Thursday, 26 September 2013

They may be Humble...

... But Their Population's taking a Tumble.
 House Sparrows are in decline.  Serious decline.  Since the 1970's more than 7 million have gone from the UK alone.  As I'm sure you can imagine this isn't good news.  However, according to BTO studies the decline has just slightly levelled off.  That on the other hand is good news.  But will it last?  The decline has largely been down to a lack of insects for the chicks when they are in the nest.  Primarily a lack of Aphids, a key food source for their nestlings.  Aphids too are having a hard time of it, what with the introduction of pesticides since the 2nd World War.  And, if you think of it, in the long run the House Sparrows decline is also down to these harmful chemicals.  So if you do use them in your garden, I would strongly advise that you stop, or get a more eco friendly one.

 When my grandparents (on my fathers side) moved into their house twenty years ago the garden held a population of House Sparrows.  It did so for a few years after but then they were gone.  Vanished.  I know that there is a small population just a few minutes drive away, but in the close vicinity none.  So it came to a great surprise to all of us when last week we saw a male House Sparrow on the garden feeders.  The first Sparrow here in fifteen years.  Quite something.  The question then popped up though, will it stay?  If it does stay will it find a mate and breed next year?  These questions have yet to be resolved.  Hopefully the answer to both will be yes, but we will wait and see.

OK well the habitat is not perfect, the grass somewhat too short to hold a large enough supply of insects, but there are a lot of hedges for nesting and several gardens around there do feed birds throughout winter.  So there could still be hope for the Sparrows return to this neighbourhood.

Friday, 20 September 2013

Back to the Patch.

Last week you may remember me mentioning that I have, to some degree neglected my patch of late. If you can class the last six weeks under 'of late'.  Today however I decided that it had gone on for too long.  I set foot once again in the park.  It was by no means a bad patch day either.  Valentines Park, being comprised by tarmac paths, man-made lakes and well manicured grass is not exactly the most wildlife friendly of parks.  As such, it makes finding a bird you perhaps would elsewhere have dismissed something to get excited about.
 Today was a rather lucky day.  For only the second time -I think- both Green and Great-Spotted Woodpeckers were seen!  And if that wasn't enough there were two Greens.
 Now I'm sure on many people's patch this is not big deal.  Something to expect even.  But on mine it's a pretty momentous occasion.

A total of 26 species was recorded, which, considering my best patch day list is 37 is not to poor a count.  I find winter to be by far the best time for getting the higher patch lists. Hopefully it won't be long now....

Friday, 13 September 2013

Patch neglect

It is with a heavy heart that I admit I have somewhat neglected - forgotten even, to visit my patch of late.  It has been a good five weeks since I last set foot in park, and to the extent of my knowledge it has stood un-birded for all that time. Now I'm not that much of a patch birder, I don't do patch year-lists or even a patch-list -although I think I should- however I still feel ashamed for having left it for all this time.  To make it worse I visited Wanstead Flats three times over the course of three days last week.  It was worth it though....

Despite the rain.

Bright sunlight.

And amazingly tame Kestrels.

Although I have no problem whatsoever with Kestrels being tame.  Frankly the opposite as I'm sure the case would be with any wildlife photographer.  This individual bird allowed me to slowly make my way around the tree to a better shooting angle and hardly paid any notice to me. The Whinchat was also quite calm with me approaching, but the lighting was abominable so the distant shot was the best.  However I'm not complaining, no sir.  For that wee bird took my year-list to a nice round number of 160.  Definitely worth the rain.

Monday, 9 September 2013


I'm back from Ireland now, and have been for several days.  So again I must apologise for the late coming of this post.  However I have been slightly busy, and as they say better late than never.
 Anyway, while I was in Ireland we decided to visit Cape Clear Islands.  This is apparently a migrant hot-spot.  Well I will confess that I didn't see particularly many migrants -unless you count the thousands of black dots out to see which are apparently Shearwaters.  However that doesn't mean it wasn't a good day out.  After I had assessed the situation I realised that it would be more of a photography day than a bird-watching day.  So I set about photographing Fulmars, or should I say trying to photograph Fulmars.  I did manage some, well, decent shots, nothing to write home about.  Except that I am writing about them.
 Where stopped to do sea-watching there were cliffs on either side, and flying around these cliffs were Fulmars.  So after I realised sea-watching was impossible at that distance we climbed down the steep hill to get closer to the Fulmars.  And get close we did, at times too close.

After you spend a while watching them you can begin to predict there flight patterns.  This helped a bit but I still didn't manage anything great.  Getting a focus on the head with a lens at f/8 isn't easy.  If you're a photographer you'll know what I mean.

There were a few things of note though;  9 Chough, and my third species of Whale this year -Minke.  A distant speck surrounded by the even smaller specks of Shearwaters.  A Minke Whale nonetheless.  My seventeenth mammal species this year -yes, I am mammal year-listing, maybe it'll be the new trend?

 Well, that's one blog done, a few more from Ireland still to come, and I have some new stuff to post too...
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