It was overcast, windy and spits of rain were in the air when I left for my early morning patch walk today - not a very auspicious start.
I began with a walk along ashes lane to the tree nursery, and along the hedgerow that leads on to migrant alley. Finding birds was difficult, the odd ROBIN, BLACKBIRD, GREENFINCH and CHAFFINCH sang, but I can record them even on a cold winters day - this is MAY, the morning air is meant to be full of late spring song!
By the time I had reached Migrant Alley, just 14 species had been heard or seen, I would expect at least a dozen more than that. In one of the horse paddocks 8 GREYLAG GEESE were lazing around, and above, a SKYLARK battled against the elements to deliver it's long trilling song. A PIED WAGTAIL was out on the earth mounds, and a flock of 20 odd LINNETS fed in one of the Paddocks. As I neared the end of migrant alley I heard BLACKCAP and CHIFFCHAFF, as well as a LESSER WHITETHROAT all singing from the north end scrub, but as I reached the turning to walk down to the college grounds, a familiar scratching song was heard coming from an excuse for a hedgrow, it was a REED WARBLER ! Things are looking up, this is the second one i've recorded this month, thats good going for my patch!
The college grounds and adjacent stream provided some more of the usual suspects, but it was still hard going, I heard the SPOTTED FLYCATCHER calling in the same place as I found it earlier in the week, and a BLACK HEADED GULL flew over, not an easy bird on my patch in may. Walking back through Migrant Alley, LESSER BLACK BACKED and HERRING GULLS were added to the list, as was a WHITETHROAT that was singing from a small area of brambles by the Greenhouse complex, bring the day list to 36 not too bad, after a slow start.
The second half of my walk, around the small holding, wet woods and lake area, gave me another 12 species, YELLOWHAMMER in the small holding, TREECREEPER (in song!) in the wet woods, and GARDEN WARBLER, CUCKOO, 4 TURTLE DOVES, BULLFINCH and SPARROWHAWK in the scrub by the lake. I now had 48 species for the day list, and I hadn't got Canada Goose (where had they gone?) or Great Spotted Woodpecker, two species seen on 100% of my full walks so far this year, 50 was certainly on!
I walked back towards the wet woods, to get into the tree nursery and back over to migrant alley. I heard a STOCK DOVE, and saw my first SWIFTS of the morning feeding low over the bare nursery - 50 achieved! Always a good score for my little patch. I reached my seat at migrant alley and scanned the sky for HOUSE MARTIN, which I found within a few minutes, a little later a KESTREL was seen, 52 ! it was turning out to be a good day list after all, a JAY then flew across from the small copse behind the greenhouses and into one of the large gardens, that made 53, if only I had found the usual canada geese and woodpecker, it would have equaled the best ever day list of 55. I could still match that yet. I thought to myself should I go back to the woods for the Woodpecker, or sit and wait for maybe the Peregrine to show up, or a Hobby perhaps, I chose the latter - and boy was I glad I did, for in the distance, to the west, and coming ever nearer I spied a large raptor, it got to within about 200 yards of me and was flying along the treeline ,I could easily see it was a RED KITE (99), Yes!! fantastic! Thank you RSPB for bringing these majestic birds of prey back to our countyside. I watched it for 2-3 mins, it passed my house, and if I was in and looking out that way from my window, I would have got it on my house list!!
This is only the fourth record of Red Kite on my patch, the last was on May the 6th, last year. The other two were on the 15th and 20th of May 2006.
So a slow start to the day ended in sheer joy, and a day list of 54. I suppose another visit to the woods could have got that woodpecker, and maybe the Geese on the lake, but I was happy enough with this days work.
No pics today, it was just too windy, and dull this morning.