Saturday 31 October 2009

The last day of October, and the last chance to find a new species for the months list. I was keen to get out, but had to wait until 06:30 until it was light enough, however, my enthusiasm was dampened quite literally as a weather front moved through bringing intermittent rain, then a low misty drizzle that closed in all around.

It was quite evident that the birds were well hidden, or had even left the area, as I found very little on my 4 hour visit, just a pitiful 36 species were seen, and actual numbers of birds were well down on previous visits as well. It really was one of the poorest patch walks this year! Such are the ups and downs of patchwatching, but it was made even more frustrating when I had a text message from a friend (cheers dave) to say he had seen a flock of Pink footed geese just go over, and may be headed my way - needless to say I missed them if they did!

The less said about todays visit the better. I decided to watch the garden feeders for an hour or two, I might just get a Brambling visit, or a Blackcap, but I really was clutching at straws for that extra species, and neither showed :-)

About 13:45 the cloud lifted and the sun made an appearance, so I was off out again for a skyscan at Migrant Alley, the 90 minutes I was out proved more interesting than the whole of the previous morning, I added the following 7 species to the daylist, GREYLAG and CANADA GOOSE, as well as 38 FIELDFARE, 2 STOCKDOVE, and 11 LAPWING, 3 LINNETS alighted in the tall hedge, and a GREY WAGTAIL was on the greenhouse roofs. Ther was also a bit of SKYLARK movement, and good numbers were seen, a flock of 24 went over, but two's and 3's went over continually whilst I was out, but that new species for the month eluded me!

So October ended on a Joint record tally with last year, the total of 68 is a very good effort, 4 more than the next nearest october total, achieved in 2007. The average October species total is 61, and the combined total for all octobers is now 85, after adding the 3 new ones seen this month, which were, Barnacle Goose, Golden Plover and that superb Black Redstart.

So what will November bring ? well it all starts again tomorrow, although saying that the weather looks to be very wet and very windy, we'll have to see! The target for November is 66, a very challenging one!

Friday 30 October 2009

More early fog made for a difficult patch visit this morning. The fog did lift eventually, but cloudy conditions persisted throughout the day, with only short brighter spells.

I did a bit better than yesterday, at the halfway point of my walk I had recorded 36 species, compared to just 30 yesterday. However, nothing really stood out as noteworthy, WOODPIGEON movement was still going on, observed through a ''hole'' in the fog that was directly above my patch, a few small parties of REDWING were heard going over, but fewer FIELDFARE were seen. A SPARROWHAWK flew from cover as I walked across the college sports pitch, and a KESTREL was at its usual hunting area around the greenhouse complex. All that was expected was seen at Migrant Alley, LINNNETS, PIED WAGTAILS, MEADOW PIPITS, SKYLARKS, YELLLOWHAMMERS and the ROOK and JACKDAW flock.

As I began the second half of my walk, a RING NECKED PARAKEET flew over, calling noisily, this must be the same bird as recorded in recent visits. Whilst walking through the wet woods, noting NUTHATCH among the LONG TAILED TIT flock, I recieved a text from Amanda, who lives by the lake, she let me know there was a Ring neck parakeet on her feeders, I took it that it was the one I had seen flyover me earlier. When I got to the lake, it was again the domain of MALLARD and MOORHEN, not even a Heron today! I checked out the scrub and found BULLFINCH on brambles and SISKIN in Alders, then checked the feeders in Amanda's garden, no Parakeet, but as I scanned the surrounding tree's I found it, feeding on Ash keys, so there are two of them in the area. I tried to get a photo of it, and did get some, but it was too far away, and the light was poor. I watched it drop back down to the feeders, when whoosh, in comes the Sparrowhawk ( bloody plagued with the things round here!). It missed the parakeet, but I had to laugh to myself, as the parakeet screamed off into the distance - wont see that again!

A further visit to migrant alley, for a skywatch, gave me BLACK HEADED GULL and HERRING GULL, another (or the same ? ) Sparrowhawk and a couple of STOCK DOVES. I called it a day after being out for 5 hours, but I added GREY WAGTAIL to the day list, as it flew over and alighted on a house roof, and bird of the day was added as I reached home, a COMMON BUZZARD, soaring low over my house.

47 species were recorded in the 5 hours, and two more added from the window whilst eating lunch, the MARSH TIT, at my feeders and a flock of 17 LAPWING that flew over.

So still no new species for the month, depite seeing some scarce birds - for my patch! Lapwing, Marsh Tit, Common buzzard, Grey Wagtail, Siskin and Parakeet, are all good October birds.

Above and below: More foggy pics.

Below is a GOLDFINCH on my feeder, whilst watching the garden today I had a visit from the first Siskin to venture on to the feeders this Autumn.
below is the Ring Necked Parakeet. I don't think it will be seen again after its encounter with the Sparrowhawk.

Thursday 29 October 2009

This mornings visit turned from a disappointing this.....

Into a glorious this.........

....................................Red Admiral......................
The early fog burnt of by 11:30, leaving a sunny and unseasonbly warm day. However the dense fog meant the best part of the day was a bit of a waste of time. By the time I had walked the first part of my patch I had recorded just 30 species! The 30th being a COLLARED DOVE, thats how slow it was.
As the fog started to lift, so i found a few more birds, I had some cracking close up views of both TREECREEPER and GOLDCREST in the wet woods, and again in the Lakeside scrub, but it was just too dull to get any pics. A KINGFISHER broke the mononity of seeing just MALLARD, MOORHEN and GREY HERON on the Lake, a few BULLFINCH, and SISKIN were seen around the scrub, and with the clearing skies, both CANADA and GREYLAG GOOSE were seen flying over - padding out the list to a more respectable 42.
I had time to revisit Migrant Alley for a bit of skywatching, and I took my usual seat by the tall hedge, where it was warm enough just to sit in a tee shirt, not an awful lot was seen though, a KESTREL, and a SPARROWHAWK, several groups of FIELDFARE and REDWING, a few MEADOW PIPITS, the odd YELLOWHAMMER and a single LESSER REDPOLL that alighted atop the tall hedge, but flew off before I could get a photo!
The morning ended on 45 species, 3 less than yesterday, but not a bad total for october, but that one more new species for the months list still eludes me - just 2 days left now and I fear more fog tomorrow morning. :-(
This Fieldfare settled down in the tall hedge, and unlike the Redpoll, it gave me a chance of a photograph.

Wednesday 28 October 2009

It was cloudy and dull, but still quite warm, and there was not a breath of wind to be had this morning, nice conditions for my 100th full patch walk this year.

The first bird on the list was a GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER, calling from a small Oak opposite my house, and as I walked down Ashes Lane ROBIN, WOODPIGEON, CARRION CROW, HOUSE SPARROW, BLACKBIRD, BLUE TIT, and STARLING all joined it. I got into the tree nursery, and it was straight away evident that there were more Thrushes around than at anytime this month, 6 SONGTHRUSHES flew from the sapling trees and shrubs, they all went into a large oak, where a party of LONG TAIILED TITS were already feeding, a flock of 40 FIELDFARE flew over, headed west, as did a flock of 24 REDWING a few minutes later. Two male PHEASANTS flew up in front of me - scaring me to death, that woke me up! CHAFFINCH, WREN, MAGPIE, DUNNOCK and GREAT TIT were also found in the nursery, and as I walked the hedgerow towards Migrant Alley 4 BLACK HEADED GULLS flew over, and a KESTREL flew from a cherry tree, that is in one of the larger gardens.

Migrant Alley was quiet, as is the norm at this time of year, a few SKYLARKS were about, four LINNETS fed on weeds along the fenceline, and a couple of MEADOW PIPITS flew from the longer grass. JACKDAWS and ROOKS had started to gather on the horse paddocks, and looking skywards a HERRING GULL slowly flew across the slate grey sky, which in turn drew my attention to a large flock of woodpigeons - a 100 or so all headed SW, more flocks went over throughout the next two hours.

I headed for the Stream that runs adjacent to the College grounds, and found a flock of GOLDFINCH feeding in the ever reliable Alders there, with them were three SISKIN. I crossed the stream and walked through the college grounds, adding COLLARED DOVE, JAY, MISTLE THRUSH, GOLDCREST, MOORHEN, and a flyover GREY WAGTAIL, always nice to get one of those on the list! I then headed back to Migrant Alley via the sports pitch, and saw the first GREEN WOODPECKER of the morning - a bit late today! My second walk through Migrant Alley only added YELLOWHAMMER, PIED WAGTAIL, and a REED BUNTING that was in the tall hedge - a scarce species for my patch. The persistent SPARROWHAWK was of course seen overhead. :-)

After my usual halfway snack and drink, I headed off for the second half of my patch visit, through the small holding, wet woods and onto the Lake and scrub area. The pear trees in the small holding attracted a feeding flock of Tits and finch's, as well as a TREECREEPER, the COAL TITS amongst them were particularly vocal today. The wet woods was empty of birds, it really needs some heavy rain here to pep the habitat up a bit, as I left the woods a MARSH TIT was calling from one of the large wooded gardens, good to find it again, it tracked me down to the lake area, calling all the while, and went over to the feeders, at the nearby house.

On the lake it was a dismall affiar, just 2 MALLARDS and a few MOORHENS, this is another area that could do with some rain in it! A check around the scrub, produced just BULLFINCH and GREENFINCH for the day list, but on the homeward trek two geese flew over, one of CANADA and one of GREYLAG, a few minutes later 75 Canada's flew over! The last bird on the list was a bit of a surprise, a RING NECKED PARAKEET that flew over the tree nursery, the second one recorded this month, but only the third of the year.

48 Species were seen this morning, good for an October day, but I still didn't get the one new species needed to beat the months record - maybe tomorrow ?

The light was terrible for photography, these Goldcrest shots are the best I could slavage.

Tuesday 27 October 2009

After the early morning cloud dispersed, it was another cracking day, warm and sunny - tee shirt weather right up until 15:30, when it got a bit windy.

So this afternoon I was looking forward to my walk, but it was extremely quiet and disappointing birdwise.Long stretches of birdless silences were encountered, broken only by the most common of birds, ROBINS and DUNNOCKS, mostly with the odd GREEN WOODPECKER. The lake and wet woods were a repeat of yesterday, a group of around 13 LONG TAILED TITS fed in a large oak in the woods, and just MALLARD MOORHEN and GREY HERON were on the lake.

A walk round Migrant Alley was just as quiet, a single YELLOWHAMMER was seen, two MEADOW PIPITS and four LINNETS. A skyscan only produced two BLACK HEADED GULLS! Even the corvid flock of Jackdaws and Rooks had gone elsewhere.

Have they all got wind of the fact I'm off for the next few days, and winged it ?

Oh well, I have to take the good days with the not so good, I did spend half an hour trying to photograph the birds at the garden feeders late on, but the shadows got in the way a bit.

Above and below is a BLUE TIT, these look better if you click on them to enlarge them.

Above is a GOLDFINCH from the garden, complete with shadows ! below is one I saw in ashes lane.
Below is a GREENFINCH, the shadow just caught it's bill.....shame.

Monday 26 October 2009

It was nice to walk to work in the sunshine today, and what a cracking morning it was, it's nearly November, yet today was better than some of the days we had back in July!

I noticed more WOOD PIGEONS going south as I crossed Migrant Alley at 07:00hrs, quite decent sized flocks went overhead every few minutes, flocks were also seen to the west and east, I wonder how wider front they were going through at ?

The day continued sunny and warm for my afternoon walk, but the birds were as quiet as the weather, I suppose there is no need for them to constantly be out foraging for food when its this warm. I did see a few of the usual suspects though, 3 GREEN WOODPECKERS in the small holding, with two JAYS. A feeding flock in the wet woods contained BLUE, GREAT and LONG TAILED TITS, as well as the inevitable TREECREEPER. The lake life hasn't changed for a week, once again 6 MALLARDS, 8 MOORHENS and the GREY HERON were the only occupants.

The other side of having the light in the morning, is having the evenings draw in quicker, so by the time I got to Migrant Alley I only had an hour, before things started ''closing down'', so a quick circuit of the fields and paddocks was had followed by half an hours skyscanning. Again it was quiet, but I managed to find some SKYLARKS, MEADOW PIPITS, PIED WAGTAILS and the ever present JACKDAWS and ROOKS. The greenhouse complex wild areas were full of DUNNOCKS, a few WRENS and ROBINS, and the tall hedge had a few LINNET and Tit species in it.

My short skyscan came up with with KESTREL, that hunted around the Greenhouses, a SPARROWHAWK, and a COMMON BUZZARD that went over quite high, being mobbed by 80-100 corvids!

Still nothing new for the months list, I need just one more for the record, Ive got wed. thur and fri off this week, so I might just get lucky.

Above Kestrel, over the greenhouse area

Above: view over the seedling grass field, and across to a horse paddock. The trees in the background represent the northern boundary of my patch - the 'northern scrub' of Migrant Alley, its getting to be a bit mature to be called scrub now, more like a young woodland it's around 15 meters wide.

Sunday 25 October 2009

A much better morning weatherwise, a clear blue sky, with little wind, although the wind picked up later, bringing in varying amounts of cloud.

I was able to get out at 06:15 this morning, now that it's light at that time, and during the 4 hour visit 45 species were recorded, just about what I would expect at this time of year. There wasn't any new species for the month seen, but a few birds turned up that aren't usual regulars. A small flock of GOLDFINCH, seen in alder trees along the college stream, contained at least 4 SISKIN and at least 1 REDPOLL, it was hard to count them as the leaves are still on the Alder tree's.

Migrant Alley had a few birds on the fields and paddocks, I watched a party of two dozen SKYLARK drop in on the seedling grass, and a mixed flock of around 25 birds, was made up of mostly YELLOWHAMMER, as well as 7 LINNETS, 4 MEADOW PIPITS and 2 REED BUNTINGS they were all around the tall hedge. A dozen FIELDFARE was a nice sight, they dropped down from the blue, and went straight for a hawthorne hedge, which still had a few berries on it, after the heavy cutting it recieved a couple of weeks ago. Both SPARROWHAWK and KESTREL were hunting around the greenhouse complex, the latter was there for most of the day.

A small movement of WOODPIGEONS was observed during the visit, several small flocks were seen heading south, involving around 70 -100 birds, also seen going over were 75 CANADA GEESE, and 32 GREYLAG GEESE, common birds, but still nice to watch as they speed low over the area, a lone CORMORANT was also seen heading south.

The wet woods had a mixed feeding flock of mainly GREAT, BLUE, and LONG TAILED TITS, but it also had two COAL TITS and two TREECREEPERS amongst them, with a GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER following up.

The lake was it's usual quiet self, just two Canada Geese, 4 MALLARD, 6 MOORHEN and a single GREY HERON were seen there, the surrounding scrub had 4 BULLFINCH'S feeding in the bramble, and the only two GREENFINCH'S of my visit were seen here, this species is really getting hard to find on my patch now - even my garden feeders only have two or three at a time now.

Below is the rising sun - good to see it coming up before 07-00hrs again.

Below is a MAGPIE, caught in full flight.

The next two photo's of a COLLARED DOVE and a Great Spotted Woodpecker were taken from my garden.

Saturday 24 October 2009

The weather this morning was dismall, and it didn't get properly light until 07:30. Virtually all this mornings visit was undertaken in rainy conditions, but it was only drizzley stuff mostly - nothing like what was forcast.

Needless to say the camera was left at home today, not that there was much to photograph anyway, just 38 species were recorded, six less than I would have expected for an October morning. I can't think of a highlight, it was nice to see a KESTREL hunting over the tree nursery, and a couple of fresh plumage looking MEADOW PIPITS at Migrant Alley brightened up a dull affair. A feeding flock of LONG TAILED TITS, with BLUE and GREAT TITS, as well as TREECREEPER, NUTHATCH and GOLDCREST were in the wet woods, but the constant dripping of the trees on me, made me a bit lazy, and I didn't hang about to scan the flock further, maybe missing something rarer lurking with them.

At the lake/scrub area just a GREY HERON was fishing, 3 BULLFINCH were feeding on a bramble bush, and 3 SISKIN flew over. It was a day best forgotten as far as birding the patch was concerned though!

Now, as I write this at 15:50, chinks of blue sky have appeared - too bloody late now! The clocks go back an hour tonight, so tomorrow morning will be lighter earlier, lets hope for a better day!

Friday 23 October 2009

I only had a 90 minute wander through my patch today, I took the same route as the past few days, but it was bit rushed. Once again the small holding had a good few species of birds, 3 JAYS squawked noisily as I arrived, and TREECREEPER, NUTHATCH, GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER, a flock of around 8 CHAFFINCH, as well as the usual, WREN, ROBIN, DUNNOCK, BLUE and GREAT TIT, were all seen, still no Fieldfare or Redwing with them though, maybe i'll see these over the weekend.

The wet woods had a few GOLDCREST again, and a loose flock of feeding birds were on the southern edge, mostly Blue and Great tits, but also a COAL TIT and a pair of Treecreepers.

Onto the lake and scrub area, where 25 CANADA GEESE were spread beween the main lake and one of the two smaller ponds, I was well happy to see that the BARNACLE GOOSE had rejoined them, great little geese to see! Just 3 MALLARD and two MOORHEN were the only other water species seen. A quick look around the scrub, in hope of a Brambling, was only rewarded with a couple of BULLFINCH, and more Tits, wrens, Robins and Dunnocks.

A visit to Migrant Alley, was quite productive, especially around the tall hedge and into the greenhouse complex grounds. 3 GREEN WOODPECKERS were seen, a flock of 14 GOLDFINCH, 3 LINNETS, and a single MEADOW PIPIT, the occassional lone calling SKYLARK went over, and the PIED WAGTAILS chased anything that flew near them, including a WOODPIGEON, quite comical to see! I also noticed the KESTREL was up hunting over the tree nursery, as I had a quick sky-scan. The only other thing to report was a LITTLE OWL that called from the small holding as I was walking home along Ashes Lane.

The weather looks a bit wet and windy first thing tomorrow, but i'll try and get out anyway, even if its later.

Green Woodpeckers were the most obvious bird today, so I took a few pics. Just for Mike of

These two were having a staring match!
Below are four of the Goldfinch flock, feeding on the wild areas around the Greehouses.

Thursday 22 October 2009

Many thanks to all the people who left comments on yesterdays post, it's great to read through them, so I wont be giving up my blog anytime soon!

Today's weather was much improved, and some long sunny spells were had during this afternoons walk. I walked over to the lake area, via the small holding and wet woods, then a quick circuit of Migrant Alley - my normal for this time of year. The small holding had 3 GREEN WOODPECKERS when I arrived, they took a disliking to me, and flew up into the large pear trees, and hid round the opposite side of the trunks, thinking I couldn't see them, little did they know I had already sneaked a photo of one of them :-).

There was also a loose feeding flock of GREAT TITS, BLUE TITS, a couple of TREECREEPERS and a NUTHATCH, as well as a BULLFINCH and half a dozen CHAFFINCH. In the wet woods I found 3 GOLDCRESTS and a GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER, the former were scanned carefully to make sure they weren't Firecrests, a species I have seen in the woods before.

The lake had just 3 CANADA GEESE, 2 MALLARD and a MOORHEN, which I flushed out from the bank, sending it ''running'' across the water. The MARSH TIT called from the scrub, probably the same one that visited my garden yesterday, its only 150 yards away as the ''Tit'' flies! A quick look round the rest of the scrub only produced the usual WREN, ROBIN, BLACKBIRD, SONGTHRUSH, more Tits and Finch's, but not the Redwing or Fieldfare I had hoped for, these winter thrushes seem to pass my patch and go straight for the orchards at this time of year.

I made my way over to Migrant Alley, passing through the tree nursery, but this had a work party in, so nothing was seen there. just before I climbed over the fence, to get from the Grenhouse complex to Migrant Alley, a butterfly flew past me and alighted on the edge of some polytunnels, it was a Painted lady, looking quite good for this time of year. At migrant alley I just had time for a circuit of the fields and paddocks, and a 20 minute skywatch. The large flock of LINNETS seen recently, had mostly moved on, just 2 remained, also 2 MEADOW PIPITS were flushed from the grass. PIED WAGTAILS were numerous - probably around a couple of dozen, and a YELLOWHAMMER posed on a fenceline for a photo. I looked back towards the Greenhouses, and saw a KESTREL hunting over the rough grounds there.

Taking my seat, by the tall hedge, for a skywatch, I found myself listening to a familiar trilling, for in the hedge was a foraging party of LONG TAILED TITS, around a dozen moved along the hedgerow, then upon reaching the end, flew out one at a time over to the small copse by the greenhouses. My actual skywatch didn't produce much, a few single SKYLARKS went over, 3 BLACK HEADED and a lone HERRING GULL, also a CORMORANT - only the second sighting of this species for the month.

Above: Painted lady, alomost a perfect specimen.

Above and below is the YELLOWHAMMER, this one looks to be a female, they aren't quite so yellow as the males.

Lastly, One of the Green woodpeckers, seen at the small holding

Wednesday 21 October 2009

It was two years ago today I started this blog, but when I set it up, I thought i'd only do a calendar year, thinking it would get ''samey'', but it's become quite addictive, as well as being another recording aid for me to look back on, so i'll carry on a bit longer!

I see my page load counter has just passed 30, 000, so thanks to all of you out there who read my daily goings on.

Today was a bit different to the day two years ago, I was recording a late Wheatear, and Brambling was seen the next day, however the weather was dull and rainy this afternoon and I didn't get out, so I did something I havn't done since late march - watch the garden feeders.

I refilled the sunflower hearts and toped up the nuts, and sat down at the bedroom window, mug of tea and a few biscuits in hand, at 14:00hrs for a 3 hour watch.

The first birds in , as usual, were the GREAT (5) and BLUE TITS (7), (numbers in brackets are the most that came in at the same time.) Then a COAL TIT (1) came in at the sunflower hearts, followed by CHAFFINCH (3), ROBIN (1) and that superb little bird the NUTHATCH (1). GOLDFINCH'S (5) appeared a short while later, as did the GREENFINCH'S (3), but their numbers are well down since the hawk came back. The next species was a real treat a MARSH TIT (1), I'm pretty sure there is only one, perhaps two, birds on my patch, so I'm blessed to have one at my feeders!

GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER (2) joined the banquet, taking both nuts and Sunflower hearts, and DUNNOCKS (2) scurried to and from the undergrowth. HOUSE SPARROWS (5) took their time coming in, but got more confident as the afternoon went on, the same went for the COLLARED DOVES (4), an even later visitor was the BLACKBIRD (3) they didn't come in till 16:00.

An interruption to the dining, from you know who, yea, the SPARROWHAWK, made things go quiet for ten minutes, I had to go out and flush the hawk from the large leylandi, before things livened up again. The very next species was a belter for my garden, and most unexpected, a LESSER REDPOLL (2) both came in and took sunflower hearts, the first time this species has visited the garden since Sept. 2006, the 30th species to enter my garden this year.......and it brings up the 68th species for my patch this month, equalling last years record oct. tally, hoorah! A few minutes later a MAGPIE (1) came in, and picked up some peanut bits from the floor, and the last species noted was a GOLDCREST (1), feeding in the leylandi.

In all, 18 species came to feed in the garden, and another 12 species were seen either in the vacinity of my garden or flying over, they were, in order of appearance. WOOD PIGEON, GREEN WOODPECKER, CARRION CROW, WREN, PIED WAGTAIL, PHEASANT, LONG TAILED TIT, JACKDAW, STARLING, JAY, CANADA GOOSE and lastly SONGTHRUSH.

I'd forgotten how enjoyable watching the garden is!

Below is my back garden viewed from my watching position. Most of the feeders are now under the Elder tree on the left. The Leylandi tree is on the right, behind the wall in the neighbours garden, but alot of it overhangs my shed.

Below is the view from the front bedroom window, the buildings visible are the Greenhouse complex.

Tuesday 20 October 2009

A LITTLE OWL was calling as I walked to work this morning, but it wasn't light enough to see anything else until the end of my commute, the clocks go back soon, so I'll get just a few weeks of light in the mornings again, before winter sets in proper.

This afternoon was a hum drum affair, only birds that I would expect to see were recorded, apart maybe, from the CHIFFCHAFF which was still in the scrub area adjacent to the lake. There were no geese on the lake today though, just 5 MALLARD and 3 MOORHEN. Again there was much activity at the feeders in the large garden area, BULLFINCH was the best bird seen there, but CHAFFINCH, GREENFINCH, GOLDFINCH, BLUE and GREAT TITS and a GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER all came to feed. A GOLDCREST gave a breif bit of song nearby.

Over at Migrant Alley the Stonechats have moved on, or at least, I couldn't find them, and all that was seen on the paddocks were PIED WAGTAILS and CORVIDS, with a single MEADOW PIPIT and two SKYLARKS that flew over. So it wasn't a very inspiring day!

I got to thinking about my record year list whilst out, and how difficult next year was going to be. I have improved on my yearlist every year since I started watching my patch in 2002 - except 2003, in which I equalled the previous year. The reason for the increase is the fact that I increased my casual visits, and that I was just getting used to where the birds liked to be. However, I have always carried out 120 full patch visits each year - plus or minus one visit.

Year Totals to date

2002 - 89, 2003 - 89, 2004 - 92, 2005 - 93, 2006 - 98, 2007 - 99 2008 - 106, 2009 - 107, so far!

So next year will be the toughest ever I think, especially when I checked how often each species was seen this year, 10 of them were seen on just one occassion. They all could have been easily missed, had I taken a differnt turn, or been walking at a different pace, or just not looking up! On the other hand, what did I miss!!!

Monday 19 October 2009

Back to the weekday afternoon visits, they are not nearly so productive as the weekend morning visits, but sometimes I find something exciting. I set off this afternoon in dull windy conditions, with spits of rain in the air, I didn't bother with the camera.

The first patch of habitat I passed through was the small holding, where there were a few birds about on the windfall pears, GREEN WOODPECKER, GREAT TITS, and a flock of around a dozen CHAFFINCH'S, as well as the usual WREN, ROBIN and DUNNOCK. I walked through the wet woods - which is bone dry again, no chance of finding a Teal in there, as happens most years when there's plenty of water about. A few MOORHEN called but that was about it.

Over at the lake there was again a large number of geese, more than yesterday in fact, there were around 50 CANADA GEESE, with a few GREYLAG GEESE, but there was no sign of the Barnacle goose today, it must have flown all the way back up north, to join all the others that have migrated over ;-) . Also on the lake were 5 MALLARDS and a few Moorhen, a late CHIFFCHAFF was seen in the scrub. In the adjacent large garden, there was lots of feeding activity around the feeders, BULLFINCH, Chaffinch, GREENFINCH, GOLDFINCH, GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER, BLUE TIT, Great Tit, Robin, Dunnock, BLACKBIRD and a single SONG THRUSH, a species I failed to record at all yesterday.

Next destination was Migrant Alley, I had already walked through it on the way home from work earlier, and had seen a male STONECHAT in the same place where I had seen the pair yesterday, but the was no sign of the female, a further good look around the hedgerow and greenhouses didn't prove fruitful either. maybe the pair had moved on, and this was a different male ? Any way I did a circuit of the fields and paddocks, but the best I found today was the GREY WAGTAIL, back on the manure heap, 3 YELLOWHAMMERS a few PIED WAGTAILS and just two flyover SKYLARKS. A MISTLE THRUSH was heard to give a few song notes in the distance.

There weren't any addions to the monthly list today, I can't really expect anymore, I think ive been spoilt already!

Sunday 18 October 2009

It felt cold this morning, the sky was a clear icy blue, and a gentle NW wind was just about blowing. I wasn't expecting much on this mornings walk round, after yesterdays success, and it seemed as though I was going to be proved correct when at the halfway point of my walk I had recorded just 32 species. Three of them were when a flock of Gulls flew over the tree nursery first thing, HERRING, BLACK HEADED and LESSER BLACK BACKED GULL.

Migrant Alley was very quiet, just a couple of flyover SKYLARK, PIED WAGTAILS and a single MEADOW PIPIT, but not one Linnet was seen. The manure heap at the end of Migrant Alley, was again visited by the GREY WAGTAIL, always nice to see that species, but the college grounds and adjacent stream had very little to offer today. REDWINGS were still going over travelling west, but far fewer than yesterday.

It was the second half of my walk that was to hold the better birding fortunes today, a further 13 species were added to the days list, species such as GOLDCREST, COAL TIT, MISTLE THRUSH,GREAT SPOTTED and GREEN WOODPECKER as well as STOCK DOVE and LONG TAILED TIT, all turned up as I walked through the small holding and wet woods, these species are almost always picked up on the first half of my walk.

I could already hear geese on the lake as I approached it from the wet woods, and when I arrived I was surprised to see 38 CANADA GEESE all noisily ''honking'' away, with a GREY HERON looking out of place amongst them. However as I checked them all out, I saw one individual who was not quite a canada Goose - it was a BARNACLE GOOSE (127: 107), fantastic! What a way to bring up a new record yearly total, with a patch tick.

I had enough time for a quick re-visit of Migrant Alley, and scanned the sky for that Cormorant that surely must be added to the months list anyday now, but it wasn't that species that joined the months list,it was a flyover RING NECKED PARAKEET ! It looked magnificent as it's green plumage was seen against the azure blue sky. That species brought up the 45th of the day, much more like an average October Total.

This afternoon I went out to my seat, by the tall hedge at Migrant Alley, just for an hour. Before I had reached the seat I found this mornings 'missing' LINETS, flying around the tall hedge, as I watched I was aware of another bird on the fenceline, I turned to look, and saw a lovely female STONECHAT, it flew to the greenhouse complex, and I watched it through my binoculars, where it was joined by a male, what good fortune! My second pair of Stonechat this month, superb little birds! I took my seat and gave the sky a good scan, a KESTREL flew over as well as a YELLOWHAMMER, bringing the day total to 49, and what was number 50 ? ............CORMORANT - 3 of them flew over high!

So the good fortune carried on, despite an unpromising start to the day, in fact it's been a bloody good weekend! 67 now for the month and 107 for the year.

Above: all quiet in the wet woods, and the same at Migrant Alley below. The hedge in the background is the ''tall hedge'' favoured by some great migrants this year.

Below is the the record breaker, the 107 species - Barnacle goose.

Above and below: GOLDFINCH, seen in a row of alders, just down from the tall hedge.

Above and below: Female Stonechat

Below is the Male Stonechat - not very clear, but I couldn't get anywhere near them!
Below: A Linnet, sitting in the tall hedge.

Saturday 17 October 2009

It seems like ages since I have had a full mornings patch walk, so it felt good to be out in the cool morning air. The early sun lasted all of 10mins, and as I walked across the tree nursery, a blanket of cloud crept across the sky. I had 15 species on the list at that point, all the normal stuff, apart from maybe the MISTLE THRUSH that gave its rattling call as I left the house, but the 16th species was a real bonus bird, a GOLDEN PLOVER was heard to call, and then picked out as it flew over the tree nursery, this is the first time this species has been recorded in October, all the other records are from Dec - Jan, as I said a real bonus!

As it got lighter, it became evident that things were on the move, I saw the first of many groups of 20-30 REDWINGS, all heading west, and a few WOODPIGEONS did likewise. I reached Migrant Alley and thought I heard a Redpoll go over, and saw a small bird flyover south, but I didn't get enough on it to count it, however as I watched it disappear, I noticed 3 FIELDFARE go over, the first of the Autumn, two new species for the month already, a Cormorant would make a nice trio!

Other birds seen at Migrant Alley were SKYLARK, PIED WAGTAIL, MEADOW PIPIT and flyover BLACK HEADED and HERRING GULL. The walk along the stream was not very productive, but as I crossed into the College grounds, I picked up COAL TIT, GOLDCREST, GREY HERON, GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER and of course, a SPARROWHAWK. Crossing the sports pitch, a KESTREL flew over, and passing through the stables, and past the ever growing mound of horse manure, a GREY WAGTAIL was seen. I walked back through migrant alley, this time through the scrub headland, where BULLFINCH was seen, and down towards the tall hedge, marking the boundary to the greenhouse complex, in the hedge a male BLACKBIRD posed nicely for the camera, and as I took the photo, 2 birds gave chase to a third, the latter alighted the top of the tall hedge, at once I saw its chestnut red tail twitching, I got my bins on it and saw it was a BLACK REDSTART (106), fantastic!! A new bird for the year - and what a bird to find! I watched it fly off into the grounds of the greenhouses, and followed it up to get some blurry photo's, I didn't get too near, and the light was awful, but it didn't matter, this was a star bird for my patch and only the second ever recorded, the last one was back in July 2007.

Above and below: Black Redstart.

I got home for my halfway point drink and snack, feeling pretty good with my early morning start, all I needed now was just one more new species for the year, and the record year total of 106, reached last year, would be broken!
This gave me inspiration for the second part of my walk, but in the event just 7 new species for the day were found, some good ones though, including the MARSH TIT and a KINGFISHER, which was seen on a garden pond, that has been newly created, lucky people, the pond is not even finished yet, they probably didn't even see their jewel coloured visitor!
A cracking day's birding, 3 more species for October, bringing the months list to 64, which is now in joint second place for the 8 years, but more satisfying was finding that Black Redstart, to equal last years best ever yearly tally of 106.
Above is the spanking looking male Blackbird, that if hadn't posed for me, might well of meant missing the Black Redsart

Above is the Grey Wagtail at the manure heap, a poor pic. but the colours on it still look striking.

Friday 16 October 2009

After the early cloud and drizzle, it brightened up nicely for my afternoon stroll round my patch. As yesterday, the busiest place was centered around the dozen or so pear tree's in the small holding (below)

The ripe fruit attracted, insects - which in turn attracted a TREECREEPER, a GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER, and numerous BLUE and GREAT TITS, on the floor 3 GREEN WOODPECKERS were feeding amongst the ant hills.

Not much was seen in the wet woods, just a female PHEASANT, its a quiet place at this time of year. On to the lake and scrub area - the lake had the 3 most seen species that use it, on it once again, GREY HERON, MALLARD and MOORHEN, it's such a frustrating little lake, it's not shallow enough to expose any mud, and in turn a wader, but it's not deep enough to attract a diving duck, unless we get alot of rain, which we definitely have not! The surrounding vegetation and scrub had all the usual stuff, but it was nice to see a CHIFFCHAFF still remaining, and a pair of BULLFINCH. Also seen was the MARSH TIT, it made it's Pitchooo alarm call from close by, but I couldn't see it at first, I was looking to high and to far in - it was at my feet just a meter away! Of course, once I pointed the camera at it, off it went up into a crab apple tree. (below)

As I left for Migrant Alley, this SPARROWHAWK came drifting over, I swear they follow me around just to spoil my birding!

At Migrant Alley it was the quietest for some time, only the LINNETS were present, with a single BLACK HEADED GULL, and a flyover HERRING GULL.
The months list remains on 61, but I think I should get at least two more species before the months end. Cormorant being the most likely, last October I recorded this species on tweleve October days, mostly on the lake, 3 of those sightings were of multiple birds, where have they all gone - maybe the lake is too shallow?

Thursday 15 October 2009

The sunny weather was back again today, and with it came the birds. Once again a walk round to the small holding, wet woods, and lake/scrub area was had, before a quick visit to Migrant Alley. The small holding was quite lively, a TREECREEPER was on one of the old pear trees, as was a GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER, two GREEN WOODPECKERS were on the grass below the pear trees, along with a few CHAFFINCH, but strangley no Blackbirds were on the fallen fruit. GREAT and BLUE TITS were along the pathway to the wet woods, which itself was empty of birds, apart from a loudly calling NUTHATCH.

Not alot was to be seen at the lake, a few MALLARDS and MOORHENS, whilst BULLFINCH, GOLDCREST, and COAL TIT were the best of what was seen in the nearby scrub.

I crossed the tree nursery, which had another work party in it, so it was empty of birds, and went onto Migrant Alley. Once there I was pleased to see a flock of 22 LAPWINGS, the first this month. This flock is easiest the biggest October flock encountered on my patch, great birds, I was a bit greedy in hoping i'd find a Golden Plover in with them, but that seldom happens! The Lapwings didn't stay long, as a group of JACKDAWS infiltrated thier ranks, and started chasing and generally harrasing them, I was lucky to arrive when I did, as it would have been easy to miss them all. Other birds at Migrant Alley were 4 SKYLARKS, around 60 LINNETS, and a mix of a few MEADOW PIPITS and PIED WAGTAILS.

Below is the Great Spotted Woodpecker, seen on a pear tree in the small holding.

Next is one of the Linnets, in the tall hedge at Migrant Alley

This is a MAGPIE, taking a ride on one of the sheep!

and below is a JAY, which was foraging below the tall hedge.

Below is the Lapwing flock, quite far off, as I didn't want to spook them all up.

But as it happened, they were moved on by the jackdaws. Another far away photo. Might be better to enlarge it!

lastly, here's just one of the upteen low flying aircraft that went over my patch today, it's a wonder I see anything at all ! I find myself wishing back the low cloud and drizzle at times, that grounds all these bloody things!!