Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Winter Wander . . . .

Been cooped up for too long now with the rotten weather of late so on a bright and cheery morning I made my first visit of the year to Far Pasture.
First thing I noted was the amount of birdsong as I took a shortcut through High Horseclose Woods, Great Tits especially in good voice.

A small flock of Siskin chattered noisily as they bounded overhead and a lone Red Kite circled silently over the frosted fields, illuminated by weak rays of sunshine trying to warm up the crisp morning air.

I hate the cold but love being out on mornings like these, watching the wildlife go about its business. Plenty of small birds in the roadside hedges and coming to the food at the flat rock bird café. Nuthatch was star performer here and four Dunnocks was the most I've seen together in a while.

The pond was mostly frozen. A pair of Mallard and half a dozen BH gulls were the only inhabitants, until a couple of Snipe scuttled across in front of me and settled on the near island.

Not much stirring, so I hopped over the back in hope of finding the recently seen Siberian Chiffchaff. Many wagtails on the pans, maybe 8 pied and 4 grey. Then a wait as I scoured the trees and bushes, looking for signs of movement and listening for telltale sounds.

Not much here either at first, but as often happens, everything came at once. Four or five Goldcrests flitting about with a few Blue Tits, and at last not one but two Chiffchaffs. Hard to pin down as they were as flighty as the goldcrests but eventually they both flew up to the big oak, where with better light and less foliage I could see one was pale with really dark legs, the other more green backed and yellow-tinged under, so deduced one nominate and one sibe. Excellent, a successful 'twitch'.

Back on the road a small band of Long-tailed Tits entertained, and at last I laid eyes on a Willow Tit, after hearing many a call from deeper in the thickets.

Next sighting was Ron (Notmanywords) who had found a chauffeur for the day, and a male kestrel was last up, alerted to it by a few raucous pheasants. A quick briefing with Ron and it was time for me to go, no doubt I'll find out everything turned up after I left :-/
On the way home a group of 16 Redwing flew into the trees along the Derwent Walk offering lovely views as they perched up for a while, and a larger group of siskin could be heard flying around but couldn't be located through the trees.

I got to thinking again how unusual it was I haven't had any siskins in the garden yet this winter, in my ten years here they've been present in good numbers without fail from mid-autumn to spring, and in some years have come to the feeders all year round, but I haven't noted any since last April.
So it was a pleasant surprise when this little beauty popped up later in the afternoon.

Female Siskin, all alone but very welcome.
Welcome madam, tell your mates there's free grub and bring them all !

Monday, 12 January 2015

Back with a . . . . . . Book Review

Look people, ignore that last post, I was just a bit down in the dumps, and despite the lack of popular demand I've decided to get me arse in gear again :-)

Yip, now I'm over my annual bout of S.A.D. and xmas humbug, I'm starting to look forward to the spring again and the first batch of damselflies. By the time the new season arrives I hope to have a new super-macro camera and a pair of specialist entomologist binoculars with close focussing 8.5 x zoom down to 50 cms. :-O
Both of these 'new toys' will give me the incentive to get out there again, observe my favourite creatures with new 'bionic' eyes and search out better photo opportunities using the knowledge and fieldcraft I've learned over the last four years of this blog.

Like a re-marketed chocolate bar I'm coming back bigger and better than ever.

Meantime I've been whetting my appetite with this book entitled Dragonfly (what else?) by David Chandler and Steve Cham.

. . . it's a right rivvetin' read . . .

It's an entertaining read, full of facts, figures and fotos to interest both the newbie and the long-time enthusiast, giving a run-down of all aspects of the dragonfly life-cycle using examples from all over the planet to show how diverse and adaptable our favourite creatures are. It's all written out in layman's terms, with any dragonfly jargon explained fully, so nothing to baffle the uninitiated.

I suppose readers with different levels of prior knowledge will all take something different from this book. Personally (as someone who prides himself in knowing a bit on the subject) I found it a good summary and reminder of what I already knew about British species, with the odd 'I didn't know that' gem of information thrown in, and I enjoyed reading about (and seeing the excellent photographs of) the different species (given as examples) from other parts of the world.
But this was also a bit of a downside as it flitted around a bit trying to cram every diverse example in, so was a bit too brief on some subjects. Nor is it a particularly lengthy read; 120 pages with a good percentage of space taken up by photos (excellent as they are) and set out in well-spaced, headed paragraphs, (good for my tired old eyes) so I found myself a bit disappointed to reach the end, a bit like an entertaining movie with a good plot but a crap ending, as I found myself wanting more information and more explanation, but I don't know if that's necessarily a good thing or a bad thing.

Its a beautiful looking book with strong content overall and I recommend it as a bit of light reading on what can be a hard-going subject with all the Latin and jargon which is usually bandied about. The headed paragraphs make it easy to reference parts you want to re-read, and better still I picked it up for under a tenner (rrp £14.99) from Play.com so happy with the price as well. Plus it's also where I got the information on those close-focussing binoculars I mentioned at the start :-)

Four Star Rating ****

Right, may as well get some birding done, and by the time all the spring migrants are in, it'll be time for a bit of dragonhunting :-)