20 Feb 2018


I've been visiting my daughter and family in Australia for a couple of weeks and reacquainting myself with the local bird life. We also spent a few days in Sydney coinciding with the Chinese new year celebrations and visited the calm oasis that is the Chinese Friendship Gardens near Darling Harbour.

The gardens are fabulous and full of wildlife including these amazing looking Water Dragons. They're native to Australia and have found the perfect home here.

18 Feb 2018

More patch birding

Theres nothing better than standing in the study as the dawn breaks with a mug of tea in hand and watching the pond opposite the house through the scope as the light reveals whats dropped in over night! Unfortunately thats all to rare an occurrence as I usually leave for work this time of year in darkness and get home in darkness but one day this week I had the chance to stand and watch......

The result was another species for the patch year list - a pair of Shoveller had arrived overnight but left soon after dawn. The 4 Wigeon remain though and the Canada geese have started arriving occasionally joined by a couple of Greylags.

Shoveller and Teal above. Greylags below:

Canadas below:

We are also getting regular visits from at least two Rabbits who seem to have taken a liking to the extremely rotten windfalls left out for the birds!

5 Feb 2018

Hawfinches at Wimpole Manor, Cambridgeshire

The weekend saw the 48th Bird Observatories Council meeting being held at the BTO's headquarters in the Nunnery, Thetford. Four of the Hilbre Bird Obs committee made the journey to deepest, darkest Norfolk and a good time was had by all! It was great to catch up with representatives of most of the other UK bird observatories and be present when Alderney Bird Observatory got their accreditation. It was also a good opportunity to meet up with old contacts at the BTO and put faces to names of those people we'd dealt with either by phone or email.

With Steve and Chris commencing their birding and gastronomic, sorry birding,  tour of north Norfolk on the Thursday it was left for Al & me to travel down on the Friday. With my car needing two new tyres after failing its MOT it was down toAl to drive and he picked me up around 09.30.

An uneventful journey had us pondering where to stop off for a bit of birding and checking the map we found that a group of Hawfinches had been seen regularly in the car park of the National Trusts property at Wimpole Hall. A quick detour and we soon found ourselves watching 5 Hawfinches as they performed brilliantly a few metres away feeding on  seeds from some kind of tree with winged fruits. It didn't look like Ash and it doesn't look like Lime.

 Apart from having the privilege of ringing one of these huge finches on Fair Isle a couple of years ago and being relatively close to a well known site in N Wales these were the best views I've had of a group of Hawfinches.

A great couple of days at the conference and good views of Muntjac Deer from the Nunnery windows, Kingfishers in Thetford town centre and Red Kites along the A14!

Many thanks to Al for the use of his photos.

26 Jan 2018


We've got good numbers of finches visiting the garden feeders at the moment with double figure numbers of Greenfinch and Chaffinch among the myriads of Goldfinches. Its nice to see the Greenfinches doing well again and we've had a maximum count of 12 together.

Although the weather hasn't really been conducive to ringing I've managed to set a mist net a couple of times and caught a few finches.

When you look closely at some of our commoner birds they really are stunning.

22 Jan 2018

Scandinavian Chaffinches?

I've not done a huge amount of garden ringing recently but one thing that has struck me is how large some of the Chaffinches are I've been catching. This 1st winter male was almost Greenfinch size with a wing of 92 mm and a weight of 27.6 g. In fact when I entered the ringing data  I got an error message up saying this was above the heaviest weight normally expected for this species. it also appears to have a deeper and chunkier bill.

So where are these large birds from? Probably winter visitors from Scandinavia along with the large Blackbirds I've also been seeing.

18 Jan 2018

Patch birding.

This time of year is always slow birding when your patch is an inland site mainly consisting of improved pasture with a few small ponds and copses. I've been out a few times and waded through muddy fields and ditches. Theres  a few species I'd expected to get that seem to have gone AWOL. I've not yet seen Coal Tit or Grey Wagtail but I have already seen Barn Owl (sat on a fence post early one morning a few hundred metres from the house), Snipe (6 flushed from around a reed fringed pond) and Reed Bunting (scarce for some reason here). Coot, Moorhen, Teal and Mallard are all regular on the local ponds but the pond in front of the house has failed to attract big numbers of wildfowl yet although we've had the first Greylag Geese, Canada Geese and Wigeon of the year. The Teal are all hiding on another overgrown local pond thats actually in someones back garden!

Other regulars include Pinkfooted Geese and of course our resident Little Owls which can currently be seen basking in sunny weather from our bedroom window!

14 Jan 2018

Treecreeper. New to the garden ringing list.

In our previous house I think I only ever recorded one Treecreeper in 20 years! In our new place a Treecreeper has become a scarce visitor in recent months. Setting a mist net to catch Redwings among the windfall apples I was surprised to catch a Treecreeper  - the first I've ringed in my garden and probably only the 4th or 5th I've ever ringed. The last one was at Catterick in July 2014.

                                             Treecreeper, Catterick, July 2014.

Prior to that the last one I saw in the hand was one ringed by Colin in Barry's Burton garden in 2011.

These little birds are really well adapted to their life of probing for insects in tree bark. Their tail feathers are stiff (like a woodpeckers) to aid them in climbing ands they've long sharp claws and a long down-turned bill for probing into small crevices.

Quickly ringing the bird and taking the required measurements to rule out Short-toed Treecreeper I took a few photos before releasing it back into the garden where it happily flew to a large Scots Pine and started feeding. I never did catch any Redwings! Still,there’s always tomorrow.

I've got plans to make a Treecreeper nesting box so that'll be next on the list of projects.

It seems that every continent has a treecreeper species (or more than one) or a species adapted to a similar habitat. The photo below is of a White-throated Treecreeper I photographed in Australia.

 Whilst, the USA, has a variety of Treecreepers or wood warblers filling that niche - like the Black & White Warbler I saw and photographed on the Scillies a few years ago!

A few years ago I found a Treecreepers nest in Stanney Woods and photographed the bird carrying nesting material to the site. The photo below illustrates really well how they use their stiffened tail feathers to aid balance and as they climb the trees.