Saturday 28 February 2009

It was back to the dull cloudy weather for the last february patch visit, but it was still and mild, which is good for birding. Although I didn't find any new species for the month or year, a steady count ended in a great total for the day of 50 species. The highlight being a MUTE SWAN, that had returned to the lake, which was relatively busy today. A pair of GREYLAG GEESE were there, six CANADA GEESE, 4 MALLARD and 7 MOORHEN (believe me that's quite busy!). In the wet woods all the sometimes hard to find woodland species were located, NUTHATCH, TREECREEPER, COAL TIT, LONGTAILED TIT and GOLDCREST, and just half a dozen SISKIN. Crossing the tree nursery, a male SPARROWHAWK flew fast and low, a Female was also seen later, at migrant alley, where a few FIELDFARE and REDWING were on the Maize stubbles, 20ish in all. Skylarks were singing above and the odd YELLOWHAMMER flew over, but there were more in the wildbird crop along ashes lane, with at least 14 REED BUNTINGS. The last species on the list was CORMORANT, a pair flew over heading north.
February ended with a species total of 67, a record count for February beating last years high of 63.Three species were new to any February, Ring necked parakeet, Woodcock and Red Legged Partridge. The year list is on 73 after two months, a good start, as only 83 species have been recorded in all the January's / February's combined. It's going to be interesting to see if I can reach 100 species before I did last year, if I do at all!

It was too dull for any patch pics this morning, but it brightened up a little in the afternoon, enough to get a pic. of this cock HOUSE SPARROW.

Below is a cock SISKIN, and it's partner below that.

The Big 'February garden Count' ended today, and was boosted by a couple of flyovers, a CORMORANT, and two GREYLAG GEESE flew over my house towards the lake area, giving a total of 46 species, more than I would have thought.

Friday 27 February 2009

Sunshine! Finally the sun came out over my patch, and what a pleasure it was, the afternoon became warm, and there was no need for hat, scarf or overcoat. I only had an hour to visit the small holding, wet woods and lake area, and was rewarded with a sighting of the 'sunbathing' LITTLE OWL, in it's favoured tree at the small holding. ( I know I said no more pics of it, but fellow bloggers disagreed!). Also at the small holding I saw that the first celandine flowers had come out. The first few steps into the wet woods, showed that it hadn't been disturbed for a while, a flock of around 15 CHAFFINCH were feeding on the woodland floor, and one or two SISKIN were taking a drink at the edge of the pools. GOLDCREST were singing, as was COAL TIT and TREECREEPER, and a loose flock of LONG TAILED TIT were threading their way through the dense tangle of trees. Over at the lake, I had the idea of finding a Goosander or Little Grebe, but as usual I was just dreaming, and had to be content with the MALLARD, MOORHEN and CANADA GEESE, but a nice male BULLFINCH was some consolation.
The reason for such a short visit today was that i had a meeting with the manager of the tree nursery at 3 o'clock. We were just running through what work was going to be done over the coming nesting season, and how disturbance could be cut to a minimum. She was very helpful, and this year, hopefully the birds will not be disturbed, or their habitat cut back too early. It transpired that one of the fields is going to be completely cleared of all remaining trees next week, as the lease has run out on that particular field, and the land has to go back to how it was - a grass field. I dont know what the owners have in store for this field, but my patch will have yet another habitat change, lets hope it's a positive one.

Above the 'Sunbathing' Little Owl, and below my first sighting of celandine flowers + hover fly, or is it a bee fly. (Greenie?)
I did have a very brief scan over migrant alley, which was made even breifer by two of these monsters flying noisily low over head. needless to say everything left!

Thursday 26 February 2009

It was a little brighter today, even some patches of blue sky appeared later on, just not in front of the sun! A trip over to the lake area found the Mute swans had left, there's not much for them to eat there so it's not surprising. The usual MALLARDS and MOORHENS were about though, and a pair of CANADA GEESE look to be in breeding mode, they somtimes breed on the small island on the lake. A pair of BULLFINCH were around the lakeside vegetation, they seem to have left the small winter groups, and are thinking of breeding. Only small numbers of 'winter' birds were seen, around 15 REDWING were in the small holding area, and 25 FIELDFARE at migrant alley. Around 20 SISKIN were in the wet woods, and one was on my garden feeders, seen as I was eating lunch. A sit at migrant alley was not very productive, ROOKS and JACKDAWS were on the spread manure, and a SKYLARK sang above them, 2 GREY HERON flew over, but that was it! Not one gull went over. Whilst I was there I noticed the markers had been put in across the stubble field, showing where the gas pipeline was going to go through, the hedges had been removed earlier in the week - a 50m swathe is going right through my beloved Migrant alley, will the migrants still visit the fields ? work starts in june I believe, so I'll have to wait and see.

Wednesday 25 February 2009

The dull anti-cyclonic gloom continued this afternoon, but it was brightened up by a pair of MUTE SWANS (73), one more for the year list! Yes I know it's another easy to see bird, easier maybe than the Coot, but not on my patch, such are the joys of local patch watching, where common birds can take on their own particular status. Last year Mute Swan was recorded on 8.3% of ''full visits'' and the Coot 7.4% ( 120 Full visits are made per year). This was a good year, but the frequency of sightings was only down to relatively long staying individuals!

Other sightings that brightened the day were - 4 different flocks of LONG TAILED TITS, the largest being in the wet woods, at the entrance from the small holding, with them were the GOLDCRESTS, COAL TITS, TREECREEPER, and a NUTHATCH. SISKINS also featured today, with the largest flock again in the wet woods, 20 -30 feeding in Alders, but also small groups seen in various places leading up to the lake area. Also on the lake were the usual MALLARD, and MOORHEN, but as I watched the Swans a pair of TEAL dropped in with a splash, and swam straight to the nearest cover.
Lots of work was going on in the tree nursery, but I have to go through it to get to Migrant alley, as walked through it the only bird seen was a lone GREEN WOODPECKER. Over at migrant alley, there was a gathering of JACKDAWS again, at least 70, and they were joined by 50 ROOKS and 6 STOCK DOVE. I took my usual seat on the horse jump, and watched the sky in the now ever gathering gloom, I got to see 3 GREY LAG GEESE flyover, and as I watched them disappear into the greyness, two dots were seen coming out of it, the dots grew bigger, and came ever closer, could be a new species for the year coming over I thought, but it soon became apparent they were CORMORANTS! Funny how from at least a kilometer out, they ended up coming straight over my head.

Above one of the Mute Swans, they were on different ponds, but grunted contact calls to each other, I don't suppose it was worth all that effort to get airborn just to hop the fence and be together!

Below are the two Cormorants that came in over my head, the pics show just how gloomy it was this afternoon!

Tuesday 24 February 2009

Well what a baron visit ! I did the usual 2 hour afternoon walk today, ashes lane, the small holding, wet woods, tree nursery and migrant alley, but the only thing of any note was a flyover CORMORANT, it flew over the lake, thought about alighting on the water, but flew off again! I spoke to a dog walker along the footpath that leads from the lake to the woods, and he described flushing up a brown bird, a bit smaller than a partridge, I told him it was probably a woodcock. At least he got to see something today! Migrant alley did have 77 JACKDAWS feeding on the manured maize stubbles, - yes I had nothing else to do but count Jackdaws, and where have all the Redwing and Fieldfare gone to, surely not gone north already ? Really, it was a poor afternoon. I didn't even take my camera, as the light was so bad. Oh, and the excitement from yesterday - The Coot, it's gone! No doubt the Oxon Hoath birder has Coot-knapped it back!! Lets hope things pick up soon.

Monday 23 February 2009

A new week, but the same lead grey skies! I nearly left the camera at home this afternoon, but when you do that something always turns up! Well something did turn up, a real rarity for my patch............a COOT (72), not a rare bird really, but on my patch it's a real find, just one, maybe two records a year if i'm lucky. On the lake with it, were 6 CANADA GEESE, and some very active MALLARDS (if you know what I mean ). The usual fare was to be had in the wet woods, GOLDCREST, MARSH,COAL,BLUE, GREAT, and LONG TAILED TIT, SISKIN and NUTHATCH. I took my normal walk over to Migrant Alley, just to sit and watch for half an hour or so, and observed 12 SKYLARK on the new spread manure, as well as 12 STOCK DOVE, a good number here for this species. Just one flyover species of note - a lone CORMORANT, the first since Feb. 11th.

Below is the much appreciated Coot, always a bit of a worry wether I will get one on the year list! It's not a very good pic. but I just wanted to show it off, being such a scarce visitor to my patch!

Sunday 22 February 2009

Above: The last species recorded today - A Treecreeper.

The sun still refused to shine today for the penultimate full walk round my patch for February. So photo's are again at a premium! All the species of bird that I could have expected showed up today, I had 20 species on the book in the time it took to walk the 200 yards to the tree nursery, mostly birds that were singing, SONG THRUSH, CHAFFINCH, ROBIN, DUNNOCK, COLLARED DOVE, WREN and the likes, but I also heard a WOODPIGEON in full ''coo'' , their song always reminds me of big horse chestnut tree's in full flower on a sunny summers day. More of the common birds turned up in the tree nursery, MAGPIE, STARLING, BLUE and GREAT TIT, as well as the first few gull species to fly over, quite a few HERRING GULLS were heading west, along with a single LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLand 3 GREAT BLACK BACKED GULLS, the first this month. Migrant Alley had just a few FIELDFARE, around a dozen, with 5 REDWING, joining them on the maize stubbles were a couple of SKYLARK, and a MEADOW PIPIT. The Alder trees along the college stream were full of SISKIN, up to 60 were feeding, along with 7 LINNET. The college grounds and gardens produced a few more species, COAL TIT, MISTLE THRUSH, LONG TAILED TIT, BULLFINCH and a species not seen since the 8th Feb, a KINGFISHER. The REED BUNTING and YELLOWHAMMER flock at the wild bird crop, seems to have increased slightly, with around 75 birds in total, great to see! The last part of my walk through the Small holding, wet woods and lake area, was quieter, as can be expected by mid morning, but I still got a GREY HERON on the lake, and more Siskin in the woods, and a pair of TREECREEPERS gave me my only photo of the day, as I walked back through the small holding. A very good total of 51 species was recorded, it's not often i get to the 50+ mark.

News on the ''February Garden Bird Count'' . Two new species were added this afternoon, STOCK DOVE - 3 flew over the Greenhouse complex to the front of my house, and a long anticipated species, the LONG TAILED TIT, a pair were seen in the shrubs and tree's surrounding the greenhouses.

Saturday 21 February 2009

Although the afternoon gave some nice warm spells of sunshine, my mornings walk took place in dull conditions, as the sun remained stubbornly behind the the third of the sky that had cloud cover! Not a bad tally was had though, 49 species in all, and the 17th was a PEREGRINE that flew over the tree nursery carrying a large item of prey, this is the second time i've seen it carrying it's prey back to the tower at this time of morning. Also on the raptor front, a large female SPARROWHAWK and a KESTREL were both seen over the maize stubbles. FIELDFARE and REDWING were in short supply, with just a dozen of the former seen, perched in a large ash tree, with two of the latter. The hedgerow I walk along to get from the tree nursery to migrant alley, had two MEADOW PIPITS sitting on it, and as I checked them out, a GREY HERON flew low over. A look at the wildbird crop at the west end of ashes lane was a delight, as I stopped to count the flock, a tractor drove up the hedge lined side road, flushing all the birds from the hedge and crop, I initially thought about 10 YELLOWHAMMER and 15 REED BUNTING were there, but as the flock took to the sky I could see 60 birds easily, most of which were Reed Buntings, a really good count of the latter for an inland area. In the wet woods I encountered all those sometimes hard to find species that can often elude me, not often that happens, 5 Tit species, NUTHATCH, TREECREEPER, GOLDCREST, and SISKIN were all vocal. The lake area continues to disappoint, with just MALLARD and CANADA GOOSE present, and the MOORHENS chasing each other across the top of the water. It looks more and more like i'll have to wait until early next winter to get some duck species now, if any at all. ( including that darn Coot!).

As I walked up to my house the sun predictably broke through, and I snapped a pic. of GREENFINCH at the feeders in the back garden. (below)

Below is a Male CHAFFINCH. It was belting out it's song from one of the posts in the Raspberry cane area.
Below is the Female Sparrowhawk that was hunting for most of the morning

A quick venture out into the garden this afternoon produced my first Bumble bee of the year,
And a good show of Crocus

Friday 20 February 2009

The patch visit this morning was again done in dull damp conditions, and not much change from yesterday had occurred overnight. Again 45 species were recorded, but none new for the month or year list. The visit wasn't very inspiring, so i'll waffle on about my stats!!

It's getting near that time of year now when everything gets 'samey' the winter visitors are slowly leaving, (only a handful of REDWING and FIELDFARE were seen today, and just 2 SISKIN), and with another 3 or 4 weeks until the first spring migrants appear it gets difficult to find the inspiration to keep up the regular walks - but I'll find it from somewhwere! That's when all my personal challenges of trying to beat the daily or monthly record totals of previous years keeps me going.

I was looking back at my records for last year, to see how I was doing in comparison, being that 2008 holds the record species list 0f 106. At the end of February '08 I had a year list of 72, so I'm one behind, by the end of march I had only increased the total to 76, so I reckon I can keep pace - at least till then! Last year by the end of feb. I had seen 6 species that I have not recorded yet this year - Little Grebe, Little Egret, mute swan, mandarin Duck, Goosander and Coot, so there's hope of finding another new species for this february yet! However this year I have seen 9 species that hadn't appeared by this time last year - Red Legged partridge, Golden Plover, Common Snipe,Woodcock, Barn Owl, Tawny owl, Little Owl, Firecrest, and Lesser Redpoll, all of which were eventually seen, apart from the Woodcock. So maybe I'm a bit ahead ?

sorry there's no pics today, poor light and not much posing by birds is to blame!
Ten minutes after posting today, a Grey heron flew over my house, a new one for the Feb. Garden bird Count!

Thursday 19 February 2009

Thursdays walk was done in dull, damp and misty conditions, I didn't even bother taking my camera! However, that's what the morning had brought, so I had to except it. I had to visit the tree nursery first, before the work crew arrived, I found a REED BUNTING here, not very often I see them away from the wild bird crop, which is 200 yards away, as the Bunting flies. The Barn owl was still not to be found, maybe it's gone to breed elsewhere. The LINNETS were seen leaving their roost, and a PIED WAGTAIL flew over, whilst song was heard from MISTLE THRUSH, SONG THRUSH, DUNNOCK, WREN, ROBIN and CHAFFINCH. Next stop was the wet woods and the Lake area, GOLDCREST, NUTHATCH, TREECREEPER and SISKIN were all seen in the woods, but the highlight for the day was finding 5 GREYLAG GEESE on the lake, the species I needed to get the February species record, which is now 64. There were also the Usual MALLARDS and MOORHENS, also 7 CANADA GEESE but nothing more exciting was found. I walked back through the woods, and on to the small holding, hoping to see a Little Owl, but it wasn't home, I did find GREEN WOODPECKERS, REDWINGS, BULLFINCH'S and a fltover GREY HERON, heading for the lake. As I came out onto Ashes lane, I scanned the wild bird crop, and the adjacent hedgerow, and saw 10 each of YELLOWHAMMER and Reed Bunting, but there were undoubtedly more in the crop.
After a quick stop at my house for a drink and snack, I went over to Migrant alley and the College grounds, being a working day there was alot of people around by now, and sightings were limited to the common species, Tits and Finch's, a few bold Redwing and a flock of 50 ish FIELDFARE on the sheep pasture, a SPARROWHAWK went through and spooked them all up, so I headed off home. It was a worthwhile trip though, 45 species is above average for a feb. day, and the new record for february was pleasing to achieve.

After getting home and having lunch, i set to work in the garden for a couple of hours, pruning back the Buddlea, and taking out the leaf fall from my ponds, the weather had perked up by now, so I decided to retire to the back bedroom and watch the birds. I got my camera out so I could put something on my blog, even if it was only garden bird pics. But I was pleasantly surprised by a welcome winter visitor - a SISKIN, a new one for the 'February Bird Count' taking me past my target total of 40, good one to get. It brings the total number of birds to use my garden this month to 25.

Above and below: The male Siskin on the sunflowere feeder
This Robin was in full song when I snapped it, a bit grainy but I liked the pose !
This is one of two Nuthatch's that came in
below is a ''full house'' of GOLDFINCH and a single GREENFINCH
'' next is a GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER, the first one is the male (Red spot on the back of head)

Below is one of the many Greenfinch's that feed on the sunflower hearts

Wednesday 18 February 2009

I only had an hour or so this afternoon, so I only visited the small holding, wet woods and lake area. Although it was grey and dismal weather wise, ( no pics today) the LITTLE OWL was at his perch, half in, and half out of it's hole, in the surrounding area a small flock of REDWING and 2 BULLFINCH were seen, as well as the GREEN and GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKERS. In the wet woods it was a bit quieter than of late, not so much song was heard, but I did manage to disturb yet another WOODCOCK, the first I have ever seen on this part of my patch, also seen was a pair of TEAL which flew up from the water, and away. A feeding flock was located, which was mostly LONG TAILED TITS, but also had a TREECREEPER, and 3 GOLDCRESTS in it. I saw two seperate pairs of LONG TAILED TITS as well, it seems they are disbanding their flocks and pairing up now. At the lake there was again a dozen MALLARD, 3 MOORHEN and a pair of CANADA GEESE, but just for a change there was a pair of Teal as well, probably the ones that flew up from the woods, they are seldom seen on the lake. I looked skywards for some reason, as one does, and was surprised to see a COMMON BUZZARD soaring high, I don't normally see them over this area of my patch,it was being pestered by a SPARROWHAWK! So overall it was a useful hour spent out on my patch, tomorrow and Friday i'm on holiday, so I can get some long morning walks in, and hopefully find something new for the year list, or the one species new for the month that will give me a record February count.

Tuesday 17 February 2009

The afternoon's walk around my patch was a dull affair, and not just weatherwise! There were birds to be seen though, both GREAT SPOTTED and GREEN WOODPECKERS were aound the small holding, as well as 2-3 BULLFINCH'S, but the Little owl was tucked away somewhere snoozing. Entering the wet woods, once again the sound of spring met me full on, despite the gloomy conditions, singing COAL and BLUE TITS were obvious, and the GREAT TITS spring call even more so, a couple pf G.S. Woodpeckers were drumming, and as I listened carefully the thin high pitched song of the GOLDREST was just audible. Above in the Alders 3 or 4 SISKIN were feeding, they will no doubt be thinking of going north very soon, and below on the pools MOORHENS were chasing one another, splashing noisily from one pool to the next. I decided I would give the lake area the once over, despite the continuing barrage going on over at the Rape fields nearby,but nothing apart from the usual hardy MALLARD, Moorhen and a pair of CANADA GEESE were seen, I have to check it though - you just never know! I doubled back along the footpath leading into the woods, and was making my way to the tree nursery, when I heard another song, that of the TREECREEPER, one of my favourites (aren't they all) The tree nursery itself was quiet, just a YELLOWHAMMER calling, but an attractive male PHEASANT wandered out from the cover, giving me a chance for a photograph. my next stop, as regular readers now know, is Migrant Alley with it's sheep/horse pasture, and maize stubbles. It is that time of year now that things are changing on the cropped fields, today there was a muck spreader throwing cow/horse manure all over the stubbles this done a month before ploughing. I sat and watched (up wind!) as sometimes this event can bring in a few Gulls, corvids or winter thrushes, however just one BLACK HEADED GULL turned up, and no Thrushes, but a mixed corvid flock of ROOKS and JACKDAWS were interested, about a hundred in all. I stayed for 40 mins but only recorded a KESTREL, and a few flyover FIELDFARE. The kestrel was my 4th raptor in two days.

Above is the Pheasant at the tree nursery, proundly strutting his stuff!
Above the muck spreader, Gulls, corvids and thrushes will be down on this soon enough, and next month maybe i'll get lucky with an early migrant Wheatear, as I did last year.

You can make out some of the JACKDAWS and ROOKS on the manure, above.

Monday 16 February 2009

The first hour of my walk was done in bright sunshine, this made it likely that the LITTLE OWL would be at his sunbathing perch, I was proved right, so took a couple of pics. In the wet woods, it felt like spring, GREAT TITS were calling, a TREECREEPER was singing and GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKERS were drumming. In the Alder tree's the SISKIN were feeding on the cones, but only around 15 - 20. The lake had the usual 3 species on it, MALLARD, MOORHEN and CANADA GOOSE, these species don't seem to mind the barrage of shotgun, gas cannon, and cherry bangers going off every 10 mins, it was like a war had started at times, and it really gets annoying, i' ve had to live with this racket since November! Anyway, back through the woods and on to the tree nursery, the Bluebells are well on their way up now, giving a green sheen to the woodland floor. The first few steps into the nursery was greeted with the alarm calls of all the woodland birds, I looked up and saw the PEREGRINE glide over the nursery towards migrant Alley, nice to see it again. I checked for the Barn Owl, but it wasn't home, so I made my way up the muddy footpath towards Migrant Alley. PIED WAGTAILS were enjoying picking off insects from the deep quagmire, 6 in all, there black and white colours stood out like diamonds against the oozing brown mud. The maize stubbles were empty of bird life, it didn't surprise me having just been flown over by the peregrine! So I sat down on the horse jump to see what would turn up. A distant BUZZARD could be seen, and a few minuits later a Female SPARROWHAWK went over, also going over were a few BLACK HEADED GULLS and a single LESSER BLACK BACKED GULL. YELLOWHAMMER and MEADOW PIPIT were heard flying past, but that was about it. I stopped of at the raspberry canes to see if there were any bullfinch about, but the old canes were being cut down ready for the new lot, the workers doing the job were my first Spring Migrants seen this year!!

I had a quick 30 minute scan of the garden when I got back, and was pleased to add number 40 for the 'February Garden Bird Count' A MARSH TIT had decided to come back to feed on my garden food, rather than the food provided at the garden over at the lake area. (they havn't filled their feeders!) This species makes it the best February ever for birds using my garden, with a total of 24.

Below is yet another picture of the Little Owl. - Last one I promise!

Below is a photo - of sorts, of the Peregrine as it flew over.

Sunday 15 February 2009

Conditions had changed from yesterday, instead of frosty sunnny weather, it was dull and dank, but at least there was very little wind. The birds recorded were much the same as yesterday, but a WOODCOCK disturbed from a different part of the tree nursery, early on, was nice addition to the days list. The feeding flock in the wet woods had diminished in size, as well as the number of species in it, just GOLDCREST, LONG TAILED, BLUE and GREAT TITS as well as a single TREECREEPER were seen. Very few SISKIN were seen today anywhere, just the odd pair about in the Alders by the lake, where just MALLARD, MOORHEN and CANADA GEESE were present. In the wild bird crop, at the western end of ashes lane, there were again a large flock of YELLOWHAMMER and REEDBUNTING, the latter were now up to 30+ in number, incredible for my patch! I spent the last 45 minutes of my outing sitting and skywatching over at Migrant Alley, as I sat, FIELDFARE and REDWING were dropping in onto the Maize stubbles, their numbers built up to around 150, but something spooked them all up, and they left for another field, maybe it was the COMMON BUZZARD that scared them all, my first to be seen this month, it gave some good views as it soared over the fields. The months total now stands at 63, the same as last February, which was the highest ever Feb. count, so I could well be in for another record breaking month.

After dinner this afternoon, I scanned over the fields to the front of the house, hoping to add Common Buzzard to the February Garden Bird Count, I wound up the scope to its full zoom, and over on the horizon I saw not 1 but 3 Buzzards soaring high, excellent addition to the list - 39 now!

Above is the Common Buzzard, being pestered by a crow, over Migrant Alley

The JAY above and the COAL TIT below were in my garden this afternoon

Saturday 14 February 2009

Today started gloriously sunny, but frosty, however by 09:30 the cloud drifted over and it became grey again! I recorded 43 species this morning, but it was quite hard going, long stretches of my walk were birdless. Migrant alley only had a handfull of REDWING and FIELDFARE, and just 2 SKYLARKS, one of which sang - first one this year. The college grounds produced all the usual species, BLUE, and GREAT TIT, GREEN and GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER, plenty of BLACKBIRDS and SONGTHRUSH, also seen were around 100 ROOKS at the rookery just across the road from the college. The sports pitch had a dozen more Redwing on it, with 2 MISTLE THRUSH. Not a very inspiring list!
Whilst sitting in the kitchen, having my mid-point drink I saw 3 CANADA GEESE flyover the house, another one for the Feb. Garden count! Back out on my patch, I visited the wild bird crop and found a flock of at least 20 REED BUNTINGS, a new peak count for this usually scarce bird, along with them were around 15 YELLOWHAMMER. In the small holding I came across 3 TREECREEPERS in a small ornimental cherry tree, nice to see! A little further on another 2 were heard, one calling, and one singing its loveley delicate descending song. I managed to find the mixed feeding flock in the wet woods, in the same place as yesterday, all the same birds probably! GOLDCREST, COAL and MARSH TIT, SISKIN, NUTHATCH, another Treecreeper and LONG TAILED TITS all fed together. I then heard an unfamiliar, raucas screeching, and squawking further back over the top of the woods - RING NECKED PARAKEETS (71) I could just make them out through the tree tops as they argued there way over, one more for the year list, always feels a bit like cheating when I add this seldom seen species, (just one rcord last year). The lake was only occuied by the usual MALLARD, and MOORHEN, although 13 Canada Geese had come back to join them.

I didn't get one decent photo during my walk! So early this afternoon I snapped a few garden visitors, as I was doing this I recorded another new species for the February Garden Bird Count, when a Goldcrest flew in, nice one. Just 2 more needed to get my target of 40 !

Below are the garden bird phto's I took. From top to bottom they are : Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Starling, next two are Greenfinch, then Dunnock another Blue Tit and a Blackbird.

Friday 13 February 2009

At last a bit of sunshine, and out of the wind it felt quite warm. The LITTLE OWL was thinking the same thing, as it sunbathed in its usual place, in the old apple tree in the small holding. In the wet woods, I immediately flushed up a party of REDWING feeding on the floor with a few CHAFFINCH, and a couple of MOORHENS scampered off for deeper cover. Two TEAL swam away into dense undergrowth, but didn't flush up. I went deeper into the woods and stopped by on old yew tree, where I could hear a GOLDCREST calling. I stood here for half an hour watching not one but at least 6 of them, they would feed for a while, and then make there way down for a drink from one of the pools. I checked each one carefully, but couldn't turn one into a Firecrest! Whilst I was watching, a COAL TIT came into view, as did the pair of MARSH TITS a TREECREEPER and a NUTHATCH, they all came exceptionally close, giving some good photo opportunities - I was like a kid in a sweet shop, I would focus on one bird, then another would come closer, so I focused on that, then it would move off, and i'd get neither pics! All this went on with a flock of 5-10 SISKIN feeding over head in the Alder trees.
Eventually I moved off, and checked out the lake, but it was dissapointing again, just 15 MALLARDS, and 6 CANADA GEESE were present. Not surprising really, as the shotgun blasts and gas cannon were booming overhead all of the afternoon. I back tracked along the footpath, and through the woods into the tree nursery, as I passed the rows of young beech trees, with their brown leaves still showing, a WOODCOCK flew up and alighted futher down the plot. I really am being spoilt for this species this winter.
At Migrant Alley the fields were bare, something had been through before me - probably a dog walker, but maybe it was the peregrine ? I did see a large female SPARROWHAWK fly low in a wide arc, maybe it was her. The nearby Raspberry canes had at least a dozen BULLFINCH feeding on the old fruit seeds, a good count for this colouful finch (another one of my favourite birds!) A bonus for the end of the afternoons walk, was the sighting of a Fox, sleeping amongst the rows of raspberry canes, it raised its head looked at me through one eye and went back to sleep!!

Below. the Little Owl sunbathing at its usual place

Above and below a Marsh Tit
Below. Treecreeper
And last of all a stunning male Bullfinch.

Thursday 12 February 2009

Once again the sunshine vanished just in time for the afternoon patch visit, but was I daunted ? Yes!! After yesterdays totally rubish day, what with all the disturbance, I was tempted to stay in and watch the garden, but the thought of missing something interesting nearly always gets me out. I only visited the wet woods and lake area, as Migrant Alley was disturbed again. Hadlow College had decided to burn more rubbish right in the maize stubbles, you 'd think being a place of learning, they would show the students some of the winter thrush flock that feeds there, but no, a bonfire it was to be, and the thrush flock had to eat elswhere.
Anyway rant over, I did my usual ''walk- stop- listen'' for an hour or so around the wet woods, and was enjoying the sight of a mixed feeding flock, around 20 LONG TAILED TITS, a TREECREEPER, 3 GOLDCREST, 2 COAL TIT and a few BLUE and GREAT TIT were all feasting on invisible things that live on bare twigs. However the next stop produced a species that I have tried to see in the woods on the last few visits, more in hope than expectation - A LESSER SPOTTED WOODPECKER (70), A male bird chipped away at an old branch, allowing me some grainy photo's, my first of this species.

Records of L.S. Woodpeckers are few and far between, this being just the 10th sighting. The first was in my garden on the 5th July '03, the next wasn't until November '05, when a female bird was seen on 12th, 13th, and 19th. In 0206 a male was seen also on three dates, June 19th, July 29th, and oct 8th, the last two sightings were of a female on 10 dec 2007, and a male on February 7th last year. So this is a good species to add to the list this year if i'm going to have any hope of beating last years 106 total.

I did visit the lake area but all that was found was a small flock of BULLFINCH, 4 or 5 birds, also a small group of SISKIN just 4 birds, a GREY HERON was asleep on the bank of one of the ponds, but only MALLARD and MOORHEN were on the water.

I now know why I drag myself out when I don't really feel like it, you just never now what your missing!

Below are 3 pics. of the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. Not great, but passable - I think!