When I first saw a Buzzard on the ground like this but couldn’t see any sign of it having caught any prey, I wondered if it might be ill. My fellow birders quickly put me right – the Buzzard was probably worming. I never thought a bird of prey would eat something so tiny as an earthworm but needs must when prey is hard to find, or catch. And, indeed, I could see that the end of this bird’s beak was a bit grubby with soil. It was fascinating to watch, especially as the Magpies sneakily tried to pinch what the Buzzard was finding.
Tuesday’s walk brought two encounters with birds of prey. First a Buzzard drifted overhead and, not long afterwards, I clocked a Kestrel hovering close by. It always amazes me that these birds have such incredible eyesight that they can spot lunch on the ground from high in the sky.
Like many people who enjoy walking with nature, I pick up the odd thing that attracts my eye: nuts and cones, galls, pebbles and fossils, skulls (small creatures – I only have a couple). And feathers, some of which I thought I’d share over the coming weeks. From the location where I found these two – under tall trees at Cosmeston Lakes Country Park, and from the markings, I think these are Buzzard feathers.
I was walking along a field edge today, enjoying the peace and the pleasant breeze, when this beautiful creature flew into a tree right next to me.
It wasn’t exactly an elegant landing – I think this was a young Buzzard, judging by its inexact flying skills and its call, and the bird hadn’t realised there was a human standing close by.
I managed to fire off a few quick photos before the bird flew out from the tree, across the field, and landed in the newly mown grass.
It seemed to realise fairly quickly that sitting on the ground when people and their dog were approaching up the hill wasn’t exactly a smart idea, so it quickly took to the air again and found another, taller tree to perch in. Safety for the Buzzard, and a precious experience for me!
Just like their makers, nests come in all shapes and sizes, and they’re made of all sorts of materials: twigs and branches, feathers, moss, paper and plastic, mud. They can be seen high in trees and on buildings, hidden secretively away in hedges and behind reeds, or plonked in a hole in a concrete platoon, as I saw some Coots do recently in Cardiff. Some are messy and loosely constructed, others are cosy and snug, still others are miniature works of art.
This is prime bird-nesting season so it’s quite likely you’ll see nests when you’re out walking. Please stay well away and do not disturb parents, eggs or babies. In Britain (and I’m sure in most countries) it is, in fact, an offence under The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to ‘intentionally take, damage, destroy the nest of any wild bird while it is in use or being built’ and to ‘intentionally take or destroy the egg of any wild bird’. (You can read more details here.) And, rest assured, my photos were all taken with a long lens, well away from the birds, so as not to disturb them.
birding, birdwatching, British birds, Buzzard, chaffinch, Cosmeston, Cosmeston Lakes Country Park, Great tit, Lesser redpolls, Malard, nuthatch, Redpoll, Redwing, Reed bunting, treecreeper, Tufted duck
2 February A stride was required so I passed through Cosmeston as part of a longer walk. I did, as always, keep an eye out for unusual birds, though the only bird that fitted that category was a Buzzard in a tree by the dipping pond, exactly where a friend had reported it the previous day.
I scattered some seed around for my small and hungry feathered friends, and I did linger a while by the lake to take some photos of gulls. (I’m attempting to learn to recognise gulls of different ages but I’ll post separately about that when I’ve got more photos and information.)
4 February There are various routes I can take when I walk to Cosmeston; on this day I approached from the north, which produced a couple of Bullfinches near Old Cogan Farm and, further down Mile Road, a couple of Redwing feasting on ivy berries.
To escape the Sunday crowds, I headed off piste and almost immediately spotted a Green woodpecker and, seeing it fly to the ground, started stalking it. It flew off but then a mixed flock of tits and finches flew in, amongst which, to my very great delight, were 3 Lesser redpolls, a bird I’ve only seen once before and which is not often seen in these parts. They were feeding in an alder tree, moving often, doing acrobatics while suspended from cones, flitting from branch to branch, all of which made them difficult to photograph. But what a delightful 30 minutes I spent watching their antics.
9 February I was hoping to spot the Redpolls again today but lucked out, though I did spot a flock of perhaps 8 Redwings in the trees nearby. A handsome male Reed bunting was enjoying the seed a kind passerby had left on a fence post by the west lake, and it wasn’t just me who was finding the winds strong and gusty – this Tufted duck was having a bad hair day.
21 February This was school half-term holiday week in Wales, not a particularly pleasant time to visit a country park to enjoy the delights of nature as the parks are usually full of screaming children and frazzled parents at such times. I managed to avoid most of that by taking the paths less travelled but still found much of the wildlife was being scared away by the noise.
Still, I thought I’d make a list of what I did see: Great tit, Blackbird, Dunnock, Robin, Magpie, Goldfinch, Redwing, Carrion crow, Jay, Wren, Blue tit, Buzzard, Jackdaw, Long-tailed tit, Woodpigeon, Mistle thrush, Chaffinch, House sparrow, Starling, Green woodpecker, Reed bunting, Nuthatch, Coal tit, Coot, Cormorant, Mute swan, Black-headed gull, Lesser black-backed gull, Herring gull, Mallard, Tufted duck, Great crested grebe, Canada goose, Greylag goose and Pochard – not a bad list, with 35 bird species, and just one mammal, the ubiquitous Grey squirrel.
28 February South Wales was feeling the brunt of the ‘Beast from the East’, a freezing weather bomb from Siberia, when I paid my last February visit to Cosmeston so it was a short visit, partly for the exercise and I also bought a couple of bags of seed from the Rangers’ Office to feed the birds. You know they’re finding foraging tough when you see a Treecreeper come to the bird feeder – most unusual! And it was also unusual to have the sparse remnants of the previous day’s snow on the ground, so I had to get a few photos of birds (Chaffinch and Mallard) in snow as well. Let’s hope spring (re)appears soon.
What do you do to help pass the time on a long bus journey? Read, sleep, listen to music, do crosswords or puzzles? I had taken along my knitting for the three-and-a-half-hour bus ride from Cardiff to London, but I didn’t knit a single stitch.
I spent the 15 minutes waiting for the bus watching the earth of a molehill moving as the little mole tidied up its tunnel (and, of course, I was hoping it might poke its head out, but no such luck). And, once we were underway, we hadn’t cleared Cardiff’s suburbs before I spotted my first buzzard hovering over a park so, after that, I decided to abandon my knitting and keep my eyes on the countryside that was whizzing past outside the window.
And what did I see? My list reads as follows: Lesser black-backed gulls, Herring gulls and Black-headed gulls, Carrion crows, Robins, Jackdaws, Pied wagtails, Feral and Woodpigeons, Magpies, Starlings, Mallards and Mute swans, Mistle thrushes and Blackbirds, a Rookery, lots of rabbits and Pheasants, and two small groups of deer, plus, of course, the 18 Buzzards alluded to in the title of this blog. I was very impressed to see so many of them.
I thoroughly enjoyed my first visit to Goldcliff lagoons and Newport Wetlands with my Glamorgan Bird Club buddies this week. As their names suggest, these sites are perfectly suited to water birds and waders so in the two photos below the birds include Black-tailed godwits, Dunlins, Ringed and Little ringed plovers, Black-headed and Herring gulls, Oystercatchers and Turnstones, Lapwings and Shelducks.
Apparently, 67 species were seen (or heard) though my personal list only totalled 44 – this is because the birds are mostly quite distant at these sites, and I don’t have binoculars, and I can only see so far with the 300mm lens on my camera, so some birds just elude my eyes.
I did, however, manage to grab a blurry shot of a water vole that a fellow birder spotted, and saw some lovely butterflies and moths, and my sightings did include my first ever Knot and Common gull, so I was happy.