Monday, 6 November 2017

Tree Sparrows in Suffolk and a London Stopover

November 2nd and again I thought I could hear a firecrest calling in the back yard as I was about to leave the house for the walk to the railway station and the train journey to Ipswich to visit family. A quick look in the bushes and sure enough there was a firecrest feeding in the still leafy lilac tree next door before it flew off towards the park, a garden tick for me in what has been a firecrest autumn this year.

The train journey was hassle free and very pleasant with mostly sunny skies but occassional foggy patches. We travelled via Bristol and Swindon to London and so had good views of the Uffington white horse as we sped past and I managed good views too of many red kites between Swindon and London as they soared overhead in the sunny and calm conditions.

November 3rd and another sunny and calm day and so we drove out to Ampton in the Suffolk countryside on the way to the antiques and garden centre at nearby Risby. I visited Ampton back in 2015 where a feeding station attracted many tree sparrows to it and I wasn't disappointed again this time with tree sparrows easily seen on the feeders as soon as we arrived at the site. They were a little skittish and flighty but I managed some great views as they fed alongside greenfinch and goldfinch and a lone redpoll while a brown rat fed on the dropped seed underneath them.

 Tree Sparrow

 Tree Sparrows and Greenfinch

Tree Sparrows

I checked out the nearby fields where pheasents and red legged partridges were feeding but a scan through the chaffinches didn't reveal any bramblings. A flock of around 40 fieldfares flew over before doubling back and dropping down into the tree tops, surprisingly my first of 2017, and amongst them was a single redwing before they all flew off and disappeared from view.

We continued onwards towards Risby but stopped off along the way at Lackford Lakes, a Suffolk Wildlife Trust reserve that I have only briefly visited once before. We enjoyed hot chocolate and cake at the visitors centre, sitting outside on the benches and enjoying the warm sunshine while common darters flew around us before Mum and David headed off to Risby leaving me behind to explore the reserve.

Lackford Lakes

Lackford Lakes are like a rich mans Stover, a large site with a collection of lakes, reed beds, damp woodland and fields and numerous hides along the paths but without yummy mummies power walking their offspring in strollers and canine lovers emptying their dogs. There were however the ubiquitous photographers with massive camera lenses clogging up the hides with all their photographic equipment but I had a very enjoyable 90 minutes wandering around before Mum and David arrived to pick me up.

It was good to see numerous pochard out on the lakes, an increasingly rare sight here in Devon, along with tufted duck, teal, mallard, gadwall, shoveler, wigeon, a male goosander and 3 goldeneye (a male, a female and an immature male). Lapwing looked stunning in the sunshine and snipe showed very well feeding in the grassy and boggy areas, a marsh tit flew through the alders and a Cettis warbler belted out song in the wet undergrowth. A kingfisher was heard and greylag geese, Canada geese, coot, moorhen, a little egret, a grey heron, cormorant, a little grebe, lesser black backed gulls, 2 great crested grebes, a flyover buzzard and a yaffling green woodpecker were also noted before I had to leave but I was very impressed with the reserve and my sightings.

Immature Male Goldeneye

The next day was cold and grey and wet so no birding for me, instead we went Christmas shopping in Ipswich which was the joy it always is, and that evening we went to see Alison Moyet in concert at the Regent Theatre which was absolutely brilliant.

Sunday 5th November and it was time to head back to Plymouth by train but with a stopover in London for a few hours allowing me time to visit Hyde Park for some birding and David time to go shopping. It was another beautiful day with sunshine and blue skies but a biting cold breeze and I arrived at The Serpentine in Hyde Park at around 12:30. Unfortunately it was a sunny sunday and so the park was extra busy but I managed some good and close sightings despite the crowds and disturbance as the wildlife is quite used to us humans.

I quickly found 3 male and a female red crested pochard sleeping on the water underneath the overhanging tree branches on the opposite bank where I saw them back in 2014. They occassional woke up and looked around before going back to sleep as they floated around amongst pochard and tufted duck and a nice (plastic) year tick for me. Also on the water were mallard, shoveler, a pair of gadwall, a little grebe, 4 great crested grebe, cormorant, Canada geese, greylag geese, 4 Egyptian geese, a grey heron, coot, moorhen and gulls (herring, common, black headed and lesser black backed).

 Red Crested Pochard

 Red Crested Pochard

Red Crested Pochard

 Tufted Duck

 Tufted Duck

 Shoveler

Shoveler

 Egyptian Goose

  Egyptian Goose

 Grey Heron

 Grey Heron

Common Gull

Common Gull

 Common Gull

 Lesser Black Backed Gull

 Black Headed Gull

Black Headed Gull

Ring necked (or rather rose ringed) parakeets were very noisy and obvious as they flew around and fed from peoples hands and I joined in the fun when somebody gave me some sunflower seeds, getting some great views of the birds as they nibbled away in my palm - love them or loathe them, they are great looking birds and are doing very well but at what cost to our native wildlife? They were certainly popular with the assorted crowds and maybe can help spark an interest in wildlife in some of those present?

 Ring Necked Parakeet

Ring Necked Parakeet

Ring Necked Parakeet

Ring Necked Parakeet

Ring Necked Parakeets

I had a look for the little owls in the chestnut trees but without any luck. I did meet Ralph who writes a very good daily blog with some good photos all about the varied wildlife in the park (www.kensingtonandhydeparkbirds.blogspot.co.uk) but he was not very friendly or open or forthcoming about the owls and quickly scurried off although his blog has 2 lovely photos of 2 of the little owls he saw that day - I guess he was having a bad day or maybe my scary countenance spooked him? (!).

Other birds seen were a nuthatch, a dunnock, robins, blackbirds, long tailed tits, great tits, blue tits, feral pigeons and jackdaws before I walked over to the Natural History museum to meet David and have a quick look around before walking back to Paddington to catch the train home to Plymouth - a busy few days away but a very enjoyable time with 3 year ticks to add to the list.

 Natural History Museum

Natural History Museum




Friday, 3 November 2017

A Quiet October Ends

October 26th and a busy day of jobs and chores and Outlaws was broken up by a quick walk around Burrator Reservoir. It was quiet, a continuing theme for this October, with the highlight being a pair of wigeon on the water before they disappeared into the overhanging trees at the waters edge, my first Burrator sighting. There were also 12 male and 11 female tufted duck out on the water, my highest ever Burrator count, along with a few mallard and a muscovy duck, and the 2 white feral geese were feeding on the grass by the side dam and appeared to be in a good mood for a change.

Also seen were a few siskins in the tops of the pine trees, 2 flyover mistle thrush and 2 young roe deer feeding in a field by the roadside totally unconcerned by traffic and people passing by.

 Roe Deer

 Roe Deer

 Roe Deer

Roe Deer

With a recent large influx of hawfinch into the UK a report on Twitter of 3 birds at Badgers/Budshead Woods in Plymouth had me heading out there to have a look on October 29th. However looking for 3 small and secretive birds in a large and still leafy woodland unsurprisingly drew a blank but it was a pleasent walk in an area of Plymouth I have never visited before. The usual woodland birds were seen - buzzard, goldcrest, jay, woodpigeon, great tit, etc. - but no hawfinch.

I walked on to nearby Ernesettle Creek where there were 5 greenshank with redshanks on the incoming tide, 4 male and a female teal with 2 shelduck and mallards, 16 snipe roosting together on the salt marsh, 2 curlew, little egrets, grey herons and gulls. A few speckled wood were flitting about in the warm sunshine too.

October 30th and a beautiful autumn morning with clear blue sky, no wind and a chill in the air, and so I headed off to Wembury for a quick walk. 2 rusty dot pearl were in the toilet block and along the coast path walk as the sun warmed up the morning  I saw a bloody nose beetle and plenty of red admirals flitting about and appearing to be heading in a westerly direction and including a single painted lady.

 Red Admiral

Fly Sp.

Bird wise it was quiet with the highlights being a male and 2 female pheasents, 3 buzzards soaring together overhead, a calling chiffchaff, 2 female blackcap, stonechats, a female kestrel and some nice views of at least 4 male and 4 female mobile and flighty cirl buntings. Best bird though was a male great spotted woodpecker in trees in a garden by the road as I walked down to the beach, my first one actually in the village.

Great Spotted Woodpecker

And so October ends, a rather quiet affair this year with mostly mild but windy weather and not a lot of bird action.