15th March 2018

The decline in Kestrels in many parts of the Uk is worrying but on our recent trip to the North East they were visible in their previous numbers. Such a delight, they are not usually persecuted as they take small rats, mice and voles, which are regarded by farmers as pests. In medieval falconry they were flown by knaves as they were


regarded as lower status than Peregrines etc. They can hover in a strong winds, keeping their heads completely still, like this one by St Mary’s lighthouse. Conditions: Another dull, wet day. Temperature: Max 8 Min 5c.


28th February 2018

Fieldfares, named from the Anglo-Saxon ‘fieldware’ or ‘traveller of the fields’ may come in from the fields and woods in this weather, as 13 did today, sweeping into our garden during a blizzard (hence the indistinct photo’s!). Breeding in Scandinavia, Fieldfares, about the size of Mistle Thrushes, migrate to the UK to overwinter. They are sometimes in mixed flocks with our other over-wintering Thrush, the smaller Redwing- the Fieldfare is the larger bird in this drawing, to scale alongside the Redwing, which we get more frequently in our winter garden. Condition: Heavy snow showers, driving breezes and sunny intervals. Temperature: Max -4 Min -5 C.

Fieldfare (larger) and Redwing



14th February 2018

Great Spotted Woodpeckers are turning up on our feeders as usual but males can also be heard drumming on the tree trunks to establish their territories, which they will do until April. (Male have a red patch at the back of their head, females don’t – see photo’s). One of the success stories, their increasing numbers and spread mean you can hear them in most of the UK- we even heard one at Kelsey Park, Beckenham, at the weekend! They find the loudest drumming-posts, including telegraph poles. (Green Woodpeckers, while they excavate nesting holes in tree-trunks, do not drum). Conditions: Frosty and showery. Temperature: Max 5- Min 4C.

Great Spotted Woodpecker- female

Great Spotted Woodpecker- female  



Great Spotted Woodpecker- male

Great Spotted Woodpecker- male

2nd February 2018

Kestrels are another of our birds in worrying decline, on the Amber list. We were lucky to see this one at Tree Sparrow Farm at Old Moor RSPB centre near Barnsley this week. Time was, you saw them on any long distance drive in England, but not now. The RSPB are carrying out research into their decline- preliminary findings point to the increased use of rat poison and changes in agriculture as responsible. Still trying for a good photo, but in the meantime…. Conditions: bright and dry. Temperature: Max 7- Min 2.

30th January 2018

Reed Bunting- about the size of a sparrow but longer and more slender, this lovely bird was in some numbers at Old Moor RSPB reserve today. Feeding on seeds and insects, and traditionally a wetland bird, the Reed Bunting is now spreading out into farmland, where it particularly enjoys the seed of Oilseed Rape, it can even turn up on garden feeders through winter. Like some other species, the Reed Bunting will feign injury to draw predators away from their nests. Conditions: Sunny and still Temperature: Max 7- Min 3C.

Male Reed Bunting

Male Reed Bunting

Female Reed Bunting

Male Reed Bunting

26th January 2018

Our Bat populations have increased by 9% over the past few years, according to  surveys for British Waterways, helped by  increased protection and conservation measures. Cold winter’s also help, as Bats need consistently low temperatures to hibernate effectively. When they hibernate, their heart rate slows to a few beats a minute, meaning they burn less energy and survive better without seriously depleting their stored body weight. British Waterways compare our rivers and canals to supermarket aisles for insect-eating Bats. Here are a couple of our most commonly seen Bat: the small Pipistrelle. Conditions: a lovely blue-skied January day. Temperature: Max 7- Min 3C.

Pipistrelle Bat, Deepdale

Pipistrelle Bat

13th January 2018

Winter brings in many birds- 25 species in the garden this week, including the Stock Dove, in from surrounding pastures of Sheffield to feed on seeds under feeders. A little smaller than Wood Pigeons, and lacking their white neck and wing bars, this pigeon is a pest on farmland but East Anglian Warreners (‘farmers’ of wild rabbits) used to take advantage of their habit of nesting in Rabbit holes. They would put sticks across the entrance to warrens so adults could still feed the young, and then,

Stock Dove

Stock dove

fattened up, they would take the young for the pot. Their Finnish name is wonderful: Uuttukyyhky: spell check doesn’t even bother! Conditions: The dark, dull days continue. Temperature: Max 6- Min 3C.