As I headed out yesterday morning it was clear bird numbers were well down. In comparison to last week not a single Wren graced the count and only Blackbirds, Jackdaws, Crows and Magpies showed perseverance with the conditions. Half a dozen Pheasant took advantage of hay put out for horses whilst a pair of Bullfinch appear to have found a bush with buds sufficiently advanced for their liking. Earlier in the week a flock of 26 Siskin had passed overhead but only a solitary Goldfinch and a few Chaffinch were in evidence. Hopefully all the kissing birds have moved to woodland or urban patches but you must fear the worst for many. Thankfully, along with a Blue Tit and two Great Tits the Willow Tit seemed to be feeding well.
Deer were feeding on the road up ahead and moved into a small plantation as I passed but the usual panic escape was missing. Proceeding further up the road a call drew my attention and I approached slowly hoping to get a shot of the blighter but just as I drew level the Little Owl flew clasping prey in talons. It landed only a few bushes away but I decided not to pursue it for fear of driving it off it's catch.
Near the golf course I flushed a Kestrel again carrying prey which it took high up into a tree. Below a bush I found the remnants of its kill, probably a Blackbird which seemed large for the size a Kestrel but desperate times lead to desperate measures. Whilst examining the remains I missed the chance of a Barn Owl photo in broad daylight as a bird silently glided up the fifteenth fairway mid morning.
In the afternoon I took a trip up to a barren Whittle Dene. The Sparrow flock at the farm had been joined by Yellowhammers, Pipits and Larks all gleaning what they could from around the farm sheds. Meanwhile on the frozen reservoir a Blackbird feasted on Pheasant road kill.
On the way back after a brief hail storm I called again at Newburn where the river had frozen more solidly and a Kingfisher took advantage of the only patch of clear water near the burn mouth. He drew a crowd of ten or so onlookers but continued to fish oblivious to the cameras, even one with flash!
He dived in three times catching a fish every time but having to fly off into cover to eat as a Black headed Gull instantly appeared to try and steal the prize. Wonderful views in poor light which faded all but the luminous feathers on back and head.