Monday, 18 January 2010

A morning on the harbour

A delightful morning with a school group on one of the Bristol Ferries. We were exploring the Floating Harbour environment - mainly the man-made part but naturally I was sharing the wildlife and plants to be seen! The cormorants were showing well with one or two popping up from under water right by the boat to the delight of the children. As we sailed past the Arnolfini a few coots were feeding - an unusual sight in the harbour (no doubt also displaced by the cold weather) - and four cormorants, some now in summer plumage, were standing on the jetty. The class were really engaged, busily taking notes, drawing down things on their maps and enjoying the smells, sounds and sights of the Bristol Floating Harbour!

Sunday, 17 January 2010

A wonderful day out in the countryside! This morning I was ringing in a garden in Severn Beach while tutoring a friend about bird identification - a glorious morning with plenty of skylarks moving overhead, heading north (presumably back to where they came from prior to the cold weather move). Lots of bluetits and great tits in the net including a control that I ringed on the foreshore in May 2008 as a 1st summer bird. Also caught and ringed my first pied wagtail - a smart bird indeed.

In the afternoon we headed off to the Somerset Levels to look for some reedbed birds and wait for the starling spectacular. There was plenty of winter ducks around. Highlights included a sparrowhawk dashing into a bush full of birds at the same time a cat also made a run for the bush. The sparrowhawk appeared to catch something but I think the surprise of the cat made it let go and it flew off empty handed. Later, an alder tree full of 30 or so busy redpolls feeding away was a treat.

Around 4.25pm the starlings appeared and performed well - swirling and gushing through the air before funnelling into the reeds like black smoke. Meanwhile, a huge long line of starlings crossed the skies before also pouring into the reedbeds on the horizon. A truly wonderful experience, shared by 100 or so other people also descending upon the now popular venue!

Monday, 11 January 2010

Proof that peregrines hunt at night

The evidence at last - 100% proof to support my work on on the diet of peregrines, in particular that they hunt birds such as woodcock at night:

Friends Nick Brown and Nick Moyes of the Derby Cathedral Peregrine Project have captured this amazing footage of a peregrine bringing back a live woodcock back to the cathedral at night. More more details available at their blog:

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Despite the snow, I had a lovely day out in Somerset checking out places to go for two tours myself and Charles Martin are doing for Naturetrek next month on the Someset Levels. All the main roads were clear of snow and we managed to get to Wells in good time to look around the hotel where we and clients will be staying. We then ventured into the countryside to log distances between the hotel and places we want to visit, plus pubs for soup lunch!! Everywhere was still very white and near Wells you could see where the snow had drifted into the hedgerows. We even passed a snow plough - haven't seen one of those for many years!! Warm air from the east meant temperatures stayed around 3 degrees Celsius all day - you could see grass tufts appearing in fields throughout the day as the snow began the melt and thin. We didn't go down to any of the nature reserves and from the main roads there was little wildlife to see, just a few kestrels, buzzards, fresh mole hills and a heron standing by a frozen dyke. There were quite number of blackbirds and redwings feeding by the roadside verges which were free of snow however - and bizarrely a song thrush hanging dead from a hawthorn bush. Sadly some of the thrushes were looking weak and we saw at least 4 which had been hit by cars. In Langport centre a tame redwing was pecking away at the snow (not sure what it was eating) - a blackbird was doing the same a little later. After getting our tasks done we headed back to Bristol - near Temple Meads Station over 60 fieldfares were busily jostling in the berry laden trees! Got back around 4pm after a full day out and just in time to see if there were any birds in the garden. Couldn't see any but the apples I had put out had been pretty much eaten! All ready for another week!

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Well, with temperatures down to minus 7 degrees Celsius it was another chilly night. I waited to hear whether the museum was open. It was but my line manager advised me to stay put and I had various things to keep me busy. It was an incredibly bright, sunny day and everywhere looked pure white!! Temperatures remains below freezing so little melted.
I also got up rather early to speak on BBC Radio Bristol and encourage people to feed their birds - hopefully lots of people are putting out fruit and other titbits.
Had a fieldfare in the garden which was a first and plenty of redwing flying around. A female blackbird was discreetly feeding on an apple I put out - I'm so pleased she found it as hopefully she laid down enough fat to see her through the night. It's going to be pretty cold tonight too but should be able to get into work - I have a school booked in doing a classification and taxonomy workshop!

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Heavy snow hits Bristol!

After weather forecasts predicting heavy snow over southern England, it was no surprise that we had a complete white out overnight! Checking when I woke at 3am there was certainly a lot of snow out there, and even more when I woke at 6am! Checking with my manager, I ventured into work on foot as car was impossible and buses were cancelled. I had a 2 hour walk into work but through Blaise Woods it was beautiful! Even once I was walking through neighbourhoods and down Whiteladies Road it still felt very special - everywhere looked transformed! I got into work at 10am and spent a few hours there before the museum was closed at 12.30pm and we were asked to leave at 1pm. Managed to get the bus to the top of Blackboy Hill and then walked home - again some great scenery and lots of people having fun! Lots of bird movement too - redwings, fieldfares and skylarks overhead, no doubt moving to areas clear of snow! Once I got home I rallied together with neighbours to clear the road hill as cars weren't able to get up and a car park was forming at the bottom! An amazing day - snow always makes it a very different day and an exciting adventure!
City Museum, Bristol

Monday, 4 January 2010

A frozen Bristol

There's something magic about a crisp, freezing day (minus 4 degrees Celsius, pretty cold for Bristol) contrasting with the warm, winter sunshine, subtly melting any frost it may hover over. I popped over to Brandon Hill at lunchtime for some fresh air away from the warm, stuffy office. Wrapped up warm I enjoyed sitting on the bench looking out across Bristol. The freezing fog was lifting and the city loomed below, starting up again after the Christmas break. In front of me three blackbirds happily foraged - despite the freezing weather they seemed to be finding various invertebrates. A female found a worm, although it did look half frozen as she struggled to swallow it down! A redwing darted off into the bushes while a robin stood on the path. As I closed my eyes in the warming light I prepared myself to get back to the office and some afternoon work! When I got back to the car this evening everywhere was being cloaked in fine white crystals again in the early evening freezing temperatures. It was already minus 2 degrees Celsius. The air was dry and I had a fine, brisk walk back to Clifton before trying the icy roads!!