Monday, 30 November 2009

A bit of a Panic and a Nocturnal Visitor

Yesterday Bobby went for his early morning walk as usual and seemed fine. Later in the morning he was having real problems with his back legs which kept giving way. I was more than a bit worried so I phoned the vet's emergency number. That goes to a paging centre where you explain what the problem is and they page the vet on duty and he then phones me. This he did within ten minutes. Fortunately Mike, the vet, was at the surgery so I was able to take Bobby straight there. On examination it turned out that he has arthritis in one hip joint which had flared up. After a quick injection, some tablets and an empty wallet we were on our way home. It took a while for the injection to work. Bobby could walk OK but was obviously uncomfortable though he does seem to have had a good nights rest. This morning he is a lot better. We see the vet again in about ten days time to see how the old fellow is progressing.


Zipping through the overnight recording from the video camera I was pleased and surprised that it had at last captured a visit from one of the animals I had been hoping to see. A little mouse was helping itself to the seeds under the bird ground feeder. All the action occurs near the bottom of the screen where the recorder puts its information. I think I will have to lower the view a bit more.

Now I know why the cats visit that area at night.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

The Blackbird and the Berries (video clip)

A couple of days ago I had been admiring the excellent series of photographs Roy had taken of a Blackbird eating haw berries which can be seen on The Fenlandwalker Birding and Countryside Blog.

Yesterday as I was setting up the camcorder I spotted a Blackbird helping himself to the berries on one of the trees down the end of the garden. I only managed a short clip as Mr Blackbird had probably been eating for a while and decided to have a rest.

As it is a good twenty years since I planted that tree I have forgotten what it is. In the spring it is a mass of pink blossom and cheers up a fairly dull corner of the garden. It is a pity that the surrounding evergreens have just about blocked it out but the odd branch keeps poking out so I leave it well alone.

After a bit if research I think the tree is a cotoneaster.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Rainbows and Rain

Early yesterday morning I could see a faint rainbow from the kitchen window. It must be about a year since I last saw one. Out of curiosity I took a few photographs, some with the Canon and a couple with the mobile phone. The first is with the Canon and the second with the phone:

Faint Rainbow

Faint Rainbow

As I said the rainbow was very faint and the Sun was just above the horizon so I was interested to see how both cameras would cope. The lens on the Canon was set to its widest at 70mm and the phone has a fixed 5.2 mm. They both coped pretty well.

While I see a couple of Coal Tits visit on and off all day snatching the black Sunflower seeds it was a rarity to see one visit the bird bath.

Coal Tit

Coal Tit

This morning it was raining gently when we started our morning walk but the rain gradually increased and by the time we got back it was a deluge. That didn't stop the birds coming for their breakfasts. In fact there were more than usual, the first being a couple of Goldfinches soon to be joined by more plus Sparrows, Starlings, Greenfinches, Chaffinches and a Robin.


This is the first time I have seen so many Goldfinches together since the outbreak of Finch disease earlier in the year. It was so dark with the thick grey rain clouds I had to set the Canon to its maximum 3200 ISO but with a little help from Paint Shop Pro I was fairly pleased with the result.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Friday at the (Silent) Flicks

Until recently I had always seen Blackbirds around in the gloom before Sunrise. When checking the recordings from the video camera which monitors the ground feeder it was quite a surprise to find the earliest and latest visitor was in fact a Robin.

Now is the time of year when some windfalls from one of next doors apple trees fall in my garden. I decided to slice one up and put the pieces on the ground feeder to see which birds would be interested. There was only one taker. A Blackbird sampled them on several occasions.

Normally the Collared Doves are quite timid and don't bother the other birds but this one was quite different. There was no way any other bird was going to share its breakfast for very long..

Have a great weekend observing the wildlife around you. Take care - I heard several reports of accidents on black ice on the roads in Lincolnshire this morning.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Silly Walks and Hunt the Mealworm

When I was watching a Magpie strutting round the lawn it reminded me of John Cleese's Ministry of Silly Walks sketch in Monty Python's Flying Circus.

Ministry of Silly (Magpie) Walks

For those who have never seen the sketch it can be found HERE on YouTube.

As the Starlings had emptied the Coconut of its contents I put a fat ball inside it but there were no takers. Today I thought I would put some dried mealworms in to see who would be first to find them. I hardly needed one guess!

What's in Here

Starling with Dried Mealworm

There is a cold wind blowing but 5/10 pale blue sky and constant sunshine has really brightened the morning up.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Some of The Usual Visitors

It is so hard to find a time when there are birds flocking to the feeders which coincides with reasonable photographic weather conditions. Over the past few days the largest flocks have been of Sparrows, both House and Tree. As there are only a few perches on the seed feeder they normally wait either on the cables above the feeders or in the safety of the dead brambles next door until they spot an opening. There can be up to two dozen of them milling around at the same time.

Sparrows in the Brambles

At one stage I though the Tree Sparrows had stopped visiting but closer observation usually shows two or three mixed in with the House Sparrows. The Tree Sparrows have a distinctive large black spot on each side of the head and smooth chestnut coloured feathers on top of the head.

Tree and House Sparrows

Constant visitors include the Greenfinches and the Goldfinches.

Greenfinches and Goldfinches

First thing this morning I was watching a Magpie. It was bouncing across to the ground feeder, choosing a seed, bouncing to the edge of the lawn and part burying the seed. Then it would repeat the process. It was only making a half hearted attempt at burying the seeds and I think the other birds will soon find them. Normally all the other birds keep well out of the way while the Magpie is feeding but today a Blackbird decided to stand on the weather cover above the video camera and out stare the Magpie - which it succeeded in doing.


A rarer visitor is this Carrion Crow which glided in to see if it was safe to find a bite to eat but in the end decided to try somewhere else.

Carrion Crow

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Watch Where You Are Treading at Night

When Bobby goes for a wander round the front garden at night I always carry a torch. There are a few areas round the building where there is no light. I am mainly on the lookout for slugs and snails so I can avoid treading on them. Last night as we approached the side gate to the front garden I spotted a dim shape on the path which on investigation turned out to be a Common Newt. I had stopped carrying a camera with me since the Hedgehogs stopped visiting so dashed inside to grab one.

I expected the little fellow would have vanished by the time I got back but my luck was in. There it was in exactly the same position and it stayed there while I took a few photos.

Common Newt

Common Newt

I think a combination of the mild weather recently and the heavy rain earlier in the evening meant that this Newt had decided to see what food might be available. It was a fairly young one measuring about 7cm. A bit under 3 inches long. Even with the flash it was fairly well camouflaged, blending in well on the concrete slabs.

When we went out for a final look round about an hour later there was no sign of the Newt anywhere. Maybe it was on its way to the pond in the back garden. That was the direction it was facing when I first saw it.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Friday at the Flicks

Who will be king of the ground feeder?
Collared Dove or Magpie?
(No sound on this one)

Earlier in the week I showed photos of the fat ball rain as a Rook attacked the feeder. Here you can see just why pieces were flying all over the place. The Rook was having problems balancing for two reasons. There was a blustery wind but also if you look closely at the large photo here you can see it has one deformed foot. I often saw this bird at the feeders last Spring so it seems to be coping well.

Finally one of my favourite visitors - a Goldfinch tucking in to Nyjer seeds.

I hope you get some decent weather this coming weekend so you can enjoy watching the antics of the wildlife around you.

Thursday, 19 November 2009


Normally this time of year I am definitely on auto-pilot when Bobby takes me for my early morning walkies. I just want it over and done with. This morning was an exception. Every so often an exceptionally beautiful sunrise will manifest itself. This morning was one of those occasions. As usual the only camera I had was the mobile phone so I though, "Let's see how it copes with these lighting conditions." Here are a couple of the results:

Looking down the main street.

The view from my front gate.

The first I have cropped and rotated slightly otherwise not processed. The second exactly as taken by the phone. The EXIF data for the second shows   1/20 sec  f2.8  ISO 64  focal length 5.18mm

I managed to photograph the sunrise but have just missed a rare opportunity to grab a close up of a Sparrow Hawk. I had gone to the kitchen and was watching the Goldfinches enjoying their breakfast when they all suddenly flew to hide in the nearby bushes. That was unusual as it is rare that they all fly off at the same time. Almost immediately after that a Sparrow Hawk landed on the roof of the bird table. This time it was too slow for the observant Goldfinches. Of course the cameras were still in the other room and by the time I had grabbed one and returned there was no bird to be seen.

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

New Phone

For a while now I have been itching to replace my mobile phone. Mainly to get one with a better camera built in. My old phone is the Sony Ericsson k750i which has a 3M pixel camera. In the end I opted for a Sony Ericsson c902 which has a 5M pixel camera, bought boxed and unused on eBay.

There are many times I go out without a DSLR or video camera but the phone is always in my shirt pocket. One disadvantage from the nature photographers point of view is the very wide angle lenses mobile phones have as they are presumably designed for close work often in confined places but if you can get close to things then the auto focus on the S.E. phones does a good job.

Yesterday I took a few test shots to check it out as the phone had only arrived at midday.

A line of poplar trees on the boundary of the cricket field, cropped to reduce the height of the picture.

Autumn leaves in the hedge down the lane. Taken from about two feet away and slightly cropped for composition.
Autumn Leaves

I am pleased with the colour reproduction and I think it has lived up well to all the good reviews I had read about this phone.

Shirl of Shirls Gardenwatch has just written about the various cameras she uses at home and out and about. It is an interesting illustrated read and can be found HERE. I don't know about you but I always like to find out what equipment other people are using.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

It's Raining Fat Balls

Well, bits of fat balls anyway as this visiting Rook was showering more on the garden than it was managing to eat!



In the end I went outside so it would fly away before there was nothing left for any other visitor.

It was having quite a problem balancing in the blustery wind. All being well there will be a video clip of it on Friday's "Friday at the Flicks".

Monday, 16 November 2009

Night Prowler

Most nights the video camera captures a fleeting glimpse of one of the local cats hurrying through the garden. It would appear that the Cat Gard is doing a good job of keeping most at bay. The other night though there was one feline invader which seemed to be completely unaffected by the ultrasonic screeching. Not a lot of action to show but it was the first time I had noticed that cats, like dogs, move their ears like little radar dishes checking for the slightest sound which may be of interest. This cat spent nearly three minutes almost still at the edge of view of the camera before it obviously noticed a target. Unfortunately the final pounce was missed by the recorder. After 30 seconds of inactivity it stops recording and in the second it takes to start up the cat had disappeared from view. A week or so ago I saw a black cat, presumably the same one, go dashing past the camera with either a mouse or a frog in its jaws so it an accomplished hunter.

Plenty of heavy rain this morning but even while it was bucketing down the Sparrows kept up their chirping hidden somewhere in the bushes. Although I could hear them there was not one to be seen. The rain stopped for a while, the Sun broke through the clouds and the invasion began. I should think there were over 20 Starlings which descended on the feeders. One made me jump as it glanced off the kitchen window at full speed but it just turned round and flew away.

When I went down to the shed I noticed a very delicate looking spider investigating the doors. I often wonder how such thin legs can support even the small weight of their body.


It reminded me of the old nursery rhyme:

The itsy bitsy spider went up the water spout.
Down came the rain, and washed the spider out.
Out came the sun, and dried up all the rain
And the itsy bitsy spider went up the spout again.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Greenfinches Return

As regular readers will know I had to remove many of the feeders some time ago as there was an outbreak of the trichomonad parasite which was badly affecting many of the Greenfinches and some of the Goldfinches. Since I put the feeders back in place I had only seen the odd Greenfinch and thought many must have perished. This morning, despite the blustery wind, it was great to see at least four Greenfinches arguing over the few available perches.


Unfortunately from the photography point of view lighting is getting difficult, especially in this mornings bright sunlight as there are many dark shadows.

Friday, 13 November 2009

Friday at the Flicks

Most days there is at least one fat Wood Pigeon waddling round the lawn picking up any seed it can find.

You can't have missed the constant noise from another bird. A House Sparrow was in the bushes nearby and carried on for several minutes. That is the sound of just one with another replying from the hedge just over the lane from me. Sometimes there are dozens in that hedge all kicking up the same din.

The feeders I placed near the bottom of the garden are starting to attract a few visitors. Here a Great Tit is holding sunflower seed hearts between its feet while it pecks pieces off to eat.

Have a great weekend watching the wildlife around you.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009


The daily squabbling early morning visitors are now in full voice. Each morning a mob invades the feeders and crowds into the bird table. Fortunately for the Blackbirds and other ground feeders Starlings are in such a hurry to grab food before anyone else that a fair proportion ends up being scattered all over the place.

For a bird which is sociable enough to gather in thousands for their nightly roost they spend an awful lot of time squabbling when food is in the offing.

(If you have never seen the spectacle of thousands of Starlings gathering for the nightly roost then nip over to The Heart of the Levels Wildlife Group HERE for a spectacular video of the event.)

The other day Matron of Down on the Allotment asked me an interesting question: "... do you know what are the starlings nearest relative?"  It was a subject I had never considered so I had a look round the internet.

According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica they are in the family Sturnidae, order Passeriformes which consists of Starlings, Mynas and Oxpeckers. The latter seems to be open to question with some authorities. There are many different Starlings around the world. So it would appear they are not related to any other type of native British bird but to Myna birds.

There is a list on Wikipedia.

As Matron said - it is not surprising that Starlings and Mynas are related as both are very good mimics of other birds and of sounds around them. I remember years ago when trim phones were popular that Starlings would spend ages imitating the sound. Once they have had their fill things calm down and many roost in the Leylandii at the bottom of the garden where they make an almost endless succession of quiet whistles, peeps and various other sounds until they are ready for their second helpings.

Another bird which has a fascinating range when it comes to mimicking other sounds was shown on television last night in the David Attenborough Life - Birds programme. One Bower Bird not only imitated other bird calls but could also make the sound of a Pigeon flapping its wings. There is a video clip  HERE on the BBC site.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

A Noisy Day all Round

Yesterday started with the usual invasion of Starlings squabbling over anything which looks remotely like food. There are times when you can hardly see the fat ball feeders or the floor of the bird table. The two inch mesh round the bird table is no barrier for a determined Starling.


Later in the day I could hear some alarm calls. There were two Great Tits setting up a din as they took it in turns. I don't think they were arguing with each other as later on they were both taking seeds from the feeders. Most probably there was one of the local cats in the bottom of the bushes.

The normally tranquillity of the village was broken by the third night of fireworks as families celebrated the failure of Guido Fawkes to blow up the Houses of Parliament in 1605. This year was the first time I have tried to film some from the kitchen window. In the past I have failed miserably to get still photos. Sound is a bit tinny as I was using the same outdoor microphone I use for capturing the sound of birds.

Friday, 6 November 2009

Friday at the Flicks - a Magpie and its Hoard

Do Magpies hoard food I have been wondering. I know some of the corvid family do. The behaviour of one visiting Magpie has got me wondering. I had filmed it on the lawn grabbing the occasional peanut. Although I missed part of the action I am sure this bird was putting the peanuts in cracks in the earth.

Early the next morning the old Hedgehog camera caught the Magpie apparently at one of the spots where it may have buried a peanut and seems to be eating it. My apologies for all the glitches on the video as the recorder seems to have been in a 'mood'.

I cannot be absolutely sure it is the same place on the lawn as the recordings are made from different viewpoints. The long zoom used on the first video foreshortens distances but it seems to me to be one possible interpretation of the Magpie's behaviour.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Starlings think they are Blue Tits

Each year I buy the odd coconut fat feeder for the Blue Tits. Last year I tried those with an opening in the bottom and they were ignored. This year I have a couple of coconuts with a slice cut out. Unfortunately the Blue Tits haven't managed to get a look in yet as the Starlings have decided they make easy pickings.


OK so the photo layout is a bit fancy but I have been experimenting with Comic Life and found a way round its dreadfully slow thumbnail building. I don't bother with that as the photos can be dragged and dropped from any ordinary folder view which I find more useful.

What a change in the weather! Especially the temperatures. On the last two early morning walks it has been 6C and only achieving 12 during the afternoon. Bobby always goes out in the garden when I go out but doesn't stay out very long these colder days. He races back in, leaps on his chair and covers his nose to keep it warm.

Keeping My Nose Warm

I feel like doing the same as my nose is decidedly cold at the moment!

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Return of the Goldies

As I haven't seen any sick birds for a while I have put back one thistle seed feeder and one Sunflower heart feeder. While the seed feeders were packed away the Greenfinches made short work of the two large Sunflower heads I had left for them.

Greenfinch on Sunflower

All the time the thistle feeders were packed away at least one Goldfinch would visit each day to check things out and it didn't take long for a few to arrive once there was free food back at the Birdy Bistro.


Also starting to return is the occasional Rook. So far they have just visited the fat ball container near the bottom of the garden which is not removable even by the craftiest corvid - famous last words??  They are as shy as ever so only a silhouette as one beat a hasty retreat.


 The collage at the top was made using a program called Comic Life which I found out about from Roy of The Fenland Walker, Birding and Countryside Blog when I asked how he had made a particular collage. At first I though it was a program only for the Mac but there is a Windozy version. The large 'collage' choice makes a change from the few in Picasa and it is so easy to drag and resize pictures.  The only problem I found was it is painfully slow at scanning folders of photos. As my main folder has over 7000 files it was taking minutes to reach the end. Pity, as otherwise I would have upgraded my 30 day free trial.

Monday, 2 November 2009

The Early Magpie

Since I turned the video camera which used to observe the Hedgehogs round so it looks across the garden it has been interesting to see which birds are the early risers. Most mornings there is a Blackbird busy looking for scraps by 6.30 a.m.. This morning it was followed about 15 minutes later by a Magpie just as it was light enough for the camera to go back to colour.

There has been no sign of the Heron for several days, not since I fixed the wildlife camera permanently in position so it could monitor 24 hrs a day. Another bird with a built in camera detector?!

There is a pleasant bit of Sunshine this morning. Very welcome after a couple of dreary days. At one stage yesterday morning I wondered who kept ringing the door bell. In the end it kept ringing continuously so I had to remove the bell push. With the Southerly wind blowing heavy rain on the front of the building water had entered the push and was triggering it continuously. Having left it indoors to dry I put it back in position this morning and it appears to have come to no harm and works perfectly.

Sunday, 1 November 2009

Wet and Windy Sunday

I think this sums up how we both felt this morning.

Fed Up with the Rain

We were lucky at 7 a.m. when Bobby took me for my morning constitutional as the rain arrived about half an hour after we got back and continued for the next four hours. Only a few brave Sparrows and the odd Greenfinch braved a drenching to grab an early meal. The sound is not me frying eggs and bacon for breakfast but the rain beating down near the microphone in the shed wall.

As I write this the worst of the rain seems to have passed through but there are still very blustery winds out there.
Related Posts with Thumbnails