Thursday 30 April 2009

For 3 and half hours this afternoon I searched the woods, fields, hedgerows and ditches, I scanned the sky and all the fenceposts, and there are now hundreds of them at Migrant Alley! However I could not find the one new species to equal the best ever monthly total.

Most of the migrant birds that have arrived on my patch to breed were seen or heard today, both species of WHITETHROAT, as well as BLACKCAPS, CHIFFCHAFF and a CUCKOO, while overhead SWALLOWS were buzzing around, and a lone HOUSE MARTIN chased insects over the drilled maize field at migrant alley, alighting on it for a short time. There was a party of around a dozen LINNETS, and a couple of GOLDFINCH, also around the horse paddocks. Whilst scanning the sky both SPARROWHAWK and KESTREL were seen, but there was no sign of the Swifts I saw last Sunday, two SKYLARKS defied the machinary that were driving to and fro over the fields, they got up and hoverred in the sky to deliver their silvery twittering song.

All in all though, April has still been a good month, 72 species is the best April total so far on my patch, with 12 of those year ticks, one of which was a patch tick. The combined April total for the 8 years now stands at 97, so I think next year I could well set a new April tally again, the mean species total for April is 67.5, so I was well ahead of that.

I'm now looking forward to May, and the target is to beat the record total of 68, set last year. But it's not all about figures, thats just my way of keeping up my enthusiasm to get out everyday! All my records are sent to the BTO via birdtrack, so they will all be used by them, and it's always nice just to get and see birds anyway, common or rare!

Not mant photo opportunities this afternoon, but here's one of a Goldfinch at Migrant Alley

and one of a singing Skylark, defying the noisey machines below it.

Wednesday 29 April 2009

A bit of a disaster meant I had the unpleasant job of clearing the main sewer from the house this afternoon, yuk! So it only gave me an hour to do the real important job of checking the scrub over at the lake!

I need not have worried about missing anything, as it was much the same as yesterday, lots of BLACKCAPS were singing, as were the other summer migrants that have turned up so far, CHIFFCHAFF, LESSER WHITETHROAT, WHITETHROAT, and the ''purring'' TURTLE DOVES, with the CUCKOO calling from somewhere nearby, a pity the Willow Warblers don't hang around to breed on my patch, there song would have fitted in a real treat.

No time for migrant alley today, but I think i'll make up for missing most of this afternoon, by having an extended outing tomorrow. Being the last patch visit of April, I want to try to get one more new species for the month, that would give me the joint highest monthly count since I started watching my patch, which is 73 species recorded in December last year, quite something that December should hold the record!

Below is a pic. of a MOORHEN, on its small 'run off' pool.

Tuesday 28 April 2009

An afternoon spent dodging the showers didn't produce the 3 anticipated new migrants on my patch, however there was an arrival of at least 5 more TURTLE DOVES, this time in the scrub by the lake, a place where I normally record them first. This used to be an ideal place for them, as they fed on the spillage of a nearby grain store, but health and safety put a stop to any spilled grain, and the number of young the doves raise has declined since then. Also seen whilst in the scrub, was what looked like the female CUCKOO, I snapped it as it flew past. Other than that just a few BLACKCAP and CHIFFCHAFF sang half heartedly, as did the WHITETHROAT and LESSER WHITETHROAT, but in the cool, wet conditions and given the time of day, song was very limited.

On the way out of the scrub, a GREEN WOODPECKER posed for a photo, in the only sunny spell of the afternoon, not much else was noteworthy as I made my way over to Migrant Alley. Just an hour was spent at my horse jump 'seat' , and it was not very productive, the huge machines were all over the place, but a lone SKYLARK was heard above the din. The only birds to flyover were 2 single LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLS.

Below is a DUNNOCK that sat nicely for a pic.
Below is one of the Lesser Black backed Gulls, that flew over
Here's the Green Woodpecker, looks to have been doing some ant digging

Below are 3 of the Turtle Doves. I couldn't get to close, they are very wary of humans, and have good reason to be.
Lastly the Cuckoo flying past, not a very good photo, but here it is anyway.

Monday 27 April 2009

Light rain this morning turned to heavy rain this afternoon, and after getting soaked walking back from work, I couldn't bring myself to go back out (what a wooos!)

I spent the afternoon watching from the front and back windows, but little was to be seen, GOLD, GREEN, and CHAFFINCH dominated the feeders, the latter brought in a youngster fresh from the nest. Just 2 BLUE TITS and 1 GREAT TIT came in, they are all eating natural food now. Only 1 HOUSE SPARROW came to feed, but the 2 DUNNOCK that are breeding in the dividing hedge were back and forth. The male BLACKBIRD brought in one of the fledglings, and the pair of STARLINGS that are nesting in my roof came to feed for a few minutes. The COLLARED DOVES continue to vacuum up the spilt sunflower hearts, whilst 3 ROBINS were all in close proximity of each other, having a ''Red Off'', before giving chase to one another!

Out on the fields at the front of the house, just ROOK, PIED WAGTAIL, HERRING GULL, JACKDAW, CARRION CROW, MAGPIE, WOODPIGEON and a superb looking YELLOWHAMMER were added to my list - not one Swallow flew past from the nearby stable block.

Taking stock of my patch year, at the end, or near end of April, revealed that although last year was the most successful year ever, with an overall 106 species seen, I had only recorded 81 by April 27th, compared to 93 so far this year. So I could get another record year! More likely is the fact that I have recorded the winter visitors at the beginning of the year in 2009, whilst in 2008 I had to wait till the end of the year.

My target is still to get 100 species for this year, which on my habitat poor patch is very respectable. I need just 7 more species, with 3 more regular Migrants to turn up - Garden warbler, Hobby, and Spotted Flycatcher. So that leaves me with 4 to find, the most likely of which would be an Autumn Whinchat. The other 3 species will have to be bonus birds for me! My coat should be dry for another venture out tomorrow afternoon!

Sunday 26 April 2009

I chose today to do my BTO Breeding Bird Survey, so it wasn't until 08:30 that I started my own patch walk. It proved very productive, despite just a 3hour visit. The scrub area by the lakes was full of song, mostly BLACKCAP, they were in almost every clump of bushes! WHITETHROAT and LESSER WHITETHROAT sang, and the CUCKOO called constantly, however there was no sign of the awaited Turtle Dove.

I made my way over to Migrant Alley, through the tree nursery, where there were no less than 4 GREEN WOODPECKERS seen, and two more WHITETHROATS sang from the boundary hedge. At migrant alley a nice surprise was a superb male WHEATEAR, cheered me up no end! Whilst I tried to get some pics of it, a couple of SKYLARKS sang overhead.

By the time I got to the college grounds, my legs were tiring, it had been a long morning, so after picking up a few more of the remaining species not seen so far, which included flyover GREY HERON and CORMORANT, I sat on one of the benches and looked for some HOUSE MARTINS spinning in the blue, they were found within a minute, as was a SPARROWHAWK, then just a few minutes later a BUZZARD went over low, great stuff! But wait whats that sickle winged wonder ? Yes a SWIFT (92) ! Then another, what a brilliant 10 minutes. The Swifts had arrived 3 days earlier than the mean arrival date.

Refreshed by my avian adrenaline rush, I pushed on for home through Migrant Alley, I passed through the scrub at the north end, and hurrah! A TURTLE DOVE (93) ''purred'' from the dense growth, I hung around for a photo opportunity, but it wasn't happening, but as I waited not one, but 3 turtle doves chased out of the cover and back, fantastic sightings of this diminishing migrant, they had arrived just 2 days later than the mean arrival date.

On the final stretch of my walk a KESTREL was sitting on a telephone pole, the 51 species for the day. However......Once i'd had some food and drink, I was off out again to try to get a photo of the Wheatear, as it was too far away earlier. I found it again, after some searching, and this time I got within 30 yds of it, whilst it sat on a fence I got some nice pics. I had one final skywatch for half an hour, and was treated to 2 more low flying Buzzards, but what was more of a treat was watching each bird get seen of by a the 2 PEREGRINES!

Two more for the year list, and a day list of 52 can't be bad. Oh, and the highest April species total has just been set with 72 species, with 4 days still to go!

Below are a couple of the Wheatear photo's

Saturday 25 April 2009

It was grey and overcast for this mornings visit, and a few light showers fell, but by mid-morning it had brightened up a bit, although still with a brisk southerly wind blowing.

The usual 20 or so resident birds were soon picked up for the day list as I walked up ashes lane, through the small holding and into the wet woods, but I had to wait until the lakeside scrub to hear the summer migrants. A CUCKOO was calling from the overhead telephone cables, whilst below in the scrub, CHIFFCHAFF, BLACKCAP, WHITETHROAT, and LESSER WHITETHROAT all sang loudly. I thought I heard a brief snatch of Garden Warbler song, but it didn't sing again, frustratingly. It was good to see the first fledgling SONG THRUSH, hiding in the dense bramble. Still no Turtle doves though, I usually have a couple of pairs here, maybe mine were one of the 3 million shot each year by our friendly continental neigbours, no wonder they are getting so scarce!

The local SWALLOWS were dancing in the air over the tree nursery, and 3 HOUSE MARTINS flew over the Greenhouses. Migrant Alley still managed to produce a SKYLARK or two, and the PIED WAGTAILS of course, but with them today was a probable White Wagtail. (see pics and make your own mind up!) In the scrub at the north end of the fields a second Lesser Whitethroat sang, a third was singing by the electricity sub-station at Ashes Lane. I think it's in dispute over this piece of bramble, as it has been the territory of a Whitethroat for the last week, it was also singing!

A walk through the college gardens and grounds, made the day list up to 47, the highlight being another sighting of the two PEREGRINES. On one of the ponds the years first newly hatched MOORHENS were seen, 3 in all.

Also fully fledged, was this BLACKBIRD, one of two that was being fed on my lawn. (Chris - Blackbirds stay in britain all year round)
Here's dad, making sure the coast is clear!

I also took a photo of this GREENFINCH in the garden, a little too much sun on it, still, you cant have it all!

Below are 3 poor pics. of the White Wagtail. You can see its got clean flanks, and a sharp defining black nape on a grey back, probable a male white wag. The first ive seen on my patch. Shame it's not got full species status, as it's not been split from the Pied wag.

Also out on the now rolled field, was this ROOK.

While overhead 5 single LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLS went over, each one getting me excited, one might just turn out be a large raptor!

Lastly a quickly taken shot of one of the Peregrines, as it glided over.

Friday 24 April 2009

Much more song was heard over at the scrub/lake area this afternoon, a few more BLACKCAPS have arrived, 4 were heard in full flow. The LESSER WHITETHROAT also gave some song, as did the resident species, especially a pair of GOLDCRESTS, which were both defending territories. No sign of of a Turtle Dove though.

Much scanning of the sky was done as I passed through the tree nursery, maybe that Hobby would fly over, or a Swift, although it is still a bit early for them on my patch. There is still quite a bit of disturbance in the nursery at the moment, as all the old rabbit fencing is being torn down. Migrant Alley of course is heavily disturbed, and only half an hour was spent there, again mostly sky watching, SPARROWHAWK and KESTREL were both seen, and a newly arrived Lesser Whitethroat sang from the hedgerow just feet behind me. As I walked home along ashes lane another lesser Whitethroat was singing, from a traditional territory in a brambly electricity sub-station, one of the few places on my patch left for them now.

Earlier while eating lunch, I noticed the first young Collared Dove and Blackbird in the garden, but they both eluded my photo attempts!

I only got one photo opportunity, that was of this Treecreeper, it stayed motionless for a minute or so, I'm pretty sure it was by it's nest site.

Thursday 23 April 2009

A trek over to the scrub area this afternoon didn't provide me with the awaited migrant Turtle dove, despite sitting and listening for 40mins, but they will be here soon enough, saying that though, the earliest record was on the 17th April back in 2003, with the mean arrival date being the 24th and the latest date on May 1st. I looked at the Lesser Whitethroat records, and found that the arrival date this year, was the same as last, with a mean arrival date of the 24th. While I sat listening to the limited singing going on around me, a KESTREL flew fast and low over my head, not much more to mention than that!

Over at migrant alley...... (One or two people have asked about the name 'migrant alley' . It is a set of fields - Horse paddocks, sheep pasture, and a field for crops, bounded by fences and young hedgrows. It is here that in spring and autumn migration times, that I can record scarce passage migrants, such as Wheatear, Whinchat, Stonechat, Redstart, Blackredstart and Yellow Wagtail as well as a few flyover rareaties. Passage is better in Autumn than spring, and Migrant alley is my own name for it.)......Anyway, the day has finally arrived when the gas pipeline work has started in earnest, I arrived today to find, lorries, dumptrucks, diggers and bulldozers all over the place. Hundreds of meters of fencing has gone up and workmen were everywhere. All this has to be lived with for the next 6 months, I just hope it doesn't affect the migrants when its all finished.

Unsurprisingly, I didn't see an awful lot, I could still get to my seat and skywatch however, and I saw both PEREGRINES over the workers, high up though. Also the SPARROWHAWK put in it's daily appearence. I only stayed for half an hour, lets hope it's a bit quiter tomorrow.

Below is a photo of the Kestrel that went over my head, too fast for me- i only got the back end of it!

Above is one of the Peregrines.....very high up!

Below is some of the choas at Migrant alley.

Wednesday 22 April 2009

A repeat of yesterday afternoons walk was had today, and the weather was repeated as well, with the temperature into the 70's . I went over to the scrub by the lake, and took a seat. I listened for 20mins and heard the spring migrant BLACKCAP, CHIFFCHAFF, WHITETHROAT, and over flying SWALLOWS, also heard were the resident BLACKBIRD, SONGTHRUSH, DUNNOCK and the finch's and Tits all chipping in, making it a pleasant april afternoon, but then it got even more pleasent, yes, the first LESSER WHITETHROAT (91) has arrived, its rattling little song will be just one more to join the spring chorus!

Once again I made my way over to Migrant Alley, the obligatory SPARROWHAWK flew over as I did so. I was glad to get to my seat, and plonked myself down, the heat of the day was proving tiring, and it wasn't very conducive to finding birds. 8 HOUSE MARTINS were high in the sky, and another or the same Sparrowhawk went over, a BUZZARD was again seen, this time up over West Peckham church, which is on the high ground to the NE of my patch. I didn't see the any of the PEREGRINES this afternoon, but I did have two good views of one this morning as I walked into work. By 16:00 the hot sun had defeated me, and I made my way back home, happy with the Lesser Whitethroat record, which was the 70 species for the month, just one more species will equal the April record, maybe the Turtle Dove will turn up tomorrow!

Below is a Photo of a PIED WAGTAIL, one of the few birds that were seen out on the harrowed field today.
Below is a Whitethroat, there were at least 4 on my patch today, this one was in a large garden on the edge of the tree nursery.

Last photo is of some of the fish that are in the lakes. These beasties are the reason I don't get much Duck activity here, they just eat everything! I counted 23 of these fish, all round the side of the bank.

Tuesday 21 April 2009

The afternoon was sunny and warm again today,and the temperature was at least 70F, great to be out in. I decided to split the afternoon into 2 parts, an hours sit in the scrubby area by the lake, and then a couple of house over at migrant alley.

At the scrub area I was hoping to hear either, Lesser Whitethroat, turtle Dove, or the now less likely Nightingale, but none of them were seen or heard. The first two species are normally recorded in the last week of Apr. so it shouldn't be long before they arrive, but the Nightingale should really be here by now if it's going to use my patch. The most obvious songster was by far the BLACKCAP, followed by CHIFFCHAFF, a few resident species sang intermittently, WREN, ROBIN, DUNNCK, BLACKBIRD and SONGTHRUSH, but in the wamth of the afternoon most species were probably resting up.

I made my way over to Migant Alley, and settled on my seat to watch the fields and sky. It wasn't long before the SPARROWHAWK was sighted, one of three sightings, and a BUZZARD was seen soaring just to the north of my patch. The Local PEREGRINE was about, and it flew over to Oxon hoath birders patch. A little later it was seen again, this time with another one, they chased around for a few minutes and headed SE. After an hour or so a tractor turned up to harrow the plough field, this brought in all the local rooks, around 90 in all, with their loyal escorts the JACKDAWS. 4 LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLS joined them, and 6 mixed age HERRING GULL also came in to pick the morsels being exposed by the harrow. The fourth Raptor of the day turned up to the party, a KESTREL, always a good day to get four raptor species in an afternoon.

After 2 and a half hours watching, I hadn't recorded anything new for the month, or the year, a Migrant Hobby would have been the icing on the cake, but that will probably be a May bird. I gave one last scan of the plough, which was now a fine tilth, and checked the PIED WAGTAILS and LINNETS, while listening to a SKYLARK, nothing new, so I did a circuit of the field, via the scrub headland to the north of migrant alley, just in case that lesser Whitethroat had turned up, but it hadn't. Oh well, i'll try again tomorrow, I know they are on their way!

Above is the ploughed field being Harrowed, and the Rooks and Jackdaws love it! Below is a Rook with it's crop full of food for it's nestlings.

Monday 20 April 2009

This is gonna be a quick post as I'm fighting for time!

This afternoon was warm and sunny, and the cold wind had gone. I left the house at around
2pm, and as I walked up Ashes lane I noticed 3 COMMON BUZZARDS, low over a field that was being harrowed just to the north of my patch, I went for my camera and discovered I had left the 18-55 lens on - blast it! No pics of birds today!

A quick trip through to the lakes side scrub was in order, to find out if any lesser Whitethroat had decided to arrive on my patch overnight, they hadn't, just the now familiar sound of BLACKCAP and CHIFFCHAFF were the only summer birds heard. I spent 20mins or so listening in vain for the Nightingale that might just come back, but they also were absent.

I thought i'd go into the wet woods and get a photo of the Orchids, which I did, and also got a photo of a Speckled Wood butterfly whilst there, and as I had such a small lens on, I took some pics. of the bluebells to.

The walk over to Migrant Alley was uneventful, and the paddocks, pasture and plough only produced the usual SKYLARKS and PIED WAGTAILS with a couple of LINNETS. An hours skywatching for Raptors was also a non event, just HERRING GULLS and ROOKS were seen, the latter were going back and forth from the harrowed field to their nest sites, obviously many hungry mouths to feed at the rookery.

As the birds were not showing today, I took a walk along the NW boundary of my patch, which has a wtery ditch along it, I was hoping for a Sandpiper to fly up - some chance! However I did get to see my first Damselfly of the year, in the form of a Large Red. I also saw Orange Tip butterflies, Peacock butterflies and surprisingly a Painted Lady, I would have got its photo with a bigger lens!

Below is the Speckled wood Butterfly
And this one is the Peacock
Greenie will confirm the Orchid species below

Here's a couple of shots of the Bluebells in the wet woods

And lastly the Large Red damselfly -Greenie will also enlighten us on the sex and age of this individual!

Sunday 19 April 2009

06:30 this morning and hey, the suns out! But the morning flattered to deceive, within the hour the clouds rolled in and the cold northerly wind got up..... grrrrrrr, by the time I had finished my walk, and got myself ready for a family outing, the sun had returned, double..... grrrrrr!!!!

While the sun shone early on, the birds were quite active, WREN, COLLARED DOVE, BLUE TIT, BLACKBIRD, JACKDAW, WOODPIGEON, HOUSE SPARROW, and CHAFFINCH were all heard singing within 2 minutes of leaving. A little further up Ashes Lane the first BLACKCAP of the day was heard from one of the large gardens, and GOLDFINCH, GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER, YELLOWHAMMER, and DUNNOCK all joined the list before I turned off the lane to head for the small holding. A SPARROWHAWK flew low over whilst I was there, which set off a GREEN WOODPECKER alarming loudly, and the first ROBIN was heard, a bit belatedly, as they are normally first on the list!

As I entered the wet woods, the clouds drifted over the sun, and the birds went much quieter from then on, it was like the flick of a switch. A MAGPIE croaked, a JAY squawked, and a GREAT TIT called, while on the pools a MOORHEN flapped across the water, and another fresh brood of MALLARD ducklings were seen, 6 this time, lets hope they have better luck than the last lot.

At the lake just CANADA GEESE were seen, and song from CHIFFCHAFF and more Blackcaps came from the scrub area, but there was no sign of either the Lesser Whitethroat, or Nightingale that might be the next migrant arrival.

Halfway round my walk, I stopped of for a breakfast snack, and before setting of out, I put on a fleece under my coat, and a scarf round my neck! I had just 38 species on my list, it was going to be another disappointing april day. I crossed the tree nursery, and heard the WHITETHROAT, but nothing else much was about. The next species on my list was a SKYLARK, seen at Migrant Alley, and then a couple of GREYLAG GEESE flew over. I saw 4 SWALLOWS battling against the strengthening cold wind, as I passed the college stables, but the walk around the college grounds only added a SONGTHRUSH to my list.

I walked back through an empty migrant alley and felt disappointed in the day list of just 43, especially as no more spring migrants had turned up, on this my final easter holiday walk. Just then the phone rang, it was the missus, the owner of one of the lakes (who I am friendly with) had rung to say there was a LITTLE EGRET on the lake. Great! Another new one for the April list, and the first ever Little Egret to actually be on my patch, not flying over. I rushed across to the lake area, I was of course the furthest point from it! Whilst rushing across the tree nursery, a KESTREL flew up from the ditch there, nice, but no time to stop and admire. I got to the lake and scanned it thoroughly, no Egret, I looked again, there it was! In a tree, I fired off a few distant shots, and went and thanked the owner of the lake for reporting it to me. As I left I heard a CUCKOO, it was on the telephone wires going across the scrub area, a bit distant, but I took a photo anyway.

So in the end it was an ok day, with 46 species seen, back to work tomorrow, and back to the afternoon visits - bet its a sunny morning tomorrow!!

Below is the Cuckoo on the wires.

And here's the Little egret, poor photo, but the light and distance, and all that......

Below is a Flyover Grey lag goose, with a ring on!

Some Mallards on the stream at the college

Last of all a singing Blackcap, doing its best to hide!

Saturday 18 April 2009

Once again it was a pretty dire morning, weatherwise. I have been out nine mornings out of the last ten, and I dont think the sun has been seen on more than one of them! Such is the spiteful nature of the month of April.

I left the house at 06:30, and it was barely light, a cold North wind blew and I knew this morning wasn't going to be one for seeing the expected migrants that should be on my patch anyday now. I proceeded anyway, and spent 90 mins around the Smallholding, wet woods and lake/scrub area. Finding birds was difficult, as song was very limited, a couple of CHIFFCHAFF sang as did a BLACKCAP, and even the resident species were quiet, MISTLE THRUSH, DUNNOCK, ROBIN, WREN and BLACKBIRD were heard, but it wasn't like an April morning at all.

I had reached the halfway point of my walk and had recorded 34 species! At least 6 off the pace, I thought about leaving the second part of the walk for later, as it was meant to brighten up, but no, I would press on. Ninety minutes later, after visiting the tree nursery, Migrant alley and the college grounds, I had added just 8 more species for the day list, the most noteworthy being the WHITETHROAT in the nursery. 42 species may seem alot, and indeed is a fair total for the 3 hours I was out, but the number of birds seen was well down, they dislike this weather as much as we humans!

I was back home by 09:30, and decided I would go back out, if and when the sun did! For once the weather presenter was right, and by 11:00 the first chinks of blue sky were piercing the grey blanket of cloud. I headed over to Migrant Alley and sat on the horse jump, and watched the sky and fields. Within a few minutes I spotted 4 HOUSE MARTINS over the Greenhouses, and I watched the SWALLOWS and PIED WAGTAILS dash around after the same insect prey, on and above the plough. Numerous sightings of SPARROWHAWK were had, and at least 30 HERRING GULLS went over, with 4 LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLS, all headed west. The last bird on my list, which brought the total to a more respectable 45 was a YELLOWHAMMER, which called in the hedge by the horse jump.

Lets hope tomorrow will bring something more exciting, maybe the expected Lesser Whitethroat might turn up, or a long shot, the Nightingales will once again visit my patch.

I took a few pics today, so the camera is off the market. (-: Here's the better ones.

Below is one of the Herring Gull that went over.

Above is the YellowHammer and below the male SPARROWHAWK

Friday 17 April 2009

Yet another wet, dreary morning! The rain fell throughout my 3 hour visit, which was a bit of a whiz round in the poor conditions.

The CUCKOO continued to call until about 8am, but even he succumbed to the dire conditions and went silent thereafter. BLACKCAPS were heard in the scrub area by the lakes, and in the college grounds, as well as in the one or two of the larger gardens along ashes lane. CHIFFCHAFFS were heard on all parts of my patch, but their singing was less than convincing! SWALLOWS were trying their best to find insects around the sheep at Migrant Alley, there are at least 5 local pairs now. The only other summer visitor noted was the WHITETHROAT, two were around the tree nursery and a new one was in the hedgerow on the southern boundary of my patch. One species that made it worth while getting wet for, was the BLACK HEADED GULL, which flew over, the first sighting this month, the monthly total now stands at 68, just 3 more needed to equal the April record!
I'll give you a list of the 46 species seen today, as I dont often put up all of what Ive seen. F O by the species name is for flyover.

Again no pics today. Anyone want to buy a camera. (-:

In order of appearence todays birds were -:

Collared Dove
Great Tit
Green Woodpecker
Stock Dove
Long Tailed Tit
Lesser Black backed Gull - FO
Herring Gull - FO
Carrion Crow
Mistle Thrush
House Sparrow
Pied Wagtail
Grey Heron - FO
Blue Tit
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Coal Tit
Black Headed Gull - FO
Canada Goose
and lastly a Sparrowhawk - FO

Thursday 16 April 2009

After a great sunny day at Bexhill-on-sea yesterday, I got home and spent the rest of the afternoon sitting in the garden lapping up the late sunshine, as I sat sipping my tea, what did I hear ? yep you guessed ...CUCKOO (89) calling from it's traditional territory over at the lakeside scrub area. Its arrival is one day later than the mean arrival date, a big welcome back to him!

Overnight the weather changed, and my patch visit took place in dull, overcast conditions, with a light but persistant rain. From the off, the CUCKOO could be heard, and it called all morning. Other birds were less forthcoming with their songs, but BLACKCAP and CHIFFCHAFF were on the list early on, as they sang from the large gardens along ashes lane. The wildbird crop was empty of Yellowhammer and Reed bunting, I expect the food is all but finished now, at the smallholding, a flurry of activity was noted by the more common resident birds, GREEN and GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKERS, CHAFFINCH, GREENFINCH, GOLDFINCH, BLUE TIT and GREAT TIT were all in the blossoming pear trees, and MISTLE THRUSH, MALLARD and MOORHEN were on the grass below.

The wet woods were dark and damp, and most unwelcoming, and it wasn't surprising to walk through and not put anything new onto my list, the next bird was in fact a LONG TAILED TIT which was in the vacinity of its nest, between the woods and lake. The Cuckoo call was getting louder, and as I reached the lake and adjacent scrub area, I located it at the top of an ash, it caught my movement and flew off to an oak tree in the tree nursery. Nowt but a single Mallard and the pair of CANADA GEESE were on the lake, but as I watched, a lone GREY LAG GOOSE came splashing in, it was immediately seen off by the canada goose! I spent 15 minutes listening out by the scrub area, just in case the Nightingales had returned, but none was heard. More Blackcap and Chiffchaff song was heard, along with the resident DUNNOCK, WREN, ROBIN, SONGTHRUSH, MISTLE THRUSH and a calling NUTHATCH.

I crossed the tree nursery, and saw the Cuckoo again, calling from the oak tree, it flew off again, a short distance to a small group of sycamore trees, where it had trouble balancing on the topmost twigs. In the part of the nursery that had tree's and shrubs in, 3 pairs of LINNETS flew about, and two pairs of SWALLOWS zoomed around overhead, it was them that alerted me to a SPARROWHAWK that flew over low, heading for the greenhouse complex, no doubt to try and grab one of the PIED WAGTAILS that were on the apex of one of the buidings there. There was a second WHITETHROAT in the hedgerow, bounding the tree nursery, and as I listened to it singing, a PHEASANT flew up in front of me, giving me a heart attack!

I always look forward to going to Migrant Alley at migration times, I never know what might be there, today it was a flyover YELLOW WAGTAIL (90), It alerted me to its presence by its familiar call. This is a scarce migrant on my patch, and its only the 3rd year that I have recorded it in the springtime, this was the earliest one yet. Other birds on the plough and paddocks included, more Swallows, pied Wagtails, two LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLS, a flyover of 9 HERRING GULLS and the usual mix of Corvids.

The College grounds and the adjacent stream were heavily disturbed, by groundsmen, and a housing plot that is going up just off my patch, and didn't produce anything of note, the odd COAL TIT and GOLDCREST was heard. I really need to be here earlier to see anything!

A total of 45 birds were recorded, in the 3 hour visit this morning, and another 2 hour visit around the paddocks, sheep pasture, and plough, at migrant alley produce two more, a YELLOWHAMMER and 3 LAPWING that flew over. A Hobby was reported to me while I was there, just to the west of my patch, but it didn't find its way over to me.

Yet again the weather prevented any useable photo's being taken, very frustrating, as I wanted to photograph the Cuckoo.

Tuesday 14 April 2009

Before todays post, a quick welcome to dave, the Oxonhoath Birder ( see his link in my side bar). His patch is adjacent to mine - to the north, and on higher ground.

Meanwhile on my own patch, things have quietened down from the last two days. Even though I spent 3 hours this morning and 4 later on, I only managed to squeeze out 45 species! There was no change in the weather, still dull, damp and dreary, although there was a bright interlude around midday, but you would have missed it if you sneezed! What doesn't help either is the fact everyones back to work today, disturbance was everywhere!!

Just 2 YELLOWHAMMERS fed in the wildbird crop, and as I made my way to the smallholding a group of 9 HERRING GULLS flew over, both GREEN and GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKERS were seen in the old orchard at the smallholding, as was a MOORHEN that had come out of the wet woods. The woods themselves are quite barron at this time of year birdwise, but there is a great show of Bluebells at the moment, the only birds that I did find there were a group of 6 drake MALLARDS on one of the pools, and a few BLUE and GREAT TITS. I could hear the CANADA GEESE on one of the lakes as I neared them, but thats all there was when I arrived, one of the CORMORANTS surveyed its domain from its favoured tree, and a SKYLARK sang from high above. The awaited Cuckoo hasn't found it's way to my patch yet, but as I listened at the scrub, BLACKCAPS, CHIFFCHAFFS, MISTLE THRUSH, SONGTHRUSH, DUNNOCK,WREN,ROBIN,COLARED DOVE,CHAFFINCH, GOLDFINCH and COAL TIT all sang, defying the gloom.

Crossing the tree nursery, a SPARROWHAWK went over, and two STOCK DOVES were on the bare part of the nursery, while on the part with shrubs on, a WHITETHROAT sang and a few LINNETS were displaying.

Migrant Alley was misty and quiet, a flock of 14 Herring Gulls were on one of the horse paddocks, and a KESTREL flew low over, alerted to me by the PIED WAGTAILS that fed on the ploughed field, these little black and white sentinels always give away the Raptors! SWALLOWS were around the college stables, collecting the mud from puddles, and the ever present colony of a dozen or so HOUSE SPARROWS were chirping from the buildings. Nothing new for the day list was seen around the college grounds and gardens, but a new Blackcap was singing by the pond.

That was about it for today, a hum-drum visit, but it will all change again.
NOTE: Tomorrow I am off out with the wife for a change,No not birding! (-: We're off to the coast, and I have been given orders to leave the bins at home! Next post will be on Thursday.

Below is the eggshell of a Songthrush, unfortunately it's been predated!
This Kestrel went over Migrant Alley, but the light was terrible, even in this bright spell!

Monday 13 April 2009

I can't believe this weather! The last 3 mornings have been dull, grey, and misty, and each day progressively worse on the mist front, so much so I didn't even bother taking my camera out today.

A 3 and a half hour walk from 06:45 was all I had time for today, but still managed a good total of 48 species. Most of these were seen rather than heard, as bird song was very limited, only 4 CHIFFCHAFF and 2 BLACKCAP were heard, I know for a fact there are more than that about!
I checked the lake for the Shoveler ducks, but they had moved on, only a few MALLARD and MOORHEN remained, and the two now seemingly resident CORMORANT sitting in their tree.

At the halfway point of my walk I had got 44 species on the day list, a really good tally, and I didn't expect to add more than one or two more at Migrant Alley, and the college grounds, I was almost proved right, 4 more did in fact go on the list - a MEADOW PIPIT flew over the plough, a couple of SWALLOWS were over the greenhouse complex and a GOLDCREST was finally picked up at the college grounds, bird of the day though went to a KINGFISHER that flew up the college stream, my first this month, in fact the first since the 22nd of Feb.
Other birds of some note today were 5 LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLS, on the sheep paddocks at migrant alley, a singing WILLOW WARBLER in one of the large gardens along Ashes Lane, and a SPARROWHAWK that flew over the tree nursery, clutching some unfortunate victim.

PS. Still no Cuckoo! Have I lost the local bird that has been here every year, or is it still on it's way? Hopefully the latter, and it will turn up tomorrow.

* Late News: I had a quick walk round the plough at migrant alley with my good lady wife (bless her) this afternoon, and as we rested on the horse jump, I heard a COMMON SANDPIPER (124: 88) going over! I just caught it in my bins as it sped NE. A fantastic tick for my patch!

Sunday 12 April 2009

Another dull grey and misty morning, and although the mist lifted somewhat, it never really cheered up all day.
Again the conditions seemed to inhibit the bird song, but all the regulars were heard at least once, and a migrant BLACKCAP was heard singing as I left my house, from the silver birch tree that the Willow Warbler sang from the other day.
It didn't take too long before I had racked up 25 species, but they were all the expected ones, TITS, FINCH'S, THRUSHES, WOODPECKERS, ROBIN, DUNNOCK, WREN, JAY and the likes, but it was the spring Migrants I was really on the lookout for, especially that Cuckoo, which hasn't yet graced my patch, but it isn't later than the mean date of arrival yet.
I entered the wet woods and brought up the day list to 30, with the addition of MOORHEN, MALLARD, COAL TIT, TREECREEPER, and NUTHATCH, however it was species number 31 on the list that got me really excited, as I reached the lake area, I scanned the nearest lake and found a pair SHOVELER DUCKS (87) ! Not the most exotic of birds, or a great rareity in the area, but on my patch it was!! I was especially pleased to record this duck, as it is only the second record for my patch, the first was back in 2001. This was before I kept detailed records, and although it appears on my patch list total, I had no record of it, as my ''proper'' records only started from 2002 onwards. Now all my data ties up nicely, how obsessive is that!?

After all that excitement, I left the Shovelers, and carried on with my circuit of my patch. A CORMORANT flew over, as did a HERRING GULL while I crossed the tree nursery, where again I found the WHITETHROAT, and a flock of 9 LINNETS were at Ashes Lane as I crossed to get to Migrant alley. I didn't record a Wheatear there today, just the odd SKYLARK, PIED WAGTAIL, 4 SWALLOWS and my second sighting of HOUSE MARTIN for the year.

A circuit of the College grounds and garden, gave me SPARROWHAWK and SISKIN for the day list, bringing me to 46 for the day, a few behind yesterday, despite seeing a couple of different species.

After lunch, I decided to take another look round the tree nursery and migrant alley, this time taking my wife for company (I do spoil her!) between us we found LESSER BLACK BACKED GULL, going over the tree nursery, a MEADOW PIPIT on the plough at Migrant Alley, with GREYLAG GOOSE and KESTREL flying over, but what my wife enjoyed seeing most was the LITTLE OWL, which was in the small copse adjacent to migrant alley, just where I promised her it would be. ( Phew, I'm glad it turned up, as I had to get the missus to climb 4 fences, very difficult for a 4ft 10 lady!!) So a pleasing tally of 51 was had for the most excellent of visits.

Below are a couple of pics of the Shovelers. Rubbish I know! But I was peering through branch's and the light was awful, and they were going away from me...blah...blah...