Monday 31 December 2007

Great Tit

So the last days walk of the year has arrived. My aim to get 100 species for the year is still 2 short, so I went out to find the most likely of these, that elusive Redpoll, and maybe another new species. Well I got half of what I wanted! A walk around the lake produced a LITTLE GREBE , 99 for the year!!! this is only the second one ever for my patch, the last was back in March 2005. The walk round saw another 45 species, yesterdays missing ROOKS turned up, and a surprise bird for the month was a LINNET or rather a pair, feeding in some weedy ground at the college. This species always departs on the coming of winter, only to return in the spring, a ''local'' migrant, although I have had December records before, they are few. Also at the college, along the stream, feeding in alders was a flock of SISKIN, I estimated about 110. I stood examining each of them for that dratted Redpoll, but no, it just wasn't to be, although a TREECREEPER did pop up with them. The months total of 62, is a very good tally, the best December by 3 species, it could be bettered though, the total for all Decembers is 73, so there is scope for an improvement next year! A few more notes for 2007. The average number of species seen per month works out at 63, the best month was jointly held by April and Sept with 70. The lowest species total was Novembers 57. The Woodwarbler and Black Redstart I saw earlier in the year, were the only two new species for my patch this year, bringing the grand total to 116. Anyway, enough of the stats! tomorrow is a new year and I will be trying for that 100 harder than ever! Have a good new birding and wildlife new year everyone!!

Sunday 30 December 2007

This morning was overcast, mild and still, perfect conditions for birding. It proved to be so, as an excellent total of 48 species was recorded in the 3hr visit. The total could of been higher had the Coal Tit or even more likely the Rook (which had been seen every visit until today!) had put in an appearance. The more scarce species such as, MARSH TIT, YELLOWHAMMER, TREECREEPER, NUTHATCH, KESTREL, SPARROWHAWK, GREY LAG and CANADA GEESE all showed today, the latter in a flock of 28, flying very low over the field below, which also held 2 GREY HERON and a PHEASANT - just visable to the sharp eyed among you.

One Of TheGrey Herons, Along The Hedge/Ditch
Pheasant In The Same Field

Water-Logged Woods - Home For Teal At This Time Of Year

Nuthatch - Foraging On A Gravel Drive.
Signs of spring were becoming evident, a GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER drummed from a large oak, and a MISTLE THRUSH sang its rather melancholy song across the watery woods. Several BLUE TITS were displaying around one of my nest boxes. The TEAL had increased to at least 7, and SISKIN were flying over in singles, calling all the while. Walking to the farmland area a CORMORANT flew over, but once at migrant alley all was quiet - apart from a SPARROWHAWK that was gliding slow and low over the paddocks. I reached the the River Bourne, (just a stream really) behind the College and found at least 30 SISKIN feeding in alders, but infuriatingly no Redpoll!! I was consoled though, for as I stood chatting on my mobile to a birder friend (watching Redpoll 1km to the north) first a GREY WAGTAIL flew low over, then a LITTLE EGRET, probably the one seen a few days earlier. It flew low and alighted along the stream 100m off my I sit and write this, I glanced at the feeders, and a COAL TIT arrived! 49 for the day - great total.

Saturday 29 December 2007

It was bright and sunny for this mornings walk, but noticeably chillier. The heavy overnight rain had left its mark, with large puddles everywhere. I found myself scratching around a bit- where have all the birds gone? I managed 41 species but it was hard going. Three TEAL I found in the waterlogged woods were just about the highlight, and a lone YELLOWHAMMER that flew from migrant alley was the first since Dec. 8th. This species has really declined on my patch. In the first year of recording I found at least one Yellowhammer on 86% of my visits, by 2005 this had dropped to 69%. This year it has been seen on 64% of visits, with a peak count of just 12 birds. In 2002 a peak count of 60 birds was made! Away from the birds, I observed a WEASEL scampering away with a small rodent in its mouth, an unusual encounter.

Friday 28 December 2007

I didn't leave for todays walk round until 8:30, and this is probably the reason for the slightly lower tally of 39 species that I recorded. There was a highlight though, as a LITTLE EGRET flew up from the stream behind Hadlow College. This species brings the months total to 60, an all time high for December. The Little Egret was the 4th recorded on my patch this year, and only the 5th ever, and also has the distinction of being the first to touch down! I could do with this species on next years list.
Above, Is The Unlikely Location That The Green Sandpiper Was Discovered Last Week
Some Of The Manure Piles At ''Migrant Alley'' Ready For Spreading In March/April

Thursday 27 December 2007

I felt more human this morning, and so, set off out for a full circuit of my patch. i was on full alert for the most likely addition to the year list - the Redpoll- but alas, no matter how I tried to make every small passerine streaky brown with a black chin, and red forehead, one did not appear. However it was still a worthwhile trip out, 44 species did want to be seen and noted down, a KINGFISHER flew across the lake, just a small piece of colour, on a grey day. Four different parties of LONG TAILED TIT were located, one of them partying along with TREECREEPER, NUTHATCH, and GOLDCREST. As I walked through migrant alley, I saw that manure piles had been recently dumped in one of the larger sheep fields. No doubt ready to be spread, and then ploughed into said field, probably in late April for a Maize crop. This is good and bad - good, as the piles attract migrant birds down to feed on the insects in March/April. Bad as any Skylarks nesting in that field will be ploughed in! Today though, it was the haunt of 70 odd ROOKS and 100 or so STARLINGS, with a few JACKDAWS. Haunt was the right word, there's nothing more eery than the sound of a mixed corvid flock in winter, especially in the dim light. on the far side of the field was a female SPARROWHAWK, it was minding its own bussiness on a fencepost, until 3 JAYS decided to taunt it, I watched for some minutes as they all played ''Touch the accipiter and scarper''

Wednesday 26 December 2007

After contracting the winter vomiting virus on sunday night, xmas was a dismal affair! More important though, I couldn't get out to do any birding until today, and that was curtailed half-way round! I did find that FIELDFARE numbers were down on recent weeks, and REDWING had increased slightly, preferring to feed on lawns, and in the college grounds - the hedgerow berries must now be running low! Now the frost has retreated, the Lapwing flocks move back to where they came, taking the chance of finding another golden plover with them. With just 5 days left in the year I hope to be out during them all, trying to get the final 2 species needed for the big 100 total!!

Sunday 23 December 2007

The Enemy Lurks!!

It was clear and frosty this morning, but the mist and low cloud rolled in about 11.00am. In direct contrast to yesterdays dire visit, today was a real cracker. 47 species were recorded. 96 LAPWING fed/rested on pasture and autumn sewn cereal fields, along with 34 BLACK HEADED GULL. An orchard along cuckoo lane held a large number of FIELDFARE and REDWING, as well as at least 34 SISKIN. The main excitement for the visit was provided by a SNIPE, which flew from the stream behind hadlow college, swifly followed by a KINGFISHER. The snipe was only the 3rd sighting this year, but it is not seen every year, so it was a good addition to this months list. Even this sighting was put into the shade somewhat by the next bird on the list - a GREEN SANDPIPER, only the fourth for my patch, and the first since Feb. 2004, this flew from a drainage ditch, right alongside the road going through the college, quite a remarkable place to find one. This species now takes the yearly total to 98, equal to last year, these two years have the highest species total of the 6 years recording. The months total is now on 59 also a joint high with last year.

Early Frost

Saturday 22 December 2007

Another Albino Squirrel

The fog and frost relented this morning, but everything was wet, dripping and murky. Not surprisingly, it turned out pretty poor for birds. Only 37 species were recorded, with two more added later in the garden, COAL TIT and NUTHATCH. The best of the bunch were the 20 or so LAPWING, thinly spread over migrant alley, and two small groups of SISKIN.

Friday 21 December 2007

Today was certainly a garden watching day, the fog and frost reduced visability to a mere 30m. The frost remained all day, whilst the fog only began to clear around 3: 45. The first thing I did on arriving home was to go out and break the ice on the pond, a move which the STARLINGS and BLACKBIRDS appreciated straight away, a steady flow of visitors used the water all afternoon, it was most likely the only unfrozen water for a distance. It was noticeable that there were fewer BLUE TITS using the feeders, has the frosty weather started to take its toll on the smaller birds? Also, only one visit from a single GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER was recorded, whereas for a few months now, at least two birds have remained '' glued '' to the feeders all afternoon. ROBINS were more in evidence, five of them held a truce, and fed together on the dropped fat, however war broke out soon enough and endless persuits followed around the garden.

Tuesday 18 December 2007

It was less cold today as I walked home from work, and again there was a flock of LAPWING at migrant alley, numbering 40 or so. After a quick bite to eat, and a cuppa, I headed off to the lake area via the waterlogged woods - which was virtually birdless, apart form a single pair of TEAL. At The lake it wasn't much better, just 2 MALLARD, but I heard 2 GOLDEN PLOVER fly over, I rushed out from under the trees, but they were nowhere to be seen, however a flock of 13 Lapwing were visable, ploding across the sky. Walking back an immaculate male BULLFINCH showed itself, atop a bramble patch.

Monday 17 December 2007

A cold North East wind blew this afternoon as I crossed migrant alley, it felt like it was cutting me in half! The last thing I felt like doing was taking my hands out of my pockets to scan the sheep pasture and horse paddocks. I was glad I did though, as the distant blobs I had spied were a flock of 68 LAPWING, around 200 STARLING, 45 ROOKS and 2 BLACK HEADED GULLS. I checked out the Lapwing for Golden Plover, but my eyes started streaming in the cold wind, or was I just upset cause there were no Golden Plovers?

Sunday 16 December 2007

Grey Squirrel

Songthrush At The Grounds Of Hadlow College

One Of The Lapwing At Migrant Alley

Sunrise Over The Waterlogged Wood

It was clear, with a slight frost this morning. A reasonable total of 42 species was recorded, amongst them a GREY WAGTAIL and a COMMON GULL both new species for the month. Two species not seen on the walk, but were on the garden feeders, were COAL TIT and GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER, taking the total to 44.A lone SISKIN fed in some Alders, along the stream, through Hadlow College, and it was in the grounds of the college that the Grey Wagtail was found. At migrant alley, some 50 Lapwing rested in the sheep pasture, with 34 Black Headed Gulls and the Common Gull.

Saturday 15 December 2007

This morning it was chilly and grey, and it was the first visit in December that I could give all morning to do my monthly tally of all the birds encountered. In all 815 birds, of 43 species were seen. surprisingly, the WOODPIGEON, with 80 individuals scattered around, wasn't the most numerous. This honour went to a flock of 108 ROOKS, feeding on the sheep pasture at migrant alley. At the other end of the scale were, MARSH TIT, TREECREEPER, SPARROWHAWK, KESTREL, COAL TIT and STOCK DOVE, all of which, singles were seen. The latter a new species for the month. A large number of BLACKBIRDS were around (57) and Plenty of LONG TAILED TIT (26).The sports field at Hadlow College held 23 BLACK HEADED GULLS, amongst them were 75 STARLINGS. The winter thrushes were scattered about, but FIELDFARE (66) and REDWING (10) was a good count. Three CORMORANT flew over the lake area, where a GREY HERON fished, one of four seen, and in the waterlogged woods the largest flock of long tailed tits (16) for the day foraged with their usual companions. It was disappointing not to find any Siskin, Brambling or that now infuriating Redpoll !

Thursday 13 December 2007

It was again a cool, but sunny walk home through migrant alley and apart from around 40 ROOKS, in the sheep pasture, it was quiet. In the garden, the usual suspects showed, except the wren - however a smart, male BLACKCAP was seen, a good species to find in December! I have recorded blackcaps in every month this year, on my patch, except November.

Wednesday 12 December 2007

It was all quiet across the sheep pasture and paddocks at migrant alley early this pm, so I decided to do a garden bird watch, as I have neglected the BTO garden birdwatch a bit this week. Plenty of BLUE and GREAT TITS dashed about, grabbing sunflower hearts, GOLD, GREEN and CHAFFINCH fed at the feeders with the odd HOUSE SPARROW, whilst half a dozen COLLARED DOVES picked up the spillings, with a DUNNOCK and two ROBINS. The fat blocks were dominated by the STARLINGS, but a COAL TIT did get a piece of the action. Apples spiked on the elder tree attracted a couple of BLACKBIRDS, but no other of the thrush kind. Later in the afternoon a NUTHATCH came to the sunflower hearts and a GS WOODPECKER had a go at the fat. I also spotted a WREN, the first in the garden this month (22nd species) it was carrying a large, bright green caterpiller half as big as itself! A single JACKDAW came in as dusk fell, picking at the dropped fat pieces. The only SPARROWHAWK attack was a failure, at around 3 o'clock. 17 species made use of the garden in the 2hours, and 11 further species flew over or were in the vacinity, the best being a lone CORMORANT, coming from the lake area.

Tuesday 11 December 2007

A totally different day, weatherwise, and whilst walking home from work, the sun warmed the air and a few passerines made themselves more obvious. A pair of COAL TITS called from a fir tree in the grounds of hadlow college, as did a GOLDCREST, and half a dozen REDWING fed in the paddocks with their scandinavian friends, the FIELDFARE, which were equal in number. An eagerly awaited winter sighting of 10 LAPWING, fed in the sheep pasture at migrant alley and as I watched over the fields a GOLDEN PLOVER dropped in like a stone, almost alighting with the lapwing, but it caught sight of me and flew off northwards. The latter species was the first record here since Feb 20th 2005. Another addition to the year list, 97 species now, could I possibly reach 100 species for the first time ? its gonna be a close run thing!

Monday 10 December 2007

Only a quick visit to the patch this pm, but it proved to be very profitable, as I found a female Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. The 96th species this year. I watched it picking off items of food from an old apple tree for some minutes. Apart from a few GULLS and A GREY HERON this was just about the only bird of note.

Sunday 9 December 2007

Here It Comes!

Only an hour into this mornings walk, and it threw it down! So it was a retreat back home. Maybe if it cheers up a bit i'll go back out this pm. It was not a total loss however, as the first TEAL of the Autumn arrived, two males, in the now replenished waterlogged woods, nicely bringing the months total to 50. Just goes to show, persistance seldom goes unrewarded!

Saturday 8 December 2007

A 3hr visit around my patch this am was finished just as the heaviest rain started to fall. Early on it was dry and still, a couple of GREY HERON fed in the soaked wheat field and as I walked on to the golf course two GREY LAG GEESE were grazing the rough. The first this month, and the only sighting since September. Another new species for the month was a single SISKIN, feeding, where else, but in the alders. The Lake area is now quiet again after the landscaping works, and 3 CORMORANT fished on the larger lake, but there was little else there but a few MALLARD and MOORHEN, I don't think this place will hold quite the same attraction for the wildlife now. A party of LONG TAILED TITS were located in the waterlogged woods, with their attendent BLUE and GREAT TITS, as well as a couple of GOLDCREST and 3 NUTHATCH. Along the Bourne, a KINGFISHER darted through the college grounds, cutting off the bend in the river. The total species list for the day reached 44, quite a reasonable tally for Dec.

Thursday 6 December 2007

The rain held off for a couple of hours from 12.30ish onwards, but not much was seen on the walk home through migrant alley, apart from a couple of LBB GULLS - the first this month. Around 2pm I sat down at the bedroom window to see what would turn up in the garden. It was slow going due to the mild weather, and the SPARROWHAWK , which kept returning to the large evergreen overlooking the feeders. Numerous attempts were made to get its dinner, but all failed - I dont think it was really trying too hard! The recent strong winds have blown down the Honeysuckle covered trellace work that afforded much cover from the above accipiter, so now it has a clear run at the feeders! On the positive side a real rareity did enter the garden, a WOODPIGEON ! They don't often use the garden. Flyovers included a CORMORANT, another first for the month, No. 47 now. The target to beat for december is 59, could be difficult in this dodgy weather.

Sunday 2 December 2007

The weather wasn't too bad when I set out this morning, but by 10am it was throwing it down, forcing me to abandon my walk halfway round. 41 species were seen. To add to yesterdays list was - B H GULL, CANADA GOOSE, SKYLARK and SPARROWHAWK. As I was getting soaked by the driving rain, a flock of BH and HERRING GULL drifted over, clearly relishing the conditions!

Saturday 1 December 2007

The start of another new month, but today I split the morning between the wooded part of my patch, and my second TTV for the BTO atlas survey, which is NW of my patch. As I couldn't gain access to the TTV until 10.00am I spent the early hours scanning the woods, hedgrows and the lake. I found 39 species, none of which were particularly exciting - except maybe the MARSH TIT which was feeding in the waterlogged wood, this is the first December record of this species. I arrived at my TTV (TQ65A) at 09:50. and spent the next 2 hours walking the farmland and large wooded lake. The lake proved to be the most interesting - holding a female TEAL, 19 MALLARD and 25 MANDARIN DUCK. So this is where they all hide! no wonder I havn't seen them on my patch recently. A field of stubble held 19 SKYLARK and 4 MEADOW PIPIT and in one hedgerow 8 LONG TAILED TITS fed WITH 4 GOLDCRESTS and a few BLUE and GREAT TITS. It was interesting to see 5 GREY HERON feeding in a crop of winter wheat, they looked out of place !