As always the most exciting month of the year at the station with the promise of Scandinavian visitors, many hours are sat just listening for the distinctive call of the Brambling, the 17th was the day in question and as usual it was further along and out of site, though a Fieldfare in amongst some Starlings did fly straight towards the car as I was leaving.
Another massive movement of Wood Pigeons was observed, whilst a Peregrine that followed them came back shortly after following a fruitless chase.
The Fieldfare and Redwing started to arrive in small numbers and took up their usual spot on the Hawthorn bushes opposite and I benefitted from the extra reach of the Sigma 150-600mm C to get some shots.
The Crossbill were around and about but never actually at the station, whilst a Yellowhammer turned up very early on the 27th and I was left rueing a picture shot at 3200 iso.
The Buzzard was soon on the new raptor post and the Kites continued to feed even sitting in the trees opposite the car after I had left.
Early Autumn as always is a time of preparation for the forthcoming season, but this summer I took the unprecedented step of putting out some food periodically to give me a head start and was rewarded when a newly fledged Cuckoo appeared as I relaxed in the car.
The logs were repositioned and the reindeer log (as Molly calls it) became the new raptor feeding post. September as always is a waiting game with all the usual suspects coming in and it’s always a buzz to see the Nuthatch come in take a sunflower heart and proceed to hide it somewhere in the vicinity.
The Kites who bred successfully again this year and for the first time had two fledglings were soon back at the site and feeding.
A young Sparrowhawk came in near the end of the month and entertained me by jumping through the trees trying to catch the Finches and Tits off guard but had no luck and promptly started calling to the adults.
The storms and sickness bug saw the end of 2017 at the station finish rather disappointingly but I can have no complaints with the birds added to the species list.
Crossbill in just after breeding and a migratory bird in October was certainly a highlight, a small flock of nine Waxwing caught me by surprise before my curiosity to leave the car saw them fly off.
The appearance of Hawfinch feeding feet away and then five landing opposite before flying north-east is certainly right up there with Great Grey Shrike and Hooded Crow from previous years as a red-letter day, though the latter were both firsts for Blaenau Gwent.
The Kites continued to feed either side of the breeding season and bred successfully in the local area for the second year in succession. The Buzzard now feeds close to the car, whilst the Sparrowhawk visits regularly without perching where I would like, but kills have been recorded on the floor at the logs.
Goshawk and Hen Harrier were observed more than Kestrel, whilst Peregrine flyovers and two youngsters being flushed by the hunt a stone’s throw away were great to see.
The station still never fails to amaze and this month sees it celebrate its eighth anniversary, many thanks to all who shared the car last year and I look forward to seeing you in 2018!
The Autumn/Winter of 2016/17 has certainly sprung a few surprises with the arrival of a Hooded Crow, only the 13th record for Gwent and the first for Blaenau Gwent since records began in 1925.
A weasel turned up in late November and again was a first for the station after almost seven years of feeding, it left as quick as it arrived but adds to the already impressive tick list.
The Brambling again were first recorded in Gwent at the Station in October, but a really disappointing berry crop has left Fieldfare and Redwing only visiting briefly.
One visitor to the Station fell lucky as a male Hen Harrier, female Goshawk, joined the regular birds to enhance his visit.
The Autumn/Winter of 2015/16 turned out to be one of the most exciting in my six years at the site. The ever expanding welsh population of Red Kites which now populate the vicinity became daily visitors from October onwards until I stopped feeding in late March. On many occasions the two birds would sit in the adjacent trees and await my arrival.
The new diet also brought in regular visits from the local Buzzards and Raven, which was a great bonus, on one occasion a Herring Gull joined in the feeding frenzy.
Both male and female Hen Harrier were observed hunting the moorland periodically, whilst Goshawk, Merlin and the Sparrowhawk occasionally showed, the local kestrels were observed almost daily.
At the feeders, all the usual suspects came in within the first week and stayed with two Nuthatch recorded every visit which was a great increase on 2014/15, a Willow Warbler joined a large group of Long Tailed Tit and a migrating Whinchat was on the moorland.
The Brambling caught me out in mid-October (14th) as a beautiful male casually sat on top of a Sunflower head eating as I pulled up in the car, though this was surpassed when a Great Grey Shrike tried to take a Chaffinch at the side of my car (but failed), the air was full of alarming birds until the Shrike was chased back across into the neighbouring valley.
After only ever having two visits in the previous six years a Green Woodpecker was finally photographed on a frosty Sunday morning.
On the mammal front, in mid-September I had a first for the station as a Rat fed for a couple of days before moving on, a Wood Mouse was present for a couple of days, whilst the ever present Bank Vole of the previous season was very scarce in its visits.
The popularity of the station has seen an increase in visitors (please see testimonial page) which has no doubt been due to the Kite an Brambling visitors amongst others.
The temperatures have stayed at a steady 1-3 degrees Celsius throughout the month, with snow, frost, rain etc. all experienced, though yet again recording visits have been few and far between.
23 species have been recorded in or over the station, but numbers of visitors have been really disappointing again down around 75% on previous winters.
Nuthatch have not been recorded since November and that was only one day, they were in daily in previous years.
The Raven are brilliant to watch, the came to see their food that has been put out, fly off and wait for me to leave, yesterday they were feeding before I got off the track and onto the road.
Highlights were a couple of Siskin, Sparrowhawk (see picture) and a Goshawk over on February 9.
The Reed Bunting (7) and Robin (5) have kept me entertained on my visits trying to count them all.
The month started slow, with only six species in on a short visit on December 2, the temperatures ranged between two and seven degrees Celsius throughout the month.
25 species visited or flew over the site during the month, but I must admit that only four recording visits were made for various reasons, ie moving home and illness.
The highlight was a brief visit from a Lesser Redpoll, though it didn't feed, Brambling were not recorded until December 24 (see picture opposite), numbers of birds feeding are down around 75% on previous winters.
The Wood Mouse was present on December 2, but not seen again in month
January 11, 2014
After the station was trashed again for the fourth time recently, I visited yesterday to find the birds were very much in attendance. All the regular suspects were feeding, great to see four Brambling in amongst the finches. The alarm calls of the birds, meant only one thing, a Raptor, this time it was the Merlin again, who seems to use the trees opposite to check out the station. Before leaving I again put more feeding pots up and cleaned up all the trashed items, I got there today (12/1/14) early doors only to be find the station trashed again, human or animal ? I just don't know !
November 11, 2013
Great Grey Shrike
It's true that the Moorland Feeding Station is like a box of chocolates, you never know what your going to get ! As I went to the boot of the car to collect food to fill feeders, the birds soon told me there was an unwelcome visitor about, I looked around to see a massive female Goshawk flying past.
The weather was beautiful today and the wind was very still, which enabled the calls of the Red Grouse just up the road to travel down to the station.
At 9am I was forced to look up by a very noisy group of Chaffinch, they flew to the back end of the station, it was then I noticed the reason for their furore, a Great Grey Shrike.