Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Just hanging around

My, the little ones grow up so fast, don`t they?!

I bought a new feeder the other day, a fat cake holder for the bargain price of a £1, including a fat cake! The juvenile Blue Tits have quickly found this source of nutrition and are making short work of the contents. There have been up to 8 visiting at any one time and have soon realised that hanging from the feeder is the only way to get a beakful, the Great Tit young have been looking on in wonder!

Wednesday, 22 June 2011


Picture this, if you will;

A clear blue sky, not a cloud is in sight, the sun beats down on a Mediterranean island and you hear BANG! then another BANG!, not just a few shots, but hundreds of them. You are on Malta, an island that every birder has heard of and not for the right reasons. Every year hundreds of protected species of birds have their brains blown out, illegally by `hunters` on this island. I don`t understand how this carries on, for the past umpteen years we have paid our subscriptions to various wildlife charities to try and stop this happening, but yet here in 2011 birds are still being murdered.

Every year in Britain we notice the decline in numbers of our sub-Saharan migrants. The call of the Cuckoo will soon become a fairytale, the purr of the Turtle Dove will soon vanish into the mists of time. Yellow Wagtails and Spotted Flycatchers are becoming so scarce in some areas you have to `twitch` one to see any in a year! In Britain we are constantly building new nature reserves, encouraging farmers to be more aware of nature, but yet we seem to be doing very little to halt this vile and despicable act of murder by fellow Europeans. Malta is a slaughter field which spits on every effort we make to protect summer migrants.

In 2009 over 200 protected species of bird were found in an area called Mizieb hidden under stones, stuffed into old barrels and in plastic bags after a rather prolonged barrage. Amongst these birds were Marsh Harriers, Honey Buzzards and Hobbies, all rare and scarce birds in Britain, but also there were Bee-eaters, Hoopoes, Nightjars and Nightingales. The Honey Buzzard is a specially protected bird in Britain, it`s breeding grounds kept secret, but what is the point in this if they are blasted out of the sky by these Maltese murderers?!

I remember reading of a tale that is so outrageous it beggars belief! A Black Stork was reported as having arrived on the island, a rarity, but soon hundreds of gunmen were lined up firing hundreds of rounds into the sky. You can guess the outcome. Also, I have heard that the Maltese are now bemoaning the lack of their favourite prey, the Turtle Dove.

This damage is being done during the Spring migration, when birds are flying to their breeding grounds. They are killed before they get there. Malta is supposedly bound by the 1979 EU Wild Birds Directive that forbids spring hunting and trapping, but yet when hunters are approached by police, `caught in the act` you might say, they complain of harassment and are given slapped wrists.

For the sake of `our` birds, for our children's chance to hear the Cuckoo or see the splendidly beautiful Turtle Dove, please click on the link in my side-bar and sign the petition. If your stomach can stand it, I also urge you to visit the Birdlife Malta website, the pictures alone will sicken you to the pit of your stomach!

This Turtle Dove was digiscoped last year by using my old Lumix FS15 and my Kowa TSN-883 x30 ( I have had to use an old photo for obvious reasons)

I wish to thank my good friend The Blogger Formerly known as....... for helping me in creating the widget and links

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Woody Woodpecker

There is a joy in watching these acrobatic birds trying their utmost to get a meal. The male (shown here with the red patch on the back of the neck, the female has an all-black crown and neck) and female have been coming to the peanut feeder, extracting pieces of peanut and then flying into the trees, presumably to feed their young.

These splendid birds will hopefully bring their young to feed once they fledge and I will be treated to red-crowned youngsters dangling from the feeders!

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Where are all the butterflies?

All photo`s taken with hand-held Canon Powershot A640

There has been a distinct lack of butterflies this summer, none more so than on my recent visit to Bedford Purlieus the other day. The sun was shining and Lisa and I had finished work relatively early so we decided to go for a walk around the nature reserve to see if any butterflies were on show. After 2 hours of trudging around a very beautiful wood we didn`t have much to show for our efforts! Lots of Speckled Woods, a few Meadow Browns, a couple of Ringlets (not pictured), several Small Whites (again, not pictured) and what I think is an Essex Skipper, although it could be a Small Skipper, not quite sure as the antenna do look black, but I am no expert!

The day after our visit White-letter Hairstreaks and Silver-washed Fritillaries were being reported, so we obviously chose the wrong day! However, we will return and hopefully get to see a few more species at this lovely wood.

Butterflies are having a tough time of it at the moment with overall numbers in massive decline, with common species such as Meadow Brown falling by up to a fifth in numbers in 2010 compared with 2009. Certain species are showing signs of improvement due to the help of conservation work, but the future does look bleak. Follow my link to Butterfly Conservation to see what you can do to help.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

There once was an ugly duckling

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, so they say. I don`t know who `they` are, but they must have been thinking about young Moorhens. A chick that only its mother could love, it always amazes me that this ungainly little ball of fluff with a bald head can become such a beautiful bird.

Thursday, 9 June 2011


An old joke that my Dad is fond of saying is, `What sound does the Swallow make? Gulp!`, the reason for this posts title. As I have said to Dad before, don`t give up the day job Pops!

The Swallow, or to give it the `proper` name of Barn Swallow is a bird that most of us are familiar with. The bird comes to this country from South Africa in the summer months to breed and I am fairly sure that most people have seen one.

The photo`s above were taken at a site that holds breeding House Martins, Sand Martins and these Swallows and is where I work on a Wednesday. Some of us are lucky enough to work in places such as this and being a gardener I have my fair share.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Common Tern

This is the first year that a `tern raft` has been placed in the water at Maxey gravel pits, it is there for the Common Terns to breed on.

There is always next year!

The only time I have seen Common Terns near this raft is when they have been perching on the posts surrounding it, they have had a look, but don`t seem too impressed! I have not seen any sign of tern breeding on the site, there are still a couple of pairs about, but I have not yet seen any chicks. Hopefully the raft will remain and be in place for when the terns return next year after their long migration. We may then see a successful breeding year.

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Yellow Wagtail

The Yellow Wagtail is a migrant bird that arrives in Britain between late March and mid May, with the brightly coloured males arriving first. In August and September it starts its return flight, first to south-west France and then to Portugal, with some flying to the Bay of Biscay in Spain. From here they then fly to North Africa and across the Sahara desert, some in a single flight which takes 72 hours.

The birds are frequently seen with cattle and horses in their search for food, which is a mixture of small invertebrates such as flies and beetles. These are normally caught around the feet or dung of livestock.

The male (seen in these photo`s) is an extremely brightly coloured bird, having bright yellow underparts and face with olive-green upperparts. The head markings do vary between geographical races, with the British race having a yellow head. The nearest other race is from Europe and has a blue head, indeed this race can often be seen in Britain. The female is a lot duller with a brown back, pale throat and a pale eye stripe.

This is another farmland birds which has mixed fortunes of late with some surveys showing declines of between 67% and 90%, with most of this occuring since 1978. Their range in Britain is contracting, with the loss of mixed farming, land drainage, conversion of pasture to arable and changes in farming practice are all possible causes of this.

In the Peterborough area we are fairly fortunate in that we seem to have a fairly healthy population with the Nene Washes and Maxey GP (where these photo`s were taken), to name a few, being good places to see this stunning bird.