First of Five Walks

European Robin - First of Five Walks
First of Five Walks

The early morning sun was slowly spreading its golden rays across the frosty landscape, as I entered the patch this morning. My route today, saw me starting off walking through the old churchyard; and admiring the early snowdrops that have sprung up under an enormous tree; then heading across the crisp, frost covered, cattle fields and down onto the old lock path.

There were little in the way of birds through this early part of the walk. The odd Blue Tit; or Blackbird, but things soon picked up. Today, the First of Five Walks this week.

First of Five Walks

Winding my way along the old lock path, I was pleased to hear all manner of small birds, usually Dunnocks, Robins or the odd Chaffinch, but on such a bitterly cold morning it amazed me how spring like the birds songs were making it, after all I could clearly see my own breath as the harsh air caught on my lungs.

Leaving the old lock itself, a distant “yaffle” of a Green Woodpecker could be heard along side the rapid drumming of a Great Spotted Woodpecker, whose echoing sound rattled through the air. Good signs of things to come hopefully, and a clear sign that spring is just around the corner (there were more signs of the approaching season change to come later).

The River Route

Passing through the ancient cattle creep and heading along the river path, the extent of the frost was made more apparent as the silky dark feathers of the local Moorhens stood out brilliantly against the grey, ice tinged grass. And as Mallards and Canada Geese fought the strong current of the fast flowing Great Ouse a Grey Heron barked out it’s croaky call and leapt into the sky startled by my slow approach.

Common Moorhen - River Ouse, Wolverton, Milton Keynes
Common Moorhen – River Ouse, Wolverton, Milton Keynes


Common Moorhen - River Ouse, Wolverton, Milton Keynes
another of the Common Moorhen – River Ouse, Wolverton, Milton Keynes


Common Moorhen - River Ouse, Wolverton, Milton Keynes
Common Moorhen – River Ouse, Wolverton, Milton Keynes

Crossing the small board-walk, a male Pheasant could be heard coughing repeatedly. And I soon spotted him, creeping along the fence line. However as I raised my camera to grab a few photos of him, in all his orange, shining brilliance a small dog appeared at my side and he was off in a whir of feathers.

I could clearly see that the vast majority of water on the Manor Farm lakes was in fact a solid sheet of thickening ice. And the camp-site lakes to my left were little different. A few ducks and other water birds were managing to find the odd watery gap. And I soon counted off 2 Goosander (male and female); a lone Pochard; good numbers of Tufted Duck and Gadwall; and a single Great-Crested Grebe still in his winter attire.

A Firendly Robin

As I passed a few calling Great Tits alarmed at my presence and snarling with their harsh, rasping alarm call, I soon came upon a very friendly Robin, in fact he flew in and landed mere inches from me (too close to even photograph, so I had to keep retreating in order to capture a few shots of this bold bird. I left the robin alone with a few treats (some tasty meal worms) that I had kept in my pocket, for just such an occasion and carried on my journey.

Alarmed Great Tit - Manor Farm, Milton Keynes
Alarmed Great Tit –  Manor Farm, Milton Keynes


Confiding Robin, on the floor - Manor Farm, Milton Keynes
Confiding Robin, on the floor – Manor Farm, Milton Keynes


Robin on a post
Robin on a post


Robin perched on a bench - Manor Farm, Milton Keynes
Robin perched on a bench – Manor Farm, Milton Keynes

As I passed a half open five bar gate, and the small coppice of trees that is often home to a treecreeper or two (alas none today), I managed to fire off a few shots of a very obliging Winter Wren, in fact I think the photo below is my best photo of a wren ever, a rather pleasing event.

Winter Wren - Manor Farm, Milton Keynes
Winter Wren – Manor Farm, Milton Keynes

In Search of Hares

Today I had made the conscious decision that I would head over the millennium bridge and head out towards the water tower to investigate the large grassy field, in the hope that a hare or two would be present. I have a goal this year to try and capture these magnificent cousins of rabbits as they perform their violent, explosive, yet exciting bouts of boxing. There were none to see today. But here, again, I was reminded of just how close spring really is. Skylark took to the air performing its wonderful falling song. A sure sign of the seasons change, and a new bird for the year.

Returning over the millennium bridge I was pleased to find that the lone Greylag Goose, who has been on the water for a few months, was still hanging about. Sadly still by himself and still nursing a broken wing. How he has survived that long is a testament to his survival skills.

Broken Winged Greylag Goose - Manor Farm, Milton Keynes
Broken Winged Greylag Goose – Manor Farm, Milton Keynes

The Goddess Athena

I continued my walk along the river, pausing only briefly to photograph a beautiful Fox, who was stalking on the far side of the river, as I approached the Viaduct, suddenly alerted to my presence she darted off back into the scrub. Although I have heard foxes barking from my bedroom window, this is the first I have seen in the area, and was a real treat. I was soon headed along the manor farm side of the nature reserve, collecting my second new patch bird of the year, a lone Greater Black-backed Gull.

Fox - Manor Farm, Milton Keynes
Fox – Manor Farm, Milton Keynes

After a short conversation with Rick Simpson (of Wader Quest fame), I continued along the grass, now damp from the defrosted early morning freeze, only to be suddenly alerted to a small, rather round, brown lump on one of the nearby large oaks, on further examination it was, as I had expected, a beautiful Little Owl. I quickly started to take some photos, only for the bird to hop into a hole in the trees trunk.

Little Owl on the First of Five Walks

Fortunately she was soon back out and allowing me a couple of photos before she was off. She disappeared through another ivy-covered tree, with her looping flight, carrying her effortlessly onto a fallen, half rotten trunk, lying only a short distance to my left.

Little Owl in the tree hole - Manor Farm, Milton Keynes
Little Owl in the tree hole – Manor Farm, Milton Keynes


Little Owl after emerging - Manor Farm, Milton Keynes
Little Owl after emerging – Manor Farm, Milton Keynes

I slowly crept up on her again and managed one or two more photos before she ducked down into the log. While I waited for her to return into the light, I was pleased to see a small band of waders fly down onto the frozen mud of the nature reserve and was even more delighted that they were 7 Common Snipe.

Little Owl sat on dead tree trunk - Manor Farm, Milton Keynes
Little Owl sat on dead tree trunk – Manor Farm, Milton Keynes

After waiting what seemed an age in the freezing winter air, I though this would be the end of my time with one of my favourite birds. But fortunately as I wandered around the dead trunk, I was just able to see the eyes, of the owl, as they shone out, vivid yellow, from inside the rotting log.

The Eyes
The Eyes

Leaving the Owl Be

I left her in peace now. Satisfied with my photos. And overjoyed to have spent this time with such a magical creature.

This week I have 5 days off, and no child pick-up! So I am aiming to get out onto the patch every day. For an epic week of patch birding, today was the first of five walks this week.

Date: 02/02/2015
Time: 3 Hours 49 Minutes
Distance: 4.81 miles

Full Species List from First of Five Walks

Greylag Goose1
Canada GooseX
Mute SwanX
Eurasian Wigeon1
Eurasian Teal1
Common Pochard1
Tufted DuckX
Common Pheasant1
Great Crested Grebe1
Great CormorantX
Grey Heron4
Little Egret1
Common MoorhenX
Eurasian CootX
Northern LapwingX
Common Snipe7
Black-headed GullX
Common GullX
Herring Gull1
Lesser Black-backed Gull1
Great Black-backed Gull1
Feral PigeonX
Stock Dove2
Common Wood-PigeonX
Eurasian Collared-DoveX
Little Owl1
Great Spotted Woodpecker1
Eurasian Green Woodpecker1
Common Kestrel1
Common MagpieX
Eurasian JackdawX
Carrion CrowX
Skylark1In display flight
Great TitX
Blue TitX
Long-tailed TitX
Eurasian WrenX
Song Thrush1
Mistle Thrush1
Grey Wagtail1
Pied Wagtail3
Meadow Pipit3
Reed Bunting3
House Sparrow3

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