January 16, 2013

Tuppence a bag.

Chaffinch and goldfinch

I used to fancy the idea of being a wildlife photographer. In my twenties and early thirties I spent a lot of time chasing butterflies - literally not metaphorically - and collected a bundle of photographs of most of the species the UK has to offer. Snakes and lizards were my other passion and me, Chris and Paddy used to set off to some far flung area in search of them. This led to an incident in an area of sand dunes where Chris and I were searching for Smooth Snakes only to find it was the gathering point for large numbers of gay naturists, we found plenty of smooth snakes all right but none that I felt the urge to photograph.

Which brings me to this morning - no, its nothing to do with smooth snakes - I've been trying to get a picture of a brambling. We've always fed the birds, it used to be a bag of loose peanuts from the local shop but over the years this has escalated somewhat. A van left a delivery the other day which consisted of over 50kgs of various seed mixes and Nicky found some reduced items in a pet shop which have been added to it. The old song from Mary Poppins went along the lines of "Feed the birds tuppence a bag" well that song has failed to keep track with inflation.

We pay a little more for sunflower hearts and a 'no mess' seed mix which really does help to keep the garden free from a thick layer of rotting husks and this is much healthier for the birds themselves. The birds seem to appreciate it too, for a small, suburban garden we have an excellent variety of bird visitors but being so close to the countryside helps.

Brambling between the chaffinches

For the last four or five winters we have been visited by bramblings and they are a big favourite. I'd only ever seen one brambling before many, many years ago on a trip to the seaside, of course nobody believed me but as a youngster I was a mad keen birder and I know what I saw. But when we had five or six of them in the garden I was delighted and they've been back ever since. Blackcaps are another winter feeder but only ever on the feeders in the back garden. Last night with the temperature plummeting, it has brought our first blackcap of the winter.

Back view of a Redpoll
Whilst waiting for a chance to snap at my target this morning I spotted another rare visitor, a redpoll. It was a male in its first winter and very welcome. I tried to get a picture but only succeeded in getting a rear view shot, the damned things don't sit still for long. Nor did the bramblings, every time I had one neatly framed it would flit off and I'd have to start again only to have a car, person or cat appear and the whole mixed flock would be up and off. So, the pictures I took are not perfect due to my camera's limited ability, my very limited ability and the whole lot being shot through a dirty window - which apparently is also my fault.

If you have a spare 'tuppence' and can find it in you to put a few seed or nuts in a feeder then please do it, there are very few berries left on the bushes this winter and a lot of our feathered friends are going to struggle during the cold weather. Also, there can be few greater pleasures that accumulating dozens of feathered pets that will brighten a cold day and give you hours of entertainment.

January 05, 2013

Losing my head

Had a wander around the lake yesterday. Strange, some days the bushes and trees are a cacophony of bird song whilst at other times they are all but silent. Yesterday was a quiet almost sombre day except for the liquid trill of the occasional robin and a blue tit or two, it made the place feel isolated and a little lonely.

As I squelched down a slippery path I noticed a badger's skull in the undergrowth, further examination uncovered the rest of the skeleton. Its not often you find one of our larger mammal's bones and I couldn't help wondering just how it came to meet it's demise. I've found a couple of badger skulls before but never the whole skeleton, I decided to just pocket the head and pass it on to Neil who has a little collection.

A little farther along I was casting an eye over the coloured water for any signs of life when I caught my foot on a stick. Unfortunately it was quite a long stick buried beneath leaves and was pointing
directly ahead of me so my stumble didn't move it at all, it just stuck there and over it I went - splat!

I lay on my back staring at the sky through the tree canopy and did that little two second assessment of my well being - all systems 'A' okay and up I jumped. I looked for the skull which had been in my hand, I had tossed it to the side as I did my pirouette so it couldn't be far away. Well, ten minutes later after searching high and low I had to give up. Just where that skull went it a mystery, I really did hunt hard. I figured that the woods were not ready to let it go and I wouldn't be surprised if it were to turn up back with the body.... although I didn't look there - just in case.

Today I had another walk along soggy fields to the river. I'd done the same walk last Sunday but the river was just too high and there was nowhere to shelter from the extreme force of an angry Wye, today though, things were much better and there was merely 4' or so extra water rushing through.

The difference in level from last week to this.

I put a few free offerings of cheese paste upstream of a sunken tree where the water looked level and steady compared to much of the surrounding river. Out went a lump of paste on the hook and four smaller pieces on a PVA stringer, I sat back on the treacherous bank to await action. It took just a minute before the rod banged down and I hit a chub of about three and a half pounds.

A good start but it didn't continue, I tried a few more swims ending up on the inside of a bend where I had a violent take which I missed  My instincts make me think it was a trout due to the speed of the take

but I'll never know for sure. The amount of debris I was picking up was getting to me so I called it a day.

January 01, 2013


Happy New Year

I've made a resolution for the new year. Yes I know that we all do it and within a few hours we break them but this year I've got that covered. Also, I'm aware that in previous years I've actually achieved the opposite of my chosen goal so, again I've sorted that and I'm using reverse psychology on myself. So, this year my new years resolution is,

       to put on weight and become more sedentary.

I hope that you all have a good 'un.