Monday, 28 February 2011

The final 'Full patch visit' of the month took place in absolutely dreadful conditions, it was dark all morning, with rain and hail showers on and off, which were blown in on a cold NE wind, thus ended a horrible month for being out and about!

I still had hopes of finding the 4 new species for the month to set a new February record, the likes of Grey Heron and Grey Wagtail hadn't yet been recorded this month, and a Brambling might just turn up, flyover Mute swans or Little Egret weren't an impossibility either, so it was with these species in mind that enthusiastically set off, despite the weather :-)

That enthusiasm quickly started to wane! As I waded through the deep, mud filled footpaths that now impedes any sort of dignified progress, keeping a watch out for birds was secondary to finding a decent place to put my boot down! Not that there was much to see, I had just six birds on the list as I entered the Wet woods, compare that to the 18 of yesterday!

A COAL TIT sang in the Wet Woods, a reminder that it was now nearer spring that winter, as did a MISTLE THRUSH which always seem to relish these weather conditions,two different GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKERS drummed, from opposite sides of the woods, and as I was exiting, I heard the chattering of SISKINS above me, looking up I found 4 on Alder cones - what else :-)

Once again whilst over at the lakes, my first job was to establish whether the COOTS had stayed another day, and yes they had, great stuff :-) Giving the rest of the water a scan was a real anticlimax though, as all I found was a pair of MOORHEN and 3 MALLARD, this was soon forgotten when a few minutes later 12 CANADA GEESE came noisily crashing in, but it wasn't till I was counting them, that I noticed a female GOOSANDER amongst them, had it come in with them or had I missed it earlier, must be the former :-)

The scrub walk was really hard work, and only begrudgingly did the likes of GOLDCREST, LONG TAILED TIT, NUTHATCH and BULLFINCH join the list, which for the first part of the walk ended on 33 species, not too bad an effort.

The second half of my walk over to the College grounds, via the Tree Nursery , Pub Field, and Migrant Alley had me continually pulling down my hat and flicking up my coat collar, trying to keep the chill wind from driving the freezing rain down my neck, however, I did bravely stick my eyes skywards on occasions, finding LESSER BLACK BACKED and HERRING GULLS going over, as well as two groups of GREYLAG GEESE, one of 3 and one of 5. I also counted, very quickly, 63 BLACKHEADED GULLS with 2 COMMON GULLS on the sheep pasture at Migrant Alley. Being a work day, the College Grounds was full of students and workers, but it did offer some shelter from the elements, and also a sighting of a LESSER REDPOLL as it flew over calling. Not much else was added to the list, the KESTREL was seen hovering over the Greenhouse Complex, that made the list up to 44, average for a February day.

I was a bit disappointed to say the least, in not finding any of the target species that were mentioned at the start of this post, especially the Grey heron, this is the first month that I have not recorded one since I started watching my patch in 2002, thats a run of 109 months that it was consecutively seen in!

Later in the afternoon, as dusk was descending, some compensation was had in the form of a BRAMBLING (73,65) that visited my garden feeders, a year tick no less :-) so the month ended on a high after all :-)

That Brambling took the months total to 65, making it the second best February out of ten, just 2 behind the record that was set in 2009, and 5 better than last February.

The average number of species seen in February, over the ten years, is now 59.6, and the combined February species list remains on 79, as no new ones were added this month. Looking back at the end of February for previous years, it appears I have amassed the joint best ever year list of 73 species, along with 2009, thats good going considering the awful weather, if I do say so myself!! :-)

Sunday, 27 February 2011

As I have tomorrow off work, today was the penultimate full patch visit, only the 7th this month, having always managed a minimum of 8 full patch walks for every month since 2002, I am pleased to have kept up the visit rate, just!

The weather this morning was kinder than yesterdays, some sunny periods were had, but a cold NW breeze negated any warmth to be had from it. I started the walk with the Small Holding, Wet Woods, and lake area, quickly racking up 37 species, aided by the calls and songs, that the sun had induced many birds into performing for me. In fact the first 18 species were recorded before I got into the Wet Woods, those being in order of appearance; STARLING, ROBIN, WOODPIGEON, BLACKBIRD, COLLARED DOVE, SONGTHRUSH, GREENFINCH, JACKDAW, MAGPIE, PHEASANT, CHAFFINCH, GOLDCREST, HOUSE SPARROW, DUNNOCK, GREENFINCH, BLUE TIT, WREN, and GREAT TIT.

Things slackened off a bit in the Wet woods, but a JAY was seen, a GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER was drumming, and a STOCK DOVE was singing its relaxed, layed back a-oo-a, a-oo-a song.

Reaching the lakes, I was eager to see if the COOTS were still there, they were, excellent, now I need them to get down to the business of breeding, which would be a first for my patch :-) With the Coots were 10 CANADA GEESE, and 3 pairs of MALLARD, two pairs of MOORHEN made up the inhabitants of the lakes today. As I walked into the adjacent Scrubby Wood, 17 BLACK HEADED GULLS flew over, and walking back out, a CORMORANT did the same, in between those events, all the regulars were seen, TREECREEPER, NUTTHATCH, LONG TAILED TIT, COAL TIT, MARSH TIT, BULLFINCH and GOLDFINCH were all added to the daylist.

Leaving the lake area, and making my way back along the path to the Wet Woods, both MISTLE THRUSH and GREEN WOODPECKER were seen feeding on a large lawn owned by the huge house that stands on the banks of the ornamental lake. My exit from the Wet woods, and out into the sunshine, was met with the sight of 12 HERRING GULLS going over and the cawing of the CARRION CROW, which sat right at the top of a poplar tree.

I checked out the Tree Nursery, and the Pub Field, the latter was overflown by at least 60 FIELDFARE, whilst the Tree Nursery had nothing new for my day list at all. Next I walked across Migrant Alley, to get to the College Grounds, picking up LESSER BLACK BACKED GULL for the day, and also seeing 124 Black Headed Gull on the sheep pasture there.

Being almost the last place I visited today, the College Grounds were now disturbed the comings and goings of people about their business, but I manged to add REDWING to the daylist, when a party of 20 were seen on the boundary of the sports field, also a trio of GREYLAG GEESE flew over.

I ended the 5 hour visit with a skywatch at Migrant Alley, where the KESTREL was seen hunting over the Greenhouse Complex, 3 SKYLARKS chased around the sheep pasture, a SPARROWHAWK circled high up, and the ROOKS went to and from their Rookery with nest building material. Todays visitor to the tall hedge, behind my seat, was a bit of a surprise, a Nuthatch, not seen one of these in this area before :-)

The final species of the 46 recorded today, was seen as I walked home, a pair of SISKIN were in the Greenhouse Complex hedge - the male allowed a photograph.

Below is the Nuthatch seen in the tall hedge

lastly this Great Tit was singing in the Wet Woods

Saturday, 26 February 2011

After a couple of good patch visits, today was a bit of a let down, the forecast rain arrived, and continued on and off throughout my visit, and to compound this, some kind of ''doggy'' event was being held over at the college sports ground, so I didn't even venture over there!

Early on, as I passed through the Small Holding, I saw a LITTLE OWL fly across the old orchard, but failed to see where it alighted, it was so dark ! The Wet Woods were just that, wet! The MALLARD were down to just one pair here, the rest seem to have dispersed around the rest of my patch, as they look for suitable nesting sites.

On the lakes I was happy to see the pair of COOTS still residing on the ornamental pond, and it was also good to see my second KINGFISHER of the month fly from the small lake to the main lake, where 6 CANADA GEESE, 4 MOORHEN and another 3 Mallard were also present. All the woodland regulars were seen in the scrubby wood, apart from the Coal Tit, it was here the only FIELDFARE of the day was heard, then seen flying over.

I checked the Tree Nursery, Pub Field and Greenhouse Complex, and by now was getting pretty fed up with the dark and rain, it was barely lighter now at 09:00 than it was at 07:00 ! I picked out the KESTREL on it's favoured sycamore tree on the border of the tree nursery / Pub Field, the latter was totally empty of birds today, Migrant Alley had a SKYLARK singing over the sheep pasture, plus a few BLACK HEADED GULLS, WOOD PIGEONS and Corvids, whilst the Greenhouse Complex had 3 PIED WAGTAILS on the rooves, until another close encounter with a male SPARROWHAWK was had. After half an hour skywatching, mainly trying to find that elusive Grey heron for the months list and failing to do so, I called it a day, having seen 44 species, an average total, but acceptable in the conditions :-)

Half an hour later I was helping a friend visit different Kent tetrads for the atlas project, we managed to add a fair few species to the TQ73 area, the most exciting of which was a sighting of my first ever GOSHAWK, a really impressive looking raptor, and a nice reward for our efforts :-)

Friday, 25 February 2011

Just thought I'd post yesterday evenings spectacular sunset, really got the most out of the day!

Today though, started foggy, and when that lifted there was a short sunny spell before it clouded over, heralding a wet and windy weekend !!

Meanwhile, another 5 hour full patch walk was had this morning, which revealed 44 species, but of course early on, in the fog, it was hard going, this didn't stop a nice surprise being found in the Wet Woods first thing though. Scanning through the tangled branches, and straining to peer through the fog, I caught sight of a pair of MANDARIN DUCK (71, 63), I had a brief view before they swam deeper into cover, this is another good species for my patch, Mandarins are seen only once or twice a year, if i'm lucky :-)

I was eager to get to the lakes before any dog walkers disturbed them today; had the Coot stayed overnight, or had it left for better habitat, as is nearly always the case ? I could hear the now resident CANADA GEESE honking excitedly, and counted 4 on the main lake, with 2 MALLARD and 2 MOORHEN, but no Coot. I moved round to the ornamental lake, where another 2 Canada Geese were seen, but then, wow, I saw not one COOT but two, both together, brilliant! Only once before has more than one Coot been seen on the lakes, that was last year, so this really is a turn up! Maybe they are a pair ? maybe they will stay and breed ? Maybe i'll have Coot on my daylist everyday ? Hmmmm........I thought that last time....I must calm down :-)

After my coot encounter, I checked out the small lake, but I could barely see to the other side of it due to the fog, but I dont think there was anything there, a return visit later in the afternoon to photograph the Coots, confirmed that.. The Scrubby Wood was not the same place as yesterday, it was cool and dripping wet in the fog, promoting very little song, DUNNOCK, WREN, ROBIN and SONGTHRUSH were attempting to brighten things up, as were a pair of LONG TAILED TITS trilling away in a thick bramble bush, might this be the place to nest ?

I had just 30 species on my list from the first part of my patch visit, TREECREEPER, NUTHATCH, COAL TIT, GOLDCREST, SISKIN, BULLFINCH, and STOCK DOVE are among the more difficult species to find, but they all showed up today, both GREEN and GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKERS were seen in the Small Holding earlier, so not much more would be found here.

I moved off to the very foggy Tree Nursery, Pub Field, and Migrant Alley, but the fog proved to be a real pain, and not much was seen at all. By the time I reached the College grounds, the fog was lifting, but at 09:30 on a weekday, it's like Piccadilly circus on this part of my patch, it's best to get here early, but I cant get to everywhere at first light. I did a quick tour of the grounds, and added just a few flyovers to my list, those being ROOK, and both HERRING and BLACK HEADED GULL.

I decided a break was in need and went home for a drink and a quick breakfast, after which I did a re-walk of the Tree Nursery and Pub field, before a skywatch at Migrant Alley. I was pleased to find the KESTREL in the Tree Nursery, but I couldn't find a single Fieldfare or Redwing out on the Pub Field. I reached my skywatching seat at Migrant Alley just as the sun came out, and once again enjoyed some spring warmth whilst listening to 2 SKYLARKS singing high up. Some 20 mins later I watched a small bird drop from the sky and alight on the tall hedge just behind me, it called straight away, giving away it's identity as my first REED BUNTING (72, 64) of the year :-) These are scarce birds on my patch, and again it's a case of two - three sightings a year, but if suitable habitat has been left by the farmers, which is very rare, they can become quite numerous during the winter months. The last noteworthy sighting of the day was a COMMON BUZZARD, which came over low, it was being harried by the female SPARROWHAWK :-)

The months list has now been elevated to 64 species, which puts it in second place out of ten, whilst the 72 species recorded so far this year is the the best effort since the 73 species I recorded by the end of Feb 2009, that was the year I achieved my fastest ever 100 species total, in mid May.

Above: The Reed Bunting. Below: Coots!

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Ashes lane, first thing this morning

First thing this morning, the clouds were showing signs of breaking up, and at last allowing a bit of brightness through. Eventually, as the morning progressed, more and more sunshine broke through, and this afternoon was superb, the warmest and brightest day of the year so far, and did it feel good ! :-)

I was out for 4 and a half hours this morning, before hunger got the better of me, and another 2 hours this afternoon, a good total of 45 bird species was seen, amongst those were 3 new ones for the month, with one of those being new for the year :-)

Right from the off the milder temperatures encouraged much birdsong, ROBIN, WREN, DUNNOCK, SONGTHRUSH, BLACKBIRD, CHAFFINCH, GREENFINCH, and GOLDCREST were all in good voice, with the likes of BLUE TIT, GREAT TIT, STARLING, and COLLARD DOVE all calling too , it sounded like spring at last!

I had started with a walk over to the College Gardens today, via the Tree Nursery, Pub Field and Migrant Alley, not much was out of the ordinary, the KESTREL remained in the tree next to the nest box in the Tree Nursery, the Pub Field had 57 FIELDFARE on it, but no Redwing, a species not seen at all today, Migrant Alley was almost birdless, but a lone SKYLARK was singing high up, another spring singer, and a welcome one at that :-) I reached the College Grounds, and heard yet another songster, one that has been heard singing since late January, the TREECREEPER, another GOLDCREST was also heard, the second of 9 that sang today, they were joined by COAL TIT and MISTLE THRUSH.

I made my way over to the lakes, meeting a low flying SPARROWHAWK as I passed the Greenhouse Complex, but it was the only time I saw it today. On reaching the lakes I had a good scan, but saw no Goosander today, I was back to counting CANADA GEESE, of which two were on each of the 3 lakes, with 3 pairs of MALLARD on the main lake and 3 MOORHEN on the ornamental lake, it wasn't until i had a second look across the main lake that I saw the bird of the day - a COOT (70, 60), yes! Excellent bird for my patch, Goosander are more common than Coots are here!!

I was already feeling better than of late in the brighter conditions, and the new addition for the year list was even more of a boost, making the walk round the scrubby woods most enjoyable. Here, I heard the Kewick and towoo call of the Tawny Owl, then again I heard it, and once more it came, kewick - towoo. It sounded weak, and the hoot was not at all strong and hollow, so I made my way to the source of the call, and what flies out ? A JAY ! Very clever mate ! After the pleasant walk through the Scrub, which added NUTHATCH and SISKIN to my list, I headed back over to the Tree Nursery, and it was here that my first MEADOW PIPIT (61) of the month flew over 'seep seep seeping' as it went south, a good point to end my walk and have a very late Breakfast :-)

At 13:00hrs the sun was out, and so was I, back over at Migrant Alley, surley a soaring raptor would turn up ? As I sat on my skywatching seat the warmth of the sun soaked deep into my bones, lovely, not the burning heat of mid summer, just that gentle warmth of early spring, you cant beat it :-) As for a soaring raptor, well, it really was my day today, as no less than four COMMON BUZZARDS (62) were up high together, enjoying the same warmth as me - fantastic :-)

But here's my bird of the day..............A Coot! :-)

I also found this Dunnock sunning itself, allowing a photograph.

My first Honey Bees were seen this afternoon, these were at their hive which is located by my skywatching seat.

Back at home in the Garden, more signs of spring, the Crocus' have opened up

Allowing the first sighting of a ' drunken' Bumble Bee

It staggered from flower to flower

Getting more and more dusted in pollen

Just look at that for a happy scene !

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

It rained on and off for the entire day today, so my afternoon walk was a very short affair, just a quick jaunt over to the lakes to see if anything new had dropped down onto the water.

On getting to the lake area, I quickly sought refuge in the outbuilding that over looks the main lake, where I immediately saw the unmistakable male GOOSANDER out on the lake, more than that, upon looking through my bins to get a better view, I saw another 4 Goosander with it, all females! Fantastic! That was certainly worth getting wet for :-)

I got all the views I wanted today, as they all sat out on the water preening and dozing, now i'm all ''Goosandered out'' ! With them on the water were a pair of CANADA GEESE and a pair of MALLARD. Looking out into the rain, on the opposite side of the out building, I noticed a GOLDCREST working its way round a small fir tree, as I watched it feeding, another Goldcrest 'bumped' into it coming from the opposite direction, both birds grappled with each other, causing them both to tumble through the tree, and hit the ground with a bump, there they split up and went their separate ways, I've never seen two Goldcrest scrap it out before :-)

I had one more quick scan of the lake, just in case I'd missed anything whilst oggling the Goosanders, but nothing turned up, so during the next lull in the rain I made a quick exit home again.

I'm not too worried by the short visit today, as i'm off work for the next five days, and i'll be doing full patch visits every day - weather permitting ! Surely I can find a few new species to add to the months list or even the year list ?

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

The gloom is still here! Yes, once again an afternoon patch visit was shrouded in misty, grey and cool conditions.

I spent 2 hours out in it this afternoon, and found the bird life to be very subdued, with few birds seen at all. However, my daily visits to the lake area have eventually paid off, a superb pair of GOOSANDER (59) were seen on the main lake, a scarce, but regular winter visitor to my patch. I had a group of 9 visit last month on the 11th, but this pair were the first for February, taking the months species total to 59, putting it in joint 4th place with 2007, for the ten years of recording. I just managed a photo, before the 4 CANADA GEESE started having a loud argument, one pair took flight and the Goosander went with them, all that waiting for something different on the lake and I get a 2min view! 2 pairs of MALLARD and a single pair of MOORHEN were also seen on the water today.

A bash round the scrubby wood was also rewarded today, as well as seeing the expected LONG TAILED TITS, GOLDCREST, and actually getting views of 4 BULLFINCH, I also put up a WOODCOCK, this is a much scarcer bird on my patch than the Goosander, so this was quite productive afternoon :-) I still haven't got a Woodcock photo, and although this one only touched down 20 metres away from me, I didn't want to flush it up twice, and so let it sit, I wonder if this was the same bird I recorded on the 3rd ? Two Woodcock sightings in a month is good going for my patch, I only had three in the whole of last year, indeed, Woodcock was only recently added to my patch list in Jan. 2009.

The gloom began to thicken as I walked over to the Tree Nursery and Pub Field, and very little was seen, a work crew were in the nursery, so was the KESTREL, it was in the next tree along from the nest box - again. Only 2 FIELDFARE were seen on the Pub Field, and apart from a few flyover BLACK HEADED GULLS, the sky remained empty and grey. Talking of Grey, I still haven't recorded a Grey Heron for the month yet, If I don't see one this month it will be the first month Ive not recorded this species since I started watching my patch in January 2002 !!!

Something different on the lakes at last - A pair of Goosander, sorry for the poor photo, they were obscured by my cover :-)
Above is a view as I exit the Wet woods, and look over to the Tree Nursery - the camera has done well to brighten the view up! :-)

Monday, 21 February 2011

Yesterdays series of photo's prompted a few responses, and quite rightly, in my opinion. Most were agreed that it was an unpleasant thing to witness, but something we should play no part in.
The temptation to help the victim of a Sprawk attack is very strong, but remember, once the victim has been knocked to the floor and is being gripped by those talons, it is as good as dead. If the Sprawk was flushed off, the victim may well be able to fly away, but it will most likely die of infection to the wounds, or be unable to fend for itself due to injury, and so die a lingering death. It's not a good idea to intervene, just turn away!!

Back to today, and you'll be pleased to know that there was no sign of a Sparrowhawk in my garden or on my patch this afternoon :-) One thing that hasn't changed though is this grey, damp weather, it was also quite chilly and I was pleased i'd taken my scarf and gloves along with me.

All was much the same as it has been in recent days, a mix of Tits and Finch's were in the Alpaca enclosure at the Small Holding, with a GREEN WOODPECKER on a nearby large garden lawn, TREECREEPER, GOLDCREST and NUTHATCH were either singing or calling in the Wet woods, with just half a dozen SISKIN in the Alders.

The lakes held 2 CANADA GEESE, they were on the main lake, with 2 pairs of MALLARD, only 1 pair of MOORHEN was about, they were on the ornamental lake, and the small lake was empty. In the Scrubby Woods, at least 4 BULLFINCH were heard, a small party of LONG TAILED TITS were joined by another Treecreeper, two more Goldcrest, and a Nuthatch, plus the usual BLUE and GREAT TITS.

Out in the open, over at the Tree Nursery and Pub Field, I again saw the KESTREL, I wondered if it was showing some interest in the barn Owl box I put up in the fir tree there, as it keeps hanging around nearby - something to watch out for in the coming weeks. There was no sign of any winter thrushes on the Pub Field today, but whilst over at Migrant Alley a largish flock was seen just to the north of my patch, also of note was a CORMORANT that flew over and dropped down onto to the lakes, plus a trio of LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLS that flew NE.

So, not much out of the ordinary to report today, but thats to be expected at this time of year, give it a couple of weeks and it will all be blooms, bee's and Butterflies :-)

Sunday, 20 February 2011

I managed to get round for a full patch walk today, only the third this month, and once again it was a grey, dull and damp, with a light mist, making viewing conditions very poor.

I set off across Migrant Alley towards the College first thing, as i haven't been here for a few days now. A flock of 6 YELLOWHAMMERS came up from the new paddock, and flyovers by both CANADA and GREYLAG GOOSE were seen, a pair of MALLARDS came up from the flooded ditch at the extreme NW of my patch, but the hoped for Snipe didn't show. LESSER BLACK BACKED, HERRING and BLACK HEADED GULLS all flew over heading South.

The College Grounds produced some of the woodland species I normally associate with the lakeside scrub area, such as BULLFINCH, SISKIN, LONG TAILED TIT, and two singing TREECREEPERS, as well as the regular Tits and finch's, plus SONGTHRUSH, MISLE THRUSH and JAY. Two MOORHEN seen on the small ponds in the gardens, meant I had now already seen everything that would of been seen over on the lakes!

I returned back through the Pub Field, where a KESTREL was sitting in a Sycamore tree, along with 157 FIELDFARE, I made out just a single REDWING with them, but there were probably more, it was hard to tell in the gloom!

I didn't have a halftime break today, I went straight over to the lake area, the expected pairs of Canada Geese were on each of the lakes, and only 1 pair of Mallard - very disappointing again :-( The scrubby wood was searched through, and the MARSH TIT was found, along with NUTHATCH, GOLDCREST, and another Treecreeper, plus both GREEN and GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER.

The final leg of my walk through the Wet Woods and Small Holding, didn't throw up any surprises, but more Long Tailed Tits were seen with another 2 Goldcrest.

I got home at 10:00, having recorded 40 species, not a very satisfactory result, I had rushed a bit because of the poor conditions, so i had breakfast, and went off out again. I scanned the Tree Nursery and came up with a PHEASANT for the day, then went for a watch over at Migrant Alley, where two things cheered me no end, the first was a singing SKYLARK, the first one to sing this year, and the second was a fantastic sighting of 27 GOLDEN PLOVER (58) going over NW, the months list gets a little nudge nearer to the 60 species mark :-). I added PIED WAGTAIL and STOCK DOVE to the day list whilst there, making a more realistic total of 46 - much better :-)

Now the following photo's ( taken in my garden this afternoon) might not be every bodies cup of tea. However it has to be remembered that nature goes on all around us, day in, day out, as if we didn't exist, so our getting all upset about things being predated is, although understandable, quite irrelevant to the workings of the natural world.

The Female SPARROWHAWK that has been prowling my garden, finally took one of the Great spotted Woodpeckers this afternoon. As I said, a very sad moment, but it happens.

A fight ensued for some minutes, in which time all the local birds came in to mob the Hawk, including two MAGPIES, they are not exactly immune to a bit of predation themselves! Irritatingly, a troop of Long Tailed Tits also came in, understandably they left immediately, but they were the first I've had in the garden since last March!

After dragging the still screeching Woodpecker over to the edge of next doors garden, the final struggle began, but it was a battle that could only end one way now.
The woody had put up a fight for ten minutes, but eventually succumbed to the Hawks power
A sad end I know, I had been taking photo's of this woodpecker over the last few years, but thats probably why it got caught, it was getting a bit old, and so was just not quick enough :-(

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Hopeless!! That's what today was! The forecast rain duly arrived before dawn, and set in for the majority of the day, only relenting around 16:00hrs.

Around 07:30 the rain seemed to ease off a little, so I ventured out, only for the rain to start up again. I made it over to the lakes, and took shelter in an old outbuilding where I could see out onto the main lake, here, there were 5 CANADA GEESE, 2 GREYLAG GEESE, 4 MALLARD and a MOORHEN. After letting the rain ease off again, I visited the ornamental lake, and the small lake, but only 2 more Canada geese and 2 pairs of Mallard were seen, before I once again retreated to the shelter of the outbuilding as the rain came on again.

I made my mind up that I wasn't going to get round for a full patch walk and so made my way back home the way i'd come, through the Wet woods, the only thing of note here was the loud chattering of a SISKIN flock in some Adlers, about 25 birds in all, but I wasn't hanging about to count them properly!

The rest of the day was spent caged up in indoors doing enforced jobs around the house that I have put off for months on end :-) However there were plenty of opportunities to watch the garden feeders, where once the female SPARROWHAWK had caught a female CHAFFINCH for dinner, and so not returning to the garden until late afternoon, a good selection of birds were recorded.

The most numerous were the BLUE TITS, 16 were seen at one point, but many more would have been using the feeders, fewer GREAT TITS came in and the single MARSH TIT was coming and going, along with a pair of COAL TITS. As well as the Chaffinch's the other two finch species were both very much in evidence, a dozen of both GOLDFINCH and GREENFINCH emptied the 6 port feeder in hours, before making a big dent in the 12 port feeder. A pair SISKIN were a bonus species, as was a JAY that came in for the peanuts on the floor that I had thrown down earlier, the 25th species in the garden this year, two other corvid species also enjoyed the peanuts, those being JACKDAW and MAGPIE.

HOUSE SPARROW numbers were disappointing, just 3 at any one time, the same as the number of BLACKBIRDS, which along with 2 DUNNOCKS and 2 ROBINS picked up the falling sunflower hearts. Another poor showing was from the STARLINGS, they really do not like the Sprawk at all, and are the last birds to come back into the garden when it leaves, even so, only 2 came in, tempted by the fat blocks.

At least 3 GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKERS were back and forth all afternoon, along with a pair of NUTHATCH, all activity ended at 16:30, with a rush of wings from 8 COLLARD DOVES and 2 WOODPIGEONS as they signalled the return of the Sprawk, it went straight up into the evergreen tree, it's usual place, and the smaller birds filtered away over into the nearby woods.

21 species were seen in the garden in all, a good count, and with flyovers from 9 HERRING GULLS in formation, and a jumbled up, but more impressive flock of 38 LAPWING also going over, a grand total of 41 species for the day was only a couple below average for a February day.

I hope tomorrow is a little kinder weatherwise, I really need to get out !!

Friday, 18 February 2011

I had thought that today was going to be a washout, but I was looking at the wrong date on the weather site yesterday, it's tomorrow that's going to be a washout, this makes much more sense as it's the weekend :-)

Today in fact started foggy and frosty, the fog only lifted slowly into a thin mist, which by 14:30 lifted just enough for some very hazy sunshine to be had for my afternoon patch visit.

A good few winter thrushes were seen on a ''dead'' field adjacent to the Small holding, I say dead because it's just a mown grass field that is home to nothing more than a few corvids and woodpigeons for 99% of the year, but today it was being used by around 45 FIELDFARE and 13 REDWING. In the Small Holding 2 MISTLE THRUSH were chasing around the old pear trees, while on the Alpaca enclosure, CHAFFINCH, GREENFINCH, BLUE TIT, GREAT TIT, SONGTHRUSH, and another couple of Redwing were feeding.

Not much was happening in the Wet Woods, MALLARDS were again on the woodland flood, and both NUTHATCH and GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER called, SISKINS were spread thinly in the many Alder trees, probably around 20 birds being present, the LONG TAILED TITS were also seen, but were very high up in the large Oaks today.

Walking to the lakes via the footpath from the woods, two GOLDCRESTS were seen in the adjacent wooded garden, the only two seen today, the lawned garden on the other side of me had two GREEN WOODPECKERS, and a pair of Mistle Thrush, they were guarding a bush full of red berries, i'd prefer a Waxwing on them though! On the lakes, it was initially a great disappointment, just 2 CANADA GEESE were the only birds on the water, however as I scanned the overhanging branches on the small lake, I spied the orange breast of a KINGFISHER (57), it then spied me and flew off for better cover :-) at last something to add to the months list!

The usual walk was had around the Scrubby Wood, but it seemed very subdued, I found the reason why a few moments later, when a female SPARROWHAWK came through fast and low, then proceeded to circle overhead, I just cant get away from this bird! ( earlier I had found the remains of a Great Tit in the garden, no doubt her doing!) All that was left to see after that was this WOODPIGEON :-)

There she goes! back to my garden feeders I suppose :-)

A quick look over at the Pub field / Tree Nursery only gave me views of some more Fieldfare on the maize stubbles, and a KESTREL on the hedgerow that separates the Nursery and the Pub Field.
A peak at the Sheep pasture over at Migrant Alley, was not really worth getting cold for, 32 BLACK HEADED GULLS, 43 JACKDAWS, 52 ROOKS and lots of WOODPIGEONS didn't keep me in the cold wind for long!
Back at home I again said hello to the female Sprawk, she was in the evergreen tree at the bottom of the garden, but after seeing her off gently, the tits soon came in to feed, allowing me a snapshot of this COAL TIT.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Another ''not too bad'' day weatherwise today. This afternoon a few sunny spells were had, but it was mostly cloudy and cool.

Of the 2 hours spent on my patch this afternoon, 90% of it was over at the lakes and scrubby wood area. All the regular resident species were seen, many of them were associating with a small band of LONG TAILED TITS, six to eight were feeding in the dense bramble and young trees, 2 TREECREEPERS, 2 COAL TITS, 4 GOLDCREST, 2 NUTHATCH and a GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER were all in close proximity to them. At least 4 BULLFINCH were also in the wood, as well a few of yesterdays SONGTHRUSHES.

On the water the 3 lakes had a pair of CANADA GEESE on each, they will probably attempt to breed on their respective lakes in a few weeks, 2 pairs of of MALLARD were on the main lake, and 1 pair of MOORHEN were on the ornamental lake. A few SISKINS were in some pine trees that grow around the lake, as were 2 more Goldcrests, and while trying to find a Firecrest in the pine tree, 4 MISTLE THRUSHES noisily dropped into it, had a bit of a scrap, then left just as noisily!

I chased around the scrub for ages trying to get a photo, but the birds in the flock seemed very wary and unapproachable today, maybe because the breeding season is nearing ? I failed to get any photo's in the end, despite having some really good views.

Just a brief visit was had to the Pub Field and Tree Nursery as I walked home, the Pub Field had at least 110 FIELDFARE scattered over the maize stubbles, they were thinly spread over the field, and took a bit of counting, but I suspect many went unseen. Crossing into the Tree Nursery another pair of Goldcrest were found, as was a pair of Long Tailed Tits, these having paired up now and left the larger flocks.

That was about it for today! Nothing new for the month or year list, which has stalled on 56 and 69 respectively. Looking back at this time in 2009, and 2010, the year list wasn't all that much different to this years, 2009 had a year total of 71 by this time, and the month ended on 73, while 2010 had a year total of 67 at this time, and ended the month on 69, so i'm behind 2009 and ahead of 2010, the year which turned out to have the highest species count ever, so i'm not doing as badly as I had feared :-)

Tomorrow looks like a complete washout, and it may be a case of just watching the garden feeders and chasing the sparrowhawk around ! She was in again today when I got home, hardly any food has been eaten from the feeders, but that saves me a few quid at least!

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

All change with the weather again ! There were some short lived sunny spells this afternoon amongst the mostly cloudy skies, but that's a vast improvment than of late!

The better weather encouraged a few birds to sing again, CHAFFINCH'S were heard tuning up as I passed through the Small Holding, they are not quite giving it all just yet, the MISTLE THRUSH was back on form though, and it's song resounded loudly through the trees in the Wet Woods, along with the 'wee wee wee'' call of a NUTHATCH. Five pairs of MALLARDS were on the wooded pools, they will be nesting very soon now.

A slight change was had on the lakes today, where 14 CANADA GEESE were on the main lake, 2 were on the ornamental lake and another two were on the smallest lake along with 4 Mallard, not one Moorhen was seen though, nor was the hoped for Grey Heron or Kingfisher, both would be additions to the months list.

The scrubby woods were quiter than they have been for a while, no Long Tailed Tits were seen, but 3 GOLDCRESTS, 2 TREECREEPERS and a singing COAL TIT were all in close proximity to one another, there were at least 7 SONGTHRUSH'S seen, a real increase over recent weeks, lets hope they stay around to breed.

I walked over to Migrant Alley, via the Pub Field, where two KESTRELS flew over the maize stubbles, and around 30-40 FIELDFARE were on the farside of the field, making counting difficult. I arrived at Migrant Alley at 15:20hrs, and sat watching the sky for 40 mins, but not a single bird flew over, not one!! I could see ROOKS, JACKDAWS and WOODPIGEONS in the sheep pasture, also one of the Peregrines on the tower, but to have absolutely nothing flyover must be a first for me :-)

Above is one of the Canada Geese that was on the smallest of the lakes, below is a photo of the Wet Woods, with the Bluebell leaves giving a green carpet to the woodland floor

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Rain , wind, and gloom prevented any sort of decent patch visit this afternoon, I braved the elements for just 40 mins to see if anything had changed on the lakes. When I got there it was the same regulars, those being CANADA GEESE and MALLARDS. I dont think anything new will visit until the wretched Gas cannons stop blasting away, that could be weeks, by which time most of the wildfowl will be settling down to breed, a long way from my patch!

The rain continued on and off, sometimes heavy sometimes light, but always accompanied by a chill wind. I decided to call it a day, a go home to see if anything interesting would show up at my garden feeders, which it did, but I could have done without it really! :-)

This SPARROWHAWK just would not give up, I flushed it half a dozen times from the tree at the bottom of my garden, but in the end I let it have it's perch. Needless to say, few birds visited the garden, the birds seem to know when the hawk is in the tree :-) Only the quick and the brave took the seed from the feeders, those being BLUE and GREAT TITS, also the MARSH TIT, hope that doesn't end up as lunch, ive only got two on my patch!!
Hopefully the weather will be a bit kinder tomorrow, and i'll have something more interesting to post !

Monday, 14 February 2011

Light showers fell during my afternoon patch visit, but these were few, and in between them some sunny spells were had.

Walking through the Small holding, I found a group of mixed finches on the Alpaca enclosure, mostly CHAFFINCH and GREENFINCH, with fewer GOLDFINCH, but no sign of my first Brambling of the year in with them. Also in the Small Holding were a flock of BLUE and GREAT TITS, some 20 odd strong, these are the Tits that feed at my garden feeders nearby.

A MISTLE THRUSH was heard to sing as I entered the Wet Woods, and more Great Tits were heard calling, three pairs of MALLARDS were on the newly replenished flood water on the woodland floor, as were two MOORHEN. Up in the bare trees a GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER was drumming, and on a catkin laden Alder 3 SISKINS were seen.

I didn't anticipate anything being on the 3 lakes, the gas cannons are still blasting away, but there were a pair of CANADA GEESE on each of them, they were joined by 3 Mallard on the smallest lake. The adjacent scrubby woods were given a brief search, where BULLFINCH'S were heard calling, and a small flock of LONG TAILED TITS were found busily foraging through the tangled trees and brambles (below)

I also found 4 GOLDCRESTS in this ''proper'' woodland habitat, I tried to string a Firecrest out of one of them, but it wasn't possible :-) The TAWNY OWL hooted from it's roost whilst I was Firecrest hunting, also of note was a flyover CORMORANT.

Moving on to the Pub Field, ( the Tree Nursery had a work crew in it today) I saw at least 110 FIELDFARE, not one was seen whilst they were out in the stubbles, on the floor, but as I walked up the field edge, more and more took off to alight in the trees that border a large garden, I noticed only 6 REDWING with them, and in the distance a KESTREL sat on a telegraph pole watching the proceedings.

As I reached the Fieldfare laden trees to get a photo of one, the sun went in and they all took off apart from this one above, it must have felt sorry for me !

Next stop was Migrant alley, where 86 BLACK HEADED GULLS, hundreds of WOODPIGEON, 43 ROOKS and a pair of Mistle Thrush were all out on the Sheep pasture, but that was all.

Above and below Black Headed gulls

I spent just 20 minutes watching the sky, but despite the crystal clear air, and good visibility, I couldn't conjure up a Grey Heron or Buzzard for the month. I had to leave soon after as a visit to the dentist was in the offing, on the way, as we drove down Ashes lane, I looked out the window and spotted a SPARROWHAWK cruising along the side of the car at a constant 20mph, and only feet away! With the low sun shining right on it, it made an impressive sight - if only I had my camera !!

Below is a view north, across a field of Sheep pasture at Migrant Alley.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Yet again it was not a very nice day to be out, windy, wet and cooler than yesterday, I think we have paid the price in full for the sunny day we had on Tuesday!!

I spent 3 hours out on my patch from 07:00hrs, and during that time only small numbers of birds were seen, the largest group of birds, apart from the WOODPIGEONS, were a flock of 75 SISKINS that were flushed up from the Alder trees along the College stream by something unseen, also a group of 20 REDWING on the College sports pitch, a species I didn't record yesterday.

The 47 species recorded today was better than an average February day total, but as I said earlier, few actual birds were about, most species were either just flying over singly, such as the YELLOWHAMMER, SKYLARK, KESTREL and PIED WAGTAIL over Migrant Alley, or they were only heard, such as the STOCK DOVE, SONGTHRUSH, WREN, TREECREEPER, JAY, and BULLFINCH. Only singles of DUNNOCK, MARSH TIT, SPARROWHAWK, COAL TIT, PHEASANT, NUTHATCH, CORMORANT, and GREEN WOODPECKER, showed themselves, so you can see there were long gaps in the 3 hours where nothing happened :-)

There were occasional small groups of birds, one of note was a group of 5 LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLS that flew over the lake, where the already mentioned Cormorant was fishing, 6 CANADA GEESE and 4 MALLARD were also warily sitting on the water. A feeding party of 6 LONG TAILED TITS with two GOLDCRESTS were in the adjacent Scrubby Woods, and it was whilst in there that I saw 18 FIELDFARE flyover.

The birds of the day however, were a new species for the month at last, 3 flyover LAPWING (56) moved the months total along, but this February still remains in 9th position out of the ten Feb's recorded, and a whopping 12 species behind the record Feb total ! There is still time to catch up though, i've got 2 days holiday at the end of the month, this will give me a 4 day run of full patch walks from the 24th.

No pics today the weather saw to that :-(

Saturday, 12 February 2011

At last, the first full patch walk of February got underway this morning, but the weather again played it's part, rain first thing petered out, to leave a grey cloudy visit, but at least it wasn't cold or windy.

I was eager to find some new species for the February list today, and felt sure I would pick up one, but it wasn't to be, even the extended 5 hours walk didn't do the trick. The day list reached an average total of 44, but that was increased to 46 when both SPARROWHAWK and COAL TIT were seen in my garden this afternoon.

Early highlights from this morning included a nice flock of 57 FIELDFARE that were on the Pub Field maize stubble, and a flyover CORMORANT at Migrant Alley, along with a KESTREL. Also seen here, of note, were single SKYLARK and YELLOWHAMMER.

A good selection of common species were seen and heard at the College Grounds, including GOLDCREST, SONGTHRUSH, MISTLE THRUSH, GREENFINCH, CHAFFINCH, PHEASANT, and JAY. A total of 43 BLACK HEADED GULLS and just 1 HERRING GULL were on the College Sports pitch, and whilst ending the first half of my visit 2 LITTLE OWLS were heard duetting in the small copse by the Greenhouse Complex.

The second half of my visit was undertaken in similar dull dreary conditions, despite the promise of sunny spells from the forecasters. The 3 lakes held 2 MOORHEN, 2 CANADA GEESE and 3 MALLARD between them, whilst the regular species of BULLFINCH, NUTHATCH , TREECREEPER, LONG TAILED TIT, MARSH TIT and the likes were seen in the Scrubby Wood. I also had great close views of 3 more Goldcrest feeding together, bringing the total of this species to 13 for the day! A pair of GREYLAG GEESE flew over as I ended my visit, which was just a tiny bit disappointing, but still, some good birds were seen today.

The sunny spells did eventually arrive later in the afternoon, and allowed me to take some photographs of the 'tits' at the feeders, as well as the Grey Squirrel, pain that they are :-) Later on I managed to do some light work on one of my mini ponds, and found a cracking male Common Newt :-)

Above and below Marsh Tit, you can see the pale primary feather that I mentioned the other day.

Here's one of the many Blue Tits :-)

Lastly the pain in the backside squirrel that keeps nicking all the food!

Friday, 11 February 2011

When I got home from work this afternoon, a shaft of sunlight lit the garden, and the cloud seemed to lift and thin, tempting me to take the camera out for my walk over to the lakes - Fool!!

Before I even got to the lakes, the dark clouds rolled in again, making my walk through the Wet Woods seem like it was dusk, as the light faded away, I could barely see the MALLARDS on the woodland pools, the gloom was that bad.

Rain started to fall as I neared the lakes, so I quickly walked round them, scanning the water and over hanging trees, there wasn't a single Mallard today, 2 MOORHENS, 2 CANADA GEESE and a fishing CORMORANT were the only occupants. I watched the Cormorant get two decent size fish, before it left, good on him, I just wish he could tackle some of those big Carp that are in there!

The rain came down in pulses, light one moment heavy the next, and I tucked the camera into my coat before setting off for yet another soggy walk around the scrubby woods, I found a TREECREEPER, a GOLDCREST and a NUTHATCH amongst a troop of 8 LONG TAILED TITS, SONGTHRUSH, BLACKBIRD and REDWING were seen on the brambly woodland floor, and around 200 WOODPIGEON filtered down into the Oak trees around me, driven in by the blast of the gas cannons. I counted no fewer than 24 blasts in the hour I spent around the woods and the walk back home - totally excessive and unnecessary in my opinion !!

Walking home across the Tree Nursery, I heard the rattle of a MISTLE THRUSH from above me, and squinting through the rain I saw it was mobbing a passing SPARROWHAWK, that was the last action of another lost day!

The weekend looks to be little better, but I might just get my first full patch walk of the month in tomorrow, before the rain comes in again, hopefully finding a couple of new species for the month, the total of which is languishing on 55, at the moment that's the second lowest February total, out of the ten February's of recording.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Another truly diabolical day, rain from mid morning till gone dusk!!

I ventured out after work this afternoon, and had to put on my sodden coat after walking home in a downpour - yuk, but I suppose you can only get so wet!

I thought i'd just pay a brief visit to the lakes, maybe something will have dropped in to the relative shelter there, but no, I arrived soaked and bedraggled to be met by 4 MOORHEN and just 1 MALLARD, even the Canada Geese had gone :-), mind you, the gas cannons we back with a vengeance today!!

My walk to the lake was much in haste due to the rain, and the only birds noted were MISTLE THRUSH, SONGTHRUSH, GOLDCREST, TREECREEPER and 3 pairs of Mallard on the growing pools of water in the Wet Woods.

Oh well, one day soon i'll have one of those good days that make days like today seem worth all the effort - but I do hope it's not too far away :-)

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

CANADA GEESE on the Ornamental lake

Well it was back down to earth with a bump today! Gone was the sunshine, and the calm warm conditions of yesterday, back were the cloudy, cool and dull conditions, with a brisk wind, but being more optimistic, now the sun is higher in the sky, a dull February day, is not as dull as a dull January day!!!

Without the sun, the birds were no where near as active this afternoon, and the only real songsters were the MISTLE THRUSH and SONGTHRUSH, the ROBIN sang as well of course, they always do, it would have to be a bad day for them not to sing :-)

On the lakes today, the main lake had 4 Canada Geese, 3 MALLARD and 2 MOORHEN, the ornamental lake had two Canada Geese, and 4 Moorhen, and the small lake had 2 Canada Geese, I still hope to see a Kingfisher around these lakes before the months end.

Half an hour in the scrubby wood, and the regular birds were noted, but only in one's and two's - COAL TIT, TREECREEPER, GOLDCREST, LONG TAILED TIT and NUTHATCH were the pick of these, the Redwing that were here, foraging through the leaves yesterday had moved off. On one of my frequent glances at the sky, I saw two CORMORANT go low over, but they didn't show any interest in the water.

As yesterday, I paid a visit to the Pub Field and Migrant Alley, the former had at least 30 FIELDFARE on the maize stubble, with 3 REDWING and a JAY, while Migrant Alley had much the same as yesterday, WOODPIGEONS, ROOKS, and JACKDAWS, the Yellowhammers were not seen today, a dog walker saw them off before I got to where they normally feed, but the BLACK HEADED GULLS had returned to the sheep pasture after their absence yesterday, 124 were seen, with more occasionally dropping in.

Still no sign of a Grey Heron or Meadow Pipit, those two species along with the Grey Wagtail and Kingfisher are the most likely to be added to the Feb list,these would take it to 59 if they turn up, which happens to be the mean species total for the past 9 February's of recording.

I just had enough light later this afternoon to capture this GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER at my garden feeders, where I also saw the MARSH TIT, with it's distinct white primary feather, i've noticed this feather go from grey to white over the winter months :-)

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Yellowhammer, new species for the month.

At last the wind has dropped out, and the heavy grey clouds have cleared to leave a bright blue winter sky. The afternoon patch walk was a much more pleasurable experience for it :-)

Just because the weather's turned nice, it doesn't follow that the birds will suddenly appear, but it does make the birds present much more vocal, ROBINS, SONGTHRUSH'S, BLACKBIRDS, GREAT and BLUE TITS all sang loudly as I passed through the Small Holding, and into the Wet Woods, where once again 2 or 3 pairs of MALLARD were seen on the pools of water, a MOORHEN called somewhere from the mass of tangled dead branches, while overhead a GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER called, along with a NUTHATCH.

The footpath leading to the lake area had at least 3 GOLDCREST along it, one of these was singing loudly, two LONG TAILED TITS and a TREECREEPER fed in one of the adjacent wooded gardens, the lawn in the opposite garden had a GREEN WOODPECKER foraging on it.

Two CANADA GEESE, 4 Mallard and two Moorhen were all that the 3 lakes could muster between them, but in the surrounding trees and vegetation, more singing was heard, making for a most springlike afternoon, especially upon hearing the COAL TITS song. The adjacent scrubby wood had a few REDWING turning over the leaf litter, and some hidden BULLFINCH'S calling, perhaps up to 6 were heard, DUNNOCKS and WRENS continued the spring theme with their songs, joining the many Blue Tits in an afternoon tune up. I had the choice of staying here to get some photo's or moving off to try and find some farmland species that were still missing from the February list, I plummeted for the latter.

The Pub Field was checked, and a dozen FIELDFARES were to-ing and fro-ing from the field, to the boundary hedge, along with just 4 Redwing and two MISTLE THRUSH. A pair of KESTRELS flew low over the maize stubbles, just out of camera range, a great sight!

There was time enough for a circuit of the Pasture and paddocks at Migrant Alley, where the most abundant birds were the ROOKS, JACKDAWS and WOODPIGEONS, but the new paddock had the find of the day when 11 YELLOWHAMMERS (54) flew up and alighted in a nearby Oak, giving me the only photo of the day, despite all that lovely sunshine!

The last 30 mins were spent skywatching, which produced sightings of both PEREGRINES (55), one of which crossed my patch airspace to join it's mate on the tower. There was no sign of a hoped for Grey Heron or Meadow Pipit, but it was just nice to be able to stand out in some sunshine for once :-)

Monday, 7 February 2011

I got over the cold virus as the day went on today, and i'll be back to normal tomorrow ( whatever that is!!)

Just two short visits to my patch were had today, but it remained very quiet, the most noteworthy thing was the wind again, strong and blustery, making for any flyover bird calls difficult to pick out whilst over at Migrant Alley. Around 200 BLACK HEADED GULLS were still using the sheep pasture to feed and shelter on, as well as a single HERRING GULL and 3 COMMON GULLS, two LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLS also flew over whilst I was there.

A KESTREL was switching between hunting at the Greenhouse complex grounds and the Tree Nursery, while a mixed flock of REDWING and FIELDFARE numbering 48 birds, mostly Fieldfare, flew over. The bright spot of my short walk was seeing two SKYLARK (53) flying over low, headed SW, about time they availed themselves for the February list :-)

A walk over to the lake and woody scrub area was a particularly dull, and birdless affair, a LESSER REDPOLL was seen around the Lake edge, but just two CANADA GEESE and 1 pair of MALLARD were on the lakes, a couple of MOORHEN called, but went unseen.

The birdlife has certainly moved on from my patch over the last few days, but it's not unexpected, looking back at my previous years blog posts, it seems to be the norm, and later this month things should improve again.

The months target of 67 looks a long way off, and shows that the February of 2009, when it was achieved, was a remarkable one, last February I totalled 60 species, but more encouragingly I am just one species behind Feb. 2010 at this time in the month, despite not having a full patch walk done yet.

The COLLARD DOVE in the photo, looks a bit fed up! The garden was almost as birdless the rest of my patch this afternoon, the birds are very nervous at the best of times, due to the Sparrowhawk, but the blustery wind spooked them more so, and the only birds that visited and stayed for any time were the Collared doves.

Hopefully, tomorrow I can get back into the groove, and get back focused on my patch watching!

Sunday, 6 February 2011

I felt a little better today, but not quite up to a four hour dawn walk out on my patch. I don't think I have missed too much this weekend though, it's been blowing a gale throughout.

I did make a short patch visit around mid morning, a brief look over on the fields at Migrant Alley gave me a new species for the month when a COMMON GULL (52) with at least 250 BLACK HEADED GULLS were all hunkered down facing into the relentless wind. Trying to hear the call of my first Yellowhammer, Skylark, or Meadow Pipit of the month as it went over, was a pointless exercise, all I could here was the roar of the wind!

I also had a quick look at the main lake, which had two CANADA GEESE and 4 MALLARD on it, but soon made my way back home feeling a bit worse for ware :-(

Back home in the garden, the SPARROWHAWK is keeping things very quiet with it's regular fly throughs, it doesn't catch anything, but practice makes perfect! Early on in the morning a male SISKIN was tempted down by the sunflower hearts, but didn't hang around long.

Male Siskin at garden feeders

Hopefully I can shrug this virus off tomorrow, but having missed two full patch visits this month, it will not be until next weekend till my first full patch walk, by then it will be the 13th already !

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Unfortunately, after a night of sleepless, fits of sneezing, I didn't quite feel up to a full patch walk this morning, in fact I felt pretty rubbish!

Around 10 o'clock, I'd had enough of prowling around the house like a caged animal, so dosed up with cold remedies, I took a walk over to the lake, just to see if anything new had arrived, it hadn't! Just 4 CANADA GEESE, 3 pairs of MALLARD and two MOORHEN were seen, and I beat a hasty retreat back home, feeling worse than when I left :-)

The day was almost a total loss, but as often the case there is always something to make the day, today it was seeing a cock PHEASANT arrive at the garden feeders, only the second one ever, the first one being seen back in December 2002!

One other bird of note was a LESSER BLACKED BACK GULL (51) flying over the house, one more for the months list :-)

Above and Below: The cock Pheasant in the garden

Friday, 4 February 2011

I seem to have contracted a cold virus during the day, headache, sore throat - you know the score :-( So no patch visit was made today, Hopefully i'll feel a bit fitter for the weekend ! The photo above isn't of this years Crocus', a bit early for them yet, but it wont be long, cant wait !

Thursday, 3 February 2011

A change in the weather today, with long sunny spells it felt quite pleasant out, a bit of a breeze blew though.

I was eager to get out in the sunshine after work today, and after bolting down a sandwich I set off for the lakes once more. The Small Holding had both JAY and GREEN WOODPECKER, easily seen after struggling to find them yesterday :-) The finch's had moved off though, probably disturbed by a dog walker.

In the Wet Woods a GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER called, and GREAT TITS were also calling, another sign of the spring creeping up on us was a pair of BLUE TITS checking out a traditional nesting hole. My scan of the flooded woodland floor revealed the usual MALLARDS, 6 in all, but I just caught the tail end of a small duck moving into cover as well, I sat and waited for a few minutes, and was very excited to see a drake TEAL (45) eventually emerge, a good sighting on my patch :-)

I wasn't expecting much on the lakes today, my hopes have been dashed on almost every day this year, but today a little triumph for me, as there were 15 CANADA GEESE (46) on the main lake, with another 3 on the small lake, the first geese to be seen on the water this year. A common and sometimes unloved species, but I was pleased to see them, it's not always about rarities ! With the Geese on the water, were 6 Mallard, at at least 4 MOORHEN.

Happy with my watery success, I proceeded to walk around the adjacent scrubby wood, I was hoping for some photo's, but although I found a feeding flock of LONG TAILED TITS, with a single GOLDCREST, they remained high up in the trees, out of camera reach. There were 6 BULLFINCH'S seen, 4 together in an Ash tree feeding on the keys, a single SISKIN was seen, but the bird of the day, and probably of the year so far, was seeing a WOODCOCK (69 47), it flew up in front of me, and plonked back down again 30-40 meters away, a fantastic species for my patch, very happy with that!

As the sun was now dropping behind the trees, I thought i'd give the Pub Field , Tree Nursery and Migrant Alley a looking over, as it happened there was a work crew in the Tree Nursery, so I walked up the hedgerow boundary of the Pub Field to get to Migrant Alley, I found another Goldcrest here, but out on the maize stubbles it was quiet, just JACKDAWS and the odd FIELDFARE.

After an initial scan of the Paddocks and sheep pasture at Migrant Alley, which produced WOODPIGEONS, CARRION CROW, ROOK, BLACK HEADED GULL, STARLING and just a few filedfare, I went over to my sky watching seat, it was nice to see it dry to sit on for the first time this year! I had a few species in mind that might turn up for the months list, and two did, both flyovers, first a PIED WAGTAIL (48), then a STOCK DOVE (49), no sign of either Skylark, Meadow Pipit or Yellowhammer yet though.

Eventually I moved off homewards, and passing the Tree Nursery, I found the first 20 LINNETS (50) coming into their roost, alighting in a small Oak tree, where they were over flown by a KESTREL, they didn't seem to bothered by it though :-)

An enjoyable afternoon in the sunshine, with 6 species added to the Feb list and 1 for the year list, it's all going nicely :-)

I did a couple of Photo's today, below are two of the 18 canada Geese.

Below is a photo of Hadlow tower, with the nets strung over it to prevent the Peregrines attempting to nest while renovations takes place, but if you look carefully ( Songbird!) on the shaded part of the tower, high up, you might just be able to see a white blob, which is one of the Peregrines, ( you'll have to click on the photo and enlarge it!) Good to see them still around :-)