Monday 31 August 2009

It was back to normal on my patch this morning after yesterdays excitement! Well, almost back to normal, I still found a migrant REED WARBLER in the tall hedge at Migrant Alley, and as I neared the paddocks 5 YELLOW WAGTAILS flew up, disturbed by a dogwalker before I got there, who knows what else could have been there, it was all quite when I reached the paddocks anyway.

The whole of my walk was a much quieter affair all round, with a total of 46 species being found, well down on recent days, and a full 16 less than the last two visits combined! However it is a more realistic daylist for August. At least I found a COMMON WHITETHROAT and BLACKCAP today, and a pair of TURTLE DOVES, non of which were seen yesterday. The Turtle Doves seen today are the second latest recorded, Sept 1st is the latest date which occurred in 2007, the mean departure date for the previous 7 years is 22 Aug.

Later in the day I took a trip up Ashes Lane, ( the western end) where an adjacent field was being ploughed, I noticed some Gulls dropping onto it, but when I arrived I was stunned to see over 300 HERRING GULL a few BLACK HEADED, and a few LESSER BLACK BACKS! I gave the flock a good scan - if I could have found a Common Gull among them, it would have given me the one new species for the month that would have beaten the August record, but it wasn't to be. After the gull fest, I took a trip round the paddocks at Migrant Alley again, and was in luck, as I found a migrant WHEATEAR, thats 3 in 3 days now! I also saw a KESTREL which took the daylist to 48.

Above and below todays Wheatear - great little birds, a real treat for me on my patch.
Below is the Kestrel, would have been a better photo if it wasn't for that branch!
Below is a NUTHATCH I saw this morning.
Below is a few of the Gulls on the plough. They were of mixed ages a proved a good opportunity to try and get the different plumages - not my strong point!
Lastly more GREENFINCH'S from the garden feeders. This lot couldn't get on to the 12 port feeder above them, and the 6 port feeder nearby was full as well, more were bathing in the pond!

Sunday 30 August 2009

A fantastic mornings walk round my patch today! Most of the excitement centered around Migrant Alley, as is expected at this time of year, as I walked up to the tall hedge, I heard a LITTLE OWL call from the small wood, then I noticed two birds in the bare branches at the end of the hedge, a quick scan, and I could see they were REED BUNTINGS, not a species I was entirely expecting, as they are a scarce bird here, but what a good bird to bring up the 70th species this month, and so equalling the August record. As I took some pics of them, my phone rang, it was the Oxonhoath birder who watches the area north of my patch, he was gloating about the fact he had got 3 Whinchat and a Wheatear on his patch, our conversation was cut short as I could hear ( with my free ear!) a REED WARBLER further up the tall hedge, as I scoured the branches I not only found a Reed Warbler but also a SEDGE WARBLER, great stuff!

After getting my fill of the Warblers, I walked the weedy edge of the maize crop, sending up LINNETS and SKYLARKS as expected, but then two small birds flew up onto the maize stalks, WHINCHATS! This was some morning I was having, but the migrant birds hadn't finished yet, two YELLOW WAGTAILS were feeding in the paddocks and then I found a WHEATEAR on the fenceline, this is by far the best ''fall'' of migrant birds I have encountered on my patch.

I dragged myself away to go round the college grounds, and was pleased to see a KINGFISHER fly up the stream, and also two SPOTTED FLYCATCHERS. Whilst walking the streamside, I spied a fox with a cat, they were actually playing with each other! The cat would chase the foxes 'brush', then the fox would stalk the cat, and a chase would ensue, quite a fascinating piece of interaction between a wild and domestic animal.

Walking back through migrant alley, I again watched the Migrant species, and also saw a HOBBY and KESTREL go over., before leaving for the second part of my walk. As I had spent so much time around migrant alley, It wasn't until 09:30 that I reached the lake area, and it had turned warm and humid, most of the birds had gone to cover again, and I searched in vain for a Blackcap and Common whitethroat. I thought I might just get to 60 species for the daylist this morning, what with all the migrants, but I reached 52 species, a good total on any day. This dispite seeing 7 species that were not on yesterdays list of 55! I just can't seem to find them all on the same visit!

I took lots of Pics today. The first two are of Juv. GOLDFINCH'S

The next is of a Juv. BULLFINCH, not long out of the nest, It was calling incessantly to be fed, so it was easy to track down. I watched the female bird come and give it a feed.

Below is one of the Reed Buntings, found in the tall hedge.

This WREN was just below them. A bird that seems to avoid my camera most days.
Below are a couple of Wheatear photo's.

Next is one of the Yellow Wagtails that fed in the Horse paddocks

Below is the one of the Whinchats, they wouldn't allow close approach, and this is the best I could do!

The next photo was taken in my garden. The feeders have been overrun by GREENFINCH'S, I counted a minimum of 60 birds, it's just like it was when I first set up the feeding station, in the pre- Sparrowhawk days. I'll get some more shots of this lot.

Lastly, two photo's of the Fox and cat encounter, they were a long way off, so the pics are poor, but you can see they are best of friends!

Saturday 29 August 2009

I had a very productive 5 hour walk round my patch this morning, tallying up a magnificent 55 species, but it was frustrating not to get to 60, especially as some normally easy seen species did not show, such as Pheasant, Mistle Thrush, Yellowhammer and Canada Goose.

Star bird for me was the lovely WHEATEAR that was at migrant alley, there I was bemoaning the lack of Whinchat and Wheatear, and I get them both in two visits! Another star bird - can I have two ? - was also a new species for the month, circling high above Migrant Alley two PEREGRINE FALCONS shadowed one another across the blue sky. Its been frustrating to see them on the tower during the month, but this is the first time they have ventured over my patch. The good fortune continued when another new species for the month flew over - CORMORANT , 5 flew over looking like they had nowhere in particular to go. The months total is now on 69, just one behind the record Aug. set last year, but it will take some luck to reach it in the last two remaining visits left, I might just get a Lapwing flyover!

Other noteworthy birds were, 1 YELLOW WAGTAIL in the paddocks, 3 SAND MARTIN and 2 TURTLE DOVES all passage birds. A HOBBY was seen more than once, as well as KESTREL and SPARROWHAWK, the latter was a large female chasing a WOODPIGEON, she got her talons into its rump, but only came away with a load of feathers! Two GREY WAGTAILS that were at the college grounds gave me all three species of wagtail in a day, something ive only ever achieved once before on my patch. I counted at least 70 PIED WAGTAILS fly from the roost at the Greenhouse Complex.

There were still a few summer migrants about too, BLACKCAP, CHIFFCHAFF, WHITETHROAT and a LESSER WHITETHROAT were seen, the latter in the tall hedge at migrant alley. LONG TAILED, BLUE, GREAT, COAL and MARSH TITS were located in the wet woods and lakeside scrub, as well as TREECREEPER and NUTHATCH. A very entertaining visit today!

I also saw this fox walking casually across the paddocks, I made a ''rabbit in distress noise'' and it came up to me to investigate, giving me a photo shoot.

Below is the Wheatear at Migrant Alley. But I couldn't get very close to it

Next are the 5 Cormorants that flew over

This LINNET was in the Maize, I thought I had found something really special at first!
lastly a ROBIN. A pity all the white bits have 'blown' in the photo.

Friday 28 August 2009

My disappointment on yesterdays visit was turned to joy today, a WHINCHAT visited my patch early on this morning as I walked through Migrant Alley on the way to work, fantastic little birds! Oh, and another YELLOW WAGTAIL was feeding in one of the paddocks!

On the walk back home I located the Yellow Wagtail but couldn't find the Whinchat. As soon as I had eaten something, I was back out looking for the Whinchat, this time with my camera, but alas it had moved on. Whilst I was there - in an even stronger, more annoying wind than yesterday, plus some showery rain, 8 SAND MARTINS flew over, twice 2 were seen, then 3 together then later a lone bird, all going south. A HOBBY was seen again, as well as a KESTREL, and a GREY HERON put in a flyover appearance. HERRING GULLS were noted flying over in small groups, also 4 BLACK HEADED GULLS and a couple of LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLS, all relishing the windy conditions. As I was leaving I scanned the fence lines one last time and saw a TURTLE DOVE sunning itself, I had to creep up on it through the wet maize crop to get anywhere near enough for a photo.

Turtle Dove - worth getting wet to get this pic.

Below: A group of SWALLOWS were preening themslves on the fence line
I was getting closer and closer to them, but some ignorant couple with 3 loose dogs came past and scared the lot away. They could clearly see what I was doing, bloody dog walkers!

Thursday 27 August 2009

It was another blustery, windy afternoon, and this along with the time of day meant few birds were seen, and even fewer heard, as the annoying continual roar of the wind in my ears blanked any other sound out.

It wasn't all gloom though, as I walked past the greenhouse complex a KESTREL was 'balancing' on the wind, expertly hovering over the rough grssland there. Once at Migrant Alley I walked round the maize, and watched a TURTLE DOVE fly into the edge of the crop. Out on one of the paddocks 20 or so PIED WAGTAILS fed, picking up what few insects they could find in the conditions, as I scanned through them I saw 8 LINNETS and yet another YELLOW WAGTAIL, which promptly flew up and off, looking like it had been sucked away by the wind.
A hours skywatching provided me with another passage migrant species when at least 6 SAND MARTINS flew low over the maize, a large female SPARROWHAWK caused mass panic a few minutes later, and everything took the sky in ''everybird for himself '' fashion. It took a while for all to become calm again, but it wasn't to long before a HOBBY came over, this time upsetting all the SWALLOWS and HOUSE MARTINS.

So despite the wind, it wasn't a total loss today. Sand Martins are always a good spot on my patch, and I never tire of seeing Yellow Wags, while 3 species of raptor is not to be sniffed at either, however I can't help just feeling a little disappointed at the lack of a Whinchat or Wheatear, this time last year I had two of the former and one of the latter on the same afternoon - that was a good day!!
No pics today - too windy for insects - and the birds wouldn't come near enough today.

Wednesday 26 August 2009

A short half hour visit to Migrant Alley yesterday evening was worthwhile, when once again at least 2 YELLOW WAGTAILS were about, it's certainly been an exceptional passage for this species on my patch this august. Not so for Whinchat and Wheatear though, last year I had Whinchat sightings on 4 August days, this year just one, and Wheatear were seen on 7 days last August, this year just 3.

Todays visit around Migrant Alley was very quiet, not surprising really given the weather. A strong blustery wind blew, and occassional spits of rain blew through. Only the local birds were seen, 30 LINNETS, 3 SKYLARKS, 45 STARLING and a large mixed flock of Corvids, mostly ROOKS and JACKDAWS. A KESTREL flew over, only the 5th sighting of one this month, and both LESSER BLACK BACKED and HERRING GULLS also went over. Around 40 SWALLOWS and 20 HOUSE MARTINS were feeding above the paddocks, looking like autumn leaves being tossed about in the strong wind.

At least now the work on the gas pipeline really does seem to have ended, all the fences have been put back, and the hard ground that had been driven over has been ploughed and harrowed, all that is left to do is re-plant the hedges. Maybe now a Wheatear or Whinchat will drop in!

One other visitor to the paddocks was this immature GREEN WOODPECKER, the only photo I took today.

Tuesday 25 August 2009

A new species for the month was found this morning as I walked into work - a GREY WAGTAIL, it flew low over Migrant Alley. This brings the months tally to 67, just 3 behind last years record total, but i'm unlikely to beat that now, with just 3 full walks of my patch left, the only additional species I can realistically expect would be a flyover cormorant, however i'll keep looking!

This afternoon I re-traced yesterdays walk, but carried on to the scrubby headland to the north of Migrant Alley, below is a photo looking back at the Greenhouses, and maize crop from there.

Once at the headland, ive reached the boundary of my patch, denoted by this bridleway, I count birds either side of this though. Its also good for Butterflies and Dragonflies here.
The bridleway leads on to the college stables and into the college grounds, but just before that, on the right hand side is migrant alley looking to the south.
Behind me at that point is the last of the horse paddocks, this one had a flock of 18 LINETS in it. ( yes I know they are horses not linnets Greenie!)
Passing the opportunity to enter the college grounds at this point, I instead go down to the Stream that runs adjacent to them, via this track below.

I then turn right, into the college grounds, and cross the stream at a bridge and walk the 200 meters along the tree line below, that hides the water course.

It was here I found a common blue butterfly.........
I then cross the stream again and go into the formal gardens of the college, where I found a Painted Lady butterfly

Below:A road cuts the grounds in two, on the left are some campus buildings, and mature oaks, on the right is the sports pitch, and a little further on the more formal gardens called ''broadview''. this may seem an unpromising place for birds, but if you get here early enough there are good birds about. I have recorded Wood Warbler and Firecrest here!
below is a view of the sports pitch, there were 25 STARLINGS, 4 Linnets and 22 PIED WAGTAILS on the field, honestly! Behind the hedge in the bckground are the Formal Gardens

I walked across the sports pitch, to the right hand side of the above pic. and got back into migrant alley, this is the view. The trees are a small wood that lies just to the right, and behind the tall hedge.

I stopped here, skywatched, and waited for something to drop in, but nothing did today. mainly because work is still going on at the pipeline!

Monday 24 August 2009

It was back to work this morning, and nothing much noteworthy was seen on the walk in. On the way home I saw that heavy machinery had moved back into Migrant Alley, so that messed that up for any migrant species dropping in.

After some food and drink I walked out to get some photo's of my patch, as has been requested by some fellow bloggers! ( the pic's are better if you click on them to enlarge them )

When starting a full walk of my patch, I come out of my house, and turn right into Ashes lane (below). The hedge on the right holds common species, and sometimes Common Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat or Bullfinch, behind the hedge is the Tree Nursery, while immediately left is the greenhouse complex.

250 yards down the lane I turn right, into the tree nursery, over this gate.
Halfway across is a style, which takes me into the second field which was part of the tree nursery, but it is finished with now. It will be turned over to sheep grazing and the occassional crop. The clump of trees in the distance is my next destination.
The photo below shows the bare ex-tree nursery with the Wet Woods in the distance.

Below is the next destination, it's a ditch that holds the run off water from the nursery fields, it's normally dried out by this time of year. I get some good species here on accassions.
Leaving the ditch, I walk through a gate, and into a sheep grazed field, along a 300 meter hedge, shown below.

The run off ditch is now immediatley on my left. The hedge row takes me back onto ashes lane then into migrant alley.

This was the view of migrant alley today! Full of machines.

Above is the view as I turned left along the maize crop, to go around the workings. The greenhouses in the top of the photo.

Above is the view as I turn right, its the tall hedge at migrant alley

Above shows the view from standing on the fence, with the tall hedge behind me. This view is NNW, the treeline is the boundary of my patch.

Above is a view North, from the same place, over the maize crop looking at the scrubby headland.

Above is from the same place agin looking NNE. at the college stables, behing these is the college grounds.

Above another shot, but more to the NE over the maize, to the college sports pitch.

Below, is a photo a little further on, it shows the pipe line workings, all the bare earth would nomally be maize, you can see the weedy edge of the left hand side of the crop.

Turning the corner, along the 3rd side of the maize I saw this prisine Comma butterfly, not seen one for a while.

Below is the view down the 3rd side of the maize, this is a favourite place for passage migrant Whinchat or wheatear.
Below is looking back SW across the maize, to the Greenhouses. This is where I sat and watched the Horse paddocks behind me, and to the left. After 20 mins or so I was surprised to see two YELLOW WAGTAILS drop in. They fed around the horses for a few minutes, then something startled them and they flew off, and carried on their southward journey. Well thats what I did this afternoon, I didn't see a lot, but the Yellow wagtails are always special.