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Wanderer Returns

January 11, 2009 at 7:03 pm

Stocks Reservoir

Since last weeks entry we have had eight wonderful frosty and sometimes snowy Winter days. The highlight has got to be the return of the Willow Tit to the garden on the second after an absence of more than two years. It came daily until the sixth but has not been seen since. Blackbirds peaked at thirteen one morning with twenty four House Sparrows seen together another day

What about Waxwings? Well a hundred at Offerton on the third of January followed by at least fifty on the fourth, only one on the fifth. However, on that date there were seven back in Middleton and these increased to eight on the sixth then down to five on the seventh. None seen since.

On Hopwood there was a good flock of twenty four Redpolls going to roost on the eighth January and amongst the vast flock of Corvids there was an albino Carrion Crow.

A visit to Stocks reservoir on the fifth January produced a great sunset but the Starlings there did not perform for the camera. The feeding station there had at least twenty Coal Tits present plus a male Great Spotted Woodpecker. Two Little Owls were seen including one on a fence post by the roadside as we drove home over Pendle Hill.

The North Staffordshire moorlands had a fantastic hoar frost on the tenth and two forlorn Kestrels trying to find prey at dusk. A Woodcock flew across the road in front of the car well after sunset on its way to feed.

Yesterday I spent twenty minutes washing bird droppings off the car but was delighted to do so as they had been produced two hours earlier by seventy Waxwings sat in a tree above the car. It was like falling hail in a Summer storm!!

Tuned Into Waxwings

January 2, 2009 at 8:47 pm


Since last week’s blog it has been non-stop Waxwings with some incredible Winter weather with minus seven degrees one night and a maximum day temperature on the thirty first of minus three degrees. Not the sort of weather to spend three hours in the open in a Rochdale garden waiting for Waxwings!!

After last weeks finding of Waxwings in Tweedale Street the next day they peaked at thirty two before all the berries had been devoured and they moved on to Norden, where a new peak of fifty three occurred at Caldershaw Road on the thirty first December. Whilst filming these in a garden I was amazed to find two male Blackcaps feeding on the same berries.

New Years day produced an incredible hoar frost and my third grand slam of the Winter with a Jack Snipe at dawn in the Thornham fields, fifty plus Waxwings at Offerton in the late morning and two Woodcock in Hopwood woods at dusk. What a start to the year!

The garden continues to attract daily eight to eleven Long Tailed Tits, Jay,Wren, Goldcrest and the first Reed Bunting of the Winter but, unfortunately, the male Bullfinches have stopped coming.

Happy Christmas To All

December 24, 2008 at 11:23 pm

Blue Tit

Dull and uninteresting weather this week but the garden has made up for it on the twenty third. On a very mild day we were graced with twenty Goldfinches, fourteen House Sparrows, ten Starlings, ten Long Tailed Tits and a record eighteen Blue Tits. Not forgetting a very active Goldcrest!

My usual circuits of all the Rowan trees in Middleton and Chadderton failed to produce any Waxwings. However, on a shopping trip to Rochdale on the twenty third six were feeding on Rowan berries at the junction of Manchester Road and Tweedale Street. This being a notorious area where three years ago I was accosted by prostitutes and people throwing fridges from upper floor balconies I decided to give them a miss!!

At eight am on the twenty fourth three male Goosanders landed on the canal for the second time this week.

No filming on the twenty fifth as even serious film makers are entitled to one day off. But if Waxwings appeared well……..?

All Five Thrushes

December 20, 2008 at 7:09 pm


On the coldest day of the week I took some great film of a Fieldfare eating Hawthorne berries on a bush in the local hotel car park. Normally very wary this Fieldfare posed beautifully for the camera and having filmed Ring Ouzels in Spring and Blackbird,Redwing, Song and Mistle Thrushes last week this completes all the British thrushes in one year, something I have never managed before in thirty eight years.

I went chasing Waxwings at Offerton during this week and duly arrived at an apple tree where three had been feeding the day before only to find that the house owner was having double glazing installed and the windows had already been dropped to the ground next to the apple tree! Only bird present was a male Blackcap and with all the noise it was last seen heading south towards Africa.

The garden this week has been brilliant with twenty different species being seen on the sixteenth including eighteen House Sparrows, Goldcrest, nine Long Tailed Tits, Sparrowhawk and male and female Great Spotted Woodpecker. In fact there were twenty one if you count a Tawny Owl that was calling from the garage roof just before midnight!! Not bad for a garden measuring only twenty five feet by fifteen feet.

On Hopwood during the week there was a Woodcock in the open and six Snipe and a Jack Snipe in a marshy area. Four Gooseanders ( one male and three female) landed on the canal on the nineteenth after the ice had melted.

One That Got Away

December 14, 2008 at 11:10 pm


Having photographed a Redwing eating Hawthorne berries during the week I was amazed to find that it dropped two out of every three berries it plucked off the tree. (see photo) It was not surprising that there were other birds on the ground cashing in.

I made three trips to Stocks reservoir during the week to film the Starling roost and got much more than I bargained for. On the first night a Peregrine turned up and had a go at the Starlings and on the second night a male Goshawk alighted right in front of me. As I put the camera back on the tripod a car went past on the road and off the Goshawk went – another one that got away.

Waxwings have finally turned up in Castleton, with seven on yellow Rowan berries in Smalley Street on the twelfth. They were, however, gone the following day!

Two Jack Snipe were present in the Thornham fields and two hundred plus Pink Footed Geese flew eastwards at 9.30am on the fourteenth.

Double Grand Slam

December 7, 2008 at 7:14 pm


We have just had the best week of Winter weather I can ever remember, coupled with some very colourful sunsets. Three days of minus four overnight plus four inches of snow on the 2nd produced plenty of bird activity and lots of Starlings in the garden with sixty eight in one tree in the avenue!

The ultimate three local Winter birds to me are Waxwing, Woodcock and Jack Snipe and to see all three within two miles of home is what I have termed the ‘Grand Slam’ and achievable very rarely. Well this week I have done it twice – firstly on the third with nineteen Waxwings in Oldham, two Jack Snipe in the Thornham fields and Woodcock in Hopwood woods. Secondly on the 7th with six Waxwings in Middleton, three Jack Snipe at Thornham and a Woodcock at Hopwood. In fact I also saw a Kingfisher today on Lords Wood lake, which was frozen, so I may have to retitle the Grand Slam to something else!

During the week I have visited Stocks reservoir to film the roost of Starlings. On the first visit there was a magnificent sunset and the Starlings came in low over the water – quite a spectacle but no aerial activity. On the second visit there was six inches of snow but I never got down the last hill to the waters edge. However on the moor above there were two Stonechats and one caught a two inch caterpillar in all that snow.

On the 2nd December the snow had just fallen and we never ventured out of the Avenue. I did however, film thirteen different species of birds in the back garden.

There are now Redwings and Fieldfares on all the hedgerow hawthornes which still hold an exceptional crop of berries. Come on you Waxwings!