Friday 31 December 2010

The final patch visit of the year took place in dull cloudy conditions, but that's a vast improvement on recent visits as there wasn't any Fog, Snow, Frost, Ice or wind!!

It was a tale of two halves today, on the ground it was hard going to find much, it seemed that there had been a mass exodus of birds from my patch since yesterday, with species like Treecreeper, Mistle Thrush, Long Tailed Tit and even the common Dunnock not being found, imagine, not being able to find a Dunnock!

Overhead however, things were much more exciting, with flyovers from BRAMBLING, SISKIN, REDPOLL, CORMORANT, 6 MEADOW PIPITS, one of the local PEREGRINES from the tower, and best of all 3 GOOSANDER (71) and an EGYPTIAN GOOSE (72) both new species for the month, the latter is only the second record for this species this year.

A STOCK DOVE that also flew over was just the second seen this month, whilst two species were seen that I hope stay around for tomorrows new year list - the GREY WAGTAIL, seen again on the manure heap at Migrant alley, and the COMMON SNIPE again at the wet field margin adjacent to the Greenhouse complex. The YELLOWHAMMERS had increased in number, but by just one, 8 now fed in the new paddock at the north end of Migrant Alley.

A good total of 48 species was recorded in the 3 and half hours I was out today, and the two new December species takes the months total to 72 species, just one off the record set in 2008, six of those species were new to any December, Red Kite, Curlew, Brambling ( about time I got one in Dec. !) Egyptian Goose, Jack Snipe and Waxwing.

So there ends the 9th year of recording on my patch, the most successful one so far, with 113 species being recorded, 4 better than the previous best set last year. Seven species were patch ticks, the GREENSHANK, CURLEW, RING OUZEL, RED CRESTED POCHARD, WIGEON, JACK SNIPE and WAXWING, incredibly all these were seen in the final 5 months of the year, with the last two being found in December.

There were some losses from last year though, most notable the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, and Red Legged Partridge both were only ever seen once last year, and could well be missed again next year, as sightings have slowly petered out over the years.

I took the camera out today, just in case! I was glad I did in the end, for as well as this nice female BLACKBIRD, I also got a photo of the flyover Egyptian Goose, it's not very clear in the poor light, but you can just make out the salient points to ID it :-)

Thursday 30 December 2010

Once again fog shrouded my patch this morning as I left for the penultimate patch walk of the year, but today the fog slowly lifted, leaving a damp, dull and dismal day.

Thankfully, the birding was anything but dismal, and an excellent day list of 50 species was recorded in the four and a half hours I was out, thats a full dozen more than yesterday, the main difference was the lifting of the fog, enabling me to see the flyovers! These included 3 separate WAXWINGS, they alone made the day for me, but species such as GREY HERON, LAPWING, 3 MEADOW PIPIT, SPARROWHAWK, KESTREL, BUZZARD, 14 MALLARD, 9 GREYLAG GEESE and 6 CORMORANT were also seen today, where as yesterday they would have been obscured by fog.

Three species of Gull were seen on the College Sports Pitch, HERRING, BLACK HEADED and COMMON GULL, with them were a few REDWING and FIELDFARE, more of these winter thrushes dropped down into the tree tops throughout the visit, but never more than a dozen of each species.

A GREY WAGTAIL was on the Manure heap at Migrant Alley, and a SNIPE was seen at the wet field margin by the Greenhouses, also of note was the small flock of YELLOWHAMMER seen at the north end headland of Migrant Alley, again 7 were present, as seen on Tuesday.

The Wet Woods were ringing to the sound of GREAT TITS calling, just a hint of spring, but its arrival was also being anticipated by the likes of singing ROBINS, COAL TIT, DUNNOCK and a drumming GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER. Most of the other expected woodland species were recorded in the lakeside scrub, TREECREEPER, NUTHATCH, SISKIN, BULLFINCH, and GOLDCREST being the more noteworthy, with the latter species being especially numerous, with at least a dozen being seen over my patch today.

With the lakes still being 90% frozen, it looks like the months total will not be added to, however I did apparently manage to miss 9 Mute swans that flew over the Greenhouses while I was over at the lakes, they were reported by one of the ground staff that works there, and would have been the first this month had I seen them !

Yet again the weather prevented any Photo's being taken, hopefully it may just brighten up tomorrow.

Wednesday 29 December 2010

A dense fog had descended over my patch this morning, and visibility was down to 30m, not the best conditions for a patch visit, in fact fog is probably my least favourite of the elements!

As feared, the foggy conditions meant a poor day list was recorded, just 38 species were seen, mainly due to not being able to see any flyover species, but some regular species were missing, such as Mallard, Moorhen, Green woodpecker, Skylark, Meadow Pipit and no Raptors.

I rarely needed to lift my binoculars on this frustrating visit, and to pick out any birdy highlights is very difficult, but I would probably go for the 14 LESSER REDPOLL that dropped down from the fog and alighted in the Scrub area next to the still frozen lakes. The less said about today the better I think!

So i'll take a look at this years records, in particular the arrival of the much awaited spring migrant species.

Come March, I always look out for the early Migrants, and there were four species seen, the first, as is always the case, was the CHIFFCHAFF which was heard singing on the 18th, just 2 days later than the mean arrival date. The next species to turn up was the WHEATEAR, which arrived on the 21st, this being 17 days earlier than the mean arrival date, however, the last 5 years they have been recorded earlier than the previous 4, due to my increased visits, and a truer mean arrival date would be around the 19 of March.

The last two March Migrants were the SWALLOW, which arrived four days earlier than the mean date, but five days later than the earliest ever, recorded in 2003, and the somewhat surprising WILLOW WARBLER, the first ever to be recorded in march, its arrival on the 24th was a full week earlier than the previous earliest Willow Warbler record, made back in 2006 on April 1st.

By April the Migrants were really beginning to arrive, the next species was the BLACKCAP, arriving on the 1st, just one day later than the mean, but the next visitor was a real surprise, a BLACK REDSTART that dropped into Migrant Alley on the 7th, the first spring record of for this species. SAND MARTINS are always looked for in March, but I had to wait until the 10th April to see my first one this year, they are a scarce passage species on my patch and have been seen in just 3 of the 9 springs of patch recording.

On the 18th of April a real influx of summer species arrived, with HOUSE MARTIN, CUCKOO, and both COMMON and LESSER WHITETHROATS. The Cuckoo was 4 days later than the mean arrival date, the Lesser Whitethroat five days later, and the Common Whitethroat was a day earlier, as was the House martin.

The HOBBY and the SWIFT arrived on the same date, that being the 22nd April, the Hobby was my first April record for the patch, making it the earliest ever, the Swift was also my earliest ever, by 6 days.

Next to visit my patch were the TURTLE DOVE, which arrived bang on the mean date of the 24th, along with the YELLOW WAGTAIL and NIGHTINGALE, the former arriving five days later than the mean date, but has only been recorded in the last 4 springs. The Nightingale was once a former breeder on my patch, but this one was the first seen since 2007, however it didn't stay to breed.

May brought the later arriving Migrants, they were the GARDEN WARBLER which arrived four days earlier than the mean date of the 5th, then the SPOTTED FLYCATCHER which arrived on the 15th, six days later than the mean, followed 3 days later by the REED WARBLER, this migrant has only been recorded in five of the nine springs recorded, but its mean arrival date is the 22nd, making this springs record 3 days early.

A WHIMBREL that was recorded on the 10th of May was only the 3rd spring record, so a mean date doesn't really apply, the other records for this seldom seen species were the 1st May in 2006, and the 21 Apr. in 2008. COMMON TERN is another very scarce sighting over my patch, these have been recorded in just 4 springs, with dates varying from the earliest 'first' date of 26 April in 2003, to the latest 'first' date of 4th of June, which was this year.

...........and that was the Spring for 2010, I look forward to 2011!!!

Tuesday 28 December 2010

It was a dull, damp and gloomy patch visit this morning, and it didn't get any brighter all day!

Good job then that the birds provided something to lighten the morning, a good day total of 46 species was recorded, which was without finding such regulars as Songthrush and Pheasant.

50+ LINNETS flew from their roost in the Tree Nursery early on, and a bit further on, at the pub field, a LAPWING flew up calling very noisily. A REDPOLL flew over as I crossed Migrant Alley, where at the manure heap there, a GREY WAGTAIL was feeding.

The large SISKIN flock in the Alder trees along the College stream had grown, there were now at least 150 of them feeding there, and whilst I scanned them for Redpoll, a GREEN SANDPIPER flew in and landed a little further downstream, incredibly, my third record of this species for Dec. Before moving on, I saw my first MOORHEN, away from my garden that is, for 4 visits, and overhead 3 MALLARD flew round, also a species not seen for most of December.

I found a good flock of YELLOWHAMMER at the wooded end of Migrant Alley as I passed back through, 7 birds were seen, how sad that a good flock is now indicated by the presence of just 7 birds :-(

One SNIPE was found at its usual place, which is now becoming a very wet piece of ground, who knows maybe a different wader may turn up here if it stays wet.

The trip around the Wet Woods and lake area was punctuated by finding all the regular woodland species, NUTHATCH, TREECREPER, COAL TIT, GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER, LONG TAILED TIT and a small gathering of GOLDCRESTS, 5 birds were seen feeding together, bringing the total for the morning to 11 birds. It was good to see that the lake had started thaw, but I think it will take a day or two to have open water there.

Two more nice species were seen before ending my 4 hour walk, a COMMON BUZZARD flew up from a large garden, and a LITTLE EGRET flew over the Greenhouse Complex, my second this month.

As we near the end of the year, the time comes to look back on the months that have past, and in doing so I can report that this year has been the best out of the nine years of recording so far.

Those of you that take note of the figures in brackets ( following the highlighted birds) on my posts, will already see that I have recorded 113 species this year, which is 4 more than the previous best, set last year! I have managed to increase my yearly species total year on year and the nine year total now stands at 134, I think, however, that the run may end next year, and things will level out.

One more interesting stat ( for me anyway!) are the monthly species totals, when I started my patch records, in 2002, the average number of birds seen each month was 57.5 this has increased year on year apart from one year, seen as follows.

2002 - 57.5
2003 - 59.1
2004 - 56.8
2005 - 60.3
2006 - 62.0
2007 - 63.6
2008 - 67.4
2009 - 68.7
2010 - 70.1

You can see the increases are getting smaller and smaller for the latter years, but I think an average monthly species total of 70 is very good considering my very average, and sometimes very disturbed patch.

More end of year stats tomorrow. :-)

Monday 27 December 2010

Above : Goldcrest

Below : Great Black Backed Gull, flanked by two Lesser Blacked Backed Gulls.

After missing out on a patch visit in yesterdays sunny weather, due to a Christmas trip to meet up with the family, I was eager to get out onto my patch for some fresh air and exercise this morning, but of course, the sunshine had gone ! :-)

I took the usual route through the first half of my patch, walking along Ashes lane, through the Tree Nursery, Pub Field, Migrant Alley, then onto the College Grounds and back through Migrant Alley, lastly looking round the Greenhouse complex, before home and a halfway break - 2 hours in all.

The regular resident species filled the early part of the list, MAGPIE, BLUE TIT, CARRION CROW, ROBIN, GREAT TIT, BLACKBIRD etc, then the first SISKIN was heard going over, one of many heard and seen throughout my visit, the most of which was a large flock of at least 100 feeding in the Alder trees along the college stream. I had seen a CORMORANT fly over Migrant Alley a little earlier, and both COMMON and BLACK HEADED GULL were hawking over the Pub Field, but that was as exciting as it got until I walked through the College Grounds.

It was there that I stopped to look at the feeders put out by the staff at the College garden center, and as i did I became aware of a familiar trilling!!!! Could it be ? I looked up, and heard the trilling again, yes!! There it was flying across the grey sky, my first patch WAXWING (134, 113, 69) . Fan -bloody -tastic !! My turn at last, they seem to have been reported everywhere this winter, and I thought I was going to miss out, id even seen them at work, but now they were on my patch, well, over it to be exact, but that still counts :-) I excitedly sent out a few texts, and whilst doing so another little triller flew over, my second patch Waxwing :-) :-)

I carried on through the College Grounds, not seeing much around me, but again it was the sky that brought me a reward, two LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLS along with my first GREAT BLACK BACK GULL (70) this month, went over heading westwards, a little further behind them were 11 HERRING GULLS, making up 5 species of gull for the visit, the first time I've ever achieved this feat !

The rest of the first part of the patch visit went much as expected, I found just one SNIPE by the Greenhouse Complex, there may have been more but I didn't go and flush them, and a few FIELDFARE were noted going over.

The second part of the walk, through the Small Holding, Wet Woods and Lakes area was less exciting, but it was good to record both SPARROWHAWK and KESTREL out hunting, as well as flyovers from YELLOWHAMMER plus only my second GREY HERON of the month. Long Tailed Tits were not about this morning, but there regular companions NUTHATCH, GOLDCREST, TREECREEPER and COAL TIT were recorded, the latter two were prompted to sing by the warmer conditions. Also recorded were 6 BULLFINCH, up to 16 REDWING, and two GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKERS all in the lakeside scrub area, while a flyover of 3 MALLARDS were only my third sighting for this species this month. The MOORHEN, which had a 100% sighting rate until this month, were not seen for the 3rd day running, however there are still 3 coming to my garden. This should all change as the weather starts to warm up this week and the lake will thaw out for the first time since late November.

Saturday 25 December 2010

Ashes Lane as I left for my Christmas walk this morning at 07:30

It was well below freezing as I left for my patch visit this Christmas morning, but it felt less cold than the last two mornings, as the North wind had dropped out.

The first birds on the list were mainly heard and not seen as I walked along an icy Ashes Lane , DUNNOCK , BLUE TIT , JACKDAW , CARRION CROW , and MAGPIE all called from cover or in the adjacent gardens. A SISKIN flew over just as I entered the Tree Nursery, where I saw a minimum of 50 LINNETS leave their roost from the shrubs there, a GREEN WOODPECKER flew up and onto an oak trunk, and a BLACKBIRD alarm called as it sped low through the Laurel bushes.

At the end of the Tree Nursery, just before entering the Pub Field, I checked the frozen run off pool, which has about a meter of running water where it comes from underground, here were a small band of GOLDFINCH taking a morning bath, along with a FIELDFARE and a SONGTHRUSH. Carrying on up the side of the Pub Field and along the hedgerow, all was quiet and still, that is apart from the annoying crunch of frozen snow underfoot, an annoyance that accompanied me throughout the visit, causing me to miss a few flyover calls no doubt, but I did hear a LESSER REDPOLL go over, and saw a pair of CORMORANTS headed NE, only the third record of this species for December. I passed the large garden at the end of the Pub Field and picked up ROBIN, CHAFFINCH , COLLARED DOVE and WOODPIGEON for the day list.

Entering Migrant Alley the fields were still ice and snow covered and apart from the ROOKS and STARLINGS flying over nothing else was seen on the Paddocks and Sheep pasture, until I reached the manure pile at the end of the footpath, where the two MEADOW PIPITS were still feeding, along with a WREN, another Cormorant went over, heading SW this time, and the first Gulls of the day were seen up high as I walked towards the College Grounds, they being BLACK HEADED and HERRING GULLS.

The Alder lined stream that runs adjacent to the college had at least 100 Siskin feeding in the Alders, their calls were quite something to hear. The College Grounds and gardens gave me the first GREAT TIT, HOUSE SPARROW, GOLDCREST and LONG TAILED TIT of the day, plus two GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKERS that were chasing around through the trees, I checked the drainage ditch for the Jack Snipe seen there recently, and a Snipe did fly up, but it proved to be a COMMON SNIPE - still nice to see :-)

I exited the College Grounds and made my way over to the wet ditch at the NW end of my patch, via the scrub at the north end of Migrant alley, I didn't add a single species to the day list on the way, but more Siskin were noted going over. On reaching the ditch, I slowly walked it's length, and saw nothing until the last few feet, when another Common Snipe flew out. By now the frost was getting into my fingers, so I crossed over to the boundary hedgerow at Migrant Alley and the Greenhouses to head for home for a halftime thaw out. I always walk slowly down to the thawed area where the Snipe feed so as not to flush them, but I saw a big dog fox trot right through the middle of it, and nothing was flushed, so I assumed their were no snipe there today, however as soon as I approached no fewer than 6 of them flew up and out, alighting further down the field! They obviously bluffed the Fox with their camouflage, and stayed put, seeing it as no threat, how clever of them to be able to distinguish between a fox and a Dog, which they would of scattered immediately for.

After a quick thaw out, I went over to the lakes via the Small Holding and Wet Woods, yet more Siskin were heard going over as I was looking through some GREENFINCH'S at the Small Holding, where a single PIED WAGTAIL was on a large lawn along with another 3 Green Woodpeckers. In the Wet Woods a party of Long Tailed Tits were located high up in the tree tops, with them was a MARSH TIT, at least 4 TREECREEPERS, 6 GOLDCRESTS, and some more Blue and Great Tits, plus yet more Siskin! The Treecreepers were singing almost continuously, a lovely little song.

At the lakes it was quieter than usual, but 4 BULLFINCH feeding on sycamore keys made a nice sight, and I also added NUTHATCH and JAY to the list, both were heard but unseen. The walk back home to finish up the day, back through the Tree Nursery was almost uneventful, just a SPARROWHAWK and a REDWING were added to the list, which finished on 40 for the day, still below average, but better than yesterday. As for my Christmas waxwing, well, it never got delivered :-( .........

The photo's today come from my feeders back at home, below is the Great Spotted Woodpecker

with a Blackbird to finish.

Friday 24 December 2010

Photo of the day - being as it was the only one I got, the humble DUNNOCK :-)
A Christmas eve walk is always eagerly anticipated, as not many people are about, and given the freezing conditions, with a strong, icy NW wind, that was certainly the case. Unfortunately the cold weather is a double edged sword, and as well as deterring human disturbance, it also keeps the bird life hunkered down !
You know conditions have been severe when the Robins stop singing, I havn't heard one sing for a few weeks now, and there was no change on that score this morning. As I left the house at 07:30 it was a struggle to find birds, and when I did they were seen mostly in just one's and two's, singles of WOODPIGEON, MAGPIE, BLUE TIT, CARRION CROW, HOUSE SPARROW, GOLDFINCH, JACKDAW and COLLARED DOVE were all that entered the notebook in the first half hour of walking, indeed the whole first half of my walk, some two hours out, covering the Tree Nursery, the Pub Field, Migrant Alley, the College Grounds and the Greenhouse complex yielded the scrooge like, miserly total of just 26 species! There were a few notable species, the SNIPE were still around at the same place ( see yesterdays photo) at least 5 were there today, two YELLOWHAMMERS flew over, as did 4 single SISKIN, the two MEADOW PIPITS that were seen on the manure heap at Migrant alley earlier this week, were still feeding there, along with the 2 WRENS, a DUNNOCK and a ROBIN, these and the COMMON GULL quartering the Pub Filed were the highlights of a difficult first half walk.
The second half of my visit was only marginally better, the shelter from the trees in the Small holding and Wet Woods was most welcome, cutting out the biting wind, but just 2 more species were added here, with a further 9 making the list at the lakes and scrub area, most of those were in a feeding flock of around 15 birds, mostly of course LONG TAILED TITS, but TREECREEPER, NUTHATCH, MARSH TIT and a GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER were amongst them.The list was finished up with few BULLFINCH, maybe six in total, and flyovers by 4 LESSER REDPOLL, 12 FIELDFARE and 8 REDWING, bring the days total to just 37, well down on the 43-46 I would expect for a December day.
With the promise of warmer weather next week, comes the possibility of the lakes defrosting, but will it be in time to bring in something new for the months list, or even the year list ?
I'll be out again tomorrow to pick up my patch Christmas present ( a Waxwing!) so until then, i'll wish all the readers of these pages a Happy and Peaceful Christmas, enjoy all the food and festivities everyone!! :-)

Thursday 23 December 2010

Today was the last day at work until January 4th - so its birding all the way until then! Well nearly, I might not get time on boxing day :-(

Meanwhile, todays patch visit was limited to the walk home from work and a short visit of just 45 mins later on this afternoon. The walk home from work was more productive, in that I saw a KINGFISHER fly across Migrant Alley and on past the Greenhouses towards the lake area - no water for it there i'm afraid. There were also two SNIPE in the thawed area at Migrant Alley, and as I neared home the first GREY HERON (68) sighting for this month was had, it circled over before moving off westwards. A LESSER BLACK BACKED GULL also went over, looking extremely attractive, the lying snow reflected back off the birds underparts, making them look brilliant white, and contrast even more with the dark wings.

A little later I set off out into a biting North wind, and although the temperature was 3-4 degrees above freezing it felt bitter, on top of that, pellets of ice started blowing into my face, stinging like biting insects. I braved a trip round the Tree Nursery, which unsurprisingly was almost birdless, just the odd WREN, DUNNOCK, ROBIN and a KESTREL which looked stunning against the reflected snow, I did feel for it in the cold, lets hope it got a meal of some kind.

I decided to go and check on the 2 Snipe on the thawed area of snow that I'd seen earlier, and was pleased to see that there were at least 6 there now, there may have been more, but I didn't want to flush them in these conditions just to get an accurate count, they were actively feeding, and didn't need that imposed upon them. It was whilst watching the Snipe, that my fingers started to get burning cold, and the wind was making my eyes stream, so i made my way home, i'll have plenty of time to catch up over the next ten days.

Hopefully, over that time, I can find the 6 new species needed this month to pass the best December total of 73, achieved in 2008, but i'm not confident, unless the lakes thaw out, looking at the forecast, there will be frost up to Boxing day. Even if I cant beat the December record, this December has still been the the 2nd best on record, with 68 species seen.

It certainly wasn't a day for photo's, but above is the thawed area that the Snipe feed on, below ive cropped the photo and zoomed in, and you can , if extremely patient, see 3 of the 6 Snipe :-) try clicking on photo to enlarge it!

Wednesday 22 December 2010

This afternoon after work, I headed out through the small holding and on to the Wet Woods then the lakes area. In the Small Holding I could here a LITTLE OWL calling, but couldn't locate its hiding place, despite much scanning.

In the Wet Woods, the trees dripped, as the last of the snow on the branches thawed, the pools of water below are showing signs of defrosting, but have a way to go yet I feel. Scanning the trees I saw a flock of LONG TAILED TITS heading my way, so I kept still and allowed them to pass me by, hoping they would come close enough for a photo, but they didn't :-( With them were just a couple of GREAT and BLUE TITS plus at least 2 TREECREEPERS, both SISKIN and FIELDFARE flew over calling as I watched the feeding flock.

On reaching the lakes I had good, but brief views of a COMMON BUZZARD as it went low over, the lakes themselves however were just about turning to water, but only around the edges, I don't think the water will be thawed this year at this rate ! Two MALLARDS circled over, and were as disappointed as I was to find no open water, and they flew off again.

I took a walk around the scrubby area, and was well pleased to see a whole host of birds, nothing to spectacular but lots the common birds were noted, another flock of around 14 Long Tailed Tits were seen, this one was joined by 4 GOLDCREST, 2 COAL TIT, 2 NUTHATCH, a few Blue and Great Tits and a GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER. Walking further on I found BULLFINCH, GREENFINCH, GOLDFINCH, CHAFFINCH another pair of Goldcrest, a couple of Fieldfare, and 12 REDWINGS that dropped in and constantly called from the cover of the snowy brambles. At one point a PEREGRINE flew over, panicking everything, but they soon all settled back down as it passed over.

Before leaving, I had recorded at least 10 Goldcrest, and heard a couple of LESSER REDPOLL flying over, plus I had another two Raptor Species, both KESTREL and a SPARROWHAWK were seen, the latter speeding through the tree tops, causing much more panic than the Peregrine had earlier. Four Raptor species in an hour is not bad going :-)

As dusk was nearing, i took a brisk walk over to the Tree Nursery and Pub field, singles of both COMMON and BLACK HEADED GULLS were on the latter, and the Tree Nursery held nothing new, but a YELLOWHAMMER called as it flew over. A very quick look was had at the wet patch of ground on the boundary of Migrant Alley and the Greenhouse Complex, and once again SNIPE were recorded, 5 flew up and alighted 60m further along the field edge, I'm getting used to seeing Snipe everyday now, to think some years they go unrecorded on my patch, or at the most just one or two are seen for the year!

I attempted some photographs today, but the light was very poor, and the snow 'back lit' everything making it worse!

Here's the flyover Peregrine.

and a PHEASANT from the Tree Nursery

This apple tree grows in a private garden on my patch, and represents my best chance of attracting my first patch Waxwing, I check it every time I pass, no Waxwings today, just a MISTLE THRUSH and 4 BLACKBIRDS :-)

Tuesday 21 December 2010

Another couple of inches of snow fell overnight, but as I left for work it felt pleasantly mild, as there was no frost this morning, the first frost free morning for some time.

I again had the great fortune of finding the JACK SNIPE in the College Grounds on the way into work, but not much else was noted.

This afternoon after work, I walked over to the Sheep pasture and paddocks at Migrant Alley, via the Tree Nursery and Pub Field. Not a great deal was seen, the party of a dozen or so PHEASANTS were still finding enough to live on in the Tree Nursery, and several DUNNOCKS called from cover. On the Pub Field the only birds present were two BLACK HEADED GULLS, with a few BLUE TITS and ROBINS in the Hedgerow that runs the length of the field.

The sheep pasture and paddocks at Migrant Alley were still carpeted with snow, which is only slowly thawing, and looking around, all seemed very bleak and quiet, made worse by the now thickening fog rolling in. I made my way up to the large manure heap, as it is warm enough to melt the snow cover and make easier pickings for the birds, on my arrival I found two WRENS, a Dunnock, a Robin and two MEADOW PIPITS, strangely no Pied Wagtails though. The Wren and Meadow Pipit gave me a few Photo opportunities, but this was cut short by an ignorant dog walker (yes another one!) he had 3 huge dogs, all off the lead running around while he yakked on the mobile phone, one dog insisted on jumping up me, and with two grands worth of optical gear round my neck I was having none of that, and the dog was soon dispatched with a well aimed hefty boot to the lower jaw, the next few minutes were spent in a face off with the dog owner, who very nearly got the same treatment as his mut! Anyway I digress....

By now the fog was rolling in, limiting visibility to 50 yards, and having lost a bit of my focus after the dog debacle, I headed off home round the field edge. A LAPWING flew over, giving me a quick snap of it, and again, the two COMMON SNIPE were at their favoured place, as they have been for weeks now, apart from that it was a non eventful walk back home.

Below are a few shots I grabbed today, but the light was very poor, something which now we have reached the winter solstice will be getting better with every passing day :-)

Above and below is one of the Wrens seen on the manure pile

Below is one of the Meadow Pipits also seen there.

Next, a Black Headed Gull, which was at the Pub field

and here's the flyover Lapwing

Lastly a couple of snowy bleak landscape photo's

Monday 20 December 2010

Back to work this morning, and I left half an hour later due to the hazardous conditions caused by a hard frost on yesterdays melting snow. This meant I walked to work in the light, and could do some birding on the way in, which proved very eventful, when first I saw both the local PEREGRINES over Migrant Alley, half heartedly chasing a flock of 8 REDWING, very nice, but better was to come !

Whilst walking through the College Grounds, I purposely walked the edge of the drainage ditch hoping to put up a snipe, I did just that, but this one was a JACK SNIPE ( 133, 112, 66), !!! it came right up in front of me, flew about 15 meters then turned back, it was about to alight from where it had flown from, but two cars passed by and it flew just over a nearby hedge and dropped down. Wow! A patch tick !! This years species list now goes 3 ahead of the previous best yearly tally set last year :-)

Chomping at the bit to get out after work, I left in some much appreciated sunshine, but it didn't last long :-( The disappointment was made up however by seeing 2 COMMON SNIPE in their usual place by the Greenhouses/Migrant Alley, also 5 LAPWING flew over during the walk home.

After lunch, I walked over to the Lakes area, to check out the water, IT WAS FROZEN SOLID STILL :-( Whilst there though I found a small flock of mixed LESSER REDPOLL and SISKIN feeding in the Silver Birch that they seem to enjoy. I also had some good views of four BULLFINCH, but they thwarted my photographic attempts. In the scrub, I enjoyed watching a feeding flock of LONG TAILED TITS, with the usual species that hang with them - GOLDCREST, NUTHATCH, TREECREPER were the more notable.

I headed off to the Tree Nursery and Pub Field next, seeing more Treecreepers and Goldcrest on the way as I passed through the Wet woods, the former gave some bursts of song, so it would seem it's not too bothered by the cold :-) As I exited the woods a SPARROWHAWK flew over, as well as the odd Siskin and FIELDFARE. The pub Field was devoid of birds, just a white blanket of snow was seen, but the Tree Nursery had 8 PHEASANTS plus the regulars - SONGTHRUSH, BLACKBIRD, WREN, DUNNOCK, and ROBIN. Looking skywards, 3 more LAPWING went over, then a few moments later a GREEN SANDPIPER casually flew past me! just the second this year, both in this month!

I was feeling pretty pleased with my sightings today, and headed home to fill the feeders in my garden before it got dark, as I did so, I saw a COMMON BUZZARD fly along the Wet Woods, mobbed by about 15 JACKDAWS, but just as I was finishing up, I glanced skywards and blow me down, not one, but 3 CURLEW (67) went over !! This only went on the patch list in November, so its a fantastic record. It also helps the ''seen from the house list'' reach 92 species now :-)

What a fantastic day !!

Sunday 19 December 2010

Finally! I got out to do a full patch walk, unhindered by work and weather :-) , there was still a bit of lying snow about though, but it wasn't as cold out as had been predicted, here's a few snowy scenes

Above: looking south over the new paddock, towards the Greenhouses

Above: Looking west over the College Sports Pitch, with Migrant Alley and the Greenhouses in the distance.

Above: The main lake, - is that a hint of a thaw out there! ?
Bird wise today it was still very hard going, especially early on in the morning, the total species seen for the day - 43 - hides the fact there were very few birds about.
At least 50 LINNETS flying from their Tree Nursery roost were the most numerous species seen, but they dont stay on my patch, they fly straight out and off to feed elsewhere. There were two SNIPE at the usual place, by the dividing hedgerow at Migrant Alley/Greenhouse Complex, and moving round the fields, I had both YELLOWHAMMER and GREYLAG GOOSE flyover, as well as 4 types of Gull, BLACK HEADED, HERRING, LESSER BLACK BACKED and COMMON.
The College Grounds had a few common passerines about, but never more than two of the same species were seen, including MISTLE THRUSH, SONG THRUSH, JAY, GOLDCREST and the days only WREN.
Walking back home for a halfway break, a few more flyovers were noted, 3 FIELDFARE, a PIED WAGTAIL, a pair of BULLFINCH and SISKINS, which kept going over all morning in ones and two's.
The second half of my walk didn't bring me any surprises, and the birds were still thin on the ground, a flock of a dozen LONG TAILED TITS were joined by two TREECREEPERS a NUTHATCH and two Goldcrests. At the lake not even a Moorhen was seen, in fact I didn't see one throughout the walk, the first time this species has not been recorded on a full patch walk in the 9 years of recording, ( 3 did come into my garden in the afternoon, so they were out there somewhere!) Whilst at the lake area 6 Siskin and a LESSER REDPOLL were seen feeding in an Alder, the MARSH TIT showed up, strong and healthy looking, he's surviving ok :-) Also the inevitable SPARROWHAWKS were seen, both male and female were up hunting.
I walked back home through the tree Nursery, seeing both PHEASANT and MEADOW PIPIT, and was relieved to find the only STARLING of the day sitting on a chimney pot of a nearby house. Sounds like I saw alot of birds today, but I was out for four hours, and believe me it was very quiet.
There is a hint that towards Christmas and after, the cold weather will relent - lets hope so, and that the Lakes will defrost in time to add something to the moths list, maybe a Coot ! :-)
Below are some common garden bird photo's to cheer the page up, these were at the feeders all day today.



...and the good old ROBIN :-)

Saturday 18 December 2010

It was good to get out on my patch again today, however, I didn't get it all my own way, the weather went from cold and frosty - above, to a complete snowstorm 2 hours later - below !

Despite trying to keep going, I had to give up before completing the full patch walk, not because of it being cold, but the snow was just getting everywhere and making my bins useless, plus all the birds had gone into hiding :-)

Above is a photo looking along the Tall hedge that divides the Greenhouses from Migrant alley, on the latter side I had the fortune of seeing no fewer than 7 COMMON SNIPE, a record number for my patch, easily. That, and the BULLFINCH (below, it is in the shot - really!) were about the best sightings of the morning, although the STOCK DOVE (64) that flew over did give me another new species for the month.

By the end of the 2 hour visit I had just 33 species in the notebook, alot of those were flyovers, including a flock of 22 FIELDFARE, and 8 REDWING, as well as ones and two's of SISKIN. A couple of BLACK HEADED GULL and 4 HERRING GULL also went over, and a KESTREL was hunting over at the Lakes area, the water here has now been frozen over since late November, and as a consequence not a single duck has been seen on it, I also still await the first Grey Heron of the month!
After abandoning my walk I spent some of the day watching the garden feeders, where I had a nice surprise visitor in the shape of a BRAMBLING (65), the first for December, a great species to have in the garden, it was one of 23 species to use the feeders today, and was the 29th species to visit the garden this month, which is a new December record, beating last years 27 by 2 :-)
Other notable species were - GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER, COAL TIT, NUTHATCH, SONGTHRUSH, SPARROWHAWK, JAY, and a lone SISKIN, plus the MOORHENS which have now increased to 3 in number, they enjoyed feasting on a stinking lump of brie cheese that I ''rescued'' from yesterdays staff party ;-)

Below is the Brambling

.....and this is it leaving, after being scared off by the Sparrowhawk !

Thursday 16 December 2010

I was unable to visit my patch yesterday afternoon due to christmasy events at work going on, so no post yesterday.

Today I had every intention of getting out this afternoon, but heavy rain set in, and my walk was abandoned !

Tomorrow afternoon is the staff Christmas dinner, so again there will be no patch visit, i'm getting very fed up with christmas already - bah humbug!! :-)

The next patch visit looks like being on saturday, by which time, if some of the weather forecasters are correct, the photo below will not be out of place.

This photo was taken on the 18 December last year, the 18th is this saturday, can it happen again ?

Hopefully the next post will be on saturday .

Tuesday 14 December 2010

Upon leaving for work this morning, I picked up a new species for the month when a LITTLE OWL (63) was heard calling, very pleasing :-) However, once at work, the tedium of the morning was blown away when I spotted no fewer than 35 Waxwings as I was unlocking the main gate. As more people arrived at the school the Waxwings moved to a large silver birch tree right outside my office! They were attracted by the water that had gathered on the schools flat roof, where I watched them drinking and bathing for a good hour FANTASTIC!!!!!!!!! The pleasure was bitter sweet though, as the school is 200m off my patch - Doh!!!

So it was with renewed enthusiasm that I wandered over to the lakes and scrub area this afternoon, I scanned every leafless tree and bush, but alas, no waxwings on my patch :-( In fact there was very little to report at all, the lakes are still hard frozen, and I didn't find a mixed feeding flock today, and that knocks a big whole in the species seen!

I did find a nice flock of 9 LESSER REDPOLLS feeding in a silver birch tree adjacent to the main lake, and with them were two SISKIN. A NUTHATCH was busy going to and fro from the nearby garden with the feeders, which also attracted the regulars, BLUE TIT, GREAT TIT, GREENFINCH,GOLDFINCH and CHAFFINCH mainly. A KESTREL was hunting over the scrub, but a look through the area didn't turn up the hoped for Woodcock for the months list.

I had a short look around the Tree Nursery, and Pub Field, scanning the large adjacent gardens as I went, just in case a Waxwing was lurking, but it wasn't, only 4 PHEASANTS and a handful of BLACK HEADED GULLS were seen, plus a low flypast from the male Sparrowhawk.

Again no photo's today, even in the sunshine the birds aren't particularly co-operative at the moment :-) Tomorrow is Xmas dinner for the school pupils, so i'll be late home, so wont have time to get out, just be a garden watch for an hour - Waxwing perhaps! ?

Monday 13 December 2010

I remember back in the heat of the summer, posting a photo of the previous winters deep snow, saying how appealing it looked :-) So to even things up, here's a photo of a Bumble Bee in a Hollyhock, during the somewhat warmer days of July :-)

After work this afternoon, I spent 90 mins out on my patch in cold, damp, raw conditions, not icy cold, but that damp gnawing cold :-)
I walked through the Small Holding, finding three GREEN WOODPECKERS on a nearby large garden lawn, good to see they have come through last weeks severe weather. The Wet Woods still had ice on the small pools of water, and nothing stirred from around them, however up in the bare branches SISKINS could be heard, along with BLUE TIT, GREAT TIT and GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER, which gave some brief drumming. I carried on towards the lakes, but on getting there found them to be still frozen from bank to bank, and as such, devoid of any wildfowl. The nearby scrub area was a bit more lively with a loose feeding flock of all the regular woodland birds they being : LONG TAILED TITS, Blue and Great Tits, the MARSH TIT, two COAL TITS, four GOLDCRESTS, two TREECREEPERS and two more Great Spotted Woodpeckers.

There was just time to visit the Pub Field and Tree Nursery before a dense fog rolled in and ended proceedings, which was just as well, as only a few BLACK HEADED GULLS, Corvids and PHEASANTS were seen.

Sunday 12 December 2010

A cold frosty start to the patch visit today, but with clear blue skies and plenty of sunshine, it was a pleasure to be out. My first destination was to the drainage ditch where yesterdays Teal was seen, no Teal today, but there was a SNIPE, which took off and went over to the Greenhouses. A pair of YELLOWHAMMERS flew over, headed west, as did a LESSER REDPOLL a few moments later, both good birds to find for the day.
The College Grounds had its fair share of birds today, mostly common resident species though, WREN, ROBIN, DUNNOCK, BLACKBIRD, SONGTHRUSH, COLLARED DOVE, JAY all were seen along with the BLUE TITS, GREAT TITS, CHAFFINCH'S and GREENFINCH, the latter of which I didn't find yesterday. As I left, 8 BLACK HEADED GULLS were seen on the Sports Pitch, with a flyover COMMON GULL. Other flyovers seen whilst walking towards the Pub Field across Migrant Alley were a SPARROWHAWK, 3 SKYLARK and 4 groups of HERRING GULLS numbering 56 birds in all.
As I reached the Pub Field, my list was only made up of mostly 'usual' species, but that changed when I heard, then got onto, my first GOLDEN PLOVER (111,62) of the year, I have been anticipating this species flyover since early November, and at last have managed to get it on the year list, extending the record tally even further -excellent!
The second half of my walk found the lakes back into frozen solid mode, if this frosty weather keeps up ive no chance of adding any wildfowl to the months list, and it will severely hamper the chances of reaching a record December total.
At least in the Wet Woods there was plenty of activity, a large feeding flock of mixed species was observed, amongst them were 2 TREECREEPER, 3 NUTHATCH, 8 LONG TAILED TITS, 2 GOLDCRESTS, a GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER and the MARSH TIT. I stood and waited for a good 15 minutes to try to get some photo's, but just when the birds were getting used to my presence, an ignorant dog walker came stomping past me, he had all the woods, to walk through ( not that he should of been off the footpath -I have permission to be there), but no, he had to come my way, bloody ignorant.
Anyway rant over, I at least got one Treecreeper photo. On leaving the woods and walking through the Tree Nursery I was pleased to see both the PEREGRINES from the tower soaring over the Greenhouse Complex, and whilst walking home along Ashes Lane a third raptor for the day was seen when a Kestrel flew past me.
A day of mixed fortunes, but on the whole a good weekends birding, back to the afternoon visits tomorrow !

Saturday 11 December 2010

It was good to be able to get out and do a full patch walk this morning, the weather had warmed up considerably, and most of the lying snow had disappeared.

It proved to be an eventful visit, with 44 species being seen, however there were no raptors seen, or any Greenfinch's ( 8 were seen at my garden feeders later in the afternoon, as was a SPARROWHAWK)

The first nice surprise of the visit was finding a drake TEAL (57) sitting in the now fully flowing ditch at the NW boundary of my patch, I have never recorded any ducks on this part of my patch, apart from the occasional Mallard, so this was especially rewarding, this is the first Teal seen since January.

Another of the highlights for the morning was finding at least 75 SISKINS feeding in the Alders along the College Stream, at one point they all took off, and circled back down again, making an incredible noise! There was another new species for the month at the College Grounds, where a KINGFISHER (58) was seen at one of the garden ponds, with a SNIPE nearby. Just as I left the College Grounds, a fantastic LITTLE EGRET (59) flew over the College Stables, an excellent addition to the December list! I thought that would be it for new monthly species, but just a few minutes later I found a GREY WAGTAIL (60) feeding by the manure heap at the north end of Migrant Alley, good to get the December list to 60 :-)

Moving on to the second part of my walk, through the Small Holding , Wet Woods and Lakes area, I found all the woodland species, GOLDCREST, NUTHATCH, TREECREEPER, BLUE, GREAT, COAL and LONG TAILED TIT, GREAT SPOTTED and GREEN WOODPECKER also a few more Siskin. On reaching the Lakes I saw that they were in the process of thawing but still iced over, whilst there, at least 25 MALLARDS (61) circled round, saw that the lakes were iced over, and flew back off again, so Mallard has eventually been added to the months list !!

The light was mostly poor today, and few birds made themselves available for the camera, but this pheasant did come near.

Below is the ditch at the NW part of my patch, just off Migrant Alley, this is the only source of flowing water at the moment, it will be worth checking first thing tomorrow, if I can beat the dog walkers out!

Friday 10 December 2010

A visit to my patch wasn't possible today, apart from the walk home from work, where I saw 9 LAPWING on the sheep pasture at Migrant Alley.

Later this afternoon, I had a look through the years sightings from my patch. I like to compare years to see how the birds are faring in the countryside, after all my patch is a standard piece of farmland/residential area for Kent, and so represents a snapshot of whats going on.

The species that has declined most in sightings, year on year, is the YELLOWHAMMER, last year I recorded it on 79% of visits, but this year it has been seen just 56% of visits ( figures for Full Patch Visits Only, of which 120 are carried out each year).

It's a better story for the LESSER REDPOLL which has been sighted more often, it has gone up from 11% last year to 16% this. Also increasing in sightings is the TAWNY OWL, it was recorded on just 2% of visits last year but 7% so far this year.

I have comparable figures for each species, but wont go through them all here. A quick summary would be to say, of the 110 species seen so far this year 17 have been recorded on every visit, which was the same figure as last year, on the other end of the scale 21 of those species were seen just once ( again these are only Full Patch Walk Figures).

Year on year I have increased my yearly species counts, but the early years had far fewer shorter visits due to me working full time. Here are the years counts:

2002 - 89, 2003 - 89, 2004 - 92, 2005 - 93, 2006 - 98, 2007 - 99, 2008 - 106, 2009 - 109, this year 110 so far.

Also interesting is the average number of species seen per month for each year, this has risen from 57.6 species in 2002, to 68.9 species this year.

To improve on these totals will become very difficult now, and I think the figures will level off after this year.

Well, sorry for the stat based post today - normal service will be resumed tomorrow, However more Christmas interruptions will occur next week :-(

Thursday 9 December 2010

The freezing weather is still just about hanging on, although it only felt cold today and not very cold :-).

With the lake under inches of ice, as it has been since late November, it is becoming frustrating not to include any wildfowl on the months list. Ok I'm only likely to get Mallard, but the occasional visitor does show up at times :-)

So it was a walk over to Migrant Alley and the Tree Nursery today, where not very much was seen at all, the continued presence of SNIPE is always good to see on my patch, two were in the Tree Nursery, but not much else here apart from the dozen Pheasants. Migrant Alley had just about the same as yesterday out on the Sheep pasture, the best species being the two LAPWING. As I scanned around the sky, I again caught sight of a COMMON BUZZARD just about where I saw it yesterday evening, maybe it is using the Wet Woods as a roost ? That's where it seemed to go into.

Apart from that it was the usual BLACKBIRDS, WRENS, DUNNOCKS, ROBINS, PIED WAGTAIL, and some of the other common resident stuff that I could have better views of in my garden ( and it would be warmer!)

Less cold temperatures are forecast for the next few days, so maybe the lake will de-frost a little, lets hope so.

I took some 'Tit' photo's from the garden feeders before leaving for my afternoon walk, anticipating that I was unlikely to find anything to photograph out on patch.
Above BLUE TIT and below GREAT TIT

Below is the western sky as I walked home

Wednesday 8 December 2010

There was a very slight increase in the temperature today, up to +4C , but by the time I left work the skies were clearing, and despite the late sunshine, temperatures soon fell away, making it feel bitter in the strengthening NW wind.

This afternoon I thought I'd go over to my skywatching seat at Migrant Alley, to record what flew over, I spent just over an hour scanning the sky, and at the end of it my lips had gone numb, my feet were stinging cold and my fingers felt like they had been hit with a hammer, invigorating or what :-)

So what did I record ? Well, as I walked to my seat, along the hedgerow bounding Migrant Alley and the Greenhouse complex, there were plenty of BLACKBIRDS, ROBINS, the odd SONGTHRUSH, a FIELDFARE and a REDWING. A DUNNOCK called and a GREEN WOODPECKER flew to a fence post ahead of me, and as I took my seat a WREN scolded me from the Tall Hedge next to me.

As I scanned the sheep pasture I could see 2 LAPWING and 3 BLACK HEADED GULLS, along with the usual JACKDAWS and ROOKS. The first flyover was a PIED WAGTAIL, followed very shortly after by a SKYLARK. A flock of 11 Gulls that came over were all HERRING GULLS, except for one which was a LESSER BLACK BACKED GULL (54) the first of the month. Also seen a while later were 2 YELLOWHAMMER heading north, a MEADOW PIPIT that flew out of the Greenhouse Grounds, and 4 CHAFFINCH that flew West.

Nearing the end of my freezing vigil, the PEREGRINE (55) ventured over the sheep pasture, I had been observing it for some time as it sat on its perch at the tower, just off patch, and had hoped it might fly this way. The last birds on the list, were a flock of mixed GOLDFINCH and SISKIN numbering around 30 birds, but don't ask me how many of each there were, I only got silhouettes :-)

On leaving the Greenhouse Grounds for home 2 SNIPE flew over, and two PHEASANTS ran along the track. Once at home I had time to fill the bird feeders and then have a quick scan around, from my upstairs window. I saw a group of WOODPIGEON fly up in panic, and suspected the female Sparrowhawk, but I was very pleased to get just the briefest of glimpses of a COMMON BUZZARD (56) as it flapped off low and out of sight towards the Wet Woods, fantastic! Ive never had one so low or so close to my house :-)

A much more productive day today, with 3 more for the December list, taking it to 56, although it's still a massive 17 behind the record December tally!

Tuesday 7 December 2010

Walking home from work this afternoon I stopped at Migrant Alley briefly, and watched a dog walker and his 3 dogs walk the perimeter of the sheep field, as they approached the flooded area 3 SNIPE flew up and headed off high NE, I wont see them again for a while, why cant these doggy people stick to the footpaths, they know or care little for the countryside or it's wildlife, once the dogs had fouled the 'the usual' place they all headed off home :-(

So Migrant Alley wasn't worth visiting this afternoon, and with the lakes still frozen solid from bank to bank, there was little point going there either. I ended up deciding to walk the Wet Woods and the Tree Nursery, with a brief visit to the scrub area adjacent to the main lake.

I was hoping to find a Woodcock for the months list, but it wasn't forthcoming, nor were the next target species, Stock Dove, Grey Heron, and Mallard all of which might have been seen flying over. There were plenty of the woodland birds to keep me amused though, TREECREEPER, GOLDCREST, NUTHATCH, COAL TIT, MARSH TIT and GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER were the more Notable ones, but BLUE TIT, GREAT TIT and LONG TAILED TITS were also busy feeding.

Out in the more open Tree Nursery, the dozen or so PHEASANTS were still stealthily creeping around the shrubs,BLACKBIRDS, SONGTHRUSH and DUNNOCK also foraged around the leaf litter, where the snow has thawed under the larger trees. However it was a very 'run of the mill' visit today with not a lot going on, virtually nothing flew over, apart from a few single FIELDFARES - at least the temperature got up to 2c today, well balmy :-)

Better luck tomorrow !

The photo's above and below are of the Tree Nursery, still frozen solid

Monday 6 December 2010

The weekends thaw of the lying snow seems to have been a temporary thing, as it turned bitingly cold today, with temperatures never getting above freezing.

It was pointless visiting the Lakes as they will be totally frozen over, so I spent the hour I had this afternoon walking the tree Nursery and hedgerow Boundary of Migrant Alley and the Greenhouses. The Tree Nursery was still pretty snowy, but birds were scratching out an existence, 8 PHEASANTS picked at the old seed heads, and a few DUNNOCK were scurrying below the shrubs, along with a WREN. A male SPARROWHAWK came in and alighted on a steel scaffolding tube, but before I could get a photo of him the female came in and saw him off, in weather like this it's not unheard of for the bigger females to eat the males, but these two seemed quite ok with each other :-) The only flyovers noted were a SKYLARK and a HERRING GULL.

As I crossed Ashes Lane and entered the Greenhouse Grounds a flock of 6 LONG TAILED TITS were seen, with them was a single BLUE TIT and a GOLDCREST. The boundary hedgerow was full of BLACKBIRDS, but also in there were the odd REDWING, 3 SONGTHRUSH and two FIELDFARE. A JAY squawked loudly as I walked towards the flooded area of pasture alongside the Hedgerow, and straight away 3 SNIPE flew up, two settled back down across the field, and the other only went halfway across the same field before coming down and crouching in the grass, I thought it better not to pursue them for a photo.

A flock of GOLDFINCH were in the line of hedgerow Alders, only a dozen or so, with 5 CHAFFINCH, then a very confiding cock Pheasant walked out in front of me, giving me some good photo's. A bit later a big dog fox came trotting along in my direction, coming just within photographing distance.

A nice hour out, if a little cold, more of the same tomorrow :-)

Below are a few photo's of the Pheasant

Also a distant Fox photo

Checking the feeders before leaving for my walk this afternoon, and I saw this beauty - a male SISKIN, with his Goldfinch allies.