Tag Archives: greenfinch

Clumber Park

We decided to use our new National Trust membership yesterday with a late visit to Clumber Park.

There is no house now. After a number of problems, including fires, declining fortune and death duties the house was demolished in 1938. A house that once had 105 rooms (and a dining room that seated 150) was brought to nothing, though statues and fountains were removed for reuse. The contents were sold – the Library sale raised £70,000 and the rest of the contents for £60,000 – a total of £130,000 (around £6,000,000 at 2017 values). There are rumours that the house as rebuilt in Arizona, but nobody can say where.

It wasn’t just a house that disappeared,  a whole way of life disappeared along with the houses. It wasn’t just this house that went either.  Since 1900 0ver a thousand country houses have been lost. Causes include social change (lack of servants), declining income, taxation (with death duties up to 80%) and damage from the military during the war.

Despite this, there is still plenty to see, including the Chapel (which looks more like a Church to me) and a four acre walled kitchen garden which contains a 450 foot greenhouse and 135 varieties of rhubarb.

There is also a Lake, which is what we went to see. It’s 87 acres, so it’s a lot bigger than the duck pond at Arnot Hill.

To be honest, despite the Greek temple and bridge, the lake isn’t that interesting. The bird life was also rather dull – no Mandarin, no cross-breeds and no Pochards. The trees on the lake’s edge did, however, provide food and shelter for a flock of Bramblings, which was worth the trip as I haven’t seen any for years. They have a profile very much like a Chaffinch, and come to visit from Scandinavia each winter.

They kept flying round, making it difficult to count them, but there were about 40 of them. Despite that it was still tricky getting a good photo.

There was also a small flock of Greenfinches masquerading as something interesting.

We’ll have a longer visit next time.


It’s amazing what you find in the shrubbery

Birds, Butterflies and Blogging

To be accurate the title really should be Birds and Blogging as there are no butterflies about, so if you have come here looking for butterflies I must apologise.

I’ve just been talking to a pair of birdwatchers who were going round the nature trail. The birds decided to cooperate for once and as we spoke we saw Goldfinches, Greenfinches, Great Tits, Blue Tits, Chaffinches, a House Sparrow, a male Reed Bunting and a Robin. Two pairs of bullfinches and half a dozen fieldfares flew past too. That means I’ve seen as many bullfinches in a week as I normally see in a year.

They had seen Pied Wagtails, Bullfinches in the hedgerows and Linnets drinking from a puddle on the way round.

I filled the feeders in the middle of the morning and one of the Goldfinches refused to fly off until I was three feet away. It started trying to stare me down when I was about twelve feet away and almost growled at me…

They are much more aggressive than I realised. If it was five feet taller I really wouldn’t fancy my chances against it.

Julia is having a day off. It’s the first day she’s missed in five years so I suppose I can allow it. She’s at the graduation of Number One son. He didn’t bother going to the ceremony when he graduated from his first degree but now he has a second he’s decided to go. The fact his girlfriend is graduating at the same time may have some bearing on his new-found eagerness for academic ceremonial.

Julia described the whole affair as “Like Hogwarts without the Sorting Hat.”

The dance rehearsals went well this morning, and the group has been producing friendship bracelets under instruction from Dave, our co-founder. Julia and Dave were working for Nottingham City council when she was told she had to re-apply for her job and he came to the end of a fixed term contract. Somehow this led to a discussion that became Quercus Community. I can’t complain because this turned out to be the best job in the world for the last five years. It doesn’t pay much, but I do have plenty of time for birds, butterflies and blogging. I also get to do things that don’t begin with “B” but I can’t be bothered to list them all. The range of words describing my activities over the last five years start with alpaca and end with zoology so it’s been interesting.

It’s Dave’s birthday soon and we’ve had cake to celebrate. He’s claiming to be “thirty next birthday” and everyone is nodding politely. I will make no comment.

As you can see from the photos, he threw himself fully into the choreography, though when I asked the group who was the problem in the Dreamcoat number they were unanimous in pointing him out.



New pictures on Individual Pages

I’ve just put some new pictures up on the individual pages, if you want to see what people are up to. As you can see from the featured image, which shows us at lunch yesterday, life isn’t exactly hectic at the moment.

Julia fell over last night when we were tidying up and bruised her hip. I call it her hip, from a sense of delicacy. Wherever the bruise is sited, it is causing considerable discomfort when she sits, and a lesson in why it is bad to carry hard objects in your back pockets.

When I suggested that the blog needed a photograph of the bruise for documentary purposes she was most uncooperative.

I really think she doesn’t take my social media work seriously.

It’s been a reasonable day for birds, with a wren hiding somewhere round the compost bin and scolding me constantly as I was working with the poultry. I’ve also seen the brightest goldfinch I’ve ever seen, so I’m wondering if it has just completed its moult.

Apart from that the big event of the day has been the constant laughing call of a green woodpecker coming from the trees between us and the road. As usual in summer I can’t see it because of all the leaves, but I’ve been able to hear it for several hours. The call is supposed to be a sign of rain.

As the sky is grey and there is a damp feel to the air I’m sure the bird is right. I do hope so, because some of the vegetables are looking distinctly done in by the constant hot, dry weather.

Of course, it won’t suit the farmers…

Birds, birds, birds…

We washed the bird feeders this morning. It’s one of those jobs that I usually put off as I much prefer watching birds feed to washing grubby feeders. After trying to sterilise some with boiling water last year I’m also a little worried about melting them.

It’s clear from looking at them that several of the feeders have design faults that mean you can’t clean them properly. One now has damp seed trapped in its base, which must be worse than not cleaning it at all, and another quite clearly allows peanuts to fester in the base. They are both very cheap feeders so I can’t complain, but for £1.50 I’m not going to persist with them; I will just buy some that are easier to clean.

In around 1969, after reading The Bird Table Book by Tony Soper, I became very keen on feeding birds, and one of my milestones was the winter when greenfinches started to feed in quantity. From being exotic visitors (compared to the sparrows, chaffinches and starlings that formed the bulk of our garden birds) they rapidly became bullies, because there were just so many of them.

Times change, and after Trichomonas gallinae, swept through the greenfinch population (reducing it by over a third) they aren’t the force they once were. The parasite is thought to be spread by access to dirty feeding equipment, which is why I’m trying to keep ours clean.

Our bullies on the feeders are now jackdaws and goldfinches, and the greenfinches and house sparrows are now uncommon visitors.

Talking of jackdaws, they were on one of the feeders when we arrived this morning – using the support from the flat feeder pan as a perch to attack the peanuts. I have now made a number of changes, which include removing the flat pans and supports. It means that the robins and blackbirds won’t have anywhere to feed, apart from the floor, but I will think of something for them as soon as I can. I’ve also bought a new feeder to supply suet pellets, so they smaller birds are still getting a high energy diet.

Currently we have a couple of jackdaws stalking round and looking puzzled.

The squirrel-proof fat ball feeder at the back of the centre doesn’t stop the jackdaws but it does slow them down, so we will continue using that until we finish the remaining fat balls.  The feeder in the hedge has been replaced with a seed feeder. We get tits and sparrows there on the fat balls, so they should be able to cope with the seeds.

That’s it, apart from a touch of hypocrisy. Shortly after restocking the feeders we had a great spotted woodpecker come to visit the feeding station. To be honest, I’m very pleased it did. They are colourful, and though they aren’t rare, we haven’t had one on the feeder before. The hypocrisy comes into play when you consider they raid nests (and beehives!). The beehives are still a sore point. They aren’t much different from a crow in that respect, but because they are colourful, I tend to forgive them.

As luck would have it, Julia had the new camera out in the field when I needed it, so I had to use the old one to photograph the woodpecker. Isn’t that always the way?



Nature Notes

I say nature notes, but it’s mainly birds and butterflies. I’m trying to learn more about plants and insects but I don’t learn things as quickly as I used to.

We had two Swallows fly by last Thursday and another one yesterday. Working on the basis that one Swallow doesn’t make a summer it looks like we are well on the way. We also saw two House Martins at the weekend.

We have seen more Brimstones in the last week than we saw in the whole of last year. Well, to be accurate, I suppose it is more accurate to say we have had more Brimstone sightings – it could well just be one very active butterfly. The only time I spotted one land…yes, you guessed it…no camera.

The struggle with Jackdaws continues. They have started on the one at the back of the centre now, though it is quite obvious so this isn’t a surprise. The one concealed in the hedge has attracted some good birds, but the Jackdaws have spotted that one too. They don’t bother with it too much, so it might be OK. On the main feeder I’ve replaced the fat balls with peanuts so fat ball consumption is down and the smaller birds are able to eat without disturbance. I’m considering ordering some squirrel-proof fat ball feeders as the next step.

It’s quite strange at the moment. We have a pair of Greenfinches coming to one feeder, and a pair of House Sparrows on another. They used to be so common I wouldn’t have bothered mentioning them, but they have both suffered massive declines since those days and it’s good to think we have a few around.

Meanwhile, we have regular Buzzards over the farm and plenty of Red Kites nearby, as I may have mentioned. In the days of my youth (as I say more and more often these days) I can remember when we had to travel to Wales, Cornwall or the Lake District to see Buzzards, and when there were only 20 pairs of Red Kites in the UK (all in Wales).

The strangest sighting of the week has been a Heron that circled overhead for about ten minutes like a massive bird of prey. I managed to get a few distant shots but as it came closer and gave me a good view my batteries failed and the camera locked. I was not impressed. It perched in a tree for a while (hidden by foliage) before starting to circle and making a raucous cry. I don’t know what it was all about, as we don’t have any significant water about. Later that day it came back for a couple more circuits. It may be some sort of breeding behaviour but who can tell?

Birds can be very strange.