Well, I'm at home in Bulgaria and of course I have been doing some bird watching. So here is a blog about a country walk from my village to the next which I took on December 26th.
It has been relatively warm this winter in Bulgaria compared with normal and its in ironic contrast to the harsh conditions in western Europe.
part of a flock of goldfinch, north of Varna
It was plus 10C but there was a small amount of snow left in places. The birds were busy feeding as this warm spell was clearly a lull not the permanent winter situation!
There were two types of mobile flock I saw on the walk. The first was the predictable Spanish sparrow. The second was a more exciting (and large) flock of goldfinch.
friends Jonathan English and Joseph Stec inspecting the snow
There were flying from tree to tree along the avenue of trees linking the two villages.
more of that goldfinch flock
They were not the only finches about. I saw a couple (and not a flock) of chaffinch. They look quite different from the ones in Libya (which has sub species africana) although a few European chaffinch appear in winter.
chaffinch north of Varna
There were two birds of prey easily seen in the fields near the road. There were common buzzard and hen harrier. There appear to be less common buzzard this winter than last but I suspect a colder spell further north could easily push more into the area.
common buzzard on a telephone wire
I hadn't seen a buzzard or a harrier balance on a telephone wire before. The one above is a common buzzard. I am not an expert on two birds which rarely come to Libya (though they both do) so my identification came after it flew off. This brown bird had no white ring tail unlike a hen harrier I had seen minutes earlier in the opposite field.
greater spotted woodpecker
Bird ID is always more difficult outside your main patch. To my shame I don't know the locality round my home that well yet. By comparison, I know the jizz of most birds in Libya very well and can recognise a strange one.
There are no woodpeckers in Libya so the one above was not instantly identified by me. Back in the warmth of my home I now know it is definitely a greater spotted woodpecker (I had to make sure it wasnt a syrian woodpecker). In Bulgaria if I understand it correctly syrian woodpecker is usually a bird of settlements but this was open country. Syrian was always my second choice because of this but the sight of the black straps reaching the back of the neck confirmed my guess.
great grey shrike
In summer I had seen many lesser grey shrike around my village. Yet in winter it is obvious great grey shrike arrive from the north. One is pictured above. I know this species well in Libya although the sub species different. It did feel a bit like meeting an old friend though.
Tomorrow I am going in search of red breasted geese and the weather forecast says it will be much colder than the walk just described.