Saturday, 31 December 2011

The final sunset of 2011
The final patch visit of 2011 was, as has been for much of the last two weeks, undertaken in overcast, dull but warm conditions, which again had me struggling to find much of note. Its has been very much a case of 'what ive got i'll keep' as the year fizzles out to a disappointing end.

The visit to the lakes first thing provided me with both a CORMORANT and GREY HERON, which is more than has been seen there of late, the usual MALLARD and MOORHENS were hidden away under the bankside vegetation too. A YELLOWHAMMER flew over the Scrubby Woods as I searched the undergrowth there, finding a GOLDCREST, nearby a  TREECREEPER called and both GREEN and GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKERS also called in quick succession. A NUTHATCH flew to the adjacent garden, and joined the GREEN, GOLD and CHAFFINCH'S that were already on the feeders there.

Walking over to the College Grounds, through the Tree Nursery, Pub Field, and Migrant Alley yielded few passerines, so it was down to picking out flyover species, which included HERRING GULLS, BLACK HEADED GULLS, and a LESSER BLACK BACKED GULL, also the only winter thrush of the day, a lone FIELDFARE.

The College Grounds was a bit busier, with a LONG TAILED TIT flock being found, as well as COAL TIT, two more Goldcrest, a pair of BULLFINCH and a flyover calling LESSER REDPOLL, a KINGFISHER was seen to catch a fish, then batter it on a branch before swallowing it down, easily the highlight of the day  :-)

So December ends on the lowest monthly count of the year, with a total of 61 species being found, 4 below the next lowest monthly total, which was set by February. The year list ended on 108, which is a good tally for my patch and the third best of the ten years, but this year was the first that I have not set a record tally, last years 113 species will take some beating!

I'm looking forward to next years challenge, I just hope the habitat degradation, dog walking, and shooting activities are curtailed, otherwise I feel that to carry on with this local patch could be a bit of a waste of my time, i'll have to see how it pans out.

Hopefully, all the readers of these pages will have a great new year celebration, I wish you all the best for the new year, :-)  I'll leave you with a final photo - the last bird recorded here of 2011, of course, a ROBIN!

Last bird recorded in 2011.....Robin

Friday, 30 December 2011

Sunrise through the Wet Woods - all ten minutes of it!!
Yet more grey, damp and overcast skies spilled in from the south west, blotting out the ten minutes of sunshine that was had first thing this morning, it really has been an incredible run of dull days this Christmas!

The birds don't perform so well in these conditions, as is only to be expected, but this mornings 41 species wasn't too bad a show. Nothing new for the month/year list was encountered, but a distant view of 6 Ducks flying away from me over the Wet Woods whilst I was at the College Grounds, were probably Goosander by the looks of them, frustrating !

It was the College Grounds that gave me most interest for the visit today, where I watched 4 LESSER REDPOLL feeding with 3 BULLFINCH, I had taken the camera out with my smaller 300mm lens to try and gather more light, but the photo's I got of them were rubbish, and I deleted them! Also in the College Grounds were quite a few finch's, more GREENFINCH and CHAFFINCH than GOLDFINCH, but an increase in all from recent visits. The third TREECREEPER of the morning was with a flock of LONG TAILED TITS, and a pair of GOLDCREST that joined them were closely examined to try and turn them into Firecrsets  :-)

The sheep pasture at Migrant Alley had 67 BLACKHEADED GULLS, and with them today was a COMMON GULL, only the second one recorded this month. A SPARROWHAWK over the Greenhouse Complex, and a KESTREL over the Tree Nursery were the only raptors of the day, and just one REDWING and one FIELFARE, both in the Small Holding, were all I saw of the winter thrushes.

Still nothing of note on any of the lakes, but the surrounding Scrubby Woods had the usual species in small numbers, NUTHATCH, Treecreeper, Bullfinch, COAL TIT, GREEN and GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER...etc..

Later in the day, as I watched the garden feeders, there was  not one Sprawk visit :-) , as a consequence the feeders were inundated with birds! I recorded 20 species using my garden, including peak counts of 22 Geenfinch, 9 Chaffinch, and 7 Goldfinch, 23 BLUE TITS, and 11 COLLARED DOVES, best of all though, was my first Lesser Redpoll for the garden since March, the 24th species to visit this month. Not as good as the cold Decembers of 2009 and 2010, when a total of 27 and 29 were recorded respectively, but this December is still the fourth best out of ten, in terms of species visiting.

I took some pretty poor photo's, but considering the poor light, and rain spattered windows I shot through, I'm surprised the images were as clear as they are!!

No more room at the feeder!  The blur to the bottom right was a Blue Tit  :-)
This Great Tit came out slightly better, it wasn't raining at this point
Lesser Redpoll - Typical it should arrive in such rubbish weather, that said, this is the best photo I have of a Lesser Redpoll!
 or is this the best photo I have of one   ;-)

Thursday, 29 December 2011

For a bit of a change today I didn't visit my patch at all, ( I know - it's unheard of!) instead I went the short distance to the Geoffrey Harrison wildlife reserve over at Sevenoaks, where a friend and I spent a pleasant 4 hours, despite the poor weather!

We spent time in all the various hides, as well as walking the trails, and managed to find 56 bird species, nothing majorly exciting amongst them, but at least I got to remind myself what the various Duck species look like  :-)  I immediately recognised the MALLARDS  :-)  and on seeing the TUFTED DUCKS, TEAL, WIGEON,  GADWALL, SHOVELER, POCHARD, RUDDY DUCK, plus the COOT, GREAT CRESTED GREBE, and LITTLE GREBE, it all came flooding back to me what these species look like  :-) 

Also on the water were MOORHEN, MUTE SWAN, CANADA, GREYLAG and EGYPTIAN GEESE, with the odd HERON and a LITTLE EGRET thrown in. Watching and listening to the 300 odd LAPWING was treat, as was seeing CORMORANTS that don't fly off as soon as they see you - like they do here!! the Bittern was missed by minutes, and a flyover Buzzard eluded us but was seen by others. A KINGFISHER, a RING NECKED PARAKEET, and plenty of SNIPE kept us interested, and finding the likes of TREECREEPER, BULLFINCH, GOLDCREST, LESSER REDPOLL, SISKIN, REED BUNTING, and LONG TAILED TIT proved a challenge in the blustery and sometimes wet weather.

Although we saw the likes of STOCK DOVE, BLACKBIRD, SONGTHRUSH, CHAFFINCH, DUNNOCK, ROBIN, PIED WAGTAIL, STARLING, PHEASANT, as well as the other common regular resident species like BLUE TIT, GREAT TIT, ROBIN,WOOD PIGEON, and WREN, there were still a few common species not seen, namely the Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Coal Tit, Collared Dove, and House Sparrow. Winter Thrushes were represented by just one REDWING, Fieldfare's were totally absent! So with the missing 'easy' species a day total of 60+ should of been reached really, we got an over wintering CHIFFCHAFF that was a bonus bird however  :-)

Apart from the Gulls, HERRING, COMMON, and BLACK HEADED, plus the corvids CARRION CROW, JACKDAW, MAGPIE and JAY I think I've mentioned all that was seen, oh I forgot the GREEN and GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKERS, and how could I have forgotten the SPARROWHAWK!!!!   :-)

Back on the patch tomorrow!  :-)

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

It looked like another damp and dull walk this morning, as first thing the wind blew drizzle into my face, but by 09:30 the cloud began to break, and some very welcome sunshine was had, it only lasted for a couple of hours, but welcome none-the-less!

The sunshine brought out a few more bird species than have been seen of late, with 41 being recorded, this included a couple of small REDWING gatherings, one in the large garden adjacent to the lakes, the other in the College Grounds, where it was quite busy today birdwise. A well berried Rowan tree had 4 BULLFINCH feeding in it, and one of the small ponds had a KINGFISHER perched in the bankside vegetation, also a flock of 8 LONG TAILED TITS, with two GOLDCRESTS moved through the gardens, and a group of 5 SISKINS fed in a clump of Alders.

A single LESSER BLACK BACKED GULL flew over Migrant Alley, as did a group of 8 HERRING GULL, whilst on the pasture 94 BLACK HEADED GULLS were feeding, a good count here. Three SKYLARK were also out on the pasture, not seen any of these on my patch for a few days now, only one each of YELLOWHAMMER and MEADOW PIPIT flew over. Two raptor species were encountered today, a KESTREL hunting over the Greenhouse Complex and a BUZZARD that flew low over the NW patch boundary.

Most of the regular woodland species were located as I walked through the Small Holding, Wet Woods, and Scrubby Woods, including the likes of NUTHATCH, GREEN WOODPECKER, GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER, JAY, more Bullfinch's and a singing STOCK DOVE. The lakes were once again home to a few MALLARD and MOORHEN, nothing more exciting  :-(

A subsequent afternoon visit was made today, with a friend, where we manged to add a FIELDFARE to the days list, yes just one!! Also the first few LINNETS were seen coming into roost at the Tree Nursery, making the day total up to 43, which is bang on the average for a December day  :-)

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Another exceptionally mild day, but still very grey, damp and dreary, ive not seen the sun here since the 22nd December, apart from a very brief spell early on the 23rd,  - it's enough to drive you insane!!

With all this stagnant mild air over us, bird movement is at a minimum, there was certainly no influx of winter species for this mornings walk, in fact not a winter species was recorded, no Fieldfare, Redwing, Siskin, Redpoll, and no Brambling, Snipe or Woodcock thats for sure!

Just 37 of the regular resident species were found, although a bit of a surprise at the lakes was had, when amongst 15 CANADA GEESE, the feral BARNACLE GOOSE was seen, this bird has paired up with one of the Canada Geese ( as it did last year) and is the third year ive recorded it on my patch.

With nothing else to report out of the unusual, and with no wintering flocks of birds to count or resident feeding flocks to scan through, the patch walking now seems to be resigned to recording the first tentative signs of spring, today the GREAT TIT was heard giving its spring, tee-cher, tee-cher call, and a COAL TIT was singing from the Scrubby Woods.

I await the first singing Chiffchaff!!

In an attempt to brighten the page up a bit, I tried to get some garden bird photo's whilst dinner was cooking this afternoon, I got a couple, but the light is awful - I had the ISO up to 3200, and the aperture wide open, just to get a shutter speed of 160!  Oh well, things can only improve from here.......hopefully.
Here's the garden pics  :-)

Thank god for the colourful BLUE TITS!  Thats one nutty feast it's got there  :-)

Also, the just as colourful GOLDFINCH  :-)

Monday, 26 December 2011

The sun going down over the Wet Woods - just as the sky starts to clear, typical!!
My boxing day walk took place in some very dark and dull conditions this morming, with just a slight SW wind, which continues to blow in the above average temperatures for this time of year.

It was a real struggle to find anything of interest in the 3 hour visit, the 41 species found were all the regular resident species, but at least now some of them have started to sing! The most audible were the MISTLE THRUSHES,  5 of which sang from various parts of my patch, ROBINS seem to be singing from every piece of cover available, they obviously had a good breeding season this year. DUNNOCKS are becoming more visible now, chasing around in three's and fours, wing flicking all the while, with one or two giving their pleasant song, GOLDCREST, SONGTHRUSH, WREN, CHAFFINCH, and even a WOODPIGEON all sang, making for a sneak preview of the dawn chorus that will be in fulll swing in a few weeks time :-)

The only reminder that the spring proper, is still a few weeks away yet, was the sighting of a group of three SISKINS in the College Grounds, no other winter species were found, I don't think I've gone out on a Boxing Day patch visit and never found a Fieldfare or Redwing!

Flyover species were few, and for the most part the uniform grey sky remained empty, but for singles of YELLOWHAMMER, PIED WAGTAIL, STOCK DOVE, and two small groups of HERRING GULLS. The only other Gull species seen today were the BLACK HEADED GULLS, 72 were on the sheep pasture and paddocks of Migrant Alley, Raptor species were represented by the KESTREL hunting over the Greenhouse Grounds, and a BUZZARD that flew from the Greenhouse Copse, calling as it did so.

A pleasant enough visit, but with nothing added to the month or year list it lacked a bit of excitement  :-) December looks like it could well have the lowest monthly species total of the year, it still being 4 species behind the 65 species seen in February and July, these two months having the honour of the lowest monthly totals thus far, but things can change!

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Fresh in from my Christmas morning walk, and its an early post for the day, as i'll be making merry with the family this afternoon  :-)

I always enjoy my Christmas morning walk, as hardly a soul is seen, giving me the place to myself  :-) and it was thus so for 3 hours this morning. The low cloud meant the camera stayed at home, so no pics today, however, the morning was exceptionally mild, if a bit breezy, not good really if i'm trying to find a Woodcock, Snipe, or a flyover wader for the months/year list, if this unseasonal weather continues into the new year, i'll have a problem finding even the quite common winter species for the 2012 year list!

Nothing was added to the December list this morning, but a reasonable 42 species were found, even without the likes of Skylark, Pheasant, Greenfinch, Bullfinch, Treecreeper, - all of which are regulars normally, plus the Lapwing flock on the Pub Field hadn't arrived, they usually turn up late morning.

A KINGFISHER was probably the highlight for the morning, one flew across the Small lake, but little else was on the lakes today, just 12 MALLARD and 3 MOORHEN. Another good bird to see on my patch was the BUZZARD, it flew from the Greenhouse Complex, this is the second year running that Buzzard has been recorded in every month, something that i would not have believed if you have told me this back in 2002 when I started on my patch  :-)  Two other raptor species were seen, KESTREL and SPARROWHAWK, and the list was bulked up a bit by the sighting of 3 Gull species, HERRING, LESSER BLACK BACKED and BLACK HEADED, the latter of which gathered on the sheep pasture at Migrant Alley, 60-70 birds in all.

Not much else really notable was seen, a small group of four LESSER REDPOLL fed in a silver birch over at the College Grounds, a CORMORANT flew over the GREENHOUSES and 3 separate YELLOWHAMMERS called as they went high over, in an enjoyable Christmas day walk  :-)

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Once again the weather turns, and a bright Christmas eve morning welcomed me today. Most of the regular species turned out for the full patch walk, with good total of 46 species seen in all, a bit better than average for a December day.

A GREYLAG GOOSE flew over early in the walk, only the third sighting of one this month, also a few LINNETS were seen leaving their roost around the Greenhouse Complex, where the KESTREL was up hunting. Migrant Alley was full of ROOKS, JACKDAWS and WOODPIGEONS, as well as BLACK HEADED GULLS, 60 of which were spread over the sheep pasture and paddocks. The College Grounds and gardens were quite busy, with GREENFINCH, CHAFFINCH, BULLFINCH, GOLDFINCH, SISKIN, PIED WAGTAIL seen, as well as the ever present BLUE and GREAT TITS. I heard a GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER drumming, marking out his territory for the forthcoming spring, which I think will be early this season, if the singing TREECREEPER and the already blooming Snowdrops are anything to go by.

Snowdrop - Early spring  ?

Along the the stream behind the College Grounds, a KINGFISHER was seen, and the only two FIELDFARE of the visit were also found here, below is the dawn as seen from the field next to the Stream

Sunrise over the field by the College Stream
I walked back towards home, via the Pub Field and Tree Nursery, the former had the now almost resident LAPWING flock on it, although the flock numbers does fluctuate, at least 100 were there today, the Tree Nursery had at least 8 MEADOW PIPIT, but nothing more exciting.
After a quick drink at home, I set of for the lakes and Scrubby woods, via the Small Holding and Wet Woods, a SPARROWHAWK sped through, and a BUZZARD slowly drifted over the Small Holding, while the Wet Woods held little to detain me. On the lakes just MALLARD were again seen, but the place had  already been disturbed, although a GREY HERON dropped in to the smallest of the lakes whilst I was there. The habitat around the Lakes, and the Scrubby Woods provided me with NUTHATCH, GOLDCREST, GREEN WOODPECKER, PHEASANT, MISTLE THRUSH and JAY to add to the days list, but there were no Redwing here today. The last bird on the list was a flyover STOCK DOVE, the first ive seen for a week or so  :-)

Not a bad walk, considering the amount of disturbance around today, but it's that time of year now, everyones on holiday, and with the dawn being so late, I cant get out before everyone else! Talking of holidays, i'll take the opportunity now to wish all the readers of my blog a very enjoyable Christmas - whatever you're doing  :-)  Have fun!!!

Friday, 23 December 2011

All change again with the weather, gone was yesterdays springlike sunshine, and back was Wednesdays wind, rain and gloom! I only got halfway round my patch walk, before calling it a day, with just 30 species found in the 2 hours I was out, those being the regular common species, and in small numbers. Normally I can enjoy the walk for it's own sake, even if little is seen, but today was just 'orrible!! Tomorrow looks like it may be all change again - lets hope so!

I thought I'd spend the afternoon watching the garden feeders to see what dropped in, but continued attacks from the SPARROWHAWK, kept all but the fleet winged GREAT and BLUE TITS away, I went out and scared off the Sprawk from it's hiding place 4 or 5 times in the space of 2 hours, eventually I gave up, a decision I felt a bit guilty and annoyed about, because the female BULLFINCH dropped in to the tray of sunflower hearts, and even as I watched it through my bins, whoosh! It was gone, clenched in the talons of the Sprawk  :-(

It's particularly gutting to see a scarce garden bird get predated, in fact they are a scarce bird full stop really, so i'm back debating whats the best thing to do, to stop feeding, and let the birds ( finch's especially) take their chances out on the surrounding impoverished farmland, or continue to feed and watch the finch's get picked off :-(   I suppose it's a problem ive caused really, as it's not natural for so many birds, of so many species to gather in one small place, as they do in my garden, but the fact that they do, means they have too, and thats another debate!

Anyway, here's the photo's of the unfortunate Bullfinch I took yesterday, I suppose it at least didn't die of starvation!!

Ex - Bullfinch
Ex - Bullfinch

Also, a photo of the GREAT TIT, these birds are normally far too quick for the Sprawk!  :-)

Great Tit

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Looking west across the Tree Nursery
The weather for my patch walk this morning couldn't have been more different from yesterdays, with virtually wall to wall sunshine all day, making it feel warm and springlike  :-)

The birds were a bit more active in the pleasant conditions, and the total of 44 species for the 4 hours I was out is about average for this time of year. The winter thrushes remain thin on the ground though, with just two FIELDFARE seen, and not a single Redwing. SISKINS were few as well, only two parties of three birds were seen, one in the College Grounds and one in the boundary separating Migrant Alley from the Greenhouse Complex. On the other hand, spring seems to be in the mind of some species already, both TREECREEPER and CHAFFINCH were heard to sing, along with the more expected SONGTHRUSH, DUNNOCK, ROBIN, MISTLETHRUSH, WREN, and GOLDCREST.

It's still a bit disappointing over on the lakes, only 11 MALLARD and a MOORHEN were seen, Whilst over at the lakes I at least did see my first CANADA GEESE (61) of the month, when two flew over,  a HERON and a single GREYLAG GOOSE also flew over but didn't drop in to visit.

Some of the LAPWINGS have returned to the Pub Field, with 60+ seen , while both the KESTREL and SPARROWHAWK were up hunting, after resting up in yesterdays gloomy weather. A pair of SKYLARK in the sheep pasture was nice treat, there haven't been any here for a while now.

Despite the sunshine, I didn't get any bird photo's, one of those days!  However, I did depend some time in my garden this afternoon and took a few shots of the GREAT SPOTTED WODPECKERS that came in, no less than FOUR came in together! The female bullfinch also came in again, always a special bird to have in the garden, i'll put those photo's on tomorrows post. A bigger surprise was seeing a Comma Butterfly come in to my ivy, now that is early!

Great Spotted Woodpecker
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Great Spotted Woodpecker

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

The first of my Xmas holiday walks was a real test of my determination!  The weather was particularly gloomy, with steady rain accompanying heavy mist. It seemed the birds were more sensible than I, and the majority stayed hidden away from the elements, only 35 species were seen in the 3 and a half hour walk, with 12 of those only involving flyovers or single birds, it really was dire out there!!

There were still one or two highlights for the walk however, one of those was a BUZZARD that flew out from the Greenhouse Copse, also, good views were had of the PEREGRINE as it hunted over the Wet Woods and Tree Nursery, but there was no sign of either a Sparrowhawk or Kestrel today. A gathering of finch's on the edge of the wooded headland to the north of Migrant Alley comprised of 12 CHAFFINCH and 14 GREENFINCH, finch flocks are something of a rarity here, ( apart from at my garden feeders) they seemed to be feeding on fallen seeds of Field Maple.

That really was just about it for this morning, the LAPWING at the Pub Field were down to just 2 birds, and other than three FIELDFARE flying over, there was little to indicate that we're are in the depth of winter, with no other ''winter'' visitors about.

Back at it tomorrow though!!!   :-)

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Hooray! This morning was my last at work until the 4 January  :-)  That means plenty of birding until then. As it was the last day, I got home a bit earlier, allowing me a spell in the garden with the camera, but it soon clouded over and the only photo I got was of this NUTHATCH.

A visit to the lakes a bit later proved disastrous, as just about everyone is off work now, the warmer weather tempting out just about every local dog walker, there were dog walkers everywhere  :-(  Not a single bird was seen on any of the lakes, not even a Moorhen. I quickly moved on, and visited the Pub Field, at least it was quieter here, allowing me to see at least 100 LAPWING, with 25 BLACK HEADED GULLS. After scanning the Lapwing flock, and finding no Golden Plover ( as usual!), I moved off to Migrant Alley, via the Tree Nursery, the latter had 10 MEADOW PIPITS, a couple of GREEN WOODPECKERS, a flyover SPARROWHAWK, plus the usual WRENS, DUNNOCKS, ROBINS, BLACKBIRDS, and MAGPIES.

At Migrant Alley, I saw a couple of SKYLARK drop down into the sheep pasture, whilst in the Alder trees bordering the Greenhouse Complex were a group of a dozen GOLDFINCH, with three SISKIN. Looking out across the paddocks there were around 150 WOODPIGEONS, 60 JACKDAWS, and at least 100 ROOKS,  25 STARLINGS lined up on a fence rail, and I heard a lone LESSER REDPOLL go over. I have befriended another Robin from the nearby tall hedge, it follows where I walk, and picks up any disturbed insects, at times it came so close my camera wouldn't focus on it  :-)

Friendly Robin
I had a short skywatch from my seat whilst at Migrant Alley, but the sky remained empty most of the time, just pigeons and Corvids going over, but after seeing the Lapwing flock get spooked up over at the pub filed, I scanned the sky around them and found a PEREGRINE (60), the first sighting of one this month, hopefully it is one of the local birds from the tower, and all the work going on there hasn't forced them to move elsewhere yet.

With 11 days left of the month ( and the year!) I hope to be out on full patch walks for most of them, and so add some species to the months list, which is still only in fifth place out of the ten Decembers recorded so far. Surely I'll find a Canada Goose, a species found in all previous months this year!

Monday, 19 December 2011

By the time I had finished work this afternoon, the weather had taken a turn for the worse - not that it was that good to begin with! Rain fell as I walked home, and a thick mist set in, however as I trudged home in the gloom I  did see a flock of LAPWING fly up from the sheep pasture at Migrant Alley, 28 in all, and the KESTREL was up hunting over the Greenhouse Complex, better still the first two GRAYLAG GEESE (59) of the month flew over, a welcome addition to the December list, taking it to joint fifth place with 2006 in the top ten rankings :-)

Once home, a cup of tea and a seat by the window to watch the garden feeders seemed the best way to spend the last 90 mins of remaining daylight. I watched 15 species come and go, by far the most numerous were the BLUE TITS, which peaked at 25 minimum, they flew around like flies on ripe fruit, dashing from the sunflower hearts, to the fat feeders and then the peanuts, Blue Tits everywhere!!  Just 4 GREAT TITS were with them, and two COAL TITS.

The finch's were well represented, with peak counts of 7 CHAFFINCH, 7 GOLDFINCH and six GREENFINCH. On the floor, a gang of 22 STARLINGS fought over the fat pellets that I sprinkled on the lawn, and both ROBIN and DUNNOCK made dashes from cover to retrieve one or two for themselves, a trick that two BLACKBIRDS learnt to emulate  :-)

11 COLLARED DOVES crammed on to the seed tray, at times excluding everything else, 2 GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKERS flashed their spotted wings at each other, as they span round on the large peanut feeder, and a third fed on the sunflower hearts. It was a bit disappointing to see just one HOUSE SPARROW,  this species is now outnumbered by the NUTHATCH'S ! Of course not a half hour goes past without a SPARROWHAWK attack, and I witnessed 3 failed attempts by a male, thwarted by the sheer number of ever alert eyes, and the prompt  ''alarm call'' of the Blue and Great Tits  :-)

Not a bad way to spend 90 mins!

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Sunrise over Migrant Alley - showing off the rather poor excuse of a hedgerow!

Once again it was a cold, clear and frosty start to the day, but cloud soon encroached as the morning wore on, giving a few light showers around noon.

Much of the visit went as I expected, although with slightly higher species total than yesterday, 42 in all were recorded in the 3 hour visit. Species seen today, but not yesterday were, PHEASANT seen in the Tree Nursery, LINNET, two flew over the Greenhouse Complex, probably the last of the fifty or so to leave the roost thats here, plus both LONG TAILED TIT and GREY HERON that were seen over at the lakes and Scrubby Woods area. Another species not seen yesterday, in fact a first for the month, was a flight of BARNACLE GEESE (58), a species not seen in any December before, bringing the 10 year combined December list to 89, I know I was expecting a Goose species at some point this month, but not 47 Barnacles!

As I said, not much else had changed since yesterdays visit, but it was good to see so many BULLFINCH'S about, with 14 being counted over the whole of my walk, also it was nice to find the SISKINS dropping in to feed on the various Alder tree's around the patch, instead of flying straight over. The KESTREL was the only raptor to show today and a flyover CORMORANT is always a bonus bird here.

I took some photo's in the ever dwindling light, but none were of any quality - I'll post them anyway, as a record for the day  :-)

Barnacle Geese ! Ive had the odd feral bird turn up over the last couple of years, but this is the first encounter of multiple birds

47 Barnacle Geese, I wonder if they are feral birds ?

Siskin - talking of which, I had the first one of the season at my garden feeders today


Saturday, 17 December 2011

Dawn - as seen from the College Grounds

Cold, clear, and frosty this morning, and the sun seemed to take an age to rise above the horizon, as it does at this time of year, the above photo was taken at 08:15, an hour into my walk!

The first bird was on the list at 07:20 as I left my house, a pair REDWING, they flew over calling, these were swiftly followed by a calling GOLDCREST as I walked along Ashes Lane. The likes of BLACKBIRD, DUNNOCK, ROBIN, CARRION CROW and SONGTHRUSH all made themselves heard, but unseen, in the pre-dawn light. Making my way through the Greenhouse Complex, I heard a MISTLE THRUSH singing in the distance, and the call of the first WREN of the day came from nearby.

I followed the drainage ditch along the NW boundary of Migrant Alley, in the hope of flushing up a Snipe, but no luck today, so made my way to the College Grounds, where a few more regular patch birds, like GREENFINCH, GOLDFINCH, BULLFINCH, LONG TAILED TIT, HOUSE SPARROW, and COLLARED DOVE were found for the days list.

The Pub Field was my next destination, and in the growing light I could see at least 100 LAPWING out there, along with 9 BLACK HEADED GULLS, a CORMORANT flew over as I walked the hedgeline towards the Tree Nursery, and here 11 MEADOW PIPITS had returned to the cover of the shrubs.

The second part of the walk took me through the Small Holding, Wet Woods and round to the Lakes and Scrubby Woods, the Small Holding added KESTREL and GREEN WOODPECKER to the mornings list, while in the Wet Woods the likes of JAY, MOORHEN, and the mornings first GREAT TIT were added. At the lakes it was a familiar story, just 6 MALLARDS on the main lake, and two on the small lake, and two on the ornamental lake. A KINGFISHER flashed by as I returned past the main lake, and walking over to the Scrubby Woods a NUTHATCH called, and then was seen to perch at the very top of a conifer - too high for a photo! In the Scrubby Woods it was cold, and still quite dark, as the sun still hadn't risen high enough to light the place, as a consequence little was noted, but above me the SPARROWHAWK circled over, and above that a LESSER BLACK BACKED GULL flew north.

 I finished the walk by going back over the Tree Nursery, and Greenhouse Grounds, but only added PIED WAGTAIL and YELLOWHAMMER to the mornings tally, which ended on a reasonable, but below average total of 40 species. Nothing added to the months list - where have all the geese gone I wonder ?

Female Blackbird feeding on Haws

A seasons favourite  - Robin
News from the garden this afternoon was of this female Bullfinch, no sign of the males today though.


Friday, 16 December 2011

Half past three - and sunset already  :-(

This afternoon I was back out making a patch visit for the first time since Tuesday. There was just enough time to visit the lakes, via the Small Holding and Wet Woods, then finishing with the Tree Nursery and Pub Field.

In the Small Holding a few CHAFFINCH had gathered, and a GREEN WOODPECKER was on the lawn of a nearby garden, BLUE and GREAT TITS flitted about in the old orchard, then overhead, 11 FIELDFARE flew over looking for a place to settle and feed, nowhere for them here though.

With the recent rain we've been getting here, the Wet Woods have a few small patches of water appearing now, these were being taken advantage of by three MOORHENS ( probably more in there though!) other than that all was quiet.

 When I arrived at the lakes, the main lake had a CORMORANT fishing on it, and a KINGFISHER was perched up in the thick overhanging branches, but only two pairs of MALLARDS were seen, tucked away under the cover of the trees. On the small lake another 3 pairs of Mallard were seen plus a lone Moorhen.

In the adjacent Scrubby Woods, a few birds were about, these being REDWING, SONGTHRUSH, BLACKBIRD, ROBIN, DUNNOCK, and a loose feeding flock comprising of LONG TAILED TITS, Blue and Great Tits, Chaffinch, and a couple of GREENFINCH, on the way out a pair of GOLDCREST were also seen.

A check of the Pub Field revealed only 60 LAPWING today, but there could have been more earlier, as they get flushed by dog walkers quite often, and not all of them return. 23 BLACK HEADED GULLS fed with the Lapwing, the Golden plover however, are still avoiding the months list   :-)

Not much at all was in the Tree Nursery, the Meadow Pipits have moved on, and just a JAY, two MAGPIES and a hunting KESTREL were recorded here.

I'm looking forward to getting out early for tomorrows full patch walk, but cant really see anything new appearing for the months list, although I've not seen any Geese this month, so there is a bit of hope there maybe!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

With the kiddies xmas school party taking place this dinner time, I was, as expected late getting home ( No Greenie, I wasn't dressed as father Christmas!!) making a patch visit a bit pointless in the hour of light I had left. So, as I said yesterday, i'll put up a few of the stats thrown up by this year so far.  :-)

This year my patch has been visited by 108 species thus far, this is the third highest total for the ten years of recording, and the fourth year to have passed 100 species,  I consider I have done well when I reach 100 species on my patch, as the average annual species total is 99.6.

Of the 108 species this year, just 42 of them successfully bred, another 3 species were found to have probably bred successfully, with evidence found, but no fledged young seen, they were PHEASANT, SWIFT, and TREECREEPER, a further 3 species probably bred but no evidence at all was found to confirm this, they were LITTLE OWL, CUCKOO and STOCK DOVE. One species unsuccessfully made a breeding attempt, that was the COOT, which layed eggs, but deserted the nest for some reason, these were the first Coot to have nested on my patch. In all 49 species, not that bad really.

Looking back at my end of month totals, in only two months did I set a record species count, those being April and May, with the total for January equalling that months record total. Next year will prove to be very difficult to set a record total for any  month, and I've probable reached a plateau there ! Its interesting to compare my first five years average monthly totals, with the second five years, as this shows the value of increasing the visits to my patch. From 2002 to 2006 I was finding 59.5 species on average every month, this is when I didn't do so many afternoon patch visits, and was working full time. Then from 2007 to 2011 the average species total found per month jumps to 67.7, so more visits does equal more species found!!

Back to this year though, and the patch list was incremented by 3 species, I left it late to add anything this year, but they were all brilliant species to find, first a GRASSHOPPER Warbler turned up at Migrant Alley one September morning, then on the same day in October, ( 26th) I recorded 2 CROSSBILL flyover the Greenhouse Complex, then just half hour later a GREAT SKUA was seen going over Migrant Alley - bird of the year for me!

I always try, and have so far succeeded, to do 120 full patch walks a year - give or take 2 , and record the percentage of walks that every species has been seen on. I can see that for species like YELLOWHAMMER, the news isn't good, with 86% of full patch walks in 2002 having this species recorded, but this year just 36% of full patch walks produced a Yellowhammer. Overall, 15 species were recorded on every visit, and 17 were recored just once.

I could pick out stats all day but will leave it here for now :-) and brighten the page with some more common garden bird stuff I photographed this afternoon, in fading light.

Great Tit
CHAFFINCH ( Female) the bird here was lit by the sun reflecting off my window, it was in fact perched in an otherwise shady corner, interesting light!

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

I was late back from work today, so didn't get out on my patch this afternoon, and tomorrow i'm staying late to help out with the Xmas party, so again it's unlikely i'll be able to do a patch visit tomorrow, given that the dusk arrives so early now.

However, when I did get get home today, I saw the lovely male BULLFINCH on the sunflower heart feeder, and despite the poor light, managed some photo's of it, a  shot I wouldn't have got out on my patch!

With no visit to my patch today, I had time to go through this years bird stats, i'll post these tomorrow, till then, here's the Bullfinch, with a JACKDAW tagging along too   :-)






Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Heavy overnight rain ceased before dawn today, and the strong winds abated somewhat, leaving a gusty and partially cloudy afternoon for my patch visit. The stormy weather seems to have blown what few birds were being seen, elsewhere!  Remarkably few passerines were seen, making it eerily quiet through the Small Holding and Wet Woods, just a JAY and a GREEN WOODPECKER broke the quietness.

On reaching the lakes, the usual MALLARD were seen, some of which had ventured out from the overhanging branches, the first time in a while I've seen them at ease, I counted twelve on the main lake and 4 on the small lake, but once again the ornamental lake was empty.. A GREY HERON dropped in whilst I was scanning the main lake for a Kingfisher, and up above a SPARROWHAWK circled over. The Scrubby Woods didn't hold much at all, no feeding flock was seen today and it was down to a few REDWING, BLACKBIRDS and SONGTHRUSHES to fly up in front of me, making out to be a Woodcock  :-)  I left a bit disappointed at the lack of birdlife, and tried my luck over at the Tree Nursery and Pub field, the former had 10 MEADOW PIPITS, and a hunting KESTREL, but little else, although the tail end of a fox was seen disappearing into the shrubs. The Pub Field had far fewer LAPWING today, just 15 were counted, they had probably been flushed earlier in the day, 10 BLACK HEADED GULLS criss-crossed the field, and as I left for home a CORMORANT flew over towards the lake area. Not a very exciting visit, to say the least!

Monday, 12 December 2011

When I leave for work on these dark winter mornings at 07:00hrs, I always stop at the back door and listed for Owls, well today was one of the few times I got lucky, a TAWNY OWL (57) was hooting from the direction of the Wet Woods. That keeps the December list ticking over, and puts this month at joint 6th spot with December 2004 and 2005.

After work, the usual trip to the lakes was had, but despite some lovely winter sunshine (for an hour!) very few small passerines were noted, a few CHAFFINCH and GREAT TIT were in the Small Holding and a GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER in the Wet Woods, which was virtually ''drumming''  the earliest one I've ever heard drumming here. On the lakes just a few MALLARD were hiding under the tree overhang, the area had obviously been disturbed, as is often the case by the time I get to them for the afternoon visits. The adjacent Scrubby Woods had a small gathering of LONG TAILED TITS, with a few BLUE and Great Tits, plus TREECREEPER, and GOLDCREST, also here, were a few REDWINGS, BULLFINCH, and an assortment of the common stuff, WRENS, ROBINS, DUNNOCKS, BLACKBIRDS etc.

I once again went over to the Pub Field to see if the LAPWING were there, and I wasn't disappointed, I counted 362, but there were a few more I must have missed, hidden in the dips of the field, overall more than 400 birds I suspect. 15 BLACK HEADED GULLS fed with them, but unfortunately, no Golden Plover  :-(

There was just time to have a quick wander through the Tree Nursery, where 8 MEADOW PIPITS were seen, two GREEN WOODPECKERS and the first 10 LINNETS of the evening dropped down to their pre-roost tree. I could see the big black clouds rolling in from the west, heralding a storm that's due to hit later this evening and over night, hopefully it wont be too bad, and will have blown itself out by tomorrow!

Just the one chance of a photo this afternoon, an obliging Blue Tit  :-)

Blue Tit
Blue Tit

Sunday, 11 December 2011

This morning the weather had returned to default mode, that is, wet, dull, and misty ! The rain was light but steady, giving me a good wetting as I walked over to the Lakes for an early look around, too early in fact, as it was still dark as I entered the Wet Woods! The only birds seen or heard before I got to the lakes were CARRION CROW, WREN, COLLARED DOVE, GOLDCREST, WOODPIGEON, SONGTHRUSH, MAGPIE, BLACKBIRD and GREEN WOODPECKER, how different to a late April day when three times that would be recorded!

The early visit to the 3 lakes didn't pay dividends though, just 4 MALLARDS on the main lake and two on the small lake were seen, with once again the ornamental lake completely empty, a GREY HERON did drop in as I sheltered in one of the outbuildings, and I also watched a few BLACK HEADED and HERRING GULLS drift over. Four REDWINGS called as they flew out from the Scrubby Woods, where BULLFINCH, NUTHATCH, GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER, SISKIN and JAY were added to my meagre list. The rain came on heavier, so I decided to cut short the full patch walk, and made my way back home through the Tree Nursery, all was very still here, very depressing, but then, just before I slit my wrists, the months first COMMON GULL (55) flew over, that cheered me up a bit  :-) in fact it was the first Common Gull since October.

Just after noon, the rain stopped and the sky turned less grey, so i went out again, I wanted to check the Pub Field for LAPWINGS, and found around 200 out there, but much scanning didn't find a Golden Plover amongst them, a KESTREL came over and spooked the flock, sending most to a field to the south of my patch, leaving 30-40 to settle back down again. Whilst out I made a quick circuit of the fields at Migrant Alley, and saw a BUZZARD fly low over, always nice to see them  :-)  I added MEADOW PIPIT, PHEASANT, FIELDFARE and ROOK to the days findings, but then, scanning the nearby Greenhouse Copse I saw not one, but two LITTLE OWLS (56) perched up in an old ash tree, ending the day on a more creditable but less than average 39 species.  The Little Owls take the December list to 56 now, which is the joint lowest December  total, the same tally as 2002 and 2003. No chance of any photo's today!!

Saturday, 10 December 2011

A view through the Wet Woods
A moderate frost greeted me this morning, and the sunshine that accompanied it lasted throughout the 3 and half hour full patch walk. A slightly below average 41 species was recorded for the morning, but it included some good patch species, the best being a flight of 13 MANDARIN DUCK (54) that flew over the Small Holding early in the visit, they may well have been flushed from the lakes. Other early birds seen there were a KESTREL, and two GREEN WOODPECKERS, while in the distance a MISTLETHRUSH was singing loud and clear.

On the Lakes today,  ice was covering parts of them, but  8 MALLARD and a GREY HERON were on the open part of the main lake, and 10 Mallards and three MOORHEN were on the small lake, nothing was on the ornamental lake. A look around the adjacent Scrubby Woods was an average affair, with NUTHATCH, BULLFINCH, SISKIN, GOLDCREST,  and a couple of flyover FIELDFARE, the only winter thrushes seen today.

Making my way over to the Tree Nursery and Pub Field, a CORMORANT flew over, and a SPARROWHAWK was watched as it flew over the Greenhouse Complex. Just 2 MEADOW PIPIT were of any note in the Tree Nursery, and the first LAPWINGS were arriving on the Pub Field, 26 dropped in to join the 18 BLACK HEADED GULLS already there.

My next stop was at Migrant Alley, here two SKYLARKS were out on the sheep pasture, along with the usual crowd of ROOKS and JACKDAWS,  plus a few more Black headed Gulls. Flyovers by HERRING GULL, YELLOWHAMMER and PIED WAGTAIL were also noted here.

The College Grounds were visited next, and the usual haul of regular species were seen here, a flock of LONG TAILED TITS gave me my only bird photo's of the visit, and the likes of DUNNOCK, GREENFINCH, GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER,  and HOUSE SPARROW were found for the daylist.

Long Tailed Tit

Long Tailed Tit

I spent  some time watching and photographing the birds at my garden feeders this afternoon, where I was amused to see two male Sparrowhawks almost collide as they sped through the garden from opposite ends!


Great Spotted Woodpecker