A four legged friend, a four legged friend ………

I’m prompted to post another blog on a rainy Sunday by a couple of four legged visitors.

While the Sunday lunch was in the oven I sat at my work station/observation point checking emails etc. when a movement caught my eye under bird feeder. I expected to see a small brown bird like a sparrow or dunnock but it was this lovely wood mouse. Quite small it looked like a tiny kangaroo ferreting out any dropped seed that the pigeons hadn’t snaffled.

Around the same time the previous day, which nice and sunny, Henry Hedgehog paid another visit. I put some catfood out which he soon found. A magpie was hanging around to share his meal, even attempting to snatch a morsel (without success). Don’t you think it looks a bit disappointed at the licked clean plate.

A long tailed tit posed on the feeder ‘tree’ in the sunshine. The blue blobs in the background are flowers on our ceanothus which has burst into bloom again, in the wrong season.

As Saturday looked like the brightest day we are likely to see for several days I took a short walk down ANR. Saw a buzzard on its customary telegraph pole and this dunnock on a fence post. It was unconcerned as I approached within a metre and flew off a few moments after I took these close-ups. LBJs (little brown jobs) always deserve a detailed look.

Finally, also at ANR, a cormorant drying its wings on one of the marker buoys belonging to the sailing club. I’m inclined to caption it, “Come in No.5, your time is up.” Some birding news – A bittern has been sighted on the reserve (Friday). I look forward to seeing one again not having observed one locally for some years.

The Rutting Season is upon us.

After several postponements I finally made it to Wollaton Park on this sunny Friday.

The red deer stags were displaying their splendid antlers and bellowing their dominance. Most of their hinds were gathered together grazing or resting in the shade but I spotted this lone hind poking its head above the bracken just as I was leaving the park. That’s what you call Hindsight 🙂

In the formal garden I caught sight of a jay busily filling its bulging crop with what looks like nuts of some kind. I never tire of seeing these colourful members of the Corvid family.

Braving a cold east wind at the western edge of the lake I hoped to catch sight of some of the rose ringed parakeets but I had an equally good view of a great spotted woodpecker making its way into a nest hole. Presumably it was also getting out of the wind.

On the border of the golf course on Lime Tree Avenue these fungi stood out in the sunlight. I’ve no idea what they are but I thought the looked rather interesting and they made a nice composition with the fallen autumn leaves as a backdrop.

Finally, having enhanced the garden feeding station by adding some more tree branches earlier in the week I was pleased to have these two sweeties posing for me soon afterwards.

“We only get pigeons!”

If I had a pound for every time someone says “We only get pigeons!” when I try engage them in my passion for birding I might have had enough to fill the car with petrol. Nevertheless pigeons are considered a nuisance in public areas and we are discouraged from feeding them. If that had been the rule on Trafalgar Square in 1964 then Mary Poppins would have needed a serious re-write. ‘Feed the Birds, tuppence a bag?” I don’t think so. But this much maligned species deserves a closer look.

This week I have added some more tree branches to the feeding station to make more natural looking perches for photographing the birds. The users so far have been mostly pigeons but if you take a closer look at them the variety and beauty of their plumage may surprise you. These are all Feral pigeons. It is only in the last few years that many of them have ventured into the garden, possibly as a result of the discouragement of feeding in public places. Even in this small sample you can spot some differences.

These are all feral pigeon visitors to our garden. I have seen one with the light brown colouring from time to time but this week two identical ones paid a visit (top left). I posted this image on Twitter (@beestonbirdman) where it generated quite a lot of interest. The commonest colouration is the all over grey plumage in various shades with patches of green and purple sheen. I see apure white example only rarely.

These are Stock Doves which are much less common than feral pigeons. With overall grey/blue plumage and their trademark iridescent green patch these birds usually arrive in the garden in ones and twos.

Two views of a Wood Pigeon. The second image was taken today on our newly installed luxury bird table. They are generally a bit plumper than the other ‘pigeons’ and, in the mature birds, the white collar is a distinctive feature.

The Collared Dove is the last of the ‘pigeons’ in this posting. A more delicate member of the family like the stock dove it tends to be seen in ones and twos. The plumage is a soft blend of buff and grey with some dark feathers on the wing. The black collar is a defining feature of this lovely bird.

I hope this posting has made you think twice and look closer when you see one of these birds rather than dismissing them all with “It’s only a pigeon!” Another distinguishing feature of this family of birds can be found by looking at the eye. Some of them are very different. Can you match these eyes to the correct bird? I’ve hidden the answers in one of the pictures above. 😎

Making the most of the fine weather

For a number of days recently one or two starlings have chosen a neighbour’s TV ariel for an early morning warm up.

Following a tipoff that the Egyptian geese at Highfields had produced a very late brood I paid a visit on Sunday afternoon (10/10). I would not have seen them had not the parent bird stood up to usher them away as I approached. I didn’t get too close but managed a couple of shots of the four bundles of fluff. I’m not sure they will survive if the weather gets cold soon.

However the young great crested grebe I have been following since the spring are still looking very good, especially in these reflective views.

Some pollinating insects are still around as well as dragonflies and the odd butterfly. This is the hoverfly Eristalis Pertinax  that I blogged a few days ago looking sharp on these lovely tansy pompoms drinking in the afternoon sun.

Finally, pausing in my way out of ANR today (11/10) I took a few shots of the lapwings and then noticed a snipe probing the mud for something edible. This is a short VIDEO CLIP showing what happened when it got too close to a lapwing.

Mish Mash Medley

It has been a real bonus to get out and enjoy nature in the current spell of fine weather in the garden, on the street and at Attenborough Nature Reserve. The softer, autumn sunlight illuminates without washing out the detail making for better photography. Long may it last!

Our Michaelmas daisies have excelled themselves this autumn. Bumble bee, honey bee and small white butterfly enjoying this late source of sustenance.

A couple of robins, a plump looking chaffinch and a great tit in a hurry. The first and last images were on or about a permanent bird table at ANR at the Beeston end, very near to where I spent the first 16 years of my life. As the temperatures fall I hope to get a variety of bird portraits at this location – especially nuthatches.

Female common hawker dragonfly sunning itself on the concrete flood barrier at ANR and a rather bizarre looking moth I saw a few weeks ago on the bathroom tiles. It was quite tiny and its legs remind me of barbed wire. It is straddling the grout between the tiles which gives an idea of the scale. I liberated it outside. I learn from Twitter that it is a plume moth, a new one for me.

A couple of female teal resting on a rock and a little egret walking on water.

Which would you choose for your desktop background, a rear view or a still view?

Attenborough Assortment

Some pictures from my afternoon visit to ANR yesterday (06/10).

After spending a pleasant hour or so in the Kingfisher Hide I gave up waiting for a kingfisher to show itself and decided to move on. Just by the entrance activity around a Tansy plant caught my eye. The butterfly is a Small Copper which I have only seen once before. I thought bees were also taking advantage of this late source of nectar but in fact it is a hoverfly. Bees have two pairs of wings but this insect has only a single pair. I think it is Eristalis Pertinax (according to t’internet).

While watching the insects on the tansy plant a conjoined pair of common hawker dragon flies settled on a nearby bush (left). They will have mated and this action is to prevent other males muscling in on the female. Shortly afterwards I saw male common darter sunning itself on top of a five bar gate (right).

As it was less windy than of late some smaller birds were showing themselves. I saw a wren on the inside of a bush, a lovely male chaffinch tempted by some seeds onto a fence post and a handsome dunnock perched on a rock in the car park.

No apologies for showing a bit more grebe action. An adult was being harassed by one of its offspring begging for food. It did receive one or two fish while I was watching despite black headed gulls attempting to snatch them.

One of this pair of little grebes may be the one I reported previously. It was nice to see them both together, especially when Mrs decided to have a bathe (and give her mate a shower).

Despite being much less colourful than her gaudy mate this hen pheasant has intricately patterned plumage. As with many ground nesting birds the female’s subdued colouration serves as camouflage when sitting on eggs or chicks.

A couple of maturing mute swans peacefully feeding together seen from the second screen along the main path. I’ve Tweeted this as Tranquillity.

Attenborough Remainder

Some pictures from my walk around ANR yesterday that didn’t fit into the Birds on the Wing category,

Wild rose in a hedgerow. This is a picture I have not felt the need to enhance or crop.

Little and large diving birds. I was pleased to get a closer view of this little grebe. The eye of the cormorant is like an emerald.

Not all the black headed gulls were wind surfing. These were showing off their red bills and legs in the sunshine.

I spent some time by this bird table at the Beeston end of the reserve hoping for a nuthatch to show up. I’ll try again when it’s a bit colder and the birds appreciate some supplementary food. This great tit looks as if ie waiting its turn to tuck into the sunflower hearts.

Birds on the Wing

The weather on my visit to Attenborough this morning (04/10) was bright but breezy so I had to hang on to my hat.

A flock of black headed gulls enjoying riding the wind above a tall willow. You can judge the strength of the wind by the angle of the top branches. They only get the full black head (dark brown actually) as mature adults in the breeding season.

From the bridge on the main path I saw a pair of mute swans coming in to land but only managed a shot of one just before splashdown. It actually landed under the bridge beneath me.

The area in front of the Kingfisher Hide has been cleared allowing much better views of the wildlife. Seeing this grey heron from a distance making for the shallows in front of me I had time to get in a couple of action shots. I am particularly pleased with the landing picture, where it’s fanning out its tail as an air brake,

Finally, but actually my first picture from this visit, I heard a robin chirruping away in a tree. Holding out my hand with some sunflower hearts tempted it down twice to grab a seed. It barely landed for more than a fraction of a second hence the blurred image but as the season’s first I was somewhat chuffed.

Sunny Sights for a Soggy Saturday

Took advantage of a window in the wet weather yesterday (01/10) to visit Attenborough Nature Reserve again. Swans seem more numerous this year.

I hoped to see some snipe and the water rail at this spot but these lapwing were an acceptable substitute. The sheen on their wing feathers is an attractive feature. The one in the middle is taking a bath.

A couple of Caspian gulls have been reported on the reserve for several weeks. I am fairly sure that this is the immature one. I wasn’t particularly looking for it but I saw this large bird jump a few feet above the water and then dive head first to catch crayfish. It is not obvious but the water is quite shallow at this point and the prey was snatched from the bottom. If the ID is confirmed this will be a lifetime first.

A lesser black backed gull also caught a crayfish at almost the same location.

Wigeon and a little grebe in the afternoon sun seen from the Kingfisher hide.

Earlier in the week a magpie feeding on cones in my neighbour’s cedar tree.

Finally, Henry Hedgehog has visited several times this week. We put some catfood out for him this morning. I am a bit concerned that he is around in daylight. I presume he is fattening up for hibernation.

Whooper Swan – Bird of the Month

The whooper swan is mainly a winter visitor to the UK from Iceland. This is a lone individual I saw at Attenborough Nature Reserve in January last year.

Only once before have I seen whooper swans at ANR and that was this distant view of a small flock of six in March 2018. In the UK they are mainly confined to the Severn Estuary and East Anglia. The name arises from its noisy, whooping call.

This is an example of the similar Bewick’s swan. It was named in 1830 by naturalist & author William Yarrell after the engraver Thomas Bewick, who specialised in birds and animal illustrations. They are also winter visitors to the UK, migrating from eastern Russia. The Bewick’s swan is smaller than the whooper swan and has more black colouring on the bill. Image and information from Wikipedia.

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The differences between the three species is most marked in the head shape and bill markings.