This was the scene as I walked to work through the snow today. Alexandra Park was transformed by the white stuff, if rather birdless. But then it happened - a distinctive flight call that I know well, even if not from these parts. Woodlark! As instantaneously as it clicked, it was followed by the rasping chirrups of Skylarks. I looked up to see a significant lark flock heading north, presumably reorienting after the snow had stopped. There were 24 birds in all - one Woodlark and 23 Skylarks. The former was my first at this north London site, which for a brief period in the mid-Seventies had its own regular wintering group of Woodlarks. A couple of east-bound Fieldfares were the only other evidence of hard-weather movement, but my year-list for the park grew further later in the day at the Birdwatch office, from where we were treated to the aerial antics of not one but two Peregrines - the latest in a sequence of recent sightings. Are they moving in to the area?
Sunday, 20 January 2013
|Friday 18 January 11:28 hrs|
|Fieldfare on the lawn yesterday - a rare treat in the garden, almost always occurring only in hard weather.|
|One of three Mistle Thrushes in the garden over the last two days. This species dominates Fieldfare at apples.|
|This male Blackcap obviously didn't read the label and tucks into Chapelwood's Finest Finch Food regardless.|
I tried Chapelwood’s Finest Finch Food first, filling a tubular seed feeder two-thirds full. The packaging is strangely upmarket for bird food, as is the price at £3.97 per kilo on Amazon. But you are paying for quality: this mix is rich in sunflower hearts, niger seed, peanut nibs and millet. The first birds to try it, and very quickly, were actually Great Tits; over several visits they clearly enjoyed it. Shortly afterwards, a party of five Lesser Redpolls – the first ever on my feeders – tried out the Finest Finch Food too, a vote of confidence for sure. Chaffinches and a Robin have also fed on it quite regularly and today the crowning glory was my first male Blackcap of the winter (following a female in December), so it certainly gets the thumbs up, even if its audience is broader than finches alone.
|Having appeared for the first time today, this male Blackcap quickly bossed the hanging feeders.|
In view of the price, products in this range - I've also being using Finest Blackbird Food with great success for that species and Mistle Thrush - are very much luxury options, perhaps for use in topping up feeders stocked with a more basic mix, or for getting a feeding station started. My preferred main options are a high-quality mix (ideally with mealworms to benefit a wider range of species) and sunflower hearts; a combination of these and premium products such as Chapelwood's specialist range has resulted in 21 species in the garden over the last three days of snow, which I reckon is a pretty healthy return.
Thursday, 17 January 2013
£51,000 raised by the magazine being contributed to the cause, but with a project on this scale money runs out quickly and now the time has come to renew the effort.
SPEA, BirdLife's partner in Portugal, has just launched a campaign to support Azores Bullfinch conservation work using the 'crowdfunding' website Indiegogo. Normally used to generate finance for projects such as independent films, crowdfunding could well succeed as an innovative way to reach out to the public globally to help finance local conservation work.
|Azores Bullfinch habitat: Serra da Tronquiera, São Miguel, with native laurel scrub and alien Japanese Red Cedars.|
|Interpretative display at the Priolo Centre, an important education resource, on São Miguel.|
The new SPEA crowdfunding campaign is simply entitled 'Let’s save the Azores Bullfinch' and runs only until the end of February 2013. In that time it aims to raise at least $28,000 for the continuation of the work needed to avoid the decline of this endangered species. This amount will contribute to mantaining the 22-strong project team who continue the effort to restore the species’ habitat, controlling invasive plants and re-establishing the native Azorean flora on which this once-common endemic bird depends. Donations are welcome through http://www.indiegogo.com/PreserveAzoresBullfinch, and according to the amount given donors will receive a range of benefits, from sponsoring a native plant right up to a one-day guided tour to see the area under restoration and, hopefully, the species. Please give generously!
Read press release
Read press release
Saturday, 12 January 2013
It takes quite a lot to overshadow the continuing presence of two Buff-bellied Pipits together in the London Area, but that feat has now been achieved - by two Bearded Tits. The first time the species has ever been seen in Inner London, their presence in a tiny reedbed close to the Princess Diana Memorial Fountain in the ludicrous location of Hyde Park is the reason for their impromptu fame. Often perched within feet of passers-by, 'pinging' and swinging among the phragmites heads in the cold east wind, they have drawn a steady crowd throughout today as birders arrived from far and wide to admire them.
It seems extraordinary that they have lingered so long at this marginal site, and also remained undetected; even more incredible that they are back on the map following a Sixties-style field telegraph alert. The story may not be over yet, as both individuals are ringed. From analysis of the hundreds of photos taken of them, it may be possible to piece together the code and trace their origin - hopefully more to follow on this.
|Some of the ring code can be deciphered from the images - in time, it may be possible to trace the birds' origin.|
Thursday, 10 January 2013
|Male Capercaillie: one of the most highly prized of Scotland's specialities.|
|Sunrise over the mountains, from our base in Nethybridge.|
|Great views were had of another Caledonian specialist, Crested Tit.|
Tuesday, 1 January 2013
|Part of the Waxwing flock at Lakeside Thurrock today - a good bird to see on 1 January, and indeed any time.|
|Some of the birds were feeding on low plantings about three feet above the ground, for nice eye-level views.|
|This is the main part of the flock - guess the number visible, then count them and see how close you were.|