(A-Z) Kestrel

Although apparently in decline in this country it is still the commonest bird of prey, and I certainly the one I see most of. On my commute to work I usually see at least one, if not more. Yesterday I saw one hovering next to a tree on my way in, and saw one havering by the same tree on my way home! Presumably the same one!?

There is also one I see from my living room window regularly. The meadows in front are obviously great hunting ground, and the lampposts good perches for observation.

I was able to watch one this morning for about 20mins, switching back and forth across the meadows. The amazing ability to hover by flying into the wind always impresses me and makes it wonderful to watch. As it starts to travel further and further away it is always sad when it fades from sight. Yet I feel privileged to have watched it for a while, however regularly!

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Still no Hobby.

It has been over a year since I posted! Not because I have not been watching wildlife, though. I have had a few delightful view of bullfinches on my cycle to work, one morning there were 5 pairs! Also I took  my nieces out looking for kingfishers and although we didn’t see one I then did see one from my living room window!

It is the Hobby that has stalled me. I didn’t get chance to go out looking specifically last summer and then as they migrated, freeing me to move on the challenge, I was out of the mindset! It is a shame because the next couple of birds I see regularly!

So, I am not giving up on the Hobby, in fact I am keen to see one and will try to find a couple of days to go spotting this summer, but I am also moving on with the list…

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(A-Z) House Martin

Now they have returned to the country it was time to return to ‘H’.

This is another one of the birds that I have probably seen often, but never taken the time to identify. Along with swallows, swifts and sand martins they are often swooping around but for these purposes I have had to look a but more carefully.

This morning, looking out of my window, I saw something new. We had swallows a couple of weeks ago but I could tell straight away that these were not swallows. Too small. The Mease Meadow is out of my flat window, and running along the opposite edge is a brook. These birds were swooping over the water, then over the meadow, then high up into the air for a while. Were they sand or house martins? I tried to get a lock on them with my binoculars but as they darted around, this way and that, I couldn’t get a good view of the tails. The house martin’s tail is a bit more forked, but I just couldn’t see them well enough.

Another quick look in the book and the black chest band became the important feature, or rather for a house martin, the lack of! Just then, one of them came and turned right in front of my window and I saw very clearly that there was no chest band!

A real harbinger of summer, although how much of a summer we will have remains to be seen. I hope these little things frequent my meadow!


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(A-Z) Jay

Still at Ynys-hir and wherever you are in the woodland, every 10mins or so there is some kind of kerfuffle high up in the trees. The first time it happened whilst I was still in the car-park I looked up and saw a big bird in silhouette and thought it might be a sparrowhawk with all the fuss it was causing, but then when I saw a further 3 or 4 of them following I recognised them as Jays.

There were about 10 of them in this mob that seemed to move around the woodland all afternoon and I saw them often. A very charismatic bird, bold and balshy but colourful and delightful to see.  Not dissimilar in character to a magpie, but less sinister looking due to the colours.

Whilst I was cycling in Spain last summer we left our lunch unattended for a few moments, whilst by a mountain stream, and it was soon attended by a mob of about 30 jays. Even when we came back one or two would come right onto the table to steal a bit of bread.

They were abundant when I lived in the South East, but not so common up here in The Midlands. A few weeks ago my Mum claims to have seen one whilst we were out on a walk, but I didn’t.


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(A-Z) Garden Warbler

It has been a bumper weekend for my A-Z Challenge, which is dragging on well into the second year, third summer!

I made it to ‘G’ back in December 2011, but then failed to see a garden warbler last summer, so here we are. I needed to make a special effort to see one, and I am pretty sure I have. As sure one can be with these ‘little brown jobs’.

I was heading to Cors Dyfi, a Montgomeryshire Wilflife Trust Reserve, to see the Osprey Project based there and since they boast to have 9 different warblers on the reserve I thought I would be sure to see one, and maybe even have some help in identifying one too! However, I had forgotten that he reserve is closed because they are building a fantastic new observation center. The osprey viewing hide is still open, though, so I got to see them, and also heard of garden warbler sightings in the car-park earlier in the week. So I sat in my car to have lunch, binoculars at the ready. The wind and rain made it unlikely, and it was not a success. However I also heard in the hide that just down the road at Ynys-hir RSPB Reserve, there lots seen that morning!

So, off I went. Even before going into the reserve I saw a blackcap and a white-throat and two slightly different LBJs but was one of them a garden warbler? I checked in the reference book in the bookshop and still wasn’t sure. I was looking for one that was more grey than the yellowy wood warbler, and singing like a black-cap without a black cap!

I saw lots more LBJs, but the lack of sunshine meant very few of them were singing. A couple did, showing that they were not my garden warbler, but then…
I heard close by what sounded like it could be a blackcap. After a visual search through the branches and new leaves I managed to focus the binoculars on the singer and to my joy I could not see a black cap! It was more yellow chested than I was lead to expect, but as far as I could tell it was my garden warbler! And to be honest, even if it wasn’t I am sure at least one of the others that refused to sing for me was one!

Despite being somewhat plain, the intent with which they mingle through the branches and leaves is exciting enough! And especially on a dull, windy, rainy day their bursts of song thrill the woodland. I am sure I will see one again, but I may not be so eager to identify it!


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(A-Z) Jackdaw

I am pretty sure I see jackdaws everyday. There is a rook/jackdaw roost in the fields close to my house, and so if I am ever out in the evening I can hear them. Most are rooks, and it is just difficult to tell as the fly over each evening, which are jackdaws. I read somewhere that a jackdaws are more defined than crows and rooks, which seem to have fingers on the end. They are also usually in pairs. That said, I hadn’t been able to see close enough to be sure, and even when I went out to the roost to look it is just a bit too far from the road to see clearly enough.

I am sure, however, that it was a jackdaw that I saw today. Two, in fact. They were poking around and jumping up and down from a cow-trough. They always look so mean and devious. All corvids have this about them, but where crows and rooks have a sense of foreboding, the jackdaw is too nimble and quick to be sinister. Instead their piercing eyes and sharp beak just make them totally untrustworthy! Black, with less iridescence than other black birds I think, and stunning but not quite beautiful. They look too devious to be beautiful!


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(A-Z) House Sparrow

After the excitement of he grey heron this morning, and the resignation that hobbys and mouse martins are in Africa, I didn’t expect house sparrow to be too much of a challenge. And it wasn’t. Although, saying that, it was a bit more of a challenge than it would have been not so long ago.

You may or may not need me to say that the population of house sparrows in this country has declined rapidly in recent years, and no one seems to really know why. As I walked from my village edge home into the residential areas of the village it was the very familiar ‘cheap cheap’ that drew my attention to the evergreen bush at the edge of the path.  It is such a familiar sound because I remember summer days as a child when it was almost deafening! I also remember raising some house sparrow chicks on year, after my dad dislodged the nest from a house he was working on. We kept them in the shed, and I am pretty sure they are fledged successfully.

So, in some ways, it is a bit disappointing that I saw maybe ten birds, a couple of males but mostly females, in this tree, and that was about it. I continued to walk around the village and I saw a few more small clusters. They are quite delightful, almost cheeky and maybe the smaller numbers will mean they appear less pest-like?  These, as always, we bickering with each other in the tree, no doubt gossiping about the day. The colours were a bit faded, I assume due to winter, but I look forward to seeing the males especially with their black heads come springtime.

House Sparrow

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