Happy Christmas

I couldn’t resist dropping by to wish you a very happy Christmas. So far ours is going fine, a tad on the quiet side but fine! The tree is up, the decorations are too as are the cards so we were all set for the festivities to begin.

Yesterday, Christmas Eve, was our Christingle service which traditionally I lead and this year was no exception. It was just about the only thing all year that I was committed to doing and was pleased to have the opportunity once again. (A photo will appear here in a few days)

After church this morning we decided to go for a walk at the arboretum. 13 degrees seemed most unusual for a Christmas walk but it was certainly very pleasant and brought lots of people out. Surprisingly what it didn’t bring out was many birds it was very quiet on that front, but… we did get a tick! Down on the edge of a stream we saw a Crossbill, a first for the year. Sadly it was the only sight we had of it but we were pleased non the less, you will have to imagine it there as it had flown by the time I got the camera ready!!!

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Thankfully a Christmas Robin did make an appearance, always a treat. img_2290-robin

 

Mostly there were no birds on the water at all, just some Canada geese that had managed to avoid peoples ovens!

A couple of small Christmas trees seemed to have sprung up since our last visit and some seasonal holly added a splash of colour.

I had just said to Ian that I thought we would have seen some winter thrushes when, from what had seemed to be a carpet of autumn leaves dozens of thrushes took to the wing. They were no sooner there than they had disappeared high into the trees and out of sight. Oh well it was good to at least see them.

img_2305I didn’t think we had walked far enough to encounter Highland cattle but it seemed we had! Away in a manger came to mind!

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The next thing we saw surprised me even more than the cattle, believe it or not we saw a butterfly! I think it was a large white but I was astonished to see one right at the end of the years, the weather certainly has gone crazy!

So Common Crossbill became bird number 257, I am hoping to make the bird count to 260 by the end of the year but we will see.

So however you are spending these few days I hope they are filled with love and peace as that  was what the very first Christmas was to bring, so to quote Tiny Tim, “God bless us everyone!”

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At last…I’ve seen a frog!

Well it took eight months and a day before I did but at last I have seen a frog or I should say four frogs!

It was on Thursday the first day of September, yes I had gone eight months and not seen a single frog or toad! The weather looked promising so a trip to the arboretum seemed a good idea, off we went and a little later we met up with Peter and the children.

We hadn’t been walking long when sharp-eyed Peter spotted a tiny little frog, a common frog,  walking in the grass. IMG_8907 Alice frog

Time for a picture then off he hopped again, but back to frogs later! We had a good walk around, Daniel made a quick stop to adjust his socks!IMG_8936 Daniel

By now the sun was shining and the insects were coming to life, first we watched the damsel and dragonflies. The arial displays they put on were brilliant but you will need to take my word for it as they are much to fast for me to photograph in action.

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Bees of varying shades and sizes were busy along with hoverflies.

But wierdest of all were a couple of flies that we saw. The first one looked like a bee as it flew towards me but when it landed I could see my error. I managed two quick snaps and it was gone. It was in looking to find it again that we found the second strange fly, it is quite amazing what is out there if we look!  Thanks to Peter for identifying them later on, The first is Tachina grossa or I like to call it, Bee-faced-fly! The second is Nowickia ferox, sorry no pet name for that one.

We had brought lunch with us so it was time to find a picnic table, seems the Harlequin ladybirds had found them first! Two different looking Harlequins and the third picture is a Harlequin ladybird nymph.

While eating lunch Matilda found this little fly, pretty sure it is a  Yellow-legged Centurion- Sargus flavipes

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I must admit that I am not usually drawn to flies of any kind but this year I make an exception, but this fella I would be pleased to see on any walk. A Common-green grasshopper, looks like something from prehistoric times don’t you think?

It was nearing time to go back home but a visit to ‘the face tree’ is always a must.

A bonus was waiting by the tree, more frogs! Not tree frogs (now that would have been amazing!) but they were keen to climb.IMG_9009 Frog

So that was Thursday, Friday we stayed home but we did some bug hunting in the garden. We found several little critters including this little green spider (Nigma walckenaeri).IMG_9080 Nigma walckenaeri

Also Peter shared a moth from his catch, a new one for all of us, Webb’s wainscot. IMG_9036 fenn's wainscott

So September has got off to a fine start and the weather forecast looks good for next week so hopefully some good trips out ahead…watch this space. Who knows we might even see a toad!!!

 

Star bird

IMG_8901 White stork (Custom)We returned, as planned, to Lynford to try yet again to get the Hawfinches but once more we failed. This Kestral kept me entertained as she watched for her prey and made several attempts to catch something but each time came up ’empty handed’!

Home after a very pleasant, though unsuccessful walk on a beautiful morning. Time to make more meals to fill our flasks for other trips out, our kitchen did smell good today! Mid afternoon and a message came out: White stork at Welney, shoes, binoculars, camera, keys and we were out of the house and on our way!

As we drove into Welney we saw the bird, phew a tad more amenable than the Hawfinches! We went in and enjoyed this magnificent, unusual bird. I had seen one once before but it was the briefest of flight views so this felt like a life tick even though it wasn’t!

 

 

It was a beauty but I must admit I still cant imagine them on chimney tops, let alone nesting there. It wandered around but didn’t stray far, it preened and rested as we stood and watched.

It dipped into the water several times but all I saw it come up with was mud! I am sure he was finding something more nutritious in the water too at least I hope so!

 

Somehow missing the finches this morning seemed a distant memory and this star bird more than made up for it. Watching him preen I was hopeful he would do a wing stretch but he didn’t oblige!

When we left the bird seemed content and resting so I wouldn’t think he is going anywhere tonight. White stork bird number 152 for the year a real star!

Stuck on 149!

We are still on 149 but that is a pretty good place to be at time of year I reckon, although I hope to reach 150 by the weekend!

Yesterday was one of those days that couldn’t quite make it’s mind up, sun or gloom, cold or not too bad!!! We decided that we would make another trip to Welney, not with any real hope of adding to our number but with every hope of enjoying ourselves.

It is tricky to adequately describe the road that leads to Welney, Ten Mile Bank, except to say that if you suffer from seasickness you had best avoid it! It is reminiscent of, what was called in my childhood, a journey on a scenic railway. The reason I am telling you about it today is because I was greatly amused by the sign that has appearedIMG_8433 (Custom)

I kid you not, I think it was the smoothest part of the road and for certain you couldn’t detect where the ramp was.

Anyway we survived the journey and arrived at Welney in time, you won’t be surprised to hear, for coffee. We watched the feeders and lost count of the Goldfinches that take advantage of the free feed. There were also good numbers of Reed buntings around the feeders and in the reeds behind.

Coffee finished and over to the main hide to see what was there. A young Goldeneye was lurking amongst the Pochards, spot the odd one out in the picture below. Fortunately he came closer later on for better views.

There was a reasonable number of Whooper swans present, no Bewicks and of course plenty of Mute swans that happily call Welney home throughout the year. Most of the swans are out feeding on the fields during the day (I guess the farmers have mixed feelings about them) and come in to spend the night on the safety of the water.

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The coots are beginning to get feisty and bad though this may sound (and probably be)  I rather like it when they get in full scraping mode but they didn’t oblige today. The pictures here are of a group of Moorhen at Slimbridge a couple of weeks ago, that were having a set to. It reminded me of a school playground when the word went around of a fight and others gathered to watch or join in!

Nothing much else at Welney so we decided to leave and pop into the arboretum to try, yet again, to get sight of the Hawfinches. We were again unlucky but did meet some interesting people. One couple that were walking six, yes six dogs, well I think they were all dogs they were so small it was hard to tell exactly what they were! The man was not a bird watcher but was intent on keep catching up with us to tell us all the places we could go to see birds where no one else ever goes! He was rather a strange chap but he meant well…I think! Another two couple like us looking in vain for the Hawfinch and being equally disappointed.

Lastly we met a really nice couple that had just got back from a cruise around South America and had been watching some fantastic birds, a soft shade of green may have come over us. We got into cruise mode with them for some time talking of places visited and yet more simply dreamed of. Turned out the chap was just four days younger than Ian and to celebrate his upcoming 70th birthday they were taking all their family to Mexico, oh well how the other half live! Still good luck to them they did seem  exceedingly nice people so I won’t begrudge them a good time.

So nothing new today although we did add an insect over the weekend, a ladybird, but again no moths.  I end with a picture for Alice, Robins never fail to appear and are happy to pose! IMG_8453 (Custom)

Tomorrow I hope will be more productive as we are off for a walk around a reserve with the warden…watch this space.

 

Little and large

Today, the first Sunday of the year we have designated a day of rest, to be perfectly honest that is mainly because it is raining heavily! It does though give me time to get lists updated and tell you about yesterday’s trip out.

It has been windy and wet at night so we haven’t put the moth trap out this year yet and I am not too optimistic about catching anything for a while. Thankfully birds are a bit more obliging and yesterday we stayed inland and managed to avoid most of the rain. Lynford was our destination, both the arboretum and Lynford Water which is made from old gravel pits now flooded and home to a good number of birds.

Only  January the second but already snowdrops where out, imageat home we have bulbs which look ready to burst. I have a nasty feeling that if winter ever arrives these early plants may be in for a shock.

Anyway we set out earlyish and were rewarded very quickly by a lovely Barnowl perched on a fence post. It was a beauty but very quickly flew into a tree and we couldn’t get sight of it again, good to know a place to keep an eye on though and I hope to go along again when the light is good and try to get a photo of it, wish me luck. About two miles further on I saw what I thought at first was a buzzard (would have been the first of the year) but it wasn’t, it was a Red Kite and accompanied by a second one! They put on quite a display and again will be a target for a picture.

Moments after leaving the Kites a stoat ran across the road just in front of us so that is our third mammal.

it was very quiet at Lynford, well as far as people were concerned but I was struck by the amount of birdsong and activity. Good to get some more woodland birds including Nuthatch and Tree creepers image  We added 13 to our list ranging in size from the tiny Goldcrest to the might Kites deffinately  a day for little and large! We added Goldeneye on the lake but strangely have yet to see our first Coot of the year I wonder how long do you think till we get one?

I have several things I hope this year will bring, certainly wings in assorted varieties but it is about enjoying them and enjoying time to relax. Just a couple of days into the years and things are getting off to a good start am very optimistic indeed!

Number so far: 69 birds, 3 mammals