Wednesday 30 April 2008

Again it was raining heavily this morning, I walked in anyway, just in case something was about, alas nothing was tempted out in the wet weather, except a dozen or so STOCK DOVES, feeding on the maize field.
The day attempted to brighten up as I walked home from work, I scanned the sky for a Swift or Hobby, but no luck. After lunch I set off for one last try to get a Nightingale on my April list, or maybe a Garden Warbler, but half an hour after leaving the rain came down again. I persisted anyway, and all I got was totally soaked, nothing sang but CHIFFCHAFFS and the now long staying (for my patch) WILLOW WARBLER. Alot of the footpaths on my patch now resemble something from WW1, just deep muddy ruts! every hollow and dip in the ground is full of water, such has been the rainfall here.
So nothing much to report today, a poor end to April. some of the stats for this month :

Total species seen 71 ( joint high with 2006)

Mean number of species seen in april (over 7 years) is 67

Total species for Combined Aprils is a surprising 93.

Patch year list so far 81

Species not seen in previous Aprils - Little Egret, Whimbrel, Peregrine and Egyptian Goose.

And for the garden.........

Total species seen 20 ( 4 best year out of 7 )

Mean number of species seen in April (over 7 Years )is 20

Total species for combined Aprils is 33

Garden year list so far is 28 ( actually visiting )

Species not seen in previous Aprils -Mistle Thrush and Yellowhammer.

Lets hope the weather improves for May. !

Tuesday 29 April 2008

What a disappointing day! It was throwing it down this morning, so I got a lift in to work - best chance of seeing something gone already! I walked home through migrant alley at about 13:00hrs, but just 2 HERRING GULLS and a dozen or so SWALLOWS were all that was visible. The weather was for persistant rain all afternoon, and looking to the south, dark clouds were building, so i made the decision to watch the garden feeders, and scan the sky for swifts or a Hobby from my bedroom window. None of the latter were seen, and to my annoyance it didn't rain until 17:15hrs!
It wasn't a complete loss though. 27 species were seen, 14 used the garden, the rest were in the vacinity, or flying over, the best of those were 3 BUZZARDS, high over migrant alley, and a KESTREL that glided low over my rooftop.
In 3rhs only 1 HOUSE SPARROW and 1 STARLING came into the garden, these two species are the most wary, they know its not safe to feed with the Sparrowhawk continually coming in, although funny enough I didn't see it today - maybe a cat got it !

Still a few hours of light left, so maybe i'll see something whilst i'm in the kitchen doing dinner.

This pair of Woodpigeon have become regular visitors since the winter. It used to be very rare for a wood pigeon the come into my small garden.

A peak of 5 Greenfinch's were at the sunflower hearts - a far cry from the 80+ I used to get!

A peak total of 8 Goldfinch used the feeders, not as good as the 50+ I used to have before the sparrowhawk days!

Keep an eye out guys !!!

Monday 28 April 2008

Not much change on my patch today, I'm still awaiting the arrival of the last 5 regular migrant species that appear annually on my patch :- Nightingale, Garden Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, swift and Hobby. After, or if they arrive, its gets difficult to add new species for the year. My aim is to reach 100 for the first time, the best effort was last years 99!

I visited the lake area, via the wet woods, where a fox was upsetting the MALLARDS with thier ducklings, and the MOORHENS with thier black balls of down, spinning about them. Just before I entered the wet woods, I was shown a LITTLE OWL by an upset ''pink, pink, pinking BLACKBIRD, thanks for that ! At the lake area all was very quiet, only the CHIFFCHAFF and the WILLOW WARBLER were singing. I went over to migrant alley, via the tree nursery, where the trees were still being taken out, I don't think this area is going to be worth watching for the next few months. A few HERRING GULLS were on the Maize field, with 2 LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLLS, a dozen or so PIED WAGTAILS and 4 LINNETS. A SKYLARK sang over head and a KESTREL hovered over the greenhouses. The now obligatory SPARROWHAWK was displaying, his mate joined him and they disappeared over the Hadlow housing estate.
Starlings have become very much in evidence again, as they fly to and from their nests with beakfulls of food, the eggs have obviously hatched, it won't be long now before the air is filled with screeching mobs!

In here somewhere is a Little owl, can you see it ?
A bit closer, see it now ?

There it is!

Sunday 27 April 2008

A bit of a mish-mash day today. I spent most of the morning doing my B.T.O. Breeding bird survey, on the square Km south of my patch. I did have time, late morning, for a quick sit on my seat at migrant alley in the hope of recording a new spring migrant, the most likely of which would be a Hobby or Swift, all I found though was a SPARROWHAWK, a KESTREL, and a pair of CUCKOOS that flew over. A very brief pre-dinner visit to the lake area, for another listen for Nightingales was unsuccessful, but I did see the now regular pair of MUTE SWANS and one of the lakes, and the WILLOW WARBLER was in fine song.
I did a hour or so garden watching just after dinner, but it was very slow, and again the Sparrowhawk was annoying me, a female came through and tried to take a COLLARED DOVE but just failed, leaving a plume of feathers to drift on the air.

Before visiting the lake area around 18.00hrs, I had another scan of the maize field at migrant alley, where I found 57 HERRING GULLS and 3 LESSER BLACK BACK GULLS - quite a site!

At the lake area the swans were still there, and the Willow Warbler was still going strong! I sat in the scrubby area for an hour and listened, and although I heard BLACKCAPS, CHIFFCHAFF,WHITETHROAT, LESSER WHITETHROAT, CUCKOO (non stop) as well as the female making the wierd bubbling call, there was no Nightingale, not looking good for this species on my patch this year, but I suppose its quite early yet. Also singing was a TURTLE DOVE the first time I have heard the ''purring'' this year, as well as a myriad of resident species all joining the ''Evening Chorus''

Kestrel Over Migrant Alley

Saturday 26 April 2008

It was the first warm morning of the year - no winter coat or hat needed today, the sun was out and the wind, early on at least, was light. Spring migrants were in evidence, 3 more COMMON WHITE THROATS were found, one on the golf course hedgerow, one in ashes lane and one in cuckoo lane. Another LESSER WHITETHROAT sang, this one was in the scrubby area by the lake, and I was within a whisker of photographing it (Steve!) I didn't find the Turtle Doves, or hear a Nightingale, but a WILLOW WARBLER was singing, the same place as it has been for a week now, perhaps it will attract a mate and stay. Just two gulls flew over both HERRING GULL. At migrant alley A WHEATEAR was in the drilled maize filled, a new species for this April, and two BLACKCAPS sang in the college grounds. On the last part of my walk, just as I neared home a CUCKOO called from the lake area. A total of 43 species was a bit disappointing, considering the new arrivals on the list.

A check of the nest boxes found most of the blue tits sitting on clutches, one wasn't sitting and it had 12 eggs in. The Great Tit had 8 eggs in.
It seems the MISTLE THRUSH nesting above the front door lost the young )-: A shame they were so close to fledging. However I did see one of the adults in my back garden, collecting material for another nest. Only the second time I have recorded a Mistle Thrush in the garden.

A Male Blackcap was in fine song at the college
A Chiffchaff was showing itself well

Displaying , not sure whether its agitation or attracting a mate!

Ther are lots of Linnets around at the moment, quite a good sign for this declining farmland bird

I found this orchid in the wet woods, not sure what kind, Common Spotted of Early Purple ?

The sun brought out a few butterflies, this small White was on cow parsley

Friday 25 April 2008

I said in yesterdays post ''The next new migrant species won't be seen until the weekend'' How wrong was I ?
I walked into work this morning and heard a COMMON WHITETHROAT (80) It briefly sang from a small piece of hedge, dividing Migrant alley and the sports pitch at hadlow College, all this excitement while a CUCKOO called from over the lake area, set me nicely up for a mornings work.
On the way home I didn't locate the Whitethroat, but another visit after lunch paid off when I found it again in the same hedge. the ploughed field was being drilled with maize seed, so I moved off to the lake area via the tree nursery As I passed the hedgerow along the nursery boundary another whitethroat sang, an excellent afternoons work! Once at the scrubby area, by the lakes I sat and listened as usual, but still no Nightingale, will they return to breed this year I wonder? After 30mins I gave up, but I just thought I give the treetops and telephone cables a quick scan, and I'm glad I did, there on the cables sat a pair of TURTLE DOVES (81).Two days later than last years first date, but only a day later than the six year mean. Two new migrants in one day, brilliant!

Pair Of Turtle Doves - Managed to dodge the barrage of hunters guns over the med.
Hopefully they will be joined by more later.

This Yellowhammer was on the fence at migrant alley

Now a scarce bird here.

As is the LINNET, this was on the fence at the opposite side of the field

Tjis Speckled Wood butterfly was at the Scrubby area. The first chance I've had to photo one.

Thursday 24 April 2008

A second LESSER WHITETHROAT was heard calling this afternoon as I walked home from work, it was along the streamside brambles behind the college. No new migrants were seen on the way in this morning, but there was a GREY WAGTAIL on the stream, where it meets the Tonbridge road.
This afternoons visit to the scrub area was not conducive to finding singing Nightingales, due to a bloody great thunder shower. It thundered and rained for an hour, but some hardy SONGTHRUSH were still giving their best, as did a couple of BLACKBIRDS. A Kestrel flew over while I was sheltering, and a couple of HERRING GULLS, but nothing exciting, so I watched the lightning for a while.
A quick look over migrant alley only produced 2 LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLS, a pair of LINNETS, and 4 SWALLOWS.
I don't think my afternoon visits are as productive as my morning rounds, so it will probably be the weekend before I get the next migrant species.
This Nuthatch posed for a photo, just before the thunder came

Wednesday 23 April 2008

The hoped for Whitethroat didn't call or appear this morning, in fact it was quiet all round as I walked across the fields to work. On the way home, they sky was a uniform grey, making it easy to pick out any flyovers, if they had flown over, which they did not! After refreshments at home, I went off out, again to the Scrubby area by the lakes. I only had 90 mins so I spent it all listening to the songsters :- BLACKCAP, CHIFFCHAFF, WILLLOW WARBLER and a flyover SWALLOW were the only spring visitors heard. The sun broke through, and it became warm, raising the hopes for a bit of Nightingale song, or the Whitethroats speedily delivered notes, but no, not today, how disappointing. I suppose the presence of a pair of displaying SPARROWHAWKS low over the area, didn't help much! I did manage to get a pic. of my first GRASSNAKE though.

As I neared home I saw the MISTLE THRUSH fly up to its nest above my front door, it wont be long now before the young ones fledge.

Here's my first ever Grass snake pic. Cute or what ?
The Bluebells in the wet woods are now just about at thier best

Grey Heron - saw me coming, as usual.

One of the displaying Sparrowhawks over head at the scrub area. Why do they always follow me around ?

Tuesday 22 April 2008

After work this afternoon, I carried on my quest to hear the Nightingale or maybe find a Common or lesser Whitethroat. The Nightingale only really occurr in the scrubby wood next to the lake area, thier mean arrival date for the last 6 springs is the 20th Apr. but the latest arrival date was on the 23rd Apr. in 2005. As I didn't hear one today they can be officially described as late (for my patch!) Common Whitethroats can turn up in any odd bits of hedge or srub, but only 2 - 3 pairs stay to breed, one traditional area has been destroyed, so it will be even harder to find one this spring. Their mean arrival date is also the 20th Apr. and the latest spring arrival date was also 23rd Apr in 2005. (They are late on my patch this year as well!) As for the LESSER WHITETHROAT (79), bingo! I heard the first of the year, rattling away in the small scrubby headland at the noth end of migrant alley. Now this species is the second earliest recorded, 9 days later than last years earliest record, the mean arrival date for lesser Whitethroat is the 25th Apr. The latest spring arrival date was the 30th Apr again in 2005 - That year is suggested by my data as being a late spring (albeit only 6years data).

Also seen today was the springs first ORANGE TIP and SPECKLED WOOD butterflies. They didn't stop for a photo though.

Pied Wagtail

Yesterdays excitement at migrant alley was not reproduced today, the field was being Harrowed. But the were 4 LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLS, and 5 HERRING GULLS feeding, along with what I thought was 6-10 PIED WAGTAILS, however when a SPARROWHAWK came over the field low and mean at least 30 Pied Wags flew up and saw it off.!

Another Pied Wagtail...........................One of the hero's to see off the Sparrowhawk!

Monday 21 April 2008

It was rainy, cold, and windy this morning, as befits my first day back at work after my holiday, so I got a lift in!!
On the way home at 13:00 I kept an eye on the sky for swifts, or maybe a Hobby but it was not to be. Across migrant alley I looked out for migrants but also drew a blank. After I had got home and had a bite to eat I set out for the scrubby area next to the lakes, to listen for Nightingale or see a Whitethroat, but despite an Hour and a half, nothing! I was feeling a bit dispondent and the wind was getting up again, making it feel distinctly chilly. I decided to call it a day............but something nagged at me to go over to migrant alley once more, as i did the wind blew stronger and I pulled up my collar, and I had second thoughts, a cup of tea seemed a better idea. I carried on reluctantly, but as I entered the ploughed field something caught my eye, a grey blob in the field, I looked through my bins! a WHIMBREL 78, the second thing I did was take some dodgy pics!! Stangely I felt a lot warmer now, and elated at findind such a rare visitor to my patch (only had one before, flying over in May 2006) I sat and watched it for half an hour or so, then left it feeding. A great boost to my morale and a lesson for me not to give up looking to soon.

Whimbrel on the plough
Bird of the year for me so far

Dodgy pics but its going in my gallery

I took this one on my knees, got plastered in mud!!!

Sunday 20 April 2008

At last the weather conditions are on the turn, although overcast and cool at 06:00 this morning, the wind had dropped, and by the end of my walk at 11:00am the sun was trying to break through. The CUCKOO was heard again as I walked along the golf course hedgerow, it called from the lakeside scrub. This was the area that I had hoped to hear the Nightingale, but although I spent an hour listening, none sang. It wasn't a complete loss, as a WILLOW WARBLER and a couple of BLACKCAPS did manage to brighten the gloom, and the CHIFFCHAFFS were in good form again.

At migrant alley there were 14 LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLS and 3 HERRING GULLS, and at least 3 SKYLARKS sang. A new species for the year flew over the buildings at the college - 2 HOUSE MARTINS (77) and the walk back across migrant alley produced a MEADOW PIPIT, maybe the last until autumn, also a KESTREL and SPARROWHAWK were hunting over the fields. Another 2 House Martins flew across the ploughed field and the SWALLOWS were back in force with at least 10 seen. I may go out again this afternoon to check for Nightingales .

I checked the nest boxes this morning, and found, out of the 7 boxes, 6 had BLUE TITS in, with 11,5,13, and 8 eggs in, another was sitting, so I didn't disturb her, and the last had a nest but no eggs. The 7th box had a GREAT TIT nest containing 4 eggs. Photo's are difficult, as the boxes are shoulder hight, but I may be able to get some later.

The Hawthorn is just about to flower, I think the scent of this tree is great, some people think it smells of cat pee!
A male Linnet, singing at his songpost

Kestrel Hunting over Migrant Alley

This is the building that the House Martins nest on every year. Over the winter it has had the roof replaced and the soffits are now replaced with plastic ones, will the House martins be able to fix thier mud nests to it ? Will the scaffolding come down in time anyway ? This is the only place on my patch that these migrants nest regularly, it would be a shame to lose them.

Saturday 19 April 2008

I woke up at 6:00am this morning, looked out the window and saw the dire weather conditions and made the decision to return to my bed! A rare victory for the weather. However, I did venture out around 8:30 when it had improved slightly. An hour and a half around migrant alley was akin to the month of February birdwise. Seems the birds had done the same as me and stayed at roost, only a group of 15 HERRING GULLS and 4 LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLS, were on the sheep pasture and 3 SKYLARK were on the ploughed field. Just one CHIFFCHAFF gave a short burst of song from the small headland at the north end of migrant alley.
Another 90 minute outing to the same area around 13:30 was even less productive, just 2 male MALLARD came in onto the ploughed field!
Much of the day was spent watching the garden feeders, 17 species made the most of what was on offer, sunflower hearts, peanuts and soaked bread. The JACKDAWS and MAGPIES that came in were seen off by Mr MISTLE THRUSH as was a SPARROWHAWK, not before it took one of the GOLFINCH though. A WREN that came in was a welcome sight, not one of the usual species, and a pair of BULLFINCH were tantalisingly near to the garden, sitting in an apple tree in the nieghbours garden. Lets hope tomorrow the weather relents somewhat, and I can find some spring migrants.

Friday 18 April 2008

Today didn't disappoint weatherwise. It was grey and cold, with a biting NE wind. Very few spring visitors were seen, just 1 SWALLOW, a pair of BLACKCAPS and 3 singing CHIFFCHAFFS. At migrant alley there were 20 HERRING GULLS , 3 LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLS, and a pair of SKYLARKS feeding on the newly ploughed field - but that was it! The best birds of the day were a pair of GREY WAGTAILS that were on the stream behind the college. A reasonable total of 44 species was recorded, about average for an April day.
In my garden I noticed the first fledgeling ROBIN being fed by its parents, but there was little else going on.
The Robins nest I found last week was visited again, and the hen bird was sitting tight on at least 2 eggs.
Mr and Mrs MISTLE THRUSH continue to defy the odds, and are bring in beakfuls of worms and slugs, I expect the young to fledge late next week, I wonder how many they have ?

Photo opportunities were again limited today, but these two were being very helpful !

Thursday 17 April 2008

On some spring days, you leave the house and the sun is shining, the insects are buzzing, and a light, warm, southerly wind carries the sound of birdsong - you just know something good is going to turn up. Well today was nothing like that, in fact it was the opposite - apart from a bit of sun, there was a cold easterly wind, relentlesly blowing, making it impossible to hear much. The walk to and from work was uneventful, as was a two hour walk round after dinner. I got so fed up with the wind I came home and sorted out the garden feeders! The only birds of note were a pair of MUTE SWANS that were on one of the lakes. I have got tomorrow off, so it I hope it gets a bit better, looking at the weather forecast it doesn't bode well!

Photo opportunities were scarce, but this Herring Gull obliged

I found this Snakes head fritillary blooming in the garden - I planted at least a dozen, but this is the only one that flowered.

Also in bloom was this Pasque flower - with a Hover fly on is center.

At least the birds put on a bit of a show at the feeders. You can always rely on a Greenfinch!

Wednesday 16 April 2008

Not much to note on my way in to work this am, a few HERRING GULLS and LESSER BLACK BACK GULLS were at the college sports field, and a WILLOW WARBLER sang in the grounds. In the afternoon I went and watched the tractor finish ploughing the field at migrant alley, hoping for a migrant Wheatear, but none showed, just 20 or so PIED WAGTAILS and a couple of SKYLARKS, I wonder if they had nested in the field? As I sat and waited I saw a KESTREL hovering above, then another joined it a bit further away, as I watched it hover I caught sight of a COMMON BUZZARD going over, nice one Kestrel and Buzzard. It got even better when a few minutes later all the corvids and Wagtails went crazy! I scanned the sky and found a PEREGRINE FALCON! It came in low swooping at the ROOKS and JACKDAWS, calling - Kek Kek Kek - as it did so. I dont think it was seriously hunting, more like a bit of practice. Three raptors in one day is pretty good going on my patch, but a fourth appeared ! A SPARROWHAWK flew acroos my garden later in the afternoon. Now where's that Hobby !

I caught this fox napping in the wet woods- it took me 10mins to creeping up on him!
I couldn't get any closer as there was an expanse of water between him and me

Peregine, great record for my patch

chasing the corvids

It was around for a few minutes causing havoc.

off it went into the blue......................

...............................and back again

ploughing at migrant alley