Tawny owl

The last couple of nights have produced Tawny owls calling to each other, mostly by the sound of it, actually on the farm or adjacent to it.

Looking back at previous diaries it is clear that it is typically about this time that we begin to hear them calling on a regular basis, commonly, though not exclusively, on clear frosty nights. Not knowing much about their ecology I would nevertheless imagine that at this time they are going about setting up territories and attracting mates. In this area their numbers still seem good despite those last two horrendous winters !! It is great to lie in bed at night and listen to that haunting sound echoing across the farm.


A really frosty day !

Probably the coldest day of the winter so far here at Willowbog Farm.

Not much chance of recording any water birds on this pond today !

Frozen from end to end, a little open water at the inlet that’s all.

Half in the sun and half still covered with frost.

The full side in the sun , cannot really include this monitor lizard in our list of reptiles and amphibians !  Still 16 different species of birds today though , so not a bad January day.

Hardest frost of winter so far !

The main pond appeared completely frozen over at dawn today and I expected to be saying that the swans return had been short-lived, however, as the light improved it was apparent that they had a small patch of clear water which they were sharing with a pair of mallard. As I write the temperature is again well below freezing and I will be surprised if they keep any area of water ice-free tonight so expect them to be gone in the morning, we shall see !  With the mild winter so far we have seen little of the normal seasonal thrushes in evidence, but coincidence or not ……………

There was a smallish, fifty or so in number, flock of Fieldfare about the farm today. We have not seen Redwing at all yet this winter. The day’s respectable total of 20 species was helped by 3 raptors, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Common Buzzard.  It has been a near perfect winters day, clear, sunny and calm !

They are back !

Our Mute swans returned at about mid-morning today , at least they look like the pair of swans we have seen off and on for some weeks now  !  A total of 18 different species for today, a bit disappointing given what a nice day it has been weather wise, cold, but bright and sunny and quite calm.

During the breeding season we see the above species, Reed bunting, almost everyday, but I am pretty sure that at least a few individuals are resident with us all year round. We have recorded this bird most days recently actually in the garden, though it is not clear that they are availing themselves of any of the food types that we put out.  Until we purchased the surrounding 12 hectares and created the various pond and wetland areas, in 1990, we hardly ever saw Reed bunting, it is certainly one of the many successes of our attempts to improve the diversity of Willowbog’s habitats.


20 different species of birds today on or around the farm, so not bad for a January day. Interesting to record 4 members of the Corvid family !

I mentioned Jays the other day , which we saw today also , but we now see Magpies just about every day, whereas they used to be a species seen here only rarely, the change brought about by the same reason, ie. improved habitat, that I talked about in relation to the change in the Jay status for us. The third member of the crow family seen today is Carrion crow which has always featured regularly on our daily lists. The fourth Corvid seen today is an altogether more impressive bird !

Ravens have been becoming steadily more commonly seen in this area for about the last 3 years, it is a pretty much nation wide phenomenon which is likely to be down to reduced persecution of this magnificent bird. I am fairly sure that a pair bred not far from Willowbog last year.  If we were a little further into the spring I might easily have noted 5 members of the family, adding jackdaw to the list. For some reason we hardly ever observe Jackdaws at ground or tree level on the farm but in the spring we regularly record an overhead movement of the species. Usually my attention is drawn  to the generally small flocks as they pass over by the very distinctive call and it is one of my favourite bird sounds.


Todays activities

The mute swans flew away today and at dark had not returned, let’s hope that they are just stretching their wings and will be back soon.

There are lots of these little birds feeding in and around the garden just now. The Brambling is a member of the finch family and is a winter visitor to these shores, quite Chaffinch like .

Todays birds

Most of the usual suspects in and around Willowbog today despite a fairly drizzly, murky sort of day. All 4 species on the main pond, swans, mallard, moorhen and goldeneye. An interesting aspect of these daily records  [ we are starting on our 21st. continuous  year of recording the birds on and around the farm ]  is the way that the different species can come and go, or not , as the case may be !

The bird in this photo [ which is not mine by the way ] the Jay, is a species that we really hardly ever saw here until less than a year ago. Now there are a couple, sometimes 3 that are becoming almost everyday birds on the list. My guess is that this will mainly be because the various tree and shrub plantings that we have done is reaching a degree of maturity which provides the sort of cover that this species requires,  they are to be seen partaking of the fat-balls as well as peanuts.