It is almost impossible to believe that last Autumn’s phenomenal berry crop has now been exhausted with Waxwings now searching for an alternative food source. Last week a solitary apple tree in the centre of Manchester was spotted by three Waxwings. I spent a couple of days filming them,then the next day they were gone, with apples still left on the tree. Other Waxwings still in the area have been eating rose-hips and any cotoneasters are well worth checking as Waxwings will still be with us for another two months. Long may they stay. click here
If I want to see Lapwings locally it is unlikely that I will find any in green fields.Instead I go down the road to my local Industrial Estate where on one occasion this winter there was a flock of more than three hundred present.As they are on the roof they are elevated nicely for photography.It is then only a waiting game before they fly around and give me the photos I am after.Click here
On the 5th February my local Snipe record increased even further when sixty five Common Snipe and twelve Jack Snipe were feeding in an only recently discovered area. While the twelve Jack Snipe may be an east Manchester record I am reliably informed that the County record stands at a mind boggling sixty eight!!
No visit to Wales is complete without a search of its vast pine plantations for the bird with that incredible twisted bill, the Crossbill.Amongst British birds it is unique with a bill specially designed for extracting seeds from pine-cones. In Wales Crossbills lay their eggs in mid February so that in January there is plenty of activity as they pair off and commence nest-building. Unfortunately the immense size of the Welsh forests makes finding Crossbills very difficult. After a great deal of time we located a small number of birds drinking at a pool in some dense willows and I was able to obtain a couple of photos of them before they returned to the high pines.
While Crossbills are the star bird of the pine forest there are always good numbers of Siskins present and these are nowhere near as wary as the Crossbills so I have included some male Siskins in the gallery.Click here
A week in Wales and during that time I noticed thousands of Starlings gathering together at the end of the day and going to roost in a remote pine forest. They came together from all directions and gathered in the nearest tall trees. Unfortunately unlike other Starling roosts there were no aerial flights or murmurations and I can only assume that as I never saw any raptors having a go at them then spectacular flights were not necessary. It could well prove that the Starlings mass murmuration flights are only performed to confuse any potential predators. Click here
I had almost forgotten how common Buzzards are in Wales and without really trying we saw at least a dozen per day. It was pleasing to now encounter Kites in many areas but I am afraid the Hawfinches evaded us.
It is always a good winters day when a Jack Snipe is encountered. Usually you come across them in ones and twos and my local record comes from 2010 when a severe bout of cold weather brought five together feeding in an unfrozen iron-water ditch. This winter, so far, has been relatively mild and not the sort of winter when records are broken but earlier this month all that was about to change.For years I had walked past an insignificant local peat bog and occasionally flushed a Common Snipe. After a period of heavy rain six Common Snipe were feeding in this bog together with six Jack Snipe. If that was not good enough at dawn on the 4th January, following three degrees of frost, I checked the bog again. To my utter amazement after eighteen Common Snipe flew off eleven Jack Snipe were found feeding, including four together. This must be one of the greatest concentrations of Jack Snipe ever recorded in Greater Manchester. On the 16th Jan despite thirty three Common Snipe being present there were no Jack Snipe – all had moved on to some other secret locality.
Today I was snowbound in Wales while looking for Hawfinches so this weeks gallery includes some that I took earlier! Click here
With its flamboyant crest there is little doubt that the Waxwing is the punk rocker of the bird-world. Last week’s hundreds of Waxwings have now moved on but during the week I have found several small parties that are still devouring the local berries.. One such group of five are featured in this weeks gallery. They were feeding on a Rowan, with pink berries, in a local housing estate. Ironically this single Rowan was planted in the front garden of a house that was once owned by my son!! Click here
During the week ten Goosanders, including eight males, were feeding on a pond by the local railway and better still were four Woodcock feeding under gorse bushes in Hopwood woods.