My Big Garden Birdwatch. (Part One)
Well it was that time of year again, only this year, I was away for the Big Garden Birdwatch weekend with friends... So in between our planned activities and catching up, I needed to squeeze in my 'Nature Fix and a spot of birding!
Hubby and I arrived at Center Parcs at Woburn on the Friday, installed ourselves in our lodge and had a quiet evening. Next morning, whilst having a cuppa ou on the patio bit, I could hear a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming loudly nearby, watched a number of rather fearless Grey Squirrels chasing around the spruce trees and chancing getting closer in case of treats and could also see amongst the lower branches of the spruces, Blue Tits and Goldcrests foraging for food. At one point, there was also a Nuthatch scooting up and down the tree trunk and along the boughs.
We met up with our friends on the Saturday morning for a round of badminton (amazed myself, lasted the whole forty five minutes, not bad for someone who's primary exercise is walking!) and a very enjoyable lunch. With the afternoon to ourselves, I then had a look at the map of the site and found a corner marked 'Nature Area' and set off, hoping not to get too lost (my track record to date of getting around a Center Parcs, any Center Parcs please note, is not good and usually involves a lot of aimless wandering around in circles).
As I left our lodge, there was quite a bit of faded vegetation - dock, grasses and bracken, which a small flock of Long Tailed Tits were working their way through at speed.
I stood and watched them for a short while when a tiny fluttering bird caught my eye as it flitted between gorse, dock seedheads and old thistles. It was a goldcrest!
The Goldcrest is our tiniest bird and this time of year, their numbers increase with winter visitors. It was a real treat to watch one almost at eye level - usually they can be spotted as they flit around in the branches of spruce and (on my home patch) tangles of hawthorn and woodbine branches looking for food.
Finding my way to other end of the village, I kept my eyes open along the verges and wooded parts - I could hear and occasionally see Wrens flitting, together with various Blue and Great Tits foraging.
On reaching the other end of the main path, I was deciding which route to follow, when suddenly something NOT squirrel shaped bounded across the road in front of me and into an overgrown ditch. A Stoat! I wandered over to where it had left the road and peered amongst the vegetation hopefully, however it had gone deep undercover!
Wandering on, I came to the part marked ' Nature Area', which was a sizeable patch of deciduous woodland, some parts dry and others 'wet' with small streams and a little pond. As I turned to follow the path onwards, above and behind me I heard a familiar mewling and turned to see a pair of Red Kites soaring and dancing over the tops of the trees. They drifted out of sight and so I continued on.
At the start of the path, I caught a glimpse of a Wren and also had a few Blackbirds zip across into a big clump of brambles, however as I followed the track for the most part it was quiet.
Then I heard a familiar 'Kick Kick' and caught sight of black, white and scarlet flash low down on one of the trees. It was a female Great Spotted Woodpecker, about to dine at the feeding stations which had been set up.
The area was full of other small birds too, which explained why the surrounding woodland was rather quiet!
I stood for a while watching her as she first fed at the feeders, then moved up into the trees, keeping a good lookout at all times.
The reason for her looking around soon became apparent, a male was in the area and every so often she would fly off, followed by him, there then would be some degree of woodpecker bickering heard from a way off, before she would return again, go back to the feeders and then keep a lookout from various vantage points.
Whilst I waited for her return, I watched a small flock of Chaffinches in the tree-tops coming towards the feeding stations. They then proceeded to perch on surrounding branches or come down to the ground and peck around under the feeders.
Such are their colours that at times they were quite tricky to distinguish from the woodland colours. As well as the Chaffinches there were four or five Great Tits which were back and forth, making repeat trips to the feeders with them perching nearby on branches to peck rapidly at whatever morsel they had come away with.
The Great Tits, once their meals were temporarily done, would then fly off and their place was taken by Blue Tits, I saw five, either foraging around in some of the spindlier branches -pecking at the bark and fluttering about or a few of them took the easier approach and went to the feeders, again going the 'Tit' thing, of selecting a morsel and retiring to a nearby perch to consume it.
There was a little bench along the path, so I sat there quite happily watching the comings and goings between the Woodpeckers, Tits and Chaffinches and also peered out at the adjacent field through the trees. Overhead again, I heard 'mewling' and was treated at first to watching a Red Kite pair dancing out over the field and above me through the branches - despite it being very cold, it appeared courtship was in progress! Some while later, a pair of Buzzards also appeared and were also dancing around each other in mid-air, before disappearing off into the distance. At one point, there were also two Muntjac deer running down the side of the field and further out I also saw a couple of Hares; too far off to photograph, but lovely to see.
Whilst I had been sitting watching, I had some nice views of one of two Robins, this one was favouring a pile of branches as a perch and stayed there for some while declaring that it was his spot.
There was also a rather fancy looking Pheasant wandering about under the trees and along the path, however the smaller birds took little notice of this colourful character.
As time was getting on and I was getting chilly, I decided it was time to wander back, but what an afternoon though, favourite extraordinary 'every-day' birds, a Stoat AND Raptors to watch!
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