Luckless Lockdown – by Derek Walker

Having spent years trying to keep squirrels away from my bird feeders, including buying squirrel proof feeders (No such thing), I decided to embrace the cheeky mammals.

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I had observed them leaping from a tree branch onto my hide and thought this would make a good photo. I climbed a ladder and put some insect suet feed on the branch to entice the squirrel.

Soon after getting in position to bag a winning photo, what took the bait? A Nuthatch. Followed by Great tits, blue tits and blackbirds !!!

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After days of climbing the ladder and topping up the bait I eventually had a squirrel visit. He sat there, ate the suet – and went back along the branch.

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When I replaced the bait, I also put a piece of apple on the hide roof – a small leap away. YES it worked. The squirrel ate the suet and then jumped over for the apple.

After a few days and many attempts, I eventually got my picture.

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Do you think it was worth it?

Arthur Beyless

It is with sadness that I inform you of the death of Arthur Beyless who passed away last week after suffering from cancer.

You may recall he joined the club last year and recently gave us a presentation on bird and wildlife photography in his garden using a hide he had erected.

Croft Hill and Nature Trail – my daily exercise walk – by Sue Walton

Croft Hill and Nature Trail

Hello everyone, I hope you are well and keeping safe. As my daily exercise I am walking up Croft Hill and around the nature trail every day. Croft quarry is the deepest granite quarry in Europe and still working today, I know this as I’ve been watching the trucks bringing up the stone from the deepest part.

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The weather has been so lovely these last few weeks and the birds have been singing their hearts out, Robins, Blackbirds, Song Thrush, Chiffchaff, Willow Warblers, Blackcaps to name but a few. The Buzzards and Carrion Crows are filling the sky and although I have not seen the Peregrines I am told they are nesting on the quarry face.

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My route takes me through the trees, which are full of blossom, and through a small bluebell patch, and on up to the trig point. From here the views are pretty spectacular on a clear day, Croft Hill being the only high point around. It’s then down and along the bank, which is now full of mature trees and shrubs, here I sometimes see a pair of Jay’s and often Green Woodpecker and just in the last week or so lots of Whitethroat. Listen to the following video clip of the bird song – what can you identify?

At the far end it’s down the steps to the boardwalk and along to the lake. I don’t usually see much there, just a Moorhen, but there are Sedge warbler singing now and more than one too.

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A pair of swans are nesting along the river and once I caught the flash of a Kingfisher.

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On my way back home it’s really noticeable the lack of traffic on the road and planes in the sky, but great to see that nature is in full swing. I set the app on my phone the other day and my walk is three and a half miles and usually takes me around an hour and a quarter. Now I’m slightly ashamed to admit this but I don’t take my binoculars with me, just my phone as I try to keep up a good pace! Hopefully once the lockdown eases I will go on a proper birding walk and take my time.

Take care everyone,

Sue.

“Permitted exercise” walk – by Jane Hibbert

Fludes Lane Oadby stretches from the A6 just below the Oadby Owl and follows the Washbrook to Severn Road and into the wood behind Windrush Drive and continues on to Great Glen. On leaving the wood the old footpath used to continue across fields also towards Great Glen but sadly some of these fields were swallowed up by the Grange housing estate.

The builders, as part of their planning consent, had to provide a wildflower meadow (which was lovely for the first year or two, but is now non existent), plant a specific number of native trees and a wildlife corridor of which the pond is part.

The footpath to Great Glen is still available to walk through fields I believe although I haven’t walked it for several years as I no longer have a dog (no excuse really).

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Flora & fauna seen along the way – can you name them all? Post a comment if you can identify some or all.

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“Lockdown” Birding & Wildlife by Marion Turner

Hi everyone

We all hope that you are enjoying being at home or able to work from home during “lockdown” and that you are able to find time in the day to watch the birdlife, wildlife or just to admire the flora and fauna either in your garden, or whilst out for your permitted daily exercise. I am sure that all members would agree that if you are still going to work as a key worker, whatever that role may be, we are very grateful to you for keeping the world ticking over.

As SLB won’t be issuing a May Newsletter, sorry to disappoint, but I am sure you all understand it is for the best that Sue doesn’t have to make a non essential journey to pay for and collect it and that’s assuming the printers are actually open, instead I will “waffle” on for a bit about what we have seen in our garden.  As my elderly mother lives with us none of us have left the property in the last 5 weeks so our garden has become our world and we are extremely grateful to have one. Graham is working from home so I have kept myself busy in the garden being supervised by mother, so this fabulous weather has really helped.

Most mornings me & mum have a nature ramble around the garden to check out the bug house we made from an old laundry basket to see what’s moved in, keeping well clear of the big spider that has taken up residence in it.

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I have been a “guardian”of the red Mason bee for a few years now and so having received this years cocoons we put them out into the emergence box a couple of weeks ago and I am very pleased to say they have nearly all hatched out now in this nice warm weather.

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They are a solitary bee so there are no hives to look after and more importantly they very rarely sting. They are especially good pollinators of fruit trees and bushes so needless to say we have both in the garden to give them plenty to feed on once they have emerged.

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Last year we had 30 cocoons sent which all hatched and when we sent back the tubes containing their eggs we were told there were 194 eggs in them which I was amazed by.

It is then onto the grass and wildflower area we have to see what’s growing. Among the grasses we started with violets & snake head fritillary and celandine which have now been joined by red campion, vipers-bugloss and plantains. It is rather exciting to see what else may come as the area becomes more established.

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On the bird front we have had nesting Blackbird, Dunnock, Robin, Wren and Song Thrush who are all now busy feeding their young either at the nest or in the Blackbirds case in whatever cover their young are hiding in (in this case our wood store or undergrowth).

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We still have a Wood Pigeon on a nest in the hedge in the back garden and I am sure there are other nests we have yet to discover.

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Not much to report on our boxes but there is still plenty of time for them to become someone’s “des res”. In the garden on our feeders and tables we have enjoyed the usual visitors Blue, Great & Long-tailed Tit, Dunnock, Robin, Wren, Blackbird, Nuthatch, Great-spotted Woodpecker, House Sparrow, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Wood Pigeon, Collared Dove, Stock Dove, Red-legged Partridge, Magpie & Crow. Whilst overhead or in the neighbouring fields we have noted Jackdaw, Rook, Raven, Buzzard, Mistle Thrush, Pheasant & Peregrine Falcon. At night time we have Tawny Owl & a neighbour has “shouted” to us that she has a Barn Owl in one of her trees most nights but we have yet to see it. However, our star bird for the last couple of weeks has been Lapwing who appear to be defending a possible nesting site in the field at the back of our garden. This is the first time in the 25 years we have lived here that we have heard them for so long. I am not sure whether the farmer has left a bit of rough ground for them but they are certainly hanging around and we are keeping everything crossed that they are successful. Our only two summer visitors so far in the garden have been a pair of Blackcap and a single Chiffchaff.

Foxes still visit in the night as they always leave some pooh as evidence and they are regularly captured on our camera trap.

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Our partially blind hedgehog still visits during the day to either eat it’s own food that we put out or to share our cat Pippins food if Pips eating al fresco. It is a sight to behold as Pippin regularly gives up his dish for one of our male Blackbirds and the other day even the Blackbird was moved aside by the visiting Hedgehog all being watched by our dog Kizzie who wanted to join in the meal!

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I agree it is a very odd world we are currently living in but I realise that you just have to make the best of what you have got to get you through the time. We have to count ourselves as lucky that we have a hobby that you can do anywhere and within reason at anytime of the year, whether you have a large or small garden or even no garden at all we can all enjoy the birds we encounter.

Stay safe and stay sane – hopefully things might start to get back to normal soon but in the meantime enjoy your birds.

Maz, Graham & Mum

Birding before the “lockdown” – by Pete Asher

My wife Mary and I recently had a 10 day holiday in the Dominican Republic staying at the Hilton resort at Bayahibe on the south coast.
We were very lucky as we returned just before the Coronavirus restrictions.

Mary is not a birdwatcher so we try to choose a destination to please us both and the Hilton ticked all the boxes, lovely rooms, great beach, 7 top restaurants and the promise of some excellent birding.

All my birdwatching was done in the extensive Gardens and around the perimeter road plus visits to the resorts hidden Sewage Works, sorry I should say Settling Pool about 500m down a woodland track and 2 small Bays accessible by walking along a rocky shore (both found by looking on Google Earth), morning and late afternoon birding kept both me and Mary happy.

The first morning I was out for 7am not long after dawn and straight away I was seeing lifers, it appeared that on every Palm tree there was a Hispaniolan Woodpecker.

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The Palm trees also held the large nests of the numerous Palm Chats and around any bush in blossom you could see feeding Antillean Mango (Hummingbird).

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Antillean Palm Swifts were everywhere swooping down then disappearing into their nests in the large Palm thatched sun shades. Northern Mockingbirds were singing, noisy Greater Antillean Grackles chasing each other round the Gardens and a pair of raucous White Necked Crows were busy collecting nesting material, the other common bird was House Sparrow brought to the Island no doubt by early settlers, interestingly quite tame and less aggressive than our own birds. Also by a small man made pool were 6 wing clipped Greater Flamingos a star attraction for many guests.
After 2 hours birding it was back to the room to change for the beach.

By early afternoon I was desperate to get to the sewage works, sorry Settling Pool and was disappointed that Mary didn’t want to join me, after a quick change I was off – going out of the hotel’s main entrance and down a long Palm tree lined drive with Hispaniolan Woodpecker and Palm Chat nests on nearly every tree, just amazing!
Towards the end of the drive and hidden behind trees was a small pool and in the centre of the pool was a vegetated island full of the hanging nests of Village Weavers introduced to the Island many years ago perhaps from the slave ships, also seen here was a Pearly-eyed Thrasher but this new coloniser to the Island may have been blown in by Hurricanes.
Gray Kingbirds were also abundant busily catching insects, but I had to push on and find the settling pool but again got side tracked, going down a promising looking side path I found Northern Parula (Warbler), Prairie Warbler, a male Antillean Piculet (very small Woodpecker) and Black-crowned Palm -Tanager

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I finally got to the Settling pool and was surprised that it didn’t smell too bad after all,
I found that you could stand on the main side track and see all but the near edge of the Pool and around the edge were some nice birds, Killdeer, Least Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, a dozen Black-necked Stilts and overhead soaring Turkey vultures. Mary was missing a treat.
A mornings walk round the perimeter road added new birds to the list, Bananaquit, Greater Antillean Elaenia, Yellow-faced Grassquit and a flock of Nutmeg Manikin (another introduced species).
An afternoon visit to the lagoons gave me some new waders… Semipalmated and Black-bellied Plover and a Ruddy Turnstone.
The following afternoon I was back at the Settling Pool, joining the birds seen previous days was a Lesser Yellowlegs plus 4 overflying Hispaniolan Parrots.
The next morning was spent round the hotel grounds seeing all the regular birds with the addition of a flock of Hispaniolan Palm Crows.
New species for the afternoon were Common Ground-Dove and a nesting pair of American Kestrel (Hispaniola race).
One of the best things about birding is that you can even birdwatch from your beachside sun bed and tick off birds like Snowy and Great Egret, Great Blue Heron, Magnificent Frigatebirds, Royal Tern and have a winter plumage Spotted Sandpiper beach combing just 1m away.

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The following days birding was still fascinating if not adding new birds – the Woodpeckers, Palm Chats, Swifts and Grackles keeping me happy.

One lunchtime at the beachside restaurant we were having a pre-lunch drink and I nearly spilt my Rum Punch, feeding around the flowers just in front of us were a pair of Vervain Hummingbirds (the second smallest bird in the world!!). Another bird at lunch was a Belted Kingfisher hunting from tree branches overhanging some rock pools, perhaps after small crabs as well as fish.
After a well earned nap, well it was an excellent lunch, I was off again to my favourite birding site the sewage works, sorry Settling Pool and this time I took along a beer for the old boy who worked there, he was most appreciative but still gave me funny looks when I picked my bins up to birdwatch, new for today was a Solitary Sandpiper a family party of Smooth-billed Ani and an overflying White-crowned Pigeon.
I was just about to leave when all the Palm Swifts started calling and a Merlin shot through the tight flock but missed his supper!

No early walk today because after breakfast I planned to visit a small clearing I had found in the perimeter woodland, once in the clearing I started to attract the birds by Phishing (Phishing is when you put your lips together and make a phish-phish sound) after a few minutes I was seeing some really good birds the best being a Greater Antillean Bullfinch.
I was just about to leave when a flash of green caught my eye, perched on a branch not 3m away was a Broad-Billed Tody, this little green gem was top of the holiday wish list so I was well pleased.

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Earlier in the week I had been chatting with an American couple who said that they were birdwatchers back home and they commented on the lack of birds at the resort, as they walked away I looked around and counted about 70 Palm Swifts, 20 Palm Chats and a dozen Woodpeckers and Grackles!! Obviously no Specsavers in the US then.

On the last morning I again Phished out the Broad-Billed Tody along with a Stolid Flycatcher and on an afternoon visit to the Lagoons I found a small freshwater pool that finished the holiday off with some nice birds, Northern Waterthrush, American Redstart, Palm Warbler and my all time favourite bird Black and White Warbler.
The very last bird was Cattle Egret seen from the bus going back to the Airport.

I had a total of 55 species with 13 lifers all but one seen in and around the holiday resort,
If you’re a birder and your wife’s not this could be the holiday for you.

Pete and Mary Asher.

PS.
I was coming out of the sea after a swim and said to my wife “I bet I look just like James Bond walking out of the surf in Casino Royale”
Mary replied “Sorry Peter more Daniel Lambert than Daniel Craig!”

Well what do you expect with 7 fabulous restaurants.

Eyebrook Wild Bird Feeds – Offer for SLB Members

Members Offer from Eyebrook Wild Bird Feeds

“Following the Prime Ministers address yesterday evening our shop at Rectory Farm will be closed as of today.  The days, weeks and months ahead will be continually changing for us all, but we will keep you updated on all changes to our services.

10% Discount Online to SLB Members

All our birdseed and bird feeding accessories are still available to purchase via mail order either online or over the phone.  We are offering a 10% discount off our online prices to SLBW members throughout this period of lock down, simply enter/quote SL10 at checkout.  Visit us at www.eyebrookwildbirdfeeds.co.uk or phone the farm on 01536 770771.  Do take advantage of this service to ensure plentiful food in the garden for your feathered friends.  By providing essential food for them, your efforts will be rewarded by having life, colour and entertainment in the garden through this time of isolation.

Keep In Touch

Keep talking to us – we are all in this together and it is essential to keep the community spirit going, we hope to continue communication with you all through our social channels where we bring you updates from the farm and our garden to raise a smile during these difficult times.  Do keep chatting to us – we would love to know what’s going on in your garden, what birds you are seeing, or hear what wildlife is waking up to this beautiful Spring weather and pottering through your garden – share your pictures and comments on our social media pages.

We will continue to send email updates over the coming weeks, if you know anyone who would like to keep updated from us please encourage them to get in touch, and we can share our garden tales together.  We will endeavour to provide the best possible service to you though this difficult time, and of course our thoughts go out to anyone who has been personally impacted, we hope that you and your families are safe and well.”

COVID-19 (Coronavirus)

Following the recent government guidelines regarding non essential social gatherings the Committee has taken the decision to cancel all indoor meetings and field trips until further notice.

Whilst this is very disappointing we feel this is for the best and gives our members a clear decision on the future of our programme of events. As it happens some speakers have already contacted us to cancel future bookings and whilst you could argue the field trips could still go ahead because of being outdoors, but you are still sharing cars, using supermarket cafes and obviously we do not know whether the reserves may close in the future.

This also means the weekend away in May has been cancelled. It was felt better to make the decision now as the balance for the coach hire was due to be paid very soon which would mean a larger loss on any monies you have paid. There is still a small loss of deposit for everyone for the coach booking of £22.00. Sue will be sending cheques for reimbursement to all concerned once we have received a new cheque book from the Bank so please bear with us.

Sue is in the process of contacting everyone who had booked on the trip and Maz will contact the remaining members regarding meeting cancellations.

Any further updates will be added to the website as necessary. We appreciate not all members have access to the website so if you can spread the word to other members that you might see that would be most helpful.

On a happier note if you are staying at home more at least you can pass your time by feeding and watching the birds!

Happy birding and keep safe.