August 12, 2019

Silent is the air

Reflecting whilst basking in the unusual silence of a  balmy Sunday evening it became obvious that the expected absence  of bird song was not so prevalent as I presumed at this time of the year.   In the distance a song thrush was making a fair copy of a goldfinch warble and    A languid jackdaw hicacked across the gardens to join  pair of woodpigeons ...'the Lord knows...don't you know ....from the roof behind.

When trying to identify and remember bird songs and calls I have discovered it is best to create your own phrases that represent individual calls.  This is partly because no  one song is the same  and it helps to recognise if it is the bird  you heard before and  partly it  superbly concentrates the mind on the phrases used by the bird.  I write these mnemonics down in my bird book so I can check them again.

The sitting finished with a visit by a pair of Coal Tits, whose 'whizzer whizzer' has alluded me for years until I was lucky enough to see them  and hear them at  the same time.


Red Admiral

Although peaking  much later than last year butterflies have been in great profusion. Unfortunately this cannot be said for the bees.  A steep decline in the number of bees and insects is continuing at a dramatic rate.

Painted Lady

I decided to have an attempt  at eco printing  'fresh'  green leaves instead of autumnal falls.  The final  effect was a more delicate than previous attempts,  as less mordant was used.  I have also since found out that collected natural material can be preserved for some considerable time before reactivation for use.  This takes the pressure out of collecting and using the leaves quickly and results in a  more planned considered arrangement.

Yellow and pink fallen rose petals give beautiful  subtle shades and stains to the paper accentuating the leaf imprints.

June 19, 2019


For anyone watching  'Springwatch'  over the past few weeks, you will have heard them discussing remote monitoring devices.  Last year  they concentrated on remote mammal  cameras, this year they have concentrated on audio. As usual the BBC have focused on the expensive top end of the range, but for many years as regular readers will have noticed  I have been achieving very good recordings with more modest equipment.
Samples here   available here

Originally I started collecting  bird song for my own entertainment using a cheap Olympus dictation machine.  They were audible but hardly did the birds any justice on replay.

I set up 3     Audiomoth    recording units  around the Wirral,  unfortunately the one sited at RSPB Burton Point had the micro card removed .  As it was a high grade camera micro card I suspect a bird photographer.  This theft upsets me more than it should because as a group, I thought birders would be respectful of  another bird enthusiasts research.

There still lingers  essences of  an evening chorus as well as a dawn chorus, but more spread out as birds go to roost at different times. In the mornings most birds awake  on or around the first dawn glow.

Despite a week of continuous rain the robin and blackbird have never stopped for breathe.  Each taking a turn as the other pauses.

 The robin just sang and sang and sang  and the Blackbird trill phoned all over his patch of territory which is very clearly defined by trees and aerials.   
As an ambulance passed by he made an excellent reproduction of the siren.  But the songs  are nearly over. The Robin has already lost his tail so the moult has started.  The 6 week grand silence is about to begin.   So now maybe  good time to go through the hours of recordings collected over the past few months.

Colour of rain
Juvenile birds  have progressed from eating 3  fat balls a day  to handling bird seed now and the goldfinches appear  to have started to leave so pressure on the nyger seed is less..  This will be great relief to the purse all round

I have also been fortunate to be part of an extensive Phase 1 Habitiat Survey over more than 100ha of farmland in Wirral over the past few weeks.

Many old field boundaries and ponds (previously Marl Pits) that are shown on 1840's Tithe Maps are still in evidence today.  The old field boundaries comprise : woody species - rich hedgerows containing large mature pendunculate oaks some of which scored highly suitable  for bat roosts.   

Native Bluebell were also recorded as common in some hedgerows and small broadleaved woodland.   This turned out to have been a very enlightening and encouraging rediscovery of hidden areas in Wirral.

May 22, 2019

Long long spring

Yet another storm! although it is a while ago now.    But we used  to call these events ' just a  bad spell of weather' now we have name them all.  We knew this one was coming because all the gulls moved inland  into nearby fields the day before. The gulls are much more reliable than any weather forcast.   Despite the torrential rain and heavy winds the blackbird nobely continued to sing through it all as if he relished it all.

Noticebly the rape seed flowers  folded up during the rain so the fields were less colourful. Once the sun came back they reblazed with vibrant yellows and greens.


Native Bluebells in ancient woodland

May blossom has  now replaced the buckthorn in the hedgerows heralding  an amazing show of wild flowers and tree blossom, this season. After last year's dreadful weather we are having a wild flower extravaganza along the verges and woodlands far  more vigorous than for several years. Bluebell and cowslips standing straight and tall in vistas of pale yellow and blue.

Cuckoo Flower favourite of Orange Tip butterfly

Whilst sitting under our lilac tree lamenting the loss  of our baby blue tits, (watched the adults empty the nest of bodies)  probably the result of  the recent cold weather,  I was surrounded by a charm of chinckling goldfinches young and old who had it made successfully through.  The feeders are staying full as everyone seems to have moved on with  their young to greener pastures for the summer.
Blue tits are not ones for having second broods like blackbirds so they will call it quits for this season.

On a much planned visit to Sefton Park where many twitchers hangout photographing obliging kingfishers. (Of course they were not there) Despite the torrential rain I was delighted by the many recently hatched birds taking their first tentative steps into the big pond of life.

Coot nest building

The trees have all finished flowering and are rapidly producing nuts and clusters
of seeds. The spring season for  trees once started moves quickly so as to give them time to replenish their energy before closing down for the winter months.

Currently I am fortunate to be  involved in a H1 Habitat Survey for the first time. Although physically demanding it has been a wonderfull learning curve in observing spring up close and personal in   areas of the Wirral countryside that is mostly closed off to the public,  hence the climbing of many 6 bar gates. I must add this is no mean feat for someone of my age. ( I did have to call a halt after the 7th scramble.)   It certainly provided much entertainment to the fields full of bored sheep and cattle.

More to follow on this next time........................