Thursday, 31 March 2016

Big Garden Birdwatch Results

The RSPB have today published the results of their annual Big Garden Birdwatch survey. As ever, it’s fascinating reading and I thought I would compare the national results with the ones from my garden.
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As you can probably see the results are actually fairly similar. It is worth remembering that whilst the national results are a good snapshot of current bird populations, the local results do not necessarily give an entirely accurate snapshot of local visitors.
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It is of little surprise that house sparrows and starlings came in first and second respectively as they are by far the two most common species in my garden. The numbers are pretty similar between the two species here and it seems to be that there is almost continuously a flock of one species or the other feeding at a time, although rarely are there large group of both at the same time.
I don’t tend to get that many blue tits here which goes against the national trend. They do visit regularly but far less often that collared doves and blackbirds. Goldfinches, chaffinches and great tits all appeared on the national list but didn’t visit my garden that day but actually they are all regular visitors and I would expect them to appear in the top 10 if I did a more scientific study.
The other visitor on the national list that I don’t have listed is the long-tailed tit. They are rare visitors here although a flock did pass through a few weeks ago. The RSPB is speculating that due to the mild winter more smaller birds have survived, hence their appearance on that list. I am inclined to agree with this view as I have seen many more small birds around the local area than I would usually at this time of year.
A few birds on my list didn’t make the national list. The goldcrest was a surprise visitor and that big garden birdwatch weekend was the only time I’ve ever seen one in the garden! Dunnocks and collared doves are very common visitors here, both would usually be the top 5.
We only ever have one feral pigeon visit and it is a well-groomed bird that would look totally out of place amongst the messy ones in town centres. It is a regular visitor though and has been for around two years now. It seems to like hanging around with a wood pigeon. I’m not sure if it’s a lonely bachelor or whether it is partial to some inter-species breeding (unsure if that’s possible with pigeons) but either way it spends a lot of time eating our bird food.
Well I hope that was of interest and I’m already looking forward to next year’s Big Garden Birdwatch! For more detailed national and regional results, check out the RSPB page.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Castleman Trailway

Back in the golden age of British railways Ringwood had a railway line which ran right through it. This was closed as part of the Beeching cuts and has led to the modern town having terrible travel links. But it’s not all bad as parts of the old railway line have now been turned into footpaths. The Castleman Trailway goes all the way to the town of Poole but this post focuses on the section that goes through Ringwood, which I visited yesterday.
The part of the trailway nearest to me goes straight through farmland. There’s not a whole lot to see on this section but the path is surrounded by bushes and trees either side so you can see lots of small birds and butterflies. There seemed to be a plethora of house sparrows yesterday and a few early butterflies like a peacock and (I think) some clouded yellows. The edge of the path seems to be quite good for wildflowers too:
There’s a short walk by the side of a few roads before reaching the next section of the trailway, which is very close to the centre of the town. This is my favorite section as it follows the river Avon as it meanders through the farmland. Because it’s all floodplain this is one area you can guarantee will be safe from development.
DSCF0559.JPG The Avon has lots of your usual river birds like mallards and mute swans as well as some slightly less common species like little egrets and grey herons.
Mute Swan and Little Egret
Spot the heron!
The floodplains sometimes have lapwings on but on my visit yesterday there seemed to be quite a few corvids- crows, rooks, and magpies. At points where the river is slightly further away from the path there are trees either side of the path which house various bird species- I saw blackbirds, robins, blue tits, long-tailed tits and chaffinches. 
As well as being a haven for wildlife the trailway is simply a nice place to be. There are several old railway bridges which cross the river, including one which still has the remains of track alongside it:
There’s also lovely views of Ringwood’s town church (and I saw some fallow deer just in front of the reeds not long before I took this photo):
The trailway is a great place to walk and cycle and not bad for wildlife either!

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Lymington-Keyhaven Nature Reserve

Last weekend I walked a small section of the Lymington-Keyhaven Nature Reserve. Managed by Hampshire County Council it has raised walkways with salt marsh lagoons on one side and the Solent on the other. Together with the nearby Wildlife Trusts Keyhaven and Pennington Reserve it’s an extensive coastal habitat.
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It’s clear Spring is well on the way now as there was considerably more bird activity in the salt marshes than there was in my last visit in early January. There was a wide variety of waders including sandpipersdunlins, oystercatchers and groups of sanderlings. Of course there were also various waterfowl like mallards and pochards as well as a Little Egret, which has become a common bird to see at any local river in recent years. There were also a fair few brent geese around and the occasional lapwing. Sadly without a long lens it’s quite tricky to photograph birds down in the salt marsh so the only thing I got was this distant lapwing:
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My best wildlife photo of the day was actually of a black-headed gull. I like the way it’s eyes seem to be popping out of it’s head if you look closely:
My non-avian spot of the day was three roe deer, two female and one young male with rather underwhelming antlers. These were seen in the fields on my way to the reserve and I would have got a decent photo were it not for a frustratingly loud family disturbing them.
Here’s a lovely view of the Solent:
And this isn’t very nature-y but here’s the very expensive yachts at the yacht marina:
It’s a really nice reserve which is a short walk from the town centre and free to visit. I hope to go back again soon and perhaps explore the Southern parts of the reserve.

Sunday, 13 March 2016

Dan Goes Wild

Hello and welcome to Dan Goes Wild, a new wildlife blog. My name is Dan and I shall be sharing with you my adventures in the great outdoors as well as discussing wildlife news and environmental issues from Britain and the beyond.
First of all, some context to where I live. Currently I live in the town of Ringwood which is in the South of England.
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Ringwood is a small town that lies in between the larger town of Bournemouth and the city of Southampton. Technically it’s in Hampshire but only just- we’re closer to most places in Dorset than those in Hampshire. We’re also right on the edge of the New Forest National Park, although not quite in it- when the national park was created a few years back Ringwood was deliberately left outside the border so that it wouldn’t face the stricter building quotas of the national park.
All this means is that I live in an excellent place for wildlife. Ringwood itself is mostly surrounded by farmland and with the New Forest, the river Avon and the coast all within a few miles its perfect.
I shall be posting pictures and reports about the wildlife I see both in my garden and the immediate vicinity as well as trips to nearby nature hotspots.