Wednesday, 28 November 2012

no longer sincere

This week its all been about the mighty waxwing. Knowing there are lots in the country, we've been keeping an eye on a couple of areas that hold berry trees, and on Sunday this paid off with 2 feeding by the Bryn-y-gog estate. By Monday, this had increased to 22, mainly feeding in the other fruit rich area by the library. On Tuesday this had increased again to 52, and by mid morning today, we had 62, back in the original trees by the estate. By now, word had got around and a couple of local ringers turned up and we attempted to catch a few with a mobile mist net! Drawing puzzled glances from passing motorists, 3 were bagged, colour ringed and released unharmed back into the wild. Steffi was beside herself with joy, as she had never seen a good sized flock before, and even more so when she got to put the ring on one.

On a more personal note, we also managed to add waxwing to our garden list when one obliging individual fed on a hawthorn bush down by the river in front of the house.
We also learnt a few new tips, like how to tell male and female apart - blackish throat ends cleanly on a male, diffused on a female - and how to tell one of this years youngsters from an adult (only in the hand!).
As for the cryptic title to this post, any latin scholars amongst you will know that the word sincere comes from the ancient Roman practice of passing off cheap sculptures as quality items by covering any marks or pits with wax, forcing craftsmen to advertise their decent sculptures as being "without wax" - sin cere.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Purple Reign

A morning shift in the library gave us the chance to catch up with the regular Aberystwyth winter visitors purple sandpiper and black redstart. Of the former we found two - one on the rocks by the wooden jetty and one on castle rocks. Of the latter we had a female being chased by a rock pipit around the sheltered side of the Old College. Also noteworthy were two brent geese flying north, 9 ringed plover and ca. 20 turnstone on castle rocks.

Also this week Dave had a brief view of cetti's warbler (his second sighting this year in Britain while I still had none) at Ynys-hir whilst reed cutting and I had two woodcock. One I flushed on Frongoch farm whilst putting together a conservation audit for an assignment and the other one flew by on Llanbadarn campus. Brambling still frequent the garden occasionally.

Sunday, 11 November 2012


Today we decided to go on one of our local walks into the upland hills above the golf course. Despite sunny and warmish weather it was fairly quiet on the bird front but a few highlights made the muddy trek worthwhile. Close to home on the Dulas we had 4 dipper and a grey wagtail. Further along, the steep ascent into the hills was sweetened by the sight and sound of two bullfinches. Unfortunately, all the berry trees in the area had already been stripped of berry and didn't produce any winter thrushes. Further along on the small lake we spotted two goldeneye who have hopefully taken up residence for the winter and a feeding flock with tits, goldcrest, treecreeper and two very handsome redpoll. The star of the walk was a beautiful bright golden yellowhammer just as we reached Mach again. A woman in her garden started talking to us and told us that they feed about 30 yellowhammer in the garden and that they breed somewhere just behind the house. We will definitely go back for our "little bit of bread and no cheese" in the spring.

Notable on the garden front on Friday was a treecreeper that Dave spotted casually making its way up on the sycamore just outside the kitchen window.

Monday, 5 November 2012

A field day

Good news on the brambling front, as 3 returned to the garden yesterday, with one being seen today - and no sign of my nemesis, the black cat. Also, yesterday saw the garden list increase by one, with an impressive flock of fieldfare, c250, in the trees along the railway line and in the flood field along with c300 starling. They didnt stay around for long before heading off south in one huge mass. Whilst watching them a male bullfinch appeared, only the 2nd sighting we've had in the garden.

On a stroll down the Dulas before breakfast Steffi managed to get some shots of her favourite species, the dipper - one of at least 5 we saw in a very small stretch of the river; thats 5 individuals, not 5 sightings, as at one stage we had all of them in view at the same time. Also putting on a good show was a vocal grey wagtail, which dropped onto the gravel bank where Steffi was sat.

Today, I added a mammalian tick in the form of a superb adult fox heading across the fields - so much more proper 'fox' looking than the rather scrawny ones you see in the towns and cities.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Get Shorty!

The numbers of brambling frequenting the garden this week reached a peak of 6 on Wednesday, but has tailed off to zero today - maybe the unwelcome black cat I flushed out from under the conifer bush on Friday may have something to do with their moving on? A bonus on Thursday was a male blackcap in the hawthorn, and a small number of redwings, though still no fieldfare.

Today we decided to make the most of the sunny morning as rain was forecast for lunchtime onwards, and headed out to Ynyslas. We stopped by the railway crossing and walked along the Leri, almost immediately flushing a short eared owl off the tideline, which drifted across the river to sit on a post, giving us a baleful glare. A lot of teal, wigeon and shelduck in the estuary, but apart from oystercatchers nothing on the wader front. At Ynyslas point Steffi crawled around on her belly to get some shots of golden plover looking resplendent in the sunshine, whilst I picked up on a raft of 15 scoter out on the very choppy sea. Apart from a large flock of greenfinch feeding on the tideline, there was very little else to get excited about until 2 chough passed overhead. Other sightings included 3 skylark, 2 reed bunting, 3 little egret, red kite and 1 redshank.