My Old Stomping Ground

For a change of scene yesterday (6th) I walked around what, in the 1950’s, was a forbidden playground (‘over the lines’), now the eastern end of Attenborough Nature Reserve. Sand and gravel were still being extracted, barges ferrying the material to the works which have only very recently been demolished to make way for a housing development known as Chaucer Mews which doesn’t sound like ‘affordable’ housing to me. The ponds resulting from the extraction process are pretty much as I remember them as a youngster but the banks and islands have greened up considerably.

A solitary moorhen makes its way across this secluded pond.

A mallard pauses in its own ‘ring of bright water’. It is probably a male having moulted its distinctive plumage and entered the eclipse season. A pair of cygnets feed under the watchful eyes of both parents.

This bumble bee was to busy gathering nectar from some rather splendid thistles alongside the River Trent.

If it had not moved I might have missed this tiny (2cm) toad on the path. It was taking advantage of the damp weather I am sure.

This year I have become more aware of the succession of wild flowers as the weeks go by. Rosebay willow herb (left) has the alternative name ‘bomb weed’ from its propensity to rapidly colonise bomb sites during the 2nd world war. The right hand picture shows yarrow, one of the smaller ‘umbellifers’ (like cow parsley, hogweed etc.) and the mauve heads of knapweed.

In an English Urban Garden ……..

Today it’s indoor birdwatching looking through the window with camera handy. These were all taken in the garden over the last few days.

A bedraggled bluetit and a likewise great tit rain soaked or moulting after a busy breeding season. I can’t say I have seen any baby tits through.

Sunlight reveals multi colours in an adult starling and a juvenile stands tall. Someone seeing it on Twitter suggested that it wants to be a meerkat when it grows up.

You can tell this juvenile blackbird is a male from the black feathers developing from the tail end. It appears to be eating ants but by the way it is dancing about I think the ants are fighting back. A green woodpecker would have been in its element and impervious to any ant attacks (see blog post 15/06/2021).

I will always find room for a robin portrait. This one stands out well from the dark blue/purple background which is the out-of-focus foliage of our smoke bush.

Town and Country

The first Friday of July took me to an urban setting in search of a bird that chooses to live where we live or at least very close by. It’s one of our summer visitors the housemartin. The particular location is under eves of some shop premises in Beeston where I am informed they have nested for many years. The premises are up for sale and I hope the new owners don’t do anything to discourage them.

As far as I could tell only a couple of the nests seemed to be occupied which is not good news but typical of all hirundines (swallows, martins and swifts) this topsy turvey year we are having weather-wise. The adverse weather has not only affected them directly but also reduced the number of flying insects that they depend on.

The top two images appear to be of an adult bird sitting on eggs and the lower two are obviously of a couple of hungry babies. I took the second one from a video clip as the parent bird came in with food and off again in a few seconds. My reflexes are not good enough to capture that.

Despite the weather on Saturday I decided to go and check on the great crested grebe family. I soon spotted them in the vicinity of their now inundated nest with two chicks on mum’s back. I think I miscounted the other day when I thought there were three. I saw them being fed by the male bird but they were too far away for any clear shots. This is the best I could manage but you can clearly see the two ‘mint humbug’ stripes on the chicks.

A wren and a male reed bunting regaled me with their song as I walked through the reserve and surrounded by freshly washed greenery it felt good to be alive. 😎 😎 Never mind the weather. Enjoy the outdoors. There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing. 🙂 🙂

July, so far, at ANR

Small tortoiseshell butterfly posing on the greenery (nettles?). There is a large tortoiseshell butterfly but it is more or less extinct in the UK partly due Dutch Elm disease affecting its preferred food plant.

I took these photographs close to where I spotted the whitethroat chicks on Monday. I’m not sure whether they are of more than one bird or even whether they show adults or juveniles. The mossy, bare branches make an attractive natural perch. PS I am informed by someone from the RSPB (thanks!) via Twitter that it is a juvenile from the dark eye colouration. Adults tend to have more light brown pigment in the eye.

The great crested grebe nest that has attracted a lot of interest lately proved to be empty when I arrived but the family was still in the vicinity. I managed a few distant shots and I can just about make out three black and white chicks on the adults back. This means that all three eggs hatched and the chicks have overcome their first hurdle.

On the same pond as the grebes was a lone Cape ruddy shelduck (left). This rare, South African version has a distinctly darker head than the ordinary ruddy shelduck (right). Neither are seen very often locally.

The term ‘ruddy’ applied in this context refers to the orange/red colouration of this fine looking duck. It is an old word but with an impeccable ancestry. “….. when the Philistine (Goliath) looked about and saw David, he disdained him; for he was but a youth, and ruddy, and of a fair countenance.” 1 Samuel 17:42 King James Bible.

Initially I was somewhat disappointed to realise that the bird singing so sweetly on the highest branch of a hawthorn was a dunnock but the pictures turned out to be quite pleasing. Nearer ground level but also on a hawthorn, a female chaffinch seemed unperturbed by my presence allowing me to get some nice shots.

Calendar Bird for July

The Red Crested Pochard is a large diving duck. Its breeding habitat is lowland marshes and lakes in southern Europe and it extends from the steppe and semi-desert areas on the Black Sea to Central Asia and Mongolia, wintering in the Indian Subcontinent and Africa. It is somewhat migratory, and northern birds winter further south into north Africa. It is likely that flocks in the UK are mainly composed of escapees from wildfowl collections.

Calendar picture, taken in Wollaton Park, Nottingham.

Only the male has the distinctive red head and bright red bill. In winter, along with some other duck species the male loses his distinctive plumage and looks similar to the female, while retaining the red bill (lower right hand image). This state is known as ‘eclipse’. Another feature also retained by the eclipsed male is the red eye. Bright plumage is restored in time for the spring breeding season.

The ducklings look similar to many other species but seeing them in a family group is a certain way of identification. These ducklings appear to be developing different bill colours already.

The common pochard also shows sexual dimorphism and the triangular shaped head is a distinctive feature. It widely distributed across Europe and Asia but most breeding birds are found in the UK and Western Europe. In some countries populations are declining due to habitat loss and, regrettably, hunting! 😦 😦

Baby Booming at ANR

I joined other birdwatchers this morning at Attenborough Nature Reserve to check on the great crested grebe family that I first became aware of on Saturday.

A second chick has hatched and both are clearly being well looked after. I expect that if and when the third egg hatches they will move to a less exposed position.

Walking back to the car park along the main path and studying the verges on both sides I caught sight of a couple of baby whitethroat on some bare branches (first image). Over the next few minutes I saw three of these little beauties and managed to get some delightful portraits. Particularly pleasing is the way a triangle of branches frames the birds in the first and last images. I hope you enjoy these as much as I do. 🙂

All creatures great and small (at ANR)

First something great. Great news that this pair of great crested grebe have successfully hatched their first egg. Top left the sitting bird is feeding the baby a feather which is believed to help pellet formation of indigestible matter. In the bottom image the chick is being fed with a suitably small fish.

At the other end of the scale I had to tread carefully to avoid these tiny froglets as I was walking along the paths.

It makes a real change to see a wader of any kind in the ridge and furrow field designed to attract them. These are rather distant views of a green sandpiper which I am informed is nesting nearby. In the left hand image I was pleased to spot some purple loosestrife beginning to colour up. It is a common sight on shallow, sandy islands and brings back pleasant memories of the nature reserves I have visited over the years.

After many a try I was pleased to get a reasonable shot of a common tern in flight.

Also view these and further images on Twitter hashtag #beestonbirdman

Curlicues – Twisted Birds

Just for fun I have been exploring some of the lesser used options available in my favourite photo editing program, Paintshop Pro Ultimate. Under the Distortion Effects option I chose Curlicues which gave some pleasing results. See if you can identify the birds in these examples.

A Morning at ANR

I would describe the weather on my morning walk around Attenborough Nature Reserve as breezy but bright. I saw no new birds but more than the usual number of little egrets.

Little egret showing its extraordinary yellow foot and a lesser black backed gull, also with yellow footwear, which distinguishes it from its great cousin.

Mute swan cygnets growing well.

I am presuming these magnificent cattle have been introduced to the reserve for conservation grazing. Hopefully we might get some cattle egrets too.

Weekend Wandering at ANR

I had the opportunity to visit Attenborough Nature Reserve (ANR) twice this weekend and egrets great and small featured each time.

Great white egret doing the Hokey Kokey. “You put your left foot out, your right foot out and shake it all about …………” 🙂

This grouping shows unusual toleration of close proximity of three members of the heron family. More than once I have seen a heron driving a great white egret away from its fishing spot.

Preening those hard to get at places is easy when you have a long, flexible neck.

I saw two pairs of Egyptian goslings at very different stages of development this morning (Sun).

On a smaller scale on our early evening walk yesterday (Sat) a red admiral butterfly posed for us on some cow parsley. I have not seen many butterflies this year so it was a welcome sight. I managed to get a clear shot of a damsel fly on a grass stalk. Because it was not bright blue I assumed it was a female but an internet search makes me think it could be another damsel fly species. Click on the image to see some incredible detail. If anyone has expertise in this area please get in touch.