28 December 2005

New arrivals on the home front

The last ten days have seen three new arrivals at Chez Hornet. In order of importance then...

My son, Charles (Charlie) Francis, was born on 22nd December 2006 at 9.20pm, a beautiful baby boy and the most wonderful moment of my life. This is a clear winner, and dwarfs any birding news. However...

There have been two new birds in my garden of late (as you might imagine, I haven't done any 'real' birding since 22nd December!). The first is a striking male Blackcap which has been a regular every day for the last week or so (allowing me to test my new camera, albeit at extreme range from the bedroom window). We have had one of these in the garden each winter we have been here, but they never lose their power to thrill as one of our few winter warblers.

Second has been the pair of Bullfinches which have graced our garden on several occasions, attacking our fruit trees but not yet reaching the bird table. These are also occasional visitors with the power to brighten up any day.

Addendum: Dec 31st - a Jay landed on our trellis today, a welcome garden 'first'. There aren't many mature trees around this part of the village, making this bird a rare occurence locally. Sadly it didn't hang around long enough to have its photo taken.

22 December 2005

Draycote and a borrowed photograph

Impending fatherhood has left me less and less time for birding, so a quick Monday morning out and about on the local patch was most welcome. A beautiful still morning found me at Napton Reservoir first (looking for Bearded Tit) and then Draycote (hoping for Hawfinch photo opportunities).

At Napton I found mostly usual suspects - a Kingfisher gave particularly nice views. Later that day I read that the Bearded Tit had been found in the reedbeds there, but sadly not by me.

At Draycote I got the briefest views of a pale Hawfinch (not enough to get the photo I sought), plus yet another Great Northern Diver, a female Sparrowhawk (killing a Blackbird and making everything else decidedly jittery) and a few other odds and sods.

So no photo of a Hawfinch then, but to make up for that, here is a splendid shot taken a couple of weeks ago at Draycote by my colleague James.

6 December 2005

Siskin and Mealy Redpoll at Brandon

OK, so I didn't get the Bittern. But I did walk straight into one of the other birds I was looking for at Brandon - Siskin. This little finch is a winter delight, but one which often eludes me. Not today. Straight into a flock of 30+ near the visitor centre, and even a chance to take some (poor) photographs to prove it.

It got even better after that. Along with a handful of Lesser Redpoll we found at least three Mealy or Common Redpoll, pale and pinky little things which attracted quite an admiring crowd.

Out on the water we found a drake Goldeneye along with the usual waterfowl and gulls, and a Muntjak Deer put on a nice show for us to round off the day.

Just sitting around

I haven't done much photography lately, so I thought with a few days off work I'd take the camera out for a spin.

Cue rain, dark skies and lousy light of course, but I enjoyed the experience just the same.

First of all I went back to Brandon to photograph the Bittern. I set up the camera facing a short channel across which the bird had been seen several times (including by myself on Sunday). I sat and watched for 90 minutes, the whole experience reminding me of fishing when I was a boy... just sitting and watching one point, waiting for something to happen. And, rather like fishing when I was a boy, nothing did happen. Zip, zilch, nada.

Still, I got to watch a Kingfisher, a Sparrowhawk and a Jay, so not a total waste, and on the way back to the car I got glimpses of a Water Rail. Not a bad haul (not a single photo though!)

1 December 2005

Back down to earth

A Thursday off work and a chance to bird - so, that'll be grey skies, rain and no birds then.

Actually it was an OK morning. Certainly it was grey, wet and windy, but not too seriously so. And certainly there wasn't the excitement of last Sunday morning - although the Hawfinches are still around (up to five apparently) I chose not to spend too long looking for them.

Instead I did a quick circuit of Draycote (in so far as one can do a quick five mile circuit), and found a few Goosander, a couple of Goldeneye, 120 or more Golden Plover flying overhead, and then up to 100 Lapwing.

At Toft Shallows I stopped at the hide for the briefest digiscoping session (too dull for serious photography, but here's a picture of a Robin anyway). And then I headed off to Napton Reservoir, a new location for me, but one which came to my attention last week when a pair of Bearded Tits were found there. The reservoir is very close to my house, so I took the opportunity to pop by. It's a good looking spot, with a reasonable amount of deep open water, mature hedging and farmland all around, plus a fabulously large reedbed at the back (hence the beardies I suppose).

No sign of much today (the high wind will have kept any Bearded Tits hunkered down low in the reeds) but I imagine I will be a fairly frequent visitor here from now on. But the highlight of the day was in a neighbour's garden - as I stared out into the gathering rain and gloom, a female Kestrel (young, I think) flew on to a nearby fence with a tiny vole in her claws. After sitting for a while she stuffed the vole between a fence and fencepost, presumably for later consumption, before flying off to make the most of the last few hours of daylight.