Monday, 22 January 2018

Face to face with a killer

I was standing at the open window, photographing birds on the feeders, when this sparrowhawk landed less than 3m in front of me.  I heard its wings approaching but there were no alarm cells as the other birds scattered.  It is a female, noticeably bigger than the juvenile male which has been staking out the feeder in the kitchen garden, but also has juvenile plumage.  I had a 300mm prime lens (420mm equivalent) so I couldn't zoom out to get the whole bird in the frame and I got only these two shots.  I was hidden from view but she heard the click of the camera and was gone in a flash.

That in itself was worth knowing as I have been photographing the other bird through the double glazing.  I now know it won't be worth trying with the window open.  I'll just have to keep the glass clean.

It is interesting to compare the two birds.  Here they are side by side, the male on the left.  His photo was taken in deep shade, hers in sunshine.

Saturday, 20 January 2018

Seven winter finches

I have had a few complaints - mainly from the small birds who turn up in the garden every day hoping to have their photos taken but who say they never feature on this blog.  They think there are far too many squirrel, badger and deer pictures and are completely unimpressed by all the sparrowhawk photos.  So here are some finch photos from this week.

The most numerous finch in the garden is the goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) with dozens visiting every day.

The most constant finch is the chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs), here almost all the time.

Also a regular visitor is the greenfinch (Chloris chloris).

And at this time of year I expect to see a pair of bullfinches (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) every day.

I don't usually take photos on the feeders but the last three birds are rarer winter visitors and feeder photos are all I could manage this week.  I saw a couple of lesser redpolls (Acanthis cabaret) in December but this week they have been regular visitors.  These are males.

The first siskins (Spinus spinus) of the winter came to the feeders last week.  This is a male.

And most exciting of all, a male brambling (Fringilla montifringilla), the first I have seen in the garden for two years.

Friday, 19 January 2018


When I set up the trail camera I usually bait it with peanuts.  I most often get photos of a badger or a fox, both of which are keen on peanuts, but occasionally something else turns up. This time the only photos were of a jay.  It must have been having a great time as it triggered a lot of photos.

It kept going until it was almost dark.

And was back again first thing the next morning.

When I checked the camera later all the peanuts had gone so I reckon the jay had eaten or cached the whole lot. Obviously there could have been more than one jay as they all look alike to me.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

Fan-tailed sparrowhawk

The sparrowhawk spends a lot of time keeping his feathers in perfect condition.  As well as preening it involves lots of stretching and shaking.  He seems to go through the same routine each time.

Monday, 15 January 2018

DeerCam outside the front gate

Every winter the deer turn up outside the front gate to browse on the ivy growing on the fence.  They don't eat it all in one go, which gives me time to see what is happening and put out a trail camera.  This is the best set of night-time photos of roe deer I have managed so far.  The doe triggered 5 photos in 5 minutes as she moved nearer to the camera so I presume she wasn't bothered by the flash.  The second deer, probably a youngster, was in only the first photo but may have moved around the corner.

Roe deer are small.  To give you an idea, the fence is 4 ft (1.2m) high.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

It's a boy!

Facebook has a lot of disadvantages compared with this blog but it is another way of sharing my photos.  I usually put a link to each blog post on my own page and one or two photos from the post in a closed group of Northumberland Wildlife photos.  These usually attract some interest and comment.  I have recently shared a few of the juvenile sparrowhawk photos and there were several strongly held assertions that he is female, when obviously he is male.  To prove the point I made this size comparison between last winter's adult male and the recent bird and put the explanation in another post.  I have reproduced them here as many readers of this blog are probably too sensible to bother with Facebook.  The link to the article on ageing and sexing sparrowhawks can be found here.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

A curlew's breakfast

I saw this handsome curlew wandering along the water's edge looking for its breakfast.  After a couple of minutes it caught a crab.  It spent a few moments flicking the crab around. 

I was amazed to see that it could increase the curvature of its bill to get a better grip.

It then swallowed the crab whole and presumably still alive.

After the crab had disappeared the curlew had a lump in its throat.

A little farther on it caught and swallowed another one.

Then it turned and came back towards me and found an enormous worm which it pulled out of the sand and swallowed.

Not quite what I would fancy for breakfast but that is obviously what curlews like to eat.  I wonder if they can feel the crabs and worms wriggling around inside?