Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Misty Moorlands

One of the advantages of regular local walking is that you know the paths so can cope even in fogs and mists. Today we walked up Brinscall Moor, the higher we climbed the thinner the mist - in fact we could even see a full silver sun shining high above the mist-line.

We took the path down to Wheelton Plantation (see photos from Ewan's mobile phone) and even beneath the shelter of the pines, young oak and holly saplings were heavily sprinkled in frost. I think most of the finches were staying close to people's garden feeders.

We cut across fields and saw a beautiful Shire horse being led to its stable. In the frozen lanes blackbirds and robins flit across the path and, as we approached old Brinscall Hall, a welcome flock of redwing, fieldfare and mistle thrush fluttered through the tree tops.

Back at the frozen lodge the mallards and black-headed gulls were walking hopefully on ice, while five Muscovy ducks remained planted on the bank. My Micra's thermometer still read -2C.

Monday, 29 December 2008

Barn Owl

After a tip-off, I headed to Croston to watch a barn owl. I was rewarded by seeing it at close range: white wings quartering a field, frequently diving feet first. To me, a barn owl's wings are surprisingly long - who'd think that so much length could be so neatly stowed away?

Is it just me or do they seem very front-heavy, wedge-shaped almost? All wide face and eyes with feet tidily tucked in at the rear unless preparing to pounce. A terrifying sight if you're its prey - all eyes, beak, claws and stealth!

These photos are by David J Slater - follow the link in the side bar.

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Why I went for walk....

I decided that open cap mushrooms filled with blue Stilton and wrapped in Parma ham would be a simple, yet tasty, starter for the Christmas meal. I already had the Stilton so, since the males in our house were going into town, I asked them to come back with a dozen, small, open cap mushrooms and Parma ham, adding where they could find them. Simple.

They returned with Parmesan (pardon?) and couldn't-find-any-mushrooms-excuses.... But not to worry - I went to town and returned with both only to find that while I'd been out they'd eaten all the bl**** blue Stilton!

Merry Christmas everyone and thanks for reading.

Monday, 22 December 2008

Winter Flocks

I always find winter birding exciting, not least because the birds are often moving around in huge flocks. It might be straggly skeins of pink-footed geese; loose flocks of redwings diving for cover deep in the hedgerow; fieldfare mysteriously blending into the tops of ash trees looking just like leftover keys; small groups of pipits pipping over Croston Finney; two hundred woodpigeon grouping and re-grouping; four hundred rooks resettling in the next field; hundreds of gulls massing on a reservoir; thousands of starlings swirling shapes in the sky; or great clouds of knot and dunlin moving with the tide.
I feel caught up in their exhilaration, in the excitement of wings.

Yesterday's walk around Crostom Moss and Finney rewarded me with large flocks of corvids and woodpigeon, c30 linnet, 13 pied wagtails in a ploughed field, 25 redwings, 30 pink-footed geese, 5 muddy whoopers, c20 meadow pipits, 1 buzzard, 1 sparrowhawk and other common species.

Today's photos of whoopers, rooks and greylags are by Phil Kirk - thanks.

Thursday, 18 December 2008


I'm in the middle of editing this. It's from the November poem a day challenge. The prompt was 'celebration' so I thought I'd show wildlife celebrating

See how he celebrates
the apple
perches alongside of it,
honours it with a black, bulging eye,
stabs its sweetness,
savours the juice,
then stabs,
stabs some more,
piercing the yellow skin,
feasting on the melting flesh,
secretions coating his beak,
smothering him in homage
to the apple,
to life.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Long-eared Owl

Marton Mere, Blackpool

Even in the after-shock of frost and fallen leaves,
even though we know they're there,
we need to ask a local birder
- and even he takes a while to point them out
amongst the willow, thorn and apple thicket,
And finally our scopes fine-tune a passage
through the tangled epidermis
to where they perch, like hearts in ribs,
where the frost has scarcely reached.
Each tucked close to the aorta of its tree,
each in plumped feathers
that copy the colours of bark in changing light,
each with ears folded down,
not even offering a frozen stare,
until the one in the apple tree,
the one most exposed,
lifts its ear tufts, unfreezes, glares
to agree the distance between it
and us. And us? All of us comply.

Another photo by David J Slater. Click to view it full sized. Don't forget to follow the link in the side bar to his site of beautiful images.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Field trip to Marton Mere

I went on a field trip with Chorley & District Natural History Society today. It was well worth defrosting the car at 7.30am on a Sunday morning because sightings included 5 Long-Eared Owls tucked well into an area dense with trees and thicket. (Poem on the way.) Many thanks to local birder, Frank Bird, who guided us to them.

Also there were wonderful views of a bittern preening itself in the sun by the water's edge while up in the trees fieldfare were digging their beaks into the plentiful apples. Again, many thanks to another unknown birder who pointed out the bittern and let us look through his scope while those in our group who had brought scopes were busy focusing theirs.
Thanks to Neil Southworth for organising the trip.

Many thanks to David J Slater of Coleford for these amazing photos. Click on them to see just how good they are. Don't forget to follow the link in the side bar to even more fantastic shots.

Waxwing melting into the distance

Having heard that waxwing have been seen in a local tree all week, I finally got some daylight time to go myself yesterday - no berries, no birds. I should have been there yesterday....

But not to worry, 40 were seen in Preston yesterday, so I went there today - to find only bare rowan stalks.... Ah well.

Thanks to Rick Spencer of Chorley NATS for this photo - he did get to the Chorley tree in time.

I wonder what the chances are of getting a mature rowan in the garden for Christmas...?

Friday, 5 December 2008

Another good review

from Graham Rippon of Carillon this time. Copy and paste the web address below.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Common and Jack Snipe

Further to the recent jack snipe post, Bill Aspin has kindly sent me this photo.
The common snipe is on the left and the jack snipe on the right. Click on the image to enlarge - well worth it. Thanks Bill.
Check out Bill Aspin's Birding Blog by following the link.

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Redwing - a poem of love

How do I combine the prompt 'a love poem' with my theme: birding in November? Well, here's my first attempt:

They love these hedgerows,
weave themselves into them,
stain their underwings with them,
eat them, shit them, sleep them,
wrap themselves inside of them,
pull their thorns around them,
pluck their scarlet hearts,
warm them in their bellies,
squeeze them through their passages,
birth them,
desert them,
expect them to still be here
when they return next year.

from the field book

from the field book
An inspiring gift for anyone who enjoys watching nature.