Saturday, 30 May 2009

Harewood House

I took my daughter to Harewood House on Friday - Harewood House . It was a fantastic day. The Harewood estate is a beautiful place and despite the crowds there is enough space to be able to walk around and it not actually feel crowded. We went on the bus and a shuttle picks you up at the main gate. While waiting we had our first sighting of a Red Kite, flying low across the drive chased by four Crows. The Red Kites are a big draw with the success of the breeding programme the past 10 years and you are pretty much guaranteed spotting at least one while you are there. We were lucky enough to see 6 at one point flying around. They were visible all day and we got some great views of their colouring and it was quite entertaining to see Crows mobbing them more than once.
Not too close but you can see the distinctive tail shape. Below, the top birds are the crows!

There is a Bird Garden with various 'exotic' birds and a few running free too including some Guinea Fowl, Cockerels and various ducks. The flora in a lot of the aviaries is quite wild and it makes spotting some of the birds challenging but quite fun for the little one! We also saw a couple of Chaffinches, Blue Tits and Dunnocks and there is plenty of signs about the native birds too. There are also several Herons (my favourite bird) including one sat on a rather large nest in the Flamingo area.

We found a bench over looking the lake to eat our picnic, with a beautiful view of ducks and a Coot with their young and Kites and Herons flying overhead it was just great. Jackdaws were in abundance too and not at all shy, one even landed on part of the slide while all the kids were on it later. It was a very hot day but there is plenty of shade while you walk and the pathway around the lake is tree lined so quite lovely.

Alan Titchmarsh recently opened the Himalayan Gardens at the far end of the lake. Last time we visited these had just been started and the change is amazing. It was my favourite place, you enter either by a long winding path or down almost hidden steps into the most stunning flower gardens with lots of twisty paths and small waterways leading from a waterfall. I could have stayed in here all afternoon but there is only so many flowers my daughter can look at.

The best thing in here was it was perfect for the little birds, I saw my second ever Blackcap - male and female sat together in a tree! There were several Long Tailed Tits and two Chiffchaffs too! I could hear many others but didn't have chance to hang about to spot them. There are big stepping stones or a bridge to cross the water, which is quite shallow and you can see quite a lot of fish there (tip, go to the shop in the Courtyard first where you can buy a leaflet for 50p all about the gardens and flowers you find in there - worth the money!).

We did walk around the lake as far as you can. There are little posts which have plaques telling you about various trees and wildlife you might see which you can make rubbings of. My daughter found lots of different pine cones, feathers and 'fairy' cups (acorn cups!) which I ended up carrying of course.

It was a brilliant day in wonderful surroundings, if you get a chance to visit I would highly recommend it. Just leave plenty of time for the Himalayan Gardens and spotting all those wonderful little birds.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Garden Birds

The sun has finally come out the past couple of days. It's been fantastic to have the patio doors open and listen to all the bird song especially as we eat our breakfast when its at its best. My photos don't do justice to just how beautiful it is, it makes me feel very lazy as I feel I could just sit there all day!

We have also seen our Starling fledglings now, there are two from the nest in the eaves and they have become regulars in the garden. They are just as noisy as the rest of the Starlings and certainly as greedy too.

I even managed to get a shot of one of them whilst out in the garden. The Starlings don't seem to bother too much that you are only a few feet away from them.

Our friendly Blue Tit is the best, it has a speckled head and has been around for a while now. I think it is feeding young nearby as it flies in and out of the garden almost non stop carrying off food. It is having a good go at eating a fat ball single handedly (or beakedly!?). We have been in the garden a bit with it being so nice and it doesn't bother in the slightest, it even sat on the washing line this morning as I hung out the washing.

Not the greatest of photos but best I can do. The House Sparrows and Dunnocks are still frequent visitors along with the Robin too.

The Swifts I saw on the street a couple of weeks back are now regularly flying about over the house and were great to watch against the back drop of a recent thunder storm . There are usually between 3 and 7 of them.

Yesterday ended with a gorgeous sunset (and today ended with rain, knew it wouldn't last!)

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Gallows Hill & Otley Chevin

Saturday 23rd May.

Well the weather finally brightened up - not quite glorious sunshine but no rain at least. We went to Gallows Hill Nature Reserve in the afternoon. Spotting a Pied Wagtail in a giant puddle in the car park. There was not another soul about though certainly plenty of evidence that its a regular dog walking spot - that was pretty disgusting. Luckily once you got further into the reserve it wasn't so bad!

It's not huge place but quite lovely and peaceful. There was plenty of birdsong but the trees and undergrowth are pretty dense and I didn't see as much as I hoped. My little one did pretty well at keeping the noise down at least until a couple of nettle stings. We did see a huge amount of snails of all different types.

There were a lot of different flowers and my daughter loved to see those and pointed out everyone we came across and insisted I take photos, especially of the 'fairies' on the Dandelion!

The reserve is made up of a lot of nettle beds and are interspersed with so many other flowers.

We came across this wonderful tree, which looked like it had been covered in cotton wool.

The first birds I spotted (apart from Woodpigeons which were everywhere) were some Mallard ducklings on a small pond in the centre of the reserve. There were two that soon disappeared into the reeds. My husband then spotted a rabbit on the path in front of us. It let us get quite close where we realised it wasn't well and it's eyes were quite a state. Nothing we could do of course and we left it in peace.

Next up was a striking Bullfinch sat above our heads and then a Chaffinch that landed near by. We came up to the river Wharfe and walked along side that for a while. Here we saw Great Tits, Blue Tits and a Long Tailed Tit. I also watched two of the tiniest Wren's I have ever seen, I am guessing they were jueveniles, just gorgeous to watch and such a perfect little bird.

We were still surrounded by a lot of bird song, most of which I don't recognise, really should get a cd and try and learn some. Then I saw a little bird in the tree over head and after a couple of minutes realised it was my first ever Chiffchaff, what a lovely bird and it hopped around constantly before my little one got stung by a nettle and scared it off. We used a giant dock leaf on the sting, which worked like magic! We were almost back at the entrance by now and headed back to the car.

As we were going to my parents for tea we stopped at the Chevin Surpise View on the way. This is where my brother and I played a lot when we were kids as it's in walking distance of my parents home. The view is of Otley and the surrounding areas and a helpful map tells you what you are seeing.

As we stood and ate ice cream cones there was a couple of Swifts flying low all around us, that was great to see. When we started to walk to the rocks a Swallow flew by then a noisy Chaffinch too. My husband pointed out a very nosiy Skylark high about us. We were short of time and had a quick 'explore' around the rocks. There was no time to go down into the woods and walk the 100 steps down towards Otley.

So we ended our day at my parents and the last shot is the top of their garden, which is pretty much left to go as wild as it pleases. It's beautiful in the late afternoon sun.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

My Garden is starting to Bloom!

It's been a quiet few days for me, with the constant rain we haven't had the chance to go anyway not even to the local park, didn't think it was fair to get the little one soaked through on the chance I might see some Long Tailed Tits or Song Thrushes!

The garden birds have been great to watch though. We have finally had some fledging House Sparrows and Dunnocks too. One of the House Sparrows has a twisted leg but he seems to be managing ok. The Blue Tit has barely been out of the garden today, even chased a Collared Dove off a one point!

The picture above is taken at the entrance to a park near home, which I managed to snap in between rain showers today. It looks very meadowy and quite beautiful right now. The park is a play park though and not at all picturesque inside!

We have new flowers appearing in the garden and the poppies have spread themselves all around the bins and are a gorgeous orange colour. The radish and Pumpkins are doing brilliantly too. The rain has done wonders!

We will be visiting Gallows Hill Nature Reserve on the outskirts of Otley on Saturday (rain or no rain!) so i'm hoping for one or two life ticks there after some helpful posts on Bird Forum .

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

In the Garden

Well the garden is looking good at the moment and the birds are flocking in great abundance, I can barely keep up with the food!

We have had up to 8 House Sparrows, 12 Starlings, 4 each of the Woodpigeons and Collared Doves too. My garden is only small and its brilliant to watch so many birds at once. The Robin is still around along with a couple of Dunnocks. On Sunday the Coal Tit paid a visit and was hanging on the climbing Roses right outside the window and hung about till a Blue Tit chased both it and a Goldfinch out of the garden.

Earlier today there was a brief visit from a Greenfinch that sat on the washing line after trying some of the sunflower seeds. There are also 4 different Blackbirds that visit including one that is missing its tail feathers and just has a curled one like a duck! One of the Magpies that visits looks like it has been in a bit of a fight. It's wing feathers are a bit skewiff!

We have planted two Buddleia bushes, one each in the front and back gardens so hoping for good results with the Butterflies. In addition I've sown quite a few 'Butterfly attracting flowers', well that's what it says on the packets anyway so fingers crossed we at least get a few flowers from those. I've planted radish, salad onions, pumpkins and tomatoes in a mini greenhouse that has fit nicely next to the shed. Also half a dozen different herbs. I have sown seeds for Cornflowers, Lavender, Lobelia and Larkspur too. Hopefully I should have some beautiful flowers and some tasty herbs in a few weeks.

For now here is what is flowering at the moment, first up the Laburnum

Poppies by the bins!


Not sure what these ones are but they are all over the garden

Sunday, 10 May 2009

Fairburn Ings

We headed out on a trip to Fairburn Ings this afternoon. The weather stayed nice despite the rain forecast and got quite warm in the end. The first birds spotted where a couple of Dunnocks around the visitors centre. The feeders were pretty quiet compared to our last visit in January when they were covered in Goldfinch. We walked up towards the Pickup Hide with instructions for my little one to keep quiet so she doesn't scare the birds off. She doesn't do bad for 3! It was quite busy and after hearing a couple of comments, picked up on a deer that was way over the other side of the water. My first Roe Deer! There were plenty of Canada Geese, Coots and a few Shelducks, which was another first for me. A guy pointed out a rabbit and another soon joined it and we also watched rat around the bottom of the feeder table.

My daughter was getting a little restless after seeing the animals and so she didn't get too loud we moved on. I stopped to watch a couple of Blue Tits fly in and out of a house on one of the trees before looking through the wall holes at the feeder station. Again very quiet apart from a lone Chaffinch. There were however an awful lot of insects about on the nettles along the water there, which got the little ones interest (apart from anything that looked like a bee then she was off the other way!)

The most abundant were little green shiny beetles and some rather odd looking ones, which i'll try and id.

Also there were quite a lot of butterflies about mostly Small Whites, with the odd Orange Tip and a Speckled Wood too. Just by a bridge I saw a couple of birds fly across and went back to try and see what the were - either Willow or Marsh Tits they didn't hang around long enough for a definite id though, which is unfortunate as I have seen neither before. We saw a pair of Coots with their babies at the dipping pond. The babies were bigger than the ones we saw last week and quite different in their markings too. Their parents had quite a squabble with three Mallards that had settled near by.

A rather scruffy looking Robin followed us up the path a little as we headed upto the riverbank trail. Just through the gate is another wall with viewing holes which overlooks part of the river. There was a lone Mallard sat on the bank.

Not that you can see him well in this picture! As we walked up the slope we saw a three guys with much better scoping equipment than I could ever dream of, they had been watching a bird of prey quite high up in the sky. I am not good at all in identifying these unless I can see them up close so I quite often miss out on these birds quite a bit. But one of these guys very nicely told us it was a Buzzard - yet another first for me. It soon flew off though and not long after that we saw 3 Cormorants fly over head at various intervals.

The woods were full of bird song including one I have never heard before - a Cuckoo, my husband has not heard one before either and we stopped to listen, of course we didn't see any sign of it. We decided to walk to the first hide (Bob Dickens) as we were pushed for time. From there we saw a Heron flyover, several gulls which were too far away to id, Swans out to the middle of the lake, a couple of Tufted Ducks and a Great Crested Grebe.

So we headed back spotting a few damselflies on the way. Back at the visitor centre as we ate ice cream we saw another rat by the feeders there and then a Pheasant appeared too.

It was quite a nice afternoon. I do feel a bit guilty dragging the whole family along as I don't think the boys are so keen on me stopping with the binoculars for ages :-) and I know my hubby gets bored with it after a while too. Perils of not driving myself though. At least its exercise for everyone and my daughter is of the age to be interested in everything and likes to know what she is looking at!

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Quick Post

It's been a quiet week, not too many birds the past couple of days in the garden but the Mistle Thrush has been back. Walking back home from dropping the little one at nursery I almost got dive bombed by a bird flying straight at me.

I looked about and realised it was a Swift and there were another 3 nearby too, all flying low. I added to my list when I got home and then realised it wasn't on my overall list at all. Today was the first time i've seen one up close enough to positively id it. I also realised over the past couple of weeks that i've seen Swallows, House Martins, Sand Martins and now a Swift. I usually have trouble confirming id's with these so very pleased!

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Rodley Nature Reserve & Newmiller Dam

Finally got out and about today after one or two delays for various reasons. It meant we decided to visit Rodley, but then rather than explore a new place on limited time we went to Newmiller Dam instead, a place we have been to before.

The weather wasn't the best, quite windy but the sun held out in the morning at Rodley. It's changed a lot since I first visited not long after it opened maybe 8 years ago. There are many hides for viewing lagoon and marshes. Straight away we spotted Canada Geese flying overhead, on the Lagoon were more along with Lapwings, a Cormorant and several Jackdaws around the water. We saw several Coots, just one Moorhen, a few flying Mallards some sleeping Mute Swans and my favourites - Grey Herons. Unfortunately my camera has no chance of getting a shot of these gorgeous birds unless they had been right outside a hide. Crows and Jackdaws were everywhere and not too bothered by the people either.

I did see a new bird for me - a Reed Bunting, took a bit of viewing but it finally stopped long enough to see what it was. One of the pair of Geese had a little Gosling that was almost hidden by the grass so we didn't get a very good look. The ponds were teeming with Tadpoles and there were a few water snails in there too. We saw a few butterflies about too including a Speckled Wood, which I have never seen before.

After a quick picnic lunch we were off again to Newmiller Dam. Here we got rained on a few times but came prepared so it was fine. More Canada Geese and Swans here with the Mallards who had babies. One duck had 12 - goodness knows how she kept track of all them! Here I saw my first Great Crested Grebes of the year and a Tufted Duck too. The Coots were nesting, their nests are quite clever feats - one even had wheels caught up in it? A Heron flew in as we neared the end of our walk and there was a flock of Black Headed Gulls on the water. As we walked back to the car we passed our last Coot nest complete with two babies - amazing little things with very red heads - who knew they looked like that - I don't ever remember seeing one before.

Last up where a couple of Long Tailed Tits by the car - beautiful little birds and a nice end to the day.

Lastly pics of the Ducklings and Coots

Friday, 1 May 2009

Busy couple of days in the garden

The birds have been out in full force recently. Including a new garden tick for me - a Coal Tit. This appeared as we had lunch yesterday and my daughter and I had a great view of it as it came right down the fence close by the house. It tried out every feeder and bit of food in the garden! I love to see a new bird in the garden.

We have also had the Mistle Thrush back too today. Several House Sparrows have been coming in for the bread on the lawn and the seeds on the feeder. Usually they prefer the neighbours feeders, I have never had so many in our garden. Along with a Blue Tit, 2 Great Tits, 3 Blackbirds, 1 Magpie, 2 Collared Doves, 1 Woodpigeon, 2 Robins, 2 Dunocks, 2 Starlings, 3 Goldfinch. It's been a constant flow, with most of the birds appearing in the space of about 20 minutes while we have breakfast or lunch and in between too!

Having a extra long weekend means plenty of time for garden watching, it is so relaxing and rewarding. My daughter has started nursery for the first time this week so I had the afternoons to myself too. Means I managed to plant a lot of seeds over the past two days including some which hopefully will attract butterflies. Tomorrow I should get my
Buddleia bushes too.

Tomorrow is a visit to Rodley Nature Reserve, hoping for good things there. I visited just after it first opened several years ago and saw my first Kingfisher there, right outside the hide! Hopefully I can keep my daughters volume button down so she doesn't scare everything off. She doesn't do too bad when we are watching at home so we'll see.

Thought I'd share a picture of one of the other regular visitors to our garden.