February 2023

Tuesday 28th. From an avian point of view it has been very quiet of late, needing something of significance to introduce some change. This came in the form of slurry-spreading on the fields behind us, which attracted at least 180 Rooks, 21 Pied Wagtails and 17 Stock Doves to take advantage of what, to them at least, was tasty, tasty, very, very tasty (from an advert for Bran Flakes in the 1980s; hard on the heels of the ‘look, mum, crocodile’ toothpaste ad from the 1960s in my opinion). Anyway, the gathering was sufficient to entice a male Sparrowhawk to take a look in the afternoon as Martin was ploughing in readiness for spring barley to go in.

Sunday 26th. February has been a remarkably benign month and even though there was a chilly NE breeze it was another bright and sunny morning. We took Phil off for his first visit to Lodmoor, where we were rewarded with a Spoonbill, a Marsh Harrier and, for Phil at least, a Kingfisher. We needed to visit B&Q in Weymouth, so parked up at the RSPB centre at Radipole for a coffee and a bun, to be surprised by a party of 18 Black-tailed Godwits, paddling about in the lake at the edge of the reeds. 

In the Six Nations encounter in Paris, both Scotland then France managed to have a player sent off early in the first half, but this probably contributed to a more open and entertaining game, which France eventually won 32-21.

Saturday 25th. The third week of this winter’s Six Nations saw Italy put up a more than spirited display in losing 20-34 in Rome against an Ireland team lacking several key players, but what to say about England’s 20-10 victory in Cardiff? I guess any win in Wales is welcome, but had England been half the side they need to be they would have put the game away long before its conclusion and without the mid-game mess that it turned into.

Thursday 23rd. In a characterful mix of sunshine and ominous cloud, driven on by a cold NE wind, we headed off to Ferrybridge to coincide with high tide and brunch at the café, not necessarily in that order. The food was its usual pleasant self, against a backdrop of around 400 Med. Gulls, 180 Brent Geese and, as the tide fell away, 240 Dunlin and a solitary Knot.

Wednesday 22nd. Having spent yesterday feeling knackered after Monday’s exertions it was good to get a decent night’s sleep. Waking to a calm but foggy morning, having had some light but apparently persistent overnight rain a Goldcrest was fiddling about in the hedge across the road; the first we’ve seen here outside September – November and, maybe, a sign of some early spring shuffling about. While on the subject, the first Lesser Black-back of the year was in the field opposite yesterday, with several Med. Gulls in full summer plumage. Dig those eyelids, man.

Monday 20th. We left home in drizzle, so it was a relief to arrive at Arne RSPB reserve with some watery sun peeking through the clouds, as well as a car park adorned with Nuthatches, Siskins and Coal Tits. We walked up on to Coombe Heath overlooking the estuary and creeks below, but failed to find much of interest and our luck continued along the Shipstal side of the reserve, with Dartford Warblers and Spoonbills remaining elusive. Still, it was good to be able to walk 3-4 miles after feeling so tired last week and lunch in the café was very pleasant.

Sunday 19th. A late arrival ensured that our walk around Radipole wouldn’t be very exciting but as we left the cottage a Small Tortoiseshell hove into view in front of the car; our first butterfly of 2023. Hooray! There were also 20 deer in the field behind us, which is a new World Record for here.

Saturday 18th. An increasingly dull day with some light rain in the afternoon was notable for the appearance of a Peregrine, hunting over the fields on the ridge to the south.

Thursday 16th. It was foggy again this morning, but at least 50 Goldfinches were at our feeders or in the elms above the pond this morning. That’s the most we’ve recorded here. As the fog lifted just before midday 11 Redwings and a Fieldfare appeared in the hedge behind us; the first here for over a month.

Wednesday 15th. The dawn chorus is just beginning to pick up and this morning contained a Song Thrush for the first time this year. We were joined later by Chris Cox and Mark Love who had journeyed down from Kent and Sussex, respectively, and enjoyed a lunch at the wacky Billy Winters at Ferrybridge. Believe it or not, we also enjoyed some afternoon rain; the first for about a month.

Tuesday 14th. Spent the day feeling tired, possibly resulting from yesterday’s immunotherapy session, though the effects of those I’ve had seem to vary enormously. Still, by the evening I felt better and on returning from a trip to Chickerell to obtain wine to complement our moussaka a Barn Owl flew across Grove Lane, a place we’ve seen it previously.

Monday 13th. Shopping in the morning and my third session of immunotherapy in the afternoon left very little time for anything else. Still, as seems to have gone well enough.

Sunday 12th. England adopted the novel approach (by recent standards) of playing players in their accustomed positions and they ran out comfortable winners against a rather subdued Italy, who still had their moments even though they lost 30-14 in the end.

Saturday 11th. The second week of this season’s Six Nations featured a clash between the two top-ranked teams in the game; Ireland and France. As hoped, it was a superb encounter that was always going to be won rather than lost and Ireland ran out 32-19 winners, though the try count of 4-1 probably said more. In the second match Scotland beat a woeful Wales 35-7 and it has to be said that Warren Gatland, the Wales coach, appears to have the job of making a silk purse from a sow’s ear. Sorry times for the Welsh, though they will still be up for England when they meet in Cardiff, needless to say.

Wednesday 8th. A heavy frost was only half way through lifting when we arrived at Wareham Forest on another beautiful cloudless and calm day. As with Powerstock a week or so ago the quietness was a reminder that we are still in mid-winter. However, Crossbills were heard fairly regularly throughout, a chattering flock of Siskins was feeding at the highest point we reached and as we left two Nuthatches were found in the spectacular old oaks near the main road.

Tuesday 7th. I felt a bit tired after yesterday’s exertions and a bad night’s sleep, but we went out for a pre-dinner stroll along the old railway line. At least 6 Chiffchaffs were fiddling about in the bushes bordering the track, with a Goldcrest fairly unusual around here.

Monday 6th. The news came this morning of a huge earthquake in eastern Turkey, centred on Gaziantep where a bunch of us spent some memorable birding time in 1988 and 1989. It is enormously sad to think that such warm people have to endure something like this and that it appears to have affected a huge area, in Syria as well as in Turkey.

On the bright side, it was a lovely winter day, enticing us to visit Lytchett Bay outside Poole. It was not the most productive visit as Karen’s meetings prevented us from coinciding with high tide, but we still added Avocet for the year and Treecreeper in the woods surrounding the bay, as well as Goldcrest and Siskin. We also took a look at Lytchett Fields RSPB reserve (photograph below), which was created in 2012/13 when the sea wall was breached. Although only Lapwings were on view, this must be a really good spot either side of high tide.

Sunday 5th. Tony and Chrissie set off for Birmingham after lunch, leaving us to watch Italy come within a squeak of beating France in Rome. They played well enough to suggest that England need to get their act together before next week’s encounter with the Italians at Twickenham.

Saturday 4th. Gill departed this morning, having been here since last Saturday, to be replaced by Chrissie and Tony, who arrived not long after lunchtime. Being the first weekend of the Six Nations, we spent the afternoon watching Ireland beat Wales comfortably enough in Cardiff, then endured the predictable torture of England v Scotland at Twickenham. For their part, England seem to have developed a new playing style that involves not tackling their opponents and their porous defence allowed the Scots to come away with a narrow but deserved win.

To round off the day we went to a ceilidh at Portesham village hall, which attracted around 60 people, most of whom seemed to enjoy themselves immensely. One guy was yellow-carded for a no-arms tackle on a woman in the next line but otherwise it went without mishap. As for us, it was a reminder of why we’ve never been to one before.

Wednesday 1st. From an avian point of view today was synonymous with most of the winter so far, with only 15 species recorded from the garden. In fact, January was the first month since we moved here when we’ve failed to reach the 40-mark, so this winter so far has been very different to last year’s.

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