RECENTLY I was given a copy of a book by Mark Cocker who for many years has been exploring the East Anglian countryside based on the Norfolk Parish of Claxton.

It is no surprise that he entitled his book “Claxton – field notes from a small planet”. The writer is an accomplished observer of all aspects of the natural history in his local area and methodically wrote up his observations and used his material for regular articles for a well known daily and weekend newspaper.

The book is set out as a diary covering particular monthly experiences throughout the years 2002 to 2013 but not necessarily in chronological order. The text in the fly leaf briefly indicates the extent of Mark Cocker’s interest in the natural world - not just birds, but plants, trees, mammals, hoverflies, moths, butterflies, bush crickets, grasshoppers, ants and bumblebees.

Originally living in Norwich it appears that he had to get out into the countryside at times to seek out subjects and inspiration for articles. He says he would drag his family out at weekends in rain or sunshine, winter or summer to coastal areas and some of the wilder parts of East Anglia but end up with a treat for the children at a local cafe.

But on moving to Claxton parish there was plenty to inspire his articles.

His experience in running out of inspiration for a weekly article has been similar to my own as I seek to find subjects to write about. It is not unknown for a last minute trip into the Borders countryside to seek out some subject to write about before the deadline for submission of an article.

There are a few circular routes that I often follow as I know I am likely to find something interesting. Some inspiration comes from the Borders Bird News E-mail group where fellow birders post their sightings from around the Borders. Then there is information that comes from conversations that can be incorporated into articles.

Last week I mentioned the 30th Borders Bird Report being published. This is another source of valuable information on the yearly sightings of birds seen in the Borders in 2013.

In the opening pages there is a review of the year which illustrated how weather may have affected sightings and breeding success. Reference is made to the low number of records for Kestrel and seemed to be associated with the long cold spring and the birds not readily finding food.

An interesting sighting was that of a White-tailed Sea-eagle at Innerleithen.

The report contains a good number of photographs which indicate that digital photography has made the capture of good images even from cameras at the lower end of the market. This means that a good number of the rarer species discovered in our area are captured on film. One example was the discovery of a Velvet Scoter on the Tweed at Innerleithen this being a sea duck more likely to be found off St Abb’s.

The value of St Abb’s is reflected in the photograph of a Sardinian Warbler in October 2013 on the reserve while migrating but off course.

The ringed bird report has some interesting movements recorded from the largest bird, the Mute Swan to the smallest being the Blue Tit. There are a number of recoveries which were road kills but there is a dog kill, a cat kill, a drowning, predation, found in captivity, storm casualty, collision with window, collision with power lines.

It is interesting that a Siskin was rescued from being kept as a cage bird so it is clear that this bird had been taken illegally in the wild. This particular activity does cause concern and the individual found was latterly in the care of the RSPCA in Malvern, Worchestershire in April 2013 having been ringed as a young female in Peebles some six months earlier.

A posting on the Borders Bird News referred to Carrion Crows coming to a bird table and tucking into “saps”.

Bread had been put out and then it rained before the birds moved in to feed. Further dry bread was put out on the lawn and one Carrion Crow was seen to fly down pick up a piece of bread and then fly to soak it in the pool of water on the bird table.

Obviously this bird liked its bread moistened. The other day it was pigeon day in my garden with a collection of eight Feral Pigeons, two Collared Doves and three Wood Pigeons.

I recently filled my Niger feeder and nothing appeared to feed on these tiny black seeds. A few days later the temperature dropped and seven Goldfinches suddenly appeared.

Their absence can only be due to the mild winter conditions and a plentiful supply of food in the countryside.