Thursday, 2 February 2012

Visitors sniping at Winter's chill

An icy cold, misty grey morning yesterday to welcome in February... and a flash of white passed across the walnut tree trunk. I followed it with my eyes and saw a Hen Harrier [Circus cyaneus] Busard Saint-Martin.

Not the one I saw... my brother captured this today [3 Feb 12]

Recognisable, in the grey, only by its flight and the black tips of its wings as it coursed low over the fields towards the Moulin de Cheverny. A nice start to the day which brightened considerably as the sun burnt through the mist.

Song Thrush on the ivy this morning... the ivy berries [an important winter food source] are the black 'seeds'.
A Song Thrush gets chased off the ivy by a Blackbird by a rear assault [beak up backside]... "My ivy berries, you!" scolded the blackbird as it sat on them calling. Dunnocks, Robins and Wrens hurtling all over the place looking for insects, although the Robins have taken to feeding from the seed feeder here. Five pheasants clustered under the sunflower seed feeder in the field gleaning what the Greenfinches, hogging the field feeder, have scattered or wasted. Mr Creosote and his chums [Goldfinches] scattering seed from the seed feeder.... a Green Groundpecker* [Picus viridis] Pic vert working over the potager whilst it still could.
[*That should read Woodpecker... but for a bird that feeds mainly on grubs and ants from the ground perhaps Groundpecker would be better... it's like the Chocolated-headed Land Gull!]

What was that?...
I'm outa here!!

A trio of Willowchiffs [collective name for Willow Warbler/Chiffchaffs when you can't hear them singing] worked their way through the battered celery plants in the potager. All in all, awful lot of bird activity as they fought to keep up their food reserves in this cold, icy weather. But I had work to do... can't spend the whole day birdwatching.

A glance out of the window as a Blue Tit risks a direct flight of the one hundred metre open ground between the trees along the bank of the river Aigronne and the seed feeder here in the cherry tree... it flew low, to avoid the attention of predators... especially the local Sparrowhawk [which I saw burst like a rocket through  the top of the cherry a couple of days ago.] As he passed over the bief edge, I saw movement down by the water's edge... aha! The Water Rail; haven't seen him for a few days, thought I... but wait, that colouring seems wrong... look again.

A Snipe [Gallinago gallinago] Bécassine des marais was preening itself just opposite the kitchen window.
Then it went hunting for food. It looks for soft accessible organic soil, rich in food organisms just below surface. It also requires clumps or patches of vegetation/shrub as cover. Both of which it has aplenty along the bank of the bief.

The warming of the beak!
Warmer now... let's carry on...
It is not a common bird in France [Concise Birds of the Western Palearctic give the distribution in France as 300-350 breeding pairs; listed as decreasing - 2002] - we are towards the southern end of the range here, but it is believed to breed in the Brenne, where it would nest in a shallow scrape, concealed in short vegetation.

A-probing we shall go...

The winter distribution is as far away as the Nile valley and North Africa, but it is shown as a resident breeding species in the Loire valley.  So we are more likely to see them in the winter months. I thought I'd heard 'drumming' round here before, but had dismissed it as such... but pairing and display may well take place as they migrate to breeding grounds and we now know they feed around here in Winter.

Blending in well with the vegetation
He then went up on the bank to pose!

And he's there again now as I started to write this this morning, probing away at the mud along the edge... I wonder how often we've missed seeing them.


GaynorB said...

Great photographs, Tim. Well done

Tim said...

Thanks, Gaynor. Given your last entry, I hope these brought a smile.

Diane said...

Fantastic photos. With all the birds at our feeder at the moment I wish I had a camera that was good enough to take photos of them. Diane

Pollygarter said...

Diane, there is a Pentax Optio out now that's got a 10x optical zoom built in. Small camera, auto focus, and was 129€ inj LeClerc recently... probably because the same model i9s about to come out with a 12x zoom!!
So keep your eyes open.
Tim has an Optio as the camera that he carries around in his pocket to fetes and vide greniers, etc.
These pix are taken with his Pentax K7.
I use a Fuji pocket camera with a 12x zoom... it takes very good pictures too [and that came from LeClerc, too!]