Thursday, 9 November 2017

Thursday November 9

Well it had to happen. A two-pointer (re Patchwork Challenge) at last. Predictably enough the excitement was provided by a Hawfinch, which flew over me as I was returning from the paper shop. With a newspaper in one hand and a plastic bottle of milk in the other, binoculars left at home, it was not the ideal of circumstances. One thing I did have going for me, though, was that it called. A thin two syllable "siier" which it repeated a couple of times as it bounded away to the south.

This sort of thing makes me reflect on the role of luck in birding. Had I not been stuck behind an old gentleman taking an age to buy copious amounts of lottery tickets, I would not have been in the right place at the right time, winning my own personal lottery.

Mind you, how many rarities must fly over when I'm somewhere else? Probably best not to think about it.

The next challenge is to find one perched in the trees around here, nibbling on seeds. They were quite easy to find here in the last invasion winter, 2005/2006, so there has to be a good chance.

That's put the mockers on it!

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Wednesday November 1

I had taken the day off with the intention of going birding, but life intervened and instead I spent most of it taking my parents to a routine hospital appointment in Birmingham. Before that happened I managed an hour wandering around Ipsley Alders dreaming of Hawfinches flying over (they are everywhere this autumn).

None put in an appearance, but I did count 36 Fieldfares heading west, and also 19 Redwings. The woodland was very lively with dozens of tits, Goldcrests, and an impressive 17 Blackbirds. Meanwhile Goldfinches featured heavily in the more sparsely wooded parts, at least 50 with about 12 Siskins.

Some Goldfinches
Cut to late afternoon. I took Lyn to Castle Nurseries (just off patch) to buy a plant and some veggies. No need for the binoculars. Which meant I have been left sighing a lot this evening after I stood and watched a largish, dumpy, short-tailed passerine undulate its way north over the Castle Nurseries car-park. It almost had to be a Hawfinch, but I could see no plumage features at all, and it was silent. Other options included Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, which I don't think it was, and Woodlark, which I can't rule out but seems much less likely than Hawfinch.

I suppose you can't take your bins everywhere, but not having them can lead to frustrating moments like this.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Friday October 20

A dull, cloudy morning with a few light showers and a light westerly breeze.

Given that this is a Hawfinch-winter, and bearing in mind that the last one, 2005/2006, produced up to five through the winter including one visible from our garden, I clearly needed to go out looking for them.

So with my focus firmly on birds, the first beastie to appear was naturally a moth. In fact it was a moth I had never seen before, although with my limited moth list this is not a particular surprise.

Red-green Carpet
The moth in question fluttered past me as I entered the suburb of Winyates Green, and unexpectedly landed at the top of a fence. The light was terrible and the rain started to fall, but I managed to get an image of it, a Red-green Carpet Chloroclysta siterata. Quite a common moth I believe, but one of the few still on the wing in late autumn.

The mild weather also allowed me to see a Hornet, but as the sun refused to shine, I soon reverted to the original plan of looking for birds. The woodland at Ipsley Alders contained a couple of tit/crest flocks, but all the crests were Goldcrests (as ever), and the one phylloscopus warbler I chanced upon turned out to be a Chiffchaff.

As I emerged from the woodland I found several flocks of Redwings heading south, the total of birds was at least 44, and with them came eight Chaffinches, and three Fieldfares. The latter are in bold type because they were a patch year-tick as I had failed to see any last winter.

So no Hawfinches, but I remain optimistic.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Friday October 13

My enthusiasm for doing this blog seems to be trickling down the plug-hole. Until today I had made no effort beyond keeping the feeding station in the garden topped up, and have been rewarded by regular visits of the usual species including up to 10 House Sparrows. One or two Chiffchaffs during September almost convinced me to set finger to lap-top (modern version of pen to paper), but I wasn't  so moved.

I did see a squashed Hedgehog along Alders Drive about three weeks ago, which at least means that they still existed up until this unfortunate individual's false move. They used to be so common here that we would get up to two live ones in the garden. Those days are now a distant memory.

So to today. It was rather breezy and mild so I walked around Arrow Valley Lake where everything was much as I remembered it. So much so that I am struggling to find anything interesting in my notebook. A moderately large flock of Long-tailed Tits had about three Goldcrests in tow, but nothing better than that.

A single adult Herring Gull was the only "unusual" bird on the lake. I use the term unusual very loosely here.

Herring Gull
Maybe next time there will be some ducks (other than Mallards).

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Saturday September 2

I spent the morning on household chores, largely ignoring the warm sunshine outside. However, our front door was to supply me with a tiny moth, Psychoides flicivora, which I found in exactly the same place last year. I believe it comes from the ferns growing in the front garden.

Psychoides flicivora
When I say tiny, I mean TINY.
While I was photographing the moth, a Chiffchaff landed on the bird-bath while another began singing from trees beyond the garden. The walk to the paper-shop produced a third.

A fall of Chiffchaffs!


Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Monday August 28

A warm and sunny day was largely spent in the garden.

Early on, a little moth was disturbed from the patio but disappeared before I could confirm my suspicion that it was a Garden Carpet.

During the afternoon we sat out, Lyn reading, while my eyes were drawn to the Buddleia. It attracted at least three Small Tortoiseshells, three Red Admirals, a couple of Small Whites and a Large White. This was good, but I can't help thinking that in years gone by the totals would have been a lot larger and surely would have included many Peacocks.

Small Tortoiseshell
Red Admiral
Large White
I suppose that on these warm days in early autumn, I am always studying the skies. My dream bird would be an Osprey heading south. It'll probably never happen. Instead I counted up to six House Martins, while House Sparrows, Blue Tits, and Robins gradually overcame their fear and landed on the feeder. One of our neighbours keeps pigeons, but this is the first year they have adopted our garden.


Overnight two moths appeared in the bathroom. One was another Agriphila geniculea, but the second was a Garden Carpet, surely the one I had seen during the morning.

Garden Carpet Xanthorhoe fluctuata

Friday, 25 August 2017

Friday August 25

The days of daily posts to report new moths in the bathroom appear to be over. The last ten days have tended to be a bit cool, and when, like last Monday, a warmer night came along the moths failed to oblige.

There have been a few; Large Yellow Underwing, Double-striped Pug, Twenty-plume Moth, but all ones which have occurred before this year. One micro defied identification, possibly a blastobasis sp. The photograph was not really clear enough. Here it is anyway.

Don't know
One feature to please the stay at home birder at this time of the year is the action on the feeders. Every morning about 40 birds have visited the feeders. The majority have been Blue Tits and Long-tailed Tits, with up the eight House Sparrows. Scarcer visitors have been been a Nuthatch, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, a Blackcap, and a Chiffchaff.

The Buddleia has attracted Peacock, Red Admirals, Large White, Small White, and Small Tortoiseshell.

Today our car has been taken away for servicing. The day is warm and sunny. Just after lunch my enforced captivity became too much to bear, and I decided to walk over to Ipsley Alders to see what I could find.

Birds were pretty much off the agenda due to the time of day, a male Blackcap being the highlight. I was hoping to see some butterflies, but they were disappointing. I saw lots of Speckled Woods and Large Whites, but nothing else.

It was left to dragonflies to brighten the afternoon. In particular there were lots of Migrant Hawkers in evidence, and for once some of them allowed me to photograph them.

Female Migrant Hawker
Male Migrant Hawker
I also photographed a tiny moth in the boggy grassland at the east side of the reserve. It looked quite extraordinary in the view finder, and I felt sure I hadn't seen one before. However, reality has since set in and I think that part of its strange appearance is a result of the shadow cast by a grass stem. Its red eyes are harder to explain away though, maybe the light caused it to reflect the colour.


It appears to be one of two species, the common Agriphila tristella, or the scarcer (and usually coastal) Agriphila selasella. Neither is supposed to have red eyes (but neither are any other British grass-veneer species). In the end I have gone for the commoner species, but mainly out of cowardice.

Overnight I caught two Agriphila geniculea a species I caught in the bathroom last year. Another year-tick though.

Agriphila geniculea
Post script: Many thanks to John Sirrett who responded to my Twitter post by corning that the grass veneer species at Ipsley Alders was actually the scarcer Agriphila selasella. Tick !