A short trip around the sheep pasture and paddocks of Migrant Alley this morning, hoping to find a Wheatear, didn't provide me with one, but I did see my first SWALLOW (72,62) of the year fly through, fast and low.
A bit later in the morning I headed off to 7 Oaks wildfowl reserve in some lovely sunny weather, most noteworthy of sightings were the plentiful Blackcap and Chiffchaffs all singing away :-)
Fog initially shrouded the area this morning, but once it cleared I was able to enjoy the warm sunny conditions that prevailed for the rest of the 6 hour full patch walk.
Among the first dozen birds that were recorded, was a singing BLACKCAP (71,61), heard at the Greenhouse Grounds, a year tick for me! CHIFFCHAFFS were also singing, the 3 - 4 territories on my patch now being occupied by at least the male bird, but no other ''summer' species were found today.
Only the MEADOW PIPIT represented the winter species, small parties were noted heading NW throughout the visit. Of the regular woodland species only Treecreeper went unrecorded, the others which included MISTLETHRUSH, SONGTHRUSH, COAL TIT, LONG TAILED TIT, BULLFINCH, GOLDCREST, STOCK DOVE, GREEN WOODPECKER, GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER and NUTHATCH were all readily found today.
The MUTE SWAN pair continue their stay at the Ornamental Lake, but only MALLARD, MOORHEN and CANADA GEESE were found on the other two lakes, although a MANDARIN DUCK was seen flying low over them.
All three regular raptor species were recorded, a lone SPARROWHAWK, at least 2 pairs of BUZZARDS and the KESTREL pair.
Blackcap in the Blackthorn
This DUNNOCK was photographed in my garden at the weekend, it had found the sunniest warmest place to preen :-)
My penultimate full patch walk of the month was undertaken this morning, in grey conditions, with a cold NE wind blowing. The day list was a little disappointing, with a total after 3 and a half hours of just 41 bird species. Of the regular species, Coal Tit, Treecreeper and Bullfinch went unseen, but a nice surprise awaited me on the main lake when the first 2 EGYPTIAN GEESE (70,60) for the year flew in, an unusual species for my patch, but they do drop in from time to time, nice to get the 70th species of the year at last, plus 60th species up for March.
Not much else to report from this morning, the only spring arrivals so far are the CHIFFCHAFFS, the winter species were only represented by a lone REDWING.
In bright and breezy conditions this morning, I embarked on my 8th full patch walk of the month, where only 40 bird species were recorded, with the likes of Bullfinch, Treecreeper and Long Tailed Tit going absent, plus the Fieldfare and Redwings have left the area now. I should still get the odd one passing through my patch though, as the median average last sighting date is the 30th March for both species.
The MUTE SWAN pair continue to use the ornamental pond, the owners providing them with daily seed handouts - shame they had to take away the natural food, of pond weed and inverts in the first place, still, we mustn't have an untidy pond must we!
NUTHATCH, COAL TIT, CHIFFCHAFF, GOLDCREST, GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER, GREEN WOODPECKER, MISTLETHRUSH and STOCK DOVE were the pick of what was found in the scrubby Woods and Wet Woods.
Out on the farmland I recorded singles of YELLOWHAMMER and MEADOW PIPIT flying over, plus a few SKYLARKS were up singing, HERRING GULLS and BLACK HEADED GULLS also flew through, but despite a bit of sky watching I still didn't see the hoped for Grey Heron thats missing from the months list, normally such a regular species.
Just BUZZARD and KESTREL appeared for the raptor species this morning, reports of the Peregrine, seen at the nearby Tower at hadlow village promise a first sighting for the year for me???
Crocus' from my garden
Ladies Smock from my garden too, Orange Tip butterflies are not usually far behind the blooming of this flower :-)
Just 42 bird species were recorded during this mornings full patch walk, with Treecreeper and Bullfinch being the most notable absentees, the noise of the wind in the tree tops didn't aid with hearing their quiet calls!
The MUTE SWAN pair remain at the lakes, where just MALLARDS, MOORHENS and CANADA GEESE were also seen, a pair of MANDARIN DUCK circled the main lake, but didn't alight on the water. The nearby Scrubby Woods had at least 3 singing CHIFFCHAFF, but they were the only spring arrivals seen today.
Winter species were only represented by the now dwindling flock of of around 30 FIELDFARE, plus 7-10 REDWING that fed with them. KESTREL and BUZZARD showed for the Raptors, while flyovers from BLACK HEADED GULL, HERRING GULL, PIED WAGTAIL and ROOK helped the days list look a bit more respectable than it otherwise would have been.
Grey Heron and Little Owl still evade detection for the months list, two species that have been regulars on other march lists.
A couple of hours spent out at the sheep pasture and paddocks of Migrant Alley proved worthwhile this morning, when I spotted a cracking male WHEATEAR (69,58) sitting on one of the fence lines. This is the third earliest record I have for Wheatear on my patch, following one on the 14th in 2009, and one on the 15th in 2008.
Not much else to report, bar the KESTRELS which hunted over the sheep pasture and Greenhouse Grounds, where a CHIFFCHAFF was singing.
The recent warm weather has brought out a few Butterflies, this Peacock was the 5th species of the year so far.
My sixth full patch walk of the month produced another good haul of bird species, 47 in all, but none were new to the March list, which still needs Grey Heron!
A COOT had arrived at the lakes, the second one this month, where the MUTE SWANS remain, plus a few CANADA GEESE mixed with the male MALLARDS, the females are presumably away on their nests.
A couple of CHIFFCHAFFS were singing from the Scrubby Woods, but I couldn't find either Bullfinch nor Treecreeper in there today.
Two MANDARIN DUCKS flew into the Wet Woods, watched as I passed through the Ashes Lane Fields, where there were at least 40 REDWINGS and 4 FIELDFARE as well as 2 MEADOW PIPITS.
HERRING GULL, LESSER BLACK BACKED GULL, BLACK HEADED GULL and SISKIN were recorded flying over Migrant Alley, the adjacent Greenhouse grounds were home as usual to the KESTREL pair and a few PIED WAGTAILS.
SKYLARKS once again were the only occupants of Bustard Hill, but a BUZZARD was also seen flying over, before diving into the Greenhouse Copse.
After yesterdays warm and sunny weather, during which a short patch visit didn't turn up much, my full patch walk for this morning was undertaken in much duller and damper conditions, this however didn't prevent me recording the highest day list so far this year, with 49 species being found.
The star bird for me was the humble CHIFFCHAFF (68,56) the first two of the year were seen in the Scrubby Woods, one in full song, there arrival is two days earlier than the 16 year median average first sighting date - migration has started! All the other regular and not so regular species were also found in the Scrubby Woods or in the Wet Woods, the best being, as always ; GOLDCREST, TREECREEPER, NUTHATCH, BULLFINCH, COAL TIT, LONG TAILED TIT, SISKIN, GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER, GREEN WOODPECKER, STOCK DOVE, BUZZARD and JAY. The lakes were pretty poor as usual, but the MUTE SWAN pair were still present on the Ornamental Lake, plus a few CANADA GEESE were on the main Lake, a GREY WAGTAIL flew in to visit one of the nearby large gardens.
There was a mixed flock of 30-40 REDWINGS/FIELDFARE on the Ashes Lane Fields, where there were also a pair of MISTLETHRUSH, plus 4 MEADOW PIPITS had returned to feed there.
I added COMMON GULL (57) to the months list, when two were seen feeding with around 60 BLACK HEADED GULLS and a lone HERRING GULL on the sheep pasture at Migrant Alley, a fourth gull species was watched as it flew over, a LESSER BLACK BACKED GULL.
The KESTREL pair were seen at the Greenhouse Grounds, where I also saw a few PIED WAGTAILS, at least 3 SKYLARKS were to be heard singing over Bustard Hill, their usual haunt.
The morning started dull and overcast, but by 09:00hrs the sun came out, making it feel pleasantly warm, so much so that my first two Butterfly species of the year were seen, a SMALL WHITE and a SMALL TORTOISESHELL, very nice!
Birdwise, the full patch walk provided me with a quite good tally of 46 species, with a pair of flyover GREYLAG GEESE (54) and a flyover CORMORANT (55) both being new for the March list, which already has tallied up as many species as the whole of February!
Other highlights were the MUTE SWANS that have remained on the Ornamental Lake since their arrival on the 6th, plus the KESTREL pair at the Greenhouse Grounds mobbing a BUZZARD that dared to enter their territory. A lone LINNET was also seen at the Greenhouse Grounds.
A few REDWINGS remain on the sheep pasture at Migrant Alley, but no Fieldfare were recorded today, a few SKYLARKS sang on the silage field at Bustard Hill, where there were also at least 3 MEADOW PIPITS.
In brighter conditions this morning, my full patch walk yielded 45 bird species, with three of those additions to the March list, one being a year tick :-)
The new species for the year was the long awaited COOT (67, 51), the first on my patch since April last year! It was on the main lake, where another surprise awaited me - a pair of MUTE SWANS (52), these two species, plus the CANADA GEESE, MALLARDS and MOORHENS made for a nice change from the normally empty water!
The third addition to the March list was a GREY WAGTAIL (53) that flew across High House Lane as I was listening to the MEADOW PIPITS and SKYLARKS that were singing and calling on the adjacent 'Bustard hill'
Just the two raptor species were seen this morning, the female KESTREL at the Greenhouse Grounds, plus a flyover BUZZARD that was being tormented by a couple of CARRION CROWS. Other flyovers included a single YELLOWHAMMER, at least 4 SISKINS, BLACK HEADED GULLS and HERRING GULLS.
I noted a real lack of both REDWING and FIELDFARE today, seems they are heading off back home for the spring.
After the initial rain, I got round for a full patch walk this morning, finding a reasonable tally of 41 bird species, one of those being a year tick in the form of a male MANDARIN DUCK (66,50) which was first seen in the Wet Woods, but it flew out and alighted on the main lake, where, predictably, it was the only duck species to join the MALLARDS, MOORHENS and CANADA GEESE!
My walk was accompanied by the near constant calls of BUZZARDS, I think only two birds were involved, but they were very vocal today, the only other raptor species seen was the KESTREL, the pair of which were at the Greenhouse Grounds, where the female visited the nest box.
Plenty of FIELDFARE and REDWING are using the sheep pasture at Migrant Alley and the Ashes lane Fields/Pub Field to feed on, fattening up before their imminent departure. Not much else to report this morning, although it was nice to see a pair of LINNETS along High House Lane.
A visit to the lakes this morning, in blustery but sunny conditions, proved not to worth the effort, as nothing was on any of the 3 small lakes, bar the MALLARDS, MOORHENS and CANADA GEESE. I did however add SPARROWHAWK (45) to the months list, when one dashed through the Wet Woods as I passed through en route to the sheep pasture at Migrant alley.
It was at Migrant Alley that I added a further 4 species to the march tally, with a flyover MEADOWPIPIT (46) 3 flyover LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLS (47) 2 flyover HERRING GULLS (48), plus bird of the month so far, and also a year tick, a MEDITERRANEAN GULL (65,49) that was feeding on the sheep pasture with a couple of dozen BLACK HEADED GULLS.
A lone YELLOWHAMMER was noted in one of the vegetative strips.....I mean to say....hedgerow :-)
With some sunshine this afternoon, I spent some time trying to get some images of the garden birds, but mostly I failed for one reason or another. I just got a GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER image for my efforts, but I did get to see a JAY, the 28th species to come into my garden this year :-)
There were some bright spells this morning, but it clouded over rapidly, bring spots of rain by midday, not too bad a morning for the first full patch walk of the month. In all I recorded 44 species to kick the month off, hopefully I will be able to reach the average species tally for the previous 5 March's before the months end, which sits at 66, another tall order I feel!
This is what was recorded in order of appearance..........
Leaving the house and walking along Ashes Lane, I found ROBIN, COLLARED DOVE, HOUSE SPARROW, STARLING, WOODPIGEON, MAGPIE, DUNNOCK and WREN. Turning into the Small Holding I could hear the SONGTHRUSH singing and the MISTLETHRUSH doing likewise, GOLDFINCH, CARRION CROW, BLUE TIT, JAY, REDWING, STOCK DOVE, BLACKBIRD and GREAT TIT were also recorded there.
A couple of TREECREEPERS were watched as they fed around a rotten tree stump in the Wet Woods, but only GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER and GOLDCREST joined the days list from this area.
Coal Tit ( one from the archives!)
The Scrubby Woods added NUTHATCH, GREEN WOODPECKER, CHAFFINCH, GREENFINCH, LONG TAILED TIT, COAL TIT, BULLFINCH and SISKIN, plus 4 BUZZARDS that flew from their roosting place, calling as they went.
On the lakes, only the regular MALLARDS and MOORHENS were found, plus a few visiting CANADA GEESE.
Making my way out of the woods then across the Ashes Lane Fields and Pub Field, I picked up FIELDFARE and a couple of LINNETS, but nothing else was added to the months list on these fields.
The KESTREL pair were at the Greenhouse Grounds, where at least 6 PIED WAGTAILS were also seen. The adjacent Greenhouse copse had a bit of a treat awaiting for me, when 6 LESSERREDPOLL (64) were watched as they fed up in a mature Silver Birch tree - a year tick! A circuit of Migrant Alley added BLACK HEADED GULL, ROOK and PHEASANT for the March tally.
Nearing the end of the walk along High House Lane, I heard and watched a YELLOWHAMMER fly over and listened to the SKYLARKS singing over Bustard Hill, but no Meadow Pipoits were there today.
This morning I made the final patch visit of the month, hoping to add to the measly 55 bird species that have occurred so far this February, but despite a good 3 hours out, nothing new was added.
February 2017 will go down as the second worst species tally of the 16 recorded, it being 3 better than the lowest tally achieved back in 2003 - but then I was working and visits were fewer and shorter. My patch year list is also suffering, at 63 species it is 5 behind this date last year.
Species that did not show this month, but could have been expected, include - Tawny Owl, Little Owl, Lesser Redpoll, Coot, Reed Bunting, Peregrine Falcon ( which are still at the village tower, just off my patch), as well as Brambling, Snipe, Mandarin Duck or any other of the common Duck species! Numerous flyover species were missing too, such as Little Egret, Great Black Backed Gull and Mute Swan.
Not too much of note was seen during this mornings visit, the best of what turned out were the KESTREL pair, seen at the Greenhouse Grounds, a BUZZARD which flew from the Greenhouse Copse, a GREY WAGTAIL that flew out of the now very Wet Woods, plus the 3 Gull species on the sheep pasture at Migrant Alley, those being HERRING GULL, BLACK HEADED GULL and COMMON GULL, no sign of a Mediterranean Gull - another species which has occurred in the past two Februaries.
A TREECREEPER sang from an old Oak tree along High House Lane, where SKYLARK and MEADOW PIPITS were also heard over the adjacent pasture at Bustard Hill.
Nothing out of the ordinary has been recorded during the last 3 short patch visits, which were mainly spent checking the lakes, but today, during my final full patch walk of the month, I recorded the first LINNETS (63,55) of the year, when at least 7 flew over Migrant Alley, then NW over the Greenhouse Grounds.
A couple of BUZZARDS were seen, as was a SPARROWHAWK which circled high up over the Ashes Lane Fields, but the KESTREL wasn't recorded until a second visit later in the day, when the female was back on the greenhouses.
Plenty of FIELDFARE and REDWING were moving about the sheep pasture, forced up by dog walkers mainly, as well as the nearby gas cannon going off every 20 mins! A YELLOWHAMMER sat on one of the battered hedgerows at Migrant Alley, where a SKYLARK was heard singing overhead, plus a couple of SISKINS flew over.
All the regular woodland species were recorded as I checked the Wet Woods and Scrubby Woods, except Coal Tit. A scan of the lakes had nothing more than a couple of GREYLAG GEESE, CANADA GEESE, MALLARDS and MOORHEN present.
My plan for early this afternoon was to get some images for todays post from my garden feeding station, but cloud rolled in as I just as I set up, all I got was this BLACKBIRD photo, which has an annoying feeder in the way!
A full patch walk this morning, in some remarkably warm weather, produced 43 species in all, but they were all the normal 'core' species, so nothing new was added to the months list, I was hoping to find the months first Little Owl, but they seem to have gone quiet over the last few weeks.
With the warmer weather arriving, the Wet Woods and Scrubby Woods were positively ringing with birdsong, I noted GREAT TIT, BLUE TIT, COAL TIT, CHAFFINCH, GREENFINCH, BLACKBIRD, SONGTHRUSH, MISTLETHRUSH, GOLDCREST, TREECREEPER, DUNNOCK, ROBIN and WREN all giving some song, NUTHATCH and STOCK DOVE gave their spring calls, plus the GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKERS were drumming. I also heard JAY, GREEN WOODPECKER, GOLDFINCH and SISKIN calling, the only species missing this morning was the Bullfinch.
Nothing but a few CANADA GEESE, MALLARDS and MOORHENS were on the lake, but a GREY HERON did visit briefly.
SKYLARKS carried on the springlike theme, with at east 3 up singing over Bustard Hill, where 2 MEADOW PIPITS called as they flew up and over to the Greenhous grounds, where of course the female KESTREL was seen hunting, later in the morning as the sun made things warmer than some May days I have known, the BUZZARDS began to rise and soar on the thermals.
A pleasant morning out, but lots of bird species are still missing from the February list, which at 54 species is still 12 short of the mean tally for the previous 5 Februaries and is the second lowest February tally as things stand!
After adding KINGFISHER (52), which was at the lakes and CORMORANT (53) which flew over, to the February list on Wednesday, I was keen to get out for a full patch walk today, as yesterday I spent the morning at Sevenoaks Wildfowl Reserve ( pics at end of post).
The weather was full on springlike this morning, being windless and very mild, with spells of sunshine later, making it feel warm. The four hour visit provided a good tally of 46 species, however LESSER BLACKBACKED GULL (54) was the only addition to the months list.
Most of what else I recorded this morning concerned the core breeding species, with the exception of 3 SISKIN that were around the Scrubby Woods area, a few flyover BLACK HEADED GULLS plus the fields full of gathering REDWING and FIELDFARE, which will soon be leaving our shores.
A SPARROWHAWK whizzed through the Wet Woods. the KESTREL pair were seen mating at the Greenhouse Grounds, and a couple of BUZZARDS were up displaying over the area.
Teal (Male) - Oh for one of these on my patch, they used to be quite regular during the winter months.
Tufted Duck (Female). These are even rarer than Teal on my patch!
It was back to the overcast, gloomy weather this morning, but at least it was windless, making it feel quite warm out.
My four hour full patch walk today yielded 44 species, but still nothing new for the month or year lists, so many species are just not visiting, or flying over this month! It was at least good to hear so many of the local species in song, with SONGTHRUSH, MISTLETHRUSH, WREN, ROBIN, DUNNOCK, GOLDCREST, TREECREEPER, CHAFFINCH, GREENFINCH and SKYLARK all heard, plus GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKERS were busy drumming - just two weeks more until the first spring month!
A SPARROWHAWK flew over the farmland, putting up a mass of WOODPIGEONS, FIELDFARES and REDWINGS, it did a much better job of clearing the field than the constant and annoying ''boom'' of the gas cannons! The KESTREL pair were seen, the female at the Greenhouses, where a GREY WAGTAIL was present, the male was hunting along High House Lane, where MEADOW PIPITS called over at the adjacent Bustard Hill.
Seven CANADA GEESE, plus a few MALLARDS and MOORHENS were on the lakes, oh for a Coot to come and visit, well, any Duck species would be a real bonus, but the lakes just dont seem to attract much.
At last, some sunshine!
The change in weather made all the difference to my full patch walk this morning, it doesn't increase whats seen, but it sure makes it a more enjoyable task! The 43 species I recorded were all 'core' species, that I would expect to see at this time of year, so no additions were made to the month or year list, a bit disappointing.
The best of what was found were the two raptor species of BUZZARD and KESTREL, the former flew low over the lakes, which were only occupied by 3 CANADA GEESE, the latter was found at the Greenhouse Grounds, only the female today, but the male was seen mating with her yesterday.
All the 'scarcer' woodland species of GOLDCREST, LONG TAILED TIT, COAL TIT, BULLFINCH, NUTHATCH, TREECREEPER, STOCK DOVE, GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER and GREEN WOODPECKER turned out either in the Wet Woods or Scrubby Woods, while the sheep pasture and paddocks at the Ashes Lane Fields, Pub Field and Migrant Alley, all had a good sprinkling of mixed winter thrushes, a couple of hundred FIELDFARE and REDWING in all I'd estimate.
YELLOWHAMMER, SKYLARK and MEADOW PIPIT were seen along High House Lane and over the silage field of the adjacent 'Bustard Hill', but I still await the first Linnet of the year to return to breed here.....if they can still find a suitable place!
Notable flyovers today were few, involving mostly Gulls, of which BLACK HEADED, COMMON and HERRING GULL were seen, but a few a SISKIN also went over, calling as they went, I still haven't recorded a Cormorant going over this month, unusual :-(
Later in the morning, with the sun now flooding into a much larger part of my garden due to sun getting higher in the sky at this time of year, I was able to take a few images of the Long Tailed Tits that come daily to feed on the suet I put out, up to 14 are seen cramming on one feeder!
A short patch visit to the lakes and back, in the still dismally grey, cold and damp weather this morning, did at least add three more species to the February list, the first being PHEASANT (49), one was seen out in a field just off Ashes Lane.
The was nothing but MOORHENS on and around lakes when I arrived there, but in some adjacent Alder trees 3 SISKIN (50) were seen feeding, bringing up the 50th species for the month. As I walked back across the Ashes Lane Fields a flock of around 20-25 LAPWING (51) flew low over, a nice sight, the February list moves into the 50's at last!
This morning was particularly grey and dismal, with leaden skies and a light, cold drizzle falling - typical February fare!
In the conditions I wasn't surprised to find that there were very few passerines about, just one WREN featured on the list of 38 species that were seen today, however I did add COMMON GULL (48) to the months list, one was seen feeding with a couple of dozen BLACK HEADED GULLS over on the sheep pasture at Migrant Alley, where I also heard singles of SKYLARK and MEADOW PIPIT fly over. I now have to find 18 more species for the months list to reach the mean average tally for the previous five Februarys ( I mistakenly wrote on the last blog post I needed just 9 - I should have written 19!) in any case, it's a target not likely to be reached!
Very little else to report from todays full patch walk, no Raptors were encountered, nor any Geese, the most numerous species recorded were the 200+ mixed flock of REDWINGS and FIELDFARE spread on the various fields of sheep pasture.........oh, plus the singing of a couple of TREECREEPERS and drumming of GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKERS to remind me spring is almost here :-)
There was a slight frost for this mornings full patch walk, when it remained dry and windless with the odd sunny spell.
Among the 42 species I recorded on todays visit, two were new for the months list, a GREYWAGTAIL (46) and a YELLOWHAMMER (47) both of which flew over Migrant Alley, the only other flyover species noted were HERRING GULL and BLACK HEADED GULL.
Once again, as has been noted for the past 3 days, there was a mixed flock of a few hundred FIELDFARE/REDWING that had spread themselves over the farmland parts of my patch and again they were supported by the odd MISTLETHRUSH, SONGTHRUSH, BLACKBIRD and small numbers of STARLINGS.
The female KESTREL hunted along High House Lane, where SKYLARKS were singing and MEADOW PIPITS calling out on the adjacent pasture at Bustard Hill, but the only other raptor species seen today was a male SPARROWHAWK that I spied on the edge of the Wet Woods.
All the expected woodland species turned out today, the best as usual being NUTHATCH, TREECREEPER, GOLDCREST, COAL TIT, LONG TAILED TIT, BULLFINCH, GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER, GREEN WOODPECKER, JAY and STOCK DOVE.
Just another 9 species needed for the month to reach the mean average number of species recorded for the previous 5 Februaries!
Spits and spots of rain fell throughout my full patch walk this morning, but it was totally windless, making it feel quite warm for the time of year.
By the end of my 3 hour visit, I had tallied up 41 species, but had missed the 2 female and 2 male GOOSANDER (45) on the main lake that were reported to me ( thanks K&A for the record ), just the usual MALLARD and MOORHENS were left by the time I arrived!
I recorded all of those sometimes 'hard to find' species, with the Wet Woods and Scrubby Woods providing the likes of TREECREEPER, NUTHATCH, GOLDCREST, BULLFINCH, LONG TAILED TIT, COAL TIT, JAY and STOCK DOVE between them.
Plenty of FIELDFARE and REDWING were scattered around the farmland parts of my patch, with STARLING, BLACKBIRD, MISTLETHRUSH and SONGTHRUSH mixed in with them. There were also small numbers of BLACK HEADED and HERRING GULLS out on the sheep pasture and paddocks at Migrant Alley.
The KESTREL pair were sitting together on one of the Greenhouses, where the only PIED WAGTAIL of the day was also seen, the only other raptor seen today was a BUZZARD that was watched over at Bustard Hill as it hunted for field voles, up above it both SKYLARK and MEADOW PIPIT were heard.
The only flyover species noted today was a GREY HERON!
A combination of poor weather and a bout of man flu has meant no patch visits since Monday, but there was a window of opportunity this morning to get out, before the rain moved through, even though I still felt a bit rough!
During a blustery 3 and a half hour visit I manged to kick off the February list with a decent tally of 42 bird species, nothing unusual, mostly the regular stuff, so here's what was seen as I recorded it..........
Leaving home and meandering along Ashes Lane I picked up COLLARED DOVE, WOODPIGEON, ROBIN, DUNNOCK, JACKDAW, STARLING, HOUSE SPARROW and CHAFFINCH before entering the Small Holding, where CARRION CROW, FIELDFARE, REDWING, SONGTHRUSH, GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER, BLACKBIRD, GOLDFINCH, BLUE TIT, MISTLETHRUSH and WREN were all recorded.
GREAT TIT, STOCK DOVE, GREEN WOODPECKER, MALLARD, MOORHEN, GOLDCREST and TREECREEPER were all seen or heard as I made my way to the lakes, where I added CANADA GOOSE, GREYLAG GOOSE and GREY HERON to my list. A walk through the Scrubby Woods added BULLFINCH, NUTHATCH, LONG TAILED TIT, MAGPIE and JAY for the month.
The next species for the month was a BUZZARD, which flew across the Ashes Lane Field as I passed through, but the only other species seen there which had not been recorded yet was the MEADOW PIPIT, 2 flew up and gave their distinctive call notes. The female KESTREL was seen hunting over the adjacent Pub Field, unusual to see her there.
I visited the Greenhouse Grounds and picked up GREENFINCH and PIED WAGTAIL then did a circuit of the fields and paddocks of Migrant Alley, adding just BLACK HEADED GULL, ROOK, and a flyover HERRING GULL. Walking homeward along High House Lane I heard SKYLARKS singing over Bustard Hill to finish the morning off.
The February list was incremented by two more species, when both SPARROWHAWK and COAL TIT were seen at my garden feeding station :-)
I made the 10th and final 'full patch walk' of January this morning, in dull, overcast conditions, but it was at least dry and quite warm for the 3 hour visit.
A total of 42 species was recorded, but nothing new for the months list was among them, January now looks like remaining on 62 species, unless I can winkle out anything on a short visit tomorrow, this will be the same tally as in 2008 and 2012, and would put it in joint 10th position from the 16 Januaries recorded.
The highlight of todays birding was finding that the 2 male and single female GOOSANDER had returned to the now only half frozen lakes, with them were a dozen CANADA GEESE and a pair of GREYLAG GEESE, as well the usual scattering of MALLARDS and MOORHENS - quite busy for these lakes!
All the regular woodland species were recorded this morning, apart from Stock Dove, some of which were giving a bit of song, like COAL TIT, GREENFINCH, GOLDCREST, SONGTHRUSH, MISTLETHRUSH, WREN, ROBIN and DUNNOCK, plus a GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER was drumming from the Wet Woods too, spring is approaching!
Over on the farmland is was a bit quieter, but SKYLARKS were up singing over Bustard Hill, plus around 100 BLACK HEADED GULLS were on the sheep pasture at Migrant Alley. The KESTREL pair were seen at the Greenhouse Grounds, but no other raptors were about this morning.
Although there was a slight frost this morning, it felt a bit warmer, although still dull and damp, it could, however, be a lot worse!
I spent 3 hours out, making an effort to complete a 'full patch walk', the penultimate one for January, it's always hard going at this time of year, especially now that most of what can be found this month already has been, only flyover species or visitors to the lakes will be added to the months list now I suspect.
The lakes however were frozen over still, so just MALLARDS and MOORHENS were present, the only flyover species recorded today were SISKIN and STOCK DOVE. The rest of the 36 species that I recorded today were the regulars, apart from the 38 LAPWING that were spread over the sheep pasture at the Ashes Lane Fields and Migrant Alley.
Only BUZZARD appeared for the Raptors, that was over at the Scrubby Woods, where it was a case of trying to tick off the less frequently encountered species, the likes of COAL TIT, NUTHATCH, BULLFINCH, and GOLDCREST were found, but Treecreeper and Long Tailed Tit eluded detection, not surprising for the latter, as there were 14 watched this afternoon, clinging to the suet bars that I have put out for them in my garden!
FIELDFARES and REDWINGS are on virtually every field and in most of the large gardens, despite the ground being semi-frozen still!
A couple of images for todays blog post, taken in my garden a few days back....
A quick 90 minute stroll around the sheep pasture and paddocks of Migrant Alley this morning proved well timed, as I was there to witness a flyover SNIPE (61), good to add this species to the Month / Year list. I also recorded my first YELLOWHAMMER (62) of the year, just one was sitting in the hedgerow that borders the Greenhouse Grounds with Migrant Alley, plus I saw the KESTREL pair sitting together on one of the greenhouses.
A quick look over at the Ashes Lane fields was worthwhile, as hoped, the LAPWING were still present, although only 7 of them today.
Before I set off for my walk, I sat and waited for the REDWING to come and feed on the apples I have staked out in my garden, there was just enough light hitting the branches for a few decent images :-)
Despite the dense freezing fog that never cleared all day, I undertook the 8th full patch walk of the month, this morning.
I wasn't expecting too much about, so I wasn't disappointment at the poor number of passerines birds about, I reckon the frozen vegetation and ground has forced many to warmer spots around the country, I even had difficulty finding a WREN, but one was finally found over at the Greenhouse Grounds, being watched by the female KESTREL as well as me!
The undoubted highlight of the visit was seeing a WOODCOCK (59) fly from the Wet Woods, the first on my patch since 2015. It was also good to see 15 LAPWINGS on the Ashes Lane Fields, plus seeing, rather than hearing the LITTLE OWL over at the Small Holding.
Both BUZZARD and SPARROWHAWK were seen in the Scrubby Woods, making up the regular 3 Raptor species to be found on my patch, most of the regular woodland species were also found there, apart from Treecreeper and Stock Dove.
The lakes were frozen over, just MALLARD and MOORHEN were seen there, the ice is so thick it will take a week for them to thaw out, even if there no more frosts, that will probably put pay to finding the likes of Coot or Mandarin Duck for the months list.
Finding a Woodcock on my patch is always the highlight of any days birding, but it was outshone today, when this afternoon, whilst I was watching the REDWING tucking into some apples I had impaled on the Elder tree in my garden, I was absolutely gobsmacked to see a WAXWING (60) come in!! I had just a fleeting view, for even as I reached for my bins, out comes the neighbour in his big red puffer jacket......off flies the Waxwing! Grrrrrr. I always impale a few apples out in the garden every winter, in the 1000/1 hope of luring a Waxing, so at least I have succeeded now, even if it was just a brief encounter. This was the 56th bird species to use the facilities in my garden in the 17 years i have lived here :-)
Images for today are from my garden, taken yesterday, but the despite the sunny conditions, the light barely reaches most parts of my garden at this time of year, so not the best pics!
It was frosty, crisp and cold for my 7th full patch walk of January, but with wall to wall sunshine, it soon warmed up nicely.
There were signs of spring in the woods today, with the drumming of GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKERS, the ''teacher teacher'' calls of GREAT TITS and the master mimicry of STARLINGS ( mimicking Black headed Gull, Blackbird, Little Owl and Green Woodpecker amongst others!) all heard as I ticked off the other resident woodland species, the best being the more scarcer species of BULLFINCH, COAL TIT, LONG TAILED TIT, GOLDCREST, NUTHATCH, TREECREEPER and JAY, the only missing semi regulars were Stock Dove and Pheasant.
The lakes were frozen over, as they have been all week, just a few MALLARD were standing on the ice, plus a couple of MOORHEN scurrying about.
All the thrush species; SONGTHRUSH, BLACKBIRD, MISTLETHRUSH, FIELDFARE and REDWING were recorded, most of them retreating to the larger gardens, especially those with berry or fruit trees still standing, as the fields and woods were frozen hard, denying them access to their invertebrate prey.
MEADOW PIPIT, SKYLARK, KESTREL and LITTLE OWL were the pick of the other species recorded today, which tallied up to a reasonable 40, but nothing new for the month / year list.
With the light comes photo's ! Not the best efforts, but a garden session cleared the cobwebs from the camera this afternoon........
Both male and female Great Spotted Woodpeckers visited, favouring the suet feeders!
They soon find the suet no matter where I put it!
The Starlings also favour the suet feeders, 'boring black birds with spots' they are not!
Two Songthrushes have been coming in regularly, between them and a Redwing they have polished off the berries from my small holly tree
A decent flock of around 10 Long tailed Tits are frequent visitors
plus, of course lots of these little chaps, 15 - 20 at a time :-)
I decided to do my 6th full patch walk, of the 10 scheduled for January, this morning, which took place in some more dreary dull weather, which eventually gave way to a short period of rain.
The 3 and a half hour walk yielded up just 36 species, all of which were the core, regular species for Pittswood, so nothing for the year/month list! Treecreeper, Bullfinch, and Long Tailed Tit weren't seen in the woods this morning, nor were there any raptor species found, hence the low species tally today. The species of most note seen this morning were the Winter Thrushes of REDWING and FIELDFARE that fed on the sheep pasture at the Ashes Lane Fields, plus a few MEADOW PIPITS that were on a field next to the Greenhouse Grounds.
A second visit to the fields of Migrant Alley later in the day proved more fortuitous, when I watched the first 3 MUTE SWANS (58) of the year fly over, plus I heard a SKYLARK up singing a RING NECKED PARAKEET was squawking away over at the Wooded Headland ( the same bird presumably that visited my garden last Friday). I also saw the female KESTREL fly onto one on the Greenhouses. Afternoons seem better for bird watching than the mornings do !
I decided on a full patch walk this morning, a patchy, thin layer of ice and snow lay over the area, and with the wind now coming from a NW direction, increasing in strength, the hope was that a few different species would be found.
Although nothing exciting got recorded during the 3 and a half hour visit, with just 37 species being found, I did at least add three more species to the months list, two were gulls, when both COMMON GULL (54) and LESSER BLACK BACKED GULL (55) were seen flying over a chilly Migrant alley, where I also heard, then saw, a REED BUNTING (56) flyover.
There was no ice on the lakes, but no ducks either, well, that is apart from the MALLARDS, a GREY HERON dropped in whilst I was scanning the main lake though. Not many passerines were around the Wet Woods or Scrubby Woods, no Treecreeper, Coal Tit or Long Tailed were found, but the NUTHATCHES, BULLFINCHES and GOLDRESTS were very noticeable as they all called loudly.
Few of the FIELDFARE and REDWING remained at the Ashes Lane Fields or Pub Field, where numbers had been building before the snow and just one MEADOW PIPIT was heard as it flew past.
The Greenhouse grounds had just the common birds, BLACKBIRD, SONGTHRUSH, WREN, ROBIN, DUNNOCK, BLUE TIT, GREAT TIT and the likes, but no Pied Wagtails today, unusually. There were no sightings of the Kestrels today, nor were there any other raptors up and about this morning.
Later in the morning, during a hefty sleet shower, I had a surprise visitor to my garden feeders when a RING NECKED PARAKEET (57) turned up to scoff the sunflower hearts, only the second record of this species for my garden, the last being back in April 2005. I also had a MISTLETHRUSH drop in very briefly, another very rare bird to use my garden.......23 species for the January Garden list now, still a long way behind the 28 recorded in January 2013 though!
Although the light was dreadful I took a couple of photo's of the Parakeet, shooting through the double glazing didn't help the quality of the images none!!
Lovely looking birds, that cant be denied, whatever your stance is on their presence in the UK.
Just a quick few lines.......
A brief mid morning visit to the lakes provided more views of the 2 male and the female GOOSANDER, too distant to photograph though. There was also a glimpse of my first KINGFISHER (52) of the year as it sped low across the main lake. Just as I was leaving for home a GREY WAGTAIL (53) flew over, calling loudly as it went, a good couple of birds for the January list :-)
Another grey morning, but it was dry and mostly windless until after midday.
My full patch walk today provided a better tally than the last one, with 41 species being recorded, still rather low, but at least I added PHEASANT (50) to the year list! I also added SKYLARK (51), when at least a dozen were seen mixing with 20+ MEADOW PIPIT over at Bustard Hill.
The three resident raptor species of BUZZARD, KESTREL and SPARROWHAWK were all seen hunting over the area, the latter on several occasions, when the male was watched performing it's display flight.
MALLARDS had returned to the lakes, along with a few MOORHENS, but nothing else was on the water. The Woodland species all turned out apart from the Coal Tit and Stock Dove, as usual the pick of what those were the numerous GOLDCRESTS, as well as BULLFINCH, NUTHATCH, TREECREEPER, LONG TAILED TIT, GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER, GREEN WOODPECKER and and JAY.
FIELDFARE and REDWING continue to feed on the Ashes Lane Fields and Migrant Alley, about 150 birds in all. Noteworthy flyovers today included CANADA GOOSE, CORMORANT, HERRING GULL and SISKIN.
The January list creeps up to 15th out of 16 now, the mean average January species total for the previous 5 years is 64, that looks a big ask to reach that!
It was such a dull, misty and grey day today, that the light was no different morning, noon or dusk!
A poor day to choose really for a full patch walk, but I did one anyway, so I cant be too surprised at recording a low tally of just 36 species, all of which were the core species to be found here at Pittswood, so no additions to the months list. Where are all the Pheasants ? They cant all have been shot and dumped under a hedgerow in black bin liners!
For the scarcer woodland species, all but Stock Dove turned out in the Scrubby Woods/Wet Woods, with the best species seen being the GOLDCREST, COAL TIT, LONG TAILED TIT, BULLFINCH, NUTHATCH and TREECREEPER, plus BUZZARD that left it's roost, the only raptor seen today. Not a thing was seen on any of the lakes, not even a Mallard or MOORHEN, although the latter was seen in an adjacent garden.
FIELDFARE, REDWING, MISTLETHRUSH and SONGTHRUSH were the highlight from the Small Holding, with more on the Ashes Lane fields, but the rest of the farmland was pretty dire for birds, just ROOKS and BLACK HEADED GULLS in small numbers, with a lone immature HERRING GULL.
The Greenhouse grounds were similarly bereft of birds, PIED WAGTAIL was the only species added to the days list from there.
Skylark and Yellowhammer seem to have left the area adjacent to Bustard Hill, hopefully they will return soon and join the months species tally!
A few bits and pieces to report from this mornings frosty, but sunny visit to the lakes, which were almost entirely frozen over, so just a few MALLARDS were seen standing on the ice. There were however flyovers from firstly a GREY HERON, then a little later the first LITTLE EGRET (49) for the year, a good species to get on the list.
SPARROWHAWK, BUZZARD and KESTREL were all seen up hunting as I walked across the Ashes Lane Fields, where there are still plenty of FIELDFARE and REDWING present, along with a few MEADOW PIPIT.
With the total lack of light recently, photo's have been hard to come by, if at all! So I had a bit of a session at my garden feeders this afternoon, at this time of year the light is very transitory, plus it comes from the wrong angle ( never happy me!) Here's a couple of images I rescued from the ''delete'' button :-)
COAL TIT, one of the 20 species to visit this afternoon
A quick visit to the lakes this morning added a couple of species to the year list, when, at last, the first geese since November turned up, 15 being CANADA GEESE (46) with just a single GREYLAG GOOSE (47).
Another nice addition to the year list was LAPWING (48), a large ( by todays standards) flock of at least 120 flew over, heading southwards towards the fields adjacent to the river Medway.
Nothing else new for the day, plenty of FIELDFARE and REDWING about though, spread over the farmland parts of my patch.
Another full patch walk was undertaken this morning, this time in some sunny, but frosty conditions, much better than the gloom of late, it was, however, a shame about the scumbag shooter in some nearby fields, the sound of his shotgun ruined the ambience of the visit.
The four hour walk yielded a reasonable tally of 40 species, of those, BUZZARD (43) joined the year list, one was seen exiting the Wet Woods, also new for the year was a GREY HERON (44), which fished in the last small piece of unfrozen water at the small lake, where a CORMORANT (41) and 3 GOOSANDER (42) had also gathered, two being superb males, the latter two species were also seen here on a short visit to the lakes yesterday afternoon, a visit that also added SPARROWHAWK (39) and LITTLE OWL (40) to the years tally, both being seen at the Small Holding area as I passed through to get to the lakes yesterday. The only other species added to the year list this morning though was STOCK DOVE (45), two flew low over the Ashes Lane Fields.
Other birds of note today were: a KESTREL at the Greenhouse grounds, as per usual :-), plus the mixed flock of 100 or so REDWING/FIELDFARE at the Ashes Lane Fields, where once again a few MEADOW PIPITS were seen.
SISKIN, HERRING GULL and BLACK HEADED GULL were the best of the flyover species.
The first full patch walk of the new year is always eagerly anticipated, trying to get as many of those common and regular species on the year / months list as possible........this is how I got on this new years day, the species are listed in order of appearance.....
leaving the house as it was just getting light ( not that it got much lighter during the 4 hour visit!), the first bird on the year list was a BLACKBIRD, closely followed by BLUE TIT and a SONGTHRUSH which sang in the distance. JACKDAW, STARLING, MAGPIE, HOUSE SPARROW and COLLARED DOVE were all found as I walked along Ashes Lane towards the Small Holding area, where GREAT TIT, DUNNOCK, WOODPIGEON, ROBIN, WREN, CHAFFINCH and CARRION CROW were all recorded.
Entering the Wet Woods a GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER was added to the days list, but no other new species were seen there, I had to wait until reaching the Scrubby Woods to add the next few species, which were; GOLDCREST, MISTLETHRUSH, GREEN WOODPECKER, a TREECREEPER in full song, GOLDFINCH, NUTHATCH, BULLFINCH, LONG TAILED TIT, COAL TIT, JAY and a small group of flyover SISKIN. The adjacent lakes were, as ever, pretty dead, just MALLARD and MOORHEN were seen there.
The next species for the years list were found as I crossed the Ashes Lane Fields, here there were a good number of REDWING and FIELDFARE on the sheep pasture, maybe a hundred all in all, plus there were a few MEADOW PIPITS around.
Rain started to fall as I walked the Greenhouse grounds, making for an even more gloomy morning, I found PIED WAGTAIL for the years list, plus the male KESTREL that was perched up on one of the greenhouses, but nothing else was found that hadn't already been recorded.
A circuit of Migrant Alley, then a trundle across the fields to high House Lane and a look over Bustard Hill, proved very disappointing, Just BLACK HEADED GULL, HERRING GULL and ROOK were found, making for a miserly 37 species to kick off the year, the worst tally for a new years day walk on record! I dont like to have to keep saying it was the worst tally for this and the worse tally for that, but they are the facts, I cam only report what I find!
I did at least add GREENFINCH for the day, when two turned up at my garden feeders this afternoon, they are alarmingly scarce out on the farmland now, 17 other species also used my garden habitat today, which were ; GOLDFINCH, CHAFFINCH, BLUE TIT, GREAT TIT, COAL TIT, HOUSE SPARROW, DUNNOCK, ROBIN, STARLING, COLLARED DOVE, WOODPIGEON, SONGTHRUSH, BLACKBIRD, NUTHATCH, GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER, JACKDAW and MAGPIE.
So, in all, 38 species to kick off the January list, will I get anywhere near the record January species tally of 68, which was recorded in 2009, 2011 and again in 2013 ?