Friday, December 28, 2007

Save Your Christmas Stamps - Save The Albatross

The RSPB is collecting stamps for their Save The Albatross campaign. All those Christmas stamps from your friends far and wide can be put to good use.

While your tuna might now be dolphin friendly, the long-line fishing method results in many seabirds, especially albatross, drowning as they go for the bait on the hooks. Try asking your local supermarket if the tuna is also albatross friendly?

Deliver your stamps while combining a great day out to your nearest RSPB reserve. Pulborough Brooks isn't too far away if you're in central Sussex, has a great little cafe and plenty to see on a nice stroll through the reserve.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A morning run around the lanes of Harting.

There was a flock of around twenty redwings sitting in the top of the sycamore trees on the side of the drive, just before I set off. These are lovely birds to see in the winter - often together with fieldfares in large flocks in trees or out in the fields.

It was a bright winter day and not too cold. A few ducks on the pond which was full but not iced over. There's regularly a family of mallard there and you have to be careful driving past in the Spring to avoid the ducklings waddling down the road.

A kestrel was sitting up on the tree as I ran back up one of the narrow country lanes and I also spotted the bright yellow head of a yellow-hammer as it flew overhead. Several pheasant, as ever - trying to avoid the Boxing Day shoot and survive another day. Totally unprepared for life in the wild having been breed and then released for the Autumn cull.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Birds

There's the usual flurry of activity around the feeders in my parents garden. An almost continuous stream of feathered visitors - blue tits, great tits, the much smaller coal tit which has to nip in and take it's chances before being chased off by one of the male chaffinches. Several chaffinches, greenfinches, dunnock, a pair of robins, blackbirds and up to three large woodpigeons and a pair of collared doves. This morning I also spotted something similar to a chaffinch but not. It turned out to be a brambling. Certainly not something that I ever see at home but there was a pair - feeding on the seeds with the chaffinches and tits. More of a orange-pink breast with speckled back and striped head.

Ferdie the pheasant also appears for his morning breakfast and afternoon tea. Rushing up to the back door if someone appears at the window but swiftly rushing off again as soon as you go out to scatter a handful of seed. At which point one of the woodpigeons will appear, waddling across the lawn like an overloaded bag lady or something out of a Wallace & Gromit cartoon. It's feet far too small and short to support such a large round body or perhaps I'm being unkind and it's merely fluffed up it's feathers against the cold. As soon as the pheasant has eaten it's fill, it's there picking up the leftovers before returning to underneath the feeders to catch the fall-out.

Another regular visitor is the spotted woodpecker which can't quite fit through the gaps in the bell feeder but hangs on the edge, bends itself almost in half reaching through to get at the nuts. Either the same one returning several times throughout the day or a couple of locals. A nuthatch appeared too, spending several minutes hanging upside down tapping away at the nuts.

A lovely, bright pink bullfinch appeared briefly at the top of the crab apple but doesn't stay around long. I saw it's mate earlier in the day. It always seems such a treat to see these brightly coloured birds with their hat of dark black feathers atop either a bright pink breast (male) or soft brown (female).

Another pheasant made a brief appearance. This one without a white collar and not as brave. It did venture up the garden to have a peck about under the feeders but didn't come any nearer the house, so isn't one that expects to be feed. Perhaps one of this year's chicks or one of Fred's (the previous garden pheasant) offspring.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Lapwings On The Tye

A run up onto the Tye this morning and spotted four lapwings in the sheep field. Not something I see very often up there - in fact hardly at all and it would be wonderful to see more of them. They were once a frequent sight in large flocks around fields but due to changes in farming and winter crops have declined rapidly.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Last Task of 2007

Preparing for what was due to be a very cold day, one pair of thermal leggings and two thermal tops, shirt, fleece, jacket, scarf, hat and fingerless gloves to be worn inside the gardening gloves. Ready to tackle some more scrub clearance up on Malling Down, near the quarry where we've been working this year. However, there was no chance of being cold - within a few minutes of starting work, you quickly warm up and it's not long before the uppermost layers are coming off.

This time the bonfire got started really quickly. There was a lot to burn from the two previous tasks and fortunately most of it was still dry, so within an hour or so there was a good blaze going up against one of the tree stumps. It doesn't seem to matter where the bonfire gets started or where we're working but we always end up downwind and then of course dragging the off-cuts up onto the fire you're like to get both smoked, baked or peppered with holes by the end of the day by the sparks from the bonfire. Most people have fleeces with holes in.

Mince pies and other goodies all round at the lunch break, although we needed to keep them away from the dog who thought they were just for him. Lovely welsh collie who couldn't work out why, with all these sticks around no one was playing with him. Apparently they can get obsessive about sticks.

Yet again by the end of the day, we had managed to clear a good area and have almost reached the valley just to the edge of the quarry. It's totally overgrown but there's a good south facing slope there - that 'if' we can clear it, could revert to grassland and that's what we're trying to achieve with all this scrub clearance - create more grassy areas for the chalk downland species.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Unusual Sighting

It's not every day that I visit one of the local garden centres and even less rare to see a red-legged partridge strutting around. Much bigger than their grey relatives which are often seen out in the fields, this one seemed to be relatively oblivious to the closeness of people and buildings and didn't look particularly paniced as I moved past it.

Being out in the open, many garden centres are a becoming a haven for wildlife - as long as the wildlife doesn't mind the interruption of people passing by. I've often seen a robin singing from a row of shrubs and perennials or a wren hopping around in the bushes.

What's turning up in your local garden centre?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Another One Bites The Dust

Returned home this afternoon to find a scattering of feathers beneath one of the groups of feeders. Apparently another bird has fallen prey to the local sparrowhawk.

This is the downside of providing feeding stations to small birds, they also provide a feeding station to their predators - particularly the sparrowhawk and occasionally cats if they're able to stalk their prey from suitable cover.

It must have been a small bird, as the feathers are all small and grey. No red bits, so it's not a robin this time. Perhaps a dunnock and they don't look big enough to be a blackbird. I'll keep an eye out to see who's missing - if that's not a contradictory statement.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Low Flying Heron

An unusual sight - heading seawards just as it's starting to get dark. If the tide's going out it may be off to the seashore to roost or for an early evening snack. You might think of a heron as being a river bird but they're often seen along the seashore and on estuaries.

Berries - Bring The Birds Closer

If you want to get up close and personal and get a view of birds right outside your window, make sure you plant a berry-bearing shrub outside your window.

While the blackbirds have pretty much stripped the higher berries, they're now working their way down and often sit on the window sill picking the next level of berries. You can't get much closer than that!

This morning a blue tit appeared as I was having breakfast. Just inches from the window and only a few feet away from where I was sitting.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Office Wildlife

The view out of my office window isn't fantastic - as views go but there is a row of shrubs just opposite and every now and then I get to spot something more than the dog walkers or children going to school.

This afternoon a small flock of birds flew in - two long tailed tits and two great tits, followed by a pair of blackbirds. They didn't stop long and flew on up the road to another garden.

Recently there's been a robin who regularly sits somewhere in the branches singing it's little heart out. More often heard than seen.

Something to bring a distraction to the working day.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Winter Skies - December

One benefit of the colder nights is that you get clear skies and it's now possible to see the wonderfully recognisable constellation of Orion. It's one of the few constellations that most people can recognise, along with the plough, although being close to the horizon it's only visible in the Northern hemisphere in the winter months.

Cassiopeia is another easy one to spot - it's a strung out W almost vertically above when viewed in the UK. The Pleiades is a cluster of several stars close together - apparently in the constellation of Taurus, not that I'd recognise that one.

I saw what I guessed to be Mars the other night - a distinctly orange 'star' over in the East. Planets track along a path in the sky from East to West and don't twinkle like stars.

Here's an idea of what's in the night sky this month on the BBC.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

FoTT Task On The E-Piece

First of the month and it's a joint task with the South Downs Joint Committee (SDJC) volunteers up on the E-piece. The forecast was for showers but we started out in sunshine although on the north side of the area so pretty cold especially when the cloud came over later on and then the rain.

The task was to clear a patch of brambles and ground elder which had been cleared about five years ago, so this was the regrowth. There's a trough halfway up the slope and the idea would be to get the area grazed which helps to keep the regrowth down and return it to chalk downland. There are several nest boxes in the trees along the side of the field. Not many of them looked as if they were occupied although there were several woodland birds flying around the area as we were working - robins, blue tits and greenfinches.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Chair of the FoTT

Having only recently joined the Friends of Telscombe Tye (FoTT), I now find myself being voted in as the new Chair for the group! Now there's a thing. Wasn't my intention but I guess they were short of volunteers and I didn't say no when I was asked at the Tye Committee meeting earlier in the week if I might be interested and then turning up at the AGM.

It's an exciting prospect to be involved at this level. I've always tended to stand on the sidelines, happy to lend my support to various groups but finding I'm more likely to put my hand up these days and take more of an active role. I've already registered the website name and it would be good to expand the membership over the coming year.