Archive for January, 2011

Starlings are beautiful and clever!

I was thinking about Linda’s post about starlings, as I watched them devouring the fat block I put out!

Love ’em or hate them starlings really are very clever and when the sun is shining on their feathers, in their best plumage, starlings really are stunning.  Yes, they are the bully boys at the feeders, but you’ve got to admire their tenacity and intelligence.

I try to put fat out away from the feeders and in a couple of places so that its more spread out and this seems to work!  I did however buy a feeding contraption from the RSPB, which was supposed to allow smaller birds in and the bigger ones out.  Look what the starling thought to that!!!!

She doesn't think this'l keep me out does she?

Ha! Easy!

It really made me laugh!  What a waste of money!

Come on you lot.....its a doddle!

ooooo, I think I got my leg stuck!

Ok how'd we get out?

We have had a small flock of about 30 starlings that have roosted in a huge leylandii cypress tree in the garden next but one!  Sharp intakes of breath…………..!  So we have two of some peoples most hated things together!!  Not only those pesky, noisy, starlings but that tree that people in England use to make hedges out of, that grow out of control and cause so many arguments with neighbours!

Anyway, I quite liked having them there, watching their roosting behaviour, as they collect together and form a swarm, speeding through the evening sky, this way and that, inches away from each other, moving in perfect harmony like one being  (murmuration).

During the summer months in my back garden, I sat watching these birds who are so common they are almost overlooked and realised how absolutely beautiful they were.  I took a number of photographs that summer – below are some of them which I hope highlights their best side.


Out and About Today

At the feeders theres been blue tits, great tits, chaffinch,bullfinch, dunnock,house sparrows,starlings, blackbirds and the bramblings are still around.

Out on My Patch 1, behind my house are more of the same, plus gulls, goldfinch two huge crows, rabbits and a greater spotted woodpecker in flight.

These are photos I’ve taken in the garden at different times of the birds I’ve mentioned.

Bramblings at Garden Feeders

Well have a pair of Bramblings visit my garden feeders is a first for me.  I caught a glimpse a few days ago and thought they looked like chaffinches, but when I saw them again more clearly realised that they were Bramblings!  I was very proud of myself but I didn’t have to look them up in a book either!  Well not quite true, but only to confirm what i thought.  Was well pleased.

There’s a goldfinch and a bullfinch getting in on the act too.

The lighting was dreadful for photography yesterday when i took these pictures.

Golden Acre Park Leeds (My Patch part 3)

Golden Acre Park is the next part of what I consider to be “my patch”.  Carry on following the path from Paul’s Pond and you will reach the park.  It is a really well managed park for children, adults and children, with fantastic plants and trees, a lake with plenty of wildfowl, woods and a more open area.  It is well frequented particularly with dog walkers within the woods and open areas.  You can nearly always fine a quite spot to watch the birds, of which there are plenty.


I am fascinated with trees!  So many shapes, sizes, height, width, colour, bark, patterns and leaves.  I love the different seasons, seeing the deciduous trees change with time.  I love it in the autumn when there are such gorgeous colours.  Golden, brown, red, yellow and various shades of green.

Then spring when the leaves bud and start to uncurl.  The beautiful fresh new born light green leaves that take up their own particular shape and pattern of veins underneath their surface.

In summer, the sunlight filtering through the leave paints dappled colours on the forest floor and in winter the snow coats the branches with pure white crystals.

There is a clearing in the park where some trees have been chopped down and the stumps left.  This has become a favourite area to feed the birds and squirrels and get some photos.  I have had great tits, robins and squirrels feeding out of my hand here.

The squirrels are quite tame and even though a lot of people see them as a menace, I love them, they are so funny and cute.  Although it has to be said that our native red squirrel in by far superior in the looks department.  More of that in another post.  Its a real thrill having a wild animal eat from your hand.

There are some resident jays here who also will come quite close in order to pick up monkey nuts that I bring.

I love Golden Acre!

Red Kite Walk

Yesterday, Mike, Sparky and I went on one of our regular walks, not far from home, in fact, I think of it as part of my patch.  We call it the Red kite walk because you nearly always see these beautiful birds.

The walk takes you through the Harewood House Estate. This is the Earl and Countess of Harewood’s estate (he’s the Queen’s cousin).  Its a massive well run estate, with lots of walks throughout.  There is plenty of wildlife to see and the estate is involved in conservation.  One of their success stories was the reintroduction of the Red Kite.

“Red Kites were released on the Harewood estate in 1999 as part of a UK conservation initiative. Harewood Estate was originally part of a partnership involving the RSPBEnglish Nature, & Yorkshire Water PLC. Their spectacularly successful re-introduction to Lowland areas of Yorkshire is now complete. The Red Kite now has a self-sustaining population, whose numbers are gradually increasing yearly.

This is a far cry from a species which was persecuted to extinction in England and Scotland by the end of the 1800s. At the last count there were over 300 Red Kites in the area around Harewood and Yorkshire. ”  (taken from the Harewood website).

Anyway, back to the walk – you will find a map at the link below

We saw at least a dozen kites circling and gliding in the skies.  It was positively balmy at 6C and there was this strange round yellow thing in the sky!!!  Apart from the kites, we saw a nuthatch and treecreeper along with the usual blue and great tits, blackbirds and thrush.

Red Kite

Red Kite

Red Kite

The kites are amazing and soooo beautiful.  When they’re soaring in a blue sky, with the sun shining trough their wings, you can see all the gorgeous colouring and markings.

The forked tail is the main giveaway in recognising these birds.

I often wonder how they manage to survive on scavenging.  I know they eat worms and other small things, but even so, its pretty amazing!  When fields are ploughed nearby they follow the tractor, often landing in order to pick up a morsel or two.

I still haven’t managed to get the ultimate photo of one of these yet.  I have some I quite proud of, but its hard to get everything just right when the background is sky!

We also saw some lovely red deer stags.

And some Highland cattle.

Highland cattle

Highland Cattle

It’s only a short walk, but plenty of other paths to take if you want too.

Snow and a Greater Spotted Woodpecker!

Greater Spotted Woodpecker

Well what d’ya know?  I was sitting in my dining room which looks out onto my back garden, having a skype conversation with my parents, when this fellow turned up!  Wow!  Conversation had to stop as I described what I was seeing.  Don’t see them very often in my garden.  We’ve had about 2/3 inches of snow today and maybe he fancied the fat balls I had just put out.  The photo above is not of this event, but another time – I put it on here for identification, in case anyone wasn’t sure what it looked like.  Stunner!

Many other birds visiting.


House sparrow

Great Tit

Blue tit

Blue Tit




All these photos have been taken in my garden, but not today!


In the East Riding of Yorkshire there have been many Barn Owl deaths probably due to the snow.  Nearly all Tophill Lows barn owls are dead and bearded tits are dying at Balcktoft .

Apparently 20 dead  barn owls in the Wolds, 23 at Derwent Valley and lots of dead birds on top of Filey Brigg.

Should we bother saving the panda?

Check out the wildlife page and let me know what you think.

Pauls Pond and Golden Acre (My Patch Part 2)

Went for a walk today with my friend and Sparky.  Across Cookridge Golf course and on to Paul’s Pond, Breary Marsh and Golden Acre Park.  This is Part 2 of “My Patch”.


Cookridge Golf Course

Cookridge Golf Course

It is pretty good for birds and wildlife

and is well managed.

There are plenty of woodland copses and hedgerows, together with a lake, makes for quite a few different habitats.  There are gulls, blackbirds, crows, rooks, thrushes, redwings, waxwings, great tits, blue tits, coal tits, long tailed tits, greenfinch, goldfinch, bullfinch, house sparrows, dunnocks have all been seen.  the redwings and waxwing only this winter.  There is occasionally a Greater Spotted Woodpecker.

If you walk on the footpath from Holt Farm on Holt Lane, and follow the yellow topped marker posts, you will eventually come to Breary Marsh and Pauls Pond.


Breary Marsh

Click on the map to enlarge.  Then click here for a bit more info

It is a beautifully quiet spot normally, but has become busier as the route from Golden Acre has been developed, which makes it suitable for disability scooters.

Path through Breary Marsh

The pond was used for private fishing, not sure if it still is.  Today was iced over which it has been for about a month and there were no signs of any water fowl.

Pauls Pond

Pauls Pond

As you can see, these photos were taken in spring time.  The lillies are beautiful and provide a home for baby coots.

Coot Babies on Lillies

Today is the first time that I saw a nuthatch there.  Loads of chaffinch, blue and great tits and blackbirds.  Its a great walk for dogs too, but have to keep them on the lead over the golf course.  There is a stream running through from the pond to Golden Acre.  The trees around the pond are mainly mature deciduous trees.  those further on are alder, birch and silver birch.

Trees at Pauls Pond

I love trees

I absolutely love trees.  They are so photogenic and the differing light coming through the branches and leaves is quite beautiful.

MY PATCH (part 1)

Path to Golf Course

This is a map of my patch ie: the place I can walk from my home and where I go regularly.

My Patch part 1

I can walk out of my house down the path onto Holt Lane and onto what used to be Holt Farm land and a piece of land that I believe was included in some sort of covenant, when the High Farm land was sold to make way for the Holt Park estate development.  It was to be left open as common land.

Hedgerow Trees and Bramble

Scrub, hedgerow and trees

Foxy's Place

Great for us and brilliant for wildlife.

There are loads of different varieties of trees.  Deciduous and conifer.

There’s hedgerow a plenty and plenty of cover within the scrub and brambles.

As I’ve mentioned before, I know there are plenty of foxes around here and I see one regularly on Holt Lane.  I think I may have found a den but I am not certain.  I am surprised because it is so near the path and people like me walk there dogs past.

Plenty of Berries - Winter 2010

There were plenty of berries on the trees and bushes this year, as well as plenty of blackberries.  they say its a sign of a hard winter and by gum did we have some snow.

Trees in Snow

Trees always look fabulous in the snow.

The sky can look really magnificent or menacing.

Snow 2010

It was great for seeing tracks in.

I never realised how many rabbits there were.

I think I found fox tracks as well but its quite hard to tell the difference from some dogs paw prints.  I know they are narrower and they were in places i wouldn’t normally see dogs.

The birds seemed pretty quiet whilst the snow was around, but I saw all the usual :  blackbirds, finches, tits, thrushes, crows, gulls.

Thats when I saw the single waxwing in the trees.  Brilliant first on my patch.

all alone!

Fields in snow