Tuesday 30 June 2009

Another sweltering day !
This morning as I walked to work I had good views of the SPOTTED FLYCATCHER, in the college grounds, there was no sign of any youngsters, nor did it seem to be collecting food for any, but it is still quite early yet. Also seen was a flyover LAPWING headed west.

This afternoon was just too hot to go out, so I waited until 16:30 until the hottest part of the day had gone. I was out for 2 hours, and visited the college grounds, and stream, and walked a circuit of migrant alley. Very little was seen birdwise, but plenty of Butterflies were out, nothing new though.

A 40 minute skywatch over Migrant Alley only produced LESSER BLACKBACKED and HERRING GULL, with a GREY HERON. Kestrel and Sparrowhawk were nowhere to be seen, but the PEREGRINE was on its favoured perch - just off my patch.
There were lots of SWALLOWS about today, their numbers increased by more newly fledged young. (see the pics below)

As I left for home, I walked through the Greenhouse complex, and saw a WHITETHROAT and BLACKCAP together in a large Blackthorne bush, not usually where I see these species,a sign that things are moving towards the long autumn migration ?
June ended with a total of 65 species being recorded, the second highest June total. Four new species were recorded that have not occurred in any June-
Mute Swan, Red Kite, Meditteranean Gull and the Little Ringed Plover, which was a patch tick of course.
The mean number of species seen in June over the 8 years of recording, is 62.8, so this June was above average, and the total species recorded in all junes' combined is now 82.
As I sat writing this, all the swallows over the house went into alarm call, I looked out a saw a HOBBY circling round, nice end to the day.

Monday 29 June 2009

I walked to work this morning at 06:45, and the temperature was already 70F ! This afternoon it reached 86F in the shade, but if you were silly enough to go out into the sun it was alot hotter!

Me, being silly went out! Other mammalian critters did not, they, along with most of the bird species stayed in the woods and hedges trying to keep cool, apart from the SWALLOWS, HOUSE MARTINS, and SWIFTS. They were in their element, soaring high catching the abundant insect prey that proliferates in these conditions. Of course, the Birds of prey are never far from a gathering of hirundines, and as I watched the sky over Migrant alley, KESTREL, SPARROWHAWK, and PEREGRINE all tried their luck, but none was successful, as far as I could see.

I walked over to the stream behind the college grounds, hoping for a Kingfisher to flash past, one I need for the months list, but none appeared, instead I ended up watching, and chasing dragonflies and Butterflies, at least they enjoy the heat!

By 17:00hrs I had flagged, and was in need of shade and water, I go out in all conditions - cold, wet, fog, snow and ice, the lot, but I think the hot humid conditions are the most tiring!

Below are some of the insects I photographed. Oh, and its going to be hotter as the week goes on!

Above is a Beautiful demoiselle, that was by the college stream, below is a Female Black tailed Skimmer

This Painted lady butterfly was absolutely pristine, this one didn't migrate from Africa, it was 'homegrown'. I waited for ages for it to open its wings, but alas it wouldn't, and I was getting roasted.
Below is a Comma Butterfly, there were more of these about today than I have ever seen on my patch.
I also saw this Small Skipper, only the second one I've recorded.
Of course, there were lots of these Meadow Browns about, as usual.
Just to put a bird photo on, I snapped this Juv. GREAT TIT on the feeder in my garden

Sunday 28 June 2009

This is what greeted me this morning at 05:30 as I left for my patch walk- FOG!
I had 6 hours this morning, more than enough time to find those 4 species needed to beat the record for June - if they were out there, but the fog was so dense, it was difficult to record anything! One of the first birds on the list was a bit of a surprise, a CUCKOO, it was heard calling from over at the lake area, probably the latest I've heard one calling on my patch. As I made my way round Migrant alley and the college grounds, I was getting soaked by the knee high grass, and vegetation, and to rub it in I was only recording the usual suspects. I managed to find my first newly fledged SWALLOWS at the college equine centre though, they were huddled up on a telephone line.

As I walked back home for a halftime drink, I passed this SPAROWHAWK on the Greenhouses. I thought it was holding prey, and hiding it with it's wings, as they do, but saw that it was actually airing it's wings in the cool air.

The second half of my walk was done in equally foggy conditions, and the day list was on just 37! I did quickly add LONG TAILED and COAL TIT through the wet woods though, and the CANADA GEESE took me to the 40 mark, this was worse than yesterday! A JAY screeched from the wet woods as I left to enter the Tree Nursery, where a PHEASANT flew up, and a MISTLE THRUSH started to sing from the top of an Oak.
It was now 09:30 and only now had the fog began to disperse, so I went over to Migrant Alley for a Skywatching session, I could noe see the SWIFTS and HOUSE MARTINS that I had only heard earlier, and a YELLOWHAMMER went over, calling as it did so. As the sun came through, it got very warm and humid, but I carried on, and was rewarded with HERRING, and LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLS, as well as 5 BLACK HEADED GULLS all going west, a little while later the KESTREL revealed itself, and started its usual routine, of upsetting the Swallows and PIED WAGAILS round the Greenhouse area. I picked up a white flash of a bird from behind the tree line, just off my patch, and was pleased to add MUTE SWAN to the list as it came over. Hooray! This species is new for the month! They are scarce on my patch, in fact this is the first one i've ever recorded in June, and the first seen on my patch since a group of 5 flew over back on March 14th! Maybe too little too late for the june record though, still 3 more species needed! The last bird on the day list was a welcome sighting of a LAPWING, fittingly number 50, a decent enough result for the day.

Below is a male HOUSE SPARROW, anticipating a bit of sun.
This BLACKBIRD was on the telephone line as I neared home
Below is a Comma Butterfly, seen in the hedgerow behind my skwatching seat.

Saturday 27 June 2009

My eagerly anticipated mornings walk, was an anticlimax, I was scratching around to find birds, at times it was totally silent! The highlight of the patch visit was finding a Deer, it had got itself into one of the sheep fields, and was looking for a way out.

By 10:00hrs it was very warm, and the sun had burnt off the early low cloud and mist, I sat in the tree nusery at the end of my walk, and tallied up my species count, just 46 species had been recorded, a poor total for 3 and and a half hours walking. I had some hopes of finding a Kingfisher, or Greylag Goose to add to the months list, but with just one full walk of my patch left, and two afternoon visits, I think last years June record total is safe!

I will have to get up earlier and look harder tomorrow morning!!

Below is the Deer that was stranded in the sheep field. I think it will get out eventually, I very rarely see Deer on my patch. Sorry for the Pic. quality but it was a long way off , and in the mist.
I went up to the garden shed at one point this afternoon, to get some garden bird pics through the window, but it was so hot in there I gave up after taking this BLUE TIT photo! ( what a wimp I am!!)

My Idea was to hide away from the heat all afternoon, and go out this evening, but I got as far as Migrant alley and a huge thunderstorm appeared!!
I think I should have just gone down to the beach today!!
Thunder storm approaching, the camera did well to brighten the sky in the image below.

Friday 26 June 2009

Early this morning I was awoken by a thunderstorm and heavy rain, but it had all but cleared by 07:00hrs, although the rest of the day was mostly cloudy, there were some sunny intervals, and it felt hot, humid, and uncomfortable in these spells.

This afternoons visit was curtailed to just 90 minutes, it was just too hot and humid for me, I may go out later this evening. I did get to visit the lakeside scrub, and was surprised at the amount of BLACKCAP and CHIFFCHAFF song, I didn't get to photograph any though, the now very dense undergrowth hides them well. Whilst I roamed, I came across a feeding party of birds, again there were Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs present, with BLUE and GREAT TITS, and a family of TREECREEPERS, as I waited for a photo opportunity, I could here at least 2 TURTLE DOVES singing, and an unseen WHITETHROAT scolded me from a thick clump of brambles.

As I trudged back towards home, dehydrated, and leg weary, I saw a large Butterfly, it alighted on an old drainpipe, and showed itself to be a Red admiral, this one, unlike yesterdays, did open its wings, moments later I got a pic of a speckled Wood, a butterfly that I didn't get a photo of yesterday.

Nearing home I saw the KESTREL hunting around its usual haunt- the greenhouses, which wasn't appreciated by the PIED WAGTAILS, and 4 anxious BLACKBIRDS that gave their ''pink'' ''pink'' alarm calls until it moved on.
I'll be glad to get out early in the morning, when it's much fresher. I still need 4 more new species for the month to beat last years record, time is running out!

Above and below are the photo's I managed to get of the Treecreepers. A bit blurry - for some reason I didn't have a steady hand today, too hot!!
Below is the Red Admiral Butterfly on an old drainpipe, it could have found something more natural to show itself off!
Next is the Speckled Wood Butterfly
I also got a few photo's of damselflies, as i passed the run off pool in the tree nursery, this one is a Blue Tailed.
I think these two mating are Common Blue (Edit - I'm wrong - Again. They're Azure's :-( )
I think this one is another Common Blue ( Edit - Another Azure, thanks greenie!)
I came across a patch of Ragwort in the tree nursery, with the obligatory cinnabar moth caterpillars on it.
This Flower was in the scrub area, Anyone know what it is ?

Thursday 25 June 2009

Another very warm and humid day, although it was cloudy first thing as I walked into work, and it was the half hour walk in to work that provided the most birds. A flock of at least 22 LONG TAILED TITS, with BLUE and GREAT TITS accompanying them in smaller numbers, with two CHIFFCHAFF and a TREECREEPER tagging along, were seen working their way from the Scrub at migrant alley, and into the college grounds. Quite a sight and sound to behold.

The humid and hot weather this afternoon meant that very few birds were about, KESTREL and SPARROWHAWK were around hunting, and HERRING GULLS flew over as did a lone BLACK HEADED GULL, but the afternoon ended up being more noteworthy for the Butterflies! So i'll leave you with some pics of what I saw. Apart from the ones that got away that is! These included Speckled wood, Large White, Painted Lady, and a probable Gatekeeper - which would have been my first of the year.

Above is a Small White
Above and Below are Small Tortoiseshell, different ones! They are coming back!

Above and below is the Large Skipper
Below is a Red Admiral, only the second one recordd this year, alas it refused to open its wings!

Above and below is the Meadow Brown - the most Common butterfly on my patch

Lastly , above and below, the Common Blue, looking a little tatty now.
Thunderstorms are forecast for tomorrow!!

Wednesday 24 June 2009

A bit of late news from last evening - the hedgehogs were out!! They are quite a rareity where I live, these are the only two I know of. they came out around 21:00hrs, and were eating the leftover fat from a steak i had for dinner!

Back to today, which again dawned sunny and warm, a LESSER WHITETHROAT was heard singing as I walked in to work, as was a TURTLE DOVE and BLACKCAP, nice to have a bit of song first thing.
This afternoon was the usual trek round the tree nursery, but I decided to pay the lake and scrub area a visit, before going back over to migrant alley. I was looking for butterflies along the nursery boundary, but without much luck, just Large Skippers and Meadow Browns with a single Painted lady were recorded. Over at the lake and scrub area it was all very quite, as per normal in June, the lake had 13 CANADA GEESE on it, but not the hoped for Greylag goose, there was also a recently fledged MALLARD seen, it was scurrying across the water dodging the Geese! A male BULLFINCH alighted 20 feet in front of me, but kept itself hidden behind the foliage - like they always do!
I cut through the tree nursery to get to migrant alley, but half way across I heard a call- a Wader call, I looked up,but saw nothing but blue sky, then again it called, loud and clear, this time closer, but where was it ? Once again it called and this time I saw it, a tiny Wader, I got my bins onto it and had a glimpse of its face pattern - Ringed Plover, or was it a Little Ringed Plover ? I watched it fly over to migrant alley, and only ever got views of it's underside, but I did have the call to go on. On my return from my walk, I was straight on the computer, listening to Ringed and Little Ringed Plover calls, and no doubt in my mind it was a LITTLE RINGED PLOVER, (126, 101) Yesssssss!! A fantastic bird to have on my patch, I never would have believed this one would get recorded here, all that scratching around this month has paid off handsomely, I love patch watching!!
Also rans during a skywatch at Migrant Alley included the KESTREL, SPARROWHAWK, a CORMORANT ( only the second this month) and both LESSER BLACK BACKED and HERRING GULL, but I must admit, it was a halfhearted skywatch, as I was itching to get back and ID the wader, what a find!

Below is a JUV. LONG TAILED TIT, seen along the footpath between the wet woods and lake.
Below is a Male Bullfinch. A typical view of one of these very shy birds!!
Lastly the flotilla of CANADA GEESE, I still need Greylag Goose for the months list!

Tuesday 23 June 2009

At last some of the sunshine we had been promised came our way, it was warm and sunny all day! Lots of butterflies were on the wing, Large and Small Skipper, Small white, Meadow Brown and painted ladies were all seen along the the boundaries of the tree nursery, where a WHITETHROAT was seen taking food back to its young. A pair of STOCK DOVES and a single TURTLE DOVE flew up from between the Laurel shrubs, and the usual GREEN WOODPECKER joined them a few moments later. A quick sit down in the shade to scan the sky was rewarded with the acrobatic performances of SWIFTS, SWALLOWS, and just a few HOUSE MARTINS, with a lone LESSER BLACK BACKED GULL heading west.

I next ventured over to the scrub at Migrant alley, where More Butterflies were seen, a few SPECKLED WOODS were here, but nothing more exciting than that. As I went round to take my skywatching seat, I saw that the grass field had been cut, and the cuttings lay in neat parallel lines ready to be collected. A pair of MAGPIES were there feeding there youngster, and as I watched I heard a LAPWING call, I scanned the field and sure enough up flew four of them, quite something for this species to be on my patch during June. I spent a hot 45 minutes watching the azure blue sky, but only saw a SPARROWHAWK and two KESTRELS, the latter interacted briefly before going their separate ways.

There were no new species for the month recorded, I think last years record of 67 will hold for another year. I had a look at what I had seen last June, but not this - Mandarin Duck, Kingfisher, Barn Owl, Greylag Goose, Little Egret, and Willow Warbler were seen last year, but this year I have seen Med. Gull and Red Kite that were not on last junes list!

Despite all the butterflies about, I failed to get a decent pic. of any. So I took some photo's of the birds visiting my garden pond when I got back. they were taken through the shed window so aren't too clear!
Above is a Juv. ROBIN and Below is one of the dozens of Juv. BLUE TITS using the pond.

Below is one of the Kestrels that was seen during my skywatch
Lastly the cut grass field, where the Lapwings were. This view looks north

Monday 22 June 2009

Well after the weekends exciting finds and long bird lists, I came down to earth with a solid bump this afternoon! After walking home from work in very warm bright conditions, it all changed almost as soon as I left the house, the dark cloud rolled in, and a cool breeze got up, which was annoying as I had only gone out in a tee-shirt.

A brief forage around the tree nursery boundary for butterflies, only turned up Meadow Brown, they are everywhere at the moment, sun or not! Whilst I was there a large female SPARROWHAWK came over low, it circled above the greenhouses attracting the local PIED WAGTAIL and SWALLOW population, which seemed to revel in the game of ''mob the hawk'', they won of course and the Sparrowhawk wandered off.

I went over to my seat at Migrant alley, and sat in the wind for 40 mins, watching the fields and sky. A BLACK HEADED GULL went over - the first for a couple of weeks, as did a couple of LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLS and a group of 6 HERRING GULLS. A KESTREL came in from the south, and started hunting around the Greenhouses, its usual hunting place. On the fields and paddocks there were LINNETS, a few GOLDFINCH'S, two SKYLARKS that took turns in singing, and also the usual WOOD PIGEON and corvid mix. The only bright spot of the afternoon was when 3 LAPWING flew over, the first this month, it's been a while since I added a species to the months list, which still lies 4 behind the best ever June total of 67, i've got just 8 days to beat it!

Sunday 21 June 2009

Cool and cloudy once again for this mornings patch walk, and it was ''as you were'' for the species count, although the 50 species today did have two not seen yesterday, a Juv. GREY WAGTAIL seen by the college stream, which could not have been raised far away, and also a SPARROWHAWK that was seen carrying off some unfortunate victim across the tree nursery, and into the wet woods.

Not much singing was heard this morning, but those who were trying included, the migants birds of BLACKCAP, CHIFFCHAFF, WHITETHROAT, and TURTLE DOVE, while the resident WREN, DUNNOCK, ROBIN, BLACKBIRD, CHAFFINCH, GOLDCREST and SONG THRUSH all gave some song.

I noted a family of LESSER WHITETHROATS being fed in the college grounds, this pair have been very elusive birds, I only heard the male sing once!

This afternoon, the sun shone (at times) so I roamed around the Tree nursery boundary, looking for butterflies. I really wanted to find that Brown Argus again, but I failed. However I did get some pics of -
A Male Common Blue Butterfly, Ive had a female on my patch, but this is the first male, what a cracker!

Below is what i'm sure is a Small Skipper, and represents another new Butterfly species for my patch
I also saw another Small Tortoishell, lets hope they are on the raod to recovering some of their losses.

When I got home from ''butterfly hunting'' I was surprised to see this young Grass snake in my pond, it was only as thin as my finger and about 30cm long (about a foot in old money)
I couldn't have a post without a bird in it! So here's a Juv. GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER, taken this morning in the gloom!