Tuesday 31 March 2009

The weather seems to have settled down now, and it was a pleasure to walk part of my patch this afternoon, the last visit of this month. There was very little wind, and if a Blackcap was to sing I was sure to hear it, but despite much listening, along the smallholding, wet woods, and lake area, none was heard. The small holding did have a nice surprise for me though, when I found another Grass Snake, this time I managed to sneak up on it a get a photo or two. Upon entering the wet woods, the call of what sounded like a Nuthatch was heard, but when I tracked the sound down, I found it was a GREAT TIT, expertly mimicking a Nuthatch, it had me fooled - for a little time!

I checked the LONG TAILED TITS nest as I passed it on the way to the lake, and all was ok, the pair were in the vacinity chirriping to each other. At the lake, the only notworthy birds were a GREY HERON and 4 SISKIN, the latter in an Alder tree in one of the nearby gardens. Whilst I walked the edge of the lake I noticed the 'Ladies Smock' had come into flower.

Over at Migrant Alley, I sat for half an hour and skywatched, no Swallows showed today, just a pair of Grey heron flew south, and a SKYLARK sang up high. I did a circuit of the fields, and passed the scrubby headland, but only CHIFFCHAFF was of note, one of at least 7 on my patch singing now.

So March ends, and the species target of 65, which was set in 2005, has been well passed. This March I have recorded 69 species ! 4 of them new to any March, Pochard, Firecrest, Sand martin, and the Mealy Redpoll, which was a patch tick. The combined March total now stands at 80 species, with an average of 60 species.

I 'm looking forward to the challenge of April!

Below are some shots of the Grass snake

Below is the flowering Ladies Smock, a favourite of the orange Tip butterfly

Last of all the Grey Heron at the lake.

Monday 30 March 2009

The day dawned sunny, but frosty, and it warmed up nicely to around the high fifties F. , the ideal day to be out looking for that first spring Blackcap, but I had to be at work! I did get to see a nice flock of around 40 SISKIN though as I passed through the college grounds at 07:15.

At 14:00 I was of out on my patch, and it was sunny and warm, but a singing Blackcap was not located, i'm much less likely to hear one in the afternoon, however there was a 'first for the year' , in the form of a Grass Snake, unfortunately it heard me coming and slithered of quickly into the brambles. Just above where it made it's escape, is the LONG TAILED TITS nest which is at the footpath between the wet woods and lakes, I watched from cover for a while, and was pleased to see one of the birds bringing in feathers to line the nest. A quick scan of the lakes was a waste of time, as it normally is at this time of year, what with all the gardening going on around it! I was only there really to sit for a few minutes and listen out by the scrubby orchard for that Blackcap. In a couple of weeks or less this is where I hope to hear the first of many more spring migrants, especially the Nightingale, which didn't arrive last year, the first time ever.

I did my usual skywatch for an hour at Migrant Alley, and was pleased to see another SWALLOW, but that was it on the migrant front. A COMMON BUZZARD was soaring high and far to the NE, off my patch, and a few LINNETS went over the plough. A SPARROWHAWK put up the corvid flock, which was mainly JACKDAWS, around 60 of them, with some ROOKS and CARRION CROWS, a few of the local PIED WAGTAILS frequented the Greenhouse rooves, and a PHEASANT called, followed shortly after by the LITTLE OWLS in the copse.

The Brambling appears to have stopped coming to the garden, I last saw it yesterday evening, but a pair of Siskin are still feeding on the Sunflower hearts.

Not alot of action today despite the good weather, and I was foiled on all my attempted photo's, not that there were many opportunities, still you have to take the rough with the smooth, and tomorrow's another day!

Sunday 29 March 2009

A slight frost was evident this morning, but at least the wind had dropped, and the sun shone for the first 90mins of my walk, before a bank of cloud drifted over the area. A really good day list of 53 species was seen, a mixture of winter and summer species, with all the resident birds showing in their respective habitats.

Both the YELLOWHAMMER and REED BUNTING were feeding together in the ''bird crop'' along ashes lane, and I heard one of the latter give some of it's simple song, a sound not often heard on my patch. A GREY LAG GOOSE flew over, towards the lake area, and a flock of 7 noisy HERRING GULLS came from the opposite direction, NUTHATCH, GOLDCREST, TREECREEPER, GREEN WOODPECKER were all audible as I passed the small holding, and the pair of TEAL were again on the small run off pool. Yet another GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER was heard drumming in the wet woods, one of at least 5 I heard from various places during the morning. The lake area had a pair of CORMORANT on the favoured tree perch, and a GREY HERON fished from the waters edge, whilst just 2 pairs of MALLARD and 4 MOORHEN were on the water. I listened for what will probably be the next spring migrant to appear - the Blackcap, but it wasn't heard, although BULLFINCH called, and both MISTLE and SONG THRUSH sang lustily, along with the ever increasing numbers of CHIFFCHAFF, giving a more spring feel to the morning. Making my way back to the woods, I saw that the LONG TAILED TITS were again in the vacinity of their nest, but I dont think they have layed yet, whilst above them, in a large oak tree, 3 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, a Mistle thrush and a pair of COAL TITS all chased about. The stripped out part of the tree nursery was devoid of birds, but the part with the trees still in held 3 female PHEASANTS, and on the boundary, I saw a FIELDFARE - could this be the last of winter ?

A SKYLARK was singing as Migrant Alley, and 3 MEADOW PIPITS were out on the plough, as I made my way over to the college grounds 3 LESSER BLACK BACKED and a single BLACK HEADED GULL could be seen on the sports pitch. The stream besides the college had at least 4 SISKIN taking a drink, they were expertly balancing on pieces of matted vegetation, to get to the water. The rest of the college grounds only gave me a STOCK DOVE to add to my day list, however, as I left for another visit to migrant alley, I noticed a COMMON BUZZARD soaring up high.

The next 90 mins I spent sat on the horse jump, watching the sky and fields, where I added LITTLE OWL, which was heard from the copse, SPARROWHAWK, and best of all 3 more SWALLOWS, which danced in the air above the Greenhouse Complex for some minutes, before heading off NW.

With all my March ''full walks'' finished now, I have just 2 days of casual visits to bump up the march species total, which has already surpassed the 2005 record - more of that on tuesday. I hope I still may add Grey Wagtail, or another spring migrant to that list!

Above. One of the LBB Gulls, and below one of the GS Woodpeckers.

Saturday 28 March 2009

The possibility of finding a spring migrant felt bleak as I left for my walk this morning. A cold NW wind blew and it was dull and damp, so much so I didn't even take my camera out. The birds didn't take to kindly to the return of wintry weather, and many didn't show or make themselves heard. One of my first stops was the wild bird crop at the west end of Ashes lane, a few YELLLOWHAMMER, and REEDBUNTING were here, but it was only 06:30, so many I suspect were yet to arrive. The small holding produced exactly what I expected really, GREEN WOODPECKER, JAY, GOLDCREST and a bit more unusually a pair of TEAL, that were on the run of pool from the small set of greenhouses, not recorded Teal since the 12th.

I walked slowly through the wet woods, and the first spits of rain started to fall, but the MISTLE THRUSH was again singing from his prominant perch, relishing whatever the weather threw at him, I scanned the pools for the Mallard ducklings, without success, but did see a TREECREEPER as well as the ever present MOORHENS, also I heard a few SISKIN going over. On the footpath that leads to the lake, I took at look at the recently discovered LONG TAILED TITS nest, a pair were in the vacinity, and the same GREAT TIT from yesterday started to scold me as I watched them. At the lake a CORMORANT sat on it's high perch over the lake, and 4 MALLARDS with 8 CANADA GEESE were on the water, but nothing more exciting than that.

Once I got over to Migrant Alley, the rain started proper, and the wind got stronger, and it felt decidedly cold, a more foul mix of weather I couldn't imagine! I stepped up the pace a bit, and all I saw across the fields were the Corvids, ROOKS, JACKDAWS and CARRION CROWS, however a lone SKYLARK got up the fight to hang in the wind a give some of it's trilling song. It was a relief to get to the shelter of the college grounds, but little was added to my day list here, just LINNET, COAL TIT and PIED WAGTAIL. By now i'd had enough, and walked the quickest way home back through migrant alley, the last species on the list was a pair of LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLS that flew over, they tumbled and soared in the wet and windy conditions loving every minute of it!

I got in, changed my wet stuff, and watched the garden for an hour or so, where I again saw the male BRAMBLING, also the first WREN of the month came in, the 23rd species for the month, equalling the highest March total set back in both 2003 and 2007.

By 12:30 the weather was drying up, and a bright spell appeared, feeling cheated of my proper mornings walk I decided to go out and sit at the horse jump over at Migrant Alley. Although the sun shone the cool northerly wind was still blowing, and I had several near misses from hefty looking showers, that passed to the west of me. I heard a BULLFINCH call from a nearby Blackthorn tree, a species not seen earlier, and a SPARROWHAWK flapped slowly over, in the sunshine. Then, it happened, that familiar trilling was heard, and up in the bluest part of the sky, my first SWALLOW (81) of the year appeared, it circled the Greenhouse complex once, and went on it's way, heading NW. Welcome back my friend ! you just made a bad day into a brilliant one!

Below. Swallow!!!! Not the best pic. in the world, but it's a gem to me.

Friday 27 March 2009

A shower that passed over as I walked home from work proved to be the last of the afternoon, so my walk was dry, but it felt cool in the still gusty wind. The birds were more evident than yesterday, but that wasn't hard! The first birds of note were a NUTHATCH, a pair of BULLFINCH, a COAL TIT and a pair of LONG TAILED TITS all in a large spreading Blackthorn tree that grows in the smallholding area. Whilst in the wet woods, I looked for the brood (s) of Mallard, but didn't find them, however there is a lot of hiding places amongst the trees so they may still be around. A GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER drummed, and in one of the tallest trees in the wood a MISTLE THRUSH sang loudly.

The footpath that leads from the wood to the lake area provided a good photo opportunity, when a pair of GOLDCREST let me get close, a little further on a GREAT TIT scolded me harshly - no doubt I had stryed to near to his nest site.

Nothing much at the lake, the usual CANADA GEESE, MOORHEN and MALLARD, with Bullfinch's calling from the surrounding vegetation. I walked back along the path, to the woods and crossed into the tree nursery, which still holds nothing at all since being emptied of trees. I did keep an eye on the sky though, while heading for Migrant alley, just in case a the first Swallow flew into view. Swallows were my main target as I sat on the horse jump and scanned the sky, a PHEASANT called and ruffed his feathers somewhere behind me, and a pair of LITTLE OWLS ''yapped'' loudly at one another from the nearby copse. Once more a SKYLARK was heard singing, and as I scanned to find the 'dot' that it was, being so high up, I saw the first LAPWING of the month fly past my view, the first in fact since the 8th Feb. Not much happened in the next 20mins or so, until a familiar 'hirundine' type trilling was heard overhead, I saw a small black dot and thought ''a swallow''! However, once getting my bins onto it I saw it was just another SAND MARTIN. Who am I kidding, 'just' another Sand martin ? This is only the 3rd spring record I had! The Swallows will make their appearance shortly............

Above and below is the Goldcrest I found along the footpath.
Below is a few pics of the SISKIN and BRAMBLING that continue to feed in my garden. I took the photo's through the window, so they are a bit grainy and out of focus.

Above: Male Siskin

Above: Female Siskin, and a headless GREENFICH

Above: Greenfinch with head back!

Below is the Male Brambling

Thursday 26 March 2009

The wind had shifted round to the south west this afternoon, but although it wasn't quite as cold as yesterday, it was blowing even stronger! I contemplated staying in and watching the garden as I ate lunch, and the sighting of both SISKIN and BRAMBLING at the feeders should have persuaded me, but no, I had to up the stakes, and go out on my patch - it was a possible Swallow or other exciting spring migrant versus the definite Brambling and Siskin, the former won out.

I took the choice and lost! All I could hear in the wet woods was the roar of the wind in the tree tops, and the only thing of note was the MALLARD with her ducklings, there were only 5 out of 17, had the rest all been predated ? I like to think this was another brood, I'll try and keep an eye out for the first one. The lake didn't help me out at all, just the CANADA GEESE, MOORHEN and 2 more Mallard were there. I still had Migrant alley to look over, but shortly after getting there, a heavy shower rolled in, and ended the afternoons excursion. All I saw was a singing SKYLARK and 150 sheep and lambs being driven to new pasture by the shepherds two sheep dogs, you now you've had a bad day when counting sheep was a highlight!!

I just got in as the rain stopped, and the sun came out (typical!) I made a cup of tea, and sat by the bedroom window to watch the garden for an hour or so. It wasn't long before the Siskin came in, a pair fed on the Sunflower hearts, along with the GREEN, GOLD, and CHAFFINCH'S. Then a Lovely bright male BRAMBLING came in, and fed on the floor, on the spilt hearts with the Chaffinch's, a cracking bird. I got a few pics, but the sun was in my face, and I was shooting through the rain spangled window, so they are rubbish photo's. A little later a female Brambling came in and fed at the tube feeder, Ive never seen one on them before. Other birds of note to use the garden - NUTHATCH, COAL TIT, GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER, and a couple of WOOD PIGEONS, they are only ocasional visitors to my garden.

The weather still looks rubbish for the next few days, and few, if any spring migrants will be arriving on my patch this weekend, I'll still be out looking though!

Above; One of the Mallard ducklings in the wet woods
Above is the female brambling on the tube feeder, and below is the same bird in my Elder tree.

Below is the male Brambling, just starting to get his black head.

Below is one of the 12 Green finch that were on the feeders

Wednesday 25 March 2009

Well, with this strong NW wind and heavy, blustery showers, sightings of interest were at a premium today. This mornings walk to work produced a lone REDWING feeding in the college grounds, one of the last i'll record i'm sure, and the walk home again was only enlivened by a KESTREL, hunting around the greenhouse complex.

Just before leaving for my afternoon walk, a quick glance at the garden feeders revealed a nice male SISKIN. A heavy shower went through whilst I was out, and the wind, which was already strong, became even stronger, blasting the rain at me, and I nearly gave up and turned for home, but the rain ceased quite quickly, as it does with showers,and a little sunshine was had after. With all this weather going on, birds were hard to find, and as for any new migrants forget it! The only birds of note were, a pair of TREECREEPERS in the smallholding, chasing one another around the trunk of a Blackthorn tree, a GREY HERON, a CORMORANT and four pairs of LONG TAILED TITS at the lake and associated scrub. At Migrant Alley, an hours sitting (and getting wind blasted !) only produced 2 LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLS, and one singing skylark!

Once home, I sat at the window and watched the feeders for a while, maybe I should have stayed in and done this from the off, as I saw 2 BRAMBLING in my elder tree, I almost got a photo, but next doors noisy yapping dog started up and frightened everything off! Also of note in the garden was - GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER, COAL TIT, 2 NUTHATCH and a jay. 21 species have been using the feeders this week, March is generally a good month for the garden.

No pics today, the weather was just too rubbish, and looking ahead it's going to get worse!

Tuesday 24 March 2009

This morning as I ate my breakfast (Weetabix), I was watching the garden through the window, just like my old mate Greenie does, when what came in to feed ? yep a BRAMBLING in true greenie style...see http://greenieinthewild.blogspot.com/ . This is the first one ive seen since the 28th Jan.

Above: The Brambling. Eating weetabix for breakfastsure does the trick, thanks for the tip greenie.

After work, I was back out this afternoon to look for spring migrants, the most likely of which would be the Blackcap. My first call was at the smallholding, plenty of GOLDFINCH'S were around, probably from my feeders, only 50yards away. A GREEN WOODPECKER and a PIED WAGTAIL were in the old orchard, and a BULLFINCH could be heard, but no Blackcap. I passed into the wet woods, where a small flock of CHAFFINCH flew up from the foor only a few yards away, I stopped and scanned them for another Brambling, but they were all Chaffinch's, however, my eye caught a small bird that was on a tree stump by one of the pools, I got my bins on it and found it to be a LESSER REDPOLL, great little birds to see, they don't always show up on my patch, but this is my second record this month. As I took a photo, it was joined by the male bird, in it's lovely breeding plumage. Pleased with that find, I thought I'd surely find my Blackcap, but no, I didn't, instead I had a bit of a treat by finding the first MALLARD young of the year 17 in all! Dabbling around with mum on another of the shallow pools.

Next the Blackcap hunt took me to the lake area, where..............no! There wasn't one here either, just 6 CANADA GEESE, 2 male Mallard and a couple of MOORHEN, with a CORMORANT perched at his now usual tree. In the surrounding lake scrub, I again found a TREECREEPER, and GOLDCREST, as well as a COAL TIT that was scolding me, I was probably near it's nest site.

On the way back from the lake, I discovered a LONG TAILED TITS nest, I couldn't get a pic of it as it was in some honeysuckle that was drapped over the boundary fence of the large house there, and I couldn't get near to it.

Passing through the tree nursery, all was quiet, just a CARRION CROW on the dried mud where the sapling trees had been, and the chance of that first Blackcap of the year had passed, as the habitat I was visiting from now on, isn't conducive for the Blackcap. Migrant Alley was my last stop, as usual, and an hours skywatching didn't give me anything new for the year, LESSER BLACK BACKED and BLACK HEADED GULS were all that went over! The ploughed field had nothing at all on it, once again all the birds were on the sheep pasture, around 250 Corvids were in with the lambs, mostly JACKDAWS and ROOKS, with just a few Carrion Crows. Just one SKYLARK sang the whole time I was there.

Below is the Female Redpoll, I was trying to be ''arty'' and get the reflection of the bird in the water, but I ended up focusing on the stump, and got a focussed pic. of niether!

I then had a chance to do the same shot with the male bird, and messed that up as well! My excuse was that i was shooting into the sun!!!
Below is a Coal Tit, if you look carefully you can see it's been ringed on it's left leg. A sure sign that my ringing mate has been busy in his garden, just a few yards up the road from me.

Finally, some of the 17 Mallard Ducklings, Once again not a very inspiring photo, but they kept scattering everywhere, like a lot of dropped marbles on a wooden floor!!

Monday 23 March 2009

The fine weather came to an end today, and a strong NW wind blew in some heavy cloud. My walk across Migrant Alley this morning, on the way to work, was notable only because for the first time this year, I didn't record Fieldfare or Redwing, they really are heading back north big time now.

The afternoon sky threatened rain when I left for my patch walk, and the wind seemed to get stronger all the time, making it difficult to pick up any bird song/calls, but I did come across the usual suspects in the wet woods, LONG TAILED TIT, TREECREEPER, and GOLDCREST all showed well, but the poor light and swaying branches prevented any photo opportunities. On the lake, a pair of CANADA GEESE were very agressive towards 3 GREYLAG GEESE, that dropped in whilst I was there, and 2 CORMORANTS sat in the tall crypress type tree. 4 male mallard were dabbling about on the water, the females no doubt on eggs somewhere in the vacinity, while MOORHENS chased one another across the lake, sorting out territories.

Migrant Alley was, unsurprisingly, quiet. The ploughed field was bone dry, and nothing at all was on it, instead, all the ROOKS, CARRION CROWS, and JACKDAWS were in with the sheep and lambs, waiting for the latter to lose their crimped tails! 3 LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLS joined them for 10 mins or so, but that was the extent of the birds present. I sat and did some sky-watching for half an hour, hoping for a Swallow, but none were forthcoming, the thrill of that event is for an April day i think. By 15:45 the first spots of rain were being blasted onto my face, and when I turned NW the sky was very dark and threatening, so I conceeded defeat and got home just as it threw it down - Oh well at least the plough will get a good wetting, allowing easy pickings for the Whimbrel that i will see next week, ( Hah hah!) .

In the garden I witnessed a SPARROWHAWK come through, darn it! I thought this month was going to be the first Sparrowhawk free month in six years! At least I have had 22 days without it. Just as the finch's had started to get confident enough to feed on the ground as well.

Sunday 22 March 2009

This morning I spent just an hour at migrant alley, before going off on the KOS fieldtrip (which produced some good birds -LS Woodpecker, Barn Owl and a couple of Buzzard) my hours stint on the horse jump didn't give me anything exciting though. A couple of SKYLARK sang, and a few groups of HERRING GULL flew westwards.

I got back from the fieldtrip about 13:00, and after something to eat and drink, I was back over sitting at migrant alley. I spent 90 mins watching the sky, as very little else was about. After 10mins or so a SPARROWHAWK was seen, and as I watched it dueling with a carrion crow for some minutes, I noticed two smaller birds come into my view, I switched my attention to these, and could see they were Either House Martins or sandmartins. They were quite high up, but I could eventually see there was no white rump on them, which made them SANDMARTIN (80), anyway it's far too early for a House martin, of which the earliest date ever seen was on Apr.14. So the year list goes up one more! Sandmartins are mostly ever seen just passing through my patch, and most records concern birds on Autumn migration, when they can occasionally be seen feeding over the area or more rarley, perched up with Housemartins on the telephone wires.. Today's sighting is only the second spring record of this species, the last being in Apr 2007, so it was a good one to get!

Below is a Male CHAFFINCH that I ''passed'' on the way back home.

Saturday 21 March 2009

The weather is still holding fine, and although there was a frost early on, it soon turned into a warm day. The early frost seemed to put a dampner on the bird activity, as the actual numbers of birds were low, but the day list reached a respectable total of 44. My search for the first Blackcap of the year was not successful, I sat and listened for 20 mins, in the most likely place - by the lake, but none was heard, in fact there wasn't much song at all, just the common birds, WREN, ROBIN DUNNOCK, BLACKBIRD, SONGTHRUSH and various Tits and Finch's.

There were still some winter birds about, SISKIN in the wet woods, also some FIELDFARE and REDWING were in a lone oak at the tree nursery, where they were flushed off by a male SPARROWHAWK that went over slowly. Migrant Alley didn't produce much, just 2 SKYLARK a MEADOW PIPIT and a few PIED WAGTAILS, the ploughed field has now dried out, and doesn't seem to be attractive to the birds anymore! One bird that was more obvious today was the CHIFFCHAFF, at least 6 were heard singing at various places around my patch, always a cheerful sound.

So all in all a quiet walk, but thats not too unexpected for this time of year, many birds are leaving my patch, and not too many are arriving yet. For a change, tomorrow i'm going off to Boughton park with the KOS fieldtrip, it doesn't start till 9 o'clock, so i'll have a quick look round Migrant Alley before i go.

Below is a male LINNET, it's just coming into breeding plumage, you can just see it's breast getting the red pigment.
Below is a CARRION CROW, this bird was right at the top of a tree ''cawing'' loudly over it's territory.

Friday 20 March 2009

The sun was back out for this afternoons patch walk, but I only had a 90 min. wander. Some of the songsters were back singing in the wet woods, TREECREEPER, COAL TIT, GOLDCREST, BLACKBIRD and the SISKINS. MISTLE THRUSHES were very active, three different pairs were seen around probable nest sites, and each gave their agitated alarm call as I passed by.

An angler was at one of the lakes, and not even the CANADA GEESE put up with them, so the only thing seen on the water were a few MOORHEN, in the surrounding trees and shrubs CHIFFCHAFF were singing again, and the BULLFINCH'S were also giving their strange ''rusty hinge'' call. I crossed the tree nursery and the only thing there was a chilly breeze that had picked up. Over at migrant alley a half hour sit on the horse jump didn't give up anything exciting, just the local corvids out on the plough, with a few PIED WAGTAILS, flyovers included a Siskin, a YELLOWHAMMER and 2 SKYLARKS. Not much for the start of the weekend! However i'm ever hopeful of finding my first Blackcap of the year this weekend, the mean arrival date for the past 7 years is the 31st March, but I have had them singing as early as the 23rd - so its fingers crossed.

The only photo I took today was of this ROBIN in a blooming blackthorne tree. You can always rely on the Robin when all else fails to show!!

Thursday 19 March 2009

Blimey! What a difference in the weather today, yesterday I was in a tee shirt, today I had a hat, scarf, fleece and overcoat! The wind had picked up from a northerly quarter and low cloud had drifted in.

The wildlife had responded to the cold conditions by going back to where they had spent the winter! No butterflies were seen, and the TREECREEPER, GOLDCRESTS, and assorted Tits had formed up into a loose flock in the wet woods. Song was much diminished, except from the hardy DUNNOCK, BLACKBIRD, MISTLE THRUSH, and GREAT TITS, but the Siskin that have spent much of the winter in the woods seem to have dispersed. BULLFINCH were again evident, after being being pretty elusive in the last 2 weeks, there ''rusty hinge'' call was heard several times, both in the small holding and the scrubby orchard, adjacent the lake. n the lake there were just the normal characters, 4 CANADA GEESE, 5 MALLARD up to 5 MOORHEN, and a little less normal a pair of CORMORANT.

I passed through the ex-tree nursery, not seeing anything at all really, it will be a while before any bird life returns here, after all the disturbance to the habitat. I only sat on the horse jump at Migrant alley for 20 mins, I just got too cold, the wind whips across those fields something wicked! It was evident that with the cooler temperatures, the insects were very subdued, and in turn, the insectivorus PIED WAGTAILS were down to just 3, so no chance of a migrant Wheatear today! I did walk a couple of circuits of the paddocks and ploughed field though, and the best I came up with was 35 FIELDFARE and 2 REDWING, the latter hasn't been seen since last weekend. Birds of note flying over included 2 GREY HERONS, and 2 Cormorant, but these were in all probability the ones I had seen earlier on the lake. - Oh, and all the Chiffchaffs have stopped chiff-chaffing!

Above - One of the Fieldfare, sitting on the dividing hedge of the ploughed field, and the polytunnel field growing the Raspberries. A cracking looking bird!
Above - A blackbird, this male was hanging around the grassy areas by the polytunnels.

Lastly, the only shot of a confiding little Goldcrest that I got, but a twig got in the way!!

Wednesday 18 March 2009

The fine sunny weather continued today, and whilst walking home from work, I saw that the maize stubble at Migrant Alley was being ploughed in, making ready for this years crop. This can often bring down the odd Migrant Wheatear, as I found out a bit later.

Before going to scan the 'plough', I thought I'd give 40 mins to the lake and wet woods, just to check for my first Blackcap of the year, and to see if any more Goosander were about. As it happened neither species were found. At the lake there was just a GREY HERON, sitting atop a fir tree, but there was a bit of interest in the woods, where the pair of MARSH TITS were still active, I really hope they stay to breed. I also watched a GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER excavate a nest hole in an old rotten silver birch limb. Song was heard from GOLDCREST, GREAT TIT, COAL TIT, SISKIN, and a TREECREEPER.

The rest of the afternoon was spent sitting on the horse jump at migrant alley, scanning the clods of freshly turned earth, within a few minutes I found a nice WHEATEAR, the second this spring, always an excellent bird to find inland. despite a 2hour sit, I only found the one, but there were other birds to keep me amused, 20-30 PIED WAGTAILS were also chasing down insects on the sun drenched earth, and 2 LINNETS came down for a while, above a SKYLARK was entertaining me with it's trilling song, and a lone HERRING GULL kept coming and going. The usual flock of JACKDAW, CARRION CROW and ROOK were making the most of the upturned soil too. I was a bit surprised that the winter thrushes weren't represented. The FIELDFARE were there this morning, but they go elsewhere in the afternoon it seems.

On the way home I saw a notice tied to the style that enters onto migrant alley, it read ''Footpath Closed'' for the next six months, this is due to the gas pipe line passing through. lets hope the dog walkers take note, I sure won't!!

Above and below are pics. of the Wheatear. It was a bit far out on the plough to get a good photo, but these will do.

Below is one of the 2 dozen or sp Pied Wagtails that were on the plough

Below is the Great Spotted Woodpecker I found excavating it's nest hole
last of all the Grey Heron, surveying the lake from a tree top

Tuesday 17 March 2009

Yet another bright sunny day, although an easterly wind made it a touch chilly, out of it the temperature felt warm enough. The cold wind is set to strenghthen over the next few day's, but the easterly direction might bring in an interesting migrant bird.

Back on my patch this afternoon, the wet woods had lost it's spell somewhat, the cool wind had lessened the appertite of the birds to sing, and just a GOLDREST, and a few SISKIN were were the most interesting birds recorded. Over at the lake I could hear the CANADA GEESE cackling, and as I approached I regretfully let my mind wonder, and found myself startled by two ducks flapping across the lake, which had been lurking by the waters edge, under the tree overhang. I manged to get my bins on them as they flew off, and saw that they were a pair GOOSANDER! That will teach me, I needn't have flushed them at all, if I was paying attention, still, a great species to find here, even if this is the fourth record this month. I went and checked the garden feeders at the nearby house, and found some more Siskin, they will be leaving in the next few weeks, and will be getting hard to add to the day lists, the latest date I have recorded them is the 13th Apr. that was last year.

A Comma butterfly was seen and photographed before I left the lakes, and walking over to migrant alley, via the ex-tree nursery a KESTREL flew across my path, and another butterfly species gave me a photographic opportunity, whilst sunning itself on a piece of plastic sacking - a Peacock.

At Migrant Alley, all was quiet, and the cold wind chilled me as i sat on the exposed horse jump. Just a few STOCK DOVES were seen, and two singing SKYLARKS flew above me. Again no winter thrushes were seen, but as yesterday I did see 8 or so early on as I walked into work. The latest dates for Fieldfare and Redwing are the 13th and 20th of Apr. respectively, but most years they have gone in the first week of that month.

Above is the Peacock Butterfly seen in the ex-tree nursery,and below the Comma. Both these butterflies look to be ones that have overwintered as adults. They look a little worn. ( aint that right greenie?)

Below is the Female Kestrel that flew overhead

Monday 16 March 2009

Another sunny warm day, I could get used to this! After a morning at work, I was itching to get out, and 13:00hrs couldn't come quick enough. I had a quick bite to eat, and headed off towards the woods where at first it was a bit quiet, but as I let the woods envelop my senses, I began to tune into the spring symphony, played by the woodland creatures, GREAT TITS were the most obvious, with thier loud, piercing, ''Teacher Teacher'' call and the COAL TITS were not to be outdone, calling their similar, but higher pitched, ''jointy, Jointy, jointy. GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKERS drummed, and both GOLDCREST and TREECREEPER gave their high pitched thin song, which can be so easily drowned out by ones footfall onto last years now crisp leaf litter, from which an even thinner, higher pitched sound came, a Shrew, my first this year. In the top most branches of an Alder, a pair of SISKIN were singing their wild mix of trills, and a little below them, 2 LONG TAILED TITS, chiruped and gave their ''see - see - see call. I could stand and listen all afternoon on days such as these.

After prising myself away from dreamland, I visited the lake area, not expecting too much at this time of the year, and so I wasn't really disappointed when all that was seen was a lone MALLARD and 4 MOORHEN. I did stay for 15mins or so, and strained my ear towards the scrubby orchard, hoping to hear the song of my first migrant Blackcap, but not today, that will be a pleasure to come. However, a CHIFFCHAFF did come and visit me, and let me take some pics, I got some nice shots.

As I passed through what was the tree nursery, a sound came from above me, it sounded like a Mistle Thrush alarm call, but I looked up and saw two male SPARROWHAWKS having a bit of a disagreement over territory, I've never heard that sound from a Sparrowhawk before! Onto Migrant Alley, and I took my seat on the horse jump, a place that the shape of my backside will soon become established! I scanned the fields and paddocks, but didn't come up with any new migrants, just a MEADOW PIPIT, 2 SKYLARKS, 4 PIEDWAGTAILS, a pair of MISTLE THRUSH and the usual corvids. I scanned the sky at intervals, hoping for something spectacular, maybe a Red Kite or a Harrier species, or even maybe an early Swallow, but the best i got was a lone HERRING GULL and two distant CORMORANTS. Not one winter thrush was seen this afternoon, but 2 FIELDFARE were picked out on the stubbles ealier this morning as I walked to work, there may have been more, but it was very foggy. Tomorrow i'll do it all again!

Below is a the ever photogenic ROBIN
And below are the pics I took of the Chiffchaff, i'll soon be taking this species for granted!

Sunday 15 March 2009

After a slight frost at dawn this morning, the day just got warmer and warmer, the best day of the year so far. All this sunshine and warmth tempted me to stay out for a five hour session on my patch today, though the good weather didn't bring in any new migrants, it did encourage much singing from the Tits, Finch's and Thrushes. Yesterday's CHIFFCHAFF was again heard at the lake, and another over at the college gardens. A KESTREL was hunting over the harrowed maize stubbles, and a little later a female SPARROWHAWK did the same, another raptor species was also seen when a pair of COMMON BUZZARDS circled on the thermals to the north of my patch.

A few winter species were still about, 2 REDWING, and a small group of SISKIN were seen at the stream side alders adjacent the college, and a couple of MEADOW PIPITS showed up at the sheep pasture, but not one Fieldfare was recorded.

Despite being out for longer than yesterday, and the improvement in the weather, todays total species reached 48, three fewer than yesterday, but five birds were recorded that didn't show yesterday, Kestrel, COAL TIT, BULLFINCH, JAY and LINNET, so 56 species for the weekend isn't a bad show.

Also noted today were my first butterfly species, a SMALL WHITE, and more excitingly, a BRIMSTONE BUTTERFLY. the latter has not been seen here for some years now

Below: The female sparrowhawk that went over Migrant Alley. (Look at that blue sky!!!)

..........and another
Below is that loud songster the MISTLE THRUSH.
And here's it's smaller cousin the SONG THRUSH, which sings almost as loud, but much more sweeter, this one is collecting nesting material.
Below is another speckle chested bird, but of a totally different species, a MEADOW PIPIT, giving some song whilst looking out for that Sparrowhawk!

Saturday 14 March 2009

A cool westerly wind blew this morning, but there were just one or two short lived sunny spells, perhaps a sign of better weather to come?
I left at 06:30 this morning, I needed to get round my patch before 11:00, as the college was having it's annual lambing weekend and hundreds of people will be milling around ! I started off up Ashes lane, and quickly racked up 19 species before reaching the wildbird crop, where the REED BUNTINGS and YELLOWHAMMER were still flocking onto the crop, but in smaller numbers. I went on through the small holding, where a couple of MALLARD and MOORHEN were on the still wet field, with 3 PIED WAGTAIL, overheard I heard the ''chack-chack'' of FIELDFARE and couted at least 65 headed east. In the wet woods the pair of MARSH TITS were chasing around, a TREECREEPER, and GOLDCREST gave some song, and a NUTHATCH called, as did some overflying SISKIN.

Nearing the the lake area I was hoping to find the Goosander seen recently, but they had all departed, leaving behind the CANADA GEESE and MALLARD to entertain me - but wait - what's that ? was it a Chiff, chaff, chiff, chaff chiff I could here faintly? I listened again, and sure enough it was, my first CHIFFCHAFF (77) of the year, just 2 days earlier than the mean arrival date for the last 7 years, spring is really here! Heading back through the woods, with a bit more of a spring in my step, I heard all the birds go into alarm mode, and was just in time to see the female SPARROWHAWK flash past.

After a mid point drink and snack, I headed off through the tree nursery, very quiet here, but there were 7 REDWING feeding on the disturbed fields. Migrant Alley had just a MISTLETHRUSH and 2 SKYLARKS on the harrowed stubbles, but overhead I saw two LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLS, 3 HERRING GULLS and 2 BLACK HEADED GULLS. Not much else was seen on the way to the college, the only thing of note was a flyover GREY HERON, but as I entered the Gardens, hurrah! another chiffchaff, this time singing strongly, I managed a poor photo of it, and listened to it's plain but merry little song.

The second visit to Migrant Alley, on the way back home, produced yet another Chiffchaff! This one was in the headland at the north end of the paddocks, they have certainly arrived in force overnight. I thought i'd sit on the horse jump at watch over the stubbles for a while, but before I did I scanned the manure pile, and bingo! A WHEATEAR (78) Yes! What luck, Migrant Alley has come up with the goods again, this bird is the earliest Wheatear recorded yet on my patch, albeit by just one day. Bouyed on by this success, I sat on my favoured horse jump expectantly, and scanned the sky. I was there for over an hour, but didn't find anymore Wheatear, or the much more unlikely Black Redstart (that would get me jumping!). However I did get a flyover LITTLE EGRET (79) the third year tick today! Also two COMMON BUZZARDS were seen sparring high up in the sky, and a pair of LITTLE OWLS were calling loudly in the small copse behind the Greenhouse complex, the first ones recorded this month. A great total of 51 species was recorded today, but that was without seeing a Bullfinch, or a Jay.
Above: The Chiffchaff at the college gardens, and below the Wheatear at Migrant Alley, not very impressive photo's, but a record of my day, nonetheless.
below is a Male Reed Bunting, on a Hedgerow by the wildbird crop.
Below is the Grey Heron that flew over.
Lastly, as it's lambing weekend, a Pic. of the lambs.