Sunday, 9 February 2014

Visitors from Near and Far . . . .

Hearing about the American Yellow-Rumped Warbler seen by some lucky so-and-so visiting their garden during the Big Garden Birdwatch in County Durham of all places (and now an official 'twitch' though not by me as it's already on my life-list from Florida:), got me thinking of what I'd like to find one day in my own well-watched garden.
A mega like that would be great but I dream of getting a Hawfinch one day hopefully during a harsh winter (which tends to bring allsorts in not usually seen, Reed Bunting, Yellowhammer and Pheasant spring to mind) or a lesser-spotted pecker in a roving tit flock would do. But other than that I'm constantly on the lookout for a Rose-coloured Starling in the visiting flocks and that would probably be as good as it gets. The local resident bird I would like to see is the Willow Tit, plentiful nearby and seen and heard just a couple of hundred yards away so you never know.

My garden list to date stands at 91, 48 of which have actually touched down in the garden, the remaining 42 have been flyovers plus 1 (cuckoo) is down as a heard only from the nearby farmland.

Of those that have actually been in the garden, the biggest rarity (if you can call it that) was this Meally Redpoll back in March 2011 :

But probably the biggest surprise was one morning in September 2012 when I looked out to find this Northern Wheatear perched atop the kids trampoline :

A very unlikely garden visitor as up 'til then I hadn't even seen one in the Derwent Valley, nor have I seen one since.

Those two are by far the most unusual visitors, and its tough to nominate a third place but I think a group of Yellowhammers during a harsh spell last January (2013) were my favourites, followed by a pair of linnets (though I quite often get as flyovers) which came in for a while during the spring of last year.

Occasional nuthatch and treecreeper, GS Woodpecker and very occasional Jay are always nice to see, and of the warblers Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler are annual, Blackcaps number 5 (the last earlier this year) and a Common Whitethroat was regular for a week or so one late summer a few years back.

Of the winter visitors I seem to get a Brambling or four every other year, and harsher weather tends to bring Redwing and Fieldfare (love the fieldfare) and occasional groups of lesser redpoll, though siskin tend to be a year-round species, albeit in small numbers (highest count of 22).

Lovely bird at close-quarters, the Fieldfare

I suppose the only other bird I'd like to get in the garden is a Red Kite, they've swooped very low on occasions but not yet touched down, so remain on the flyover list only. Wonder what will be next?

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Catching the Early Flight . . .

Went to put the bin out this morning just after the kids had been packed off to school and noticed this on the fence :

Small Tortoiseshell Butterfly
A winter first

Certainly the earliest in the year I can recall seeing any butterfly, hope it survives.

And looks like I did the right thing dashing down to get the Green winged Teal the other day, as it wasn't there today and no-one I spoke to saw it yesterday either. So sadly I  can't improve on Tuesdays photos.
An otter was seen early this morning though and early afternoon today the car park feeding station was incredibly busy with both birds and photographers so caught up with a few old acquaintances.
I'm sure I heard a snippet of Blackcap song as well, certainly plenty of other birds were singing on this incredibly mild and sunny spring-like day.

Only other news to report is negative, neither the female Brambling or 'Gammy' the Chaffinch has been seen since the weekend. Hope it's nothing to do with this :

Male Sparrowhawk giving an aerial (aerial) display

Or even one of the local moggies which I'm having to chase away most days now. Will still keep a lookout for them both anyway. 

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Late Show at Far Pasture

It was about twenty to four when I received a text from Rob (Gatesheadandbeyond) informing he'd found a Green-winged Teal at Far Pasture :O and knowing I wouldn't be able to get tomorrow I decided to drop everything and rush down there (on foot as my bike is still out of action after my last visit).
Rob was just leaving as I arrived but the bird was still there he said. Well you could have fooled me! plenty of European Teal on the pond but no sign of the Yank.

A kingfisher was stuck to the top of a bulrush and the drake pochard was still kicking about, but it was a good ten minutes before I got a brief view of the GW Teal way over the back of the pond, as it disappeared with a small group behind the far right island.
And it was a good half hour later before it paddled out again, still right in the far corner offering only the crappiest of photo opportunities in the fading light.

This kingfisher was seemingly rooted to the spot, didn't move in ages.

Drake Pochard offered the best views in decent light

Possibly the worst ever photo of Green-winged Teal, only vaguely
recognisable thanks to Photoshop brightness and contrast tool.
Finally it came to the rear of the nearer island which wouldn't have been bad for photos had it not been for the fact it was now ten to five and near dark.

No maybe this is the worst ever photo of green-winged Teal
(rear of island) saved only by the fact the vertical white stripe
(as opposed to horizontal) is clearly visible.
Much better photos are on Gatesheadandbeyond (see link)
At least I got it, the view through the binoculars was a lot better than that of the camera lens thank goodness, but typically it settled at the rear of the island offering only an arse-end view, and that was that.
Just before I left a single snipe flew in for a good view front of hide, then I spied a water rail feeding out in the open on the pond to the left.

Not often seen feeding calmly in the open, would have been a cracking
view of this Water Rail had it not been practically dark!
 Some good birds on show then, and though very gloomy now the show wasn't over, as I walked out of the car park no fewer than 23 Red Kites were up in the air together, terrific sight and most I've seen in a long while!

A good end to the day then, after this morning's unsuccessful trip out with the Birdman to see if we could finally nail the (apparent) flock of Twite at Marley Hill.
The day was calm and bright but only half the flock seen on Sunday (when it was gloomy and windy) was present, and only linnets, some heavily streaked females or 1st winter birds were confusing but on close inspection sadly no Twite. Whether these have been mis-identified or not we don't know but in three visits there's been nothing to report and it would be unusual to get Twite (a mega for Gateshead) so far inland.

An update on garden sightings :

The female Brambling has been seen regularly since last Monday, sometimes visiting three or four times a day, but was last seen on Saturday.
The single Tree Sparrow was seen once during the week but didn't come to the feeder.
Both male and female Greenfinch have been in a couple of times each but not together.
Goldfinch numbers peaked at 28 on Monday.
Collared doves were new for the year, small bands of starling and house sparrow have passed through occasionally but still very few tits, a couple of blueys on occasion and a single coal tit is all.
And 'Gammy' the chaffinch has been a daily visitor and still looks fit apart from his obvious leg problem.

Cheers Birdman, and cheers Rob :)