Sunday, 27 December 2009

Winter here and there

Window view of birds snow and hills

The long snowy spell for the last week or so has been beautiful, although a bit treacherous at times. The number of birds outside our kitchen window has increased dramatically, going from 2 blackbirds initially to about 10 once word had got around; there were 4 robins and 10 starlings, some standing on top of each other. We've had to put out prodigious amounts of seeds and peanuts, as well as keep the water bowls free of ice - and bread at times. A red squirrel visited us a couple of times.

Festive StarlingRed SquirrelBlackbird on frozen wireSnowy mounds with tracksBare snowy branches reach skyward

The view towards High Street and Haweswater has been amazing:
Snowy view to Haweswater and High Street

Hazy snowy viewBreak in clouds
Bare snowy branches reach skywardSnow wall

Viv and I made a couple of snow robins, although it looks very bloody:

Sentinel snow robin

On short walks towards Knipe Scar, we've seen lapwings and fieldfares by the small streams nearby, along with a grey wagtail. The stonechat high in the ash tree confused us initially as these aren't normally so high. Further on we saw fallow deer nipping away through the woods, and interesting tracks through the snow.
LapwingGrey WagtailStonechat high in ash treeDeer in woodTracks in snowTracks in snow

Can you suggest a caption for the photo of this wren underneath a large rook's nest?
Is this my nest?

We found time for the odd snowball, but quite powdery snow so it didn't hurt, though cold going down your neck.
Snowball fight

Can you see why this local feature is called "the eyebrows": The Eyebrows

After being out, we've treated ourselves to some pancakes, made using soya milk and no eggs as normal:

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Leighton Moss birds, 8 Dec 2009

Bearded tits Us, the volunteers at the RSPB Haweswater reserve today had an end of year trip down to Leighton Moss, just outside Cumbria, driven and lunched by our knowledgeable RSPB staffers Spike and Dave. OK - it was a Christmas trip.

We got a treat with Bearded tits, a Cetti's warbler, Marsh tits, side-by-side Redshank and Spotted Redshank, and a Kingfisher to finish off - with clear December visibility while the light lasted.


Walking towards the Public Hide, we soon heard Water rails' unusual shrieking, almost like a bird of prey. About 10 Bearded Tits were coming to the grit trays by the footpath. The others identified a Cetti's warbler by the path - I got a glimpse of the cocked tail, a bit like a Wren but much bigger. A pair of reed buntings also came down to the path.

Ear fungus There wasn't a vast array on the water at the Public Hide, but plenty of Coots and Tufted duck, with a cormorant going overhead. The path round through the trees to the Lower Hide was plentiful, with a first for me, Marsh tits, and 3 Treecreepers, Bullfinch, Goldfinch, Robin, Chaffinch, Great tit, Siskin, Blue tit and Long-tailed tit, with some plentiful ear fungus and candle snuff fungus.

At the Lower Hide, we saw Gadwall close up, Teal, Wigeon, Greylag geese, Cormorant and a Black-headed gull. On the way back to some large cakes we picked up some Spindle red fruit.

Spotted and common Redshank Kingfisher In the afternoon we headed round to the "salt water" hides Allen and Eric Morecambe, the latter sloping downwind. There was a ringed Raven but we couldn't get a close view. Lots of Lapwing were a delight. Spike spotted a Spotted Redshank and we were able to see it right beside an ordinary Redshank as a good comparison: longer straighter bill and longer legs. There was also Shelduck, Shoveler, Pintail, Mute Swan, Greenshank and Gray Heron. "It's all about birds of prey" said Dave, unsuccessfully scanning all the visible fenceposts - though we finished off with fine views of a Kingfisher on close-by fence-posts.

Little Egrets On the way back we parked in a nearby layby to view the starlings. Only a few were seen, but we were rewarded with lots of Little Egrets like cotton wool in a distant tree coming into roost - after a while they moved more into the tree undergrowth. I estimated by 30 but Spike insists that flocks are always undercounted, so it could have been more.

Grey heron