At last, calmer weather! Thankfully, a complete change in fact, with calm conditions, an open sky and sun, at least at times. A welcome change! Given the recent holiday, car problems ( now fully resolved ), and a variety of tasks to complete, the day wasn't exclusively my own but I managed to get out locally. Periodically I like to check out what is around across the rising grass moor westwards to the coast and eastwards out towards the fringing ring of conifer woodland that circles the basin of rough grazing and juncus ridden areas that stretch out from the house.
The area can be devoid of bird life, apparently at least, at the height of winter, but it's not always quite the case. A reasonable period of observation at this time of year can show activity beginning to increase with " larger birds " predominating". Corvids are the most obvious with Hooded Crows and Ravens ranging over the open ground, joined by the odd Buzzard and GBBG's. This time of year, based on several occasions experience, sees the "local" Choughs ranging around not just examining feeding areas, but also suitable nesting sites. This occurred yesterday with a pair exploring the barn on a couple of occasions. They've never bred there to my knowledge, but they seem to go through the motions each year. Whilst I kept an eye open for the "local" Golden Eagles no sightings were forthcoming, a result perhaps of hunting/feeding conditions being bad in recent days and them now having to range over a greater area.
Little is present usually on the open moorland at this time of year and yesterday was no exception. It's necessary to cover a lot of ground for very small returns, the odd Wren or Robin, slightly more Blackbirds, all of which are likely to be "Continentals", and the odd Song Thrush. Given the nature of the habitat mix it's easy to monitor what is present and to notice any changes. Yesterday wasn't terribly productive, which could be taken as a baseline against which the sudden appearance , possibly due to harsh weather conditions, of thrush species like Fieldfare and Redwings can easily be detected. There were a few absences too! No Pheasant, Woodcock, titmice, Reed Bunting or Meadow Pipit or, indeed, despite an evening vigil at roost time, any signs of passing Hen Harrier. My resident Barn Owl appears to have moved to other quarters too.
Whilst watching out for harriers I kept an eye on the three or four Chaffinches attending my feeders. These were most certainly the majority representatives of smaller birds I saw throughout the day! I watched one bird for quite a period of time within which it pecked at and picked up, as far as I could tell, in excess of 70 Nyger seed items. Some of these pecks must surely have failed (?), although it didn't appear so. I was amazed at how much bulk a relatively small bird could take in, although I admit Nyger seed is pretty small. Setting aside that aspect it was clear that the bird was "stocking up" before what would be a long night of around fifteen hours! With winter weather conditions sometimes seeing temperatures plummet the need of birds to withstand this is paramount. This draws attention to the importance of feeding birds in winter and on a regular basis too! Thankfully conditions aren't that severe at present.
So, not a terribly good day for birds, but very worthwhile at showing how little is around against which changes can then be documented as we gradually move through the depths of winter into Spring.