Friday, 30 April 2010

The final visit of the month didn't produced any new species for the April list, although there is a small possibility of seeing something this evening as I look from my window out across the fields.

I spent a couple of hours over at the lakeside scrub this afternoon, the weather has become cool and windy, and birdsong was much reduced, however the BLACKCAPS and CHIFFCHAFFS bucked the trend, they just keep on singing! As I sat and listened for that elusive Garden Warbler, a pair of LONG TAILED TITS came past me, feeding as they went, and with them was a COAL TIT and a GOLDREST, a bit of an Autumn moment :-) Apart from that, not much else to note there today.

I walked home through the Tree Nursery, and saw the COMMON WHITETHROAT, as well as hearing the LESSER WHITETHROAT, and a YELLOWHAMMER was singing from its favoured Oak branch. It's interesting watching the toing and froing of the STARLINGS at this time of year, they fly out to the fields and paddocks at Migrant Alley, then come back with a beakfull of food for their young, which are hidden in the nooks and crevices of the rooves of the houses along Ashes Lane, whenever you look up there's a Starling either going out or coming back.

Another month passes, and more data is collected on the birds of my patch. This April has been very succcessful, highlights were the Red Kite, the Black Redstart, and 12 sightings of Wheatear, as well as all the expected returning migrants. Barnacle goose, and Hobby joined the Red Kite and Black Redstart as 'firsts', these species have never been recorded in any April before, taking the combined 9 years April list to 101. As mentioned yesterday the months species list reached 76 the highest ever April tally, beating last years record total by 3. The average number of species seen in april is now 68.5.

The year list, at 89, is still 4 behind what it was the end of April last year, and is still 11 short of my target of 100 species for the year, but last year was an exceptional one, I got my target of 100 species by the 17th May! That is a record that will hold for a long time!

I wonder what May will bring - hopefully those two later arriving migrants yet to be seen, the Garden Warbler and the Spotted Flycatcher, they are both species that are clinging on as a breeding bird on my patch, with just one pair of each.

Above : Goldcrest, and Below: Coal Tit

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Everything is still very much as it has been all week on my patch. As most mornings this week a CUCKOO, COMMON WHITETHROAT and LESSER WHITETHROAT all sang as I left for work this morning, a nice trio to here together, whilst my afternoon search for a Garden Warbler over at the lakeside scrub, again proved fruitless. Whilst I sat and listened, enclosed by the brambles and young trees, a very rare thing happened, everything went quiet ! Exept for the birdsong, not a single thing was heard, no Mowers, Cars, light aircraft, chainsaws, hedgetrimers, grass strimmers, nor any yelling kids or golfers shouting 'Fore' from the nearby golf course! Such bliss, all I could here were the likes of Cuckoo, CHIFFCHAFF, BLACKCAP, TREECREEPER, GOLDCREST, and TURTLE DOVE, and the WRENS, ROBINS, DUNNOCKS, SONGTHRUSH and BLACKBIRDS were also giving their all, the weather was warm and windless, and I admit that just for a second I dozed off :-)

Having shaken myself from my sleepy state, I took a walk over to Migrant alley, the only thing noted on the way were a family of MALLARDS on one of the pools in the Wet Woods, and a short meeting with the Hadlow Farm manager, who was in the process of removing a dead lamb from a rabbit hole, it had somehow got its head stuck and suffocated, stupid animals, well thats one less to eat all the emerging hedgerows :-)

My walk and skywatch watch around Migrant Alley was cut short by a heavy shower, mercifully I might add, as it was absolutely desserted out there, except for the corvids, WOODPIGEONS, and a single singing SKYLARK - oh, and of course a SPARROWHAWK.

April is kind of fizzling out limply, but at least ive achieved the best April bird species total so far in the nine years of recording on my patch. Lets hope may is just as good!

The photo above might need a bit of scrutinizing ( or clicking to enlarge) to show whats there.

The closer view below shows the Mallard Ducklings more clearly. How well camouflaged are they!

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

The Bluebells in the Wet Woods.

Not much is changing at the moment on my patch, however yesterday evening I did manage to add a new species to the months list when 2 MANDARIN DUCK (76) flew over my house. I noticed they came from the small plastic lined reservoir over at the Greenhouse Complex, I watched the area on and off for about an hour, and saw 3 more drop in, one perched on a fence post, just like a wheatear - strange ducks these Mandarin. Also heard a LITTLE OWL calling from the small copse behind the greenhouses.

This morning on the way to work both LESSER and COMMON WHITETHROAT were singing from the hedge which runs along Ashes Lane and the Tree Nursery, i've only one of each of this species on my patch so far.

Back to this afternoon, and it's very much the same story as for Mon and tues afternoons. The search for a Garden Warbler over at the lakeside scrub failed, but it was a pleasant visit none the less, plenty of songsters were active : BLACKCAP, CHIFFCHAFF, BLACKBIRD, SONGTHRUSH, WREN, ROBIN, DUNNOCK to name a few. The Cuckoo was absent today though, as were many of the Butterfly species, just Orange Tip and Speckled wood were of note.

As usual I had a look around Migrant Alley, and it was ''as you were'' there too. A 40 min skywatch turned up trumps though, with 4 Raptor species being seen: PEREGRINE, BUZZARD, SPARROWHAWK and best of all a HOBBY, only my second record of an April hobby on my patch. If the Kestrel had shown itself I would have had a 5 Raptor day, something very rarely achieved!

I think another evening patch visit is worth the effort later.

Above and Below: The first Dunnock fledgeling of the year. This one was in my garden- the best bit of habitat on my patch :-)

On a very sad note, this male GREENFINCH was found in the road, it had only just been killed, and still had the piece of nesting material in its beak :-(
A victim of one of the local ''oh, I never speed down the lane'' drivers. I'd like to find one of those B*stards crashed in the hedge, do you think i'd help them ? Not a chance!

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

A warm sunny windless day today, well, that is until I left work, when it clouded over and the wind got up! It remained warm and quite muggy for my walk though, which was the same trek as yesterday - over to the lakeside scrub to see if any Garden Warblers had turned up. As I passed through the small holding to get to the lake, I was sure I heard the sound of a Sedge Warbler, just a short burst, but as I stopped by the patch of bramble to wait and listen, a bloody jumbo jet went over slow and loud, one of those ones that seems to take an age to go over :-) After that, I neither heard or saw anything from the brambles, Sedge warbler would have been a good spring species to get for the year list!

When I arrived at the lakeside scrub, the whole place seemed subdued, certainly not so much singing as was heard yesterday. A couple of half hearted BLACKCAPS and CHIFFCHAFFS, the odd DUNNOCK and the CUCKOO now and again, were all that was heard on first arriving. I sat for half an hour and listened and watched, but all that was added was a TREECREEPER, NUTHATCH and GOLDCREST, also a KESTREL that was hunting over the scrub, I thought latter was responsible for the quitness of the area.

I decided to have a walk round, and maybe meet a Garden warbler by chance, or something else, well I did meet something else, a TAWNY OWL. It was sat up in a tree, barely concealed at all, now I know why it was so quiet around the place!

After taking a few snaps of the Owl, I quietly moved off and left it in peace, then headed for Migrant Alley. Here it was much the same as yesterday, ROOKS, JACKDAWS, CARRION CROWS, PIED WAGTAILS and a flock of 23 LINNETS. Two SKYLARKS rose up from the pasture and sang as they spiralled up and out of sight, and GREY HERON flew over - just like yesterday. Both SPARROWHAWK and another Kestrel were hunting over the paddocks, to the concern of the dozen or so SWALLOWS, which kept mobbing them.

Once again a bog standard walk ( apart from the Owl). I think i'll take an evening stroll out tonight, see if something different is happenning.

Below are a few Tawny Owl photo's. The last photo is looking south across the newly seeded 'pub' field.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Speckled Wood butterfly

This afternoon, after work, I decided I would go and check the lakeside scrub in the hope of finding one of the last two regular migrant species that can be expected on my patch, the one I was searching for here was the Garden warbler, I may just find one this week, but it's generally early in May that they appear, with the mean arrival date being the 5th May.

Once in the scrubby area I sat and listened, a TURTLE DOVE sang, and the CUCKOO was active in the locality, singing from various prominent perches, BLACKCAPS seemed to be in every clump of bramble, but CHIFFCHAFFS have quietened down considerably, maybe its just that they sing better in the mornings :-) WREN, ROBIN, DUNNOCK, BLACKBIRD and SONGTHRUSH all gave some song, as did a GOLDCREST and a TREECREEPER, ive not heard the latter sing for a couple of weeks now.

After an hour I had not heard the Garden warbler or for that matter the Nightingale that was heard on saturday, so I had a quick look around the area, hoping to maybe 'bump' into one, but it didn't happen.

Next stop was Migrant Alley, where the usual suspects were to be found, WOODPIGEONS, JACKDAWS, CARRION CROWS and ROOKS all fed together on the paddocks, with a few PIED WAGTAILS running about between them. A flock of 23 LINNETS were on the footpath that crosses the paddocks, and two YELLOWHAMMERS were on the manure pile at the end of the paddocks. A 40 min skywatch only produced a GREY HERON, the dozen or so local SWALLOWS, a single HOUSE MARTIN and nine HERRING GULL that were making a real racket, which means only one thing, they are onto a Raptor, I scanned the sky around the Gulls and found two BUZZARDS, I thought I was going to get and Osprey or a Marsh harrrier, but I musn't complain Buzzards are good as well :-)

Not much else to report - same again tomorrow!

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Today was the last full patch walk of April, but first I had to go and do my Breeding Bird Survey for the BTO, which is adjacent my patch, this means I didn't get out on my patch until 09:00, and when I did it started raining!

So it was all at sixes and sevens today ( to quote Dean ) A walk round Migrant Alley was a quiet affair, two SKYLARKS were seen out on the sheep pasture, along with a few PIED WAGTAILS as well as the usual ROOKS, CARRION CROWS and JACKDAWS, more pleasing was hearing a TURTLE DOVE singing from the Scrubby wood at the north end, lets hope the paths that have been cut through this area do not allow walkers to disturb any nesting attempt, there was already some pillock walking through it as I was passing :-(. The college stables had 8 SWALLOWS flying around it, hopefully all will nest there ( if they are allowed ) and the college grounds provided some of the more common species, but also seen there, were GOLDCREST and COAL TIT, the latter didn't appear on yesterday's brilliant day list.

Another bird seen today that didn't get recorded yesterday was a COMMON WHITETHROAT that appeared in the Tree Nursery, but even with this the day list could only get to 48, I say only thats a good list really! The YELLOWHAMMER continues to sing from it's territory in the nursery, hopefull it will nest umolested there.

The lakeside scrub was a much quieter place, mainly due to the late hour that I arrived there, but at least 6 BLACKCAPS were holding territory there, as well as 5 CHIFFCHAFF. A long search for the first Garden Warbler of the year proved fruitless, but good views of the CUCKOO were had.

In all, it was a less exciting visit than yesterday, but it cant be good every day :-)

The year list of 89 is just 3 behind the total at the end of April last year, so with just two regularly recorded migrants left to arrive - hopefuly, those being Spotted Flycatcher and Garden Warbler, which just 1 pair of each breed on my patch last year, the year list will hit 91. This leaves me 9 species to find for the years target of 100, it's going to be tight!

The April list of 75 however, is now 3 better than last aprils record total.

Above : One of the Blackcaps from the lakeside scrub

Above: At last a photo of an Orange Tip Butterfly, not quite what I wanted, but it wouldn't open its wings!

Saturday, 24 April 2010

First thing this morning it was over to the lakeside scrub, to try once more to record my first Turtle Dove, but I got more than I bargained for! Straight away I was met with a wall of bird song, fitting for such a perfect April day: WILLOW WARBLER, BLACKCAP, CHIFFCHAFF, CUCKOO and most impressive of all my first NIGHTINGALE (87,73) since April 21 2007! I just stood and listened in awe to all that song, and lets not forget the resident species of WREN, DUNNOCK, ROBIN, SONGTHRUSH, BLACKBIRD, MISTLE THRUSH, and CHAFFINCH all which may not be as greater songsters as the Migrant species, but they play their part in one of the most pleasurable things in the natural world - the Dawn Chorus!

I dragged myself away, minus my Turtle Dove, to finish the rest of the patch walk, and once out of the lakeside scrub and back into the wet woods, it was like someone had closed the door, as I was met with just the sounds of GREAT TIT, GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER and JAYS. The reason for such contrast is the habitat, the wet woods has no undergrowth, just a carpet of bluebells, and thus no nesting opportunities for the songbirds. The owners of that piece of scrub should be congratulated for making a truly wild piece of habitat - Thanks A & K :-)

I crossed the tree nursery to get to Migrant Alley, and added a few common species to the list, LINNET, GRRENFINCH, and a singing YELLOWHAMMER, as well as HERRING and LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLS going over, on leaving the nursery I checked the nest of the MOORHEN that has made its home on the fast evaporating run off pool, I found the 3 young chicks and managed a photo of one today. Entering the pub field I checked the freshly harrowed soil and at last found something interesting on it a WHEATEAR! One of the very few that are recorded away from Migrant Alley.

I contined my walk across Migrant Alley and the College Grounds without too much more excitement, SWALLOWS and HOUSE MARTINS were overhead, a single SKYLARK sang, and as usual a SPARROWHAWK was up hunting.

By 10:00 I had finished my walk, but after a quick drink and something to eat I went back out, to have one more try at the Turtle Dove. I found a LESSER WHITETHROAT along Ashes Lane, and added a TREECREEPER to the day list that was in a large Oak on the edge of the Wet Woods. Upon arriving at the lakeside scrub for the second time, the song was mainly that of Blackcaps, but just a few minutes later the song of a TURTLE DOVE (88,74) was at last heard, sounding like I imagine a snoring fairy would sound! It had arrived bang on its mean arrival date the 24th April! Happy with my two year ticks, which by the way takes the April haul to 74, easily passing last years record of 72, I moved off home for a well earned cuppa, not before having my 50th species for the day fly past - a calling NUTHATCH.

I was getting itchy again by mid afternoon, and so had another visit to Migrant Alley for a skywatch, which turned out productive, my hour produced the folllowing Raptors COMMON BUZZARD, PEREGRINE, KESTREL and another Sparrowhawk, a STOCK DOVE flew over and a PHEASANT called, both not seen in the morning visit, but the skywatching highlight was a YELLOW WAGTAIL (89, 75) that flew low straight over me calling as it did so, and giving good views of it's stunning yellow spring plumage - 56 species ! 3 year ticks! what a day!

Above: Yellowhammer, Below : GOLDFINCH

Below is the WHEATEAR, I took this photograph in the tree nursery, was it the same bird that was on the harrowed Pub field ? Probably.

Below is a SWALLOW on the lines over Ashes Lane

Lastly one of the young Moorhen chicks.

Friday, 23 April 2010

This morning, on the way to work, a LESSER WHITETHROAT was singing from the grounds of the Greenhouse Complex, but it wasn't there on the way back home 5 hours later, however, there was yet another WHEATEAR at Migrant Alley when I came through, this one was a female.

I set out to try and find a Turtle Dove over at the Lakeside scrub this afternoon, and despite half an hour sitting and listening I failed to find one, but anyday now I should hear their purring. Whilst I sat, I heard BLACKCAP, CHIFFCHAFF, BULLFINCH, GOLDCREST, COAL TIT, SONGTHRUSH, BLACKBIRD, WREN, DUNNOCK and ROBIN as well as the usual Tits and Finch's, both KESTREL and SPARROWHAWK were seen going over.

Over to Migrant Alley, again to check the small scrubby wood at the north end for Turtle Dove, but again I failed, I also failed to get a photo of an Orange Tip butterfly, despite chasing up and down the track upteen times waiting for it to settle! 5 more Speckled Woods were seen, and Peacock, Comma, Small White and Small Tortoiseshell were also on the wing here.

A walk round the paddocks, found the Wheatear on a fence line, but I couldn't get very near it, these birds are much more wary in the spring than they are in the Autumn for some reason. A SKYLARK flew up and started singing, 4 LINNETS perched on one of the fences, and a YELLOWHAMMER flew over calling, as did a MEADOW PIPIT, this is the latest departure date recorded for this species, along with 2002 and 2007 where the 23rd was also the last date seen.

On my skywatching seat for 45 mins the only things of note were the PEREGRINE, another Kestrel and sparrowhawk, plus 5-6 HOUSE MARTINS high up over the College Grounds.

Above: MOORHEN, this one was protecting its young, 3 of them. I tried to get a photo of the chicks but the mother kept them well hidden.

Above: Songthrush, giving a loud blast of it's beautiful song.

Above: The Wheatear, as close as it would allow me to get!

Lastly a Peacock butterfly......again, they are easier to photograph than the Orange Tips!

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Photo of the GREAT TIT. Taken in my garden this afternoon, I needed something to brighten the blog, as the butterflies weren't obliging today!

A WILLOW WARBLER was again seen in the college grounds on the way to work this morning, I wonder if it will stay ? Unlikely, they usually move on :-(

Another two WHEATEAR, both handsome males, were seen on the Horse paddocks at Migrant Alley on the walk back home, the 7th and 8th to be seen this month, making it the best April passage of Wheatear recorded for my patch :-)

This afternoon I walked back over to Migrant Alley, intent on doing some serious skywatching, but a walk around the paddocks and sheep pasture was undertaken first, I re-located the Wheatear, but they wouldn't come anywhere near enough to have their photo taken. 5 LINNETS were on the fence lines, at least 4 SWALLOWS were feeding low over the fields, and a YELLOWHAMMER flew over. Apart from those it was down to PIED WAGTAILS, ROOKS and JACKDAWS to keep me amused. A walk through the Scrub at the north end of the paddocks, didn't reveal any turtle Dove, but both BLACKCAP and CHIFFCHAFF sang strongly. Normally this is where I see most of my Butterflies, but there were very few seen today, probably due to the cold wind, but a Peacock, a Small Tortoiseshell, and a Small White were seen.

I made my way back to my horse jump seat, and sat for a two hour skywatch, it took just 10 mins to find my first HOBBY (85, 71) of the year, a superb find! I thought that would be it for the excitement, and I would be back to the normal species, but while later, I spied a black speck in the distant blue, I waited for ages for it to come over, and was then able to Identify it as my first SWIFT (86, 72) of the year, it was still high, and i'll get better views of them later, it's good to have them back! A look at the arrival dates for Swift, confirm this sighting as the earliest in the 9 springs of recording, the average arrival date is the 28th. As for the Hobby, well this is my first April sighting for my patch! Taking the combined total for April to 101. It's not my earliest Hobby however, I did get a very early bird on 29th March back in 2006, and in two years I have had to wait until June for my first sighting, all other the arrival dates are in May, giving an average first date of 7th May.

Those two additions to the year list, also puts the months list on 72, which is the best April tally along with last year, just one more species needed! After the excitement of the new migrants, it all went quiet again, but I did get three more Raptors fly over, 2 KESTRELS, 2 SPARROWHAWKS and a PEREGRINE. I also saw two HOUSE MARTINS over the College Grounds, these could be the local birds that breed on the buildings there, I hope so.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

A WILLOW WARBLER, seen on the way to work this morning, was only my third record this spring, it's such a pity that my patch has lost this migrant as a breeding species, as it song is one of my favourites.

Back to this afternoon, and a trip to the lakeside scrub to listen for Turtle Doves proved fruitless, as did my hope, of hearing a Nightingale, they are now sadly extinct as a breeding species on my patch, the last known birds bred back in 2007. I did get to hear the other songsters though, even the TAWNY OWL was heard to hoot again! Also, CHIFFCHAFF and BLACKCAP, MISTLE THRUSH and SONG THRUSH, WREN, DUNNOCK, ROBIN and BLACKBIRD all were singing loudly in the warm sunny conditions, there was no sign of the recently arrived Common or Lesser Whitethroats though.

I had a 90 minute wander around Migrant Alley a little later, but apart from the PEREGRINE, a SPARROWHAWK and a pair of KESTRELS it was pretty quiet and tranquil. Butterflies were more active than the birds, with Orange Tip, Small Tortoiseshell, Comma, Peacock, and Speckled Wood all being recorded.

So another day goes by without adding to the month or year list, just 9 to go. I'll be on the lookout for Swifts, Hobbies, and Turtle Doves, but they are not always recorded in April, and who knows I might get a Stonechat or Whinchat - with a large slice of luck :-)

Above: Comma Butterfly, Below: Speckled Wood

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

My trip into work this morning provided me with a new species for the month, a Grey Wagtail (70) , it flew up the college stream, and sat over the water on a bare branch, this is only the 3rd sighting Ive had of one this year. I need just 2 more new species to equal the April record now, maybe a Turtle Dove or early Swift?

Walking back home from work this afternoon gave me yet another sighting of WHEATEAR, a pair in fact, feeding in the horse paddocks at Migrant Alley, these are the 5th and 6th to be seen this month, this represents a good passage of these beautiful little migrants - for my patch!

Once home, I refueled with crisps and orange juice, and then set off out to try and get some photo's of the Wheatears, and maybe some Butterflies. The Wheatears were soon located, but they were very wary and didn't allow close approach, so I took a few pics and left them to feed. There was a group of 14 LINNET in the paddocks with them, and 2 YELLOWHAMMERS on the nearby manure heap, the only other bird of note was a flyover MEADOW PIPIT, which almost came down to a leaking horse trough for a drink, but then thought better of it, and half a dozen newly arrived HOUSE MARTIN that wheeled around high overhead.

I walked the wide track that runs between the scrub/wood at the north end of Migrant Alley, this is a good place for Butterflies as it is sheltered from the wind, the most common species seen by far was the Peacock, with around 6 seen, also 4 Comma, 1 Tortoiseshell, 1 Holly Blue, and my first Speckled Wood of the year, and they all eluded my camera!

Birds in the scrub included a pair of CHIFFCHAFF, and a pair of BLACKCAP, BULLLFINCH were heard, but no Turtle Dove as yet, it will be interesting to see if any of the latter return and breed at this site, since the College put footpaths through it.

Above. Female Wheatear. Below both male and female
There was one other unusual species seen at Migrant Alley, seen as soon as I arrived. A pair of MOORHEN! What they are doing here I dont know, there is no wet or even damp habitat here, although I did see one of them standing on a sheep trough!

Monday, 19 April 2010

Peacock Butterfly

Back to work today, so it's back to the afternoon visits on my patch. These can never be as good as the morning visits, and today would have had to come up with something special to match yesterday!

The sun had, predictably, vanished behind some drifting cloud for the entire visit this afternoon, but it's back out now i'm writing this! It wasn't cold without the sun though, and a walk through the wet woods over to the lakeside scrub was undertaken. I noticed that the Bluebells in the wet woods are about 25% out now, so it wont be long before the woodland floor is a blue carpet. Birdwise it was vey quiet, all the resident species are busy nest building now, with some females already incubating, but the GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKERS and GREAT TITS continue their calling from the ever greening trees.
A NUTHACTH was seen in the lakeside scrub, hanging round a potential nest hole, and all around the sound of CHIFFCHAFFS and BLACKCAPS were heard, I located a Common Whitethroat high up in an oak, a new arrival feeding up after its long flight. The CUCKOO gave a few brief calls, but went unseen, apart from that it was no change from recent days. I was actually hoping to hear the song of a Nightingale, a pair used to breed here up until 2007, but I havn't had any since then, I always hope for their return.
I made my way over to Migrant Alley, and checked the fence lines and paddocks for any Wheatear or maybe a Whinchat - that would be something, I dont get many of these in the spring, but neither were about today, 4 SWALLOWS whizzed around the sheep pasture, a SKYLARK sang, two GREEN WOODPECKERS were on a fence rail, and a YELLOWHAMMER flew over, a few large gulls were seen very high up, making me check them out, just in case one was an Osprey :-), and a Dove that flew over fast and high looked to be a my first Turtle Dove of the year, but I didn't get enough on it to be 100% sure, it didn't help me by comming out of the sun which half blinded me!
I also spent some time looking for Butterflies, and found mostly Peacocks, but also had a male ORANGE TIP, and as yesterday, a possible Small Copper, which again flew off to fast and high to ID.
Same again tomorrow, lets hope the Turtle Dove turns up.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

This mornings walk was the last of my 'nine in a row' holiday walks, its back to work tomorrow :-(

Overall it has been a little disappointing, with no new migrant species seen at all! However that all changed today, and how very apt, as today was my 1000th full patch walk!! At 3.5 miles per walk I could have walked to Africa and seen the birds there!

Anyway, it was quite an eventful walk, the first half of it across the tree nursery, Migrant Alley and the College Grounds was proving to be all too familiar, just the resident species being seen, plus a SAND MARTIN that flew over Ashes lane as I was coming back for a break, only the second one seen this spring.

As I started the second half of my walk, a Common Whitethroat was heard, but it was 50m off my patch - very tantalising, but it proved to me the migrants were near! The excitement started as I was leaving the lake side scrub, when at last a CUCKOO (81 65) was heard calling, from exactly the area I had just left! I stopped and listened, and marvelled at this birds ability to turn up at the same place and the same time every year (give or take a few days!), this one has turned up 7 days later than the earliest ever, and is the joint latest arrival, with that in 2002.

Before setting off again, I was treated to the months first MUTE SWAN (66), and as I followed it round, in my binocular vision, I passed the Cuckoo, in the top of a tree, it stayed just long enough for an absmal photo of it :-)

At last a bit of spring I thought to myself, but just a few minutes later, whilst crossing the Tree Nursery, I heard the rattling call of a LESSER WHITETHROAT (82,67) Fantastic, two new migrants on the same day, - and the sun was out, cant be bad! I made my way over to Migrant Alley, and just before reaching it, I had another surprise, this time a COMMON WHITETHROAT (83,68), this one was on my patch, right in some brambles at the Greenhouse Complex.

Bouyed on by my sightings, I spent an hour skywatching at Migrant Alley, but it all came to an end, with just a flyover MEADOW PIPIT of note.

After lunch I decided that I would show my lady wife Joy, the delights of Migrant alley :-), on the pretence that it was a lovely sunny afternoon and we would be sure to see lots of butterflies, which we did, including Small and Large Whites, Comma Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, and a probable Small Copper, but it flew off strongly before I could ID it for certain. However, the best sighting was of a WHEATEAR, a real cracker sitting on the fence line, now I didn't expect that did I ;-).

On our return home, deck chairs and cups of tea in the garden were called for, where the day got even better, when 4 - 5 HOUSE MARTINS (84, 69) circled high over us, 4 new migrants for the day, and a brilliant day list of 52. Spring has kicked off at last!

Year list = 84 - 9 behind the end of April last year
Months list=69 - 3 behind the highest April total set last year.

Above and below: A GREEN WOODPECKER, this was at the lakeside scrub, pity I was facing into the sun.
Below: The Wheatear

Below: The resident KESTREL, sitting and hunting today, as there was no wind to 'hang' on.
Lastly, the Cuckoo............... just a little late.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

At last a day without that cold NE wind!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ive suffered it for eight days, but today it was calm, abeit frosty, with a bank of fog for an hour early on.

Once the fog and frost cleared, it was wall to wall warm sunshine, and it is on such April mornings that the first cuckoo is usually heard, alas it was not to be on this one though. In fact for such a beautiful spring day very little bird song was heard, maybe its a sad reflection on the amount of habitat destruction that has been happening on my patch by the landowners and large garden owners over the last year.

The CHIFFCHAFF and BLACKCAPS were singing though, they have a safe haven by the lakeside scrub, owned by a very 'nature sympathetic' couple. Whilst at the lake and scrub area, I once again heard a TAWNY OWL call, and on the lake itself was the feral BARNACLE GOOSE along with 8 CANADA and 3 GREYLAG GEESE.

Canada and Barnacle goose

Not mush else happening bird wise, a MEADOW PIPIT flew over Migrant Alley, quite a late one for my patch, the latest date being the 23rd April. Raptors were again very evident, 4 SPARROWHAWKS circled over Migrant Alley, and as I watched, two broke away to harry a COMMON BUZZARD, lower down the KESTREL was hunting around the Greenhouses, and I watched it catch a large vole.
Later this afternoon I went off for a Butterfly search, which proved very successful, with sightings of Holly Blue, and a stunning male Orange Tip both firsts for the year. Peacock, Comma, and Small White also showed up.

I think this one above is a female Orange Tip, Dean -Greenie?

This group of Flyovers were unexpected, it has been so peaceful now the jumbo jets are all grounded, pity the volcanic ash doesn't affect propeller driven aircraft! You might have to click on photo and enlarge it.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Still no change in the weather, the morning starts grey, cold and windy, but as the day goes on the cloud breaks, and some sunny spells are had, but the wind is still cold!

Just about all the common resident species showed on todays patch walk, with the 3 migrant species that have arrived, CHIFFCHAFF, BLACKCAP and SWALLOW also very evident now, but I await any more new arrivals. The Cuckoo is now 2 days past its mean arrival date, the latest arrival date for this species on my patch is 18th Apr. back in 2002.

I had one bit of success, whilst over at the lakeside scrub listening and failing to hear the call of the Cuckoo, or song of a Common or Lesser Whitethroat, a TAWNY OWL (64) hooted! Not quite what I had in mind, but nice to add it to the months list anyway.

In the 4 hours I was out I recorded 46 species, and as I mentioned all of the resident species turned out including the less commonly seen species such as COAL TIT, TREECREEPER, NUTHATCH, GOLDCREST and YELLOWHAMMER. Flyovers by GREYLAG GOOSE, SPARROWHAWK, BLACKHEADED, and HERRING GULL all helped the list along, and the LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLS at Migrant Alley are still patroling the paddocks!

I went out around 14:30 to do some skywatching over on my usual seat at Migrant Alley, I managed to see 2 more Sparrowhawks, 2 KESTRELS, and both the PEREGRINES that were up together, a COMMON BUZZARD that came over lazily was soon hurried along by the male Peregrine, - fun to watch. I didn't manage to find any House Martins though, but they have only been recorded on or before todays date in 3 out of the last 8 years, with the mean arrival date being the 19th Apr. So I reckon on a few days before seeing them.

I fell just one species short of 50 at the end of the day, maybe I should have counted the Grey Heron that flew just to the south of my patch! 50 is a very good day total for my patch!

Below is another attempt at photographing the Peregrine.

Above: a LONG TAILED TIT - seen in the maturing scrub at the north end of Migrant Alley
Below are a few garden regulars to brighten the blog. Top: ROBIN. Middle: COLLARED DOVE, and last the BLUE TIT

Thursday, 15 April 2010

It was very much the same on my patch this morning, just 41 species were recorded in a 4 hour visit, and again it was disappointing not to hear much bird song, not surprising really given the cold wind and the grey conditions.

Late on in the morning CHIFFCHAFFS and BLACKCAPS found their voices as the sun came and went, but the cold wind got stronger if anything, especially out on the open fields of Migrant Alley. It was here that that the more noteworthy species were seen: A couple of YELLOWHAMMERS, a flyover MEADOW PIPIT, 4 local SWALLOWS, and the long staying pair of LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLS that chase every other gull away!

By 11:00 I had decided to go home and have a break, and wait for the cloud to break up a bit more, which it did, and by 12:30 I was back over at Migrant Alley on my skywatching seat. I was almost immediatley treated to the sight two KESTRELS hunting over the Greenhouse Complex, and a little later a PEREGRINE flew over low and fast, two other Raptors showed up during my 2 hour vigil, a COMMON BUZZARD and at least 3 different SPARROWHAWKS. The only other addition to the day list was a pair of STOCK DOVES.

I decided to go and check out the recently ploughed pub field, but it remains disappointing, a dozen or so PIED WAGTAILS, 35 ROOKS, 28 JACKDAWS, 13 WOODPIGEON and 4 more Stock Doves were all that was on offer, a huge field of turned soil and not a wheatear in sight!

Before I headed off home for a cuppa, I decided to check out the paddocks at Migrant alley, for the 3rd time today! However persistance pays, and I discovered a spanking male WHEATEAR sitting on the fence line, they really do prefer these fenced paddocks, the ploughed pub field is only seperated from Migrant Alley by Ashes lane, but the turned soil doesn't attract far.

In the end the daylist finished on a much more satisfactory 47, but still no new spring migrants :-(

Above and Below the Wheatear, at Migrant Alley

Below are my attempts to photograph the Raptors, top is the Peregrine, middle is the Sparrowhawk and last is the Kestrel. The Buzzard was too high to focus on! so I missed that one!

Lastly a photo of a young Rabbit, they are springing up everywhere at the moment - all good Raptor food!!!