Thursday, February 10, 2011

First Blogger, then Flickr, next Twitter now Blipfoto

This morning, I saw house sparrows in the garden for the first time this year. I was delighted for a particular reason. Since January 14th, I have been signed up to Blipfoto and immediately set myself a challenge which has all but taken over my life: to post a photo of a different bird each day. One of  rules of Blip are that the photo has to be taken on that day, which is OK on days when I'm out and about in good locations, but on other days it can be a real challenge. I don't want to use up all my garden bankers too soon, and even some of the more common birds can't be guaranteed. On other days, for instance when I go to RSPB Old Moor, I have to choose one of many possible bird photos. It's also frustrating when I have to post a photo that is not one of my best, especially when I have a better photo of that bird. One example was posting a poor photo of a fieldfare at Old Moor because I'd never seen on before, and because it's a winter visitor, I wasn't sure I'd see another. I'd got much better pictures of other birds on that day, and ironically, I got a wonderful photo opportunity of a fieldfare close-up a few days later. It's proving more of a challenge than I expected, but it's proving good fun most of the time. I've set myself a target of 50 now I think I know what might be realistic, so I'm over half way. And today, the house sparrow is in the bag!!!  Follow my progress here. Wish me luck! Or why not join me!
It's unrealistic to expect good weather in January and February. In fact, it's unrealistic to expect any kind of weather at any time of year in this country - increasingly so, it seems. The last few weeks have brought a very mixed bag, the worst of which was high winds for several days, followed by heavy rain. However, I think it's fair to say that I've been really lucky when it's mattered - for example, the superb weather I had in Scarborough. We went for a walk around Agden Reservoir with a friend, and saw a good number of birds at the feeders, and much to her delight, a good sighting of the bank voles. We had an excellent lunch at The Plough in Low Bradfield. Top meat and potato pie for me.
The following Saturday was an excellent day - lovely bright weather; I decided to do the walk along the River Don from the city centre to Meadowhall. It's a surprisingly nice walk, and ironically, as it passes through a post-industrial landscape, and some heavily regenerated areas, the wildlife is some of the best I encounter. This walk was no exception. I'd hardly got underway, when a flash of blue betrayed the presence of a kingfisher. I'm learning through advice and experience that hanging around and watching patiently can result in good views and photo opps. Shortly after this in quick succession, I saw a pied wagtail, a wren, and a solitary fieldfare (see above) which was feeding on some fallen crabapples. Signs of spring along the way in the form of catkins and pussy willow were in evidence along the way and near one of the weirs, I watched as a fisherman pulled out and returned a grayling to the river: another wonderful indicator of the health of a river which not that long ago could be considered stone dead.
The following day I decided to join the Bugpeople of Sorby. Not sure wether that will be a regular thing, but my interest in dragonflies will certainly be re-kindled once they start to emerge.
As the forecast was cold but clear for Monday, I decided an extended trip down the valley (Rivelin, that is) was in order. I discovered a bus which I didn't know about which goes via the bottom of my road to the top end of the valley. Ideal to catch this and walk the 3 or so miles home at a leisurely pace. The highlights were getting some good shots of a nuthatch at the start of the walk, my first sightings of great spotted woodpecker down there, and some good glimpses of a dipper. Oh, and not forgetting a good sighting of Roger (aka @ukphenology on twitter and  - Mr Nature Bloggers )
I've resumed doing some walk checks for Get Walking Keep Walking  so last week I did 6 of these over 2 days. It involved walking through several parks in the NE of Sheffield and some birding opportunities at the same time. On the first day, I saw a sparrowhawk and a very obliging pied wagtail. On the second, I saw lots of redwing feeding in the smallest area whilst people passed on their daily business, unaware of the winter visitors in their midst.
Saturday was foul - heavy rain, but as I'd seem a number of reports of waxwings in the area, I decided to go searching. Turned out to be a wet, but very successful outing, I also got some really good views of a jay in yet another park.
A short outing in the valley on a blustery Sunday produced my first grey wagtail sighting of the year, but sadly no photo. Tuesday was another glorious day and I enjoyed it at Old Moor. Not a lot of waders or waterfowl, but plenty of reed buntings, bramblings and various finches.