Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009... the highlights

Another year almost over. It is difficult to decide just what was my highlight of 2009. I was in so many places, often guiding others, sometimes on my own explorations. The woodpeckers in Brazil, particularly Campo Flicker, were right up there. Sure, it is not a difficult species to find down in its habitat but it was a bird that I have wanted to see for a long time. I am fascinated by those terrestrial woodies. Then there were the woodpeckers in Guyana, I must not forget those, especially the huge Crimson-crested and the near-endemic Blood-coloured. On the mammal front I also saw my number one target, a carnivore I have wanted to see since childhood, the Wolverine. In fact we saw several in Karelia, in eastern Finland. That was truly amazing, a life-time ambition fulfilled. And there was a memorable dawn when we saw a Wolverines, Brown Bears and a pack of Wolves all in the spaces of a few minutes. So, in the end, hard to choose, and there is no winner.... well, perhaps only myself. Happy New Year ! ... see you somewhere in 2010.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Holiday Plans ?

So, like me, you are trying to get over all the festive food and drink right ? With more probably coming up on New Year's Eve ? Well, also like me, you might be thinking about your birding holiday trips in 2010. I already know that I will be guiding tours in Czech Republic, Croatia, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia... and off on a couple of long-haul trips. If you fancy coming along on a birding trip to these places, just drop me a line.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Winter Birding

So it is pretty cold, icy and snowy over much of Europe. But the birding does not stop. There are few rarities around in winter for twitchers to chase, but it is still well worth getting out there. At this time I prefer to walk in woodlands. They are fairly silent but there is something tranquil about them and it is easier to spot things with fewer leaves on the trees, at least in broadleaved woodlands. My favourites, woodpeckers, can often be found fairly easily in winter, too, as they can be heard hacking away at trees and stumps in search of prey and then tracked down. Yes, it's a good time for tracking mammals, too, with all that snow on the ground. This "Festive Season" is also a time for many for eating and drinking in quantities, and walking, birding or not, in the woods helps blow away those cobwebs. Wrap up, take a thermos of hot drink, and off you go.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Snowed in

Well. Completely snowed in here. I will be out with the shovel soon to clear the drive and I will clear the bird-feeders, too. Must be tough for the songbirds in this...

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Intelligent Rooks

So the snow is here now and it is colder, too. The birds will find it harder to find food so I expect more to come into the garden for the free stuff I have put out. I managed to get a shot (poor quality, I know, but they don't let me get close) of this Rook pulling up the string from which the peanuts and bird-cake hang, holding the food on the branch with one foot and then pecking away. Got to admire the Rooks, though the songbirds don't get a chance.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Garden Feeding Up-Date

So the cold weather is here. The sleet (not really snow) is trying to settle, but it is still too warm for that. The bird food is out, as I have mentioned. And the Magpies and Hooded Crows and Feral Pigeons continue to dominate. The two corvids fly off as soon as I step outside but the pigeons don't... umm. This morning I heard a tapping from the adjacent garden as I filled up the feeder with seed and then a Green Woodpecker flew over me and landed onto the false acacia tree before hopping onto the grass. So, different birds, coming and going, things are not settled here yet.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Feeder Disaster

As I mentioned, I put out the bird food in the garden and it worked... for a while. Great Spotted and Syrian Woodpeckers and Hawfinch have all visited. But then a few Magpies and Hooded Crows and Feral Pigeons got wind of this free, all-you-can-eat, seed and bird-cake banquet. I am not against the corvids having a meal, I am not one of those that thinks they are just pests that should be exterminated, no, they have a niche and a role to play in the wider scheme of things, too. The Magpies have worked out how to knock the bird-cake of the nails I used to fix them, and then eat the cake on the ground, it is enough for the Hoodies just to hang about and the songbirds keep a distance. I am going to think it through and find a corvid-proof way of feeding the woodpeckers etc... if the crows beat me again, so be it. If they are smarter than me, then, yes.... probably.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Hawfinch In The Garden

Well, putting out the bird food in the garden worked. Best of all at the weekend was a Hawfinch that dominated the bird-table. The Chaffinches and Great Tits did not land on the table when this big, fat finch was there. The black sunflower seeds did the trick. Actually, Hawfinches are common in Hungary, and indeed most of C & E Europe, so it is not such a rare sighting, it is just that they do not often get into our garden.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Birds In The Garden

Here is Budapest it still does not really seem like winter, a bit grey and damp and plenty of folks with "flu" but there is no sign of any snow or ice or even real cold. The birds know something though. Waxwings have been seen and there are more species coming into the garden now. The first seed I put out went in a day. Two Great Spotted Woodpeckers were foraging in the now bare walnut tree, sometimes picking at the ends of small twigs but I can't see what they are after there. I am going to put out some more fat and bird-cake for them and black sunflower for the songbirds today and see what comes in over the weekend.