(A-Z) Hobby and House Martin in Africa

Sadly I can’t afford a trip to Africa at the moment so I will have to skip the next two for a few months. The Hobby, particularly, will be a challenge, although that was the point of doing this!

They both arrive back in this country around April time, and stay until later September.

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(A-Z) Grey Heron

I often see herons, usually flying along, but for this reason I think I take them for granted. I haven’t very often just sat and watched, or really looked carefully at them.

A few years ago I was cycling in France, and as I coasted up the Colmar Canal a heron flew alongside me for about 1/2hr. We bonded.

They are such unique looking birds, and I think they fit are the accurate meaning of fantastic. Tall and lanky, with a smooth slow movement, even as they fly. The huge beak that takes up most of the head and the great tassels coming from the back of their head! Then the long neck that bulges as a fish goes down, with more tassels around the necks!

Just standing. Waiting. Watching the rushing water beneath their feet. Then springing forward into the water. Magnificent.

This is the first of the A-Z that I have seen from my new home. I moved house over Christmas and although I don’t have a garden anymore, I do overlook what can only be described as a mini nature reserve. The Mease is a small meadow with a brook running along one side, and a path going round the edge.  I have seen 24 different species of bird since moving in, and this morning the Grey Heron became number 25. I first glimpsed the long neck sticking out across the water from just around the corner of the brook. I haven’t made time to go out and look for one, so I was thrilled to see one from my window as I ate my breakfast.

It is still there now, albeit on the other side of the brook. Standing perfectly still. Waiting.
I am sorry to have to rush off and get on with the day!


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(A-Z) Green Woodpecker

I have been flumuxed by the garden warbler, although had I seen a green woodpecker during that time I think I would have claimed it! I have seen green woodpeckers before and so I would have thought I would come across one, but no. I have even been walking a friend’s dog around a golf course regularly, but still no!

Today, however, I saw one. It was on the said golf course, with the said dog, and I was not expecting it. I don’t find them to be very attractive birds, although they are colourful. They have a very strange shape and the whole lying on the ground doesn’t make them too endearing. This one was in the middle of the fairway and as I came round the corner it did not like the approaching dog so it flew off, in its awkward way, into the nearby woods. I did not hear the characteristic chatter, but was nonetheless thrilled to have moved on after nearly 9 months!!

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(A-Z) Still No Garden Warbler

Although I haven’t posted for 9 months I have been looking out for the elusive garden warbler. There was a point where I think I may have seen one, but if it doesn’t sing it is hard to tell if it really is a garden warbler, so I couldn’t be sure, and won’t claim it.

They have now all gone to warmer climes, probably, so I will have to wait till next year and move on…

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(A-Z) Great Tit

Although I was heading to Hilton Gravel Pits to see a Great-spotted Woodpecker, I had seen one on the way so now I was just out for a lovely walk.  The sunshine had waned and it was now a dusky overcast day, still quite cold.

The woods at Hilton are quite dense in places, so although you can hear numerous Great Tits they are not always easy to see; their piercing call ever-present as I walked through the tunnel like paths.

At the farthest end of the footpath, which is not a throughway, there is a feeding station.  Even on this dull day it was busy with tits.  Willow tits, blue tits and of course great tits.  They are such handsome birds.  In my mind they are usually lumped in with blue tits, but they are certainly bigger and not nearly as gentile.  Almost bull-like they sit on the nearby branches, chest puffed out, showing off their beauty.  Then occasionally swooping in and clearing everything else off the feeding table!

There are always a few in my garden, so I am never far from a great tit.

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(A-Z) Great-spotted Woodpecker

They are not uncommon, but I haven’t seen a Great-spotted Woodpecker for a while.  Last year, in my old house, I once had three fighting over the bird-feeder.

I figured it was because I wasn’t looking for them, and I wasn’t in the right places. So I looked on the Derby Bird News and saw that they are regularly seen at Hilton Gravel Pits, among other places.  I have never been there, but have wanted to for a while. I will also be moving to Hilton in the summer, so thought a cycle out there would be a good way to spend my day off.

I set off, taking a round about way to avoid the main roads, passing first through Findern.  The cold weather of late has made my asthma a problem, and so after about 20mins I had to stop to use my inhaler.  I pulled into a field entrance and leant on a gate.  On the other side of the field there was a buzzard surveying the field from a gnarled tree, whilst another circled over head.  I could hear a yellow hammer further along the road.  It was a bright sunny morning, although still cold, and the birds had really come to life.  The hedgerows were full of singing birds and the sky was never clear for the small flocks of finches and tits dashing across the fields.

Then I heard it. Rat-a-tat-tat. It was the unmistakable drumming of a woodpecker.  I can’t say I know the difference between the drumming of different types of woodpecker but went to investigate.  It was coming from 100m back along the road, so I turned and cycled back.  The drumming continued intermittently and I quickly identified the big, mostly dead, tree another 50m into the field.

No sooner had I positioned my binoculars on the tree than the Great Spotted Woodpecker came circling round to this side of the trunk; such stark vibrant contrast of colours. I watched for about 20mins as he slowly spiralled his way up the tree and out onto one of the big dead branches.  The he flew back down and started again.

I hadn’t even made it to my destination, but my goal for the day was complete.

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(A-Z) Brambling

It is 11 months since I started trying see a brambling, and back then I missed my chance before they migrated.  I have been meaning to go back to them since the Autumn, but haven’t got round to it till now.

I think I may have had them in the garden at my old house in Belper once, in the snow, but I’m not sure.  There is still plenty of the snow on the ground today, but thankfully it had cleared enough for me to get up to Bumper Castle.  Last year, and again this year, there have been sightings of a flock up by this farm just off Beeley Moor, so I was heading there, the last report on the Derby Bird News being two days ago.

I forget just how high it is up there, and the hills up to it were steep.  However, the view from the top is magnificent, especially in the snow.

As I approached the farm I could see a flock of birds filling the tree across the road so I pulled over a bout 100m back.  A quick look in the binoculars showed the vibrant colours of the bramblings!! There were loads, and many had now dropped into the corner of the field below the tree.

I approached a bit closer and watched them flit around, up and down to and from the tree.  A few had started to develop the jet black heads and the red breasts were startling, as were the yellow and white bands on the wings and body.

Then I was joined by Mike. I had passed him on one of the hills, and wondered what he was walking up here for.  It turns out he only lives two streets away from me, and had got the bus as far as he could. He was also heading up to see the bramblings.  We chatted, while watching the flock feed, and he positioned his scope so we got a good look.  He has travelled all over on public transport to see birds, and was very interesting to talk to.

After about 15 mins the whole flock took off. Flashing their under-wing colours as they disappeared over the trees!  We waited around for a bit, but they didn’t come back.

Mike and I headed further up the road to Wragg’s Quarry, but it was lifeless, no movement whatsoever!!

Mike insisted on walking back to get the bus so we said goodbye and I headed back down the hill. Not too far down I caught up with the flock and sat and watched for a few more minutes before heading home.

Bramblings done at last!!

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