Today, I was in pensive mood after yesterday's events. It was a day for garden birds. Yesterday, I'd speculated about the identity of parties of small birds moving along the saltmarsh.
But, whilst into my third cup of coffee, I had a minor triumph: a small party came swanning down the saltmarsh gaining my instant attention. They veered sharply to the right and into the garden, doubtless attracted by the feeding activity of the regular inmates. Struggling to my feet, I guessed they had gone for the feeding station at the back of the house. Bingo! Calling for Judith, we both beheld newly arrived Siskins: 1 female and 5 males; all in sparkling breeding plumage, obviously hungry and quite aggressive to other residents; immediately setting about the hangers of the feeding station. The niger seed seemed to be their main interest. There followed a great fluttering of wings - what with Goldfinches, Chaffinches and all the Tits ( one of which was a Willow Tit – a local resident). Judith lunged for her camera and Sigma lens, firing away at this wonderful spectacle of green and gold.
Over the previous week we have had a rather sad little female Siskin – seemingly on her own, with no company to lighten her day. Suddenly she had more men folk in attendance than she knew what to do with! The speculation is, “Will she depart with them when they move on?”
We also have had a lonely little female Brambling with no apparent takers, as the male Brambling all departed approximately some 10 days ago, presumably to establish territories in distant Europe or Scandinavia. “Will she stay or will she go?” . . . the living being so good here: more than adequate food; more than adequate trees and a climate not too dissimilar to the sub-arctic – what's for her not to like?!!
As we watch, the Siskins are making short work of the niger seed feeder – much of the seed falling to the ground where resident Chaffinches and Dunnock mop it up. Also some of the local Tree Sparrows are happy to be ground feeders also – although numbers of these seem to have declined sharply in the garden this last month or so. Could they already be attending to nesting matters: using some of the many nestboxes provided on the Reserve here at Campfield, which over the years have resulted in an explosion of the Tree Sparrow population. That's a real piece of good news for you!!
So, all in all, it has been a good mornings watching from my couch, of garden birds. Am currently turning my attention to the incoming tide on the estuary from my front picture window and the gathering flocks of mixed waders which seem to be increasing day on day now.
This is all very exhausting work though and I feel some light sustenance may be required shortly. The bottle of Southern Comfort standing there, is beginning to attract my attention. I can strongly recommend this as a consoler and lifter of the human spirit in this awful weather we are suffering lately. So why not try it out next time you find yourself in the appropriate area of the supermarket! It's been a hard winter for us poor birders. Why should the birds have all the fun! After all, we do spend fortunes on them with bird food, optics and the like !!!
Brambling, Siskin (both females) and Goldfinch had been feeding in the garden for the past few days.
Goldfinch - recent regular visitors to the feeders,
Willow Tit visits infrequently (with silver BTO right leg ring)
Enjoying the seed feeders.
Siskin flock descending onto the feeding station.
. . . with much agression and wing fluttering.
. . . even to their own kind!
They soon get on with the business of feeding, though
. . . particularly when niger seed and sunflower hearts are on offer!.
Is it the niger seed that quells their agression to the other garden birds there?
Take-over of the garden feeding station.
Blue Tits muscle in.
The Great Spotted Woodpecker had been maintaining a watching brief on these activities.
A more relaxed atmosphere now pervades.
A colourful male getting into breeding plumage.
Subdued plumage of the female.
Oh dear! An early hospital appointment, first thing Monday morning! The weather was dull, raining and bitterly cold. Things could only get better . . . and so they did!
Coming through Drumburgh at 8 o'clock, a flock of about 1500 Barnacles were just coming in to land on the marsh beyond. Judith got some really nice shots.
On coming home again later on, we decided to give the Cardurnock Peninsula the once over. First strike was a lovely flock of 1000 Pinkfeet in a meadow on the back road from Bowness-on-Solway to Whitrigg. The bonus being the presence of the leucistic Pink amongst them. Although hazy and raining the pictures came out really well . . . strange that!
Bashing on we discovered the Whooper Swans (79) in more or less the same place as we had last seen them, in a meadow near the turn-off to Rogersceugh (RSPB) in Longcroft. Then, heading on for Anthorn, passing the old herdsman's cottage on the bend came across about 40 Pinkfeet on the marsh near the road.
Carrying on to Cardurnock, stumbled upon a small flock of Barnacles near the corner at Herd Hill – on stubble, relaxing and generally sheltering from the cold wind.
Not a bad haul for the day - all things considered!
On reaching Campfield – large flocks of mixed waders - way out towards the mussel scaurs, as the tide was filling. They continued to be pushed in by the tide over the next hour or so. Could this be the start of the gathering for the Spring passage? Also seems to be an eastward movement of very small birds: namely parties of 30 or so. Have seen this process going on for the last 3 or 4 days: the jizz reminded me of pipits but my old eyes aren't really up to it! . . . that's why I was visiting the hospital!
Barnacle flock near Drumburgh
Coming down to land, Burgh Marsh.
Pinkfeet near Whitrigg.
Leucistic Pink with rest of the flock.
Short fear flight as Buzzard flew overhead.
Part of a further small flock of Pinkfeet on Longcroft Marsh.
Grazing Whoopers at Longcroft.
Barnacles resting amongst stubble at Herd Hill, Cardurnock.
Norman Holton writes:
“Over the last couple of months I have been moving my remote camera around the reserve to see what I might capture. The problem with this is sifting through the thousands of images you get (like bits of vegetation blowing in the wind) for the few good ones. It is also interesting to see what is moving around after dark – the quality of night-time photo’s isn’t good enough to reproduce here but I have got photo’s of badger, hare, fox, roe deer, otter, rat and numerous small rodents.
Anyway, here are a few of the better ones.”
Typical senario here over the last few weeks: sunshine and snow clouds!
Shelduck are starting to put in an appearance on the mudflats - 22nd February
SongThrush and Great Spotted Woodpecker are becoming regular visitors to the Hamlet gardens - 22nd February.
Song Thrush with a liking for banana - 22nd February.
A few Brambling were still around on 23rd February.
Little Egret with Curlew seen on saltmarsh, 24nd February.
These saltmarsh dubs must be a good source of food.
Wigeon taking to the water - North Plain Meadow Pools, 25th February.
Redwing still feeding on the few remaining berries along the Lonning hedges - 26th February.
This flock of about forty Redwing had been seen in the immediate area now for a few days.
Teal on Lonning flooded meadows - 26th February.
Spring flowers at the entrance to North Plain Lonning - 1st March
Two Little Egret on the edge of the saltmarsh, near Lonning entrance - 1st March.
By the time we had walked down to the hide they were just coming into land on the wetlands there - 1st March.
Teal displaying in the sunshine - pool infront of the hide, 1st March.
Guest sheep from Haweswater, enjoying the hay - 6th March.
Teal flying into Meadow Pool, on a misty day - viewed from 1st screen, 6th March.
Flotilla of Wigeon, Meadow Pool - 6th March.
. . . and suddenly the Little Grebe, who had been diving nearby, popped up in their midst.
Later on in the day, two of the four Siskin seen feeding on niger seed in the hamlet - 6th March.
Male Great Spotted Woodpecker feeding, unusually, on the ground - 9th March.
Marine protection for the only breeding black guillemots in England
Walking along the Cumbrian coast at this time of year, the cliffs with their sheer drops can look wild and inhospitable; it is easy to think that nothing could exist here. But come spring 8 million seabirds will make the long trip home to their breeding grounds around the UK’s coast; soon the cliffs will be alive with squabbling guillemots, groaning puffins and graceful fulmars.
At St Bees Head in Cumbria an additional treat is in store for visitors as these cliffs are home to the only breeding black guillemot population in England; if you are lucky, you might just catch them descending into their burrows with sandeels and butterfish in bills ready to feed their chicks.
St Bees is a fantastic example of how faithful seabirds are to the sites they use; some seabirds return back to the exact same nests every year. Thankfully the colony here is a nationally designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), which means that seabird nest sites are protected from damaging human activities; however the areas that these birds use at sea are not.
It’s a sad truth that this story is the same all around the UK - seabirds are currently protected when on land, but as soon as they leave the shore to hunt for food for themselves and their chicks, they face threats such as net entanglement and disturbance from offshore developments in unprotected waters.
I’d like to thank everyone who Stepped Up for Nature and signed the RSPB’s Marine Pledge throughout 2011-12. At the moment less than 0.1% of the UK’s waters are protected from all damaging activities and there is an urgent need for the development of an ecologically coherent network of Marine Protected Areas. In November 2011, thanks to your support, we were able to hand-in over 50,000 signatures to Fisheries Minister Richard Benyon and show the UK Government that people out there like you care about the marine environment including the fate of our seabirds.
But we must ask you now to take further action.
We were thrilled that in September 2011 it was agreed that black guillemot should be a species for protection within the recommended Cumbria Coast Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ). This MCZ would form part of a collection of 127 sites around English waters, for consultation in 2013.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) launched their public consultation on the designation of English MCZs in December 2012. We now know that Defra only intend to take up to 31 of the 127 sites forward for designation in 2013. What’s more, black guillemot has not been taken forward as a species within the Cumbria Coast MCZ which means that they will continue to have no protection at their key feeding and loafing areas close to their nesting grounds. We are bitterly disappointed by these unambitious proposals.
What you can do to help:
Please join us in letting Defra know that that they need to reinstate black guillemot as a species for protection within the Cumbria Coast MCZ for designation in 2013. Furthermore, that they need to implement a well-managed network of Marine Protected Areas, including MCZs, which offers full protection for all our marine wildlife, including seabirds, without further delay.
You can do this and encourage others to do the same by responding to Defra’s English Marine Conservation Zones consultation.
You can submit your letter email to MCZ@defra.gsi.gov.uk or by writing to the address below:
C/O Post Room
17 Smith Square
London SW1P 3JR
The consultation closes on 31 March 2013.
Why not also add a personal flavour to your letter by describing why the Cumbrian coast is so special to you and why our marine environment needs protecting.
Thank you for your support
Clare Reed, RSPB Marine Conservation Officer (North West England)
Clare.email@example.com; 07702 891480