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WELL I NEVER NOTICED THAT!

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It's quite early in the morning and I'm going for my lockdown permitted walk although why we have to use the word permitted is a mystery. The sun is shining and there is little wind as I leave the house. Today I have decided to take a slightly different and longer route. Also today I have decided to look at other things like trees, the woods I walk in and the bluebells I look at every day, thinking "WOW" they are so gorgeous then walk past them. For today is a new dawn! Well, not really just in a better mood, my permitted mood of the day is 😊 until it changes that is.
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I have seen the Peregrin this morning and that's made me happier because I was afraid it had abandoned the nest, but I am assured that the nest is in tact and being tended to proficiently. This information comes from a chap called Graham Todd, now I have lived in this village for 24 years and in that time or for as long as I can remember I have read Hillam News. A wonderful part of Hillam News is the birding column, written by Graham every month and it's good, very good and for all these years it has played a part in my obsession with birds.

I had never met Graham and had no idea where he lived other than in Hillam. As I said I was walking in my happy mood and when I, along with my wife entered the woods, we noticed a man with binoculars walking towards us. We exchanged pleasantries at the permitted distance and I asked if he was local and the rest is history because I had now met Graham Todd, the man the mystery and the birding guru that had shaped much of my birding for so many years.

I am very happy to say we now exchange text and email sightings almost every day at the permitted distance of course and that distance is about three gardens or so, he lives just around the bloody corner.
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Now enough about Graham, and onto butterflies trees and landscapes. At this time of year everything looks pristine, brand-new and noteworthy. The trees are in full blossom butterflies look beautiful like they were born yesterday, they probably were. And without all the pollution in lockdown Britain the air is clear and full of oxygen it makes you glad to be alive.

The peacock butterfly at the top of this page and the wonderful Hairy Backed common butterfly above we're on the same path basking in the Sun. What? Never heard of the hairy backed common? It's actually a new species found locally and only identified by me. That could be a load of Tosh it could in fact be masking my inability to identify this beautiful butterfly. I have scoured the books including the Collins guide to butterflies and cannot match this one exactly. I am sure it will be common and widespread, it looks like, well a bit like Vanessa Atlanta but I suspect not. Maybe even a Fratillary of some kind from the genus Nimphalidae, or just a Painted Lady. If you know, email me, if you don't know, please spend hours and hours researching it and email me to let me know as I would genuinely love to know.
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Above is a Cherry blossom tree (Prunus) apparently frequented by a Little Owl a gentleman told me, but I pass this tree most days and have not seen it for myself. Just over a small track from this tree is a very healthy and very noisy flock of Skylark. They are almost impossible to photograph, they are either too fast or too far away so I was lucky to accidentally get the shot below, not great but adequate for identification.
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Let's talk yellowhammers, yellowhammers are definitely near the top of my favourite birds list. They are definitely near the top of my bird sounds list. They scream from the treetops "a little bit of bread and no cheese pleeeeease" listen to the recording and say it to yourself and you will never forget the sound of this mighty start to spring.
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Tree Pipits and Meadow Pipits! I can't believe I'm going here. First of all the only way to tell the difference without really good views is sound. Their calls and Song is quite different.

Meadow pipits below (immediately) are usually lighter and can appear biscuit coloured like this one. But sound is the tool of choice unless you are very confident and have seen many of both in different seasons and different landscapes, they vary enormously.

These photo's were taken just the other day along with the Tree Pipits within the same tree group on the edge of farmland east of Burton Salmon.
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The Tree Pipit below as you can see is markedly different this one is much darker and more heavily marked with a darker head more pronounced striping and a whiter eye ring. I was fortunate enough to spend up to half an hour listening to this one singing, there were at least five Meadow pipit and four Tree Pipit in the same group of trees.

Right: Another Tree Pipit with its very distinctive song.
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TREE PIPIT

MEADOW PIPIT

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Above: Just because I love them, there are literally hundreds around where I live, they are fearless and quite cheeky, the Goldfinch.

Below: I have never seen any of these where I live and had it not been for these strange times, maybe I wouldn't have, Grey Partridge.
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ANOTHER LOCKDOWN WEEK

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Its Monday and 6.20 in the morning, my first day of not working, I have been awake precisely five seconds and all I can hear is the loudest Chiffchaff in the universe. This Chiffchaff sounds like it's in the bedroom, which is amazing because I can usually hear the odd Chiffchaff throughout the year, but far far away and definitely not in my bedroom. I have to my knowledge never had one in my garden either.

The next thing I do is a big mistake, I grabbed my wife's shoulders and shake vigorously in fact over enthusiastically vigorously "a Chiffchaff, a Chiffchaff, a Chiffchaff" Outside the window, can you hear it, can you can you? Now with arms flailing and fists clenched she tries unsuccessfully to take my head off but she was in the wrong position. She was however in the correct position to get the brass bedside lamp! A superb start to the day, a Chiffchaff.
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I didn't know it but my day was about to get better, much much better. I went downstairs and looked into the back garden, the sun was shining and the usual Blackbirds were around and about in the garden. At this time of year we also get a pair of Pied Wagtails, they have been coming for at least seven years. They always look brand new and I knew that within a few days they would be collecting nest material and making a brand new family in the neighbours garden somewhere out of sight and secluded.

I grabbed my camera and binoculars and a large cup of coffee and sat in the garden looking and listening to the proper sound of spring, this was going to be a brilliant day of lockdown. I had made my wife a cup of coffee and as we sat 6 feet apart with her staring at me we contemplated our day.

Do you fancy coming on my walk with me I asked, yes she said with a smile. That always made me feel uneasy! As we sat in the sunshine three Buzzards appeared overhead and I grabbed my camera they kept getting closer and closer and I was able to obtain the shots below.

Maureen had gone to make a 2nd cup of coffee and I could see two birds very high up in the sky and quite far away. As they got slightly closer I could see immediately that these were Falcons of some kind, but they were very high in the sky. I once again grab my camera and started taking photographs, some of these shots are below but of very poor quality but you can see that they are indeed Peregrine Falcons.
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I now, could not believe my luck. I have lived in this house for 25 years and never once seen a Peregrine Falcon anywhere near where I lived. I even started doubting myself, was this a misidentification, was I still asleep or was I concussed, waking from my brass induced semi coma?

All the time this was going on, the Chiffchaff was getting even closer to the back garden and within a few minutes he was in my trees singing his head off. He still is now as I type this up.

I got some new birdseed yesterday, two 15kg bags of mixed seed and a 20kg bag of sunflower hearts and a 2kg bag of Mealworms. My idea was to mix it all together to make a superfood for all the birds that grace my garden. With the mix done and all the feeders full to the brim we set off on our 4 1/2 mile walk. The walk takes us completely off-road through farmland and mixed woodland and back and usually we never see a soul.
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It really is a beautiful walk in the sunshine but a mud bath in bad weather. However today the sun is shining brightly. As we walk past the "horse fields" there is a huge electricity pylon just to our left, as we walk past this pylon I could hear the sound of a Peregrine Falcon. I looked back and after a few seconds picked up the Falcon in my binoculars it was way up at the top of the pylon screeching and calling, but why?

After a few minutes of watching I could see nesting material being brought in, this is now very very exciting.
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Now, is this the most stupid of Pigeons, I think it was saying "who's there"



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