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Great Spotted Woodpecker

Snow Days

I’m lucky to have access to Ian Howells Woodland Bird Hide. It’s a nice setup of bird feeders that’s not far from home. I offer to help him fill the feeders, which has proven to be quite a responsibility for him during winter as they need filling at-least 3 times a day.! It’s always worth having a good bird feeder setup to return to on snow days as everything just looks better in the snow. Because of the white bright snow, light is reflected to the underparts of the birds giving you better exposure possibilities in the camera. I was particularly happy with the Great Spotted Woodpecker images as I’ve been after a clean show of the male for a while. Watching him flumping around in the snow was quite amusing.

Before you get too excited, this is an old image at Newport Road Cardiff in January 2017. The reason I’m posting this image as it may just happen for us again this year with the closest sightings so far being Crickhowell and Chepstow. There certainly seems to be the odd small flock in Wales and fingers crossed I’ll get the opportunity again as they are stunning Birds and very photogenic.

Back to the Basics

I don’t mean to use this blog as some kind of depressing therapeutic journal..but I’m not going to pretend that everything’s great for me right now. Times are tough at the moment and I hope that in writing this down it will not just give me a little relief but it might even be relatable to others, and therefor mutually encouraging.

In October last year I wrote my first blog about my own Mental Health issues. It was a massive leap for me to admit that I’m suffering and to ask my Doctor for help. The first lot of tablets didn’t agree with me so counselling seemed to be my only option. I’m now into my second session, and i’m realising now just how deep this issue goes. I’ll talk in more detail about this once my counselling has finished. Hopefully by then I’ll be in a better place to talk about it.

Social Anxiety has always been a massive barrier, Preventing me from reaching simple daily objectives, and recently preventing me from turning up to a public enquiry to save my local Canyon. It was extremely important to me to help save the Canyon and if it wasn’t for the knowledge that it’s being fought by equally passionate people, I’d feel pretty devastated about missing it. The Canyon is a place that I regularly turn to if I need a place to be alone, surrounded by pure serenity and beautiful scenery / wildlife. I hope that the enquiry is going well and wish everyone the best of luck. I have my fingers crossed that the right decision is made.


I haven’t ventured that far just yet but the woodland opposite my house has some great fungi opportunities with Winter Polypore, Jelly Ear, Scarlet Elf-Cups and with the warm temperatures, a 7-spot Ladybird emerged too. That is due to change for a short period with a slight sprinkling of snow today and plummeting temps. Ice can present some nice macro opportunities though so I’ll keep an eye out for that. I just need to get out of the house more.

On the Job front though, I’m still out of work and struggling to find something that isn’t going to make my health worse. I know many people stuck in Jobs that are quite frankly.. shortening their lives. Everyone has had to do a Job that they aren’t comfortable with or don’t like, but my health problems are no longer going to be pushed aside. Concentrating on my health though is coming at a financial cost so I can only hope that things pick up quickly or that I can find a way of selling my photographs.

Being self employed has never been more appealing to me than now. The value of being able to choose your own working hours, working around health and to not have the social pressure and stress that comes from Bosses & Colleagues.. this seems to be the logical step forward but it’s also the most challenging thing I’ve ever done. My self confidence has been knocked quite a bit, with a damaged wrist from working at Llandegfedd, which took away any chance of me falling back on my music career and also any chance of continuing my career in physical conservation work. Just when I seemed to find something that suited me well, in a production company, the social anxiety came back to haunt me. So I’m here now, stripping everything back to the basics, taking pictures that I enjoy and staying well away from people looking to use me to bump themselves up the ladder. It’s time to get myself there instead. There’s no room for selfish, unappreciative people in my life. Oosh that was a rant and a half. Please don’t feel too depressed after reading all that.. Here’s some pictures to make this look like a positive blog.

Patching

Spent a lot of time close to home this weekend. Even walked around Cwmbran Boating Lake which is especially busy on the weekends which I generally try to avoid. Glad I visited though as I did record a Marsh Tit on arrival and had a great time watching early spring behaviour coming from the waterfowl / Great Spotted Woodpeckers that have already lined up a few nesting holes ready for spring. 

Last night I gave my second ever talk, this time at Gwent Ornithological Society' AGM meeting. Still not a massive fan of talking in front of people but it was received well with some very good questions at the end which proved they were listening lol. On a serious note, my talk was on Mimicry in birds, something that is a difficult topic to talk about considering how much mimicry happens day-to-day. 

Today also saw a small flock of Waxwing at Morrisons Carpark in Cwmbran! Finally starting to get some local sightings. They weren't showing very well though due to the activity there, they seemed a bit shy compared to the urban sightings I've had so far. 

Frosty Morning!

Averaging around 0ºc this morning and the birds were really showing a difference in behaviour. On the way to my feeding station I watched a poor Jackdaw getting malled by another Jackdaw and a few Magpies. Birds only really have one thing worth fighting for in the Winter and that's food. Same sort of behaviour at the feeding station also with Blue Tits fighting, rolling on the floor like Dogs! 

Another good morning though and todays surprise visitors came with attitude. Both Great Spotted Woodpecker and Nuthatch were jealously competing for the peanuts before I ran out. 

Had lunch at the visitors centre @ Llandegfedd afterwards and the cold weather had brought in a lot more wildfowl that usual. Red / Fieldfare numbers were quite high too, especially at the north end. The annual Peregrine Falcon's are still using the Osprey Pole as a look out along the mud flats. 

Reflecting on the day

Always up for trying new photography techniques and I've personally not tried this before but had a lot of fun today on a new reflection pool. These are just a select few of my favourites from today. I'll be digging into these files for a while having come home with over 1000 photographs. I'll distribute them throughout the year lol. 

Pairing Up

It's coming to that time of year where a lot of birds are already starting to pair up. These two Great Spotted Woodpeckers look like they've already done so, or at-least he is trying to impress her. This is the same Male that has been performing for me so well and by the looks his hard work is paying off. If you haven't seen the video yet of him performing, here it is once again. 

Llandegfedd Magic / Woodpeckers, Ravens and Long-tailed Tits

Bit of a feature in the last couple days with the Great Spotted Woodpeckers but today I took things to another level and not only brought you pictures and sound recordings but I actually managed to get a short video of a male GSW finding the sweet spot on the wood like I mentioned yesterday. I hope you enjoy the video! 

Here is another recording from the morning session which shows much more enthusiasm from the Male than my last recording. 
 

Something I didn't expect to get today was some decent recordings of a pair of Ravens. They were taking interest in something that I couldn't quite see (which could of been a Goshawk). During this time they were making all kinds of creative noises. At the very start of the recording you'll hear a quiet 'droplet' like sound: that is actually the Raven making that sound. 

The Feeding station was alive again today with a couple of new visitors in the form of 2 Redpoll and numbers of all species are increasing. The Long-tailed Tits are still my favourites though!

Great Spotted Woodpecker Extended

For those who may be interested, Great Spotted Woodpeckers have the ability to hit at the rate between 10-40 SPS (Strikes Per Second) it's this fact that made me curious as to how many strikes our GSW actually manged during one single session, so I studied the recording in a sonograph to find out. Here are the results below: 

Turns out that the most this particular guy hit was around 16 SPS but this was during the middle of the day when they aren't as persistent. It will be interesting to catch them out their best, just to see how many hits they can really manage in 1 second. I think this guy/girl may have been holding back a bit. 13 hits was the average number. It's said that a single male can hit atleast 600 times a day if they haven't found a female yet and only 200 hits if they have found a female. Either way, there will be lots of noise out in the woods leading up to spring so get out there and listen to it for yourself! It's incredible. 

Sound Recording Feature

Sound Recording Feature

While I missed the most of todays Sunny dry weather fixing my shed, I did manage to get out in the evening just before it hammered down with rain yet again. During this time, many birds were singing so I left the Camera at home and spent some time listening to the landscape through a parabolic dish. If you've never had the chance to use a parabola before, you're more than happy to try mine. It's an amazing experience to have 'super ears' that amplifies sounds you never new were even there. It extends your reach meaning you can find individual species much quicker when they are audible. If you remember in my previous blogs I mentioned trying to get a recording of the Great Spotted Woodpeckers drumming and i'm happy to say that I succeeded in getting some recordings of that today. Took a while to find out what branches they were preferring to drum on and took even longer for them to drum with me standing under the tree. Eventually however, they did come around to me and I got this: 

 

After spending time with the Woodpeckers, night was drawing in and with it the evening Chorus began which was surprisingly full for this time of year! I heard Goldcrest, Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Bluetit, Coal Tit, Chaffinch, Blackbird, Dunnock, Robin, Marsh Tit, and finally Song Thrush! one of my all time personal favourites. Below isn't the best recording for their classic mimicry but it was the most clear recording I could get as most of my other recordings had planes flying overhead.. I don't think people realise just how much sound pollution there is.. Put my headphones on with my Telinga Microphone and you'll realise just how noisy we really are on this planet. 

Life Line

If it wasn't for Llandegfedd's Feeding Station this winter, I'd be pretty depressed with all this bad weather! If it's not raining, it's dark and if it's not dark, it's windy! Sat inside a hide is the best way to go when the weather is bad and to be fair, it has got me out of the house more often knowing that I have a dry hide to take refuge in.