Wednesday, 30 April 2014

The first 3 hours of daylight this morning were blighted by dense fog, and very little was seen or heard as I walked a circuit of the sheep pasture and paddocks of Migrant Alley, all very frustrating for the last visit of the month.

It was just after 09:00hrs that the fog began to clear, and some warm sunshine developed, all too late really as the best part of the day had gone. The LESSER WHITETHROAT was singing from the Greenhouse Grounds for the third consecutive day, a good sign for a breeding attempt, a COMMON WHITETHROAT was singing from the small scrubby area that has begun to develop around the old shack in the Ashes Lane Field where a few SWALLOWS had started to feed around the sheep.
SONGTHRUSH on the Greenhouse roof
The sunshine broke through fully as I arrived at the lakes and Scrubby Woods, I had a look at the MISTLETHRUSH nest as I passed, and it seems I had written it off prematurely, as I could see at least 2 downy headed young moving about, good news! In the Scrubby Woods, BLACKCAP and CHIFFCHAFF made up todays summer bird count, as Turtle Dove and Garden Warbler weren't recorded so wont be on the April list this year  :-(
Speckled Wood Butterfly in the Scrubby Woods
On the lakes a GREYLAG GOOSE pair had brought its four goslings onto the main lake, where 4 male MALLARDS were also seen, the lone adult COOT and MUTE SWAN pair were on the ornamental lake, while the small lake had just a pair of CANADA GEESE and a single MOORHEN present.

A two hour sky watch later on, in some lovely warm sunshine, failed to produce the first Swift of the year, in fact very little was seen in the sky, lots of BUZZARDS were up, the biggest group being of 4 birds, a SPARROWHAWK and a HERRING GULL flew over but that was about it, not very good! I did at least see the first two newly fledged STARLINGS being fed in a nearby large garden, the earliest I have recorded since keeping a first sighting date for fledglings, which started in 2011.

At the months end then, a tally of 72 species was recorded, which puts it in joint 4th place out the 13 years, joint with 2009, and 3 less than the previous 5 years mean average. Overall it was a bit of a disappointing month, with the likes of the already mentioned Turtle Dove, Garden Warbler and Swift not being seen when they have occurred in most previous Aprils. Cuckoo, Willow Warbler and House Martin just passed through, when they were once breeding birds here. Winter left overs were few as well, with Redwing, Fieldfare and Lesser Redpoll all departing in March. The likes of Grey Wagtail and Kingfisher are also normally seen in April, they may have been found over at the college grounds, a place that I no longer visit due to the poor habitat management there, so it wasn't a certainty they still use the area anyway, as is the case for the Spotted Flycatcher, a species I may not find at all on my patch this year  :-(

The loss of habitat and increased disturbance at Migrant Alley was probably the cause for one of the poorest Aprils for passage birds at this migrant favoured area, just one Wheatear record and a couple of Yellow Wagtail records were it!

On the positive side, I did add a new species to the 13 year combined April list, which now stands at 109 with the Green Sandpiper that was seen over at the ornamental lake on the 3rd. Peregrine, Hobby and Red Kite joined the Kestrel, Sparrowhawk and Buzzard to make six raptor species for April. Finding Mediterranean Gull and Red Partridge boosted the list, both are scarce birds here.
I took this image of the Greylag Goose last evening - an almost shot!

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

Initial fog slowly thinned and cleared, leaving a mostly cloudy morning with the occasional sunny spell thrown in, a few showers fell just after noon.

Keen to add new species to the April bird list, I was out for most of the day today, but rather disappointingly I didn't find any new birds for the month, I felt sure a Turtle Dove or Garden Warbler would be heard singing over at the Scrubby Woods, and a Swift wouldn't be a surprise, as it's median 12 year arrival date is 29th April.

Of the 47 species I found today,  just 5 were summer migrants, CHIFFCHAFFS and BLACKCAPS were plentiful, SWALLOWS skimmed over the Ashes Lane Field and the sheep pasture at Migrant Alley, and single WHITETHROAT plus a single LESSER WHITETHROAT sang from the Greenhouse Grounds, not very good for a late April day  :-(

The TAWNY OWL was one of the few highlights for the day, it called from its roost at the Scrubby Woods, which is in a line of leylandi trees, I scanned through them at a distance, not really expecting to see it, but a SONGTHRUSH dived in to the dense foliage, and out popped the Tawny Owl, giving me a photo opportunity, all be it from 50 yards!
Tawny owl, This is uncropped, and as I saw it through the 500mm lens
here's a heavily cropped image - rubbish photo's but interesting none the less  :-)
The wait goes on to see if the COOTS have bred, and the MUTE SWANS will be incubating for a while yet before there young emerge, they will be the first ever on my patch - fingers crossed! Two male MANDARIN DUCK were in the Wet Woods, just about the only other highlight today, unless I count the two BUZZARDS seen soaring over the Greenhouse Grounds this afternoon, but I see them most days  :-)

The SKYLARK sat on its usual perch in the Ashes Lane Field, and I got a distant photo, always a treat to get any sort of photo of these on my patch!

Monday, 28 April 2014

This morning was cool and cloudy, but it at least stayed dry, with the only showers falling after lunch.

I spent five hours out on my patch this morning, and another 2 hours this afternoon, amassing a respectable 48 species in the two visits, that's without seeing Pied Wagtail, Buzzard or any of the Kestrel pair, all of which have been seen daily of late.

It was good to hear the LESSER WHITETHROAT singing from the front of the Greenhouse Grounds and from the nearby hedgerow along Ashes lane first thing this morning, also the COMMON WHITETHROAT was heard singing from the back of the Greenhouse Grounds, but not until later in the morning. The adjacent Greenhouse Copse had a LITTLE OWL present, helpfully pointed out to me by an irate SONGTHRUSH, and a couple of bold CHIFFCHAFFS. A YELLOWHAMMER flew over calling, but it wasn't a good day for flyovers in general, with just a couple of HERRING GULLS and 3 LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLS of any note.

Quite a bit of time was spent around the lakes and Scrubby Woods, where the 3 male MANDARIN DUCKS were seen again on the main lake, along with 2 GREYLAG GEESE and 2 CANADA GEESE, the territorial MUTE SWAN keeps all but the COOT off the ornamental lake, and the samll lake had just 2 MALLARD and 2 MOORHEN to add to the days sightings.

I listened long and hard whilst in the Scrubby Woods, but the hoped for Garden Warbler or Turtle Dove were not heard, BLACKCAPS and Chiffchaffs sang, as did BLACKBIRDS, Songthrush, CHAFFINCH, COAL TIT, GOLDCREST, DUNNOCK, WREN, and ROBIN, the latter of which I found a recently fledged youngster, number 7 for the 2014 ''Successfuly fledged young'' list. The TAWNY OWL was once again very vocal, but stayed unseen, as did the calling BULLFINCHES and screeching JAYS.

I checked up on the Mistlethrush nest on the way to the Wet Woods, but all is not well here, there was no sign of activity at the nest, and I didn't see a Mistlethrush all day  :-( In the Wet Woods, both TREECREEPER and NUTHATCH were heard, as were STOCK DOVE,  GREEN and GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER, plus a family of Mallard, seen amongst the branch and twig covered pools of water, all went very quiet there after a SPARROWHAWK went zooming through!

The afternoon visit didn't add anything much, I spent most of it watching the sky from my seat at Migrant Alley, where the SWALLOWS and LINNETS were of most interest.

Just 2 days left in the month now to try and improve the April list and get it up the rankings, at the moment it's in joint 4th place with 2009, maybe i'll get lucky with the Turtle Dove and Garden warbler, or perhaps an early Swift ? They would certainly boost the April list.

With the weather so dull again the Camera stayed slung over my shoulder, I had a photo session in the garden later in the day, but the light is just so poor, I deleted most of what I took, these two images just about being ok  :-)

Sunday, 27 April 2014

More rain, wind and dull conditions made for a less than enjoyable patch visit this morning, it's so frustrating!!

I spent 90 minutes around the lakes and Scrubby Woods area, as this is where I am most likely to pick up a possible Turtle Dove or Garden Warbler for the year list, both having bred here in previous years. Alas, neither were found, maybe they are here but just keeping silent, as was the case for most of the birds this morning, only a handful of songsters were in the mood for singing, BLACKCAP and CHIFFCHAFF were at the forefront, with CHAFFINCH and BLACKBIRD backing those up, a NUTHATCH called, as did a couple of BULLFINCH, and the TAWNY OWL was heard hooting again, however it was nothing like the chorus that should be heard in a English woodland in April.

On the lakes 5 unpaired CANADA GEESE, and two GREYLAG GEESE were seen but the family parties of them seen yesterday were nowhere to be seen today, they may have moved to a nearby field. Just one adult COOT was present on the ornamental lake, along with two male MALLARDS and the MUTE SWAN pair, the female of which is sitting tight on her eggs.

With so little of note being seen in the dark and dripping woods, I decided to spend a couple of hours sky watching over on my seat at Migrant Alley, hoping for my first Swift of the year, that unfortunately wasn't seen, but it can only be a matter of days now before one speeds over  :-) I did watch a high flying party of HOUSE MARTINS moving westwards, their white rumps gleaming against the cold grey backdrop of the next approaching shower cloud. A YELLOWHAMMER called as it flew over, and the 3 regular raptor species put in an appearance, 2 BUZZARDS, 2 SPARROWHAWKS and the male KESTREL, the female Kestrel was seen sitting on the Greenhouse roofs behind me, maybe she has young to feed now ?  Both HERRING GULLS and a couple of LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLS drifted over south westwards, the local Corvids moved across the sheep pasture and paddocks, along with the 5-6 pairs of SWALLOWS, the flock of a dozen LINNETS kept alighting on the distant fence rails, and kept needing to be checked that they weren't Whinchats or Wheatears  :-) apart from that though, it was a chilly and friutless sky watch overall.

Walking back home through the Greenhouse Grounds, Blackcap, Chiffchaff and COMMON WHITHROAT were heard singing, those, with a SONGTHRUSH, plus a couple of WRENS and a DUNNOCK all singing just about convinced me it was indeed April  :-)

Nothing for the camera today, just no light out there, or Butterflies, or Damsels! Fingers crossed for at least a few hours of sustained sunshine at some point this week!

Saturday, 26 April 2014

With rain falling and a blustery wind blowing this morning, I decided to have a rare lie in, waiting until 09:30hrs until getting out, when the rain had stopped and a few short lived bright intervals were had.

I didn't venture far when I did get out, or for long, just walking a circuit of the sheep pasture and paddocks at Migrant Alley, plus a quick look at the Wooded Headland and the Greenhouse Grounds, finishing up with a 90 minute skywatch.

After the rain I had hoped for something interesting to turn up in the sheep pasture and paddocks, but no luck today, just the ROOKS, CARRION CROWS, JACKDAWS, WOODPIGEONS, were seen, plus the small flock of a dozen or so LINNETS and a GREEN WOODPECKER. A BLACKCAP and a CHIFFCHAFF sang from the Wooded Headland, but no sign of the Lesser Whitethroat today. The Greenhouse Grounds had the Blackcap and Chiffchaff also, but the two Common Whithroats seen here yesterday weren't seen. Plenty of WRENS, DUNNOCKS, BLACKBIRDS, and CHAFFINCHES were also seen, along with a few PIED WAGTAILS and a SONGTHRUSH carrying food back to a well concealed nest.

My sky watch proved a bit more interesting, with a few HERRING GULLS, 2 LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLS and a CORMORANT all being seen. A LAPWING was a bit more of a surprise, and a pair of HOUSE MARTINS were only the 3rd record for this spring. The highlight of my 90 minute vigil was seeing the first HOBBY (86,72) of the year flying through, making it a four raptor species day, with the local KESTREL, SPARROWHAWK and 3 BUZZARDS also being seen. The Hobby sighting was a relatively early arrival, the 12 year median average first sighting date on my patch is the 3rd May.

Around 14:30 hours, I had another hour out sky watching, but little was found, except the brilliant sighting of a superb male YELLOW WAGTAIL, seen as it dropped down into the sheep pasture  :-)

In between my two patch visits I spent some time in the garden, where surprisingly, given the cool wet conditions I found another Large Red Damselfly, which allowed some images to be taken, shame about the poor light though.
Large Red Damselfly
Lastly, those of you who read my blog regularly will maybe remember that last month I had a ringed Lesser Redpoll frequenting my garden feeders, well I sent off the ring number to the BTO and this morning I got a reply as follows..................

The Lesser Redpoll was ringed on the 13 November 2013 at Sandwich Bay and was at least a year old then. From there, 121 days later, it found its way to my garden which lies76km to the west, I wonder where it is now ?
Ringed Lesser Redpoll

Friday, 25 April 2014

Todays patch walk was dull, dark and dismal, with spots of rain at times, steady rain then moved in towards late afternoon.

It was hard to find much enthusiasm for the day, little bird song was noted, and not much was seen moving across the sky, just a lone HERRING GULL, a GREY HERON and a YELLOWHAMMER of note. The three local Raptor species were all seen up hunting, those being BUZZARD, SPARROWHAWK and KESTREL.

Over on the Lakes, 3 male MANDARIN DUCK had the main lake to themselves, the MUTE SWAN and COOT pair were on the ornamental lake, and two CANADA GEESE were on the small lake, however an adjoining large paddock, a place not often looked at because of its scarcity of birdlife, was actually quite busy today with two family parties of GREYLAG GEESE, one having 5 goslings the other 4, plus a Canada Goose family with 4 Goslings. A MISTLETHRUSH was also feeding in the paddock as were a few unpaired Canada Geese, and included the ''white Goose'' seen last week.

Despite the dullness of the late morning, the Scrubby Woods and Wet Woods provided me with views of CHIFFCHAFF, BLACKCAP, GOLDCREST, BULLFINCH, LONG TAILED TIT, NUTHATCH,  JAY, COAL TIT, GREAT SPOTTED and GREEN WOODPECKERS as well as the more common regulars.

An afternoon visit to my sky watching seat over at Migrant Alley, still in the semi darkness, was a waste of time, apart from hearing the LESSER WHITETHROAT calling steadily from a hedgerow over at one of the paddocks, and watching the half dozen SWALLOWS feeding around the sheep.

Tomorrow morning looks to be wet and rainy, so a late visit might be on the cards!

The camera stayed at home today, but i've got just one image left in my ''Blog Folder'' thats of a Green Veined White Butterfly, taken in yesterdays relatively bright conditions  :-)
Green Veined White

Thursday, 24 April 2014

It was very dull, dank and dreary for the first few hours this morning, but it brightened up a bit by 10:00hrs, and with little wind it felt reasonable warm.

The search for the last few summer migrant species that are likely to be seen on my patch continued today, but none of them were found. Two COMMON WHITETHROATS remain at the Greenhouse Grounds, five or six pairs of SWALLOWS were feeding over the sheep pasture, plus both CHIFFCHAFFS and BLACKCAPS were seen throughout my patch, but these 4 species remain the only summer birds to stay so far, a bit disappointing, but without the right breeding habitat why would they hang around!

Amongst the 48 species found on todays five hour visit, were the two resident Owl species, the LITTLE OWL, which was at the old shack in the Ashes Lane Field and the TAWNY OWL which was very vocal from its roost over in the Scrubby Woods, so much so, that I cupped my hands and called back to it, to my surprise it almost immediately flew into a nearby tree, but I had the extension tube on my 300mm lens and by the time I had removed it two BLACKBIRDS and a JAY had seen the owl off!

Three raptor species were recorded, BUZZARD, SPARROWHAWK and KESTREL, but only one Gull species, that being a flyover HERRING GULL was seen. Quite a few species were seen carrying food for their young, including BLUE TIT, GREAT TIT, STARLING, SONGTHRUSH, ROOK, and ROBIN, so it shouldn't be long now before some newly fledged birds are found.

Nothing much more exciting to report this morning, notable though, were a couple of MEADOW PIPIT that flew over Migrant Alley, they are latest recorded for my patch, by one day. I chased some Butterflies about to obtain some blog pics for a good part of the session and this afternoon my garden pond was visited by a Large Red Damsel, which also provided some images  :-)

Large Red Damselfly
Large Red Damselfly
Orange Tip, male
I couldn't keep the camera steady here, I had to lean over a bramble bush!
I had better light and a steadier hand for this female Orange Tip though
This Green Veined White sat patiently for me, again in some nice light
Green Veined White

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Dense fog this morning meant another delayed start to my patch walk, missing the best part of the day in doing so, I hate fog!!

It was still quite foggy when I left at 07:00hrs, so not much was recorded as I did a circuit of Migrant Alley, I could here the LINNETS out on the paddocks, and just about saw a couple of SWALLOWS as they wove around the sheep, CHIFFCHAFF and BLACKCAP gave some weak song in the Wooded Headland, and on finishing the circuit of the fields at the Greenhouse Grounds, 2 COMMON WHITETHROATS were seen.

By the time I reached the Wet Woods the sun had come out, I could here the NUTHATCH around it's nest territory, and a TREECREEPER singing, plus a GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER drumming. I checked the MISTLETHRUSH nest as I walked on to the Lakes, she was off the nest when I arrived, but after a few minutes she returned, the male was also nearby, I reckon there are young in the nest now  :-)

On the lakes, the MUTE SWAN was incubating, her partner had moved on to the Main lake, and was harassing the CANADA GEESE and MALLARDS there. At the small lake the GREYLAG GOOSE nest was checked, and I could see that young had hatched out, 2 at least, but viewing was difficult amongst the island vegetation, another species joins the 2014 'bred successfully' list  :-) I gave the ornamental lake a good scan, but there was no sign of any COOT young, just one adult bird again.

A look through the Scrubby Woods didn't reveal any of the hoped for migrant species of Garden Warbler or Turtle Dove, but all the regulars were found, plus the rare sound of the TAWNY OWL was again heard. It was a particular pleasure for me to be able to get some kind of photograph of a BRIMSTONE BUTTERFLY whilst I was there, only my second ever chance of an image of this species.
Not the best shot, but one to savour  :-)
Brimstone Butterfly
I made another visit to the fields and had a skywatch from my seat At Migrant Alley, not much was seen though, the best being a KESTREL, a BUZZARD and 2 LAPWINGS going over.

Later this afternoon I had a walk around the Ashes Lane Field, nothing of any note birdwise was seen, but I did have some other wildlife encounters ......
I chance upon this Bank Vole which was out in the open
But this Lizard is a much rarer sighting on my patch, only the 2nd ever!
It never came fully out into view
But I was desperate to get images of this patch rarity
Looks just like a dinosaur!
Brilliant little creatures I reckon !

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Continual light rain fell throughout my five hour patch visit this morning, but at least there were a few bits of interest about.

Early on in the walk I saw the male KESTREL at the Greenhouse Grounds, the female not being seen for a over a week now suggests she is incubating eggs in the nest box there. A circuit of Migrant Alley was bit more livelier than of late, for as well as the usual ROOKS, CARRION CROWS, JACKDAWS and WOODPIGEONS, half a dozen SWALLOWS were feeding low over sheep pasture, and a nice flock of LINNETS was also seen flitting about one of the paddocks, which is festooned with dandelions, the seed heads of which makes a good meal for the Linnets. At the Wooded Headland there, a pair of CHIFFCHAFFS and a pair of BLACKCAPS were seen, plus the LESSER WHITETHROAT sang again. Just as I came to the end of the circuit of Migrant Alley, a soggy looking male WHEATEAR (70) popped up onto a fence rail, giving close views, a nice species to bring up the 70th for April, I didn't have the camera with me, even if I had of done, the light was too poor for photographs.

In the Wet Woods a male MANDARIN DUCK was seen, but there is no sign yet of any young ones. A NUTHATCH fed his mate through the mud sealed entrance of it's nest, and a couple of GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKERS were about it for here. I checked the MISTLETHRUSH nest as I left the wet Woods, and all is still ok there  :-)

Over on the lakes, a CANADA GOOSE had brought 3 Goslings to the Small lake, the 5th species to have successfully bred on my patch so far this year. The MUTE SWAN and GREYLAG GOOSE were sitting on their respective nests, I can only presume the COOT is on hers, with just one adult being seen, and the nest site concealed in the reeds. Whilst walking the Scrubby Woods, I heard a TAWNY OWL (71) hoot twice from its hidden roost, another one for the April list, which is now up to joint 5th position out of the 13 years, joint with 2006 and 2008. The real target species were the Turtle Dove and Garden Warbler, which were not found this morning, they have dwindled down to just one pair of each now, but i'm hoping that they will return for another summer.

Not a morning for the camera, but this afternoon whilst drinking a cuppa in my garden, I snapped this Nuthatch which is still coming to my feeders, in past years they have ceased to use them by mid April.

Monday, 21 April 2014

After posting my blog update yesterday, the rain ceased and the sun came out by 18:00hrs, so I had an evening stroll around the Greenhouse Grounds, not much was noted, but as I walked back home, this RED LEGGED PARTRIDGE (85,69) was seen running along Ashes Lane,  I don't see many of these, not a ''proper'' bird really, but heh, I count them on my year list  :-)
The light was fading, and it didn't stop running, but I got a shot of it  :-)
This Swallow was also seen perched on the telephone wire
Back to this morning, and after early cloud dispersed, it became sunny and warm, totally the opposite of yesterday. I had a good four hours out, but had to be back early today, it's never the same when you have to keep checking what the time is!

By the end of the visit I had only accumulated 42 species, a very disappointing effort! At least I had a few Summer birds on the list today, the CHIFFCHAFFS, SWALLOWS and BLACKCAPS were joined by the LESSER WHITETHROAT which again sang from the Wooded Headland to the North of Migrant Alley, also the newly arrived COMMON WHITETHROAT was seen along the drainage ditch the runs between the Ashes lane Fields, I also heard the song of the Cuckoo, drifting to my ears from way off my patch, cant count that though.

The Wet Woods and Scrubby Woods provided most of the scarcer regulars, BULLFINCH, GOLDCREST, TREECREEPER, NUTHATCH, LONG TAILED TIT, GREAT SPOTTED and GREEN WOODPECKER, only Coal Tit was missed.

Nothing on the Lake today but the nesting MUTE SWANS, GREYLAG GEESE, and COOTS, plus 6 CANADA GEESE and the MOORHEN family, not a single Mallard was seen though.

No raptor species were seen, and only one Gull species flew over, that being a HERRING GULL, but the lack of an end of walk skywatch was probably to blame for that.

Back home, as I waited for the wife to get herself together for our afternoon outing, I noticed my first damselfly of the year sitting deep in the vegetation of my pond, a LARGE RED, lack of time and being unable to get into the right position meant only a few rushed images of it were obtained, nice to see the first Damselfly out though  :-)
Large Red Damselfly - the first this year
A few Speckled Wood Butterflies were seen this morning too

Sunday, 20 April 2014

A short patch walk was possible this morning before the rain set in, but with the cold wind and dull overcast sky there was little to note, with the one exception of my first COMMON WHITETHROAT (84,68) of the year, which gave just one short burst of song before diving into cover over at the Greenhouse Grounds. Ive been expecting this species to turn up over the last few days, its arrival is just 2 days later than the median average first date for the previous 12 years. The months list creeps up to 68 species now, still only in joint 9th position out of 13 years though, and 7 species behind the mean average species total for the previous 5 Aprils.

I did a circuit of Migrant Alley, and walked the Pub Field, then did a circuit of the Ashes Lane Field, where I sat watched the sky from the shelter of hedgerow. Not an awful lot was recorded though, a few LINNETS were on the paddocks at Migrant Alley, and both CHIFFCHAFF and BLACKCAP sang from the Wooded Headland, the ROOKS, CARRION CROWS and JACKDAWS fed on the sheep pasture and a GREEN WOODPECKER clung to a fence post.

My skywatch produced a GREY HERON, a LESSER BLACK BACKED GULL, 2 HERRING GULLS and a YELLOWHAMMER, plus the sighting of only the second HOUSE MARTIN record this spring, when 2 flew low past me, the only other bird of note was a BUZZARD that got up out of the Wet Woods, before dropping back down again shortly after.

Hopefully a more extensive visit will can be made tomorrow. :-)
Common Whitethroat, another archive image i'm afraid!

Saturday, 19 April 2014

Again, a cold wind blew from the NE this morning and under a mostly cloudy sky it didn't feel too springlike.

With the coolness of the morning, little was heard singing, but one species that did sing was a LESSER WHITETHROAT, presumably the same bird that arrived on Wednesday, giving hope that it may set up a territory around the Wooded Headland at Migrant Alley. The CHIFFCHAFF and BLACKCAP were also seen at the Wooded Headland. Out on the pasture and paddocks, just 2 HERRING GULL and a LESSER BLACK BACKED GULL were seen, along with the gathering of Corvids, mostly which were ROOKS.
Rook  (Archive Photo)
Rook, another archive photo, didn't get any action with the camera today!
The male KESTREL was hunting around the Greenhouse Grounds, and the LITTLE OWL was seen at its nest box over by the old shack in the Ashes Lane Field, where the SKYLARK pair chased about above the weedy part of the fields.

Approaching the Wet Woods I saw a COMMON BUZZARD fly out and head over the Greenhouse Grounds, but there was little in the woods today, just GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER and NUTHATCH of note.

I passed the incubating  MISTLETHRUSH on the way to the lakes, the eggs must have hatched by now ? Over on the Lakes there was no sign of yesterdays white goose, but 4 GREYLAGS were on the water, with 6 CANADA GEESE and a lone male MANDARIN DUCK. I scanned the ornamental lake to see if there were any young COOT about yet, but only one adult was seen, 7 MALLARDS were being tolerated by the MUTE SWAN, as was a MOORHEN with 2 young.

In the Scrubby Woods some song was heard, COAL TIT, GOLDCREST, more Chiffchaff and Blackcap, plus the BLACKBIRDS and SONGTHRUSHES, but it was all a bit quiet in there this morning.

An hours sky watch was had on my seat at Migrant Alley, but the only bird of note seen passing over was a GREY HERON.

Looks like tomorrows visit will be short lived if I get out at all, rain and wind is forecast for the morning, and a spot of DIY for my old mum will take up my afternoon!

Friday, 18 April 2014

It was clear and sunny first thing this morning, with a cool wind, which felt even cooler as the cloud rolled in later in the day.

Another five hour patch visit produced a good tally of species, 47 in all, but I still await the Common Whitethroat, today is the 12 year median average first sighting date for this species. Of the 13 Summer visitors that have been recorded every year here, 6 are yet to arrive, those being Common Whitethroat, Swift, Garden Warbler, Turtle Dove, Spotted Flycatcher and Hobby.

I did however record a new species for the April list this morning, when a LAPWING (68) flew over Migrant Alley first thing, then surprisingly I saw another four go over later in the visit. Another highlight for the morning was finding a WILLOW WARBLER singing in the Wet Woods, always a welcome, but scarce sound here.

There was a bit of a change on the lakes today, 8 CANADA GEESE had arrived, with 4 GREYLAGS and a feral 'white Goose'  The MUTE SWANS were still incubating, as was the Greylag Goose, the MISTLETHRUSH nest was checked earlier, where I found both parents chasing off a MAGPIE, not a good sign, but the hen bird returned to the nest shortly after.
''White Goose''
It was paired up with one of the Canada Geese
Canada Goose
Male Mute Swan on patrol
Very Little song was heard in the Scrubby Woods this morning, what was heard was mostly BLACKCAP, BLACKBIRD and CHIFFCHAFF, no doubt due to the cool wind blowing.
My sky watch from my seat at Migrant Alley later in the morning was a chilly one, with the cold wind blowing across the sheep pasture, but I got to see the pair of local BUZZARDS, as well as the male KESTREL, and two SPARROWHAWKS, a few HERRING GULLS and a couple of LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLS flew over, SWALLOWS zipped over the paddocks and sheep pasture, and the SKYLARKS were seen over the Ashes lane Field, but apart from the already mentioned 4 lapwing that was about it for today.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

A mostly sunny morning was had for todays shortish patch visit, a visit that didn't produce much at all, certainly no new spring arrivals.

An early check of the paddocks and sheep pasture drew a blank for a Wheatear, and the Lesser Whitethroat that was at the Wooded Headland yesterday had moved on, I fear that this species is now lost as a Pittswood breeder, and is relegated to a mere passage bird, there is just so little favourable habitat left for them now. The CHIFFCHAFF and BLACKCAP were making use of what habitat is available though, and both sang from the depleted Wooded Headland.
Chiffchaff at the Wooded Headland
A Cuckoo was heard way in the distance as I made my way back over to the Lakes and Woods, too far off to be counted on my patch though, looks like this is another species that will only be recorded here on passage  :-( The SKYLARK pair were still using the Ashes lane Field, hopefully they will decide to breed here. A LESSER BLACK BACKED GULL and two immature HERRING GULLS were also on the fields.
Skylark, on its usual songpost, I never get within 20 meters of it though!
The Wet Woods and Scrubby Woods were checked out in case an exciting migrant bird species was lurking, exciting here would be a Sedge or Reed warbler! Nothing like that today though, so just a case of finding the regulars, and looking for nesting activity. The MISTLETHRUSH continues to sit on her nest, and the MUTE SWANS, GREYLAG GOOSE and I presume the COOT pair are all incubating eggs - I cant see the Coot nest now as the surrounding reedmace has hidden it from view. A BUZZARD flew just about head height over the Ornamental Lake, quite a sight, it was probably looking for an easy meal, one of the MOORHEN young perhaps!

I spent some while just sitting, listening and watching in the Scrubby Woods, I was on the lookout for the first Dragonflies or Damselflies of the year, the sunny clearings in the wood were warming up nicely by 10:00hrs, but it didn't entice any dragons out! A few Orange Tip Butterflies were on the wing, as were Small White, Speckled Wood, Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock, plus a single Holly Blue, none of which stopped for a photo. By 11:30 I had to leave, the Dragons will have to wait for another day, just hope the weather is kind for a few more weeks :-)

Just the KESTREL was of note as I walked home, but I noticed also that the STARLINGS were tooing and froing with beak fulls of food, wont be long before gangs of youngsters start noisily charging about the place, now they are always good for a photo or two  :-)

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Another lovely, sunny spring day to get out and visit my patch, although first thing it was a bit chilly with a ground frost.

This mornings visit was a bit slower than yesterdays, I ticked off the singing WRENS, BLACKBIRDS, GREENFINCH, ROBIN, DUNNOCK, CHAFFINCH, and SKYLARK, plus the calls of BLUE and GREAT TITS, CARRION CROW, GREEN WOODPECKER, COLLARED DOVE, and  PHEASANT on the early part of my walk as I wandered along Ashes Lane.

Out on the sheep pasture and paddocks of Migrant Alley, just a few ROOKS, JACKDAWS and WOODPIGEONS fed out on the frosty grass, but as I neared the Wooded Headland to the north of Migrant Alley, I heard the unmistakable song of my first LESSER WHITETHROAT (83,66) of the year, a whole ten days earlier than the 13 year median average date, and the second earliest first sighting date I have recorded here. Its unusual to have Lesser Whitethroat arrive on my patch before Common Whitethroat, this is just the 3rd spring it has happened. Both the CHIFFCHAFF and BLACKCAP were also singing from the Wooded Headland, plus as I walked back towards the Greenhouse Grounds I saw the LITTLE OWL in the Greenhouse Copse, the first time i've seen it there this month.

The rest of the 5 hour visit was spent around the Wet Woods, Scrubby Woods and Lakes area, not sure what I was hoping would turn up, maybe a Nightingale or a Turtle Dove or perhaps a Garden Warbler, but in the end nothing new was added to the year list. Checking up on all the nests, I found the GREYLAG GOOSE, MUTE SWAN, COOT and MISTLETHRUSH all in order, but the CANADA GOOSE nest looks to have been deserted, not sure why, the nest looked well secure on a small island on the lake.

More Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs sang in the Scrubby Woods, along with the local resident species, a female MANDARIN duck was in the Wet Woods, where NUTHATCH and TREECREEPER were seen, nothing unusual to record in there today though.

Walking back out onto the Ashes lane Field, I saw the only BUZZARD of the morning, and watched the KESTREL fly over to the Greenhouse Grounds, the SKYLARK pair were up singing, and 2 LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLS went over with a single HERRING GULL.

49 species were recorded this morning, an excellent total, but no Cuckoo was heard, it's not the same getting out early on a mid April morning and not hearing the constant song of a Cuckoo  :-(

Not a single photo was taken today - well, not any of any use! By 10:00hrs the light is so strong, bird photographs just dont look right. The Butterflies didn't stop around either, but i've already got images for those that are about, just a bit of a wait now for the other species to emerge, plus those anticipated Dragons and damsels  :-)

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

More Bluebells! These carpet the floor of the Wet Woods
The fine and settled weather continued today, allowing for another five hour patch visit, before I left home I noticed the first fledgling BLACKBIRD of the spring in my garden, one more species for the 2014 'successfully bred' list.

Cloud came and went whilst I was out, and a cool N wind blew at times, but it was reasonably warm. Early in the walk I saw 2 CORMORANT fly over, and a bit later a group of 7 flew past in a well disciplined equidistant line, all these after only seeing one in the first two weeks of the month!

The LITTLE OWL sat at its nest box by the old shack in the Ashes lane Field, where a pair of SKYLARK sang, one allowing for a distant photo.
The Wet Woods, Scrubby Woods and Lake areas, didn't provide me with any new migrant species, but most of the regular songsters were heard, GOLDCREST, COAL TIT, TREECREEPER, CHIFFCHAFF, BLACKCAP, WREN, ROBIN, DUNNOCK and BLACKBIRD being the most vocal. I checked up on all the nests again, GREYLAG and CANADA GOOSE, COOT and MUTE SWAN were all still sitting, as was the MISTLETHRUSH. The male Mute Swan was getting very territorial, and attacked a newly arrived family of MALLARDS, the day old ducklings scattered and two adult males acted as a decoy, to distract the Swan, allowing mum to escort the young to some nearby reeds.

If that was a crow, or a fox attacking the young ducklings no doubt it would be used as a valid reason by the shooting brigade to ''control'' them, but would anyone shoot a Swan for killing ducklings ? At least the Crow and Fox have a family to feed, the Swan does it out of aggression!  All sorts of birds/animals prey on each other, they dont need some hero with a shotgun to interfere just for there own sporting amusement.

Mistlethrush on nest
I don't usually take photo's of bird on their nests, but this one is 4m up a large Oak tree and I was well away from it. As you can see it is reasonably well concealed considering the small amount of cover it has available, it's still vulnerable to a predator though, but if it's predated the Mistlethrush learns a lesson for next year.
GREEN WOODPECKER on the floor of the Scrubby Woods
A second visit to the fields of Migrant Alley, in some warm sunshine, had me watching the sky for raptor species, I saw the male KESTREL, the 2 local BUZZARDS and a few distant ones, plus a SPARROWHAWK. The best sighting of the day however was of my first YELLOW WAGTAIL (65,82) of the year flying low over the sheep pasture, calling as it went. It's arrival is the the joint earliest arrival date for my patch, joint with 2011, and is ten days earlier than the 13 year median average arrival date. It looks like the great majority of the SWALLOWS have now arrived, at least 5 pairs were feeding over the paddocks and sheep pasture.

Here's a few more Dunnock images, they really belt out their little, thin, warbler like song!