Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Latest sightings

On the 9th December we had our first Treecreeper sighting in months, briefly visiting the trees around the car park.

The Grey Wagtail is still visiting most days, as with any sighting it just depends on whether you're out there at the same time as the bird! The Pied Wagtails have taken to visiting under the feeders outside the shop now, obviously insectivorous food is becoming harder to come by. Already this December we have had more frosts than the entire of last year's warm and wet winter.

The Nature Area is chock-a-block with finches - Chaff-Green-Gold all regular and in good numbers. Still just the one sighting of a Brambling over there and no Siskins still! Hopefully the latter will turn up late winter as they normally do and then hang around well in to the breeding season, bringing the young in as they have in the past. Blue Tits and Great Tits are aplenty too, with the Coal Tit now also an almost ever present feeder.

We are seeing less Redwings and Mistle Thrushes now, it seems most of the yew, hawthorn and holly berries have been depleted so they have moved on to find another food source. The Blackbirds are quite happy to pick up scraps from under the feeders though, one particular ringed male (as mentioned in the last blog post) is often outside the shop and has come close enough for me to get clear pictures of the ring number (CT18189). We have now had info back from the ringer on this bird, first caught as an adult on the 1st March 2012, which means he's doing pretty well!

There is now only 8 days until Christmas and things are pretty busy in the shop! Suet Pellets seem to be the pick of the crop at the minute and of course Sunflower Hearts are (excuse the pun) flying out. 163 bags delivered last Wednesday and there's 89 left now...

Binoculars have done well again, though nothing quite like last year! There's still time though, we're open until 5pm Christmas eve, and even taking online orders up to Monday 22nd as Royal Mail are guaranteeing Christmas eve deliveries for items posted on the 23rd. You can visit our online shop here:

Friday, 5 December 2014

Robins and Blackbirds

 TN32 Weather December 2014

It's fair to say early December is colder than it was last year, though perhaps not as cold as 2012. With day time temperatures around 6° and night time now reaching freezing, many more birds are visiting the feeders, or, as is often the case with the Robins and Blackbirds, picking up the scraps underneath. They are certainly good numbers of both of them too, though things can get a little heated as competition for food increases.

The Robins are singing to declare their territory and often chase one another away. There are at least 3 regulars in the Nature Area at the minute.

Signing Robin

A very common question throughout the late summer/autumn months is 'where have all the Blackbirds gone' as they find plenty of natural food. Then our resident birds are joined by European migrants, shorter days arrive, colder weather draws in and all of a sudden, spotting 4 or 5 Blackbirds in your garden together at once is not all that uncommon. Though they can get on, I have seen very aggressive fights before and it's not unheard of for two to fight to the death. Ours have pretty well depleted the Hawthorn of its berries and have now moved on to the holly berries. One male in particular is visiting under the feeders outside the shop regularly, notable for his ring. I have contacted our ringer with the number so will post more info on him when it comes back to me!

Ringed Blackbird

The Mistle Thrushes are in good numbers again this winter, stripping the yew trees of their berries (though technically, as with holly and hawthorn too, they're not actually berries [link]). The Starlings are also gathering in numbers and do pop down on to the feeders occasionally. I love watching their antics as two fight over one feeder when there's plenty of space for both to get on there. I think they are a much overlooked bird and their varying, iridescent plumage throughout the year is much more attractive than they are given credit for. Only today did I notice the lovely bronze colour of the spots on top of their heads!

There's now less than 3 weeks until Christmas so that's not a lot of time for shopping! Our winter sale on binoculars is on until then, so grab a bargain while you can:

Thursday, 27 November 2014

Beak deformities in garden birds

According to the BTO, fewer than 1 in 200 adult birds suffer from a beak deformity. Arriving at a figure like that can't be easy as a large scale survey would need to be undertaken. Fortunately for them, many members, volunteers and enthusiastic nature lovers are all at hand to participate in such a survey (which is ongoing) called the Big Garden Beak Watch.

There are many different types of beak deformities, affecting either or both mandibles, in a manner of different ways. This Great Tit was first spotted here on the 3rd September, with what seemed at first to be just something stuck to his beak. In the time he was around on that day, it couldn't seem to shake it off (though it did seem to try). The (presumably) same bird was back again earlier this week, with the same object stuck, again trying to shake it off. This leads me to think it's not a beak deformity as such, though I'm not certain we'll ever be sure either way.

We have, however, spotted a few confirmed (and recorded) beak deformities here over the years:

Blue Tit with decurved (and slightly crossed) upper mandible

Rook with decurved upper mandible

Blue Tit with elongated mandibles

We have had a few reports and photos brought in to us of beak deformities in Great Spotted Woodpeckers and Blackbirds too, though a total of 36 species have been recorded through the Big Garden Beak Watch. Please do record your sightings to the BTO - this survey, along with many others they undertake, including the Abnormal Plumage Survey, help them to gain a greater insight in to the causes of irregularities in birds.

Goldfinch with leucism

Chaffinch with leucism

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Black Redstart!

Number 93 on our species list, a cracking male Black Redstart! We've said for a long time it's a bird that we could well get here, sitting on top of the barn roof where the Wagtails, Sparrows and Doves often sit. Today was the day! At about 2pm, just when I was about to leave for a delivery, Allan asked 'what's that?', just as it flitted off the roof to catch an insect then dart back to where it was. Robin shape, but not Robin behaviour, so I called Black Redstart! By this point, Allan had already come to the same conclusion so we both went running back in to the shop to get our cameras. Fortunately for us, the bird stayed for over an hour and proved to be incredibly obliging, allowing both of us to get some (what we think are) good shots.

Black Redstart at Feathers, Salehurst, East Sussex

Black Redstart at Feathers, Salehurst, East Sussex

Black Redstart at Feathers, Salehurst, East Sussex

Black Redstart at Feathers, Salehurst, East Sussex

Black Redstart at Feathers, Salehurst, East Sussex

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

First Brambling and other sightings

The first Brambling of the winter for us turned up on Saturday, unfortunately neither Allan or I were there to spot it but a keen young birder called Liam was on hand to spot and photograph it. He kindly sent us the photos he took of this beautiful bird.

A pair of Ravens were around late last week too, only a brief sighting as they passed over. The Grey Wagtail is back, always nice to see. A Green Woodpecker yaffled as it picked up from the lawn of the house over the road, and a Kestrel was calling just now as I type.

The feeders have been getting busier still, with daytime temperatures now around 9 or 10° and night time at 6 or 7°. Still perhaps a bit above average for this time of year and certainly no more frosts forecast but hopefully we'll see some colder weather in the next month or so which may bring the Brambling (and hopefully others) back. Our visiting 'charm' of Goldfinches is numbering 20+, though 1 photo doesn't always show how busy the feeders actually are. I took almost 100 of one feeder in the Nature Area and then stitched a few together in photoshop after to emphasize it!

Don't forget you can follow us on twitter, like us on facebook or visit our binocular website which is packed with reviews and advice as well as a good range of binoculars at competitive prices, especially now they are on sale!

Friday, 14 November 2014

Robin and Goldfinch......

The Robin.
UK's favourite bird.  Males and females look identical, young birds have no red breast and are spotted with golden brown. Robins sing nearly all year round and despite their cute appearance, they are aggressively territorial and are quick to drive away intruders. They will often sing at night next to street lights.

A beautifully coloured finch with a delightful liquid twittering song and call. Increasingly they are visiting garden birdtables and feeders preferring Sunflower Hearts and Nijer seed. These photos are from our nature area, a super place to see visiting birds close-up.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Pied Wagtail Preening

It seems last week's frost was a one off, with the forecast for the rest of the month set for near to or slightly above average temperatures. Not many highlights from the past week to share, with a rare flyover from a pair of Mute Swans possibly the most notable. The Buzzards are regularly out when the blue skies appear and the Sparrowhawk still pops through every now and then to see what's about. The Grey Wagtails which were regular seem to have moved on but we're never short of Pied Wagtails, one of which was too busy preening to fly away while I was taking pictures!

I never get tired of photographing the Goldcrests, they are still coming in daily and are a real challenge to follow and photograph. Fortunately one sat at the top of the shrub in front of me for long enough to get a few more nice shots!

Thursday, 6 November 2014

First frost...

Last winter we only had (that I can recall) 3 frosts, to say the winter weather never really arrived wouldn't be far off the mark. This morning's frost, therefore, was very welcome.

At home, a flock of Fieldfares passed over and the feeders were very busy, with the small garden birds refuelling after losing body heat overnight. Here at Feathers, the Starlings are gathering in numbers as European birds join our resident population to form large flocks, or murmurations, as they are properly known! Song Thrushes and Mistle Thrushes (pictured below) are becoming a more regular sighting, especially the latter, with the odd small group of Redwings passing over but not yet staying. A relative rarity for us is the Coal Tit, though this little beauty has now started turning up regularly outside the shop. The idea of this blog is to keep better records of things like this, so it will be interested to see if the same thing happens next year.

As we enter November, Christmas ads start appearing on our screens and the much anticipated one in recent years has been the John Lewis advert. This years has lived up to the reputation, featuring #MontyThePenguin, a (very realistic) CGI Adelie Penguin:

Many of you may remember these little penguins from Frozen Planeta few years back, stealing stones from other Adelie Penguin's nests!

Don't forget our Winter Sale is now on, most of our range of binoculars have something off and with Christmas 7 weeks away now, now's the time to shop!

Friday, 31 October 2014

Winter Sale on Binoculars!

It seems crazy to think it's November tomorrow yet parts of Kent have reached 23° today - officially the hottest Halloween on record. None-the-less, in keeping with this time of year, we have started our 'winter sale' on binoculars. As a small business, we appreciate all the orders we receive as each one really counts, but it's tough to compete against the likes of Amazon. We endeavour to offer exceptional service, coupled with great prices, often same day despatch and next day delivery. Do check us out if you're looking to buy for yourself or, seeing as it's less than 8 weeks away, a Christmas pressie for someone else.

The last week has been quiet for birds - now the clocks have gone back it's getting dark by the time we leave at 5pm. A pair of Kestrels were here yesterday after dark, briefly inspecting the church where they nested this year and previous years. There are many Pied Wagtails about, the Grey is becoming less frequent however. Today's blue skies brought about a few Buzzards, though that is now not an uncommon sight! A group of 4 (not 100% sure about this) Skylarks went over this morning, the photos weren't great and certainly not worth sharing. Late afternoon brought a large flock of Lapwing flying over too. There are still a few Butterflies around, namely Small Tortoiseshells and Red Admirals, a photo of the former below, taken on the 30th October basking in the afternoon sun.

 Don't forget Autumnwatch is on BBC2 at the minute, another great series, certainly worth watching.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Happisburgh, Norfolk

A day trip to visit family in Norfolk wouldn't be complete without a bit of birding - it's hard not to when wherever you go there are good birds to be had! A should-be-5-minute walk to the beach took 25 with all the stopping for photos. A flock of 200 or more Golden Plover in the field, occasionally taking off and landing back in the same spot. More Skylarks than you can shake a stick, not easy to photograph mind you. Only a small skein of Pink footed Geese, unfortunately time was of the essence to we didn't get to go further along the coast. Linnets, Meadow Pipits and Goldfinches in good size groups, lots of Gulls but nothing much else out at sea and a Kestrel hunting on the beach. A lunch time visit to Norwich Cathedral was possibly the highlight of the day as a Peregrine circled above us, landing once or twice on the platform before gracing the blue sky once more. What more could you want? A good few more days I suppose!

Golden Plover & Happisburgh Lighthouse

Pink footed Geese

Peregrine at Norwich Cathedral Platform

Norwich Peregrine

Saturday, 25 October 2014

First post, last departures!

It's time we started keeping better records of our sightings here, which in turn will help us look back each year and compare when the first summer/winter arrivals turned up, which birds are most frequent at what time of year and of course to share all our sightings/photos with you all.

Swallow sighting October SussexOn Saturday 22nd October we saw a young Swallow hawking in the blue skies, unless we post otherwise this would be our last sighting this year for a Hirundine - the House Martins were in good numbers up until a couple of weeks ago but still up to 10 around earlier this week.

The 22nd also saw our first confirmed Redwing sighting - with other probables earlier in the week. Fieldfares are still absent, though we have Mistle Thrushes most days and an unfortunate Song Thrush fell victim to this female Sparrowhawk. Female Sparrowhawk on Song Thrush

Temperatures are still above average for October, around 15 degrees during the day. This means the feeders are still relatively quiet, though we have noticed an increase in Goldfinches and Greenfinches feeding on the sunflower hearts in the Nature Area. Long-tailed Tits seem to be appearing more regularly too, a sure sign the winter is drawing near. A sedge/siege of Grey Herons passed over on the 24th.

We expect to be stocking Nikon binoculars soon on top of our current selection of Opticron, Hawke, Viking and RSPB. Check our website regularly for new models and perhaps, if you're lucky, sale prices: