Thursday, November 30, 2006

Nut Warblers and a scaly legged finch

Forecasts for another dry, if not sunny day saw an early(ish) start at the weekend. My quest for the day was a return to the Cyril Hart arboretum in the Forest of Dean to see whether I could get any shots of the Nut Warblers (Delor y cnau), or nuthaks as Chaucer might have had it.

I had noted last week that they would come down to seed on the ground, but they would tend to grab a single peanut and shoot off. Instead I took some environmentally friendly 'won't grow' seed in the hope they might hang around a while longer.

Another misty morning welcomed by a pair of crows, and I started to worry about the light levels. This wasn't going to be easy!

I started off tucked back under the trees, using the telescope to try and get a decent frame filling digiscoped shot. The excellent sensor on the fuji 30 allowed pictures at low light levels, but focusing proved tricky, and there was some definite purple fringing.

I decided to see how brave the birds were and was amazed to find I could get within a few yards and the birds would still feed. Admittedly I was tucked up in my coat under a hood, but even so their tolerance was a surprise - such a surprise that I didn't take in the bottle top that unfortunately inhabits some of the shots! Even more surprising was the number of people walking past who only seemed to notice me at the last minute, ofetn as they were standing on the seed!

Great Tit

Coal tit


The seed worked well, with the nuthatches pausing to pick up several sunflower seeds most times - helpful given the fact that they tend to move so fast and the light was still pretty poor.

Ended up with a couple of shots I was happy with, including the scaly legged chaffinch - I believe this is due to a mite infestation. It looked bad, but the bird itself seemed fairly healthy otherwise.

Chaffinches - female top, scaly legged male below

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Goldcrests and cliches

This weekend a trip in the other direction. A frosty morning saw me in the Forest of Dean just as the sun was starting to peer over the treetops. For an hour or so it was possible to enjoy the frost, the mist and the glorious colour of the trees.

And to take some cliche snaps. I won't apologise about the lack of originality because I still think they look pretty!

A large clump of Deschampsia highlighted by the sun reminded me why I persist in trying to grow this grass in the garden, even though it doesn't seem I've found the right spot yet.

I missed the redwings on the hawthorn, but a robin sat like an overlarge berry.

A movement in the treetops eventually turned out to be a greater spotted woodpecker, although I could only get decent views with the camera digiscoping at too high a magnification. Never seen one on pine cones before.

Long tailed tits flitted noisily through the broad-leaved trees and there were some fleeting glimpses of goldcrests in the pines, in too much shade to allow a shutter speed fast enough to freeze the flighty little buggers.

Moving on to Speech House and the arboretum I found more goldcrests, and finally managed a shot which at least has the beak almost in focus even if the rest is blurred and you can't see the crest!

I don't know if it is just me but this year there seem to be goldcrests everywhere I go - even in the car park at work - far more than I can recall last winter. Maybe a sign of a hard winter coming for Europe?

Monday, November 13, 2006

Autumn II

A more mixed weekend, but still some sunshine.

[Click on the pics for slightly bigger versions]


A trip back to Wentwood, this time with some seed to try and tempt down the chaffinch flock, reputed to include a few bramblings. Couldn't tempt them down to the ground, and saw only chaffinches in the trees. The robin was happy enough though, finding some seed on the old picnic table.

Wild crab apple


Clematis vitalba (Old Man's Beard, Traveller's Joy)

White Bryony

Blackthorn sloes

Greenfinch with bramble stained beak


For some reason one of the commonest 'farmland' birds we see down on the fields locally is the buzzard. On Sunday there were 5 in one freshly tilled field, no doubt after worms, but this is well short of the winter record of 12 in a single field!

Buzzard digging for worms

Herons (another common bird on our fields)

[Dear Santa I need a book on names of fungi!]

Not sure what this is, but the head and wings had a fabulous gold sheen.
[Dear Santa I need a bug and fly book.]

And to finish another Red Admiral (again there were several around)

Monday, November 06, 2006

Wentwood Autumn

There is something about a woodland on a sunny autumn day. I hadn't been to Wentwood for a couple of years, but the beautiful weather last weekend and the news that redpolls were around in high numbers made it my choice for a morning walk.

As the sun burnt off the frost, the beeches and oaks were backlit to perfection. An imperceptible breeze caused silken strands, now spiderless, to drift across the paths. All along the way Red Admiral butterflies danced between the trees, or lay down and soaked up the warming rays.

I couldn't believe the numbers of them, but the reason soon became clear-

the tree trunks were lagged in ivy and it was alive! In a few minutes I saw a dozen or more flies, wasps and othe insects feasting on the ivy flowers. I have't bothered trying to put names to them, but a selection are shown below.

The birds were there, but no decent snapshots. The goldcrests were too small, quick and far away. The marsh tit flew too near, scolded me and then shot away again. The goshawk and bullfinch showed too fleetingly in full flight, the jays were too nervous, and I didn't actually pick out a redpoll in amongst the flocks of finches and tits. But what the hell - mornings like that don't come along too often!