Equinox – Autumn is here

All of the pictures in this posting are from my trip on ‘Equinox’ day to Wollaton Park, a short, free (for me) bus ride away from home. Firstly some history of the park.

In the 15th century Henry Willoughby moved his ancestral home to Wollaton from his namesake village in south Nottinghamshire, Willoughby-on-the-Wolds, to exploit the coal deposits there. Mining continued until the middle of the 20th century but a ‘hill’ of coal was left under the Hall to preserve it from subsidence.

The Park was created at the beginning of the 19th century by another Henry Willoughby, 6th Baron Middleton. This involved the construction of a 7 mile brick wall and the destruction of the village of Sutton Passeys. The estate was taken into public ownership in the 20th century. The names of two nearby roads reflect its story, i.e. Sutton Passeys Crescent and Middleton Boulevard (part of Nottingham Ring Road).

The park is home to over 200 wild red and fallow deer. I think this is a red deer hind. The rutting season is almost upon us and notices warn visitors to stay well clear during the rut and when the young are born in the spring. Many of the trees in the park appear to be trimmed very neatly on the underside of the canopy. This is as a result of browsing by the deer who can only reach up so far.

My main reason for visiting the park was to see if I could spot the rose ringed parakeets that have taken up residence. I had to wait a good while at the west end of the lake to see them and I only managed a couple of acceptable pictures. Perhaps I will get better views when there are fewer leaves on the tree.

Great crested grebe have occupied me more than any other species this year. Since getting a new PC in the spring and adopting a new system of cataloguing my pictures I have stored over 80 separate images of these beautiful birds. Above are some shots of the grebe family of four resident on the lake. The bottom left image shows one of the adults powering along with its neck stretched out close to the water. This looks like part of the pair bonding ritual that I would not expect to see before next spring. Perhaps it was practising.

This is a video clip of an immature mute swan exercising its wings in preparation for that first flight. For some reason a sibling took exception. Maybe it was jealous.

September so far …………..

Here is a selection of wildlife images taken during this week at Attenborough (ANR) and Highfields (University Park).

These Canada geese announced their arrival with much honking so I had ample time to prepare for this action shot. (ANR)

See at ANR on different days. A great spotted woodpecker perched on a power pole and a green woodpecker sharing a hawthorn bush with a magpie. Neither seemed bothered by the other bird.

First blackcap of the year taken across the railway lines from ANR. This is a female. Only the male has the eponymous black cap. This could be a juvenile or a returning migrant.

Two ‘L’ birds. A little egret having a good scratch at Highfields and a lapwing in the sun at ANR.

Finally a hoverfly seen at ANR today (1st image) and one of the same species I saw in our garden mini pond in July. I put out a query on Twitter and received this reply: One of the Helophilus species, probably Helophilus pendulus. They are widespread and sometimes known colloquially as The Footballer. No information was forthcoming about the team that fields this black and yellow strip. 🙂

Autumn Colours

For some reason this year I have become more aware of the changes in plants and wildlife as the seasons unfold, despite the rather erratic weather. Today I noticed that our Michaelmas daisies have started to flower, a reminder of many a harvest festival and we picked the last few apples and pulled the final rhubarb this week.

We have two colours of Michaelmas daisies. This is the deeper blue variety. Also our sedum plants are gradually showing their colour. Along with ivy flowers, sedums are a valuable late source of nectar for pollinating insects.

You may not recognise these images as red hot pokers (Kniphofia) but the flowers this year have been on the big side and recent rainfall made them top heavy and keel over into this rather pleasing shape. In the second picture a hoverfly is taking advantage of any remaining nectar.

Finally, the harebells that grow in the crevices of our driveway continue display their delicate blue bells and the hop vine that we share with our neighbour is in full flower. Anyone for home brew?

Bathing Beauties at the Beeston Birdman Spa

I may be a lone voice in the wilderness but I welcomed the prolonged rainfall in my locality yesterday (14th Sept). I didn’t need to water the bedding plants or top up our mini pond and the birds appreciate the water that gathers on our flat roof. From time to time grey wagtails drop in to feed on the tiny insects trapped on the surface. I am able to get some pleasing candid camera shots from the bedroom window.

These two grey wagtails paid a visit in February 2020, just before the first lockdown!

A flock of goldfinches, including some juveniles made a splash on the roof in May this year.

A male blackbird availed himself of the rooftop facilities in October 2016 and a juvenile dries off on the lawn after a dip in the birdbath in June 2014.

The birdbath gets a lot of use so I need to keep it topped up, especially in dry weather. A pair of bluetits share a bath, a bedraggled juvenile sparrow has clearly had a thorough bathe and, very unusually, a willow warbler popped in for a wash and blow dry August 2018.

Our garden birdbath in clear view of my usual workstation from where I took these shots of starlings. I’m not sure if the bird in the last image is pleased or disappointed. 🙂 🙂 🙂

Wonderful Wildlife

A selection of wildlife spots seen at Attenborough Nature Reserve over the last few days starting with a video clip of a Black Tailed Godwit.

It was good to see a different wader in the ridge & furrow field. The black tailed godwit is a medium sized wader with a long bill for probing the mud for small crustaceans etc. I can’t recall seeing one before at ANR. In the video clip it appears to have difficulty walking, preferring to hop or jump. I suspect it has an injured foot.

From the Tower Hide I observed this heron also feeding in the ridge & furrow field.

The following day another heron’s catch makes the first heron’s seem very small fry.

Cormorants (top left) often take this somewhat vampire like stance to dry their wings after diving for fish. If their feathers were waterproof (like ducks for example) the air trapped within their plumage would make them too buoyant for diving. An unusual spot at ANR was a shelduck (top right) again in the ridge & furrow area. It was quite distant so I have used a picture taken elsewhere in better conditions. It was good to see a flock of wigeon, an advance party of the autumn/winter migrants.

Finally something on a smaller scale. A female common darter dragonfly resting on a reed leaf was seen from the kingfisher hide and a long legged spider on a grass stalk alongside the main path.

Creatures with two, four, six and eight legs (08/09)

A selection of creatures great and small from the garden and Attenborough Nature Reserve, Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust.

Video clip of snipe feeding.

I was pleased to observe a couple of snipe feeding on the mudflat opposite the Kingfisher Hide at ANR. The video clip (top) shows how busily they were foraging.

Also with two legs a grey heron having a good stretch and allowing the sun to reach its underwings. This may be a strategy to remove parasites.

I have observed similar sunbathing behaviour in the garden by dunnock and blackbirds. They do look a bit comical don’t they.

I have often commented on the paucity of waders in the ridge & furrow field at ANR but this is my first sighting of a four legged one. It is one of several rather splendid looking cattle introduced to the reserve for conservation grazing at which they are passed masters. The improvement in areas where they have grazed is very clear. I have included this shot to show that the grey heron only looks tall in comparison to some wildlife.

I’ve been busy in the garden with macro setting again. I’ve seen shield bugs before but this bright green one is new to me as is the hoverfly with whiteish rather than yellow stripes. The last image is clearly a fly but I still waiting for an ID. Has anyone any suggestions? UPDATE. I am informed via Twitter that the last images is a male Great Pied Hoverfly (Volucella pellucens). The females are more tubby & look a bit like bees. It lays its eggs inside the nests of wasps and bees where the larvae scavenge.

If you are an arachnophobe you may want to skip this section.

This rather splendid spider has been on this teasel head in the garden for several days and has clearly been successful in trapping prey. In the first image it looks like it’s snared a small hoverfly.

PS re Surprising September

The picture of the lesser black backed gull in the last posting is actually the first frame of a video clip. Just click on the image and that will take you to beestonbirdman.blog where you can view the clip. I think WordPress have updated the software to make the image the link rather than a url. I will make it clear in future postings which pictures are linked to videos.

Surprising September – 04/09/2021

What I enjoy most about wildlife watching is the element surprise. You never know what you might see looking out of the window or walking round a nature reserve or even along the street. All you have to do to get lucky is to lookee!

One pleasant surprise on Friday (03/09) was to see a long tailed tit visiting the feeders along with some great tits and bluetits. Perhaps the onset of autumn is reducing the availability of ‘natural’ food so we might see more birds visiting the garden feeders.

A juvenile blackbird also popped in for a rootle around the lawn. His adult feathers are gradually displacing the brown infant plumage starting from the tail. He will soon be all black.

Perhaps another sign that the birdlife is looking for some supplementary feeding is the eagerness of these chaffinches (among others) to come for the sunflower hearts I scattered on a walk down Attenborough.

From the Kingfisher hide at ANR a fellow bird watcher pointed out this large gull catching and eating crayfish. It is a lesser black backed gull. Apart from its size it is distinguished from the great black backed gull by its yellow legs and feet and the grey colour of its upper wings. The great black backed gull, which is the largest member of the gull family, has pink legs and black upper wings.

Also from the Kingfisher hide I was watching this little grebe repeatedly diving for food. It was some distance away and the light was poor so only when reviewing the photos afterwards did I see that it too had caught a crayfish.

This female mallard caught my eye near the visitor centre because of its unusually light colouration. It then started elaborate ablutions. I’ve arranged these shots as a sequence of Hokey Kokey moves ……… You stick your left wing out, your right wing out, your left wing out and you shake it all about ………………………. etc. 🙂 🙂 🙂

Curlew, the Calendar Bird for September

Curlews belong to a group of nine species characterised by mottled brown plumage and a long downturned bill used for probing soft ground or mud for their prey. This is a Eurasian curlew spotted at Rutland Water in January 2020. It is the largest UK wader, about the size of a female pheasant. They can be seen in a variety of habitats such as upland moors and farmland as well as shorelines and mudflats. Their call, once heard, is quite distinctive. Search ‘curlew call’ for examples but bear in mind any ringtones offered may not be true to life. 🙂

These are some of my other sightings from various locations but I have yet to see one in my local area. They are not that common in my experience in fact they are a declining species so we need to support organisations like the RSPB and the Wildlife Trusts in their conservation work.

Finally, a similar but smaller wader that I have seen locally is the whimbrel, which will feature in next year’s Wildlife Calendar by Beeston Birdman 😎

PS It’s ‘Blowing my own trumpet’ time again. I have had another contribution published in the Autumn edition of Birdwatching magazine.

Summery………

A miscellany of wildlife shots taken in the last few days of meteorological summer.

Grey heron in flight and roosting in a weeping willow at Attenborough Nature Reserve.

Some of this year’s mallard ducklings seem to have oversized bills and tufted ducks always seem to be smiling. I am pleased to report that the great crested grebes at Highfields are thriving.

I have re-discovered the macro setting on my camera enabling some closer shots.

Finally something silly courtesy of a Twitter contributor. This mixture of fruit and fowl is not unique! Don’t believe me? Ever heard of a Mandarin Duck? 😎