Saturday, 31 January 2009

Above is a very poor effort at photographing the local PEREGRINE, with a large prey item. A little later I got a better on.

The last full walk round my patch for january took place this morning, a four hour trek from 07:30hrs. I was hoping for just one more new species for the year list- maybe a flyover Mute swan, or a rarely recorded Coot at the lake, but it wasn't to be. Having said that, it was however a very good vist with 48 species being recorded.In the Tree Nursery I saw a SPARROWHAWK working the lines of small trees, and as I looked up over across to migrant alley, a KESTREL was hovering over the stubbles, then almost immediately the local PEREGRINE flew over, carrying a large item of prey, I just pointed my camera at it, and got a pic. of sorts, but the speed it was moving at, and the poor early morning light were against me! I checked the Barn Owl roost but it wasn't home, so went on to Migrant Alley, here, there were 50-60 FIELDFARE and a scattering of REDWING amongst them, I also picked out a single SKYLARK, and a lone MEADOW PIPIT flew up, ''seep seeping'' as it went. The ader tree's along the College stream had a flock of 30-40 SISKIN in, but little else was seen in the college grounds. As I walked back over the sports pitch to migrant alley, a flock of 17 CANADA GEESE flew over, and a little further on, as I scanned the sky, 3 SPARROWHAWKS were in the sky together, maybe the one I saw earlier was one of them ? The raptor fest didn't end there, as I exited the stubbles and looked south, back over the tree nursery, I saw 2 COMMON BUZZARDS being mobbed by crows!

The walk around the wet woods and lake area, turned up REED BUNTING, YELLOWHAMMER, TREECREEPER, MARSH TIT and a dozen MALLARD on the lake. A GREY LAG GOOSE was also on the lake, the first there this year.

A second outing was had around 13:30, mainly to try to get the species total for the day up to a round 50, as I had not seen a Nuthatch, or a Green woodpecker (very unusual!). I made a quick visit to the maize stubbles at migrant alley, no change there, but as I went into the tree nursery, a happy co-incidence happened. As I reached the very spot that the Peregrine had flown over my head this morning, I happened to stop, and look back over the Greenhouse complex, I saw a bird coming in from the NW, as it neared I could see it was.......................the Peregrine again! (or another!) This time I got a better photo of it, still not good, but better! Oh, and I never did get to find the green woodpecker!

So ends the first month of the year, and the 68 species recorded was a record January total, beating the record set last January of 62, so i cant complain! There were 4 species recorded that have not been seen in any previous january's - PEREGRINE, BARN OWL, WOODCOCK and surprisingly the BRAMBLING. The total for all January's combined, now stands at 78, the mean number of species to be seen in january is 58.7

The chase begins again tomorrow - February's record was set in 2006 with 65 species, a tough one to beat I think!

Above and below. This TREECREEPER was on a large oak, along ashes lane.

Below are a couple of the CANADA GEESE that flew over

The next 3 photo's are of the second sighting of the peregrine

Last of all, yet another SPARROWHAWK, this one was circling high up,over my back garden

Thursday, 29 January 2009

This afternoon was the complete opposite to yesterday, it was sunny and mild, and out of the keen SE wind it was quite warm. This didn't produce any new birds for my patch though, only the usual species were recorded, the best being a small flock of feeding Tits in the wet woods, BLUE, GREAT, COAL, LONG TAILED and MARSH TIT, along with two GOLDCRESTS. It's not very often I get to see 5 Tit species together. Nothing at all was going on at the lake area, apart from the MALLARDS, and a Fox that was watching me from behind a gate. I fared no better at Migrant Alley, a few SKYLARKS, 2 MISTLE THRUSH and 14 FIELDFARE were out on the stubbles, and a BULLFINCH was in the hedgerow along with a small party of SISKIN and another Goldcrest. A single YELLOWHAMMER flew over, but that was it really. January is slipping away and i'm not getting any new birds on the list, it's all getting a bit frustrating, at least I have got a bonus on saturday, I thought last sunday was the last full walk round of the month, thinking this sat. was the 1st of feb!

One thing I noticed in the garden later, as I had just filled the feeders, was a large number of Blue tits, I counted a minimum of 23 ! They were everywhere!

Tomorrow I may not do any birding, as ive got to go shopping for a car, after some woman crashed into ours and wrote it off! I might be back in time we'll see. If not, the next post will be on sat.

Even on the most quiet of days, there is a ROBIN to be found!

Below is the fox that was watching me carefully.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

As I left for work this morning at 07:00, there was just a hint that the mornings were beginning to get lighter, the sky was only semi dark! It was light enough however, despite the rain, to pick out the shadowy shapes of a skein of 23 CANADA GEESE flying low over Migrant Alley, and the extra light was encouraging more energetic song from SONGTHRUSH, ROBIN, DUNNOCK and MISTLE THRUSH.
On the way back from work it was still raining, and the soft, muddy sports pitch at the college had attracted 17 BLACK HEADED GULLS, and a winter thrush flock of around 45 REDWING and 30 FIELDFARE, the stubbles at Migrant Alley were still deviod of birds though.
After getting home and having a cuppa, and a snack, I just couldn't bring myself to put my wet hat and coat back on, and venture back out into the rain, so I spent 90 mins watching the garden feeders. The birds were'nt in feeding mode though. I counted a peak of 13 BLUE TITS, 8 GREENFINCH, 7 CHAFFINCH and 6 GOLDFINCH, with two's and threes of GREAT and COAL TIT. The usual small gang of COLLARED DOVE came and went, but a bit of a surprise was the 4 DUNNOCKS that were around the shrubs, ive not had that many together for ages. The best bird of the day was the BRAMBLING, which has been using the garden for a few weeks now. A low species total of just 14 was recorded, as NUTHATCH and GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER didn't turn up, most unusual. Another 9 species were seen away from the garden, including a pair of MALLARDS and a MOORHEN out on the grass fields in front of my house.
Not a very inspiring day, but the weather is set to improve tomorrow, (it could hardly get worse) and that might just let me squeeze in one more new species before the month's end, fingers crossed!

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

I was looking forward to getting out this afternoon, the sun was shining, and it was mild and still, however, this doesn't mean that i'm going to see more than if it were wet and windy, and this proved the case! I went round the usual route, seeing BULLFINCH'S in the small holding, and a couple of GREEN WOODPECKERS on the lawns of one of the large gardens, but a wall of silence hit me when I walked into the wet woods, well apart from a far off MISTLE THRUSH singing it's melancholy song. A few MOORHENS scuttled aound the water filled ditches, and 4 MALLARDS were hidden, in amongst the tangle of watery undergrowth, but that was it! As I walked along the footpath from the woods to the lake area, I heard a GOLDCREST, as I searched for it, I found not one but 4, they were so close to me my camera wouldn't focus on them, at one point one of the birds flew up and tried to land on the camera lens, I felt it's tiny wings waft the air on my face! What a great little encounter, as was the KINGFISHER at the lake, which came bombing low over the water straight at me, and perched just 10ft away, I slowly aimed my camera, but the auto focus couldn't pick out the bird amongst the twigs, as I moved for a better view, it sped off calling noisily, - almost got a good photo, it will happen one day! The only other thing of note at the lake was a CORMORANT, again perched up in a tree, as yesterday.
I made my way over to Migrant Alley, via the tree nursery, nothing happening at the nursey either, apart from some woman pulling up grass - for her guneapigs apparently! At migrant alley, again there was just empty stubbles, a YELLOWHAMMER and a few SISKIN were in the hedgerow, and a dozen WOODPIGEON were having a rest from being shot at, by feeding in the much safer sheep pasture. Maybe the small excavater and dumper truck working in the far corner of the field had disturbed eveything ? I decided to sit and watch the sky, I thought maybe a Little Egret might fly over on it's way to roost, but it never materialised. I did see a very distant flock of geese, probably a hunded or so, off to the SW, and there were two white birds amongst them, they could of been Egrets, but they were miles away, and off my patch anyway. As it got darker, and alot colder, I saw 3 flocks of LINNET fly over, and head towards their roost at the tree nursery, 33 , 15 and then 9 went bounding across. I saw a few of them, as I walked back home, in an ash tree along ashes lane, ready to drop down to roost.

Below is one of the 4 extremely confiding Goldcrests I had an encounter with.
These Snowdrops were almost fully out, a sign of things to come ?
Below are a few of the Linnets in the ash tree, waiting to drop down into the Laurels in the nursery.
Message to Lee. Got your email about your 75 species, well done mate bet your well chuffed with that one. I seem to have deleted your email address can you send it to me?

Monday, 26 January 2009

I only had time for a quick 90 min wander over my patch this afternoon, again a visit to the wet woods, lake area, tree nursery and only the briefest scan of the maize stubble at migrant alley, was made. The lake area had some interest today, when I found a KINGFISHER, it was fishing on the ''tidied'' pond, this is the first one seen on this part of my patch this year, the smaller 'back' pond had just 3 MALLARD, and the Larger 'natural' pond had 2 CORMORANT, and 6 Mallard. BULLFINCH'S were heard calling from the surrounding trees, and I watched a SPARROWHAWK hunting at the feeders of the nearby house.
In the wet woods at least 3 TEAL were present, but I couldn't find any feeding tit flock today, I also failed to find a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, not surprising really though, as they are infrequent visitors to the woods, and I rarely get more tha 1 record a year. Nothing at all was of note in the tree nursery, work was going on to remove the tree's now the ground is good and wet.
At migrant alley all the winter thrushes had gone! Not one Redwing or Fieldfare was out there, although there seemed to be plenty going over, in all directions. I only had 10 mins there, but did see at least 30 SKYLARKS fly across the field, and in the nearby hedgerow a small band of GOLDFINCH and SISKIN fed, probably no more than a dozen overall.

There is a Kingfisher in the pic. below. Honest!
Here's a zoomed in view, it was a long way off!!

Below is one of the cormorants.
Below is a poor Sparrowhawk pic. But you can just make it out.
I took this fungus pic for Greenie, or maybe Dean to ID for me. It was growing on an oak branch

Sunday, 25 January 2009

I got up this morning, looked out the window and went back to bed for another hour! The weather was atrocious, heavy rain was being battered up against the window by a strong wind. A bit disappointing as today would have been the last full walk round of my patch for the month. Oh well there was still the Big Garden Birdwatch to do!
I had already filled the feeders the night before, and added the remains of a chinese takeaway to the sunflower hearts, Peanuts, and fat blocks. So at 08:30 I sat down with a mug of tea and some marmite on toast for my hours stint at the window, these are my results:
Blue Tit - 5
Blackbird - 3
Starling - 7
Chaffinch - 6
Greenfinch - 16
Robin - 2
House Sparrow - 2
Dunnock - 1
Great Tit - 2
Collarded Dove - 6
Goldfinch - 6
Jay - 2
Woodpigeon - 2
Magpie - 1
Jackdaw - 1
Brambling - 1
Nuthatch - 1
Coal tit -1
and finally, but not so pleased about, was a male Sparrowhawk, The first to be recorded in the garden this year. It wasn't the one that has plagued the garden for the last 6 years, but a new one ( the other one had a ring on its leg).
So 19 species turned up, and the sparrowhawk made the January garden feeder list up to 23. I was also keeping an eye out on the sky and vacinity around my garden, and was pleased to see a couple of GREYLAG GEESE (68) fly over the wet woods, I thought i'd missed this one for the January patch list.
At 10:00 the weather looked slighlty less wild, so I thought i would walk over to the lake, maybe there would be a rare duck species sheltering there. However all I found was 11 MALLARDS! Not worth the effort! I got wet and windblown for that! I did get to see a small feeding flock in the very very wet woods though, comprising of a TREECREEPER, 4 GOLDCREST, 6 LONG TAILED TITS and both the MARSH TITS, so the one that struck the window is doing ok!

I took some photo's around midday, when it appeared to brighten up a bit. not enough for photography really though, but here's some of what I recorded.

Above and below Blue Tit

Below: a Male Chaffinch
Below: a Goldfinch
Below: Greenfinch's at the sunflower feeder

Below: Nuthatch, with a Female Greenfinch looking on

Below: more Goldfinch and Greenfinch, with a Housesparrow
Below: Collared doves arrive in force
Below: Brambling, with Chaffinch and yet more Greenfinch
Below: yep, another Greenfinch
Below a Male Blackbird

Saturday, 24 January 2009

This morning brought a hard frost, freezing over all the puddles, and large patches of water that had formed in the fields. FIELDFARE and REDWING were very obvious from the off, I counted 240 Fieldfare in the sheep pasture next to the tree nursery. The only notable bird in the nursery itself was the roosting BARN OWL. Another large mix of winter thrushes were at Migrant Alley, many hundreds again fed on the Maize stubbles and on the sheep pasture, along with a small group of 6 SKYLARK. A GREY WAGATAIL was seen again at the manure pile, and as I watched it 2 CORMORANTS flew low over, in the direction of the lake, only the second sighting of this species this month. I couldn't walk the stream behind the college, as it was in full flood, and I can't cross it lower down, so I took the short route into the college grounds and gardens. Some common species were found here, MOORHEN, LONG TAILED TIT, COAL TIT, GOLDCREST, BULLFINCH, and on the college sports pitch another winter thrush flock of 100 or so birds. The return walk through Migrant Alley produced a REED BUNTING in the hedgerow, and more Bullfinch were in the Raspberry canes, along with a PIED WAGTAIL.
After mid-point break, for a drink and snack, I headed up ashes lane to the wild bird crop, at least 10 Reed Buntings were flitting from the crop to the hedgerow, one male looked particularly striking in his spring plumage, along with them were a dozen YELLOWHAMMER. Off to the wet woods via the small holding, and little was added to the day's list, apart from the LITTLE OWL, which was in it's usual old apple tree, and a few SISKIN in the Alder tree's in the woods. The last piece of habitat visited was the lake, which was frustratingly frozen again! Just 6 MALLARD were seen, and one of the MARSH TITS was taking sunflowere seeds from the garden nearby, I could see it had no ring on, and thus it was most likely the bird that had hit the window of the house earlier in the week, it looked good and healthy! The last bird on todays list of 46 species was a MEADOW PIPIT which flew over the lake as I left.

Below is a pic of the Little Owl. can you see it ? The next pic. shows it a bit closer.

Below is one of the Redwings on the frosted sports pitch

A fox meanders across a field full of winter thrushes below

And yet more Redwing, Fieldfare at the sports pitch
The yellow monsters below have just torn down a small wood on the edge of my patch for some housing. This is the kind of habitat that our wildlife is losing rapidly, it's a much more important piece of habitat for wildlife than a 'green field' , but it doesn't get any sympathy because it doesn't look very pretty, all those nasty sharp brambles and pointy thornes. More idiots!! It will all come back to bite our arses!

Friday, 23 January 2009

No visit was made to my patch this afternoon - the dentist awaited me! The only birding I did was a quick look at Migrant Alley as I walked home from work, the REDWING, FIELDFARE, and STARLINGS were all still on the Maize stubbles, feeding in their hundreds.
I had an hour before leaving for the dentist, so I watched the garden feeders. 16 Species came in to feed, mostly BLUE TITS, of which a peak of 13 were counted, and GREENFINCH'S of which a peak of 14 were counted. Nothing new for the garden month/year list turned up, but it was nice to see NUTHATCH, COAL TIT, and GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKERS up close.
The weather looks ok for the early morning walk tomorrow, but it will still be very wet underfoot, I don't think ive ever known pittswood to be so inundated, still, it might bring me a different duck species in!

Below are some typical garden birds. I managed to fire off a few snaps this afternoon
Above: A Male CHAFFINCH, and Below a Female Great Spotted Woodpecker
Lastly a STARLING, I liked the face on posture!

Thursday, 22 January 2009

I saw one of the MARSH TITS at the garden feeders this afternoon while eating lunch, but I couldn't make out if it had a ring on or not, as it was in and out very quickly. I'll have to keep an eye out just to make sure the one that flew into the window has survived.
After lunch it was back out onto the patch, I spent more time in the wet woods today, in the hope of finding a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, but without success. There were however 5 GOLDCREST, 2 TREECREEPER, a COAL TIT and a few BLUE and GREAT TITS, in a feeding flock, the latter was mimicking the calls of the Marsh Tit very convincingly. At least 3 TEAL were on the pools, which are now as full as i've ever seen them after all the rain we've had, and there's apparently another inch on the way tonight! A quick walk around the lake area produced just 14 MALLARD, and a MOORHEN, with a flyover male SPARROWHAWK.
I walked back through the tree nursery, which was empty of birds, and over to Migrant Alley. Again, as in the past couple of days, it was alive with birds, mainly of REDWING, FIELDFARE and STARLING, all on the Maize stubble, probably over a thousand birds were feeding together. As I stood and scanned the field, a GREY WAGTAIL flew over, and 5 BULLFINCH at least were in the old Raspberry canes. A little while on I noticed a large flock, far away to the north, I looked through my bins and found they were starlings, thousands of them. wheeling and morphing into different shapes, just like on telly! Then they all suddenly seemed to panic, and flew tight together, before splitting into two groups, a Sparrowhawk or maybe the Peregrine had tried in vain to catch a meal, and only managed to split the flock, a great spectacle to watch!

Below: A DUNNOCK sat at up on the hedgerow at Migrant Alley, and posed for a Pic.
Below: This GREEN WOODPECKER was feeding on the lawn of the large house, by the lake

and last of all, evidence of spring! The Honeysuckle in the woods is shooting new growth.

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Not much has changed birdwise on my patch from yesterday, the lake had frozen over again, but only lightly. I had an interesting encounter with a small party of birds whilst at the lake, I watched a pair of MARSH TITS, a GOLDCREST, and a TREECREEPER all feeding together, the Treecreeper gave some loud descending song, most enjoyable to hear. I also found a LITTLE OWL just outside it's roost hole, in an apple tree situated in the small holding, it gave some cracking photo opportunities.
Most of the other bird activity was again at Migrant Alley, with hundreds of winter thrushes, 15 SKYLARKS, 8 LINNETS, 5 YELLOWHAMMER, 250 STARLINGS and a single LAPWING.
As I write this I've just received an e-mail from the people who live next to one of the lakes. It reads-:

A marsh/willow tit just flew into our sitting room window with a thud. I watched it for a while on the ground and it started to drop its head and fall over. I brought it into the kitchen and kept it dark and after a few minutes it revived and we let it go. It had a shiny head so from our book that makes it a marsh tit.

This was one of the birds I was watching a few hours ago, Shame it wasn't the one with the ring on it's leg. Lets hope it survives ok!
Not much else happening today, it's got to improve soon!

Below are some pics. of the Little Owl

You might have to enlarge this last pic.
And below is the flock of Starlings at Migrant Alley

Once again I tried to capture the Fieldfare/Redwing numbers, but they were very flighty! Most of them had flown to another part of the field when I took the photo below.


Tuesday, 20 January 2009

The BRAMBLING was back at the garden feeders this afternoon, I had good views of it whilst I ate my lunch, but typically, it left when I got my camera out!
Not deterred by yesterdays dismal visit, I followed the same route again, there were more birds about than yesterday, probably because the wind had dropped out, and I could hear things now. I was rewarded with a pair of BULLFINCH in the small holding area, as well as a pair of NUTHATCH. I entered the wet woods, and found a small feeding flock of BLUE and GREAT TITS, with an accompanying TREECREEPER, on the pools of water were MOORHEN, and at least 3 TEAL. As I walked over towards the lake area, the waft of smoke filled the air, the gardener of the large house was back on his mission to de-forest pittswood! More tree's in the large garden had been cut down, and everything around the lake area had been disturbed by the noisy chainsaw, apart from a couple of sleepy MALLARD and a GREY HERON hiding under some overhanging bushes.
So it was back over to the tree nursery, the work crew were extracting tree's in a far corner of one of the fields, so didn't make much disturbance, but still little was seen, just a GREEN WOODPECKER, WRENS, DUNNOCKS and ROBINS.
I was getting despondant as I crossed over ashes lane, however I carried on into the field with last years raspberry canes in, as I was nearing the fence to get into Migrant Alley, 6 Bullfinch flew out of the canes, then around 10 GOLDFINCH flew up the side of the adjacent hedgerow, joined by 20-30 REDWING/FIELDFARE, I immediatley thought 'Sparrowhawk', but it wasn't, it was my old mate the BARN OWL, who came ''flopping'' round the corner and over my head, I got a photo of it as it went away, but it flew into the low sun, so it was a poor pic. The sun had only just come out, and went back in a few minutes later, I'm sure things conspire against me at times!
In Migrant Alley it was a repeat of yesterday, the maize stubbles were filled with many hundreds of winter thrushes,the Fieldfares outnumbering REDWING by maybe 4 to 1. Again there were 300+ STARLINGS and ones and two's of YELLOWHAMMER, LINNET, MEADOW PIPIT, PIED WAGTAIL and SKYLARK. A line of Alders separating Migrant Alley from the Greenhouse complex, was alive with BLACKBIRDS and DUNNOCKS, While on the seed cones above them were small numbers of CHAFFINCH, GOLDFINCH and SISKIN, probably around a dozen of each.
A better visit today, but no additions to the stagnating month/year list. Isn't it about time some of those people with constant waxwing sightings sent just ONE this way ? :-)

Above. One of the Nuthatch's seen at the small holding. Below is one of the Siskin in the Alder trees at Migrant Alley.
Below is a poor shot of the Barn Owl, a nice bird to 'bump' into anytime