Wednesday 30 December 2015

Cannop Ponds

   Dec 28 2015 Cannop Ponds Forest of Dean, Gloucestershire UK 12c

Due to the lousy weather and family commitments twenty days have passed since my last birding outing. When the sun finally did come out I decided to make my way to nearby Cannop Ponds. On the way I decided to stop off at Parkend where with the help of another birder I spotted four Hawfinch high up in a Beech Tree. The big finches come down occasionally to feed on the Yew tree nuts. A difficult bird to photograph, they never did come down close enough. I also photographed a Sparrowhawk streaking across the sky. A nearby flock of thirty Chaffinch might have been the intended prey.

Little Grebe (Tachybaptus ruficollis)
Also known as 'Dabchick' Little Grebes favour weedy lakes where it dives for food.

Moorhen (Gallinula chloropus)
The most common member of the crake or rail family. As with the Little Grebe UK winter numbers are supplemented by  immigrants from Europe.
Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus)
The commonest of the UK tits, the Blue Tit is a familiar visitor to bird feeders and will readily use nest boxes put out for them in the garden.

Coal Tit (Periparus ater)
A lifer for me, the Coal Tit made my day. There is a feeder at Canop where visitors bring food.

Great Tit (Parus Major)
The largest of the UK tits, Great Tits often flocks with other tits and is a regular visitor to the bird feeder.

Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo)
I didn't know this but the cormorant's plumage isn't waterproof and the bird can often be seen in the 'heraldic' pose drying off its wings.

Mandarin Duck (Aix galericulata)
The Mandarin duck was introduced into the UK in the early 20th century and now number around 3500 pairs. It was added to the British bird list in 1971.

Tufted Duck (Aythya fuligula)
The only bird the Tufted Duck can be confused with is the Scaup (Aythya marina)
With time running out for my family visit I can only hope that the sun will peek out from behind the ever present clouds giving me an opportunity for one more day of birding. Meanwhile I wish you all a very happy and healthy 2016.

"It's never too late to start birding"

John Gordon
BC Canada

Wednesday 16 December 2015

Year End Round-Up

 Dec 16 2015 A Birding Year

2015 has been a year of great adventures. Among many other endeavours I have been to the UK twice (Feb and this Dec) and I also fulfilled a life long dream to drive across Canada (May-July)
 I always promised myself I wouldn't get caught up in a numbers game but there's something about ticking birds that makes it fun and educational. Below are a few random images in chronological order from the past twelve months and and a list of my 2015 Canada birds (291species)
I hope you enjoy them!

Pine Grosbeak
 Burnaby Mountain BC.

Gray Wagtail
 Cannop Ponds Forest of Dean UK.
Long-tailed Tit Brockweir UK

Reed Bunting Newport Wetlands Gwent Wales UK

Anna's Hummingbird
 Queen Elizabeth Park Vancouver BC.

Loggerhead Shrike
 Hope Airport BC.

Black-tailed Prairie Dogs
 Grasslands National Park Saskatchewan.

Red Knot, Black-bellied Plover and Dunlin.
Riverton/Sandy Bar Lake Winnipeg Manitoba

Magnolia Warbler
Ontario on the outward journey.
Northern Parula
Lake Superior Provincial Park.

Nelson's Sparrow Shepody Marsh
 Bay of Fundy Nova Scotia
I think this rock formation looks a little like ET!
Hopwell Rocks
 Bay of Fundy New Brunswick.

Male Eider Duck flotilla. Bay of Fundy
 New Brunswick.

Black-throated Gray Warbler
 Grand Manan Archipelago New Brunswick.

Yellow-bellied Flycatcher
 Prince Edward Island

Lake Superior Provincial Park Ontario.

Red Fox
Sleeping Giant Provincial Park Ontario.

Northern Gannet
St Mary's Ecological Reserve, Newfoundland.

Upland Sandpiper courtship behaviour.
Manitoba Birding Trail. 
Grasshopper Sparrow
 Melita Manitoba.

Immature Franklin's Gull
104 Boundary Bay.
Tropical Kingbird
Steveston BC.
White-throated Sparrow.
Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary.
 Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary BC.

Great Blue Herons toward Mud Bay
 Wye Valley  UK.

Brockweir Wye Valley UK

Finally I would like to wish everyone season's greetings and very, very birdy 2016.

Here is

2015 Year List

"It's never too late to start birding"
John Gordon
Langley /Cloverdale
BC Canada

Monday 14 December 2015

Yet Another Walk to the Village.

Dec 7-10 2015  Brockweir Wye Valley UK. Mainly overcast with sunny breaks 10c
As a child I must have walked and driven the lanes around Brockweir and Hewelsfield thousands of times. Back for a Christmas visit I wonder where the past fifty years have slipped by! No matter, life goes on.
Because of the steep hillsides I never owned a bike and never even rode one until I was well into my twenties, even today I am not that good a rider. If you see me on Iona Jetty, best move over or i'll likely land up joining the wigeon and scoters!

Brockweir. Ancient hedgerows and open fields offer the perfect haven for a wide variety species. Offas's Dyke runs through the village.

In the winter of 1963 there was ten feet of snow and we had to take a sled to the village for groceries. The old post office store is now closed replaced by a community run co-operative.
I must have seen birds on my travels but really I was more drawn to the river. I used to spend hours waiting for a fish to bite and in between I would watch a Kingfisher or a water vole, ask to name any of the other birds and I would be nonplussed. I don't fish anymore, I came to the realization that it was far too an invasive a pastime. Bird watching or birding leaves less of a footprint or so we like to think. There are many philosophical arguments about birders flying around the world just to tick birds or burning fossil fuels to drive across Canada on a "Little Big Year" like I did this summer.

Eventually the sun broke through, always a bonus at this time of year, just enough to catch an inquisitive Chaffinch.
Chaffinch. A common bird that comes to the feeder or feeds on fallen fruit and berries. In the autumn Chaffinches often flock with Yellowhammers and Sparrows

The Great Tit.
A common visitor to gardens and feeders. Gardeners should be particularly grateful to the Great Tit as one study estimated that a pair caught 7000-8000 caterpillars and other insects for their brood over a three week period. 
The Nuthatch can often be heard before it is seen.

As exotic as any bird anywhere the world, Goldfinches were often trapped by Victorians and sold in markets as cage birds.

There is a cider apple orchard at the end of the lane and many birds are attracted the fallen fruit.
The Blackbird can be found in most Hedgerows where it is often accompanied by a mate. It is the most common resident bird in the UK. The Blackbird is a very wary, this one is feeding on crab apples.

Chaffinch feeding on ripe apples.
Walking to the store I notice a Common Buzzard on a tree branch, its eyes cast down scanning the fields for a rabbit or vole. I take a few shots from a distance and then the bird is airborne and sparring with a Rook. Rooks have white patches on the face and at the base of their long bill.
When rooks congregate to feed there is an established peck or pecking order. Pigeons and domestic fowl also do it to establish a social hierarchy. This ensures the highest ranking birds survive in lean times.
A Common Buzzard and Rook spar in the skies above Brockweir.

Front view of the colourful breast of a Fieldfare feeding on crabapples. Fieldfares are unusual in the thrush family in that they nest in colonies. They very seldom nest in Britain preferring Scandinavia and the Russia Steppes.

A rear view of the Fieldfare with it's distinctive gray rump.
As I was photographing the Fieldfare a Green Woodpecker flew into a tree about one hundred feet away. It was another 'Lifer' the second of the trip and a welcome and unexpected sighting.

 Green Woodpecker (female)

As I continued my walk to pick up the paper and some freshly baked bread I came across a pair of Pied Wagtail running across the old post office roof. The warmth had produced a hatch of insects and the wagtails were making the most of it. There were even a few Butterflies around.

Pied Wagtail on the old post office roof.
Haven't been birding for a few days now but this morning as I opened the curtains a pair of Blue Tits were feeding on insects draw to the bright yellow flowers of a Forsythia. I watched for several minutes until one of the birds seemed to spot me and in a flash they were gone.

Some distant grainy ID shots
Redwing, the smallest of the thrushes.

Mistle Thrush, the largest UK thrush.

Mistle Thrush.

More info
Offas's Dyke and the

"It's never too late to start birding"
John Gordon
BC Canada

While management has the greatest respect for the English language this writer realizes his grammar is a bit dodgy and hopes the reader will forgive him his errors.