31st January 2016

IMG_5311IMG_5278IMG_5286IMG_5170Starlings- I was lucky to be able to watch Catsfield’s own modest Starling murmuration from my friends farmyard yesterday! They congregated around the pylons at first before flying on their swooping way into the woods to roost. In the distance, another murmuration was also displaying- wonderful stuff. Conditions: Sunny yesterday afternoon but bleak, wet and gloomy today. Temperature: Max 11- Min 9c.

27th January 2016

I’m about to go down south again so I’m posting a few recent shots of the lovely Long Tailed Tits, showing their gorgeous markings. Historically, these birds didn’t visit garden feeders but the fat and high energy foods put out can be vital for their winter survival. Being such small birds they are very vulnerable to cold weather. Like Wrens, they huddle together at night to help keep warm. With such small round bodies and long tails, some call them ‘flying teaspoons’, while I like the older  ‘Bumbarrels’. They begin to nest earlier than other Tits so will start to pair up in February or early March but right now they are still in large, family groups. Conditions: Showers and blustery winds. Temperature: Max 13- Min 2c

Long Tailed Tit

Long Tailed Tit

Long Tailed Tit

Long Tailed Tit

Long Tailed Tit

Long Tailed Tit

Long Tailed Tit

Long Tailed Tit

25th January 2016

Look what briefly landed on our hedge today- a gorgeous Sparrowhawk. Probably a  

Female Sparrowhawk

Female Sparrowhawk- showing its golden eye

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Sparrowhawk wobbling on the hedge

Sparrowhawk wobbling on the hedge

female (although male  juveniles are also this sort of colouring), it swooped down onto the privet hedge, wobbled around trying to balance (as you can see),then flew off again. Females weigh more and are 25% bigger than males, and have browner backs. It is thought that the males are smaller in order to be more agile and manoeuvrable- they need to hunt more during breeding to supply the female on the nest. Sparrowhawks are doing well in the UK, and are one of the birds on the ‘Green List’, meaning their numbers are stable. Conditions: Mild and dry with a strong breeze. Temperature: Max 13- Min 6c.

22nd January 2016

Reflections:  At Old Moor RSPB reserve near Barnsley there weren’t many birds which led me to concentrate on the patterns they make in the waterWigeon have such beautiful feather patterns anyway, and this pair drifted close to the Family Hide. They weren’t put off by the flock of garrulous men in the hide like I was! Even the Black Headed Gull, with it’s winter plumage of one dark cheek-spot rather than a fully dark head, looked beautiful. Conditions: Mild, wet morning predicted to brighten later. Temperature: Max 10- Min 4c.IMG_3800

Black Headed Gull in winter plumage

Black Headed Gull in winter plumage

A pair of Wigeon at Old Moor

A pair of Wigeon at Old Moor

20th January 2016

Birds with their beaks in the snow. Before I could get out to warm up some of the frozen pond and birdbath the other day, all these common birds were busy eating the snow. They do prefer sources of water and can get some moisture from berries and fruits but they will eat snow, as these photos show. Conditions: The snow went quickly and today we even have sunshine on this spell of very still days. Temperature: Max 5, Min -1c

Female Blackbird

Female Blackbird

Male Blackbird

Male Blackbird

This female Bullfinch was really busy eating the snow on the Rowan branch

This female Bullfinch was really busy eating the snow on the Rowan branch

Female Chaffinch

Female Chaffinch

17th January 2016

Fox- our first real covering of snow just brought this Fox through the garden. January is a lively month for Foxes. Last years’ young leave or are chased off the parents territory and mating takes place, with the blood-curdling nighttime calls heralding the process, though in fact they only call about one night in three. There is 50-70% Fox mortality each year though this is not usually due to lack of food- in cities it is estimated that there is 150 times the food required for scavenging foxes. Despite the way it seems, urban foxes are not thought to be on the increase, their maximum population density having been reached around 20 years ago. Conditions: Around an inch of snow last evening and night. Completely still days. Temperature around 1c day and night.IMG_5356

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Fox today

Fox today

11th January 2016

Bracket fungi: Along the Rivelin Valley, the fungi are looking good. ‘Many Zoned Polypores’ are common bracket fungi and come in varied colours, growing on dead and dying wood. They used to be used to make jewellery! The Jelly Ear grows mostly on Elder, as it is here, and though it doesn’t look very appetising, apparently it is a real delicacy in some part of the world. Conditions: Cloudy, still day. Temperature: Max 5-Min 3c.

Many Zoned Polypore

Many Zoned Polypore

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Many Zoned Polypore

Many Zoned Polypore

Jelly Ear fungus on Elder

Jelly Ear fungus on Elder