Love At First Sight

Kicking off this post with a huge positive from the past couple of weeks, I managed to see my very first Redwing!

These birds at the time of writing this are classified as red on the UK conservation status lists, with only a few pairs choosing to nest in the UK. These small thrushes are a winter visitor from Iceland and Scandinavia.

The Ivy bushes; now laden with berries, have attracted Blackbirds, Pigeons and other garden birds to feast on their bounty for weeks, because of this when I first saw the Redwings I mistook them for another bird. It took me a while to twig I had seen a Redwing at all.

I was so excited, not only had I seen this truly beautiful bird they were in my local area. There were three Redwings in total, who I saw at the Ivy Bush, I couldn’t of hoped for more. I have seen them on only 2 other occasions since the first time, very briefly. I really hope they are going to stick around until they have to migrate back to their nesting grounds. Fingers crossed for another chance to see them.

From new sightings to old familiar friends, the garden has been a haven for what seems like an abundance of small birds lately. Last week was national nestbox week, where if you can, you are encouraged to put a nestbox in whatever outdoor space you have available. I had put on up in the garden weeks beforehand and at present have seen a couple of birds investigate it but none looking to move in just yet.

I really enjoy treating the garden as a mini nature reserve, giving nature a helping hand is so important. From feeding the birds, having bug hotels, planting native wildflowers and having nestboxes it all make a big difference, not only for existing visitors but it could also aide in encouraging new ones to your space. With habitat loss being one of the biggest threats to nature, anything, no matter how big or small can make a real impact. What things do you already do to give your local nature/wildlife a helping hand?

On a more personal level, since the last post my mental health has not been in the best of places, even with the moments of joy at seeing the Redwings; my mood, self esteem and self worth refuse to stay buoyant. I don’t want to come across as severely negative all the time, I am really trying to keep my head afloat and focus on getting through each day as it comes, which I will admit is harder on some days than others.

My consultation for the next stage in my mental health referral has been booked, I have a goal to focus on and I am within range of getting the help I am very aware I need.

To end on another positive, Yeti, my pet jumping spider has successfully gone through his first molt with me. I had been prepared for this happening as he had made a very dense sling to retreat into. I went a week and a half not seeing anything of him. I did start to get a little worried but he eventually emerged, bigger and looking fantastic. He has fed since the molt and has been super active in his enclosure which is a great sign.

I really hope you are all keeping well and feeling hopeful for the upcoming spring months. I look forward to the macro season resuming properly and potentially finding new mini beasts to capture, research and exhibit in my future blogs. Is there anything in the spring you are looking forward to?

Until next time, take care.

Garden Birdwatch

From the 29th-31st January the RSPB will be holding its annual Big Garden Birdwatch, ones of the worlds largest bird surveys. To get involved all you need to do is pick one hour over the three days, could be day or night and count the birds you see visiting your garden/whatever you can see from your window (not counting birds in flight). Then to submit your results to rspb.org.uk/birdwatch.

The results collected from these surveys are really important, for the past 40 years that this survey has occurred, they have been able to note what birds are in decline or on the rise visiting our local patches, e.g the Song Thrush was noted to decline in visiting numbers by 76% from 1979 to 2019. It helps identify what birds need help and what birds are thriving.

As you may of guessed I will be taking part, there aren’t many days anyway where I am not looking out into the garden to see what birds are there. One of my biggest aims with the new garden was to encourage more birds/wildlife to visit.

So far it has been successful. Offering a variety of bird food, from nuts, fat balls, fruit to seed has seen a flourish of new visitors to the garden.

A great activity I would recommend, something I have made very recently is my own bird feeder using pine cones. All you need is lard (do not use butter/margarine as this has a negative effect for the birds), bird seed mix, pine cones and twine. Letting the lard come up to room temperature mix in the seed and cover the pine cone (I would suggest tying the twine around the cone before doing this). Once covered, refrigerate the cones until the lard has hardened again. Now tie the feeder up somewhere in the garden and hopefully it should entice birds to visit.

If you are currently homeschooling this could be a great natural science activity, getting children involved in noticing the natural world and having fun getting messy mixing the seed with the lard (the best way is hand mixing!)

One of the newest visitors that I have managed to capture this week was the elusive Jay, for their size and their beautiful colouring they can be extremely difficult to spot. Only breaking cover to visit the ground feeder, they are very shy birds. I used my pop up hide to be able to get a snap of them, sat in the hide it took a while for them to get used to me being there and brave visiting, I could only just about see them as they hovered around the garden border in cover.

I was absolutely thrilled to see them into the garden and be able to document it with the picture. I really hope that they become regulars. Other newcomers have included a Greater spotted Woodpecker, Blackcaps, Green Finch, Chaffinch and Goldcrest. I have not been able to decent snaps of these but again I am hopeful they will return.

I have been trying to get out into the garden as much as I can, especially as this past week my mental health has been all over the place. I have mentioned on numerous posts how soothing being out in nature for me, its not a fix but it is a stop gap for my mind, to focus on something outwardly rather than being stuck within my own negative thoughts.

I have been trying to make a real effort in not being so self critical recently. To try and ignore the voice at the back of my head that tells me no-one likes me, I am not good enough and that I am doing everything wrong. This is easier said than done, I fail at it a lot but I am going to keep trying for my own sanity.

I hope that you are all managing to keep your spirits up or if not that you are able to recoop and talk it out. Until next time, take care.

A Quiet Beginning

I hope you are all enjoying a great start to the new year and the return to normality after the festive season has not been too arduous. 2020 is now well and truly underway.

My new year has started quietly, which is in no way a negative thing. It is way too easy to get swept up in the wave of feeling like you have to change dramatically because of a new year.

I am very optimistic with the goals I set myself for the year ahead. I am taking my time to not rush through them, to do them properly. In turn, this should hopefully help negate feelings that I am not achieving enough, or feeling like a failure when more likely than not, a resolution is broken.

Following on from last week, I continued photographing the birds that had visited the garden.

House sparrows have always been a constant visiter, I do sometimes wonder how they feel, now that there is a lot more competition at the feeders.

One of the newest visitors, who I had mentioned in last weeks post; the Long Tailed Tit returned. Thankfully, I had my camera in hand to get more pictures of this cute, round fluff ball.

Moving on from the garden, this week saw me go to a local landmark. I don’t know if this happens to others, but I struggle to photograph landmarks/places I am very familiar with. I am always more comfortable with new destinations.

I wish I could offer a coherent explanation for this, but it has definitely gone onto my list of things to learn upon.

I have provided the only picture of the cathedral I was happy with from that shoot. Maybe later in the year I will try this location out again, to see if I have improved or have overcome the uncomfortableness of shooting locally.

The cathedral is located next to the River Severn, and it provided me with a subject I am more comfortable with. It wouldn’t of felt right if I had left the river without a swan shot.

The week finished as it had began with bird photography. I look forward to seeing what the next week has in store for me.

Back to Nature

It’s such a great feeling to be getting back to the norm after all the festivities of Christmas and the new year. Getting back to routine and being able to blog again is brilliant, the laptop is fixed and with a brand new year; it brings new hopes and new possibilities.

The first few days of this new year I have gone back to one of my joys and to how this blog began, nature photography.

The hedgerow has been a hive of activity; with lots of birds coming to the feeder; laden with mixed seeds and nuts, which at this time of year serves as a lifeline to our resident species.

The visiting Robins have been constantly singing, their song ringing out around the garden, making even the dullest grey day bearable. These brave little birds are always close when I am out shooting, probably waiting to see if I will provide them more food. As they perch in the hedgerow it appears like they are posing for me, and who wouldn’t blame them, they are very striking with their red breast, making them stand out in the bare hedges.

A new visitor to the garden has been the Coal Tit. At first I mistook it for a Great Tit variant, but the more I observed the more I realised this was a new visitor. There has been a lot of fierce competition around the feeder especially when groups of tits (Great Tit, Blue Tit, Long Tailed Tit and now the Coal Tit) and sparrows are around. The Coal Tits have had no trouble holding their own. I look forward to seeing them return to the garden in the coming year (fingers crossed).

Speaking of other Tit varieties, the Long Tailed Tit has been a regular visitor to the garden since last summer. They are very charismatic tiny birds, they come into the garden all of a sudden, in groups and as soon as they arrive, they leave. They tend to evade me when I have the camera out, until that is, this weekend where I managed to capture two photos with them about to fly.

I am so pleased with the outcome of those photos, going forward, with my nature photography in particular I would like to shoot more birds in flight.

The last picture for this week is the first quarter moon of the year. The sky was really clear and the moon was bright, it was not a hard decision to get the camera out to shoot.

It may be of interest to some to note, the first full moon of the year (wolf moon) will be the 10th January and is meant be a penumbral eclipse (meaning the moon doesn’t pass through the full shadow of the Earth which should hopefully give the moon a pinkish/red shade) so I am wishing the night sky will be just as clear then.

Weekly Watch

12th – 18th August 2019

From the lack of photography last week; this week has been distinctly better. Hooray!!

One of the reasons for this; I have finally been able to make the jump to a full framed DSLR. I am aware that this may not mean much to some. In Layman’s term; it’s a much improved camera.

Disclaimer: that is not to say my photos will be distinctly better (I am very much an amateur) I’ve been getting used to using it and there has been a lot of experimenting with settings (I won’t bore you with the technicalities, as I’d probably get it wrong anyway!).

So there has been lots of practising, whenever I get the chance to. I continue to focus on the bird feeder for my subjects.

My hope for the near future; once I’m confident with the new kit is to scout out a few nature spots near me to one; vary the content for you the viewer and two; push myself out of my comfort zone, which in turn should help me improve! Fingers crossed!

There have been a couple of comedic shots, my personal favourite is the Juvenile Robin seemingly getting told off by the Great tit. I hope you enjoy this weeks weekly.