Monday 31 March 2008

A foggy start to the day meant that the walk in to work was quiet, although 5 LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLS, and a few FIELDFARE could just be picked out at migrant alley, on the way home a flock of 60 Fieldfare were around the area.
This afternoon I made a trip to the lake area, hoping to hear a Blackcap in the adjacent scrubby area, but none sang, all I heard was the dick head groundsman from the large house with a chainsaw, and a shot gun! In spite of this racket, there were 2 MUTE SWANS on one of the lakes, a new species for March, despite saying in my last post that it would be unlikely that I would find a new species today!
I went over to migrant alley, and sat for a while skywatching, but no migrants were observed, just a KESTREL, a CORMORANT, a SPARROWHAWK, which I later saw pluck a Starling from a flock that were flying over, without any effort at all. Also in the distance I could see two BUZZARDS soaring high to the north west of my patch. I got home and looked over the feeding station and found a female BRAMBLING at the sunflower feeder, I hope she stays around till at least tomorrow, I can count it on the April list.

Sunday 30 March 2008

The clocks went forward an hour last night, british summer time begins, hurrah! ...................
I left the house at 7.00am (really 6am then?!) Everything was sodden, after heavy overnight rain, but only spits and spots fell during my 3 and a half hour walk. The weather had muted lots of the songsters, but I tallied up 24 species in 15mins, all the common TITS, FINCH'S, THRUSH'S, WOODPECKERS, WOODPIGEON, COLLARED DOVE, HOUSE SPARROW, STARLING etc. Every dip in the ground was full of water, and quite a few of the bigger puddles had an attendent MALLARD. Nothing at the lake apart from a CORMORANT, and the now full to overflowing wet woods, held just two TEAL.
Migrant alley was awash, just 2 FIELDFARE were there, a few MEADOW PIPITS, a single YELLOWHAMMER, a couple of LINNETS and 5 PIED WAGTAILS. 19 BLACK HEADED GULLS dropped in to visit the lambs, and I watched a KESTREL drop down and successfully catch a vole. On the manure heap at the edge of the field 2 GREY WAGTAIL fed. A total of 47 species was seen, but I didn't record a single Bullfinch, unusual.
Today was the final full visit for March, and the species total for the month stands at 62, three short of the best march total, acheived in 2006. The combined March total for the 7 years is 76, so it could of been a better month, however the average March total is only 59, so it depends how you look at it. Only one species was new to the month of March, the Little Egret. I may improve on these figures if something turns up tomorrow on the way to and from work, but its not looking likely.

The stream behind the college is 4ft higher than normal

A soggy migrant alley

Meadow Pipit

Thought I'd get a shot of this Fieldfare, it may be the last I see, before they all go north

This Mistle Thrush was sitting tight on her nest, its only 7ft up, and is above a busy walkway at the college, also there are dozens of grey squirrels around - I don't give her much chance of success. I'll keep you posted.
PS the Mistle Thrush above my front door is incubating eggs for sure now.

Saturday 29 March 2008

One of the 3 Cormorant that flew over this morning

This morning started off gloriously sunny, and a promising southerly wind was blowing. However, half an hour into my walk, clouds drifted over and a few light showers fell, most of the 4 hour walk was dry though. It was disappointing not to hear a Blackcap, I anticipate this species to be the next migrant to arrive, but not today!
A good total of 48 species was recorded, winter species were still in evidence, TEAL in the wet woods, the LITTLE GREBE was at the lake area, MEADOW PIPIT at migrant alley as well as a mixed flock of FIELDFARE and REDWING, numbering at least 200, the vast majority being Fieldfare. BLACK HEADED and COMMON GULL were seen among the lambs there, and HERRING GULLS flew over, as did a single and a pair of CORMORANTS. The usual SPARROWHAWK flushed up the mixed thrush flock, but when a KESTREL flew low over them, it didn't have any effect at all. A pair of LINNET and a YELLOWHAMMER alighted on a short hedgerow on the boundary between the greenhouse complex and the fields of migrant alley. After I got home, I received a call from a friend who watches the area to the north of my patch to say he had found a Stonechat, just 150m from the northern boundary of migrant alley, a species that I have only recorded on return passage in the Autumn. I'm not envious at all............

Friday 28 March 2008

The only birding I did today was during the walk to work, just half an hour. This afternoon was a washout, due to heavy rain and strong winds. I did notice this morning that the FIELDFARE numbers had gone up a little, there were at least 75 at migrant alley. Also a GREY WAGTAIL was at the extreme southeastern edge of my patch, where the stream disappears under the A26 Tonbridge road. Hopefully now this weather has blown through, there might be some more migrants coming along on the southerly winds behind it, we'll see tomorrow!

Thursday 27 March 2008

This afternoons walk around migrant alley was more productive than the last few visits. A migrant WHEATEAR was found on the manured field, the fourth record this year, I scanned the fields this morning on the way to work, but it wasn't there then, so it must of dropped down very recently. There were a few FIELDFARE - 40 or so, both this morning and this afternoon on the same field, but no Redwing were seen. Whilst sitting on one of the horse jumps at the edge of the field, a large shower cloud drifted over, giving some light rain, which moved me on to find cover. This was a bit of good fortune, as I flushed a LITTLE OWL (71) from a fence post, a new species for the year, it flew off into a small copse on the edge of migrant alley. Two SPARROWHAWKS flew over, putting up the Fieldfare, as well as 13 BLACK HEADED GULL, and 11 STOCK DOVES. Half a dozen PIED WAGTAILS fed on the manured field and a SKYLARK sang above them.

The MISTLE THRUSH nesting above my front door may be incubating eggs, I saw it leave the nest as I came in from work.

The Wheatear was a long way off, but you can just make it out
I had to heavily crop and zoom the image.

Wednesday 26 March 2008

It was mild and still this morning on my way to work, and as I passed the large greenhouse complex I saw a new species for the month -a KESTREL, a superb male serveying the area, much to the dislike of 4 or 5 PIED WAGTAILS , that constantly mobbed him. The rest of the walk was as usual, a few BLACK HEADED GULLS at migrant alley, with just a dozen or so FIELDFARE, seems they are moving on now.
I encountered the Kestrel again on the way home, so after a well deserved cuppa, I went out to try and photograph it, but the sharp eyed falcon wouldn't let me near enough. I walked over to migrant alley, with the aim of doing some more skywatching, but a heavy shower put pay to that, so it was back home to watch the feeders. Not much going on here, the usual Tits, Finch's and doves. I couldn't really settle down and do anything today, its getting near to the main migration time, and right now we're stuck in the gap between the main spring arrivals, and the winter migrants all going or already left, its like waiting for christmas!!

I noticed the garden was coming into bloom today, this Primula is one of the early flowers I planted in my wildlife garden, to help out any early emerging insects.
Also helpful for the early bees, this hyacinth (is that how you spell it ?)

This is the first flower on my Marsh Marigold, it has flowered every year since I planted it in Aug 2000.

I keep seeing this Robin, perched in this alder tree, singing its heart out. It must have a nest nearby.

Tuesday 25 March 2008

Back to work today, and the weather was bright, sunny and mild, with little wind - typical!! At migrant alley, all but ten FIELDFARE had gone, is this it, have they decided to go north ? There were a few REDWING at the college sports ground, that backs on to migrant alley, and a few more in the campus gardens, also here, were a pair of GOLDCREST, one singing loudly.
The walk bak home was quiet, the same Goldcrest was still singing, and at migrant alley 20 BLACKHEADED GULLS were among the Lambs.
At 2pm I went for a ramble through the wet woods, where the first bluebells were opening their purple blue flowers, and on to the lake area, which was completely devoid of any birds. the gardener of the large house was using a chainsaw, this might of had something to do with it!
I cut across the tree nursery, where the ongoing work was still disturbing everything, and went back to migrant alley for a 'sit and wait' session. This produced 3 GREY HERON, 2 LESSER BLACK BACKED GULL, 18 STOCK DOVES, 2 CORMORANT and the usual corvids. Its still a little early for Swallows, and Martins, but you never know!
When I got home I found that a MISTLE THRUSH had built a nest in a Leylandi type tree, right above my front door, lets hope the squirrels don't find it, i'll keep you posted.

Male Blackbird. Probably one of last years offspring, note the brownish coloured primaries

The Bluebells in the wet woods have started to open up.

Monday 24 March 2008

A 3 and a half hour walk round my patch, from 6:30am this morning, was a pleasure, with no wind, and no snow,sleet, or rain. although there were snow flurries around 10:30am. A good total of 48 species was recorded, Winter thrushes were in good supply, with almost every piece of grassland holding Some, mostly FIELDFARE but a good number of REDWING to. The only spring visitors were 6 CHIFFCHAFF, all in song in various parts of my patch. Gulls featured stongly today, with 8 HERRING seen going over, and two LESSER BLACK BACKED, at migrant alley I counted 51 BLACK HEADED and 2 COMMON GULLS. A SPARROWHAWK was hunting over the manured field at migrant alley, where the biggest concentration of Fieldfare were, some 200 birds being present.
Looking at the long range weather forcast, this cool spell could be with us into April, probably not as cold, but with the wind having a Northerly element, it will no doubt hold up our spring migrants - as in previous years.

This is the first time ive got near enough to a Moorhen to take a picture!
One of 5 TEAL that were on a small, temporary pond, made by run off water from a small greenhouse complex

Same TEAL. They won't be around much longer, they are a winter visitor to my patch. The latest record was of a pair in the wet woods that were seen on the 20th April 2004.

Sunday 23 March 2008

At last the wind had dropped, and birding was alot easier this morning. I left at 06:30 and by 07:45 I had racked up 41 species and wasn't even half way round my patch. A new species for the month, MANDARIN DUCK was added, when 3 flew low over the golf course, all looked well for a good days birding............... Then it started to snow, and everything went quiet. I kept on going and managed to finish the circuit, but the snow got everywhere, and my binoculars were soon of not much use to me.
Some good birds were recorded, LONG TAILED TITS were collecting feathers for their nests, GOLDCREST, TREECREEPER, and NUTHATCH all were seen well. A GREY HERON on the lake was the first for a while, and a GREY WAGTAIL was seen. 6 TEAL flew from the waterfilled ditch, which was now quite full from all the run off water from the small greenhouse complex.Migrant alley had at least 250 FIELDFARE, but it was again hard to count them in the snowy conditions, HERRING GULLS flew over in small groups, and 23 BLACK HEADED GULL were among the lambs on the pasture with 2 COMMON GULLS. A SPARROWHAWK flew over looking for an easy meal, scattering everything up, but it did allow me to see the 8 STOCK DOVES that I'd missed hiding on the manured field.
Last week I was looking at wheatear in these fields, in warm sunshine, today was the most winter had throw at us all season, such is the british spring!

Saturday 22 March 2008

Some of the flock of Fieldfare, Redwing and Starling, at the golfcourse today.The first and last pic taken, thereafter conditions just got worse. Look at the flag pole!

I thought yesterday was a difficult day for birding, but it was much worse today. The wind had gone round to a more N direction, and the rain was blasted into drizzle size drops by the gale. My Camera and bins quickly became unuseable. At the halfway stage of my walk, I gave up for half an hour or so, but I re-armed myself with better winter clothes and headed of out again for a look at migrant alley. it was worth the effort just to see all the FIELDFARE, REDWING and STARLING, they were swarmed all over the fields, I would estimate over a thousand birds were there. I tried to count them but the wind was just too much, and the birds were very flighty. Also on the sheep pasture were 49 BLACK HEADED GULL, I checked each one, trying to make one into a Med. Gull but it wasn't there. However a first for the month was discovered among them, when 3 COMMON GULL dropped in. The odd SKYLARK was seen, as was a MEADOW PIPIT, a few PIED WAGTAIL and a flock of 18 STOCK DOVE. 44 species were noted in all this morning, but in the end, the wind and rain defeated me, and a mug of hot tea became more and more appealing especially so, as the next heavy shower blasted itsway across the fields.

Friday 21 March 2008

The Easter break is here at last, and 4 mornings of patch watching lie ahead. However the weather did its best to break my enthusiasm, just 20 mins after leaving the house this morning, a hefty rain/hail shower had me running for cover, and the biting N'W wind was relentless during the 4hrs I spent out in the field.
It was apparent that the winter thrushes had increased during the night, on the golf course there was a minimum of 150 birds, mostly FIELDFARE, but also around 40 REDWING. A lone GEY LAG GOOSE was also there. On to to lake area and the LITTLE GREBE was easily seen, and a CORMORANT flew over, but there was nothing else of note there. At least one pair of TEAL were in the wet woods, and NUTHATCH, TREECREEPER and GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER were all vocal.
Migrant alley was crammed with birds, Mostly STARLING (around 300min) but also FIELDFARE (200min) REDWING (50min) a couple of LINNETS, 3 0r 4 SKYLARK , 4 PIED WAGTAIL and a lone YELLOWHAMMER. I sat, sheltering from the wind, behind a hedgerow and watched over the area for any signs of spring migrants, none appeared, but a large female SPARROWHAWK went over causing all the birds to fly up in panic, and 3 LESSER BLACK BACKED GULL also went over.
48 species were recorded today, a pleasing total given the conditions, but nothing new for the year, or month was seen - i'm still trying to find the first Kestrel for March.


Mainly Starlings fly up at migrant alley

Fieldfare, Redwing, and Starlings. Just a small part of the feeding flock on the manured field

Everyone for themselves!! A sparrowhawk puts everything up.

Pied Wagtail also at migrant alley
Grey Lag Goose at the golf course

Thursday 20 March 2008

Dismal! That sums up this afternoon, cold, windy and raining. The only thing to do on an afternoon like that, is sit at the window at watch the garden. Mind you not a lot was tempted in, a dozen CHAFFINCH, 5 GREENFINCH, 4 GOLDFINCH all enjoyed the sunflower hearts, and the usual species fed from the spillages, DUNNOCK, BLACKBIRD, ROBIN and up to 8 COLLARED DOVES. There seemed to be fewer Tits about, just a peak of 5 BLUE TIT and 3 GREAT TIT. STARLING was represented by a solitary bird that came and went within seconds and not a single House Sparrow came in. A GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER spent most of the afternoon clinging to the nutfeeder, a pair of NUTHATCH visited, 3 WOODPIGEON and a MAGPIE, the best bird was a SISKIN that came and fed from the sunflower hearts. 9 species were noted in the vacinity of the garden or flying over, BLACK HEADED GULL and HERRING GULL went S/W and ROOKS were seen at the rookery, the most unusual sighting was a pair of MOORHEN that fed in a field adjacent to the wet woods, only the second sighting of this species from my house in 8 years!

Wednesday 19 March 2008

Mistle Thrush

I walked over to the lake via the wet woods this afternoon, just to check for Blackcap song, or maybe a Redpoll. Neither was found, but I did find the overwintering LITTLE GREBE on the lake, now coming into its breeding plumage. At least 2 CHIFFCHAFF called and sang in the adjacent wooded area. In the wet woods 2 TEAL were present, but little else of note. I cut across the tree nursery to get to migrant alley, work was still causing disturbance to that area, I did see a couple of LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLS fly over, with a BLACK HEADED GULL. A scan around migrant alley didn't turn up the migrant Wheatear that was present yesterday, but a LITTLE EGRET was seen to fly up from the Stream behind the college, a new species for the month. This morning I counted 123 FIELDFARE on the manured fields, but there were probably another 50 that I couldn't see, hiden by the undulations of the field. The only REDWINGS were 20 that flew over and 1 that was in the college grounds.

Tuesday 18 March 2008

It was chilly and dull this am, with a light N/W breeze, but as I walked to work there were still plenty of birds singing, DUNNOCK, SONGTHRUSH, BLACKBIRD, WREN, ROBIN, MISTLETHRUSH and GOLDCREST were all heard as I walked from my house, to the stile at Ashes lane, that leads into migrant alley, a distance of around 200m. A CHIFFCHAFF called from the hedgerow as I passed, and two GREY LAG GEESE flew over.

Ashes Lane

I crossed the sheep pasture, and scanned for the wheatears, but I didn't see any, but there were around 100 FIELDFARE in an adjacent horse paddock, and a GREY WAGTAIL fed on a large dung pile. In the college grounds 20 or so REDWING were feeding on the lawns and under the shrubs, also a Chiffchaff flew from a fir tree to the stream.

This afternoon I only had an hour, so i went to check on the WHEATEAR again, I was pleased to find one, and maybe the other one was around but I couldn't see it. The field is quite large, and time was pressing. A flock of 33 BLACK HEADED GULLS flew over and a single SKYLARK sang over the manured field, but I had to leave, just as well really as the wind was blowing across the exposed fields, making it feel quite cold.

Monday 17 March 2008

I left 10mins earlier for work this morning, to give me time to scan the fields at migrant alley. A good decision, as I relocated 2 of the 3 WHEATEAR that were found on saturday morning. I also saw a flock of at least 75 FIELDFARE on the college sports field, and 6 REDWING were feeding around the college grounds.
My afternoon was spent at migrant alley, trying to get some more pics of the migrant Wheatears, and I did get some, but the light was poor. There were also lots of ROOKS about. They follow the lambs, waiting for their tails to drop off, they make a tasty snack! I also saw a pair of BULLFINCH in the hedgerow at Ashes lane, not normally a place I see them, and a pair of LONG TAILED TITS were seen carrying nest material a little further on, spring is definately on its way!



Rook In Flight

Sunday 16 March 2008

As I was going on the Kent Ornithological society outing today, I only had till 8.00am to visit my patch. I decided to walk over to migrant alley for an hour or so and look for yesterdays Wheatear, Unfortunately they had moved on, just a few PIED WAGTAIL fed on the manured field. The FIELDFARE had all but moved on, but a large flock of 100+ was seen just to the east of my patch. The only other birds of note were some flyover gulls - 2 LESSER BLACK BACKED, 13 BLACK HEADED and 3 HERRING. On the way back home along ashes lane a CHIFFCHAFF called and two GOLDCREST were seen in the hedgerow.

Saturday 15 March 2008

They're here!!
Despite the unpromising start to the day (foggy!) I heard my first CHIFFCHAFF (69) singing within 20 mins of setting out. This was followed by a further two singing, then, 3 were found together in a small silver birch, brilliant spring sound! The earliest singing Chiffchaff for my patch, is the 10th March, in 2003, these are later, but they are earlier than the mean date of 17th March. As expected as there arrival was, it is always a thrill to see and hear them, however the discovery of two WHEATEAR (70) feeding on the manure spread fields, (migrant alley, comes up trumps again) was a real surprise, this is the earliest arrival date for these migrants I have recorded on my patch, the previous earliest date, was on the 25th march 2006. The mean arrival date for Wheatear is the 17th April.
A good total of 48 species was seen this morning, and the pair of GREY WAGTAILS, seen at the stream behind the college, was a new species for the month. Patch watching doesn't get much better than on a day like today!

This Dunnock was belting out his warbler like song.
One of the 3 Chiffchaff in a silver birch tree, a long way off to photograph, but just about identifiable

A drake Mallard was posing, so I didn't let him down

The two wheatear, again only distant shots, but you can make them out

I heavily cropped this image to get a better view

What a Stunning bird, I don't ofen get to see these migrants in the spring, I normally get the drab immatures in Autumn or the worn adults.
A further visit at 12.30 was made to migrant alley, and a third Wheatear was found, feeding with the other 2.

Friday 14 March 2008

A sign of spring on the way into work this am, when a female BLACKBIRD few across my path and landed on a nearby tree, it was carrying a beak full of nesting material. ROBINS, CHAFFINCH, MISTLE THRUSH and SONGTHRUSH all sang, as well as GREENFINCH, GOLDCREST, and DUNNOCK, but no Chiffchaff was heard, they'll be here anyday now.

After lunch I went back out to sit and listen/watch at migrant alley, but all I heard were sheep! The final bit of manure spreading was also taking place. I walked round the boundary of the pasture, and paddocks but little was seen, apart from a PHEASANT, and 4 flyover GREY LAG GEESE.

A half hour garden watch produced the first WREN of the month, the 20th species to use the garden this month. Also the BRAMBLING was back, and was more confident, feeding closer to the house.

I passed through migrant alley, and saw that the lambs were all out in the field, most of these were born at the weekend.

WREN, 20th species in the garden for March

Not a very good photo, but I liked the ''action'' shot. I caught the wren as it took off, looks like a moth!

My old friend the BRAMBLING

Thursday 13 March 2008

Once again the only noteworthy birds seen on the walk into work, were the winter thrushes. A gathering were in some tree tops, chattering away before coming down onto the pasture, at least 75 birds were present. On the way back home I counted 168 birds before they all took off, mostly they were FIELDFARE about a quarter were REDWING, also around 50 STARLING were there.
I got home, had a cuppa, and a sandwich, put on my coat, grabbed my bins and camera and headed out. 10 mins later it started to rain and the wind got up again! I promptly abandoned the idea of a Chiffchaff hunt, in favour of a garden birdwatch. I was soon convinced this was the better option, when a BRAMBLING came in, I really am being spoilt by this winter visitor, I've seen it more times in 2008 than all other years put together, they are normally scarce here, even in good years. Other visitors to the feeders included GREAT and BLUE TIT, in threes and fours at a time, GREEN, GOLD, and CHAFFINCH in similar numbers, DUNNOCK, HOUSE SPARROW, the latter was the 10th species to be recorded, and then only two came in, ROBIN, COLLARED DOVE, BLACKBIRD and STARLING, all fed on the ground spillages, again the latter species was conspicuous by its scarcity, just two came in, and was the 12th species to be seen. NUTHATCH, WOODPIGEON and GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER rounded of the list.
In the vacinity of the house were, FIELDFARE, CARRION CROW,JACKDAW,MAGPIE, MALLARD,MISTLE and SONGTHRUSH,PIED WAGTAIL,GREEN WOODPECKER, HERRING GULL and in the distance it was good to see the ROOKS busy at their rookery, thier nest seemingly survived the recent high winds. 26 species in all, a nice total for 2 and a half hours.

Sorry for the picture quality, it was dull and rainy!! (any excuse)

More pics of the brambling, you'll have to forgive my indulgence, but it will probably be a while before I see these in the garden again so frequently

One More!

GOLDFINCH (common, but a favorite of mine)

GOLDFINCH on sunflower feeder, with GREENFINCH

This BLACKBIRD came in for a wash and scrub up at my mini pond

GREY SQUIRREL, not such a welcome customer

The first CUCKOO FLOWER this year (or LADIES SMOCK as it is also know as) I'm proud to say its in my garden, in an enviroment I created!!