Friday, 31 July 2009

This will be my last post until the 9th of August, as tomorrow i'm off to wales, no doubt all the Pied flycatchers and Redstarts will move from there to here!

Back to this mornings patch visit, and it was a real change to have ideal conditions - no wind, no rain, Ive forgotten what that was like! The overcast sky also helped, as it is easier to pick out the flyovers on a grey backround.

So today was the last visit of the month, and the chase to at least equal the record 69 species seen in July 2007 ended in failure, I think most of the monthly highs already recorded have reached thier peak, and will be tough to beat from now on, this months 65 species did however take 3rd place, in this, the 8th july of watching my patch.

50 species were seen this morning, another good total, with some nice birds in the mix, 5 CORMORANTS flew over early on, as did a GREY HERON, and the now daily event of flyover CANADA and GREYLAG GEESE, (albeit an hour later than previous days) took place. A KINGFISHER flew up the college stream, only the second record this month, and both KESTREL and SPARROWHAWK were out hunting over Migrant Alley. It was disappointing not to find the Spotted Flycatchers in the college grounds, or any Common or Lesser Whitethroats anywhere! Another reasonably common bird not seen again was the Mistle Thrush, it has been seen on only 3 out of the 11 full patch walks this month. It was interesting to watch 33 SWIFTS feeding quite high up over the tree nursery, they all moved of eastwards, when I come back from Wales it will be a hard task to find one, as the majority will have left to go back to Africa.
A few July stats. - July total 65, combined julys total for 8 years is 84, mean number of species seen in July is 62.8. Just one species was new to any July - Common Buzzard.

I'm already 'chomping at the bit' to get out on my patch in August, I just hope the awaited Migrants turn up, what with all the disturbace going on with the Pipeline at migrant Alley. August is a strange statistical month, it has the second lowest combined 8 year total of just 77, (suprisingly 7 behind july) only november has a worse record, but last August I recorded 70 of those species. I put this down to the fact that if I do go on holiday, it's normally in August! You can't see 'em if your not there!!!

be back in a week!

Above one of the Canada Geese going over, and below a hard to get NUTHATCH!

Thursday, 30 July 2009

I left at 06:00hrs this morning, and for once the sun was shining! It was still windy though, and it felt chilly.
I was determined to add a new species for the months list today, but despite 5 hours in the field none was added, however, frustratingly I thought I had a glimpse of a Sedge Warbler as it darted into the maize crop at migrant alley, much looking and waiting was done, but it simply vanished, that would have been a year tick too!

So I was left with the mix of species that I have been seeing all month, 48 in all today. The LESSER WHITETHROAT, and MARSH TIT were seen, they havn't been on every daylist, but the Common Whitethroat and Mistle Thrush failed to be recorded.

Again a large number of GREYLAG and CANADA GEESE flew over, in a mixed flock of 100+ birds. Both male and female SPARROWHAWKS were out hunting early on, but no other raptors were seen. There were many more BLACKCAPS about this morning, some in family groups, but some of the other summer migrants species breeding on my patch were thin on the ground, just ones and two's of TURTLE DOVE and CHIFFCHAFF as for the Garden warblers - they still havn't been seen since last month.

Two good size mixed feeding flocks were seen, in amongst the usual Tit species were NUTHATCH,TREECREEPER,Chiffchaff and GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER.

Above one of 7 LONG TAILED TITS seen in one of the mixed feeding flocks, below a SWALLOW, one of the summer migrants that were seen in good numbers.
Below is a young Blackcap.
Below is another Sparrowhawk photo. This one was flying low over the maize at Migrant Alley.
Below are some of the geese that went over early on.
lastly a ''flock'' of Painted ladies seen sunbathing by the buddleia over by the lake area.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

I was eager to get out this morning, and was up at 05:00hrs, a quick look at the weather forecast, said no rain till the afternoon - great, I was out by 05:45.

I was 5mins out and it started raining! I only had a fleece to keep the rain off, bloody weather presenters if I did my job like they do theirs I'd be sacked! Oh well, I carried on with my walk and was rewarded with a total of 47 species, not as good as recent visits, but more realistic.

The rain continued for the first 90 minutes, but it was made more bearable by the sighting of my first WHIMBREL (102) of the year - two in fact! They were seen flying over as I left the tree nursery to go to Migrant Alley, I suppose the low cloud and rain brought them down low enough to be visible. I am well pleased with seeing this species, as it is only the 3rd year that they have been recorded on my patch. The year total is now 4 off the record tally of last year, can I beat it?

Apart from that very exciting species, the rest of the list was the usual mix. It was nice to see a huge flock of both CANADA and GREYLAG GEESE flyover Migrant Alley though, some 87 were counted, mostly Greylags. Very few summer migrants were noted, just one each of CHIFFCHAFF, BLACKCAP, and COMMON WHITETHROAT, plus TURTLE DOVES were seen and heard. The only Raptor species seen was the SPARROWHAWK, one flew over, and the juv. was again heard calling for food in the wet woods.

back out early again tomorrow morning, still 4 more species to find this month to equal the July record, not looking like i'll do it now though.

Photographic opportunities were limited in the rain this morning, and when it cleared the wind picked picked up. but here's what I got.

Below is a SKYLARK that was sitting on the earth works at Migrant Alley

The Sparrowhawk that flew over during a ''brighter'' interlude late morning.

A Common Blue Butterfly. Unfortunately it had a chunk missing fromits wing tip.
The feather below is from the wing of a JAY, a real wonder of nature the way every shade of blue is used, and repeated along its length
''Autumn'' fruits! The Blackberries are out, ready to fatten up the resident birds for winter, and fuel the Migrant species on their journey south.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

First day of my holiday, and I didn't really spend much time on my patch! I had a bit of work to do first thing, surveying a Tetrad to the north of my patch. I finished that around 09:00, had some breakfast and then spent 90 mins out on the tree nursery and Migrant Alley.

Not much was seen, the weather isn't helping still, it was cool and windy, with some light showers being blown through, I actually wished I'd brought my woollen hat out, a warm hat in July!

I did witness the life and death struggle of a GOLDFINCH over the paddocks at Migrant Alley. A SPARROWHAWK was chasing the finch and not getting too close to it, but the finch made the mistake of going out into the open, where it was relentlessly persued, and once it was exhausted from the chase it was grabbed easily by the hawk. Two other Raptors were seen - a BUZZARD went high over, and a KESTREL was hunting over the greenhouses. A little while later I got fed up with the weather and went home to do some housework for the wife! ( well we're going away to Wales this saturday - no patch visits for a week, what will I miss?)

Around 15:30 I noticed the weather had cheered up a bit, so I went back out to find some butterflies, I did find some, but getting a photo was difficult as the wind was still blowing strongly. I found two Brown Argus, 4 Common Blue, many Painted ladies, Commas, Peacocks, Meadow browns and Gatekeepers.

At least now all my ''chores'' are out the way, and I've got a clear run till saturday, 3 full walks of my patch await, and I still need those 5 species to equal the July record.

Below are a couple of photo's I managed despite the wind. A Brown Argus - very nice. Front and back.

Monday, 27 July 2009

I posted yesterdays patch trip a little early in the day, I didn't think I'd get out again, but plans changed and I manage another 90 min skywatch at Migrant Alley, this proved productive for the day list at least, as I added 4 species that were not seen that morning - LESSER BLACK BACKED GULL, TURTLE DOVE, a PEREGRINE half - heartedly chasing Feral Pigeons, and a pair of migrant SAND MARTINS. This brought the daylist to a record setting 57 species, the big 60 is looming!

Back to today, and, well it was dismal from start to finish. This morning while I was at work heavy rain fell, and as I left work the heavy rained cleared to showers, and the blustery wind set in again. In the conditions few butterflies were seen, but the Meadow Browns and Gatekeepers did try to come out, with the occasional Painted lady. A walk round the tree nursery didn't give me much birdwise, COMMON WHITETHROATS were still feeding young in the boundary hedge, that's about the only noteworthy item, so I went for a walk round Migrant Alley and did some skywatching. Again, little was seen, I spent more time watching the earth moving machines backfilling the Pipeline trench! The odd HERRING and BLACKHEADED GULL went over,while the SWALLOWS and HOUSE MARTINS tried to find what little insect prey was about. A few SWIFTS were around today, I think the local ones have gone south already, and these were Migrant birds.

As of now I am on holiday, hooorah! I'm off until Aug 10th so I'll be finishing this month with a run of morning visits, a good chance to get the 5 species needed to equal the July record!

One of the few birds seen today - Black headed Gull.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Another huge daylist was recorded today, 53 species in all, I would expect an average of 45-48 in July. The first two hours of the four hour walk, took place in ideal conditions, no wind and an overcast but bright sky, however the wind came back with a vengence halfway round my patch.

Todays birding highlight was finding another months first, a singing WILLOW WARBLER, the first since May 3rd, I love their song, but it's seldom heard on my patch now, this is a species that just passes through on migration sadly. Top bird would have been the COMMON BUZZARD that flew low over the tree nursery as I was busy photographing MARSH TITS - of which there are now two on my patch, I hope they remain for the Autumn/winter period.

Four species turned up today that weren't seen yesterday, the Willow Warbler, MISTLE THRUSH, just one was seen by the college stream, PHEASANT which was heard calling straight after, and the next species on the list SPOTTED FLYCATCHER, the family was seen in the college grounds, strange I should see the latter three straight after one another, after not finding them at all yesterday.

Other birds of note; GREYLAG GEESE, 72 flew low over Migrant Alley, in three skeins, a common enough bird, but it was quite a sight and sound as they came crashing through! KESTREL and SPARROWHAWK were seen hunting over the area, and the Juv. Sparrowhawk was again heard calling for food in the wet woods, it was duly rewarded by one of the adults, but i didn't get to see any of the action as they were well hidden in the canopy.

All the pics are pretty rubbish today, I wasn't going to put them on, but they do give a flavour of the morning, so here they are.

Above. A lovely LINNET, with it's ''Jam dipped'' breast

Above and below are a couple of snacthed shots of the buzzard, I liked the 'bent up' primaries on the one below

Above and below the Marsh Tits, by now the wind was blowing hard again, and it was difficult to focus.
Lastly, one of the Spotted Flycatcher young. Doing well despite the cool weather, which must make it hard for them to find their prey. I had to take a snapshot of this bird, as a car was coming and knew it would fly off any second, well thats my excuse!

Saturday, 25 July 2009

I spent over 7 hours on my patch today, 5 of them from 05:45hrs, and then another stint this afternoon, mainly to find some raptors.

At least the weather had settled for today's walk, which produced another species for the months list, a GREY WAGTAIL, which was on one of the ornimental ponds in the college grounds, an anticipated species, but not a gauranteed one!

A CORMORANT that flew over early on, and several skiens of GREYLAG GEESE, with two GREY HERONS at the lake area, all species not seen everyday, made for a very good daylist of 54 species, which could have been higher - even setting a daylist record, If species like MISTLE THRUSH, PHEASANT, and LESSER WHITETHROAT had shown up.

A mixed feeding flock of mainly BLUE, LONG TAILED, and GREAT TITS were found in the wet woods, but with them was a MARSH TIT, presumably the one that was seen earlier this month, also with the flock were two
TREECREEPERS and a NUTHATCH, there were at least six Treecreepers seen on various parts of my patch today.

The afternoon visit provided the Raptors for the day list, KESTREL, SPARROWHAWK and BUZZARD were all seen hunting over Migrant Alley.

Butterflies continued to surprise me, I added two more to the year list, a Female Holly Blue, and two separate Clouded Yellows, one was very ''Orangey''

Above: A GREEN WOODPECKER in the early morning half-light, and below a COMMON WHITETHROAT.
Below is the first Grey wagtail of the month, an immature one
Below is a Common Darter
Next is a Speckled Wood Butterfly, looking a bit worn now.
Below is the first Holly Blue Butterfly of the year
Lastly - The scene at Migrant Alley at 07:45 this morning. Work is progressing well, the 48'' diameter pipeline is now buried, only six weeks work left on it! Will all the disturbance prevent the Migrants visiting this year ? I'll have to wait and see.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Yet another weather affected afternoons walk! I had just 20mins or so of ''brighter moments'' whilst out, fortunately they co-incided with me being at the Buddleia bush over at the lake area, but photography was still hindered by the now seemingly ever present gusty wind we've had all this summer!

I managed an hour dodging the worst of the thunderstorms that could be heard to the west of me, but by 15:30 a real biggy came over with my name on it, I hurried back home, but fell short of cover by 100yards - and still got drenched, it rained and hailed that hard!

All I saw of note today was a SPARROWHAWK carrying off a prey item towards the wet woods, probably to feed the Juv I saw in there the other day. Lots of gulls were about, enjoying the rough weather, their white plumage was easy to pick out against the dark purple storm clouds, no new Gull species for the monthly list though.

So thats it, another messed up day, what a poor summer! At least the morning is looking ok (so far). I really need to get out early and find something new for the months list, or the year list, this being the last weekend of the month, although I have got all next week off, apart from Monday so I can give the old patch a real good going over.

Below is a photo of a Red Admiral, a species I failed to get a pic. of yesterday.
Next is a Gatekeeper.
These two shots below were taken just after the storm passed. It shows the garden feeders full of Finch's, Tits, and Sparrows. you can see why I use so much food! Not very clear, but the light was dismall.
Blue Tits, mostly this years young

Thursday, 23 July 2009

The mojority of this afternoon was spent at the tree nursery area, with a quick visit to the lake later. Migrant Alley was completely out of bounds, as the trench has been dug ready to take the gas pipe, and there is no way over, under or round it now!
The above photo is of the field that is going to be turned over to sheep pasture once ploughed. This side of the fence is the remainder of the tree nursery, where lots of tall grass and wildflowers attract the Butterflies. I had the best ever butterfly day today, finding no less than four Common Blue ( a new peak count) 3 Brown Argus ( a new peak count) a Small Copper, and a Purple Hairstreak, all these are scarce butterflies on my patch. The more common Gatekeeper and
Meadow Brown were also seen in large numbers. Frustratingly the wind was still blowing strongly, and the pics are a bit blurry today. As I chased the butterflies, a KESTREL was hunting over the boundary hedgerow, and the plough had started to attract LESSER BLACKBACKED, HERRING and BLACK HEADED GULLS, as well as a few PIED WAGTAILS.

I made my way over to the lake, on the way adding Speckled wood butterfly to my sightings. On the lake just the normal activity was seen, CANADA GEESE, MALLARD and MOORHEN and it was all quiet in the scrub. So it was over to the buddleia for more butterflies! It was teeming with Peacock Butterflies, at least 25 were seen, also smaller numbers of Red Admiral,Painted Lady, Comma, as well as Large and Small white. But I didn't see any Small Tortoiseshell, they seem to prefer the thistle at Migrant Alley.

I may well go out later this evening to check the newly ploughed field out.

Above is a Pair of Common Blue Butterflies, two pairs were seen today. This photo looks great enlarged.

Above is a Common Blue, and below is the back wing photo

Above a Brown Argus, and again a back wing photo below. ( whats the difference between a Common blue and a brown argus back wing ?)
Below is a Small Copper
Next one of the 20 odd Peacocks
Then a Painted Lady
a Comma
lastly a large White

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

I managed to add another species to the months list as I walked home from work this afternoon - a KINGFISHER, it flew up the college stream, always a nice sight.

After a snack and drink at home, I was out again by 14:00. I paid a visit to the lake and scrub area, but it was so windy I could hardly hear a thing birdwise, except, as I was cutting through the wet wood, a screeching sound was heard, I tracked it down after some effort, and found it to be a young SPARROWHAWK, I almost got a photo of it, but a JAY attacked it and sent it deeper into the canopy, ive never found a young Sparrowhawk before.

Once over at the lake, I gave it the once over, just in case a Mandarin Duck or something had dropped in, but only CANADA GEESE, MALLARD, MOORHEN and a GREY HERON were found. On the Buddleia close by, I was pleased to see a Humming bird hawk moth, not a frequent visitor to my patch. Also there were at least 22 Peacock Butterflies, they were everywhere, as well as 3 Painted lady, 3 Red Admiral and 4 Commas. As I walked off a small butterfly flew past and I tracked it down to a yew tree, it was a Purple Haistreak, and it had its wings open, I managed a quick snap of it, but it was just too windy for a good photo.

Only a very brief visit to Migrant Alley was made because there was much work going on at the pipeline. I only recorded SKYLARK, GOLDFINCH, WHITETHROAT and a Flyover LESSER BLACK BACK GULL and another Sparrowhawk, probably the parent of the Juv. I saw in the wet woods.

Below is the rather disappointing view of the open winged Purple Hairstreak.
Below: The Lesser Black Backed Gull, in one of those wierd flight postures they do!

Below is a view of the half of the tree nursery that has now been finished with. This 30 acres or so has been sprayed and harrowed, no doubt soon to be ploughed. I understand hadlow College will be leasing the fields to put sheep in, and the occasional Maize crop - the habitat changes again.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

The best of the days weather was had this morning, while I was working! As soon as I got home, the first of a rash of showers started to fall, so I cancelled my walk today. The only birds of note were a HOBBY seen chasing the SWALLOWS over Migrant alley as I walked to work, and a KESTREL seen around the Greenhouses as i walked back.
I spent the afternoon cleaning out all my birdfeeders. The birds are eating nearly 2kg of sunflower hearts a day! Thats nearly £100 a month! I watched them all feeding later in the day, and estimated that there were 50-60 birds in the garden - who says they dont need feeding in summer?

Hopefully normal ''patchwatching'' will resume tomorrow!

Monday, 20 July 2009

Another week begins, and it's back out on the patch for a couple of hours this afternoon. I went over to migrant alley for a look around the Maize crop, and the sheep and horse paddocks, something that I will be doing a lot of in the next 3 months ( as if I don't do it much now!) as any day now could bring a Migrant 'chat' or Wheatear.

As there were a few sunnny intervals when I arrived, I spent that time hunting for butterflies, I was fortunate enough to relocate the Common Blues and two Small Coppers, as well as the more numerous Painted Ladies, Red Admiral, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Comma, Large and Small Whites and Large Skippers. After half an hour or so a large bank of cloud came over, and the wind got up, so I did some skywatching, which as well as the usual LESSER BLACK BACKED, HERRING, and BLACK HEADED GULL my first BUZZARD of the month came over, from the north, Julys' total now stands at 62, seven species off the record set last year.
After getting chilly, sitting in the cool wind, I decided to walk a circuit of the fields, I found LINNETS, SKYLARKS, GOLDFINCH'S, and a GREENFINCH, which had my heart beating a little faster, as it was sat on one of the fences by the maize crop, looking initially like it may have been a 'Chat' from a distance. I'm just getting to jumpy, patience is needed!

Above is the Buzard, being mobbed by crows. ( what do ya mean ''where''!)
Then it came overhead, but it was a bit high.
Back to the butterflies, below is a Small Copper and below thet is two Small Coppers, this represents the peak count ever for my patch!

Below is a Common Blue, and under that is the underwing shot

Below is the old favourite - A peacock Butterfly
Lastly a Gatekeeper, Probably a female I think.