An early ladybird


I just found this bedraggled ladybird climbing up the inside of the front window. I think it’s a melanic variant of a 2-spot, but I’m no expert in insects so feel free to put me right!

Isn’t January a bit early for ladybirds?

EDIT – asking around on a few discussion boards, it seems that I was completely wrong about my id, and it is in fact one of the much-feared harlequin ladybirds, specifically of the ‘spectabilis’ variant. For some reason I’d discounted this, probably because I’d always presumed them to be bigger due to their fearsome reputation.

The harlequin is a species native to Asia, that was introduced to America to help keep aphids at bay. It subsequently somehow found its way to Europe, and reached Britain in 2004. It is a problem because due to its large size and voracious appetite, it is in danger of outcompeting native ladybird species. It is also considered something of a pest in America, because many thousands of individuals sometimes overwinter in houses! Maybe I should think myself lucky I only found the one…

Apparently it’s also not uncommon to find ladybirds at this time of year after warm spells, and harlequins are more tolerant to cold than other species.

(Thanks to user ‘Dogghound’ on the Wild About Britain forum).

Here’s a couple more pictures (click for full size)…

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This morning on the birdfeeders

I’m off sick today with a really nasty cold, which is keeping me indoors on a lovely sunny day. So this morning, I decided to let the birds come to me, and sit and watch the garden for a couple of hours, with the digiscoping kit set up to see what I could snap.

The robins proved the most photogenic of the morning – unusually there were up to three in the garden at one time.




And, as usual, there were plenty of tits around…


By far the best bird of the morning was the great spotted woodpecker, who I haven’t seen for ages, and visited the feeders twice…



On one of the occasions, he got chased off by this sinister looking fella…


The only finch that appeared all morning was this badly focused (ahem!) female chaffinch…


…and of course there were plenty of visits from these guys…


Others that managed to avoid the camera were a wren, that spent a good 40 minutes foraging up and down the steps, a pair of irritable dunnocks squabbling, a couple of long-tailed tits on the feeder, a blackbird, a heron flying overhead, and several woodpigeons in nearby trees.

If only the garden had been this busy during the Big Garden Birdwatch – it’s such a shame it had to happen on such a windy weekend.

Patch update

I went on a quick walk this morning. It was one of those mornings where everyone seemed to decide to take their dogs for a walk, and therefore it was fairly busy and I didn’t see too much exciting. Highlights included – nuthatches calling at the end of Low Matlock Lane (a year tick); a first winter common gull among a flock of black-headed gulls; a flock of around 60 redwings at Old Wheel Farm; and a great spotted woodpecker over the fisheries (another year tick). No sign of the kingfisher!

Full list today:

Continue reading Patch update

My Big Garden Birdwatch

This morning I did my Big Garden Birdwatch. Quite a small selection of species were present today, and some were missing that are often about, such as coal tit, greenfinch and long-tailed tit, and the garden’s occasional star species, such as bullfinch and great spotted woodpecker, didn’t show up.

This is the full list for the hour:

Great tit – 4
Blue tit – 3
Magpie – 3
Blackbird – 1
Dunnock – 2
Robin – 2
Jackdaw – 1
Song Thrush – 1
Woodpigeon – 1

Has anyone else reading this done the Big Garden Birdwatch? If you haven’t, you’ve got the rest of the weekend to do so.

After I’d finished the survey, a male house sparrow turned up. Although common further up Loxley Road, they are very rare visitors to our garden, and I’ve only seen them on two occasions before.

Also this morning I got a year tick from the front room window, as two sparrowhawks flew overhead.

Waxwings and windy walks

This morning, I decided to go and twitch the two waxwings that are present on Richmond Park Road in Handsworth. I’d taken a day off to go for a walk, but thought this would be a worthy detour.

I got up to Handsworth at about 9.10am, not really knowing if I’d even see them, thinking that the good hour round trip on the bus would be a depressing waste of time if I didn’t. I walked round the corner, past Asda and the busy driving test centre, with the street relatively busy with people going about their business, it seemed a very odd place to come and find a rare and interesting bird.

I walked up the road, scanning everything remotely berry-like for the feasting waxwings, and before long my heart was in my mouth as I heard the quiet, tinkling bell-like call of a waxwing! I looked around, just to see two waxwings fly from the rowan trees outside Furniture World, over my head, and disappear into a large tree some way off in a private back garden.

I hung around for about half an hour waiting for them to come back. Five redwings and two fieldfares flew in and out of the same tree feeding off the berries, seemingly just to toy with me and get my hopes up every time I saw one of them land! After a while, however, I began to feel very self conscious hanging round a busy street corner, and decided to be on my way.

It’s a welcome life tick, but a very disappointing view! Hopefully I’ll get chance for a better look at some point.

So then it was back to the original plan, a walk to Redmires, up to Stanage Pole, and back through Wyming Brook. Some of you may have already seen the flaw in this plan – that is today’s gale-force weather warning isn’t really fitting with a tramp through open moorland, and I didn’t fully realise this until it was too late!

Redmires didn’t have much on it, apart from a couple of lapwings on the dredged reservoir and some long-tailed tits flitting about. Walking up the path to Stanage Pole, I was scanning the conifers in the plantation for crossbills, but with no luck. In fact the only three birds I saw all the way up there were a red grouse tottering about, a single coal tit, and a carrion crow, although to be fair anything flying about in this wind would have been a bloody fool of a bird.


And then, as soon as I got past the plantation, I realised the degree to which the trees had been shielding me from the wind. As Stanage Pole got nearer, it was as if the moors themselves had come to life, and decided that they didn’t want me there. I was literally struggling against the wind, eyes streaming, and I finally battled my way to the Pole. My plan was to take a few pictures of the view and sit and eat my sandwich, but getting anything of my bag or pockets would have meant they’d have blown away to who knows where, and so I simply turned around and walked back.

Not one of my best ideas.

Wyming Brook was also quite devoid of birds, in fact all I really saw were a bullfinch, some long-tailed tits and a treecreeper. I was hoping to get yearticks for nuthatch and dipper there… it’s the first time I’ve dipped a dipper at Wyming Brook!


There was a good few fieldfares, redwings and mistle thrushes in the fields on Redmires Road as I walked back, but nothing more of note. It was a good walk, and the cobwebs got blown away, but it was a strange old day of birding!

Waxwing alert!

I’m not usually one for a twitch, but according to BirdGuides, two waxwings have been sighted in Handsworth this afternoon. I’ve been waiting all winter for any reports in Sheffield, as it’s a bird I’ve never seen but always wanted to.

If anyone hears of any more locations they’ve been seen in, please let me know on peterjmella(at)googlemail(dot)com – locations that are within a lunch hour radius of Sheffield University would be particularly welcome!

Redwings update

I had another look down The Ponderosa today to see if the redwings were still there. They’ve thinned out considerably, and there were none in the trees, but I still counted 48 on the playing field, with one mistle thrush among them.

Some more signs of spring too – blackbirds and song thrushes were singing, and I saw two robins sat together and tolerating one another’s presence. Could love be in the air?