Friday 31 October 2008

Another month slips past, and the final walk round my patch didn't produce any great surprises. A KINGFISHER was seen at the lake, along with just 2 MALLARDS and a GREY HERON. There were 4 different parties of LONG TAILED TITS, on various parts of my patch, totalling 40+ birds, never seen so many! There were fewer birds at migrant alley, but one of the REEDBUNTING was still present, and a SPARROWHAWK again went over, along the stream behind the college, SISKIN fed in virtually every alder, along a 50m stretch. Winter thrushes were in evidence with the odd REDWING popping up here and there, and a flock of 33 went over, it was the same with FIELDFARE, ones and two's on my patch, but with small parties going over. 43 species were recorded on todays walk, with two more added from the garden later in the day, COAL and MARSH TIT.
So the final results for October were very pleasing, a patch tick, and the 100th species for the year reached, also an October record set, with 68 species recorded, easily beating last years previous high of 64, which I thought would be difficult to beat. The 7 year average for October is now 60 species, and the total species seen for all Octobers combined is 79.

If you look carefully at the above photo, you can see the sky is actually reflected in a puddle.

Yet another SPARROWHAWK, terrorising Migrant Alley!

Thursday 30 October 2008

Last weekend I said sunday would be my last full walk round my patch this month, I forgot however that i'm off work today and tomorrow, so tomorrow will be the last full walk of the month - Anyway, It was chucking it down early this morning, so I didn't get out till 07:30, there was no sign of yeaterday's Harrier - Which after much deliberating I have decided, was in fact a MARSH HARRIER (100, 119), A patch tick to bring up the 100 for the year, couldn't have asked for better! 119 now for the patch, is really a good total.
Back to this morning, and the center of attention (as is mostly the case) was Migrant Alley, the stubbles and hedgerows were full of birds, the majority were the usual MEADOW PIPITS, PIED WAGTAILS,LINNETS, and SKYLARKS, together totalling more than 100 birds, easily. Also with them were a couple of REED BUNTING. BLUE and GREAT TITS were in the hedgerow, with a single REDWING, and a couple of SONG THRUSH, with at least 10 BLACKBIRD, 4 DUNNOCK and the first flock of FIELDFARE to come down and start on the Hawthorn berries, about 40 birds in all. More Redwing and Fieldfare went over, in small groups of up to 30. Also seen flying over was a group of 9 LAPWING, and a few minutes later 9 CANADA GEESE, both new species for the month, another new species for the month was COMMON GULL, two of which fed on the college sports pitch.
Along the stream behind the college was a flock of 60 min. SISKIN, with at least 8 GOLDFINCH amongst them, on the way back home, as I went through the small areas of habitat round the greenhouse complex, I came across 16 LONG TAILED TITS with 5 GOLDCREST associating with them, I scanned the latter for a Firecrest, but not this time !
I did try to get some pictures, but the light is so poor now, they weren't worth posting.

Wednesday 29 October 2008

At last!! Hooray!! Today was the day! Finally, in this, the 7th year of trying, I have reached 100 species in a single year. Each year I have spent more hours in the field, and this year I have been out every day (so far!). Given that the habitat is fairly limited on my patch, especially when it comes to a decent bit of water, I think I can give myself a large glass of Red to celebrate.
But.......the 100th species is still in a bit of a quandry. A Harrier (100) flew over Migrant Alley this afternoon, I only had about 20secs, to look and photo it. It was silhouetted against the sky, at about 150m away, A crow was chasing it ever higher and even further away, as it travelled from the South to the North-East. By it's size, and it's flight action I would go for a Hen Harrier, but i've sent out some pics to see what others think. Anyway a Harrier it is and that makes 100...... YES!!

Below are 4 pics (yes they are bad, but it's all I could do!) of the harrier, 3 with a crow to compare size. Anyone want to throw in an opinion, Hen or Marsh ?

Other birds of note today were a flock of around 50 FIELDFARE, some of which alighted on the sports pitch at the college, i've only had flyover singles up till now. A CORMORANT was fishing at the lake, as I arrived it flew up into a tree and joined a GREY HERON.

Tuesday 28 October 2008

A cracking morning, a light frost but dead calm and a blue sky. The walk to work across migrant alley, was very picturesque, WOODPIGEONS continued to fly over, high up heading southwards, a stream of HERRING, and BLACK HEADED GULLS flew across, and into a field just off my patch, whilst at the college a party of 11 LONG TAILED TITS were busy, whilst a GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER looked on from a silver birch.
Looking at the feeders whilst eating lunch, I noticed a lot more activity, especially from BLUE and GREAT TITS, but in the few minutes I was watching, COAL TIT, NUTHATCH, Great Spotted Woodpecker, JAY, MAGPIE, JACKDAW, Woodpigeon and of course the SPARROWHAWK all showed up. Once out on my patch some nice birds were seen, At least one SISKIN was in some alders by the lake, where 2 CORMORANTS were again fishing. Two REDPOLL flew over the tree nursery,the BARN OWL was at home, and the PEREGRINE flew over Migrant Alley, putting up hundreds of birds, PIPITS, WAGTAILS, SKYLARKS, LINNETS, ROOKS, Jackdaws the lot! As I sat at migrant alley, a LITTLE OWL was calling behind me, from a small copse, just off patch. Now the days are shortening, the walk seemed over in a flash.

Above is whats left of a wasps nest. It was probably dug up by a badger. Below are some of the wasps.
The Barn Owl was just visible in the gloom.

And this Fox trotted across 40m or so in front of me, despite my best ''dying rabbit'' noise it didn't stop!

Below are some of the Rooks that flew up after the Peregrine went through. If you enlarge the pic you can see them better. I couldn't get them all in the frame!

Monday 27 October 2008

Now the clocks have gone back, I get the light back on the walk into work, much more civilized! This morning the sky was full of birds, dominated by WOOD PIGEONS all going south, two REDWING flocks went west, about 30 birds in each flock, and small parties, of 3-4 birds, of SKYLARK were also going west, but some dropped down into the maize stubble, 3 PHEASANT called loudly as they too dropped into the stubble. As I walked through the college grounds COAL TIT and GOLDCREST called and a MISTLE THRUSH was singing.
The flip side of the clocks going back is the afternoons get shorter, so I'll have to eat my lunch a bit quicker! Saying that, as I ate my sandwich, I was watching the feeders and had a MARSH TIT on the sunflower hearts, a JAY picking up the dropped bits, and a GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER on the peanuts, a great little threesome.
Once out, I walked to the lake via the wet woods, the small holding just before the wet woods had a feeding flock of around 5 GOLDCREST, BLUE and GREAT TITS and a TREECREEPER, all in a hawthorne hedge. The woods held a few CHAFFINCH, which I scanned for Brambling, but none were seen. The lake was empty, someone must have got there before me, but a small flock of HERRING GULLS flew low over. I made my way over to Migrant Alley, stopping off to see if the Barn Owl was in, but it wasn't. A hours watching at migrant alley, and I saw feeding in the stubbles, 30-40 LINNET, maybe half a dozen MEADOW PIPIT, 16 SKYLARK and an impressive 62 PIED WAGTAIL. Also seen, going over, were SPARROWHAWK, BLACK HEADED GULL, more HERRING GULLS, a CORMORANT and a KESTREL which stopped of to hunt.

Above. A ROBIN, sometimes they just pose!
ABOVE. A Blue Tit, one of the feeding flock seen at the smallholding.

The 3 photo's above are of the Kestrel that was hunting over Migrant Alley

Above. Is the flock of Herring Gull going over the lake area, and below is a group of Linnets, over the stubbles.

Sunday 26 October 2008

It couldn't have been more different, weatherwise, this morning. A strong SW wind blew, and rain was blowing across the fields, looking like smoke as it blew. Needless to say it was not good for finding birds! It took half an hour to find 10 species, one of them was the BARN OWL in it's shack. Two GREY WAGTAILS flew across the maize stubbles, where there seemed to be fewer LINNETS and MEADOW PIPITS, but more PIED WAGTAILS and WOODPIGEONS. SKYLARKS flew over SW, almost continually, whilst I was out, also going over were 3 flocks of REDWING, numbering 20 - 25 in each flock and just one FIELDFARE went over. A couple of GREY HERONS flew from the wet ditch, along with 4 MALLARD.
The setaside field at the other end of Ashes Lane had attracted a mixed flock of REED BUNTING and YELLOWHAMMER, just 4 of the latter and 3 of the former, but hopefully many more will be attracted by the food supply. The only other birds of note were 3 CORMORANT on the lake, and a quite large group of LONG TAILED TITS in the tree nursery. 42 species were recorded this morning, but the likes of Great spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Treecreeper and Bullfinch wern't seen, but the first two did come into the garden later, along with both the MARSH TITS - nice.

Saturday 25 October 2008

The morning was frosty, and foggy with no wind, and the birds were not easy to find first thing. Things did slowly improve however, and the usual species were eventually added to the days list. The highlight was a PEREGRINE that flew over, the first time I've seen it this month, also of note was a pair of REED BUNTING and two YELLOWHAMMER, all in a setaside field that lies just off the NW end of Ashes Lane. A CORMORANT, GREY HERON and a KINGFISHER were at the lake, and a large mixed feeding flock were in the wet woods, TREECREEPER, NUTHATCH and GOLDCREST followed along with the Tits. The BARN OWL was in residence, and Migrant Alley had it's usual LINNET, WAGTAIL and PIPIT flock. A small flock of around 20 SISKIN fed in alders along the stream behind the college, and a flyover REDPOLL was heard. At the end of the walk a respectable total of 45 species was seen.
Only one full visit of the patch left this month (but tomorrows weather look unpromising) I have reached 64 species , which is the best October species total, equal to last October. All I need is that Canada Goose, a species that I have never failed to record in any month, in any year!

Above, the sun trying to rise over Migrant Alley. Below is a CORMORANT flying over

Friday 24 October 2008

I decided on a mug of tea, and a sit at the bedroom window to watch the garden this afternoon, as very little was flushed up when I walked across Migrant Alley on the way home from work. I restocked the feeders, and threw a couple of hundred peanuts on the lawn, which a couple of JAYS took just an hour to pick up and stash away for the winter. Its great to see these birds back in the garden after an absence of 5 years, the fact that all the local Oak trees have failed to produce any acorns this year is probably the driving factor for their return. The usual Tits and Finch's were coming and going, and the SPARROWHAWK came in low and fast 3 times, but left empty handed, it's well practiced runs are aimed at the place the feeders were before I moved them, so I have outwitted it for the time being. A single DUNNOCK scurried mouse-like under the shrubs and up to 7 COLLARED DOVES picked up spilt sunflower hearts, just 2 HOUSE SPARROWS came in late on, for a pre-roost snack, but no Blackbird or Starling came to feed. A pair of GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKERS fed on the peanuts, whilst a GOLDCREST flitted around the shrubs - nice to see in the garden. In total 16 species came into the garden and 10 were seen going over, or in the vacinity, a little disappointing.
A commotion outside the house, at just gone midnight last night woke me up, screams and wails and yelps, I jumped out of bed - half asleep, and rolled down the window- Tawny Owl perhaps ? No, it was just a fox, not even close, i'm still listening - even in my sleep!

Above: Two Jays, great to have them back. Below is the one that was rung, back in June 2005. You can seen it's ring if you enlarge the photo.
The first pic below is of the Male Great Spotted Woodpecker and the bottom is of a Male Great Tit.

Thursday 23 October 2008

Heavy cloud scudded by in the strong wind this afternoon, not the best conditions for finding birds. The best of what I did find, was a GREY WAGTAIL, feeding on the now diminishing manure heap at Migrant Alley, with it, was it's much plainer relative the PIED WAGTAIL. Smaller numbers of LINNETS were in the stubbles, just 30 - 35, and half a dozen MEADOW PIPITS were along side them.
The wet woods were empty of birds, except for a GOLDCREST and many MOORHENS, whilst the lake had only 2 CORMORANTS fishing on it. As I walked back through the nursery, I chatted to one of the workers, it seems half the fields will be finished with next year, which will mean a change of habitat, for better or worse I wonder? A dispute over a boundary fence that separates two of the fields, means that a tree has to be cut down to make way for the agreed new fenceline, unfortunately I have a Little Owl box in it! The nursery manager kindly informed me of the work, and the box will be put into the next tree along.
A quick hour long garden birdwatch to end the day, provided a nice photo opportunity of a Jay, on a less pleasant note, the SPARROWHAWK came speeding in, snatched a greenfinch from the feeder and flew off with it. I've now moved all the feeders to a more sheltered area.

Above is the Jay, and below a Magpie. Both crows, with the same habits that crows are know for, namely stealing eggs and nestlings. unfortunately, the Magpie gets all the bad press as its plumage is not nearly so spectacular, (to some?) and is less shy than the Jay.

Wednesday 22 October 2008

Whats this the rear end of ?

Another calm and sunny afternoon, but still not much to report from my patch, I had hoped to see some winter thrushes, but the weekends birds seem to have passed straight by. At the lake a CORMORANT was fishing, and MOORHENS were plenty. The wet woods had an increase in Moorhens, and there was also a LONG TAILED TIT flock feeding there, with the usual mixture of Tits, and GOLDCREST tagging along. A LESSER BLACK BACKED GULL flew over as I crossed the tree nursery, where another Long Tailed Tit flock was feeding. I made my way to the Maize stubbles at migrant alley, where the LINNNETS were still feeding up, accompanied by their ever present MEADOW PIPIT and PIED WAGTAIL chums. I met some guys at the greenhouse complex, the owner and foreman, it was a pleasant change to meet farmers who wanted to know about the wildlife and not have the ''Get off my Land'' attitude!

Below is the front end of the above bird - a LONG TAILED TIT

below is another linnet photo, it's all there is at the moment!

Tuesday 21 October 2008

Despite the weather being much brighter today, the birding was much the same as yesterday. A walk over to the lake area was wasted, as the groundsman of one of the large gardens there, was using a chainsaw. A work party was in the tree nursery - as it will be all winter now, so I really only had Migrant Alley, and it's attendent LINNET, MEADOW PIPIT, SKYLARKS and PIED WAGTAILS to look over. A SPARROWHAWK seemed to turn up everywhere I went, so that didn't help matters, and a KESTREL was also over the stubbles, being harrassed by the corvids. So nothing much exciting happening, a usual October day.
It was this date last year that I started my blog, the year seems to have whizzed by. I hope all the people out there who read this diary get some inspiration from it! Thanks to all who visit anyway, and thanks for all the comments I get that I don't always get round to answering. I hope you'll stay with me for another year of ups and downs at pittswood!

Above. Another sparrowhawk, I seemed to meet up with it all afternoon!
Below are some of the Linnets from the stubbles

Monday 20 October 2008

A strong wind, and spits of rain greeted me as I left work this afternoon, and it only got worse, as the light faded, and the rain got heavier. I contemplated staying in and watching the garden, but with the persistent sparrowhawk attacks, it's pretty much a waste of time, long gone are the days of 30-40 Goldfinch and up to 70 Greenfinch fighting over the sunflower hearts!
In the end I grabbed my scope and bins, put on some warm waterproof gear, and went up to Migrant Alley. I squeezed up against the hedge for shelter and spent 90 mins watching the sky and fields. Alas, I didn't find the 100th species for the year, nor the one new species needed this month to equal the October record of 64. I watched the LINNET flock out in the Maize stubbles, and scanned it for something more exciting, I did the same for the smaller MEADOW PIPIT flock, but nothing showed up. There were half a dozen SKYLARK, that flew up and started trilling, a few seconds later 30 at least dropped out of the gloomy sky, and settled down in the stubble, the original half dozen birds must have heard the flock coming in.
The usual Corvid flock were their flighty selves, and the resident PIED WAGTAILS flew around the greenhouses, a few HERRIN GULLS flew over, but not much was happening today. By 16:00 I was heading back home for a deserved brew, I drank my tea whilst watching the feeders, and saw just GREAT and BLUE TITS in one's and two's, and they only stayed long enough to grab a seed and go.
Steve from asked me what I thought my 100th species would be for the year, well........I can only think of two real possibilities, - a Golden Plover, or more probable that Tawny Owl that I keep listening out for! Outside possibilities include Green Sandpiper, or maybe a duck species on the lake, a real outside bet would be a Firecrest. Of course I may see none of these and get left on 99 species as i did last year!!
No pics. today, the weather and light were just too rubbish

Sunday 19 October 2008

Not as good a day as yesterday, weather, or birdwise. It remained dull and cloudy for all of the 4 hour visit, WOODPIGEONS were still going south, albeit in smaller numbers than the past few days, and REDWINGS were going west, two groups of 30 or so went over. Flyovers also included HERRING and BLACK HEADED GULL, CORMORANT and another 2 LESSER REDPOLL.
A sizeable flock of SISKIN fed in Alders along the stream behind the college, first about 15 were seen, then a larger flock of at least 60. Migrant Alley had the usual LINNET flock, and around a dozen MEADOW PIPIT, as well as 2 YELLOWHAMMER and 4 STOCK DOVES, a species not seen yesterday, also not seen yesterday was TREECREEPER, one was with a flock of LONG TAILED, BLUE, GREAT and COAL TITS in the wet woods, associating with those, was at leat 4 GOLDCRESTS. The lake was back to it's quiet mode, but two sets of dog walkers had already walked past it by the time I got there. 44 species seen today was still a respectable total and 52 for the weekend was good, especially with a new species for the year, and 4 more for the month. The arrival of the Fieldfare yesterday was exactly the same date as last years first record, and the Snipe was the first seen since 23 Dec. last year, one of three single last year, so to see two yesterday was quite an event !

Above: BLACKBIRD and below, one of the YELLOWHAMMERS - poor light today, so not very good snaps!

Saturday 18 October 2008

I was out round my patch at first light this morning, and straight away I noticed again, the WOODPIGEONS southerly movement, groups of 12 to over 100 went over, some of the large groups were strung out across the blue sky. Also going over were 20+ SKYLARK, seen as I crossed the tree nursery, where there was no sign of the Barn owls. Walking up the hedgerow to Migrant Alley, I noticed another movement of birds overhead - this time a flock of 50+ REDWING. BLACK HEADED and HERRING GULLS streamed in, over my head, and went into a field just of my patch. At Migrant Alley, a KESTREL was over the stubbles, but little else was seen there, until I had come back from the college grounds, where COAL TIT and GOLDCREST were calling. Back at migrant alley, the 75+ LINNETS had returned, with half a dozen MEADOW PIPITS, as I walked through the north end of the fields a LESSER REDPOLL went over calling - typical, none for 18 months and then records on consecutive days! I walked up the wet ditch hoping to find a Snipe, but didn't, however, upon nearing the greenhouses I could here a REED BUNTING calling, I stopped and scanned the hedgerow and saw it fly further down the green houses, as I lowered my bins, and was just about to move on when, - what flew into view? two SNIPE (99) ! someone must have flushed them up from the greenhouses, now I think I can get that 100 total!! I was pleased just to get the first Reed Bunting of the month, which, when I located where it had flown to, I actually found a pair, excellent record, I don't often get this species.
I went over to the lake next and was rewarded with the first GREY LAG GOOSE record this month, 6 were on the water, as I was photographing them I heard a couple of SISKIN overhead. Just down from the lake, in one of the large gardens I saw a CHIFFCHAFF, and 3 BULLFINCH. Returning to the tree nursery, through the wet woods I came across a party of at least 10 Goldcrests noisely feeding high up in and oak tree, I have never seen so many of this species in such close proximity to each other, I scanned them well for a Firecrest, if it was there, it would have brought the 50 species mark up for the day, (and the magic 100 for the year!) what a fitting species to have a such a milestone set, but it wasn't to be, in fact the 50th species for the day went to the first FIELDFARE of the autumn, which flew NW over the greenhouses. A cracking mornings birding!

Above: Early morning over pittswood. Below some of the woodpigeon that flew high over
Below. The pair of Reed Bunting at the greenhouses.

Below. a cocky Robin

The first Grey lag Goose of the month on the lake.

Below is a photo of the direction the Redwing and Skylark flocks went in. (west) The nearest set of fenceposts, marks the wet ditch boundary of my patch.

Friday 17 October 2008

Although it was hardly light as I crossed Migrant Alley this morning, I could see high up, hundreds of WOODPIGEON all going over S/W. I remember this happening in previous years, sometimes they go over in groups of 100's , all across the sky, for hours, over a 3 -4 day period.
This afternoon I visited the Lake and wet woods again, but before I did I noticed the MARSH TIT in the garden, as I was eating lunch, I wasn't quick enough with my bins to see if it was the ringed one. At the lake it was pleasing to find something other than MALLARDS and MOORHENS, as there were two CORMORANT fishing there. The woods were devoid of any birdlife, but I did hear some SISKIN fly over. I walked across the tree nursery, and flushed up a couple of MEADOW PIPITS and the usual GREEN WOODPECKER, I checked the shack for Owls, but none were in today. ( I will put up a box for them). At migrant Alley the usual flock of LINNETS were their normal flighty selves, numbering around 75 birds, but the bird of the day was a flyover LESSER REDPOLL (98), at last! It flew right over the stubbles, giving it's distinctive call, and I watched it fly S/E until it disapeared. I missed out on this species last year, it would have given me the big 100 for the year, the last record was back on the 17th April 2006. surely I can find two more species this year? Will the missing Nightingale let me down, this, the only year I've not recorded one?
Nothing much else to report, a GOLDCREST was in the garden as I sat down to write this entry, a good species to have, and the 21st species to visit this month.

Above: One of the Cormorants fishing onthe lake, and below is what I think is a Fly agaric fungi. Greenie will let me know. :-)

Thursday 16 October 2008

The sun was out this afternoon, and a cool westerly wind blew. I took myself out for a 2hr visit round the patch, first a walk round the stubbles at migrant alley, where the birds were fewer than yesterday, just a couple of MEADOW PIPITS and a flock of 20 or so LINNNET. A flock of 200 ish, STARLINGS fed in one of the paddocks, and in the headland a small flock of 6-7 LONG TAILED TITS, with singles of BLUE and GREAT tit moved through the trees.
I then went to see if the BARN OWL was at roost, I peaked over the hedge, brought the inside of the shack into focus and wow! A pair of Barn Owls! Great stuff, maybe they will breed, I just hope the shack isn't knocked down, as has been threatened. I think i'll knock up a nest box and put it in some adjacent trees just in case.
On through the tree nursery, and a Comma butterfly gave a good chance for me to photo it, but few birds were about, just the odd JAY and a PHEASANT. At the lake area it was all quiet, apart from MOORHENS and MALLARDS, and in the wet woods the only bird of note was a pair of TREECREEPERS, an interesting walk though.

Above: Comma Butterfly
Above: Long Tailed Tit

Above: Treecreeper

Wednesday 15 October 2008

Whilst crossing migrant alley on the way home from work, I stopped for a while and noted what birds were around, there were the usual LINNETS, MEADOW PIPITS, and PIED WAGTAILS, and also a GREEN WOODPECKER on the fence line, right next to a YELLOWHAMMER, the colouring of the two species went well together, but it's not often you get to see them in the same place, as they have completely differing habits, and food requirements. I carried on and a few GOLDFINCH flew up, but it then started to rain. It carried on raining after my lunch, so I thought i'd stay in and watch the garden for a couple of hours.
It was mostly disappointing, mainly because of the SPARROWHAWK - 4 times I opened the window and flushed it from the leylandi tree - it's favourite hiding place. Just 14 species visited, (including the hawk) species such as Starling, Blackbird and Dunnock had the sense to stay away, but the COAL, BLUE and GREAT TITS were all doing a 'grab and go' on the feeders. GOLD, GREEN and CHAFFINCH braved the hawk for just a few moments, but were very nervous.
Outside the garden boundaries, another 10 species were seen, a flyover CORMORANT was of most interest, also 12 MALLARD sat and rested on the butile liner of the greenhouse reservoir, whilst a lone MISTLE THRUSH had me squinting through my bins, as it flew over - just thought it could have been the first Fieldfare of the Autumn, but alas no, but they will be here anyday now.
The weather looks better for tomorrow, so hopefully I get get out and add some species to the months list.

Here's some garden bird photo's, but the light was too poor really.

Above: Goldfinch feeding on sunflower hearts. and below a Great Tit just about to.

Can you see the Sparrowhawk hiding ? What a pest!

Oh! This is the same picture twice! It shows the black butile lined reservoir. It holds the rain water from the greenhouse rooves. There is a moorhen on the extreme middle right. One of these pics was meant to be of the view just above this photo. It shows all the autumn colour, but I cocked it up!