Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Little Bunting at Great Barford

When twitching works its a great way to spend a morning. An hour to the site. Easy to find because others have given very good directions, some "will-it-won't-it" tension, then views as good as you could ever wish for, some excellent conversation and back home.

Directions: - look up Great Barford on google maps - its near the A1. Park by the church - there's sufficient parking just off the road. Walk back to the bridge, then along the north-west Great Barford  side of the river for a few fields until you reach a small copse with a bridge viewable in about 50 yards. If you get to the bridge you have gone too far.

I got there this morning and two chaps from the West Midlands were looking forlorn. The tractor had just gone through and ploughed the seed area. No birds. We were going to give up when some Reed Buntings appeared, and then the Little Bunting. Here it is.

It showed all the features, some of which you can see here (black border to cheek patch, fine black markings on white breast, fine straight-edged bill). It even called when it flew.

We spent time looking at the Reed Buntings too. They were each as different to each other as the Little Bunting was from them, but all were bigger, had thicker brown streaks on the breast, and didn't have the full black cheek ring.

Bring on the next twitch!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Spring arrives on the patch

Today was undeniably Spring. Not in the birds - a chiffchaff singing was not the first of the spring, and there was nothing particularly Spring about the unusually showy Little Owl, the Kingfisher, the three pairs of Shoveler on the pond, but the two singing Cetti's Warblers including one actually seen well were signs of Spring, as was a pair of Canada Geese in a field.

It was the number of insects that really signalled spring. A brief sight of what I am sure was a Tawny Mining Bee, a Brimstone Butterfly, a Peacock butterfly, and a comma, and around 10 different bumble bees which as far as I could see were all Buff-Tailed Bees. Some hoverflies hovering, and then finally a buzzing hawthorn tree turned out to be alive with Honey Bees. It's all happening on the patch!

Sunday, March 05, 2017

A new and impressive list for 2017.

I've got a new list for 2017. Here it is:

  • Common Crane
  • Great White Egret
  • Goshawk
  • Black Brant
  • Rosy Starling
  • Richard's Pipit
  • Cattle Egret
Quite impressive I think. Yes, as you have no doubt worked out by now, this is a list of the birds I've dipped so far this year. Criteria are that the bird was seen either on the day or both before and after, and from a place where I've been and could reasonably have expected to see it if it popped up in front of me.

This weekend in Weymouth was a particularly good one for the list. No sign of the Rosy Starling in Dorchester, I went to Abbotsbury and was informed a Richard's Pipit had been seen well on a dry stone wall and then on a bush. Nothing. I bumped into four people who told me the Starling had eventually appeared in Dorchester. I went back - nothing, although I did see a lady walking her dogs who showed me a photo of the bird in her garden on her phone (for clarity the photo of the Starling was on the phone, not a photo of the Starling on the phone). well at least I had a couple of bankers at Portland Bill - Purple Sandpiper and Short-Eared Owl. Yep no sign of them either.

Back to Abbotsbury this morning - nothing, then back to Dorchester - nothing. Although I did see the lady and her dogs again.

The thing about this is I still quite enjoyed my birding, although not as much as if I'd actually seen any of the birds I guess. I'm still mulling over what that means about the value I attach to seeing rarities.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Local Little Egret

Little Egrets are the Collared Doves of my generation. A bird imprinted on our minds as a scarce sought-after rarity. so when one turned up in the stream at the bottom of my road I got the camera out.

The stream, complete with passing post van. 
The Egret. It was stirring up the bed with its foot, no doubt hoping to dislodge some prey. It has been seen to eat a couple of items of prey.
Its had enough and decides to go up the bank ...
... and wait for a bus.
No bus, so it flew into a nearby tree.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Patch outing

A cold frosty morning with low numbers of birds, so time spent on some "art" photography.

A Little Owl flew into the old oak tree in the big field after some hassle from a Jackdaw. I've often looked for this species in that tree so nice to see it there today, even if just briefly.

A Little Grebe below Feakes Lock was new for the year. Some good views of three Bullfinch, but typically tucked away in undergrowth made photography challenging.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Bee ID

2017 hasn't really got going yet for me. So here's a photo of a bee from last year. It is here so I can link to it from another ID site that seems to have various size and format limits. I think it may be a cuckoo bee so any views on this will be gratefully received.

Longish abdomen, yellow on the flanks, no pollen, possibly Gypsy Cuckoo Bee or Vestal Cuckoo Bee?


This has been confirmed as a Cuckoo Bee, either Vestal or Gypsy. In which case I probably saw quite a lot of these last summer. There are various explanations of things to look for including both anatomical features and behaviour, but for me the abdomen seemed quite long and distinctive.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Patch 2016 - final thoughts

This year saw a quite intensive watch of the patch. Many of the highlights are in the previous posts but the first Red Kite for the patch – seen three times- and breeding Sparrowhawk deserve a mention.

Even so, given the first half of the year and the history of birds on the patch, the second half was a bit of a disappointment. A bit like your favourite football team holding on to win 2-1 having been 2-0 up at half time. Some birds were noteable by their absence – no Whinchat, Redstart, or Wheatear. No unusual ducks on the pond, despite all the UK dabbling ducks having been seen here in the past. And there were some absences of a more serious nature. Yellow Wagtail, which used to breed over the railway line, not seen once. Grasshopper Warbler, which a few years ago bred at four sites along this stretch at the valley including the patch, now reduced to one possibly two sites. The decline of these trans-saharan migrants continues.

Despite this, my enthusiasm remained undimmed during the year. There was something very relaxing about heading off for a couple of hours catching up on events on the patch. An influx of Blackbirds in December. Stonechat relocated slightly down river beyond Pishiobury Park. Two thousand Woodpigeons in the air at once.

The reality of the patch is that there are wildlife stories everywhere. The seasonal ebb and flow brings drama on every trip. So next year, even if it’s a rarity-free zone, I will be out searching for the next story from the patch.

Just to illustrate the point, here’s a picture from the garden. Its some blackfly, with some Ants in attendance. Why are the ants there? Its in the section under ecology here.