Monday, 31 March 2014

It remained overcast for todays patch visit, with a few spots of rain towards midday, but with little wind it felt quite warm.

I decided to spend the entire morning looking over the Fields and searching the sky for a new migrant species to pass through, as this is where I am most likely to see one! With little wind and a grey sky hardly a sound was heard early on as I passed the Greenhouses, except for the watery song of ROBINS, and the complete opposite to that, the loud blast of the WRENS.  The BLACKBIRD and SONGTHRUSH were heard singing as it got lighter, joined by DUNNOCKS and CHAFFINCH all singing from the Greenhouse Grounds.

I walked the Ashes Lane Field, Pub Field and the sheep pasture and paddocks of Migrant Alley three times, as well as taking a stroll along High House Lane at the western boundary of my patch, but I got little reward for it, best birds seen were the LITTLE OWLS by the old shack in the Ashes lane Field and the female KESTREL hunting over the Pub Field. Single MEADOW PIPITS were seen and heard flying over at times,  but they were the only passage birds noted.

Just half a dozen BLACK HEADED GULLS remain on the sheep pasture, along with the flock of ROOKS, JACKDAWS and CARRION CROWS, a scattering of WOODPIGEONS joined them at times, just 3 STARLINGS, 2 LINNETS and a GREEN WOODPECKER visited the paddocks, while in the Wooded Headland 2 CHIFFCHAFFS sang.

Much of the 5 hour visit was spent watching the sky from my seat at Migrant Alley, hoping for a Swallow or maybe a Sand Martin to fly over, or I might just get lucky with a large raptor, but in the end nothing that exciting showed up, just a few HERRING GULLS, a couple of LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLS, a single YELLOWHAMMER and the mention corvids and Woodpigeons, all a bit disappointing, but it is early yet  :-)

So, not adding any new species to the months list, it remained on 69, the joint second best March effort out of 13, not bad really, as quite few winter species didn't show up this year, like Brambling, Snipe and Golden Plover, the Kingfisher left the lakes in late February and a Grey wagtail is normally on the March list, so could of been expected, the potential was there for a record March tally  :-)

The mean average species total for the past 5 March's is 68 so that was passed, and the 13 year March mean of  64 was well surpassed, the combined total for the 13 March months has now reached 92, quite a surprising number of species, it being one better than the combined May list.

Nothing was photographed at all today in the poor light, and with all the Butterflies back in hiding it was a bit of a disappointing last day of March.

These are the last two images left in my ''blog brightening Folder''   :-(

Sunday, 30 March 2014

The day started with hazy sunshine, then became warm by mid-morning, but then high cloud rolled in to spoil the afternoon.

First thing this this morning my walk around Migrant Alley coincided with even more dog walkers than normal, probably due to the clocks going forward, so it was pointless spending much time there, just a quick circuit of the fields and paddocks was had, where the BLACK HEADED GULLS were starting to drop into the sheep pasture, being joined by JACKDAWS, ROOKS, CARRION CROWS and WOODPIGEONS. A CHIFFCHAFF was singing from the Wooded Headland to the north of the paddocks, but apart from that it was all WRENS, ROBINS, DUNNOCKS and BLACKBIRDS
The Pub Field looks so promising, its been ploughed and muck spread, but little bird life is found on it, just more Rooks, Jackdaws and Woodpigeons, plus a pair of PIEd WAGTAILS. The adjacent Ashes lane Field had two MEADOW PIPITS fly from it and pair of SKYLARKS singing over it, one came down to its usual perch, giving me a distant photo opportunity. The LITTLE OWL pair were back around the nearby old shack and nest box again  :-)
The lakes were checked over, but hope of anything new on the water is fading fast now, I only check the CANADA GEESE and GREYLAG GEESE nests, both of which had sitting birds, the MUTE SWANS seem to have lost interest in nest building, or have they just taken a break ? A few MALLARDS were seen, and the odd MOORHEN called.

The highlight of todays patch visit was heard, then seen, in the Scrubby Woods, as my first BLACKCAP (74,69) of the year gave its lovely flutey song, it was soon joined by a second bird, a chase ensued and both birds disappeared into the dense cover. Little else was noted int here, the CHIFFCHAFFS continue to sing, but only COAL TIT, Blackbird, Wren and Dunnock were heard singing with them. The months list has now reached 69, a total that was also achieved in both March 2009 and March 2011, this is the second highest March total so far, just 2 behind the record tally of 71, which was achieved in 2010.

A pair of MANDARIN DUCK were once again seen in the Wet Woods, where a couple of BUZZARDS were seen flying through the top most branches of the trees, JAYS screeched and GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKERS drummed, but like the Scrubby Woods, it was much quiter than recent visits.

I returned to the pasture and paddocks, and sat at my sky watching seat in some pleasant sunshine, seeing both KESTREL and SPARROWHAWK up hunting, plus more Buzzards, two were local birds, but on all horizons, distant birds were picked out. I convinced myself the first swallow of spring would fly over, and the first Orange Tip Butterfly would flutter past, but neither happened, thats a pleasure for another morning :-)

At midday, the wife and I went up to the redundant church on the high ground to the NE of my patch, the graveyard here is one of those not mown or tidied - too much, and as such is a brilliant place for wildlife, we often go up there, I take my macro camera, the wife takes her book! However, as we arrived the sun went in behind some high cloud, and remain ed there all afternoon, which meant the insects all went into hiding too! I did find this Bee though, I think it may be a Common Carder Bee, a striking looking bee whatever it is  :-)
Common Carder Bee ?

Saturday, 29 March 2014

The weather was better today, sunny and warm for the most part, but the birding wasn't as quite as good as in recent days.

My 4 hour patch walk produced 43 species, 10 less than yesterday, but that's a more realistic tally for my patch. No new spring visitors were found today, but most of the regulars turned out. The gang of BLACK HEADED GULLS were still loafing around on the sheep pasture at Migrant Alley, which they prefer to the newly ploughed and muck spread Pub Field, which isn't really living up to expectations at all, just a few ROOKS and WOODPIGEONS were feeding on it this morning.

The Ashes lane Field didn't provided me with the Little Owls today, but a couple of MEADOW PIPITS and a GREY HERON were seen flying over, a SKYLARK sang above the fields too.

On the lakes, it was very much 'as you were' CANADA GOOSE and GREYLAG GOOSE sat on their respective nests, the MUTE SWANS had taken a break from building theirs, but i'm still no closer to knowing if and where the COOTS have nested, a couple of MALLARD dabbled on the main lake and 4 MOORHENS were seen about the place.

Another good look through the Scrubby Woods didn't provide that first Blackcap of the year, so it was a case of listening to the song of CHIFFCHAFF, GOLDCREST, SONGTHRUSH, COAL TIT, WREN, ROBIN, and DUNNOCK as well as hearing the calls of GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER, BULLFINCH, NUTHATCH and JAY.

In the Wet Woods I again saw a pair of MANDARIN DUCKS, and had a fortunate encounter with a TREECREEPER that was too busy trying to evict a BLUE TIT from a nest hole to worry about me taking its photo :-)
Back out on the fields I watched COMMON BUZZARD, KESTREL and SPARROWHAWK all up hunting, but as the morning grew warmer, the birds grew more scarce, and I ended up changing lenses and trying to find a few Butterflies, I was hoping for my first Orange Tip, but only found the likes of Small Tortoiseshell, Comma and Peacock, all of which now look a bit tatty, not surprising as they are all overwinterers.
Peacock Butterfly
Small Tortoiseshell

Friday, 28 March 2014

There was hazy sunshine for much of today after a misty start, and as yesterday, a very good species count was made during the 4 and a half hour patch visit. I recorded 53 species, that's 3 more than yesterday, even though that visit had Cormorant, Sparrowhawk and Yellowhammer that were missed today.

A GREY HERON that flew over Ashes Lane first thing was the first species seen today that I added to yesterdays species list, the second addition to that list was a real bonus species though, I had reported yesterday about being 90% sure about seeing a Redstart at Migrant Alley, but it had been flushed off before I could 100% ID it, but today I refound the bird, and this time got good views, it was in fact a BLACK REDSTART (73,68) I even got some very dodgy photo's of it, what a fantastic find for my patch, it's just the fourth spring record here, in this, the 13th year of watching my patch and the 6th year that this species has been recorded, brilliant!
Black Redstart -These photo's wont win any awards!
But they are a couple of the most exciting images in my collection  :-)
The bird eventually was flushed off into the Wooded Headland by a combination of dog walkers and stable girls, so i headed off over to the Pub Field, which by now was going under the plough. It was here that I picked out the third bird species for the morning that wasn't recorded yesterday, a lone LAPWING, feeding with the flock of ROOKS and JACKDAWS, a few BLACK HEADED GULLS followed the plough for a short while, but soon retired to the sheep pasture at Migrant Alley, joining the 40-50 that were already there.

Hopping over the fence to into the Ashes Lane Field, I again saw the LITTLE OWL pair, one in the old shack and one sitting in the nearby nest box, just as yesterday. A couple of MEADOW PIPITS and a LESSER BLACK BACKED GULL went over as I crossed the field to get to the Scrubby Woods and Lakes.

On the main lake the CANADA GOOSE was nest sitting, and on the ornamental lake the MUTE SWAN pair continue nest building, with the COOT pair for company, the small lake joined the nesting theme when a GREY LAG GOOSE was seen on its nest there.
Coot. Still rubbish light for photo's, but I'm running out of  'Blog Brighteners'
Mute Swan
 I had a wander through the Scrubby Woods, hoping for my first Blackcap of the year, but they haven't arrived here yet, I got to hear or see all the regulars though, with TREECREEPER and MISTLETHRUSH being the 4th and fifth species added to yesterdays tally, the likes of BULLFINCH, COAL TIT, NUTHATCH, LONG TAILED TIT, GOLDCREST and CHIFFCHAFF all showed well.

I made my way through the Small Holding and back down Ashes Lane, via the Wet Woods, which was relatively quiet today, apart from drumming GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKERS, squawking JAYS and a pair of MANDARIN DUCKS, the male of which I photographed, a grainy image, but a high ISO had to be used in the dimly lit woods.
Mandarin Duck
I ended up doing a bit of skywatching over at Migrant Alley, where I watched a trio of BUZZARDS soaring low over the Greenhouse Grounds, the hoped for early Swallow wasn't forthcoming though, and apart from a few more Meadow Pipits, the odd LINNET and PIED WAGTAIL, not much was seen in the sky.

As I left for home the female KESTREL was seen on a telephone pole along Ashes Lane, the sixth species seen today that wasn't on yesterdays list, thats 56 species recorded in two days, all very encouraging, making for another very enjoyable patch walk!

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Muck spreading on the Pub Field
Their was a frosty start to this mornings patch visit, a visit that lingered into the early afternoon, when a few light showers drifted over the area.

I was out for eight hours in total, minus a few minutes for a snack break around 11:00hrs, when I saw LESSER REDPOLL and SISKIN at my garden feeders, they took the species tally to a nice round 50 for the day  :-)

Still nothing new for the months list, or the year list in though, but a real mix of species made for an enjoyable Day. I was however 90% sure I had seen a Redstart over at Migrant Alley, but before I got my bins on it the stable girls led a couple of horses out to graze and flushed the bird off. I hung around for half an hour checking every DUNNOCK, ROBIN, GREAT TIT and CHAFFINCH, but the disturbance from dog walkers and stable girls made it pointless to hang around any longer, the bird had obviously moved on, a shame, Redstarts are a real scarce migrant bird here, I only get one, maybe two pass through, and not every year at that  :-(

The heavy disturbance at Migrant Alley continued throughout the day, I made several returns to check for passage Migrants but each time there was something happening, mainly from parties of students wandering about, one set of youths even crossed into the Greenhouse Grounds to kick and poke sticks into the bee hive there - the tutor just wandered off !

As you can see from the photo above, the Pub Field was being muck spread, I watched for some time, but the only birds to take advantage of the insects were a couple of PIED WAGTAILS, a Chaffinch and a party of ROOKS, the field will probably be ploughed tomorrow, maybe that will bring in something.

I did have a bit of a wander around the Scrubby Woods, Wet Woods and Lake area, mainly to try and find a Blackcap, which I didn't do, but most of the regulars turned out instead, LONG TAILED TIT, GOLDCREST and BULLFINCH were all seen well, CHIFFCHAFFS sang, and a NUTHATCH called, a pair of COAL TITS were inspecting a potential nest hole, and a pair of MANDARIN DUCKS that flew from the Wet Woods are probably looking for the same thing.

On the lakes a CORMORANT was the first seen on the water this month, the MUTE SWANS were nest building, the CANADA GOOSE was sitting on her nest, and a pair of GREYLAG GEESE were looking like they were interested in nesting on one of the small islands. The COOTS have probably got a nest somewhere, but I cant see all of the potential sites.

Other bits seen were, a couple of BUZZARDS up soaring, a hunting SPARROWHAWK, flyovers from a few MEADOW PIPITS, a YELLOWHAMMER and a couple of LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLS, at least 100 BLACK HEADED GULLS that were flushed from field to field, and the pair of LITTLE OWLS at the old shack in the Ashes lane Field, one of which sat in a nearby nest box that I put up 10 years ago, ive never seen anything use it in all that time until now!
A distant shot of the Little Owl, mustn't upset them at their potential nest site!

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Just a couple of hours were spent out on my patch today, from 06:45hrs onwards, as I was off out to visit elsewhere this morning, the local reservoir at Bough Beech.

Although the sun was out, it felt cold in the wind as I walked a circuit of Migrant Alley, there wasn't an awful lot to be seen truth be told, just a few early ROOKS, JACKDAWS and CARRION CROWS on the sheep pasture. A few BLACK HEADED GULLS started to arrive also, and the odd HERRING GULL flew low over, a GREY HERON flew over towards the lakes too.

The Wooded Headland to the north of the paddocks had the regular ROBINS, DUNNOCKS, BLACKBIRDS, CHAFFINCH and WRENS, plus a couple of BULLFINCH and a singing CHIFFCHAFF, but no sign of a migrant Blackcap yet.

Passing the Greenhouse Copse, their was no sign of the Little Owl in its roost tree, but both GREEN and GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKERS called from the cover of the trees. I headed over to the Pub Field, which had been harrowed, so I thought maybe it would have attracted a few bird species, but nothing except Rooks and Jackdaws were on it. Hopping over the fence into the Ashes Lane field I saw the LITTLE OWL back on the old shack, but apart from a singing SKYLARK it was all very quiet out there.

Later in the morning I and a friend arrived at the Bough Beech reservoir, by now it was mostly cloudy with a moderate cool wind, out on the water it was good to get re-acquainted with the likes of GREAT CRESTED GREBE, SHOVELER DUCK, TUFTED DUCK, and SHELDUCK all rarely seen on my patch if ever :-) A few CORMORANTS sat about, and a pair of MUTE SWAN mingled with the CANADA GEESE, but again, as I had discovered earlier, it was on the whole very quiet even here.

A short walk up the road to the visitors center and a look at the small wader pool was good for a few photo opportunities, manly due to the feeders there, which were almost depleted. Not much too report from here really though, a few singing CHIFFCHAFS were the only spring arrivals, a lone LAPWING, 3 TEAL, a LITTLE EGRET, a nesting pair of COOTS, a couple of over flying BUZZARDS and a KESTREL were the best of it.

Looks like this cool showery weather is here until the weekend, so I dont expect to see anything of the spring migrants until at least then.
Photo's from Bough Beech.......
It was good to see a small colony of HOUSE SPARROWS
House Sparrow
House Sparrow
House Sparrow

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

All change with the weather this morning, it was dull and overcast with a steady light rain falling, I thought maybe it would be good for bringing down any overflying migrant birds that may be passing, so headed off over to the fields and paddocks of Migrant Alley.

I made a circuit of the paddocks and sheep pasture but found absolutely nothing  :-( Even the Black Headed Gulls had moved elsewhere, I suppose it's still a bit early yet for most of the passage birds though.

Getting wetter by the minute, I decided to have a quick look over at the lakes, barely finding any birds on the way, not even the Little Owl was in the old shack, I did see the SPARROWHAWK up high though.

On the lakes there were 4 CANADA GEESE with the resident nesting pair, 2 GREYLAG GEESE, the MUTE SWAN and COOT pair, plus the usual scattering of MALLARDS and MOORHENS, nothing unusual. A REDWING called from a bankside tree, it could be a last sighting date of this species for the winter, as it was in 2008/09, in 2011/12 the the last Redwing sighting was on the 24th March, so a note was made  ;-)

Very little was seen or heard in the Scrubby Woods or the Wet Woods, the rain kept singing to a minimum, most of it being done by CHIFFCHAFFS, however a GOLDCREST also sang and a NUTHATCH called, two species that I didn't find in yesterdays sunshine!

After just two hours I headed home, a BUZZARD was soaring over the Wet Woods as I looked back, and the SKYLARK I photographed yesterday was on the same perch, but I wasn't seeing much else at all. It must have been poor out there, as I spent the rest of the morning at home cleaning the oven and grill!!!!!

Nothing for the camera today in the poor conditions, so here's a few images taken here over the past week.

Monday, 24 March 2014

There was a sharp frost this morning under a clear blue sky, cloud rolled in gradually during my 4 and a half hour full patch walk though, and it felt cool in the wind.

I recorded a total of 46 species this morning, not bad for a late March visit, winter thrushes were not on that list, but a few MEADOW PIPITS are still passing through, they were mostly heard but unseen as I walked a circuit of Migrant Alley first thing, where the only birds of note were a gathering of Gulls, around 60 BLACK HEADED, 6 HERRING and 2 LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLS were in the sheep pasture, in company with a few CARRION CROWS, ROOKS and JACKDAWS.
Black Headed gulls
 A GREY HERON flew low over as I made my way to the lakes and woods, and the LITTLE OWL was seen again as I passed the old shack at the Ashes lane Field. On the lakes the COOT pair were feeding on the water weed, and the MUTE SWANS were nesting! The first time this species has ever attempted to breed on my patch  :-)  The CANADA GOOSE is sitting tight on her nest, and two GREYLAG GEESE were also seen, along with a few MALLARDS and MOORHENS.
Canada Goose

CHIFFCHAFFS were the highlight of what was seen in the Scrubby Woods, at least 4 sang, a COAL TIT also gave some song, and a few BULLFINCH called, but there was no sign of Nuthatch or Goldcrest today, very strange not to see or hear the latter.

In the Wet Woods there were at least 6 MANDARIN ducks, they are difficult to count as they move through the branch and stick covered pools of water, a few JAYS were heard, as were a couple of singing TREECREEPERS, GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKERS called and drummed, and another two Chiffchaff sang here.
Another visit to the Fields was made, where I saw the above Pheasant, I also had the opportunity to photograph the SKYLARK below, as it sat in the Ashes Lane Field, a bit distant, but a rare treat for me  :-)
Three BUZZARDS were seen soaring together over the Greenhouse Grounds, where the KESTREL pair were now up hunting, but not much more excitement was had than that for the rest of the visit.

Sunday, 23 March 2014

The first two hours after dawn were frosty but sunny, before cloud rolled in and some light showers fell before the end of my 4 hour patch walk.

I started off around the sheep pasture and paddocks of Migrant Alley, hoping for another sighting of the Wheatears seen yesterday, but as I suspected , they had moved on, they never stay more than a few hours in the spring as they are eager to get back to their breeding grounds. I was left with the regular BLACK HEADED GULL flock to scan through, but they are the same birds as in previous visits so no Med gulls were seen. The morning fly through of HERRING GULLS was observed, with them were a couple of LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLS, one of which I got a dodgy image of  ;-)
Lesser Black backed Gull - just look at that sky, could do with that come May
Two MUTE SWANS also flew over, as did a calling YELLOWHAMMER, but nothing else was of much note on the fields.

Making my way over to the lakes and woods I checked the old shack in the Ashes lane Field as I always do, finding once again the LITTLE OWL present on it, nearby a FIELDFARE called from the top of a sycamore tree, the only winter thrush seen today.

On the lakes it was much the same as previous visits, CANADA GEESE, GREYLAG GEESE and the feral BARNACLE GOOSE were all present, as were the COOT pair, and the MUTE SWAN pair, I thought maybe the two I'd seen fly over earlier were these two, but obviously not. There were plenty of CHIFFCHAFFS about, three were seen in the rough areas surrounding the lakes, with at least another 4 in the Scrubby Woods, where I had some good close views of feeding COAL TITS and also watched at least 4 different BULLFINCH moving in the dense scrub, then a real bonus was heard, the hooting of the TAWNY OWL (72,67) from the dense row of conifers, I know it roosts there, but this is my first evidence of it this year.

I had a look through the Wet Woods, finding it busier than normal, here too there were Chiffchaffs singing, as well as NUTHATCH calling, GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKERS drumming, and a pair of BUZZARDS chasing along the edge of the wood, making all sorts of calls, they're are almost certainly breeding on my patch, be good to find out where. As I watched one of two Albino Squirrels, a pair of MANDARIN DUCKS dropped onto the wooded pools.
I got a couple of images of one of the Albino Squirrels
They make interesting images, despite the light being poor
On the floor of the Wet Woods the first Bluebells are coming into flower
I finished off the mornings visit back over on my sky watching seat at Migrant Alley, but little was noted, apart from a couple of singing SKYLARK and the female KESTREL that was hunting behind me in the Greenhouse Grounds, which was full of WRENS, ROBINS and DUNNOCKS.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

A cool wind blew varying amounts of cloud across the area this morning, but equally there were some short sunny spells to be enjoyed.

I headed straight for Migrant Alley first off, where the small flock of BLACK HEADED GULLS that have been around all week were again in with the sheep, HERRING GULLS went over in two's and three's and a couple of LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLS also flew over. I began to scan the paddocks, at first only finding WOODPIGEONS, JACKDAWS and ROOKS, but I then spotted the run - stop - run feeding action of a small passerine, and it was of course my first WHEATEAR (71,66) of the year. I was however very pleased to see another two Wheatears were also on the same paddock, all cracking males, Migrant Alley has delivered again  :-)

I finished my circuit of Migrant Alley, seeing and hearing a CHIFFCHAFF in the wooded headland, and hearing a YELLOWHAMMER singing in the distance over at High House Lane. The LITTLE OWL was in the Greenhouse Copse as I passed, and a pair of BUZZARDS were up over the Greenhouse Grounds. I looked back for another distant look at the Wheatears, to find that they had been flushed up onto a fence rail by the stable girls bringing out the horses, one flew off over the Greenhouses, but the other two sat patiently, giving me time to walk back over and photograph them, and I filled my boots of course! :-)
 March Wheatears are a real treat here, they have now been recorded in March 6 times out of the 13 years, giving me a median average first sighting date of the 5th April.
I left the Wheatears feeding in with the sheep and headed off to the lakes and woods, via the Pub Field, where I once again saw the LAPWING pair, the male displaying and doing some courtship singing, no chance of them breeding there though, the field will be muck spread and ploughed too soon for that. Another Little Owl was seen as I walked on, this one at the old shack in the Ashes lane Field.

On the lakes today there were 13 CANADA GEESE, with the nesting pair, plus a pair of GREYLAG GEESE and the feral BARNACLE GOOSE. The MUTE SWAN and COOT pair pair were also seen, along with a few MALLARD and MOORHEN.
Greylag Goose

A walk through both the Scrubby and Wet Woods didn't provide me with my first migrant Blackcap for the year, but most of the regulars were seen or heard, including GOLDCREST, BULLFINCH, TREECREEPER, GREAT SPOTTED and GREEN WOODPECKER, and at least 4 singing CHIFFCHAFFS.
I'll put a couple more Wheatear images up to finish the post, as I took so many!