Saturday 24 January 2015

Female Brambling

Our third sighting this winter and it seems to be staying this time, first spotted yesterday morning and then throughout the day, present this morning during our RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch and still here this afternoon too. She doesn't visit the feeders much but instead seems to spend most of her time sitting up in the trees with the Gold, Green and Chaffinches.

For those wishing to visit, our hide is open so long as the shop is (Tuesday - Saturday: 9am - 5pm, Sunday: 10am - 4pm, Monday: Closed) -

Thursday 22 January 2015

Recent Sightings

The 11th Jan brought about our second sighting this winter of a Brambling, again just a brief visit to the Nature Area.

The Bullfinches are still spotted regularly, either along the hedgerow on the way to the hide or picking the buds from the cherry tree outside the shop. The highest count was 5 (3 females 2 males) but more often than not there is just a pair. They are proving elusive and a bit flighty but we've managed a few shots.

Late last week the pair of Grey Wagtails were back, though seem to have become a little less regular, unlike the pair of Kestrels which are around everyday, perhaps a good sign that they may nest in the church once again this year.

The Long-tailed Tits are now daily occurrence too, either on the fat balls/peanuts outside the shop or in the Nature Area.

Female Brambling (right)
Female Bullfinch drinking from a puddle

Blue Tit


4 Bullfinches

Male Bullfinch

Male Bullfinch

Male (right) and female (left) Kestrels

We have recently taken a delivery from Vanguard, whose binoculars have received high praise since their introduction. Currently we just have the Endeavour ED IIs but will hopefully be increasing our selection soon.

Tuesday 6 January 2015

Barn Owl at Bodiam

On the 28th December, Allan stopped off at Bodiam after spotting the Barn Owl which breeds there. I therefore decided that as I was working on Sunday I would go back that way as at 4pm there would still be some light. On the way there I knew I would stop anyway to photograph the sunset even if the Barn Owl wasn't about. After pulling up, I walked back to the bridge and all of a sudden the Owl appeared from my left, flying across the river. I had prepared my camera for the sunset so in my attempts to get a photo of the Owl flying just in front of me, I failed miserably. Fortunately for me, however, it spent a while heading up river towards the sunset, before turning back and flying underneath the very bridge I was standing on. After coming out the other side, it spotted something on the river bank and went down to grab it. I then had a bit of time to steady my hands, set my camera properly and get some decent pics. In the low light, my Lumix decided to focus on the reeds in front of the Owl, so I had to move a bit to get it in focus. Out of the hundreds I took, 1 or 2 came out half decent, but that was good enough for me. The moon was just rising over the trees to the east, looking stunning as the last of the sun bounced off it, topping the whole experience off nicely.

Allan's photo of the Barn Owl on the 28th December
Flying across the river as I stood on the bridge

Up river as the sun was setting

With his catch

Wish I had the composure to get this shot with the Barn Owl flying towards the camera!


Sunday 4 January 2015

Long-tailed Tits and Bullfinches

Late last year and so far this year the Long-tailed Tits have been visiting the feeders outside the shop and in the Nature Area. We've certainly had some cold nights, but now temperatures are back up again it seems to around 10° during the day and above freezing at night. Still, the birds are feeding fairly frantically and compared to last winter's wet and warm weather, this feels positively chilly. The Long-tailed Tits are such fun to watch, always flitting about in their family groups, visiting tree to tree and feeder to feeder, never stopping for more than 10 minutes at a time. Alongside the Robin, they are probably one of the UK's favourite garden bird.

Another unusual visitor which we've been seeing more often is the Bullfinch. This previously declining species is easily identified by its plump body, short finch bill, white rump and whistling call. The belly of the male is a stand out orangy-red colour while the female (pictured below) is a dull beige, both have the same black head and wings. Whilst the Long-tailed Tits are visiting the feeders due to the lack of their natural food, the Bullfinches are finding plenty as many trees start coming in to bud. Their liking for fruit buds in particular is one of the reasons for their sharp decline (especially around the late 70s), as they have been persecuted over the years by fruit growers for the damage they do to crops. Other main causes are loss of habitat, hedgerows and woodland margins. Since 2000, however, their numbers have been steadily increasing, pushing their conservation status up from red to amber.

The Grey Wagtail is still visiting the barn roof regularly, a Chiffchaff was in the Nature Area just before the new year and a Little Egret has been spotted on a couple of occasions. Up to 6 Buzzards were up over the valley yesterday too. No sign of any Siskins yet, though I had a pair calling over home (Staplecross) recently and my first record of a Kingfisher on my local pond.