat head and short tail with heavily spotted wings and greyish-brown upperparts and a heavily streaked pale breast. The eyes are black with vivid yellow irises which stare from underneath white eye-brows and give the bird a fierce expression.

The bird can be seen in daylight as it perches in the open on a telegraph pole, branch or even a rock, but it hunts mainly from dusk until midnight and then again just before dawn. It feeds mainly on small mammals, insects and invertebrates; mammals include shrews and voles, insects include beetles and adult moths and it regularly feeds on earthworms.

The Little Owl was introduced to Britain from Europe in the 19th century. Two of these schemes were successful, one in Northamptonshire and the other in Kent. From these introduction schemes they gradually colonised southern Britain and only bred in Scotland for the first time in 1978. They do not breed in Ireland, although vagrant birds have been seen there. The Little Owl also breeds in central and southern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and parts of Asia. There are now between 6,000-12,000 pairs in Britain, although this population does fluctuate and has no clear trend.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Surprise garden visitor

We have a few different species of birds visit our feeders, but today we had a visit from a bird we have not seen in the garden before, a Siskin. I noticed a squabble going on between a Goldfinch and another bird on the nyjer seed feeder and on closer inspection this revealed itself to be a Siskin! I quickly set my digiscoping gear up, before the bird flew and managed to get a couple of shots of it feeding on my sunflower hearts feeder before the local Sparrowhawk buzzed by scattering everything. Unfortunately the bird stayed on the `wrong` side of the feeder giving me only glimpses of this splendidly bright bird.

The Siskin is a member of the finch family and at first glance can be mistaken for a Greenfinch, but on closer inspection it is a much smaller, slimmer bird than its bulkier cousin. They breed in coniferous forests mostly in the north and west of the country, but spend the winter in all parts of the British Isles with some having migrated from Europe.

The species is not rare and in the winter months is fairly common in the area with flocks of a couple of hundred being present at Woodwalton Fen and Ferry Meadows CP. This bird, however was on its own and a welcome addition to my garden list.

Saturday, 12 March 2011


The male Yellowhammer (also known as the Yellow Bunting) is one of Britains brightest birds. In spring he has a yellow head and breast, a rich brown streaky back and a plain reddish-brown rump. The female is much duller, with pale yellow below the bill and in front of the eyes, lines of brown along the breast and flanks and two dull wing-bars.

The song is the famous `little-bit-of-bread-and-no-cheese`, a sound which is heard from late winter into spring. It is repeated monotonously during the breeding season.

The Yellowhammer breeds in areas of grassland and arable fields with hedges and banks, as well as railway embankments, commons and heaths. Outside the breeding season it relies on visiting stubble fields and fields with winter feed crops. It is mainly a seed eater, eating seeds from grasses, nettles, docks and chickweed, but also feeds on insects and other invertebrates such as grasshoppers, sawfly larvae and caterpillars in the summer.

This bird is still relatively common in Britain with over 1 million territories. This figure is falling at a drastic rate though, with the population having fallen by over 50% since 1970. This mirrors the decline of other farmland birds with the same reasons given for the drop in numbers, such as loss of stubble fields in winter, an increase in insecticide and herbicide use and the destruction of hedges.

The photo`s below were taken on a windy day at a place called Northorpe Fen where I found a flock of approximately 150 feeding on spilt grain and taking shelter from the buffeting wind.

All photo`s digiscoped using Lumix FS15 and Kowa TSN-883 x30

Mediterranean Gull

Below are couple of ropey `record` shots of an adult Mediterranean Gull that was at Ferry Meadows Country Park on Thursday and Friday. It was present with Common Gulls and the more familiar Black-headed Gulls and was showing signs of moulting into its summer plumage.

The Mediterranean Gull is slightly larger and more robust than the Black-headed Gull, with a larger head and a thicker blood-red bill. In spring adults appear white with a black hood (the Black-headed Gull has a chocolate brown hood), as the back and wings are pale grey and wing-tips are white. Adults have a complete moult between June and September and then have a partial moult to acquire their black hood between February and April.

In Britain this gull often mixes with Black-headed Gulls and sometimes breeds with that species. There are over 60 pairs that breed in this country at over 27 locations, mostly in the south and is specially protected. In world terms this is a rare gull with a very restricted distribution, with 99% of the world population being found in the former USSR.

Digiscoped using Lumix FS15 and Kowa TSN-883 x30

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Sunny garden birds

What a difference a bit of sun makes! For the past few days, if not weeks, the sun has been quite `shy` to say the least, but over the past few days the sun has been shining and the world has seemed a slightly better place.

The photo`s below were taken in my little back garden in Peterborough and whilst the number of species isn`t great, I think the detail shown in the photo`s is pretty pleasing. Ofcourse, the fact that the sun is shining helps with the light!

Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)
It is hard to believe that 25 years ago the Goldfinch was a rare visitor to gardens in Britain, but now, with the availability of feeders aimed at them (the nyjer seed feeders), they are quite a common sight across the country. This is a gorgeous looking bird that is also known locally as the `Redcap`, for obvious reasons.

Blue Tit (Parus caeruleus)

Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus)
Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)

All photo`s digiscoped using Lumix FS15 and Kowa TSN-883 x30

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Maxey birds

Maxey gravel pits is a small site just to the north of Peterborough which used to be a gravel extraction works. It is home to a number of birds and is extremely good for breeding waders.

The area is made up of a mix of water, shallow muddy edges, gravel islands, reedbeds and rough grassland and it is this variety that proves irresistible to many breeding birds.

The photographs below were taken a couple of weeks ago and are just a selection of the birds that this site attracts. In a few weeks Maxey will be home to a few more species, hopefully most of which I will get to see and perhaps photograph!



Ringed Plover


Drake Teal

All photo`s digiscoped using Lumix FS15 and Kowa TSN-883 x30

Not all of these birds breed on the site, they are just `passing` through or stay during the winter and disperse to their breeding grounds in the Spring. These are the Dunlin and the Teal, all the others have bred successfully in the past and will hopefully do so again this year.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011


Digiscoped using Lumix FS15 and Kowa TSN-883 x30

Quite pleased with this shot of a Corn Bunting on one of the few sunny days we have had here in the past week. Spring is still a way off!