Friday, 18 April 2014

It was clear and sunny first thing this morning, with a cool wind, which felt even cooler as the cloud rolled in later in the day.

Another five hour patch visit produced a good tally of species, 47 in all, but I still await the Common Whitethroat, today is the 12 year median average first sighting date for this species. Of the 13 Summer visitors that have been recorded every year here, 6 are yet to arrive, those being Common Whitethroat, Swift, Garden Warbler, Turtle Dove, Spotted Flycatcher and Hobby.

I did however record a new species for the April list this morning, when a LAPWING (68) flew over Migrant Alley first thing, then surprisingly I saw another four go over later in the visit. Another highlight for the morning was finding a WILLOW WARBLER singing in the Wet Woods, always a welcome, but scarce sound here.

There was a bit of a change on the lakes today, 8 CANADA GEESE had arrived, with 4 GREYLAGS and a feral 'white Goose'  The MUTE SWANS were still incubating, as was the Greylag Goose, the MISTLETHRUSH nest was checked earlier, where I found both parents chasing off a MAGPIE, not a good sign, but the hen bird returned to the nest shortly after.
''White Goose''
It was paired up with one of the Canada Geese
Canada Goose
Male Mute Swan on patrol
Very Little song was heard in the Scrubby Woods this morning, what was heard was mostly BLACKCAP, BLACKBIRD and CHIFFCHAFF, no doubt due to the cool wind blowing.
My sky watch from my seat at Migrant Alley later in the morning was a chilly one, with the cold wind blowing across the sheep pasture, but I got to see the pair of local BUZZARDS, as well as the male KESTREL, and two SPARROWHAWKS, a few HERRING GULLS and a couple of LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLS flew over, SWALLOWS zipped over the paddocks and sheep pasture, and the SKYLARKS were seen over the Ashes lane Field, but apart from the already mentioned 4 lapwing that was about it for today.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

A mostly sunny morning was had for todays shortish patch visit, a visit that didn't produce much at all, certainly no new spring arrivals.

An early check of the paddocks and sheep pasture drew a blank for a Wheatear, and the Lesser Whitethroat that was at the Wooded Headland yesterday had moved on, I fear that this species is now lost as a Pittswood breeder, and is relegated to a mere passage bird, there is just so little favourable habitat left for them now. The CHIFFCHAFF and BLACKCAP were making use of what habitat is available though, and both sang from the depleted Wooded Headland.
Chiffchaff at the Wooded Headland
A Cuckoo was heard way in the distance as I made my way back over to the Lakes and Woods, too far off to be counted on my patch though, looks like this is another species that will only be recorded here on passage  :-( The SKYLARK pair were still using the Ashes lane Field, hopefully they will decide to breed here. A LESSER BLACK BACKED GULL and two immature HERRING GULLS were also on the fields.
Skylark, on its usual songpost, I never get within 20 meters of it though!
The Wet Woods and Scrubby Woods were checked out in case an exciting migrant bird species was lurking, exciting here would be a Sedge or Reed warbler! Nothing like that today though, so just a case of finding the regulars, and looking for nesting activity. The MISTLETHRUSH continues to sit on her nest, and the MUTE SWANS, GREYLAG GOOSE and I presume the COOT pair are all incubating eggs - I cant see the Coot nest now as the surrounding reedmace has hidden it from view. A BUZZARD flew just about head height over the Ornamental Lake, quite a sight, it was probably looking for an easy meal, one of the MOORHEN young perhaps!

I spent some while just sitting, listening and watching in the Scrubby Woods, I was on the lookout for the first Dragonflies or Damselflies of the year, the sunny clearings in the wood were warming up nicely by 10:00hrs, but it didn't entice any dragons out! A few Orange Tip Butterflies were on the wing, as were Small White, Speckled Wood, Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock, plus a single Holly Blue, none of which stopped for a photo. By 11:30 I had to leave, the Dragons will have to wait for another day, just hope the weather is kind for a few more weeks :-)

Just the KESTREL was of note as I walked home, but I noticed also that the STARLINGS were tooing and froing with beak fulls of food, wont be long before gangs of youngsters start noisily charging about the place, now they are always good for a photo or two  :-)

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Another lovely, sunny spring day to get out and visit my patch, although first thing it was a bit chilly with a ground frost.

This mornings visit was a bit slower than yesterdays, I ticked off the singing WRENS, BLACKBIRDS, GREENFINCH, ROBIN, DUNNOCK, CHAFFINCH, and SKYLARK, plus the calls of BLUE and GREAT TITS, CARRION CROW, GREEN WOODPECKER, COLLARED DOVE, and  PHEASANT on the early part of my walk as I wandered along Ashes Lane.

Out on the sheep pasture and paddocks of Migrant Alley, just a few ROOKS, JACKDAWS and WOODPIGEONS fed out on the frosty grass, but as I neared the Wooded Headland to the north of Migrant Alley, I heard the unmistakable song of my first LESSER WHITETHROAT (83,66) of the year, a whole ten days earlier than the 13 year median average date, and the second earliest first sighting date I have recorded here. Its unusual to have Lesser Whitethroat arrive on my patch before Common Whitethroat, this is just the 3rd spring it has happened. Both the CHIFFCHAFF and BLACKCAP were also singing from the Wooded Headland, plus as I walked back towards the Greenhouse Grounds I saw the LITTLE OWL in the Greenhouse Copse, the first time i've seen it there this month.

The rest of the 5 hour visit was spent around the Wet Woods, Scrubby Woods and Lakes area, not sure what I was hoping would turn up, maybe a Nightingale or a Turtle Dove or perhaps a Garden Warbler, but in the end nothing new was added to the year list. Checking up on all the nests, I found the GREYLAG GOOSE, MUTE SWAN, COOT and MISTLETHRUSH all in order, but the CANADA GOOSE nest looks to have been deserted, not sure why, the nest looked well secure on a small island on the lake.

More Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs sang in the Scrubby Woods, along with the local resident species, a female MANDARIN duck was in the Wet Woods, where NUTHATCH and TREECREEPER were seen, nothing unusual to record in there today though.

Walking back out onto the Ashes lane Field, I saw the only BUZZARD of the morning, and watched the KESTREL fly over to the Greenhouse Grounds, the SKYLARK pair were up singing, and 2 LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLS went over with a single HERRING GULL.

49 species were recorded this morning, an excellent total, but no Cuckoo was heard, it's not the same getting out early on a mid April morning and not hearing the constant song of a Cuckoo  :-(

Not a single photo was taken today - well, not any of any use! By 10:00hrs the light is so strong, bird photographs just dont look right. The Butterflies didn't stop around either, but i've already got images for those that are about, just a bit of a wait now for the other species to emerge, plus those anticipated Dragons and damsels  :-)

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

More Bluebells! These carpet the floor of the Wet Woods
The fine and settled weather continued today, allowing for another five hour patch visit, before I left home I noticed the first fledgling BLACKBIRD of the spring in my garden, one more species for the 2014 'successfully bred' list.

Cloud came and went whilst I was out, and a cool N wind blew at times, but it was reasonably warm. Early in the walk I saw 2 CORMORANT fly over, and a bit later a group of 7 flew past in a well disciplined equidistant line, all these after only seeing one in the first two weeks of the month!

The LITTLE OWL sat at its nest box by the old shack in the Ashes lane Field, where a pair of SKYLARK sang, one allowing for a distant photo.
The Wet Woods, Scrubby Woods and Lake areas, didn't provide me with any new migrant species, but most of the regular songsters were heard, GOLDCREST, COAL TIT, TREECREEPER, CHIFFCHAFF, BLACKCAP, WREN, ROBIN, DUNNOCK and BLACKBIRD being the most vocal. I checked up on all the nests again, GREYLAG and CANADA GOOSE, COOT and MUTE SWAN were all still sitting, as was the MISTLETHRUSH. The male Mute Swan was getting very territorial, and attacked a newly arrived family of MALLARDS, the day old ducklings scattered and two adult males acted as a decoy, to distract the Swan, allowing mum to escort the young to some nearby reeds.

If that was a crow, or a fox attacking the young ducklings no doubt it would be used as a valid reason by the shooting brigade to ''control'' them, but would anyone shoot a Swan for killing ducklings ? At least the Crow and Fox have a family to feed, the Swan does it out of aggression!  All sorts of birds/animals prey on each other, they dont need some hero with a shotgun to interfere just for there own sporting amusement.

Mistlethrush on nest
I don't usually take photo's of bird on their nests, but this one is 4m up a large Oak tree and I was well away from it. As you can see it is reasonably well concealed considering the small amount of cover it has available, it's still vulnerable to a predator though, but if it's predated the Mistlethrush learns a lesson for next year.
GREEN WOODPECKER on the floor of the Scrubby Woods
A second visit to the fields of Migrant Alley, in some warm sunshine, had me watching the sky for raptor species, I saw the male KESTREL, the 2 local BUZZARDS and a few distant ones, plus a SPARROWHAWK. The best sighting of the day however was of my first YELLOW WAGTAIL (65,82) of the year flying low over the sheep pasture, calling as it went. It's arrival is the the joint earliest arrival date for my patch, joint with 2011, and is ten days earlier than the 13 year median average arrival date. It looks like the great majority of the SWALLOWS have now arrived, at least 5 pairs were feeding over the paddocks and sheep pasture.

Here's a few more Dunnock images, they really belt out their little, thin, warbler like song!