Friday, 31 December 2010

Friday at the Flicks - Blackbirds, Sparrowhawk

It's hard to remember that it is less than a week since the ground was covered in snow when I put out some sliced apple for the Blackbirds.

I have only seen the Blackbird with white head feathers once so I was lucky to be able to take some video of it.

For the first time I managed to take a short piece of video of a Sparrowhawk blending in as it sat in one of next door's old apple trees. Gerry Gutteridge, who is moderator of the All Things Sparrowhawk group on Flickr, told me it was probably wiping it beak having just eaten.

 Well, that's it for another year. It just remains for me to wish you all a very Happy New Year for 2011.

My thanks to all who have visited during 2010. I hope to continue to see you here and on your own blogs through the coming year.

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Blackbird with a White Head

Over the years I have seen several Blackbirds with the occasional white feather, usually in the wing or tail. This morning in the gloomy, overcast early light I spotted one with a white head.

Only record shots as I had to up the ISO to 3200 to get any chance of a shot.

Blackbird with White Head

Blackbird with White Head

For some unknown reason the copies on Flickr are darker than the originals but I haven't time to adjust them as today is my annual meeting with the consultant to get the results of the tests done earlier this month.

Yearly visit for hospital checkup over and relief all round as was passed as all OK. The consultant was very pleased with the test results.  Back again next December.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Macro on Monday - Guess What

Glo is getting to be quite a dab hand at working out my mystery pictures and was the closest last week with her guess of a Christmas ornament and candle holder. A gold star Glo. A silver star for Emma who identified the pine cone part. It was in fact a battery operated Christmas ornament with flickering artificial candles.

Christmas Ornament

 We are nearly at the end of another year so here is the final puzzle picture for 2010:


Clue: Its technology is too old fashioned to be of any use in London 2012.

No prizes - just for fun.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Friday at the Flicks - Blackbirds, Great Tit


Robins are usually shown as the Christmas festive birds but for a change here is a Blackbird searching for the seed scattered on a snow covered lawn.

That was just one of the many which have been visiting each morning during this long very cold spell. There have been up to twenty six searching for food at first light. This gives a little idea of what it is like:

Finally for those following the Great Tit - it continues to use the nest box as a roost every night.

Wishing you all the very best for the festive season and hoping you don't forget that our wildlife also need to eat, especially in sub zero conditions where they can soon lose too much body weight trying to keep warm.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Another Little Ice Sculpture

The small ice sculpture on the pond waterfall I filmed a while ago had melted within a couple of days but very recently a new one has taken its place. Even while we have had night temperatures down to -9C and days when it has remained below zero the birds have continued to use the waterfall for drinking and bathing. The whole of the sides of it are covered with ice formed while the birds have been splashing about.

Icy Pond Waterfall

In places some of the nearby plants are covered in a thick layer of ice where they have been splashed. Starlings are the main culprits in the 'splash it all over' scene as they don't mind how cold water is.

Icy Pond Waterfall 2

Most interesting, to me anyway, has been the formation of another little sculpture, once again hollow where the running water still flows.

Icy Pond Waterfall 3

Only a bit of video can show the effect:

On a technical note it is amazing how well modern methods can compress a video. The original clips as taken by the Lumix totalled 225MB but using  a format called H264 this was reduced to under 20MB but still gave a good clear result. It certainly saves on upload time.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

A Thrush Comes Visiting

It is a rare occurrence for me to see a thrush in the garden so I was delighted when I spotted what I assumed was a Song Thrush sunning itself in the tall leylandii yesterday. It was well fluffed out as the temperature was about -3C.

Song Thrush 1

Song Thrush 2

The soundtrack on the video clip has squabbling Starlings at the start and the tutting of Blackbirds right through. About half a dozen of the Blackbirds have caught on to the fact that I scatter seed as the daylight fades each evening. They hang around on the branches of nearby trees and come down for a last minute snack before finding somewhere to roost for the night.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

More Blackbirds by the Dozen

The colder the weather the more Blackbirds arrive in the garden at first light. This morning, at -6.5C, I counted at least 26 Blackbirds milling around the back garden gobbling up the seed I had scattered late yesterday.

Watching this male Blackbird searching in the snow yesterday reminded me of an old television advertisement for a make of toothpaste which used the sound bite - Ring of Confidence....

Blackbird in the Snow

Here a female Blackbird with its feathers fluffed out to keep warm.

Female Blackbird

Many of the birds show frost on their backs and wing feathers.

Wood Pigeon:
Frosty Wood Pigeon

Frosty Rook

Every so often a group of Goldfinches arrives. One day so many arrived I had to put up a second feeder just for them. They don't exactly welcome any other birds to share their food store.

Goldfinches and House Sparrow

A prolonged cold spell like the one we are having is very hard on wildlife. Yesterday it was mentioned on the television that small birds such as Robins don't have enough body mass to use to generate enough body heat over a long freezing night. Small birds like the Blue Tits can lose a third of their body weight in shivering (the way small birds keep warm) during a night of freezing temperatures. Last night's minimum here was just below -9C and even in the daytime it is only managing the dizzy height of -1.5C

There is a certain four legged hairy monster which insists on exploring from time to time. He goes out, has a quick enquiring bark to see if one of his girlfriends is about, ambles round his favourite spots and then charges back in and curls up in his chair - until the next time.

Bobby in the Snow

Monday, 20 December 2010

Macro on Monday - Guess What

Congratulations to Glo and Wilma for gaining gold stars for their correct identification of last week's puzzle photo. It was indeed a Sunflower Seed.

rectangle_New-Out99999  Sunflower Seed

This week there are two photos of different parts of the same object which has a seasonal flavour.

image 1

Image 2

Clue: It will be on view until twelfth night.

No prizes for a correct identification. Just for fun.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Health and Safety Considerations at Christmas

From another email sent to me.
A little laugh for the Christmas season......

The following contains very important information for all before Christmas

Health , Safety and Equality Considerations for Christmas Songs

Conflict of Interest must also be considered/declared pursuant to determinants within the relevant Local Government Act

1.  Jingle Bells

Dashing through the snow
In a one horse open sleigh
O'er the fields we go
Laughing all the way .


A risk assessment must be submitted before an open sleigh is considered safe for members of the public to travel on. The risk assessment must also consider whether it is appropriate to use only one horse for such a venture, particularly if passengers are of larger proportions. Please note, permission must be gained from landowners before entering their fields. To avoid offending those not participating in celebrations, we would request that laughter is moderate only and not loud enough to be considered a noise nuisance.

2. While Shepherds Watched

While shepherds watched
Their flocks by night
All seated on the ground
The angel of the Lord came down
And glory shone around .


The Shepherds Union has complained that it breaches Health and Safety regulations to insist that shepherds watch their flocks without appropriate seating arrangements being provided, therefore benches, stools and orthopaedic chairs are now available. Shepherds have also requested that, due to the inclement weather conditions at this time of year, they should watch their flocks via CCTV cameras from centrally heated shepherd observation huts.


Please note, the angel of the lord is reminded that before shining his / her glory all around he / she must ascertain that all shepherds have been issued with glasses capable of filtering out the harmful effects of UVA, UVB and Glory.

3.  Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer
had a very shiny nose.
And if you ever saw him,
you would even say it glows .


You are advised that under the Equal Opportunities act, it is inappropriate for persons to make comment with regard to the ruddiness of any part of Mr. R. Reindeer. Further to this, exclusion of Mr R Reindeer from the Reindeer Games will be considered discriminatory and disciplinary action will be taken against those found guilty of this offence. A full investigation will be implemented and sanctions - including suspension on full pay - will be considered whilst this investigation takes place.

4.  We Three Kings

We three Kings of Orient are
Bearing gifts we traverse afar
Field and fountain, moor and mountain
Following yonder star .


Whilst the gift of gold is still considered acceptable - as it may be redeemed at a later date through such organisations as 'cash for gold', etc. - gifts of frankincense and myrrh are not appropriate due to the potential risk of oils and fragrances causing allergic reactions. A suggested gift alternative would be to make a donation to a worthy cause in the recipient's name or perhaps give a gift voucher.

We would not advise that the traversing kings rely on navigation by stars in order to reach their destinations and suggest the use of RAC Routefinder or satellite navigation, which will provide the quickest route and advice regarding fuel consumption. Please note as per the guidelines from the RSPCA for Mr Donkey, the camels carrying the three kings of Orient will require regular food and rest breaks. Face masks for the three kings are also advisable due to the likelihood of dust from the camels' hooves.


The above is a comment on the sometimes ridiculous lengths people have to go in the UK to stay within the overwhelming mountain of rules and regulations before many activities are undertaken.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Christmas Cake Recipe

This was emailed to me by a friend:


* 2 cups flour
* 1 stick butter
* 1 cup of  water
* 1 tsp baking soda
* 1 cup of sugar
* 1 tsp  salt
* 1 cup of brown sugar
* Lemon juice
* 4  large eggs

* Nuts
* 2 bottles wine
* 2  cups of dried fruit

Sample the wine to check quality.  Take a large bowl, check the wine again. To be sure it is of  the highest quality, pour one level cup and drink. Repeat.  Turn on the electric mixer. Beat one cup of butter in a large  fluffy bowl. Add one teaspoon of sugar Beat again. At this  point it's best to make sure the wine is still OK. Try another  cup... Just in case. Turn off the mixerer thingy. Break 2 eggs  and add to the bowl and chuck in the cup of dried fruit.

Pick the frigging fruit up off floor. Mix on the  turner.. If the fried druit gets stuck in the beaterers just  pry it loose with a drewscriver. Sample the wine to check for  tonsisticity. Next, sift two cups of salt. Or something. Check  the wine. Now shift the lemon juice and strain your nuts. Add  one table. Add a spoon of sugar, or some fink. Whatever you  can find. Greash the oven. Turn the cake tin 360 degrees and  try not to fall over. Don't forget to beat off the turner.  Finally, throw the bowl through the window Finish the wine and  wipe counter with the cat.
Go to shop and buy  cake.

Bingle  Jells!

Cake graphic was from

Friday, 17 December 2010

Friday at the Flicks - Jackdaws, Wood Pigeon on Ice, More White Stuff

It is only in the last few days that the Jackdaws have returned to the garden looking for food much to the annoyance of the Wood Pigeons as they cannot be scared away by a few flapping wings.

When the temperature rose above freezing for a while this Wood Pigeon went walkabout on the surface of my frozen garden pond and seemed to be drinking from the occasional pool of rain water.

By early yesterday afternoon the last of the ice on the village pavements had melted but that didn't last for long as a new batch of snow arrived, the temperature dropped again and now everywhere in the village is a skating rink.

As I write this I see the Great Tit has made an early start and left the shelter of the nest box which it continues to use every night and often visits during the day. Do remember to put out food for the birds especially during this cold weather. When I was listening to the radio a few mornings ago when they were discussing bird survival in severe weather it was stated that small birds can lose a third of their body weight just keeping warm on one cold night. This has to be made up by finding enough food before the next night. It goes without saying that water is also hard to find in freezing conditions so do keep an eye on bird baths as they quickly freeze over.

I forgot to fill the feeders yesterday evening so did that as soon as we got back from our early morning walk. Some Blackbirds had already arrived (about 7.20 a.m.) and were cursing me for disturbing them. Shortly after I had finished topping the feeders up and scattering seed on the ground I counted twenty four Blackbirds in the back garden - enough for a pie according to the nursery rhyme.

Have a great weekend observing the wildlife around you, whatever the weather.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Even a Raptor Has to Eat

Just went through to the kitchen to heat up yet another mug of cold tea in the microwave when I spotted a Sparrowhawk in the middle of the garden. It had managed to catch a Starling. Dashed to grab the camera and standing near the back of the kitchen photographing through a window covered with raindrops I managed a few murky shots.

Sparrowhawk and Starling

I will admit I was relieved when the hawk noticed me and flew off with its prey.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Macro on Monday - Guess What

Last week's puzzle picture was definitely of ice - but where or what? In fact it was a very close view of an icicle. The 'veins' were probably the frozen trails of water drops running down the surface of the icicle. I though they made a fascinating pattern. No one thought of an icicle so I am going to claim the gold star again this week. Wicked aren't I?

Brrrrr   Icicle 2

Here is the new puzzle picture taken though the microscope - answer next Monday.


Clue:  A embryonic ray of sunshine waiting to burst forth next Summer.
No prizes - just for fun.

Ultrasound scan, x-ray and blood tests over with this morning. Full results on my yearly meeting on the 29th but the ultrasound radiologist gave me a reasonable running commentary so at least I know nothing has changed there. That is exactly what I want to hear each year..

Friday, 10 December 2010

Friday at the Flicks - Robin, Rook, Great Tit

It's not often a Robin stays in view for very long here so it made a change to be able to video one for a short while as it set about eating the seeds falling from one of the feeders.

The fat balls have been lasting a long time in the recent sub zero temperatures. Only the largest and strongest beaks have been able to tackle them as this video of a Rook shows.

Finally I spotted that the Great Tit had once again been performing a nest box shuffle.By the look of things it seems she has also been removing some of the discarded feathers from that fight a while ago.

Yesterday I saw two Great Tits taking Sunflower hearts and eating fairly close together so I think it may well be a pair.

Have a great weekend observing the wildlife around you.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Blackbirds by the Dozen

I normally fill all the seed feeders just before it gets dark so there is plenty of food for the early risers. Also over the past week I have been scattering seed over the frozen snow in the back garden so the ground feeders also have plenty to go at. I scatter it about as that saves many arguments as the birds don't have to get too close to each other.

Blackbird 2
Since the start of Autumn I had rarely seen a Blackbird in the garden. Then a few started to arrive when the temperature dived below zero.. The numbers have continued to grow up to a peak yesterday morning when I counted twenty one feeding at first light. I have always found that Blackbirds seem to be one of the first birds in the village to be up and about each morning. Unfortunately that means the light levels are far too low to try for a photograph of the multitude.

As well as the Blackbirds there have been up to ten Wood Pigeons grabbing as much food as they can. That is another reason for scattering the seed. If it is all in one place then one of the pigeons will sit on it and keep all other birds away.

Wood Pigeons

There was nearly one less Blackbird this morning. I was doing a bit of filming when a shape came hurtling out of the sky. A Sparrowhawk had dived in aiming at one of the birds feeding on the lawn. Fortunately for the Blackbird the raptor was noticed and within a second the garden was empty and the air filled with alarm calls.The Sparrowhawk flew up to a nearby branch empty clawed. It was amusing to watch as two Wood Pigeons sat on a nearby branch and just stared at the hawk as though to say - come on if you feel tough enough. Needless to say the camcorder wasn't pointing in the right direction to capture the action.

There have been far fewer Goldfinches since the harsh weather arrived. Often I will se a lone one at the feeder and just occasionally three or four. This one was captured in one of the short bursts of sunlight we have had recently.

Goldfinch 2

It looks as though we are going to get a short respite from the cold weather for the next few days. I hope to get my drive cleared as I have my yearly  scan, x-ray and blood tests on Monday.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Mini Ice Sculpture in the Garden

I leave the pond pump running all year, that is until it freezes up which it does in really cold weather. The water is pumped through an imitation hand water pump and returns to the pond down the mini waterfall. I check it each day this weather to see whether it is still flowing. From a distance yesterday it looked as though it had frozen. When I went closer I saw the water was still flowing but was falling through a ring of ice above the waterfall.

Water Flowing Through Ice

I tried taking a few photographs but none could really show the effect so I took a short piece of video.

As there are frozen splashes of water around the area I guess the scattered water has been freezing while the larger birds have been bathing in the pool at the top of the waterfall.

A bit on the chilly side this morning. -8.1C when we went for our early morning constitutional.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Macro on Monday - Guess What

Well - I guess I get the gold star again. Maybe it was a bit obscure last week. Centre Court referred to Wimbledon and yes, it was a flower. Amongst other things Wimbledon is associated with strawberries and cream. The photo was of a strawberry flower taken in November when the plant had no chance of producing any more fruit this year. Thank you to all who had a go at identifying it.

rectangle_New-Out99999    Strawberry Flower

The funny looking object above the flower is my home made lighting for the microscope - a bright white 12V LED.

Hopefully this week's puzzle picture will be a bit easier.


Clue: A product of last week's UK weather.
No prizes for a correct identification - just a bit of fun.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Snowy Weather at the Birdy Bistro (Belated Friday at the Flicks)

Another senior moment, or is that senior week these days? My body clock seems to be running a day late - blame it on the snow. That slows everything down. Anyway - over the past week I have been taking snippets of video of some of the regulars visiting the garden during this unusually early cold period.

Woke up this morning and was more than a little surprised to see we had had over an inch of additional snow over night. At least it was easier to walk on than the uneven solid ice on the footpaths yesterday. Ice spikes may well give a grip but uneven lumps of frozen snow play havoc with the ankle and knee joints. One good thing at the moment - the temperature is +1.3C and even the icicles have shrunk overnight though I have a feeling it will soon be back below zero.

How do ducks keep their feet warm on frozen ground? A lady got in touch with my local radio station yesterday. She said her ducks settled down on the ground and then tucked their feet up under their wings.
Not daft are they?

Friday, 3 December 2010

Front Garden by Night and by Day + External Robin Video Link

We may well be at the end of the present batch of snow showers but with this morning's temperature dipping down to -8C it will be a while before it disappears completely.

This is my front garden as photographed a couple of nights ago:

Snowy Garden

And the view this morning:

Snowy Garden 2

In this part of the country we expect to see views like that once every few years in February, not the beginning of December.

There is a photographer who goes under the name GoldfinchGarden on YouTube who has some really great bird videos. This morning he sent me a link to his latest - a slow motion close up video clip of two Robins feeding from a hand, though not at the same time as there was a bit of an argument as to who would get the seed. It's not over violent and well worth viewing. The video can be found HERE.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Don't Shut That Door

Only a little scattering of snow overnight but it's making up for it now as bursts of heavy snow move in from the North Sea. Every so often Bobby took a tour of the garden and had a quick burst of energy dashing through the snow. After a while he decided enough is enough and came hurtling back indoors. It's a good job I am ready to open the door as he would never be able to stop on the packed snow and ice outside the back door.

Don't Shut That Door

Yesterday Lincolnshire ground to a halt as the drifting deep fine snow on the fields covered the roads as soon as the snow ploughs cleared them. Even the postal delivery didn't materialise.

Weather condition are so unusually bad that the Lincoln Christmas Market has been cancelled. The first time that has happened since it started about 28 years ago. Normally 100,000 people visit the Christmas Market and the authorities decided that road conditions were so bad, with no sign of immediate improvement, that it was too dangerous for all concerned.

Temperatures have hovered around 0C which allows some snow on the shed roof to start melting but the resulting drips of water are turning to icicles.


The first time I have seen any icicles for quite a few years and that one, taken yesterday, is steadily growing..

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Strange November, White December

November was a real mixture for temperatures here. The average for the month would be 7C to 10C. The month started about 10 degrees above average and ended about 10 degrees below average. These were the temperatures for November as measured by my weather centre.

Temp November 2010

December has started with plenty of snow - shades of 1947? - not quite but it is very unusual to have so much snow here at this time of year. My back garden has about 6 inches (15 cm) of snow and my grocery delivery has been cancelled as the road conditions are atrocious. Many think of Lincolnshire as a flat county. Well it is near the coast and in the south of the county but not far from me there are several steep hills and main roads surrounded by open arable land. Even the snow on my roof is blowing about so I can imagine what some of the drifts will be like. On top of that it has started snowing again.

This morning the Great Tit was a bit later again in leaving the nestbox. Here a video of it superimposed on still views of my front and back gardens.

I cleared the snow from the feeders, put out a fresh saucer of water and scattered some seed on top of the snow. It didn't take long for some of the regulars to find it.

Wood pigeon sinking up to its belly in the snow:
Wood Pigeon in the Snow 2

Wood Pigeon in the Snow 3

A few of the Starlings, too cold to argue:

Starlings in the Snow

The only good thing about having snow covered roads through the village - for once traffic is moving well within the speed limit.
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