Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas In Skipton

Made it through the snow and ice earlier in the week up to the snowy, icy wastes of Yorkshire.  Much colder than down in the South and a lot more snow around.

Staying with friends in Carleton, a small village just across the River Aire and the Leeds Liverpool Canal from Skipton.  This is one of many snowy walks around the area.  Pintail, mallard and mute swan on the river, which was pretty much frozen, although it's normally a fast flowing river.

The valley is surrounded by heather covered hills, currently covered in snow and only a few weeks ago this areas was covered in water as the valley is prone to flooding.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Lighter Snow Fall

Today's snowfall is not nearly as heavy as the previous one.  Not much more than an inch in this part of Sussex - although over on the Hampshire border they've had 4-5 inches.  A mixture of sleet and snow and more slush than anything.

Still, I was out topping up the feeders, filling up the bird bath and making sure the birds are fed before I got my breakfast.  Lovely to watch them in the garden - a regular stream of the usual visitors - blue tits, great tits, chaffinch, three greenfinch, similar number of goldfinch and house sparrows, a pair of blackbirds.  Three woodpigeons descended at one point and swaffed everything up.  Four collared doves squabbling over pole position - literally sometimes, as one sits rather precariously on top of the pole feeder, having been booted off the other feeders by the woodpigeon.

The sun is now out and it's thawing. More snow forecast but hope it doesn't impact on Christmas travel plans.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

White-Tailed Eagle On Amberley Brooks

After the cold and snow I thought I'd risk a jaunt over to Pulborough to see if the ice had gone and any of the ducks had returned.

It was a few degrees above freezing and the ice was thawing out on the Brooks but not completely and there were only a few ducks out in the open patches of water.  A few pairs of pintail, a couple of shelduck and shovelers and plenty of teal and canada geese.

The peregrine was in its favourite perch and had recently killed a teal, which it was busily eating, being watched from the hanger by a larger group of visiting birdwatchers.  A sparrowhawk flew in to take a look or to chase it off and shortly after it dropped what was left of the teal and flew off towards Coldwaltham.

The only waders were two or three dunlin out on the ice - just about managing to keep their footing.  The wigeon were over on the fields by Winpenny and there were plenty of fieldfare and redwings feeding on the berries along the edge of the Brooks.  No sign of the large numbers of snipe that had been spotted earlier in the week.

The highlight of the day was of course the white-tailed eagle over on Amberley and my first ever twitch.  Dave and Graham were off to see it as made my way down to the hides.  Having established there really was an eagle and they weren't joking, I decided to join them later.  After all who knows whether it would still be there when they got there.  Surely it must be another of the escapees that seem to inhabit this valley - causing amusement and excitement?

Twitchers at Amberley
After getting frozen out on the Brooks - I headed back to the Visitor's Centre to find that most of the staff had already been out to Rackham to view the eagle and it was still there.  Following Sue's instructions I arrived to find Dave and Graham were still there - along with about a dozen other birders.  All abandoning (and probably gratefully) the Christmas shopping in order to view a rare visitor to Sussex.

It was huge!  Just as I turned up, it had taken off and was being mobbed by crows, so you could see just how big it was, before flying back into one of three trees out on Amberley Brooks.  Several sizes larger than a buzzard and made the crows next to it in the tree look tiny.  There were also three Ruff out on the meadows, slightly closer than the eagle and a herd of the dark fallow deer moving around on the Brooks - oblivious to the large bird of prey sitting the tree above them.

Much speculation as to what it was doing there - definitely not a Scottish eagle, it didn't have wing tags - possibly a young Scandinavian bird that had headed south and by-passed Scotland due to the cold weather conditions - apparently the fact it was an escapee had already been discounted.  It was identified as being a 2nd year juvenille - grey bill, some white on the tail.  Glad someone was there verify the details.  It was a long way off and I could just about make out it's lighter bill and paler breast.

Back to Pulborough in time for a cup of tea and bread pudding - still warm from the oven!

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Thursday, December 02, 2010

Heavy Snowfall In Sussex

Not as heavy as some parts of the country but to see this amount of snow on the coast in Sussex is unusual.