Thursday 31 July 2008

The last day of the month, and I was still in need of 3 new bird species just to match the record July total of 69, set last year. Grey Wagtail, Buzzard and Peregrine were all seen last month, but not this, and Willow Warblers bred on my patch for the first time this year, and should have been on the July list. So with these target species in mind, I set of to work.
It was very sticky and humid as I set off along Ashes Lane, and nothing was really showing itself, a couple of LINNETS on the telephone line above the hedgerow, and some SWALLOWS, 15 - 20 were over the nearby stable. Migrant alley had 28 ROOKS, 30 - 40 STARLINGS, around 20 or so PIED WAGTAILS and 4 HOUSE MARTINS. A GOLDCREST was singing in the college grounds, as were 2 COAL TITS, but none of the hoped for species were seen this morning.
A trip to the lake and the adjacent scrub this afternoon was hard work, it was so humid I was sweating just sitting in the shade! I thought I should have been rewarded by my efforts but no, only the sound of 2 ''purring'' TURTLE DOVES'' coming from the scrub, along with a family party of BULLFINCH'S and 1 BLACKCAP. I spent some time around the large buddlea bushes and found 4 Peacock, 3 Red Admiral, 2 Large White and a Green Veined White, with lots of Gatekeepers and Meadow Browns.
I moved on to Migrant alley via the tree nursery, while I walked through the latter, 12 CANADA GEESE flew over, a LESSER BLACK BACKED GULL and 3 HERRING GULLS did the same, and I had my first sighting of a COMMON WHITETHROAT since the 20th.
Once at Migrant Alley, I sat on my seat and watched for the Peregrine and maybe a Buzzard, alas neither showed, but a lone LAPWING went over, with large gaps in it's wings, obviously in moult. Swifts were seen in two groups of 4. A small passerine flew low past me and dropped deep into the Maize crop, it looked like a Sedge warbler, would of been a new species for the year, but I couldn't confirm its ID, and it didn't come back out! So I didn't get any new species for the month. 66 is still the second highest July total though, and the combined July total now stands at 83. The average number of species seen in july is 62.5.

Red Admiral on Buddlea
Large White on the same Buddlea.

Wednesday 30 July 2008

Another warm summers morning, and as I left for work a SPARROWHAWK led the way along Ashes lane, flying at hedgetop height for a while, before hopping over into the tree nursery. In the distance both SONGTHRUSH and YELLOWHAMMER sang again, and the now daily event of GREY LAG GEESE flew over, 36 in all - as I write this, 52 just flew in the opposite direction right over my house! Whilst crossing Migrant Alley there were a group of HOUSE MARTINS feeding over the manure heap, and with them a single SAND MARTIN. As I passed the stables and machine shops at the college, there were a dozen SWALLOWS perched on the side of a pre-fabricated building, I watched and saw that they were picking of insects.
This afternoon was hot again, so I left it until 18:00 until going out. I spent a pleasant couple of hours walking across to the college grounds, via the tree nursery and Migrant Alley. I was pleased when I came aross a KINGFISHER at the small pool at the edge of the nursery. It flew up, and alighted in some bushes, I fired of a few shots but they came out a blue and orange blur! Then it was gone............ one day!! i walked up the hedgerow that leads from the pool to Migrant Alley and again saw the Yellowhammer, singing loudly, it must have sung all day. A group of 10 LINNETS were drinking and bathing in the puddle fed by the leaking water trough at migrant alley, and nearby 4 GOLDFINCH fed on the seeding thistleheads.
Quite a few common birds were in the college grounds, a GREY HERON flew up off one of the ponds, a family party of CHIFFCHAFF fed together, as did a family of LONG TAILED TITS, but there was no sigh of the Flycatchers or the young.

Above and below: Goldfinch feeding on thistle seeds - thats why it shouldn't be cut down!!

Above: One of the long Tailed Tits at the College grounds.

On the way back home, I noticed these 100 or so STARLINGS on the power lines that cross Migrant alley

View from the sports pitch at the college, looking NW

Tuesday 29 July 2008

After a period of heavy overnight rain, I thought there may be a chance of a migrant or two at migrant alley this morning. I left a bit earlier for work and gave the fields and maize crop a good scan, but no migrants were found. I did here a SONGTHRUSH, and a YELLOWHAMMER singing loudly, as I walked along Ashes Lane though, and 14 GREY LAG GEESE flew south as I was looking over the Maize.
This afternoon I took a walk through the tree nursery, where a stack of canes had been left for me to mark any nests I may find, thus saving them from over zealous strimming. I think they will be more use next spring, but it is a step in the right direction. A few Meadow Brown butterflies and Gatekeepers were on the wing here, but the strengthening wind wasn't helping. I didn't find a single bird in the nursery, well, apart from two GREEN WOODPECKERS. On to Migrant alley for a second search, but I fared no better here, just ROOKS, PIED WAGTAILS and a couple of LINNETS. I sat on my skywatching seat and watched for over an hour, but all I saw were HERRING GULLS.

Last night I watched from my window across the fields to migrant alley, but the only thing of note were two LITTLE OWLS on the fence posts.

An update on sundays ringing session - We caught a BLACKCAP, which we had originally caught on the 10th Aug. 2005, It was also caught on the 2nd July 2006 ! Just think of the miles this bird has put in two and from the continent.
We also re-trapped a DUNNOCK that we originally ringed on 18 of June 2006, it was also caught on the 31st July 2007. Nice to see it surviving!!

I got home and did some garden watching, plenty of BLUE and GREAT TITS. Also this cheeky Squirrel eating my expensive Sunflower hearts!
A Juv. GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER was preferring to take Cob Nuts from the cob tree, it flew up into the large leylandii, wedged the nut in a tree fork and hammered it open. All that, there's plenty of peanuts in the feeder!

Elderberries are starting to ripen, more food for migrant warblers. Elder trees are a good place to find birds when the tree is heavy with fruit.

Birds were hard enough to find this afternoon, and I could have done without this thing flying in to the local pub, obviously not his local or he could have walked !! Bloody noisey!

Monday 28 July 2008

Hot! Thats what it was today, even at 7:00am when I left for work, the sun was very warm. A few birds were about early on, YELLOWHAMMER singing in Ashes Lane, as were LINNETS. PIED WAGTAILS, were on the paddocks and around the maize crop, but no sign of Saturdays Whinchat. Two LESSER BLACKBACK GULLS flew over, one NW the other S.
I spent 2 hours this afternoon, checking the tree nursery, and Migrant alley for any new arrival of migrants, but it was so hot barely anything was seen at all. The only birds that seemed imune to the hot sun were the numerous Pied Wagtails, again around the paddocks. Butterflies were represented mainly by the Gatekeepers, but there were a few Meadow Browns about.
Later tonight I may go out again, or at least watch the sky over Migrant alley from my bedroom window.

Above: The poor old sheep at migrant alley trying to keep cool at the water trough.

Above: Most of today's butterflies were Gatekeepers

This ''ginger'' caterpillar was crossing the road. Anyone know what it is ?

Sunday 27 July 2008

Abit of a change today. I went to help my local bird ringer at our nearby ringing site. We got there at 5am, and caught 28 birds in 6 hrs. I thought I'd put some pics on my blog for you to see, most of the birds are in various stages of moult, and so are less than at their best, but they are still great to look at!

One of this springs WRENS

Apologies to anyone seeing this pic. earlier today. I labelled it incorrectly as a Garden Warbler. It is in fact a NIGHTINGALE. It was in heavy moult, and was missing most of it's tail and primary feathers, it wouldn't thank me for taking it's pic. in this state!

A Juv. GOLDFINCH. I'll get its red face, and lose it's spots later in the autumn


This CHIFFCHAFF was in a bit of a state, due to it moulting it's feathers.

Saturday 26 July 2008

A still, and humid morning turned hot and uncomfortable, ok conditions fo birding though. Forty eight species were seen, a good tally for the end of July. A KINGFISHER was at the Lake area, as was a GREY HERON, but just one MALLARD was on the Lake, with a few MOORHEN. Adjacent the lake, in the scrub area, at least 2 TURTLE DOVES purred, a COAL TIT called, and a BLACKCAP sang. The wet woods were quiet, as they generally are this time of year, but as I came out, and into the small holding, I saw 2 LITTLE OWLS fly across my path, and up into an oak, where they were lost from view.
The Juv. Cuckoo wasn't relocated atthe tree nursery, but there were LINNET, and YELLOWHAMMER singing there. A SPARROWHAWK flew over with it's prey gripped in its talons, just as I was entering Migrant Alley, which produced it's first Autumn migrant of the year, a WHINCHAT (91). Fantastic! Another new species for the year. It was sitting 50m out in the maize crop, and wouldn't come any nearer for me to get a decent photo, so i just gave it my best effort - which was rubbish. bouyed by a new species, I moved off along behind the college, and along the stream, all quiet here, I then crossed the stream and went into the college grounds, where I found a SPOTTED FLYCATCHER feeding at least two young, confirmation at last they have bred successfully this year. I only saw one SWIFT all morning, have all the local birds moved south already ? I'll have to remember to start making a note now of every Swift sighting, to get the last date.
A good mornings work, the Whinchat is my earliest ever Autumn record for this species, and the first one recorded in any July.

A Juv. BLACKBIRD, (probably male) was making the most of the overflowing water trough
Above and below. Female Blackcap. It was eating the berries of a geulder rose. I must get one of these bushes for my garden.

Above and below, the Juv. Spotted Flycatchers

OH! and that photo of the Whinchat, possibly the worst pic. I've put on my blog! But it's the only Whinchat photo i've got, so it's the best!

Friday 25 July 2008

The walk into work and back again was the only chance I got to visit my patch today. I was busy early this afternoon, and later went down to help the local bird ringer clear the ringing site ready for a ringing seasion on sunday morning.
It was still a profitable, early morning walk in though, as a LITTLE EGRET flew over Migrant Alley, and onwards over the College, a good addition to the months list, and the first one ever recorded in any July. I have seen a Little Egret in every month this year now, bar January, It could well be the same bird going to and fro!
Up early tomorrow for a full walk round my patch, lets hope for an early Autumn migrant!

Thursday 24 July 2008

Below: A little owl was sitting on a neighbours tv antenna (cant spell aeriael !!) as I wrote this post.

After the excitement of finding a Juv. Cuckoo and a small copper earlier this afternoon, I decided to finish the walk I abandoned earlier. I left at 18;45 and went back round Migrant Alley. I walked up the the Maize crop, where a dozen or so PIED WAGTAILS flew out, but thats all there was on that side. A BLACKHEADED GULL and two HERRING GULLS flew west as I made my way to the north end of the field, and the scrub headland. Here a CHIFFCHAFF gave it's autumn Hooeet call, and a Songthrush flew from a low bush, giving an alarm call suggesting it had flown from a nest. Not much else was heard, and it would have been quite tranquill had it not been for the yapping dogs heard from different quarters.
As I went down the other side of the maize, a KESTREL flew slowly over, bringing out half a dozen anxious SWALLOWS from the stables close by at the college, as I watched it go over, a SPARROWHAWK came low into the stable area, and in doing so brought about a much more vigorous response from the SWALLOWS - at least 25 came out shouting their alarm call. I walked on and found the leaking water trough was leaking again, great for the ROOKS which were all taking turns in bathing in the now replenished puddle. Another gull went over, it was probably a Common Gull, but it wasn't sufficiently seen to be counted, pity, it would of been a new species for the month. I left migrant alley, and got onto Ashes lane, heading back home. LINNETS, and HOUSE SPARROWS were out in force, and as I passed the greenhouse complex a SONGTHRUSH and YELLOWHAMMER were singing from cover there. They made a better sound than the music coming from the migrant workers temporary accommadation, situated in the middle of the complex! As I neared my house, 22 GREY LAG GEESE flew over, then 16, then 2. These would have been the geese I saw this morning going off to feed somewhere, now coming in to their roost.
A pleasant evening walk, but I need to go out even later at some point to get Tawny Owl on this years patch list, can't believe i've not seen or heard one yet!
Whats this ? Read on!

This mornings walk in was bliss, cool clean air, and a just warming up sun, shame I had to go to work! On the way, 42 GREY LAG GEESE flew over in formation, a common, and overlooked species, but still spectacular as they go low over. A YELLOWHAMMER sang in the distance, SWALLOWS were on the power cables Above migrant alley, and lots of PIED WAGTAILS fed in the paddocks, mostly Juv. birds.
This afternoons walk was hot, the temperature was almost 30C. I set out at 13.45, not expecting much, but thought there may be a few butterflies about. I was pleasantly surprised when I found a Small Copper Butterfly, in the tree nursery, only the second one found on my patch, in 7 years of surveying. I was well chuffed with that. While firing off a few pics of it, I could here the incessant calls of a young bird in an oak tree, it was a few minutes before the penny dropped, and I realised it was a CUCKOO ! The first this month, not surprising, as I have only recorded Cuckoo's in two other july's, 2004 and 2006. They were adults though, this is the first ''just from the nest'' Cuckoo i've found. I waited under the tree for some minutes trying to see it, and it wasn't until a DUNNOCK arrived with a beak full of insects for it, that I saw it. The Dunnock was probably the 'host' parent, but when young Cuckoo's call for food, passing birds may well feed them.
I wanted to get a shot of the Dunnock feeding the Cuckoo chick, but the foilage in the tree was too thick and the wind too strong, I took some pics and didn't overstay.
I walked on, past the small pool, nothing much there, and along the hedgerow leading to migrant alley, two GOLDFINCH were feeding on thistles there. At migrant alley I could really feel the heat! A few dozen ROOKS were around the puddle that was left by the leaky water trough, (now fixed) but little else was about. After a circuit of the fields, I was flagging, it was too hot. At 15:00 I decided, I would come out again this evening, and so I trudged of home.
I'll report later on this evenings walk.

Above and below only my second small copper record on my patch.

Below are a couple more shots of the juv. Cuckoo, not great, it was dark under the oak, and the wind was blowing me, and the tree about!

Wednesday 23 July 2008

Today I recieved on email in the from the local tree nursery that features on this blog. They were not pleased with the negative publicity that I was giving them. I published their email on this blog earlier this afternoon, but have since deleted it after ringing the boss and coming to some arrangements over the habitat on the fields they rent.
After discussing the issue's of birds nests being destroyed, we have come to the arrangement that, I will check any bramble patches for nests and place a marker beside it. While removal of bramble/scrub will be put back, as far as possible in the year, to allow birds to finish the season.
This all will have to be agreed with the land owners. So lets hope it all works out.


I walked through the tree nursery this afternoon, work had stopped, and all was quiet. I went on to the small pool of water adjacent the the nursery, and found some darters mating, I couldn't decide whether they were common or Ruddy. Common I think!
I walked up the hedgerow, taking me onto Migrant alley, again all was quiet, the sun was hot, and, I was pleased when it went in behind the clouds occasionally. A water trough was overflowing, and birds were making the most of the water, LINNETS, HOUSE SPARROWS, a stream of ROOKS 10 at a time! and a lone YELLOWHAMMER all had their fill. No sign of any migrant species comming through yet, but over head the was a trickle of BLACKHEADED and HERRING GULLS, all going SW.

A Yellowhammer waiting for it's turn at the water trough.

Speckled wood butterfly, this one looks new.

Common Darters, (?) mating on the wing.

Female having a rest!

male having a rest!

Tuesday 22 July 2008

A lovely warm summers morning (not often I've said that this year!) Lots of SWALLOWS accompanied my walk to work, some over Ashes Lane, on the Lines, more on the Greenhouse complex and scores around the paddocks at Migrant Alley, where I watched 7 GREY LAG GEESE go over, so low I could here their primary wing feathers whistling.
This afternoon I walked over to the lake and scrub area, via the tree nursery.

I was only 30m down ashes lane when I came upon this unfortunate scene above. A grass snake, with its rear third run over, it was writhing in pain. This was a superb specimen, more than a meter long. I picked it up and put it in the hedge.

Above is a Male Ruddy Darter, and below is the female (I think!) Greenie will tell me it's an Imm. Male, if it is indeed a Ruddy darter at all! ;-). These were seen at the small pool adjacent to the tree nursery.

I arrived at the lake area and noticed that some of the blackberries had started to ripen, good food for the Migrant warblers to fatten up on for their long trip south later.

One of the large gardens, between the lake and scrub area had this male BULLFINCH feeding on the ground. Mosura, if your reading this I took the pic. for you. Not a good one but it was a long way off!

Below are some of the Butterflies that were on the Buddlea that grow around the outbuildings at the lakeside.
I think this may be a Green Viened White ? let me know all you Butterfly men.

This Red Admiral didn't want to open it's wings, it just kept on drinking that nectar!

This Peacock was a bit more obliging though.

As I waited for buterflies to come to the Buddlea, I could here a family of WRENS in some dense scrub. I just got a shot of this recently fledged one
On my way back to the tree nursery I found this Jay's wing feather. Such a beautiful run of blues.

Shock and awe! They're at it agian, not content with strimming and mowing the the low vegetation, it's now go in with the heavy stuff. I watched this bulldozer destroy the lines of bramble, Nests, eggs, chicks - the lot! I couldn't watch anymore after watching and hearing the pityful scolding calls of a BLACKBIRD, obviously trying in vain to save it's young.
I had a word with one of the workers, I know they are only doing what they are asked. he sympathised with my rantings, and said he would have a word with his boss. I asked him to show his boss the Wildlife and countryside act 1981, the bit about it being illeagle to deliberately interfere with wildbirds at thier nests. It could all be done later in the season.

As I neared home again I checked up on the Grass snake. It was dead, and it seems in its final agony, it had bitten into itself. Such a sad end. I could rant on and do my ''grumpy old man'' bit here, bloody speeding, uncaring, motorists, using the counry lanes like race tracks........blah, blah!
finally, just outside my house (eyeing up my feeders no doubt !) was this SPARROWHAWK, soaring against the blue.