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So today, I saw a reed bunting at my local park, New Hall Valley. It’s not the first reed bunting i’ve ever seen, but it was the first one I spotted on my local patch.

So naturally, I tweeted about it and immediately realised how confusing this sentence could be (and how common it might be for birdwatchers!):

This could mean: “I saw my first reed bunting, and it was at New Hall Valley”. Or, it could mean: “It was the first time i’ve seen a reed bunting at New Hall Valley”. It was the latter.

Anyway, the reed bunting was singing loudly, and to be sure it was a reed bunting, I consulted the RSPB bird identifier website to hear the audio. Obviously a little disgruntled (or excited) by the sound of another reed bunting in the vicinity, it flew directly at me, and over my head to a nearby bush. I hope he sticks around! 

My very first reed bunting was spotted at RSPB Middleton Lakes a couple of years ago, not surprisingly amongst the reeds! To many people, it could just be another little brown bird, (similar in size and colouring as a sparrow – even the RSPB can get confused after too many cups of tea on a Friday afternoon!), but it’s the distinctive black cap that sets it apart.

More recently at Middleton, I am seeing them becoming much braver at the bird feeders, and just last week I saw a flock of about 15 of them feeding on the ground down one of the lanes just before dusk.

Here’s a couple of photos I managed to take…

IMG_6307

Reed bunting

 

The wood pigeon is a regular (almost too regular) visitor to my garden, but last week I saw a different kind of pigeon. Rather than assume it was a feral pigeon I took a look at the RSPB bird identifier and learnt something new… there is such a thing as a stock dove. I had never before come across a stock dove – I was only familiar with turtle dove and collared dove, but I’m pretty sure this is one…

Any dove experts care to confirm?

IMG_4627 copy

Last week I looked up from my desk to see a nuthatch on our bird feeder.

I have always liked the nuthatch and the way it resembles a woodpecker with it’s sleek shape, and it’s tendency to feed upside down. I didn’t expect we would see one in the garden!

I managed to grab this blurry photo on my phone through the binoculars!

IMG_5637

This photo (not mine!) does it more justice…

Photo by Paweł Kuźniar

I am too excited! On Sunday we will be meeting Lola – the new addition to our family! Lola is 10 month old terrier-cross from Many Tears Animal Rescue and we cannot wait to meet her!

Lola

Lola

When I was a child, I remember regularly asking my parents “Can we get a dog?” and them responding “You can get a dog when you have your own house”.  Well, the time has come.

Friends and family encouraged use to get a rescue dog, and many times I have trawled the Dogs Trust website, or the Many Tears Facebook page, but so often they recommend rehousing with other dogs (which we don’t have).

But then I saw Lola. Previously known as Lushious (spelt incorrectly) her foster carer has fortunately renamed her Lola. Since she’s still a puppy and doesn’t seem to have had a troubled past (as so many dogs from Many Tears have) they were happy to re-home her with us.

There has been quite a process to secure her, including an online application, a telephone call, a chat with her foster carer and a home visit, but the staff and volunteers at Many Tears do such a great job, and have all been so helpful.

Finally on Sunday we get to go and meet her, and hopefully take her home! I feel like an excited child!

We may find that there are many more blog posts about Lola in the future…

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Thanks to my darling husband for an amazing year, and for our friends and family for making it such a special day to remember.

 

On Wednesday we took advantage of the beautiful evening sunshine with a walk around the RSPB nature reserve at Middleton Lakes.

We often visit the nature reserve to see the heronry, the active bird feeders, the lapwing conservation area, the friendly robins and the rest of the beautiful woodland and walks. It’s so fantastic that we have such a great reserve just ten minutes from our house.

On this occasion, we were lucky to add two new birds to our life list…

Firstly, a bird that we heard before we saw… the cuckoo. As we were walking along the woodland path, I heard it’s distinctive call. When we arrived at the viewing area over the silt lake, I could tell what direction the call was coming from, and sure enough I saw it at the top of a tree through the binoculars. It reminded me of a cross between a pigeon and a bird of prey, like a sparrowhawk.


The second bird was in the reeds beside the lake. It was a bird that I didn’t recognise and was very distinctive with it’s black head, white collar and brown body. A quick check on the RSPB bird identifier told us it was a reed bunting. I often struggle with identifying warblers and buntings, but now that I know what the reed bunting looks like, I don’t think it’s one i’ll forget.

Reed Bunting (image credit: Tony Hisgett, Birmingham, UK)

Reed Bunting (image credit: Tony Hisgett, Birmingham, UK)

Another highlight of the walk (and a common feature of our trips to Middleton), was the super-friendly robin. Despite being fiercely territorial birds, there are a lot of them at Middleton, and they know where to find the feed from the visitors. We took along some meal worms to tempt them a little closer… and it worked.

So this happened this evening 🙂 #rspb #rspbmiddleton #middletonlakes @rspb_love_nature

A video posted by Eleanor Lovell (@ellielovell) on


When we returned home from our walk, we discovered from Springwatch Unsprung that the robin had won the vote as Britain’s National Bird. Fitting given our earlier encounter.

The latest addition to the list of birds in my garden is the Goldcrest. At least, i’m 90% sure it is!

Goldcrest © Francis C. Franklin

Goldcrest © Francis C. Franklin

Two very small, chirping birds passed through the garden yesterday, flitting through the lower branches of my fruit trees as I was walking down the garden path.

They were definitely wren-sized, but i’ve seen plenty of wrens before and am pretty sure I would recognise it with it’s cocked tail.

I’ve also seen a good few goldcrests before and I’m pretty sure I glimpsed the gold crest on top of it’s head (you’d never guess where it got its name!).

I just wish i’d had a few seconds longer, or a few footsteps nearer to be 100% sure.

Hopefully it will re-visit soon and reaffirm it’s place on the list!

Now we’re at 24 species:

  1. Robin
  2. Wren
  3. Dunnock
  4. House Sparrow
  5. Blue Tit
  6. Great Tit
  7. Coal Tit
  8. Long-tailed Tit
  9. Blackbird
  10. Starling
  11. Goldfinch
  12. Chaffinch
  13. Greenfinch
  14. Blackcap
  15. Chiffchaff
  16. Willow Warbler
  17. Bullfinch
  18. Great Spotted Woodpecker
  19. Magpie
  20. Wood Pigeon
  21. Jackdaw
  22. Sparrowhawk
  23. Jay
  24. Goldcrest

 

It’s been a while since I picked up a pencil and drew something. But that changed this week… I bought a new sketchbook and started drawing.

And i’m enjoying it (and am quite pleased/surprised with the results).

Drawing of a Starling

My attempt at a Starling

I used to love art at school, and I almost chose it at A-level after doing it at GCSE. But I didn’t. And when I didn’t have to draw, I stopped choosing to draw.

It’s always been something that I wished I’d continued (or wished i’d return to) and i’m pleased that i’ve started, and i’m hoping to continue!

It’s a great way to relax and reflect on the things that I enjoy. You will notice that birds feature quite prominently.

This week's drawings

This week’s drawings

I’m still experimenting with different styles, and i’m hoping to try out a lot more (i’m sure with mixed results!).

Meet my squirrel friend…

I’ve decided to make friends with my garden squirrel

A video posted by Eleanor Lovell (@ellielovell) on

We haven’t always been friends. When we first moved into our house, she would be dangling from the bird-feeders, trying to tear them apart and get to the peanuts. Or dig holes in my far-from-perfect lawn. So I would go out in the garden to scare her off. 

But over time, she started to grow on me. With her regular visits, antics running from tree to tree, gamboling across the grass and brave attempts to pick last season’s dried old fruit from the tree, she was actually pretty entertaining.

This daredevil squirrel outside my window is making me nervous! A video posted by Eleanor Lovell (@ellielovell) on

I decided instead of chasing her off, I would feed her.

When she comes to the garden, I throw a few nuts out on the patio or the path, and each day she gratefully eats them (and often continues to dig holes in my lawn as she buries them in the garden!) but she doesn’t disturb the bird feeders any longer!

Now, she visits at least once a day, and is getting a lot braver and cheekier. And I actually rather like her.

Cheekier by the second (and probably flea-ridden) but so cute and friendly! How can you resist?

A video posted by Eleanor Lovell (@ellielovell) on

Maybe in a future blog post I will tell you about my childhood squirrel friend who I trained to come into the house, through the lounge and halfway up the stairs to retrieve peanuts! Probably not so sensible in hindsight, but a achievement for a young girl who loved animals!

When we inherited our garden, we also inherited two fruit trees – a cherry tree and a plum tree.

I love blossom and always wanted a blossom tree in the garden, so what luck to have two!

The blossom bloomed in mid-April and is still on the trees now (although there’s less with every gust of wind!). It’s like constant confetti.

Garden confetti

A video posted by Eleanor Lovell (@ellielovell) on

As much as I love the blossom, it certainly makes it harder to spot the birds amongst the branches and leaves!

And now we have the cherries and plums to look forward to in the Summer and Autumn. Anyone got any recipes…?

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