Sunday, 28 April 2013

Woodchat Shrike

This species has always eluded me. I have seen several abroad, but as yet, none in Britain, but with one showing not too far away, I decided to see if I could change that.

On arrival at the site the bird was not showing, no surprise there, but I set up my 'scope and waited. I was reliably informed by the other birders present that it would show soon and they even predicted the area it would appear. On cue the bird showed, right where it was supposed to, but it was a blooming long way away, as is shown by the shot below.

This was taken with my camera at full 140x zoom, so not the greatest shot you are ever likely to see. The red head can be seen though, with other plumage details and it looked great through a 'scope, honestly!

We waited to see if the bird would come any closer, not overly hopeful, but we kept our fingers crossed. The bird disappeared. After about 20 minutes it was seen flying in our direction, where it perched, still distant, but excellent views were had.

The shots below were taken with the camera at 35x zoom and are heavily cropped, so are really only record shots, but hopefully the bird can be seen in greater detail.

Woodchat Shrikes are migratory birds, spending their winters in tropical Africa and their summers in southern Europe or northern west Africa, but a few do turn up in the U.K. most years. Up until now, I have missed those birds, this one changed that.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Migrants at last!

It's been a while coming, but finally the summer migrants are making their way onto our shores. The cold weather has seemingly delayed birds such as Swallows, House Martins, Redstarts, Ring Ouzels and Wheatears, to name a few, from making their way to Britain for the summer months, but now these are all coming, in their droves!

The past couple of days have been a bit crazy in the Peterborough area, with several Redstarts being seen, we are lucky to see more than a couple in the Spring, but this year up to 8 individuals have been present in various sites. Common Terns have started patrolling the lakes at Ferry Meadows and Deeping and huge numbers of Wheatears have been present at a couple of locations. 14 of these birds were seen in a field close to the village of Yaxley and yesterday there were 17 in a field close to the village of Ailsworth where there was also the only Ring Ouzel to be reported so far this year.

At Maxey/Etton gravel pits there were 3 Wheatears present (the male in these photos), a female and a Greenland type male. Also present were up to 6 Yellow Wagtails with one showing signs of being from the flava race, or Blue-headed Wagtail if you prefer and a Common Sandpiper.

I suppose all good things come to those who wait!

Friday, 12 April 2013

Grey Partridge

Not a great photo, but pleasing to see a Grey Partridge pair the other day just past Deeping High Bank in south Lincs. This bird really seems to be vanishing quickly and these two represent my first sighting of the year, a sad state of affairs considering it is April!

Tuesday, 9 April 2013


Siskins are like buses, you wait for ages (5 years in my case) for one to turn up and then two come along at once. Well, not quite at once, but nevertheless, this male Siskin was seen on one of my feeders at the weekend, just a few days after seeing a female. This represents a huge increase in the sightings of this bird in my garden, although I haven't seen either bird since.

The Bramblings are still coming, but on Sunday we had 4 of the little beauties, 3 females and 1 male, still not in breeding plumage, but getting more stunning by the day!

Male Brambling

Female Brambling

Saturday, 6 April 2013

Unusual garden visitors

A couple of weeks ago I awoke to a good few inches of snow. The bird numbers in the garden consequently increased and with it I got a few birds that are good to see anywhere, but especially in a small garden in the north of Peterborough. Whilst nothing scarce or rare, seeing a female Siskin for only the second time in 5 years was a bonus and then a flock of 5 Redwing flew in, obviously looking for an easy meal. The female Brambling was also paying a visit accompanied by up to 30 Chaffinches, although there was no sign of the male.

Female Brambling

Female Brambling


Female Siskin
The weather this week, whilst not snowing, has still been extremely wintery and consequently the bird numbers have still been pretty high. 16 Reed Buntings is a new garden record and there are still 35+ Chaffinches visiting regularly. This week though saw the return of the male Brambling, starting to show brighter plumage detail, although he is still not in breeding plumage as his head would be completely black and his bill would also be fully black. Still a beautiful bird though.

Male Brambling

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Thetford Otter

Thetford in Norfolk is the fictional town of Walmington-on-Sea, the setting for the T.V. programme Dad's Army, but it is now famous for something more up my street, otters. Wild Eurasian Otters have been seen using the river that runs through the town since last year and are remarkably confident around humans. Sightings are unbelievable and reliable and as I have only seen one wild otter in my life before, yesterday was the day that I decided to change that.

The day dawned bright, but as is usual at the moment, distinctly chilly, but Lisa and I pressed on with our planned trip. On arrival at the site, outside Argos and a rather run down shopping centre, several photographers were seen, but no otters. A walk along the river produced nothing other than a Muntjac deer and a rather large rat and so we decided to have some lunch, meeting numerous people with tales of how marvellous the otters are and how well they were showing a while ago, great! After lunch we walked the other way along the river, reaching a dam/weir with people pointing and looking and photographing something. Lisa saw it first (she always does!), an otter was coming our way! Swimming nonchalantly past us, checking us out as it went, stopping occasionally to mark its' territory and making its' way along the river. I could not believe what I was watching, a wild otter, not four feet away from me, these animals are supposed to be timid, aren't they? We watched this animal for a while, we saw it catching a few fish and leaping from the river like a dolphin! At one point it came out of the river and practically sat on my feet!

Unbelievable views of a really unbelievable animal.

Having a scratch!