Monday, 1 September 2014

As always, the first day of the new month demands a full patch walk to get the species list off to the best start possible.

It was partly cloudy with the odd sunny spell at 06:00hrs as I set off from my house, it all seemed a bit quiet, with ROBIN, JACKDAW, GOLDFINCH, BLACKBIRD, WOODPIGEON, MAGPIE, BLUE TIT and CARRION CROW the only species seen or heard as I walked the 200 meters to the Greenhouse Grounds, where it was also quieter than of late, but GREEN WOODPECKER, STARLING, LINNET, CHAFFINCH, WREN, DUNNOCK, PIED WAGTAIL and BLACKCAP were up and about.

Crossing into Migrant Alley I had high hopes of adding a few passage migrant species to the months list, which I did when a couple of YELLOW WAGTAILS flew up from the sheep pasture, the ROOKS were just arriving to feed on the paddocks, plus a few SWALLOWS were skimming around the sheep, the best find though were the two WHINCHAT sitting on the hedgerow, good to get them on the September list! The Wooded Headland had a calling CHIFFCHAFF for the mornings tally and the Greenhouse Copse had the only WHITETHROAT of the day on its eastern edge. Passing back through the Greenhouse Grounds I added GREENFINCH and DUNNOCK that weren't seen there earlier.

The Ashes Lane Field had a few nice flyovers, with a couple of MEADOW PIPITS and a couple of MISTLETHRUSHES as well as the more usual HERRING GULL and COLLARED DOVE, but nothing was along the drainage ditch.

Over on the lakes I found a few good species to add to the September list, KINGFISHER, MANDARIN DUCK and CORMORANT had joined the regulars of MUTE SWAN, MALLARD, COOT and MOORHEN. The adjacent Scrubby Woods was good for BULLFINCH, GOLDCREST, COAL TIT, TREECREEPER, NUTHATCH, JAY and STOCK DOVE, but bit of a bonus was seeing a WILLOW WARBLER there  :-)

My next visit was to the Wet Woods, a dark, damp and gloomy place at the best of times, but a GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER was found there. Exiting the Wet Woods out into the Small Holding I was pleased to hear a LITTLE OWL calling, these can be hard to find in September, plenty of other Tits and Finches were seen here, but nothing to add to the months list. I made my way along Ashes lane again, finding the HOUSE SPARROWS that frequent the gardens there, then headed for Migrant Alley to get the end of visit sky watch done.

Taking my position on my seat, I scanned the fence lines before the sky, and quickly found that the two Whinchats were now three! Searching the sky for the first raptors to add to the months list was harder going than yesterday, only HOBBY and KESTREL turned up, but I added BLACK HEADED GULL and LESSER BLACK BACKED GULL which brought up the 50 species for the day, a good day total at any time, but that total was extended to 55 when I heard a PHEASANT call from the Greenhouse Grounds, then found at least 2 SAND MARTINS and a lone SWIFT among a passing flock of HOUSE MARTINS, a GREY WAGTAIL then flew over calling loudly, alighting briefly at the Greenhouse Grounds before being flushed off by the arrival of the fruit pickers.

The excellent haul of 55 species was added to this afternoon when a SPARROWHAWK visited my garden feeders, 56 species for the day! To think I didn't find Song Thrush, Long Tailed Tit, Buzzard, Grey heron or any Geese this morning! Surely reaching the holy grail of ''60 species in a day'' should have been possible :-(

The September list has started extremely well then, but I need to find another 22 species to equal the September record of 78, which was set set in 2009. I'll be content with finding 74 though, which is the average tally for the previous 5 Septembers  :-)

No luck with the camera this morning, and the light went this afternoon, so todays post is photo-less!

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Long sunny spells developed after the broken cloud of early morning, and with lighter winds it felt very pleasant.

I'd made my mind up to spend the whole morning around the Greenhouse Grounds, Migrant Alley and the Ashes lane Fields today, I reckoned if I was going to get the one more new species for the month that was needed to equal the record August tally, then it would come from this part of my patch.

The day started well enough, I found two WHITETHROATS, a BLACKCAP, a CHIFFCHAFF and a GREY WAGTAIL as I entered the Greenhouse Grounds, but it got better still at Migrant Alley, as I found another 3 WHINCHATS plus a WHEATEAR on the paddocks, it really has been a good Autumn here for these two passage migrants  :-)  Another good bird to get here is YELLOW WAGTAIL, 2 flew over the sheep pasture, calling as they went, all brilliant birds to find on my patch, but not new for the month!

The 20-30 SWALLOWS started to panic about something, alarm calling frantically to warn the immature birds, the something turned out to be a HOBBY, which for the first time I can remember actually alighted on a fence rail, allowing me to get some superb images of it  ( I wish!)

A very rare occurrence - a Hobby that has actually landed on my patch, this is as close as i got before it flew off!
I watched a KESTREL alight on the apex of one of the Greenhouses, and made my way over to try and photograph it, again it was very wary, and didn't allow close approach, another distant raptor shot then!
 Female Kestrel

I made my way over to my sky watching seat, where as well as the sky I could watch the Whinchat and Wheatear as they fed along a fence rail, in front of the Greenhouse copse, at one stage I could see the 3 Whinchat, a Whitethroat and a Blackcap all together in my binocular view  ;-)

My skywatch produced a MANDARIN DUCK and a CANADA GOOSE, both headed for the Lake area, as well as many HOUSE MARTINS that were high up feeding in the blue sky. Constant fly overs from large groups of HERRING GULLS were observed, with them were the odd LESSER BLACK BACKED GULL and BLACK HEADED GULL. With virtually every scan of the sky I picked up either a Kestrel, Hobby, BUZZARD or SPARROWHAWK, the latter did as the Hobby had done earlier, so I got another distant Raptor image  :-)

Sprawk,........ the Whinchats were in the hedgerow behind it!

More circuits of the sheep pasture and paddocks were made, plus a circuit of the Ashes Lane Fields was made, where yesterdays Whinchat had moved on, but no more pasage migrants were found, I was desperately hoping for a Redstart to show up!

Back on my seat over at Migrant Alley, long scans of the fences, fields and sky were had, but nothing new was found, then at 10:30hrs, a familiar ''tseep tseep tseep'' call was heard - MEADOW PIPITS (78) !! Yes! A new species for the month, and the record August species total had been equaled, very satisfying indeed  ;-)

I stayed at Migrant Alley until just gone mid day, but the August record wasn't beaten, if only the Turtle Doves had showed up, they used to be ever present in August until last and then this year  :-(

Might as well put up another one of my distant photographic efforts, this GREEN WOODPECKER alighted 30 meters away from my seat

Some slightly closer images were obtained of the Wheatears, but the sun remained stubbornly behind a cloud first thing this morning when I was taking the photo's ( always something to moan about!)


So August ends on a high! It has been a fantastic month actually, with at least ten Whinchats, 12 Wheatears, many Sand Martins and Yellow wagtails, a Tree Pipit, a Nightingale, a Reed Warbler and a pair of Curlews all turning up at Migrant Alley, plus a Sedge Warbler and another Whinchat at the Ashes lane field.  4 species were new to any August list, those being the Tree Pipit, the Curlew, plus the Mandarin Duck and Tufted Duck. 78 Species for the month is a very good tally, not only is it equal to the best ever August total, but is the second best monthly total ever achieved, only being bettered by April 2013 which had 79 species recorded.