Tuesday 30 September 2008

The last walk into work of the month, and only one sighting of note was made - a STONECHAT! This one was on the fenceline along ashes lane, just 20m from Migrant Alley. I wonder if it was yesterdays bird, if it was, it did a good job of hiding from me all yesterday afternoon.
This afternoon I got soaked coming home, but I needed just one more new species for the month to beat the highest ever monthly total of 71. I put my wet coat back on...yuk, and went off out to the Maize Stubbles, and it threw it down! I pushed myself tight into the hedge, and watched the sky. A HOBBY came over, chased some MEADOW PIPITS, and then headed off south. I waited for another half hour, getting wetter, but had amusement watching the LINNETS, PIED WAGTAILS and Meadow Pipits chasing each other about. Another few minutes passed and my enthusiasm was waning, but then a big gull came in, distant at first, looking like a heron, but as it came over I could see it was a GREAT BLACK BACK GULL - 72 for the month! another milestone for my patch. Well worth getting wet for!

Above: Great Black backed Gull.

As it's been such a good Sept. for migrants on my patch, I thought i'd put up some dates for the scarce migrants that visited. This has, without doubt, been the best Autumn passage I've had here in Pittswood.

HOBBY- seen on 11 days, with a peak of 2 on three of those days.

OSPREY- seen on 3 days (One of those by another bird watcher)

SAND MARTIN - seen on 3 days, with a peak of 6 on the 9th

YELLOW WAGTAIL- seen on 18 days, with a peak of 6 on the 19th. Also 4 on the 8th & 20th

REDSTART - one on the 24th

WHINCHAT - seen on 11 days, with a peak of 3 on the 18th. Also 2 on the 17th & 19th

WHEATEAR - seen on 6 days, with a peak of 3 on the 8th & 12th

STONECHAT - seen on 4 days

SEDGE WARBLER - one on the 13th

Monday 29 September 2008

As I left for work this morning I heard SISKINS flying overhead, I scanned the sky and saw 5 flying north, a nice start to the day. The day got better when, I found a STONECHAT at Migrant Alley, it just popped up on a fencepost in front of me, I don't know who surprised who the most!
Good and bad news this afternoon. Good news, an Osprey was seen flying low over Migrant Alley at around 10:15 (thanks Dave) - Bad news I was at work. Grrrrrr.... Oh well, I did get to see a couple earlier in the month.
I spent 3 hours out at migrant alley this afternoon, but the Stonechat had gone, as had yesterday's Whinchat. The LINNETS, (around 100) and MEADOW PIPITS were all feeding in the stubbles, joined by 20 or so PIED WAGTAILS and a handfull of GOLDFINCH'S. Frequent attacks on the flocks by SPARROWHAWK, a male and female, kept the birds on their toes, also a KESTREL had them all flying up. LESSER BLACK BACKED, HERRING, and BLACK HEADED GULL flew over, all going to a field that was being ploughed, off my patch, and the usual corvid flock were about, sometimes flying up on mass, as if a large bird of prey had upset them, but none was seen. A small froup of SWALLOWS went over, as did a small group of HOUSE MARTINS, the only other summer vistor seen was a CHIFFCHAFF.

Above and below : This rather smart DUNNOCK gave me some great photo opportunities.

Below a ROOK flying over, one of a flock numbering 60 - 80 birds

Sunday 28 September 2008

A fantastic day to be out and about, it was sunny right from the off. The last full walk of the month started at 07:00 and finished just over 5 hours later, with a total of 43 species seen, a little disappointing for the time spent out, normally easy birds like Bullfinch and Long tailed Tit were not seen, and there were no flyover House Martins, or Kestrel. The only Warblers seen were the CHIFFCHAFF.
On the upside, the WHINCHAT was still at Migrant Alley, and 2 YELLOW WAGTAILS flew from the watery ditch along the nothern border. Just 3 SWALLOWS were seen, and there was a noticeable increase in SONGTHRUSH numbers, some going over, and some busy feeding on the plentiful berries. The birds of the day for me though, were the two MUTE SWANS that flew over, i've not recorded this species since May, and their addition to the months list brings it to a total of 71, the joint best ever monthly total along with April 2006, and the April just gone. With two days of the month still left I could reach an all time record,with the most likely species to be found a Kingfisher.

This ROBIN was singing loudly in the hedge between the greenhouses and Maize stubbles.
Below: Flitting between the hedge that had the Robin in, and the greenhouses, was a Whinchat, probably the same one as seen yesterday

Below: The two Mute Swans that flew over.

Saturday 27 September 2008

It was qiute chilly, with a light mist early this morning, and the birds were hard to find. I was surprised to hear at least 4 CHIFFCHAFFS still singing, those and the ROBINS were the only birds to do so. JAYS were making themselves obvious as they collected acorns for the the winter, all the oak trees I looked at seemed to have a really poor crop on them. NUTHATCH and and TREECREEPER were heard at the golf course, but the lake area was again empty, as was the wet woods. A SPARROWHAWK flew from the tree nursery, where there were a few SONGTHRUSH in the Laurel shrubs, with two MISTLE THRUSH and a small flock of LONG TAILED TITS. Migrant alley again provided most of the days highlights, still plenty of LINNET and MEADOW PIPIT and a WHINCHAT was on the fenceline. At least 6 SKYLARK flew up from the stubbles, and as I watched them a group of Meadow Pipits flew up, with them was a YELLOW WAGTAIL. I carried on with my walk and found a feeding flock of birds along the stream, they were in 3 large elms and included 2 BLACKCAPS, and 3 Chiffchaff. A KESTREL was perched up in a fir tree at the college grounds, and a few GOLDCREST were calling. Only 3 SWALLOWS and 2 HOUSE MARTINS were seen in the skies, they are slowly but surley beginning to leave.
A total species count of 43 was a reasonable tally, but surprisingly I didn't find a Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Above: Chiffchaff
Above: A Whinchat, yes another one!

Above: A partially moulted WREN. It still has some re-growing to do around its head. As does this BLACKBIRD, below.

Friday 26 September 2008

Autumn migration continued on my patch this morning, as I left for work SISKINS could be heard going over, but they were too high up to see. A CHIFFCHAFF sang strongly at the college grounds, and a COAL TIT was calling loudly. On the way home, I saw that Migrant alley was full of MEADOW PIPITS (around 30 ) and LINNETS (around 100) all feeding in the Maize stubbles.
A quick bite to eat, and then I was out back at the stubbles, I walked up the most popular fenceline for 'chats' and wasn't disappointed, a WHINCHAT was atop a tall hedge that divides the stubble from the greenhouses, this is where the Redstart was. Another 50m on, and a STONECHAT was seen! Migrant Alley really has earned it's name this year! Overhead a dozen HOUSE MARTINS and 5 SWALLOWS passed through, the only raptor seen today was a KESTREL.
A look round the tree nursery produced a handsome male PHEASANT but nothing much else, although I did glimpse a ''Little Brown Job'' as it flew from the hedge and into a stand of Laurel shrubs, despite searching and waiting I didn't see it again, one that got away!

Above and below: Stonechat.
Below: Yet another Whinchat. This is now easily the best year for this species on my patch.

Below is the Handsome male Pheasant

This looks like a Common Darter. It may be an old Female?

Thursday 25 September 2008

There were still some good birds about today, this morning a YELLOW WAGTAIL flew over Migrant Alley, and whilst walking back home from work I found my first REED BUNTING of the Autumn, the first i've seen since the one I found in the golf course hedgerow back on new years day!
Back out again in the afternoon, a HOBBY flew over the Maize stubbles, as did SPARROWHAWK and KESTREL, each in turn putting up the MEADOW PIPITS, LINNETS and PIED WAGTAILS that were feeding below. It turned cloudy, and a chilly wind came up, so I took a walk around the tree nursery where I was surprised to see a WHINCHAT, only the second ever that has been recorded away from Migrant Alley, although the nursery is only seperated from it by a field and Ashes Lane. The Whinchat was the latest ever recorded on my patch, the previous latest date was the one I saw last week on the 20th, and another in 2006 on the same date. A few SWALLOWS and HOUSE MARTINS went south, and 4 CHIFFCHAFF were seen, but that was about it for today.

Above and below: Whinchat - the latest recorded to date.
Below is the watery ditch that runs along the Northern border of my patch. Its here I hope to find a Snipe or maybe a Green Sandpiper this winter, I think I will need one, if not both of these species if I am going to get 100 species for the year. Other possibilities are Redpoll and Golden Plover. The Tawny Owl frustratingly still eludes me, depite hanging out the window at night listening, and hoping one will call from the wet woods!

Wednesday 24 September 2008

Today was as exciting as yesterday was dull! As I crossed the Maize stubbles at Migrant Alley at 7am this morning I saw the first Lapwing since July. On the way home over the stubbles was a PEREGRINE, it was half - heartedly chasing a JACKDAW. As I came to the edge of the field a YELLOW WAGTAIL flew over, and alighted in the stubbles.
After lunch I went back out to the stubbles and was immediately rewarded with a HOBBY, and a few moments later a SPARROWHAWK. I decided to walk up the hedgerow/fenceline that had held the Whinchats and stonechat last week, and WOW! a REDSTART (96), either a female or first winter bird, it gave me 3 short views then disappeared into a tall hedge bordering the greenhouses. This is just the 4th record of Redstart for my patch, the last was in Sept. 2006. I sat on the horse jump, and watched and waited, two KESTRELS came in and hovered over the fields for a while, the 4th raptor i'd seen, and it may well have been 5 if the small bird of prey chasing MEADOW PIPITS had been seen for more than a second or two, allowing it's ID to be had, I think it may well have been a Merlin, but I had insufficient views of it. Two more Lapwing came over, floated around for a while and then settled into the stubble, it may have been the same two from this morning. Also seen over the fields were the LINNETS with the Meadow Pipits, and 5 HOUSE MARTIN. A much better day!

The pics below are pretty poor, the light was awful. Top : a Hobby. Middle a Lapwing and bottom a Kestrel from the back.

Tuesday 23 September 2008

It was one of Those days today. Nothing much of of note at all! A few MEADOW PIPITS, LINNETS and PIED WAGTAILS at Migrant alley early this morning, and again as I walked back from work. An afternoon walk to the Lake provided little interest, just 2 MALLARD on the water, with a GOLDCREST calling from a conifer. A GREAT TIT was seen in the wet woods, and a GREEN WOODPECKER flew from the tree nursery with 2 more Meadow pipits. Another visit to Migrant Alley, revealed nothing but a few HOUSE MARTIN going south. Yep, it was a struggle today, even the dingy light prevented any photo's!!
After all the exciting migrants i've been seeing, I suppose it had to end sometime. saying that though, looking back at my ''last record'' dates for Wheatear, Yellow Wagtail and Stonechat it shows me that I could still be in for a late migrant. The last date for Wheatear is the 23 Oct, for Stonechat the 29th Oct, and Yellow Wag the 19th Oct. Then there's the winter visitors to look forward to, Fieldfares and Redwings have arrived as early as the 10th and 4th of Oct repectively. With the wind in the east and north east all this week, it will help thier arrival, bring 'em on!

Monday 22 September 2008

The most obvious birds today were the MEADOW PIPITS at Migrant Alley. There were at least 50 flushed up from the maize stubbles as I walked into work, they had been joined by 30-40 LINNETS by the time I walked back home.
This afternoon I was going to go to the lake area, but I could hear chainsaws coming from over that direction, so it was the usual trip round the maize stubbles, and paddocks at Migrant Alley. I spent a couple of hours wandering the fencelines and fields, but there were no passage migrants about, well, only the Meadow Pipits, but they are only what I call ''Local'' migrants. In the end I sat and waited and watched. Both KESTREL and SPARROWHAWK thought that a Pipit would make a good snack, but both failed. The latter made several attempts at the STARLING flock as well (some 250 birds) sending up all the Pipits, Linnets,ROOKS, JACKDAWS and CROWS, there were birds everywhere! A HOBBY came through twice, and joined in the chase but fared no better. Other birds seen around were GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKERS, JAYS, just 1 CHIFFCHAFF and a couple of Gull species, HERRING and LESSER BLACK BACK.

Above and below: A Hobby over chasing Meadow Pipits over the Maize stubble

Sunday 21 September 2008

A cool misty morning greeted me as I set of on my patch walk today. As yesterday, it was pretty quiet, just the usual common species going on the list. Once I got to the golf course hedgerow it became evident that a few new CHIFFCHAFFS had arrived, there were at least 4 along it, with two singing, a theme that ran right through my walk today. In all there were at least half a dozen singing Chiffchaffs with 23 more seen or calling.
The lake and scrub were empty again, just a few MALLARD and MOORHEN, but as I headed into the wet woods I heard the explosive ''pitchoo'' call of a Marsh Tit, it came from high up in the tree's, but I suspect it may have been a GREAT TIT mimicking the Marsh Tit, so I didn't put it on the list. Last year I had a Marsh Tit on sept 1st, it stayed until late spring, If it was a Marsh Tit I heard I may catch up with it again later. Once out of the woods I saw a LITTLE OWL fly up into an Oak, but that was about it for the first half of the walk.
The second bit of the walk was in warm sunshine, the BARN OWL was again at it's roost - awake and preening, and a little futher up the hedgerow two Moorhen were feeding on the Blackberries, ive not seen that before! At migrant alley there were fewer birds around, no Whinchat or Wheatear, but two YELLOW WAGTAIL flew over, and there were still some MEADOW PIPITS and LINNETS around, best of all though was a sighting of the first SISKIN of the Autumn, 4 flew over calling as they went. Just 3 SWALLOWS and 2 HOUSE MARTINS were overhead along with HERRING GULLS and a couple of BLACK HEADED GULLS. That was about it for the walk really, apart from a GREY WAGTAIL on the greenhouses, it was an immature bird, bathing in the sunshine.

Moorhen eating the Blackberries
Imm. Grey WAGTAIL on the greenhouses

Herring Gull over Mig. Alley

Saturday 20 September 2008

It was a slow start to the day, only 30 species were recorded whilst walking the first half of my patch. The lake was completely devoid of birds, and the surrounding scrub wasn't much better, although I did see a nice fresh male BLACKCAP.
After a quick drink and a snack, I went out on the farmland part of my walk, it was still quiet, a MEADOW PIPIT flew over the greenhouses and into Migrant Alley, as did a couple of LINNETS. I walked through the tree nursery, and flushed up the usual GREEN WOODPECKER, but little else was seen here. Along the hedgerow that leads onto Migrant Alley, the fruit was hanging copiously, but nothing was feeding on it. I was able to peer over the hedge and see that the BARN OWL was at it's roost, it still gives me a thrill to think I've got a Barn Owl on my patch!
On to Migrant Alley, and I straight away saw that there was an increase in the Linnet/Meadow Pipit flock, it had grow to 60-70 strong. I looked at the far fenceline for the Stonechat, no luck today, but there was a WHINCHAT. I thought I'd finish the rest of the walk before scanning the fields, and as I walked along the stream behind the college I picked up GREY HERON and a GREY WAGTAIL, the latter is the first this month. I crossed the stream and walked through the grounds and gardens of the college and came across a feeding flock of some 10 or so LONG TAILED TITS, with them were 2 GOLDCREST and at least 3 CHIFFCHAFF. I made my way up to the north end of migrant alley, through the Scrubby wood, and then, along the boundary with the watery ditch, I found another WHEATEAR here, which gave good photo opportunities. I then crossed the field back to the Maize stubbles and paddocks for a better look at the Whinchat and for some skywatching, which produced SPARROWHAWK, KESTREL and HERRING GULL.
At 14:00 I went back out for a quick session at Migrant Alley again, and added 2 HOBBIES and two BUZZARDS to the list, also I found the same, or possibly a different Wheatear. I studied the Buzzards for some time as they sparred with each other overhead, but I could't make a case for either of them being Honey Buzzards.

Below. Two Common Buzzards ''Sparring''

The same two going over

The next two photo's are of a single Buzzard I saw a few minutes before the ones above. It has got some Honey buzzard features - Long Neck, but not much else.

Below is a Long Tailed Tit, part of the flock in the College gardens

This Goldcrest was with the Long Tailed Tits

Here's the Wheatear Below

The next bird is a MEADOW PIPIT

Finally, a pic. of the Green woodpecker as I flushed it from the tree nursery

Friday 19 September 2008

There was more excitement at Migrant Alley today. After having seen a YELLOW WAGTAIL fly over early this morning, I was eager to finish work and get back round the fields. At 13:15 I was there and a quick scan of the fence opposite me, some 100m away I could pick out three small birds on the posts. I slowly walked up and viewed them every 10m or so, they eventually were viewed close enough to ID 2 WHINCHAT, and a STONECHAT (95) Hurrah I've found one at last! It's always a good feeling to get a new species for the year.
I walked home for lunch and my camera, and was back by 14:00. I quickly found the ''chats'' but it was difficult getting close enough for a pic. now the Maize gives me no cover. I spent the next 2 and a half hours scouring the sky, paddocks and stubbles. The latter was full of LINNET, and MEADOW PIPIT a mixed flock of some 50 birds. Overhead a KESTREL was seen to dive down amongst them, sending everything up. Whilst I was scanning the rooftops of the stables, I noticed some large birds soaring in the distance - 2 BUZZARDS, they moved closer and I was able to see they were Common Buzzards, at one point 2 other smaller Raptors were seen in the same binocular view ! One was a probable SPARROWHAWK the other a probable HOBBY, but views were brief, and I was following the Buzzards more than those two.
Other flyovers included 2 CORMORANT, a few SWALLOWS and HOUSE MARTINS, as well as at least 6 more Yellow Wagtail, 3 singles and a trio. Quite an afternnon at Migrant Alley.
I looked back at my records for stonechat and they are few, much fewer then Whinchat. Stonechats have been recorded in 4 years out of the 7. see below.

2002 - 1 on 20th July

2006 - 1 on 28th & 29th Oct

2007 - One on 16th, 20th, and 30th Sept. and 1 on the 5th and 6th Oct. With 2 seen on the 7th

2008 - 1 Today!

Above: Stonechat.
Above Stonechat (Left) Whinchat (right). ''Avin a chat''

Thursday 18 September 2008

On the way home from work this afternoon, I arrived at migrant alley eager to find the WHEATEAR that I had seen at 07:00 this morning. However I saw that the Maize field was being harvested, and the last few runs of the harvester were taking place. I sat and watched the last bits of crop fall, and out came at least 6 CHIFFCHAFF, 10 MEADOW PIPIT, 8 LINNET, 3 WHINCHAT and a SKYLARK. It was hard to concentrate on anything for more than a few seconds, all the birds headed for the fenceline or the headland to the north of the fields.
I decided to rush home and get my Telescope and camera. On my return I soon found the 3 Whinchat, catching insects from the fence line, also a KESTREL hoverred nearby. A mixed flock of some 20-30 birds, Linnet and Meadow Pipit, fed in the stubbles and a few SWALLOWS and HOUSE MARTINS fed overhead. As I sat and waited, a SPARROWHAWK came through, and was promptly seen off by the ROOKS. A little later I had my first sighting of the PEREGRINE this month, it flew high over and alighted on the tower. Another good sighting was 3 YELLOW WAGTAILS that circled round, and went back north into another field off my patch.
Today may well be one of the last decent influx of Whinchat, Wheatear and Yellow Wagtail, but I do expect singles of the latter two species right into October. Who knows, i might even get that Stonechat Ive been trying for!

A Comma Butterfly was out in the sunshine. You can see the white ''Comma'' on its wing

Above and below: Whinchats

Below shows the fenceline that the Whinchats were in, and the maize stubbles. Also the scrub/wood headland, on the righthand side in the distance.

Wednesday 17 September 2008

A walk round the tree nursery, and Migrant Alley this afternoon was very quiet. I was struggling to find anything significant, even the SWALLOWS (just 1) and HOUSE MARTINS (just 6) had deserted my patch! I contented myself with watching the LINNET and GOLDFINCH in the paddocks, while also keeping an eye in the sky for one of them Honey Buzzards that everyone keeps seeing! After a final scan of the fence posts and Maize crop, for Wheatear or Whinchat came up negative, I decided to make my way round the north end of Migrant alley and through the scrubby wood. A small piece of action at last with the sighting of a LESSER WHITETHROAT, also a male BULLFINCH with a well developed young one. I made my way down to the greenhouse complex, and was going to go up the lane for home, but I made myself go and have another look round the Tree nursery, despite my legs getting hot and weary! However, halfway across the field my tired feet were dancing again, for low in the sky, coming from the direction of the wet woods and Lake (where it may have been feeding) came an OSPREY!! the second this month! 7 years I've waited for an unlikely sighting of this impressive raptor, then I get two in less than a month, absolutely brilliant. This second bird came much lower and I got some acceptable photo's of it.

Below are some of the pics:

Tuesday 16 September 2008

There were a couple of passage migrants at Migrant Alley this afternoon - SAND MARTINS. They were in a flock of some 75 - 100 mixed SWALLOWS and HOUSE MARTINS which were attracted down to the cropping of the maize just to the south of my patch, looks like the field in migrant alley will be cropped in the next few days, leaving a stubble to attract a different array of birds.
Another migrant YELLOW WAGTAIL was seen feeding on the sports pitch at the college, along with 15 PIED WAGTAILS. The thistles and dandelion seed heads attracted GOLDFINCH and LINNET, while another paddock held over 200 STARLING. Two SKYLARKS were flushed from the Maize, as was a single MEADOW PIPIT. A half hour skywatch only produced the odd HERRING GULL and a CORMORANT. A little later 8 MISTLE THRUSH alighted on one of the power pylons - only briefly though, before carrying on north. CHIFFCHAFFS were calling in almost all of the hedgerows, but nothing more exciting than that.

Above: One of the many Chiffchaff I heard today.
Above: Goldfinch's blending in well with thistles and dandelion.

The black smudge across the field, above is a flock of over 200 Starlings.

Monday 15 September 2008

It was quite cool this morning as I walked to work, and not many birds were about first thing. Most of the SWALLOWS seem to have left, I didn't notice much gathering on wires this year. By the time I reached the college grounds things picked up slightly, with TREECREEPER, GOLDCREST and CHIFFCHAFF in song, and a NUTHATCH calling.
This afternoon I did the usual walk round the tree nursery and around Migrant Alley, only the common stuff was seen in the former, BLACKBIRDS, DUNNOCKS, WRENS, ROBINS and the like, all the time I was watching the sky for one of those migrant Honey Buzzards.
At Migrant Alley a YELLOW WAGTAIL flew over, and in the scrub/wood headland, a Blackcap showed itself, and a LESSER WHITETHROAT was seen, another one was seen later, in the blackberry tangle under one of the power pylons at the sports pitch. The only bird flushed from the maize crop was a YELLOWHAMMER, the first this month, a once common bird here, but it now seems to be declining. The LINNET flock has grown slightly, 45 were counted in one of the paddocks, with a dozen GOLDFINCH.

Things seem to be slowing down at the 'alley' , I didn't even get any photo's.!!

Sunday 14 September 2008

I spent the early hours of this morning out ringing, not a very successful trip, few birds were about, and we only ringed one Migrant - a Chiffchaff, it's still nice to see the birds up close though.
By 11;30 I was out at migrant alley, scanning the skies for Honey Buzzard. I was rewarded with sightings of HOBBY, KESTREL, SPARROWHAWK and a distant BUZZARD, but it was to far to say what kind. On the first circuit of the maize crop I found a WHINCHAT, while overhead MEADOW PIPITS continualy flew over, in one's and two's. More Skywatching found just HOUSE MARTIN, SWALLOWS and LINNETS all the regular stuff, so another trip round the Maize was called for, this time a YELLOW WAGTAIL was seen feeding in one if the paddocks. I came back via the Scrub/wood at the north end of migrant Alley and saw my first two LESSER WHITETHROATS of the month. by this time it was 14;45 and I decided to go and have my roast dinner, and refuel.
An hour later I was back out skywatching, I soon picked up a flock of rooks and focused in on them, they were mobbing a Buzzard, again I couldn't tell if it was a Honey Buzzard it was too far away, as I watched it another Buzzard came into view, but the pair moved ever higher and ever distant. A frustrating day! The wind was feeling pretty chilly by 17;45, and I felt I'd had my chance, so i headed off home, not before hearing another Yellow Wagtail go over though. I'll try again tomorrow.

Above and below Whinchat.
Below. Yellow Wagtail feeding in the horse paddock

Below a LINNET in the Maize crop.