Feeding Suspended

August 28, 2011 at 6:05 pm

Pied Billed Grebe

The entries for the last two weeks about the record numbers of birds in the garden all pale into insignificance with the outbreak of Trichomonosis amongst the finches. The last straw came with both male and female Bullfinch becoming infected and I was able to pick up the female to save it from being taken by the male Sparrowhawk who is still catching two to three, mainly sick birds, each day. So after forty three years of feeding birds in the garden we stopped putting food out to hope the disease and the Sparrowhawk go away.It was a hard decision to make and the Wood Pigeons still cannot understand why there is no food for them!

The calm and sometimes warm weather last week has been perfect for butterflies and I finally made my way to Norden in search of the elusive Purple Hairstreak. Many Oak trees were scanned but all to no avail, only an abundance of Speckled Woods and Small Coppers, with the odd Comma and Peacock enjoying the conditions.

The big news on Hopwood was that alarm calls from feeding Swallows produced a fast flying Hobby – my first sighting this year. It was gone in a second and with no camera to hand it still remains my most elusive raptor to capture on film. Last week two Peregrines were on the course with one being a juvenile, perhaps spreading out from Rochdale Town Hall.

Garden Takeaway

August 20, 2011 at 1:47 pm

Pied Billed Grebe

I wished I hadn’t mentioned in recent weeks about the lack of young Sparrowhawks this year as this week we have been plagued by them. An adult male Sparrowhawk has taken up residence and in one week he has been seen to capture six finches from the garden. To make matters worse he was accompanied one day by a recently fledged juvenile female and this was also seen to catch a House Sparrow so he is teaching it very well! If it carries on at this rate the recent record numbers of small birds will have been decimated. On the 20th a young Wood Pigeon sat on the top of my car in the drive and was fed for several hours by the adults. It was a good job it was too big for the male Sparrowhawk!

On Hopwood there are now plenty of Redpolls and Siskins feeding amongst the young trees with one or two pairs of Wood Pigeons still incubating eggs.

This week’s photo of the male Short Eared Owl about to present prey to the female is my favourite shot of the year. Such a photo would have been near impossible before the digital era.

One Good Day

August 13, 2011 at 9:46 am

Pied Billed Grebe

This week we have had only one decent Summer’s day but at least the butterflies have made full use of it. On Hopwood there were many Speckled Woods flitting about the glades with at least one Peacock for company. The photo above of two Graylings was taken in North Lancashire a little earlier. I have not yet had chance to investigate the sightings of the Purple Hairstreaks in Ashworth Valley with time beginning to run out.

A recent good sighting was a very noisy juvenile Green Woodpecker in Hopwood. Despite forty years of searching I have yet to find Green Woodpeckers breeding locally even though their holes appear on a regular basis in Oak trees!

This Summer the birds in the garden have been exceptional with double figure numbers of Collared Doves, House Sparrows, Greenfinches, Chaffinches and Goldfinches. Does this prove that in spite of the current weather they have had a brilliant breeding season, or is it due to the weekly sack of sunflower seeds that we are now putting out?

Sparrowhawks Fledge

August 7, 2011 at 5:07 pm

Pied Billed Grebe

Just when I thought it was going to be a blank year for breeding Sparrowhawks along came three young in Hopwood Woods that were being fed, very noisily, by two adults. I have yet to locate the nest that they have fledged from but at this stage they do not move very far from the nest site and will be fed for some time yet by the adults. In the garden a different pair of Sparrowhawk have been causing havoc with all the feeding birds and this week have already caught both Greenfinch and House Sparrow.

A visit to Dovestones reservoir on the warmest day of the week once again failed to produce any Crossbills. However, I did see several Gatekeeper butterflies which was a new butterfly for me. I understand through the grapevine that in Ashworth Valley on the 1st, in warm sunshine, at least three Purple Hairstreak Butterflies were seen. They are an extremely rare butterfly locally so if we have a return to warmer weather I shall have to make a visit.

An unusual sight during the evening of the 6th was more than fifty Swallows on the ground on one of the fairways of the local golf course apparently capturing flying ants as they emerged.