Thursday, 31 January 2008

The last day of the month, and what a crap one for getting out, needless to say I didn't, apart from the obligatory walk to and from work. All I recorded were the post roost flock of corvids on the way in, and a small flock of BLACK HEADED GULLS on the way back! Even the garden was deserted, although the pair of WOODPIGEON braved it out for some sunflower hearts, and a couple of JACKDAW with at least 2 different MAGPIES thought it worth getting out of cover, for the cheese and crusts I chucked on the lawn.

January in the garden ended with 23 species recorded, the highest total for January, joint with 2004 and 2006. The combined total of all 7 Januarys' is 32 species, so I could really do better, especially if a cold winter came along. The mean total of species seen in the garden for all januarys' is 21.

Out on the patch, the January total is on 62, the best January total for the 7 years, by 2 species. The tally for all Januarys' is 74, again a better total for this month could have been expected, but it always depends on the weather. The mean number of species seen over the 7 Januarys' is just under 57, so looking at it like that, I did well, you can tell any story with stats!!
Hopefully February will bring us some easterly winds, and something new to add to the patch list.....................

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Now the mornings have chink of light at 7.00am, it wont be long before I can use the bins. However, I still managed to get a good sight of the 300 or so, mixed flock of JACKDAWS and ROOKS. Our paths only cross for a short while, as they get to the electricity pylons a few minutes earlier each day, and I pass under them at the same time. I watched them come in from the north west, wheel around noisily and then line up on the cables.

Passing the same spot on the way home, all was quiet at migrant alley, the mixed feeding flock of winter thrushes had all gone, probably fed up with the continued harrassment by the SPARROWHAWKS, the only thing I did see there!

I decided on a garden bird watch when I got in. Unfortunately spring had arrived early, by that I mean the incessant noise of a lawnmower - all afternoon - droning on, one of those sit on jobs. Other disturbance - barking dogs, noisey gardeners, low flying aircraft and building work all conspired to make it a poor session!! Just 20 species were seen in and around the garden, all the usual suspects, Tits, Finch's, BLACKBIRD, DUNNOCK, GREAT SPOTS, STARLINGS, COLLARED DOVES a pair of fighting ROBINS and just 2 HOUSE SPARROWS. The sparrows aren't too rare around here, they just don't like feeding in my garden because of the hawk, cleverer than the finch's, who make regular snacks! An interesting site was of a G S Woodpecker flying of with a piece of bread, first time i've seen them eating this.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

A two hour walk around bits of my patch today was unrewarding birdwise, but it was still good to be out in the fresh air. I was trying to find Redpoll or Brambling - a must if i'm going to reach 100 species in a year for the first time. These two species turn up in on spring passage more than in winter. Of the birds I did note - and they were few- a GREY HERON at the lake area, a drake TEAL in the waterlogged woods, and GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER, at least 5 were seen, and 3 heard drumming, no Lesser spots though, another species I will need this year. As I neared home a flock of 12 or so LINNET were wheeling over the tree nursery. Whilst out on the farmland, I was watching a new sheep fence being erected, up against the sorry site of a hedgerow that over the years had been flailed to death! What a waste of time and money, why pay a contracter to kill the hedgerow, then pay another to put up a fence!!

Monday, 28 January 2008

Today was a damp, dull, grey old day, although it wasn't cold the chill got to your bones. It seems most of the birds weren't too impressed with it either as very little was seen this afternoon. Migrant alley was playing host to around 150 ROOKS and JACKDAWS with a scattering of some 100 FIELDFARE and a smaller number of REDWING. At the lake area, yesterdays swans had moved on, there's nothing for them to munch on here, (some twat fishing there didn't help). There was a GREY HERON, and a CORMORANT came in briefly whilst I was there. The only other bird of note was a flock of 5-6 SISKIN. I got back at 3:50 and saw a couple of COAL TITS feeding on the fat in the garden, always a nice bird to see.

Sunday, 27 January 2008

The final full January walk round my patch today, and it turned up a real treat. As I viewed across the first lake and through the dividing tree line, I could see 2 MUTE SWAN. I Crept up to them, not too close as I didn't want to scare them off, and blow me down there were 5! Now this may seem an unremarkable sighting of a common species - but on my patch I only see them fly over, once or twice a year, they have never alighted on the lakes!

Also on the lake were MALLARD, GREY HERON, CANADA GEESE and a KINGFISHER, (still not wanting to be photographed) There were at least 3 TEAL in the wet woods, and a confiding treecreeper (that did want his picture taken) Migrant alley was empty, but for a large female SPARROWHAWK, that slowly went over, and 4 SISKIN fed in the alders along the stream, at the college. It was disappointing not to find a Goldfinch, but 45 species was a fair result.
Two Of The Mute Swans

Treecreeper again.

Drake Teal

Canada Geese

Carrion Crow - Sunning Itself In Front Of The Greenhouse Complex

In the afternoon I went to tetrad TQ65A - my B.T.O atlas square. A number of woodland species were seen including a WOODCOCK, why doesn't one come a few hundred meters south, onto my patch? i found this moss - like plant on the woodland floor (below), anyone know what it is?

Below is the greenhouse complex, viewed from the higher ground to the N/W of my patch. I think some birds are attracted down to it because from above it looks like a water body.

Saturday, 26 January 2008

A 5 hour walk round my patch today was very productive, despite the strong, cool westerly wind. A KESTREL hunted just before the golf course, where 11 GREY LAG GEESE flew over. At the lake area there were 27 MALLARD, a GREY HERON and 5 CORMORANT. The Little Grebe kept out of site, if it was there at all. A MARSH TIT gave me a photo opportunity just as i entered the wet woodland, where a single female TEAL was found. On the footpath just the otherside of the woods Celandine was coming into flower, a nice splash of colour at this dull time of year. At migrant alley the sky filled with 100 or so rooks as I walked through, and a couple of hundred winter thrushes fed in the paddocks there. A small group - 15 or 20 SISKIN fed in an alder tree at the streamside. 47 species were recorded, and a further 2, COAL TIT and a superb GREY WAGTAIL were seen in my garden later. The latter was the 50th species to use my garden and n0. 85 for the seen from house list, as well as being the 61st species for the month, a new January high.
Dusk From My Window

Sky Full Of Rooks AT Migrant Alley

A Welcome Splash Of Colour From The Celandine

Grey Lag Geese Flying Over

Kestrel Hunting

Marsh Tit

Mrs Blackbird

Thursday, 24 January 2008

The routine walk through woods, ponds, and tree nursery today, was very pleasant. Warm sunshine was massaging my back as I watched over the lake, the 8 MALLARD and the LITTLE GREBE were also enjoying the sunny side of the water, but no other visitors dropped in. The wooded areas around the lake had GOLDCREST, MARSH TIT, LONG TAILED TIT, and COAL TIT all calling, while a little futher into the scrubby orchard a NUTHATCH was very vocal. Before I reluctantly moved on, a smart male BULLFINCH dropped in above me, and fed on some buds. On one of the outbuildings my first butterfly of the year - a PEACOCK, was also soaking up the January sunshine, it was a bit notched, and one of its lower false eyes had gone, but it was none the less a welcome sight. Why did I leave the camera at home..........?

I passed through the tree nursery, with no activity, until I climbed the gate to get out, then a female SPARROWHAWK flew from the ground, I went over and had a look - feathers strewn everywhere! A WOODPIGEON had met his end, having been half consumed lying under a small bush.

A quick look at the garden when I got home revealed 3 GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKERS, all on a feeders each, just about tolerating each others presence. Also, a WOODMOUSE crept out from under my shed, and stole some spilled seed. A pleasant winters afternoon.

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

At last a bit of decent weather! The walk home, saw the FIELDFARE and REDWING at migrant alley a little thinned out, but still a few hundred birds. A line of some 50 ROOKS sat on the power cables above, the same ones I had seen at 7:15 this morning, swirling around with a gathering of JACKDAW, they had just left their roost and were coming in to feed on the paddocks.

Afer lunch, a walk around the tree nursery, through the waterlogged woods and onto the lake area, was very enjoyable. Nothing was seen out of the ordinary, a GREY HERON, and the LITTLE GREBE were on the lake, 4 TEAL were in the woods, where I noticed that the bluebells had started to come through already. There again were good numbers of GOLDCREST, some in song, others calling. COAL TITS also called in the scrubby orchard beside the lake. It was just one of those afternoons when it was good to be out, and feeling that spring was stirring. When I got home I looked out of the usual bird spotting window, and saw at least 25 LINNETS in a neighbours willow tree. A good number for january, I must find out where they are feeding, there is sure to be a Redpoll not far from them!!

The Tree Nursery. Not very Good Habitat For Wildlife, With Its Regimented Rows Of Trees, and the Herbecide - sprayed Ground Below.
Bluebells Shooting Up Through The Woodland Floor

More Bluebells. Should Look A Treat In May

Monday, 21 January 2008

It was blowing a gale on the walk home from work this afternoon, so much so, the wind stopped me in my tracks more than once. The large flock of birds, some 1000 strong, was still in the fields at migrant alley, mostly FIELDFARES, but a fair few REDWING and STARLING.

Once home, I decided a quick walk round the lake area would be good, however before the last bite of my sandwich, I heard the thrashing of heavy rain lashing on the window. Oh well another garden birdwatch. I sat down at the upstairs window, and noticed how little the food had gone down in the feeders - a sure sign that the SPARROWHAWK was interupting the feeding. I ventured out into the garden, and sure enough out flew my old mate, from the large leylandi type tree. There were still a few brave souls willing to come in, but only in ones and twos. Of the 17 species I recorded, the largest group, were of COLLARED DOVES - 6 in all. The COAL TIT, NUTHATCH, GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER and MAGPIE all came in once, whilst a JACKDAW came in repeatedly, picking at a chicken carcass I threw out. The WOODPIGEON came in again, now not such a rareity, it also brought a friend and together they cleaned up the spilled seed from the feeders. Another 9 species were seen over, or in the vacinity of the garden, the best of which was a soggy siskin, sitting atop of a tree out at the front of the house.

Woodpigeon In The Garden, Not so Rare Now

A Quick Check To See If The Coast Is Clear

Sunday, 20 January 2008

Male Sparrowhawk - Gliding Over slowly - Taunting me
This Dunnock Was In Full Song This Morning. It looks Stunning When You enlarge The Photo!

Plenty Of Teasel, But Where Are The Goldfinch, just 2 seen all weekend.

The same weather, maybe a bit less windy, but altogether different birdwise. After a slow start along ashes lane and through the golf course, things picked up at the lake area and waterlogged woods. As I was talking to the owner of one of the small lakes 4 GOOSANDER flew low, almost splashing down, but they must have seen us, and flew up and off again - a good species to have on the year list, as it is seen less than annually, in 02, 03, and 07. Also on the lake were 2 CORMORANT, a GREY HERON and 24 MALLARD. The waterlogged woods had only 1 TEAL, but also had a pair of MANDARIN, probably the same pair seen earlier in the month. I went on to migrant alley, where I was surprised to see masses of birds! FIELDFARE, REDWING and STARLINGS covering acres of sheep pasture. I set to counting but it was near impossible, I did count 500 Fieldfare in one field, and saw another similar amount in another field, so I made it a conservative 800 Min. I did head count 350 Starling amongst them, and 70 Redwing. All consevative counts as I couldn't see all the field at once, due to the undulations. I went on to the college grounds and along the stream and found a small flock of SISKIN, and walking back through the winter thrushes, a group gulls flew over, 2 LESSER BLACK BACKED GULL with 2 BLACK HEADED Gulls and 2 HERRING GULL. In all 47 species were seen, a very pleasing total.With the two new additions to the month, the list now stands at 60, the best jan tally since 2003.

Saturday, 19 January 2008

A disappointing walk round the patch this morning, birds were hard to find. The barrage of shotguns to the south didn't help, nor the strong southwest wind. The lake area provided some decent sightings, 2 CORMORANT, a GREY HERON, 25 MALLARD and the overwintering LITTLE GREBE were all present, a KINGFISHER flew up and alighted just feet from me, but as usual it flew off again before I could photograph it. One of the sheep fields in migrant alley held 500 winter thrushes, mostly FIELDFARE but at least 50 were REDWING and 2 were MISTLE THRUSH. Just 37 species were recorded, with some noteable ommisions, like Goldfinch, in fact there were very few finch's seen at all.

A new hedgerow has just been planted in migrant alley, this could be good news for wildlife if it is left to mature properly, but I fear as soon as it shows some promise it will be tamed with the dredded hedge flailing machine. Hadlow college farm the field, I wonder if they have a cutting regime for their new hedges, or are they just planting them to forfill any obligations for a stewardship grant?
Hedgerow Planting - A Real Attempt To Help Wildlife?
Snowdrops In My Garden, Spring Is Around The Corner
Daffodils Ready For Blooming

Thursday, 17 January 2008

More of that horizontal rain confronted me on the walk home from work today, so I didn't get the bins out of my bag! I did manage to see a mixed flock of winter thrushes,(250+) mainly FIELDFARE, as I crossed the sheep pasture at migrant alley. A sit by the window, to watch the garden birds, and tally them up for the B T O garden birdwatch survey, was all I could muster this afternoon. This was not as good as has been in previous weeks, as the SPARROWHAWK has everything running scared! All the activity was limited to ''grab what you can and go'' with nothing hanging around. 16 species sounds good for a two hour watch, but it was all ones and two's, the Nuthatch, Dunnock and Goldfinch did not show at all, quite unusual. Bird of the day was a big fat WOODPIGEON, I don't see many of these in my garden, this was the 2nd for jan. maybe it will be a regular?

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

A couple of hours walking this pm, around the waterlogged woods, lake area, and tree nursery, was a wet affair! The lakes were full to overflowing, the woodland pools were also full, and extra water filled ditch's have appeared, might bode well for a Snipe or Sandpiper this weekend. Birdwise is was a usual scene, lots of GOLDCREST were about, and GREAT TITS seem to be very showy at the moment - thinking about the breeding season ahead. REDWING and FIELDFARE are about in various size flocks, one mixed flock of 100+ birds were busy bathing on a flooded field. The lake area had MALLARD and a GREY HERON, but interestingly I again found the LITTLE GREBE, I wonder how long it will stay. Oh for a Coot, Tufted duck, or maybe a Gadwall!!

Tuesday, 15 January 2008

Not surprisingly I didn't get out today. It was blowing a gale, and chucking it down! As I sat looking at the garden, suddenley a stuggle for life took place. The male SPARROWHAWK had grabbed a male BLACKBIRD, the brave songster struggled and shouted, but to no avail, the accipiter had got its talons in too far. The mis-match carried on for some minutes, the prey fighting till it became exhausted, the victor flew off to eat his reward, but dropped it further up the garden, where he decided to eat it.. The pics below are just the showable ones, and even they are of poor quality, they were taken through a small opening in the window, which I inched open, the wind and rain were belting through, making it impossible to keep the camera still! You can still get the gist of was going on though.
Note the metal ring, its the same bird as seen Previously

Its all over

The Blackbird gives up the fight


The Fight continues

The Sparrowhawk ''Shields'' his Prey With His Wings. He knows there is also a female about, and she will rob him, given the chance

Monday, 14 January 2008

A walk home in a squall, was not conducive to finding birds! However it soon blew over and after a change of jeans, I went out to the lake area and waterlogged woods. I only spent an hour out, as the next shower was looming in the distance. The pools in the woods are now three quarters full, and at least 5 TEAL tried to hide themselves from me, above in the canopy, the first of 4 pairs of GOLDCREST were half singing/calling, and a pair of TREECREEPER scoured the bark crevices of an alder tree. At the lake there were half a dozen MALLARD and as I arrived a CORMORANT flew off. The kingfisher again provided good, if distant views. All the while I was out I was entertained by a MISTLE THRUSH, clearly loving the conditions, no wonder one of its other names is the Stormcock.

Sunday, 13 January 2008

All change on the weather front today, gone was the sunshine, and back were the wind and cloud. Three species seen today that were absent yesterday, LINNET, LONG TAILED TIT and KESTREL, oh well, thats what keeps me watching! Two CORMORANT flew from the lake area, someone got there before I did! A nice sight was that of a KINGFISHER, which was bashing a small fish on a branch, prior to eating it, too far away for a photo though. Most of the FIELDFARE had moved on again, as had all the Siskin, but plenty of REDWING were seen,in different size flocks. A large corvid flock fed in the sheep pasture at migrant alley, otherwise it was an average type jan. day. 43 species seen in all, but none new for the month.
Great Spotted Woodpecker At The Garden Feeders
Part Of The Corvid Flock In The Sheep Pasture

Saturday, 12 January 2008


Redwing At Migrant alley


A large Puddle, that was created overnight, was quickly adopted by 7 Mallard

At last the weather had improved, this mornings walk was sunny and bright, with little wind. I left at 7.40, maybe a little too early, as little was about, just the odd singing ROBIN, BLACKBIRD, and MISTLE THRUSH. By the time I had reached the lake area it was lighter, and such scarce birds (for my patch) such as, KINGFISHER, LITTLE GREBE, and CORMORANT were found, as well as the MARSH TIT. In the waterlogged woods at least 4 TEAL lurked under cover. All these species are irregular sightings, so to see them in one visit boded well for a long day list. At migrant alley, one of the paddocks held 162 FIELDFARE with a sprinkling of REDWING and a couple of Mistle Thrush. Only 1 SKYLARK was heard, and the same for MEADOW PIPIT and PIED WAGTAIL. 3 GREAT BLACK BACK GULLS few over, a real scarce species to get, but even with this the total list came to 45. A good target for any day list in any month is 50 species, I could have expected, Kestrel, Long tailed tit, Coal Tit, Canada and Grey Lag Goose as well as Treecreeper today!

Friday, 11 January 2008

Might as well copy and paste yesterdays report! Another useless day for being out and about, it wasn't as windy but it was wetter! Where's the winter gone! The only thing to note today was a flock of some 50 FIELDFARE in the grass field at the front of my house. Tomorrow is looking a bit brighter, lets hope so.

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Unsurprisingly, today was a complete waste of time. I battled against rain and wind on the way home from work, and little was seen, apart from the Corvid flock at migrant alley and a few BLACK HEADED GULL, the latter I scanned just incase there was a Med. Gull lurking! Once home it was garden bird watch for me. Given the weather conditions, even this proved disappointing, just 13 species visited the garden, and 11 further species were blown past it! One bright spot was the MARSH TIT, making only its second appearance this year. In all a day best forgotten. Roll on spring!!

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Nothing of note on the way through the college grounds, or at migrant alley as I walked home today, so it was off to the woods and lake area again this afternoon. I was only out from 2 - 3:30, but there was quite a bit of activity. Just before I enter the woods there is a small holding, a few sheep are kept and a small flock of chickens, just 3 fields amounting to a few acres. It was here that a party of 24 REDWING were feeding, also a GREEN WOODPECKER and a mixed flock of Tits & finch's. I scanned and checked for Brambling but found none. On to the woods and I found two male and two female TEAL, a couple of GOLDCREST - the first of four pairs seen in all, and Three TREECREEPER. Once at the lake the usual two dozen MALLARD were dabbling around, the GREY HERON played statues, and the LITTLE GREBE showed up again. Two CORMORANT circled the lake for some minutes, nervously checking all was clear, before coming in to land on the smaller pond, which is more secluded. I thought I heard a KINGFISHER so I sat and scanned the lake edge, and waited.......and watched....and waited..........nothing, but then as I watched the Little grebe cross the lake, I saw in the background a splash, and the bright blue and orange of the Kingfisher fly up into a low bush, where I watched it dive again. One more for the months list - 58 now, just two off the Jan. High, achieved in 2003.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Mixed Winter Thrushes At Migrant Alley ( Sunday)

The walk to and from work proved uneventful, birdwise, apart from a small gathering of FIELDFARE & REDWING in the pasture around migrant alley. After a quick refueling at home, I went out for a look around the lake area through the waterlogged woods and back via the tree nursery. The woods were productive for me today, as at least 3 TEAL were present, with a pair of MALLARD, but best of all a pair of MANDARIN duck helped the monthly total along. These ducks really shone out, a real treat in the gloom of a January afternoon. On the lake a HERON sat up in a willow tree, watching over two dozen Mallard and a few MOORHEN, the Little Grebe was not to be found (hope its not in the Heron!) The return walk through the tree nursery and the watery ditch (see photo in sat post) didn't throw up any snipe or sandpiper, but a few Redwing did show themselves, and a flock of nine LINNETS flew up and around me before alighting atop an oak tree, I scanned for Redpoll, but against the light it was not really a good view.

Monday, 7 January 2008

This morning as I walked to work at 7am, there was just a strip of dim light on the horizon, no point in getting the bins out of my bag yet,............ wrong!! About 60m away, flying across my path was either a) a Tawny owl b) a Little owl or c) a Woodcock. I only got the briefest of silhouettes. It didn't seem to undulate like a Little owl, it seemed to small for a Tawny and too broad winged and bulky for a Woodcock. Oh well this one got away!

Collared Dove, One of Up to 20 that Can Hoover Up The Sunflower Hearts In The Garden

On the walk back home the sports pitch at the college held 26 BLACK HEADED GULLS, and migrant alley held aroung 50 ROOKS and at least 250 STARLINGS, I was being blasted by rain in a strong westerly, so I didn't hang around for a more accurate count.
Who Can Resist Taking A Photo Of A Robin ?
I got home and decided a garden watch would be more productive than a lake walk, in 2hrs, from 2pm - 4pm I recorded 25 species in and around the garden, 14 of which used the garden facilities. A new garden species for the month was a LONG TAILED TIT, strangely on its own, bringing the months garden visitors total to 20.

Green Woodpecker In A Neighbours Garden.

Sunday, 6 January 2008

All Quiet In The Waterlogged Woods

This morning was Sunny and bright, with a touch of frost, and a pleasant 3hr walk round my patch produced a pleasing total of 47 species. The LITTLE GREBE remained on the lake, with a GREY HERON and a few MALLARD. A SPARROWHAWK flew low over the waterlogged woods, not surprisingly it was all quiet there. On the sheep pature and paddocks at migrant alley a dozen LAPWING and a few BLACK HEADED GULLS were about and two HERRING GULL flew over with a COMMON GULL - new for January. I found the four LINNETS on the edge of the car park at the college, also in the college grounds was a couple of GOLDCREST. Back through migrant alley 3 SKYLARK and two MEADOW PIPIT were seen.


Long Tailed Tit



Black Headed Gull
Later in the afternoon I did some garden watching, and added COAL TIT to the day list, and, a new species for the month, as a pair of COMMON BUZZARDS were seen soaring high.I watched them go over, and out of sight NE towards Royden Church (East Peckham).