Home is where my cat is

They're coming thick and fast!

Everything is relative obviously, my patch is never going to set world records, but it's been a nice few days... I was on 43 at the time of my last post, I am now on 48, including 2 patch ticks!
As planned, I went to the Thames early on Friday, to discover that it was high tide (my fault, I should have checked) and that part of the path has been closed off while the Environment Agency does some remedial work apparently. I can still see the whole foreshore but it forces me to go via the back street and walk by the ginkgo trees, 2 of which are female and had tons of fruit this year. One advantage at least of the cold is that the smell is reduced... Whatever you do never stand downwind of a fruiting gingko (unless you have no sense of smell)!
I could hear the House Sparrows from way back, always a reassuring sound. I think they may be roosting in the ivy growing on the wall of Rainville Court, or it's a staging post, but, in any case, I saw 4 of them go from one to the other as I was approaching.
Few birds around on the river, a Shelduck a few Gadwalls, Teals and Tufted Ducks, 2 Pied & 1 Grey Wagtails milling around on or near Crabtree beach. For an exotic touch, 4 Egyptian Geese turned up, 1 of the pale head variety. Different year, different times... Last year it took forever before I saw one of those of the river, this year I see them pretty much every time. Same thing with Kestrels. Funny. Actually, I could see a Kestrel perched in a tree on the other side of the river.
A Great Crested Grebe turned up, making it #44 for the year.
I was thinking it was time to go, nothing else was really going to turn up, when I saw lots of birds lift up by the Wetland Centre. Initially thought it was the crows but as soon as I had them in my bins it was obvious it was Lapwings! Possibly about 50 of them. I'd been waiting for something like this forever... Some people go on about flocks of Starlings, Knots, Geese, you name it, for me lapwings do it. I don't know if it's because it was a common sight where I grew up (Normandy countryside) but that's how it is. They followed the river south until slightly before the bend where they flew back inland & I lost them behind the trees. At no point were they on my patch. There has been a fair amount of discussion this month on the londonbirders mailing list regarding which birds to count or not. The rule chosen in the end was "either you or the bird has to be on the patch" but I am in favour of "the bird has to be on or over the patch', which is what how I have counted birds sofar, and had decided to stick to my rule. So I was in a bit of a quandary: "do I count them or not?" Plus it would be a patch tick, but a patch tick not on patch proper somehow didn't sound right. I decided to mull it over and decide later.
I made a quick visit in the afternoon at low tide, as I'd forgotten my rule of not going by the river on sunny winter days, all I get is a headache. I did indeed get one of those, got totally blinded by the sun reflecting on the water, but I also got #45 in the shape of 4 Coots. Coots are actually less common on this stretch of the river than Moorhens, so it was nice and provided some light relief.

I decided to give the Thames a miss on Saturday morning, in part as I needed to help TOH, but I did a quick visit mid-afternoon. I had just arrived and was doing a first scan of the foreshore, when I heard a tweet. Lifted my bins. YES! There on the foreshore, on patch, proper!

A Lapwing doing patch proper (Counting Coots ™)
(I was probably just as excited as he was a few days beforehand)

Quandary over for now. #46.
It flew off, but then it, or another one, landed on the mud even closer, giving me a chance for more photos, and then it flew off (again).

To be continued...

Patch tick!

Sorry I have neglected this blog once again, but it's been a tad mad around here. I also, foolishly, decided to have a 'net detox over Christmas, which meant it took me ages to catch up afterwards. I have been out lots however, in part to just escape it all, and from 1st January to kick start my patch list. I started with a 2 hour walk in Margravine Cemetery where I managed to find all residents apart from Wren and Greenfinch. I did see a Greenfinch later that day but it took a few more days before I managed to find a Wren. I also managed to find the Coal Tit which was nice as I had not seen it for a while, and I found it in the exact conifer I'd been hoping to find it. And the Redwings were still there, or at least some were, as on New Year's Eve I saw at least 80 of them advancing on the grass like an army, which was quite impressive as the cemetery is not that big!
An unexpected tick by the cemetery that day was a Common Gull, standing on the Woodpecker's aerial on the estate, i.e. the one the Great Spotted Woodpecker drums on in the Spring becoming the talk of the neighbourhood.
The female Peregrine made an appearance around lunchtime, sunning herself, making it 21 for that day. Until the Greenfinch which made it 22 for the first day, on a par with last year albeit with a few different birds.

The next day, being a Saturday morning, I did my usual Thames Path walk and added a few more birds to make it 35 with most of the usual suspects. The most notable thing was that I saw a third adult Great Black-Backed Gull as well as the usual pair, which are currently very busy courting, or at least I assume that's what all this 'barking' is about. A few days previously I could hear them, but just couldn't locate them, until I looked on top of Harrods Depository: they were on top of the flagpoles!

On Sunday 3rd, I was checking if Redwings were still around in the cemetery, and they were making it the start of their 4th week, when 2 Egyptian Geese flew over, a first for me in Margravine, & making it #36.

An early morning visit to the Thames on Tuesday morning allowed me to add Shelduck with one feeding by Crabtree Wharf, not unusual at this time of year, but not that frequent either. Nothing else out of the ordinary, except maybe a few more Gadwalls than previously this winter. I have unfortunately not been able to go and check again since then, but I'm hoping to early tomorrow. We'll see. I finally added Wren for this year as I was almost home, making it #41.

Then yesterday, we were promised some more snow, so I thought I'd go and get some milk before then, and check Margravine Cemetery at the same time. Got to Barons Court having found a few Redwings. I was trying to check them from a distance so as not to disturb them, I shouldn't have bothered, dog walkers do it anyway. The corner shop didn't have any milk so I backtracked and crossed the cemetery again to go to Fulham Palace Road. As I was about half way through, I heard an unusual sound high above in a tree: a Fieldfare! At long last! A patch tick! Grabbed my camera, tried some record shots, but conditions were appalling, and it was just starting to snow quite heavily. Thankfully, it flew over to another tree closer to me, where I managed some slightly better shots.

I also decided to take a record-video. Pretty crappy quality and I wouldn't have bothered putting it up if it wasn't for the goldfinch behind:

Fieldfare & goldfinch in the snow from Nathalie Mahieu on Vimeo.

I have seen them do it between themselves too, is it threat or courtship? But, in this case, it made me think of these passers by in the background who make faces at the camera when someone is interviewed or talking in the foreground. Might be just me, but I find it funny...

That was #42, and #43 came today in the shape of a Kestrel hovering over the hospital.
A pity the Skylark I saw on the foreshore by the supermarket this afternoon wasn't on my patch, but it was nice nevertheless...

Season's Greetings!

I'm off to France tomorrow, leaving the house in the cat's capable paws, and wish you all a very nice Christmas!


(This little chap posed for me last year in Margravine Cemetery in mid-afternoon winter sunshine, a magical moment)

It's happened again!

2 mornings in a row I was by the Thames early morning to see if the cold weather snap had brought up anything interesting, and to put it bluntly it had been pretty boring. Yesterday there was even a total lack of big gulls, apart from Great Black Backed. Not even the regular Lesser Black-Backed.This morning I didn't go because I was due at 11 by Barnes Bridge for another Thames 21 cleanup. Guess what? 2 Red-breasted Mergansers were reported on the river this morning, seen from the Wetland Centre.  Just like the day they reported the Egret, can't remember where I was that day but it wasn't around.  One day...

Still, when I came back from Barnes Bridge, I had a very quick look in Margravine Cemetery, and spotted the Redwings again, about 35 of them. Most (at least 23) were going through the leaf litter, as thankfully the staff haven't taken all those away, but some were also eating berries on the shrubs. And as a bonus I had a Mistle Thrush, pretty much in the exact same spot as Monday morning :)

Rewdings again

8 days on and the redwings are still in Margravine Cemetery.  I estimated at least 25 of them yesterday afternoon, but I had a definite 19 on the ground in my bins at one point. And having watched them fly around the cemetery for a few days, I am now pretty convinced that I had caught a glimpse of some of them on the Saturday on my way to the shops before they'd disappear behind buildings.A combination of the fact that there are not quite as many berries at the top now, them maybe getting a little bit more used to passers by, some sunshine, and I finally managed some much nicer photos of 1 of them:For more photos of this bird, click on the photo above, or here.I have also tried to take photos of them amongst the graves, as I try with any bird in the cemetery as much as possible, as this makes it more location-specific. Unfortunately, more often than not, this is all I get, if I get anything:I did manage however to get a few with graves in the background.Redwing trying to blend in by doing a robin impersonation...To finish, one of our near-obese squirrels, but even with their extra fat they appear to be feeling the cold too, I spotted one taking bark off branches to add to its nest:

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