Sunday 31 January 2010

The above photo shows how frosty it was this morning, but it remained dry and bright for the final full patch walk of January.

Birds were not as numerous as yesterday morning, mainly because the fields and paddocks were frozen solid, encasing all the food in an icy tomb. In the 3 and a half hour walk 43 species were recorded, much the same species as yesterday were seen, but four turned up today that didn't yesterday. A MISTLE THRUSH singing somewhere over the Wet Woods was one of them, and the TREECREEPER that decided to show itself in the Small Holding was another. The third species not seen yesterday was a MARSH TIT, good to see its still around, the last species was at first a bit confusing, I picked up an 'odd' looking bird coming towards me as I was crossing the Tree Nursery early in my walk, as it came nearer, I could see it was a PEREGRINE carrying a large item of prey, it must have been out at first light to get that meal! Two KESTRELS and a patch record peak total, of 3 SPARROWHAWKS were seen over the lake area, 2 males and a big female, all interacting with one another.

The first month of the year ends with a good total of 65 species, the second highest January total, 3 behind last years record tally, a little disappointing maybe, considering the combined total for all Januarys is 78. On the other hand the average number of species recorded for Jan. is 59.6, so looking at it in that light it's not so disappointing :-)

Looking at the Garden stats I had a good January, 24 species came in to use the garden, the joint best Jan. total with last year, helped by the LONG TAILED TIT that visited today, I dont get many of these. BRAMBLING and SISKIN were also seen today.

I am already looking forward to what February may bring, a little less frost I hope, thus increasing the chance of a duck species or two, i'll need them if I am going to match the Feb. record of 67, acheived last year!

Above and below are photo's of the sunrise this morning

Below one of the 3 Sparrowhawks seen over the Lake area

Below is one of 4 YELLOWHAMMERS seen at Migrant Alley

Lastly a cold looking REDWING seen in the College grounds

Saturday 30 January 2010

At last a decent bit of weather for this mornings full patch walk, ok, it was cold and frosty, but later in the morning if you stood out of the wind it felt quite warm.

First port of call was the tree nursery via Ashes lane, it took a while for the birds to show, but they slowly emerged into the sunlight, MAGPIE, ROBIN, WOODPIGEON, GREAT TIT, JACKDAW, CHAFFINCH, STARLING, and DUNNOCK all went into the notebook straight off, and in the tree nursery I saw the flock of LINNETS leave their roost, not so many today, but I think I missed most of them as I was a bit late out today. Also in the nursery PHEASANT, BLACKBIRD, REDWING, WREN, and BLUE TIT were seen, while flyovers at that point included COLLARED DOVE, FIELDFARE, and CARRION CROW, as I looked back towards the Greenhouse complex I picked up the KESTREL, in its usual hunting place.

Walking on towards Migrant Alley, along the hedge and sheep pasture, SONGTHRUSH, GOLDFINCH, and HOUSE SPARROW were seen, a JAY screeched from a nearby garden, and flyovers from LESSER BLACK BACKED GULL and SKYLARK were had. Lots more Redwing were in the sheep pasture.

At Migrant Alley, as well as seeing hundreds more Fieldfare and Redwing on the horse paddocks and pasture, the more expected ROOKS and BLACK HEADED GULLS were added to the day list.

Onto the College Grounds and gardens, more common species were added, GREENFINCH, GOLDCREST, GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER, BULLFINCH, GREEN WOODPECKER, and SISKIN, whilst COMMON GULL was seen as I crossed the sports pitch on the journey back.

The second half of my walk started with 36 species on my list, and I thought I would get at least 6 more, it started well enough, and LONG TAILED TIT was noted in the Small Holding, but I couldn't find a Treecreeper anywhere today! MOORHEN was the only bird seen in the wet woods that wasn't already on my list, but COAL TIT, NUTHATCH, and PIED WAGTAIL all called as I went along the footpath that leads to the lake. The lake itself was partially frozen, and all that was seen on it were two MALLARDS.

I walked back home along the edge of the wet woods and marchants field, finding the LITTLE OWL at roost, and as I crossed the field to get to ashes lane a couple of nice flyover species were added, LAPWING, SPARROWHAWK, and probable bird of the day COMMON BUZZARD.

In the end 46 species were recorded, and some nice birds on the list today, but nothing new for the year/month was seen. A 47th species was added from the garden later in the afternoon, when a BRAMBLING visited the feeders, another candidate for bird of the day!

I took lots of pics today here are a selection, some are ok, others well.......

The above female Blackbird was waiting for morsels to be disturbed from the spoil heap of emerging mole, I hung around for the mole to appear but it never showed. :-(

Above and below are shots of a GREEN WOODPECKER, looks like a female.

below is a KESTREL, this one is a different bird to the one that hunts by the greenhouse complex, it hunts at the lake area.

Below is one of the many hundreds of Redwing seen today, every field and paddock had a flock on it.

This Siskin was the only one seen today

The male Bullfinch below was one of 9 seen around my patch, this one was feeding around the Greenhouse Complex, on the old raspberry canes.

Below is a flyover Common Gull

Next is a flyover Fieldfare, there were lots of these about with the Redwing, but not quite as numerous

Last is a couple of Fox Photo's.

I'm behind you mate!!
Oh yes, I'm off then!

Friday 29 January 2010

Hardly worth a post today, I only got out for as long as it takes to walk to the lake turn around and walk back again ! The reason for the curtailed visit was the awful weather, just about everything that can fall from the sky did, rain, hail, sleet and snow all accompanied by a strong NW wind.

The expected species were seen in the expected places, a flock of some 25 mixed finch species were seen on the boundary of a large garden and the Small Holding, noisily calling amongst themselves whilst preening, they didn't seem to mind the weather at all! Nor did the flock of mixed Tit species, that were between the Wet Woods and the Small Holding, mostly LONG TAILED TITS, with a couple of TREECREEPERS, one of which flew from the trunk of a tree as I passed it, it flew just inches from my face.

GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKERS were in the Wet Woods, giving thier KEK! KEK! call, from the top most branches, and MOORHENS were seen on the pools of stagnant water below them. I didn't hang about long, and got over to the lake, where a GREY HERON flew up, but again nothing was on the water but two pairs of MALLARD. I scanned all the overhanging branches, just in case something was lurking there, but it wasn't, but one day it will be!!

As I was leaving for home, in a heavy rain/sleet shower a KESTREL was seen hunting over the scrub, probably the same one as yesterday, but I think it may be a different bird from the one that hunts around the Greenhouse Complex, I saw that one from my window when I got home. Only news from the garden is a male SISKIN that was seen there.

Well looking at the weather, it promises to be a cold, bright, frosty day for tomorrows full patch walk, lets hope it's not too frosty, I don't want the lake frozen over. Will I ever be satisfied :-)

Thursday 28 January 2010

Not so cold today, and the wind had lost its bite, even the sun made the odd attempt to show itself, so it was a more enjoyable walk over to the lake this afternoon.

Walking through the Small Holding, the usual flock of mixed CHAFFINCH and GREENFINCH were seen, and a GREEN WOODPECKER was feeding on a large lawn in a nearby garden, as I rounded the bend on the footpath, this bird confronted me -

It will stand more chance of going on my dinner plate than my patch list!

Through the Wet Woods, GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKERS were heard calling, and a few BLUE and GREAT TITS were about, but nothing else, a SISKIN flew over calling as I neared the Lake area.

Scanning the water was another anticlimax, although a GREY HERON was seen, but just 6 MALLARD remained, with another two dropping in later. I took a walk round the scrubby area and found the expected species of LONG TAILED TIT, TREECREEPER and two GOLDCREST, but as I tried unsuccessfully to sneak up on a Fox, a WOODCOCK flew up in front of me, alighting again not far away, I would love a photo of a Woodcock, but decided against flushing it for a second time, this is the second Woodcock recorded this month, but this year is only the second year I have had woodcock on my patch. I returned to the lake edge, and scanned the sky for a while, this paid dividends, as not only did I have some great views of a KESTREL hunting, but also saw the PEREGRINE go zipping over, just a few minutes later, bird of the day was heard - a TAWNY OWL (65), it hooted twice, just to confirm its place as the 65th species of the year. I'm just 3 species behind last years January record total now, but with only 3 days left it will be hard to find them.

Above is the Grey Heron, and below are a couple of Kestrel shots, not very good i know, but the light was fading fast. :-)

Wednesday 27 January 2010

Cold, grey, with spits of rain this afternoon,but as I walked home from work across Migrant Alley, I was able to forget the biting wind for just a few minutes, for 100yards ahead of me a large flock of WOODPIGEONS were flushed up, about 75-100 in all, I scanned the sky for a raptor, and soon found one of the local PEREGRINES toying with the scattering pigeons. It 'carved' the flock neatly in two, then shaved another small group off one of the halves, it was like watching a sheepdog with the sheep! The falcon then dropped down, halfheartedly, on to a single pigeon, but didn't capture it, instead the pigeon dropped like a stone into some cover. The peregrine then did the same to another pigeon, it was like it was playing a game with them!

After a bite to eat, I set off out for the lake, as is my usual routine, and will be for a while until the days lengthen a bit more. It was cold and raw, the footpaths were deep in clinging mud and decaying leaves, the spindley tree tops in the wet woods were rattling against each other as the wind buffeted them - a typical January scene. Very little bird activity was noted, just GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER and a single SISKIN were noted on the way to the lake. The lake itself had seen an increase in MALLARD again, 19 were on the semi-frozen water, but try as I might I couldn't make a female Wigeon, or a female Gadwall from any of the 9 female Mallards :-).

I stayed around for half an hour or so, hoping maybe something would drop in, but it didn't, I did see both KESTREL and SPARROWHAWK hunting around the area though, this would explain the lack of passerine activity seen here!

By 15:30 I was getting cold, and a hot cup of tea was becoming ever more attractive than finding a new species of bird for the year! I stuck out another 20 minutes, but little was seen, except a flock of five BULLFINCH, and the thought of hot sweet tea won me over. I did of course run into a pair of TREECREEPERS on the way back through the wet woods, but i couldn't hold my bins still to watch them, I was shivering so much!

Three raptor species for the day wasn't to be sniffed at, and it's always a pleasure to see Bullfinch and Treecreeper, but I would have loved to have found a coot!

Tuesday 26 January 2010

This afternoon I had an appointment with the local tree preservation officer, and at 14:30hrs I duly met up with her along Ashes lane. I showed her the 4 gardens with the the 15 or so Oak trees to the front of them, and the field of 40-50 Oaks which also butts onto the lane. She then produced a map of the properties, and told me one of them, plus the front trees of the field of Oaks, already had preservation orders on them, great start!

We surveyed the remaining trees in the gardens, and she seemed very amenable to the idea that these trees should link up with the ones already protected, but she did not commit herself to say that they would be, there are still some matters that need looking into. So I am quietly confident that the remaining trees along the lane will indeed be protected.........lets hope my optimism is well founded, i'll let you know more as I get any news.

After the meeting I just had enough light left to quickly go over to the lake, despite having to get a move on, I still encountered GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER, COAL TIT and the now 'usual' TREECREPERS, they really do seem to have ridden out this cold winter rather well on my patch, maybe due to the wet woods with all the rotten, insect infested wood helping them out.

I arrived at the lake with my same old expectations, what would be on it, Goosander, Teal, a Grebe species ? Maybe my first ever Tufted Duck to be seen there would turn up.............but no, just 9 MALLARD were seen, oh well, at least that is an increase on yesterday, something may drop down to join them tomorrow. :-). As I left the lake I was clutching at straws by scanning the sky looking for an incoming duck, but I was rewarded for my optimism, when two GREATER BLACK BACKED GULLS (64) flew over, that cheered me up, and almost took away the burning cold feeling in my fingers and cheeks, - that really was a cold NE wind out there today!

Monday 25 January 2010

Above is one of the 5 Treecreepers that I found today, I took loads of photo's of them, but this poor effort is the best, the shutter speed got up to 30 on this shot!

Another dreary afternoon!
I walked my usual 'winter' walk over to the lake area, desperately trying to find some kind of duck species to add to the year list other than MALLARD, of which there were 2 pairs. A single MOORHEN was also seen, but nothing more exciting than that, oh for a patch of Phragmities Reed, or a bit of weed in the lake, i'm sure this would transform it!

I spent a good deal of time in the wet woods, looking for a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, or maybe a Firecrest, i'll need at least one of these very rare species (for my patch) if i'm going to have a chance of getting to 100 species this year. Alas neither of them were seen, but the other two Woodpecker species were very obvious, the GREATER SPOTTED and GREEN WOODPECKER were both calling loudly. I came across COAL TITS, BLUE TITS, GREAT TITS, LONG TAILED TITS, as well as NUTHATCH, at least 5 TREECREEPERS and a flock of 6 BULLFINCH'S feeding on ash keys, all very nice but nothing to add to the year list. I also scanned all the likely roosting places that may have been hiding a Tawny Owl, but no luck there either. So having spent the best part of an hour in the woods, my fingers numbed and cold, I set off back home, just a little dispondent. :-(

Tomorrow afternoon I meet the Tree Preservation Officer - should be interesting.

Sunday 24 January 2010

During a 4 hour walk from 07:30hrs this morning, a strange colour appeared in the sky, only for an hour, but it was good while it lasted......BLUE SKY!!!!!!!!

.....................and here it is just to prove it...............

A few species appeared on todays list that were not seen yesterday, but the overall total remained the same - 43. KESTREL and SPARROWHAWK were two of them, the former was hunting along the west end of Ashes lane, and it, or another was seen later in the walk around the more usual place, the Greenhouse Complex, which is further east on the lane. The Sparrowhawk, or more accurately the pair of of Sparrowhawks, were seen over the wet woods, whilst I was wandering through it. They were chasing and calling to each other, the male alighted in a chestnut tree directly above me, and seemed not to notice me, allowing me to get some poor pics. (below)

STOCK DOVE was another species not seen yesterday, one flew over the Tree Nursery, whilst two flocks of LONG TAILED TITS that avoided the list yesterday were seen this mornng, one also in the tree nursery, the other in the copse that is adjacent to the greenhouse complex. The last, but more exciting species that didn't appear yesterday was a LITTLE EGRET (63), it was found around one of the ponds at the College Gardens, it was with 4 MALLARDS and two MOORHENS, which made this patch of water (no bigger than a tennis court) busier than the lake area, which could only boast just 2 Mallard and a single Moorhen!
Its always good to get Little Egret on the year list, they are a 'hit and miss' species that could quite easily not turn up at all during the year, todays bird keeps the year list ticking over to 63 now, bringing this month up to second place out the 9 January's recorded.
The best of the rest, was a GOLDCREST, seen in the hedgerow at Ashes Lane, TREECREEPERS, NUTHATCH and COAL tit in the wet woods, and a flock of SISKIN numbering 130+ feeding in the Alders along the College Stream. I wanted to stay longer to get a more accurate count, but a huge black dog was running around, and following me, sticking its nose into....well you know where, the place they always stick their noses, even a swift cuff round the head didn't make it go away!
When I got home, the cloud was beginning to pile in again, so i quickly took some shots of the Garden birds, all the usual stuff, but as the blog has been lacking in photo's this week, here they are.

GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER. (loads of drumming heard today out on the patch)

Above is a GREAT TIT, and below is a SISKIN
Below is the Siskin again with a few GREENFINCH'S

Below are more GREENFINCH'S ( with a GOLDFINCH) almost a full feeder !
This Greenfinch was caught in mid flight, I thought it looked quite cool!

Saturday 23 January 2010

It was out for a full patch walk this morning, the weather was the same as usual, the less said the better.....

I started the walk by going over to the lake area first, rather than Migrant Alley and the College, as I normally do, but I miss getting Linnets on the list by doing it this way round, as they have all left their roost by the time I get to the Tree Nursery.

The idea was to get to the lake before anyone else disturbed it, but it didn't help really, I only saw half a dozen MALLARDS, a MOORHEN and a GREY HERON, however a sighting of a KINGFISHER was a good bonus bird for the day.

On the way to the lake, the Small Holding and Wet Woods provided me with the expected species, TREECREEPER, NUTHATCH, COAL TIT, GREEN and GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKERS, were all seen, with the latter drumming again. JAYS were very evident today, as were BULLFINCH'S, two species that are normally heard more than seen, and overhead many small parties of REDWING and FIELDFARE were on the move, probably because of the continual gas cannons firing off every 10 mins on the fields surrounding my patch. 29 species were seen before my half way break, but not one Long Tailed Tit showed up, a species that has been seen alomost daily this month.

I left for the second part of my walk in the now accustomed gloom, my camera stayed inside! The first species added to the day list was a flyover PIED WAGTAIL, quickly followed by a small flock of GREENFINCH'S that were sitting in the bushes around the Greenhouse Complex. As I made my way through six inches of mud that has been torn up by the machinery at the Tree Nursery, I heard some Geese calling in the distance, I stopped and waited for them to come over, and they turned out to be nothing more exciting than CANADA GEESE 8 of them, with a feral looking white one.

The walk through Migrant Alley was quite productive, I added MEADOW PIPIT, SKYLARK, and a group of six YELLOWHAMMER, as well as the usual BLACK HEADED and HERRING GULLS. The stream that runs next to the college grounds had at least 60 SISKINS feeding in the Alders that line the banks, but I couldn'r see any Lesser Redpolls with them. The College grounds yeilded a few more common species that weren't already on the day list, the best being a GOLDCREST. I returned homewards across the sports pitch towards Migrant Alley, and scanned the Greenhouses in the distance for the Kestrel, but it wasn't found today, but as I looked up and scoured the sky for an elusive Sparrowhawk, I found a high up COMMON BUZZARD (62), at last the year list moves on!

In all, 43 species were seen today, about average for a january day, but Linnet could have been added and Long Tailed Tit should of been!

Rant Time!!
As I passed along the track at the north end of Migrant Alley, in between the young wood and scrub area, I was horrified to see the handywork of the ''Country Management'' team belonging to Hadlow College. They had slashed paths through the scrub area, why? All they have done is disturb the already A1 breeding habitat of the summer migrants, both Lesser and Common Whitethroat, Blackcap, Chiffchaff all breed here, as well as the occasional Nightingale, it is also one of only two places for kilometers around, where Turtle Doves breed, thats without all the resident species that nest there.

On the right of the track, is a 16 year old plantation of trees, they are of mixed species and were planted in lines, and are in desperate need of thinning, so as to open up the area, do they do this, no, they havn't got a bloody clue about land management, useless!!!!!!!

Anyway rant over, i'll have to see if the birds return to breed this spring, thats if the college are not still slashing their way through our resident nesting birds!

I did manage a garden picture or two today, there was a 10 minute ''bright' spell around midday, and I managed to get the ROBIN and CHAFFINCH shot below

Friday 22 January 2010

It was raining all day today, sometims light, sometimes heavy, and whilst I was walking home from work it was of course, heavy!
I was eager to check the lake out, now it has thawed, so after a quick sandwich I put my wet coat back on - always a pleasure, (not) and set off out. Now all week my blog posts have been complaining of dire, dismall, gloomy, wet, dull and all the other adjectives I could think of to describe the weather, but today was the worst!!

It was bareley light, and the rain was steady, my walk to the lake was noteworthy for just one thing - two GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKERS were drumming, marking out their territories, the first drumming I have heard this year. At the lake I heard GREAT and COAL TIT calling, but a long scan of the water and bankside vegetation was fruitless, not a single thing was seen, not even the Moorhens!

So that was that, I'd had enough, and trudged off home, wet and cold. I think it's going to be a difficult year this year! The last of the ''daylight'' hours was spent watching the feeders, but activity was below normal today, however it was good to see, both SISKIN and NUTHATCH come in to feed.

Tomorrow has got to be better, hasn't it ?

Thursday 21 January 2010

The weather was much kinder this afternoon, no wind or rain, no fog or low cloud, just the normal high cloud, with some occasional bright bits thrown in!

I spent the first 20 mins of the afternoon back on the phone to the local council, trying to track down the Tree Presevation Officer, which to my delight I managed to do! I even got as far as getting a date with her ( my natural charm you know) We are to meet next Tuesday afternoon to visit the all properties with mature Oaks in them, to discuss the situation. I then needed to email her with details of the trees that I wanted to protect, and this is the daunting bit - I have to explain why I want them protected, and indeed are they under any threat in the first place, if so from what ? saying that they are good for wildlife is not good enough, I have to find what good are they for the local residents, all very off putting, but ive emailed her with my opinions.

I lost more time walking the lane and counting the number of Oaks trees I wanted preserved, over 70 in all, on 4 properties ( I dont do thing by halves!)

I finally left for a quick walk over to the lake, but only had an hour before dusk fell, not surprisingly I found very little, the high point was seeing the Lake was almost free of ice, only the second time this year! Just 2 MALLARD and a GREY HERON were enjoying the water though.

I really need to get focussed again on my birding, it seems to have 'drifted' somewhat this year, so i'll put more effort in from now. :-)

Wednesday 20 January 2010

It was grey and dull, with rain blowing into my face as i crossed Migrant alley on the way home from work this afternoon, as I reached home, the rain had turned to bits of ice, and I was glad to get indoors.

As the conditions outside were miserable, I gave my patch walk a rare miss this afternoon, and spent some time ringing around trying to find out about Tree Preservation Orders, I may be too late to save the oaks that were felled in a large garden along Ashes lane the other day, but i'm going to try and save all the other trees along our lane!

I rang the local council, firstly to inquire about the trees that had been felled, was it done illegally ? The answer was not as straight forward as that (is it ever) Anyone can cut down a tree on their property as long as it has not got a Tree Preservation Order on it, and as long as they give six weeks notice to the council.

I then enquired about how to put a TPO on to a tree, and how many trees can I preserve, at this point I was passed over to another person, who listened to me very patiently and then told me I needed to talk to the local TPO officer. Ok, put me onto them I said, only to be told she was out, and would give me a call back later, I am still waiting.........................

Quick scans of my garden feeders, in between phone calls, was quite productive, despite the next doors garden works going on. 17 species were seen coming and going to the feeders, the best of which was the BRAMBLING again, but there were also around 50 other mixed finch's, also around 20 BLUE and GREAT TITS, mostly Blue Tits, 8 HOUSE SPARROWS, 2 each of BLACKBIRD, ROBIN, DUNNOCK and STARLING, 4 COLLARED DOVES, with singles of GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER, JACKDAW, WREN, WOOD PIGEON and COAL TIT.

I'll let you know if I get any further with saving the trees of ashes lane!

Tuesday 19 January 2010

More dull, foggy weather for this afternoons walk, I retraced yesterdays footsteps, and perhaps unsurprisingly saw much the same birds, the flock of mixed finch's in the Small Holding, LONG TAILED TITS with TREECREEPERS in the wet woods, more Long Tailed Tits in the scrub adjacent the lake, this time with COAL TIT, GOLDCREST, MARSH TIT and two more Treecreepers, a small group of of half a dozen or so SISKIN in the nearby garden Alders, and at least 8 BULLFINCH spread over the whole walk. I spent at least half an hour in the wet woods scanning and following the feeding tit flock, just in case a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker appeared, which it can do, albeit very rarely, but not today! The only other bird of note was a KESTREL, yep you guessed it - hunting around the Greenhouse Complex!

The lake continues to very slowly thaw, there are patches of water appearing around the edges now, the ice really has put a limit to the potential species I might see this month, like Coot and Goosander, both of which can turn up occassionally in January, plus maybe a Mandarin Duck, and who knows, - I might get a nice surprise species, but i'll have to wait a little longer, lets hope we dont get any more frosts!

Update for the garden, both Siskin and Brambling were feeding today, fantastic species to have in.

Monday 18 January 2010

The window of fine, bright, springlike weather that I enjoyed yesterday was slammed shut today, and it was back to the foggy dull conditions - oh well, it is winter after all!

This afternoon, after work, I walked my usual winter walk over to the lake via the Small Holding and wet woods, but instead of meeting with sweet sounding bird song as I left the house, I was assaulted by the noise of chainsaws, further down Ashes Lane yet another large mature garden was being destroyed, on orders of the new owner. I looked on with anger and sadness as 4 large Oak trees stood limbless, their trunks ready to be chopped down, various smaller trees and the associated habitat had already gone. :-( welcome to Pittswood whoever you are ! I dont look forward to meeting you............. Idiots!

Was I ranting again ? sorry!

Anyway, I carried on my walk onto the Small Holding, the buzz of the chainsaw only being interupted by the blast from nearby gas cannons used to scare the pigeons of the rape.....oops sorry slippped into rant mode again. In the small holding orchard, a flock of mixed GREENFINCH and CHAFFINCH flew up, around 20 in total, and a GREEN WOODPECKER was on a nearby lawn of a large house. Upon entering the Wet woods I was straight away met with a feeding flock of BLUE and GREAT TITS, accompanied by 2 TREECREEPERS. The woods are the wettest I have seen them, and most of the ice has gone from the pools and ditches, it was with yesterdays Teal in mind that I scanned all the water there, and bingo, a pair of TEAL were seen swimming off into cover.

Not much else of note was in the woods, so i went onto the lake area, to see how the water was getting on - still mostly frozen, with just small patches of water under the overhanging branches, where two MALLARDS were resting. I checked out the feeders in the nearby garden, and found all the usual stuff, GOLDFINCH, BULLFINCH, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Blue Tit, Great Tit and a few SISKIN in the boundary Alders.

I decided I would go back into the wet woods again, and give them a proper look through, I found a large party of at least 16 LONG TAILED TITS, feeding along with the other common tits, one Great Tit was really giving me a hard scolding, using the alarm call of a Great Spotted Woodpecker! I'm sure this is the talented tit that was mimicking the Nuthatch the other day :-) Also with the flock were no less than 4 Treecreepers, thats six I have seen today! They were also very vocal with their alarm calls, mainly when they met up with one another.

Before Leaving for home I had a look in at the LITTLE OWL roost, it was home, and giving me that angry stare, so i left it in peace. Not much else to report today, no photo's, too dull and foggy, oh, the two male Siskins were on my feeders again today, but no sign of the Brambling.

Sunday 17 January 2010

At last, after days of gloomy, grey clad skies, the sun came back! What a difference the light level makes, it was like spring this morning, and the birds certainly agreed with me.

It was already light enough to get out by 07:20, and when I left my house to walk along Ashes Lane, my pencil was scribbling away at a rate not seen for months, ROBIN, COLLARED DOVE, DUNNOCK, WREN, SONGTHRUSH and even a BLACKBIRD were heard to sing, while PHEASANT, JACKDAW, CARRION CROW, WOODPIGEON, HOUSE SPARROW, BLUE TIT and CHAFFINCH all called, 13 species in the first ten steps of my walk!

The LINNETS were seen leaving their roost in the tree nursery, 60-80 flew out as I passed, whilst a little further into the field a MEADOW PIPIT flew up and called loudly as it made its way into the distant blue sky. REDWINGS were a feature of todays walk, with a flock of 30 seen as I left the nursery and walked along the sheep pasture/hedgerow that takes me along to Migrant Alley, where another 83 were seen on the horse paddocks, along with just a single FIELDFARE. Also seen here was a small group of YELLOWHAMMERS.

I made my way to the College Grounds, but was unable to walk along the stream there, as it was in full flood, and I couldn't cross back over further down, but as I looked along the bank, a GREY HERON got up and flew a little further downstream. In the grounds and gardens of the college, more song was heard, from a MISTLE THRUSH, while a GREAT TIT called its spring call. GREENFINCH, GOLDFINCH, and a group of 4 BULLFINCH were also recorded here.

Crossing the sports pitch to get back to Migrant Alley, the usual BLACK HEADED GULLS were seen, but with them today was a few HERRING GULLS and the more scarce COMMON GULL. The second walk through Migrant Alley yeilded PIED WAGTAIL, SKYLARK and flyovers by both CANADA GOOSE and two CORMORANTS. Nearing the Greenhouse Complex the KESTREL was again at its usual place, and a brief rest on the sunny side of the buildings had me watching a GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER bounding across the sky and before I had dropped my eyes earthwarwds again, a COMMON SNIPE flew in the opposite direction, a good species to get on my patch. Finishing the first half of my walk, that takes me along ashes lane again, I came across a noisey party of LONG TAILED TITS, which suddenly all dropped down as one, into the thickest part of the hedge and went silent, a quick look up gave the reason why, a SPARROWHAWK flew low over, they had seen it well before I had!

The second half of my walk through the Small Holding, Wet Woods and Lake area, gave me a few more species for the day list, a STOCK DOVE was singing, if you can call it a song, and GOLDCREST, NUTHATCH, GREENWOODPECKER, JAY and TREECREEPER all made an appearance, in fact 4 of the latter were seen overall, one was in full song, a delight to hear.

The lake was virtually ice bound still, but two MALLARDS were under the tree overhang, however more of a surprise was the sighting of my first KINGFISHER (60) of the year, it was preening on a branch above the only ice free piece a water.

One more surprise lay in wait for me as I walked home, yet again along Ashes lane, a TEAL (61) was seen flying over the Greenhouse Complex, it seemed to have come from the direction of the wet woods, If it did, then I had missed it earlier, must try harder!!

A very good total of 49 species was recorded in all today, with another two species seen in the garden later in the day - SISKIN and COAL TIT, taking the day total to over 50. Among them the two more year ticks, makes the January total look much healthier, 61 is above average for the 8 previous years, but still seven below the record set last year.

Above an early morning view through the trees at the Colege Grounds
Below is an ealy morning House Sparrow

The Siskin below is one of two males that continue to visit my feeders

Whilst I had the camera pointing at the garden I took some Blue Tit photos

Saturday 16 January 2010

The weather again played it's part in todays patch walk, a steady rain was falling as I left the house at 07:30 making it another miserable affair. Bird species were initially hard to find, just BLACKBIRD, ROBIN, MAGPIE, CARRION CROW, LINNET, WREN, FIELDFARE and DUNNOCK were found in the first 40 mins of my walk, and things only slowly picked up, as I walked Migrant Alley, I added a YELLOWHAMMER, a SKYLARK, WOODPIGEON, JACKDAW, ROOK and a flyover CORMORANT. The College Gardens provided more of the expected species as they began to show themselves, with BLUE TIT, MISTLE THRUSH, REDWING, CHAFFINCH, LONG TAILED TIT, COLLARED DOVE, and SONGTHRUSH all added to the day list, a group of five BULLFINCH brightened up a dour visit.

As I walked back across the college sports pitch, both BLACK HEADED and HERRING GULL were feeding on the now saturated grass, where large puddles were forming, the rain got heavier, making me even wetter, and my binoculars were getting more and more water on the lenses, I was just able to watch a flock of of 20 or so STARLINGS feeding out in one of the horse paddocks as I crossed Migrant Alley for the second time heading for the Greenhouse Complex. Here I found the first GREAT TIT, GREENFINCH, GOLDFINCH, and SISKIN of the day in the Tall Hedge and the row of Alders that forms the boundary of Migrant Alley and the Greenhouses, whilst in the now flooded parts of the grounds, a MOORHEN was seen, the first ever found here, must be wet! As left the Greenhouses the KESTREL flew over and began hunting, in its preferred hovering style. The final push for home along Ashes Lane, and so finishing the first half of my walk, produced HOUSE SPARROW for the list, also 3 flyover MALLARDS, but I was now soaked through, and the rain had still not relented prompting me to abort the second half of my walk, with just 32 species on the list. :-(

Things took a turn for the better this afternoon, as I watched the garden feeders through the rain and gloom, 3 Siskins came to join the regular visitors, but it really cheered me up when a BRAMBLING (59) also came in to feed, fantastic finch's ! This is a species that is hard to get on the year list, and one that is needed if records are to be broken this year.

Above Brambling, below Siskin - poor pics, but it was like dusk out there all day!

Friday 15 January 2010

A LITTLE OWL called as I walked to work at 7am this morning, but there is no sign of the years first Tawny Owl yet, a species that can be hard to find on my patch.

After work I decided to walk the fields around Migrant Alley, the weather was not quite as dismal as yesterday, but there wasn't a lot in it! A bit more of the snow had melted away, and green patches could now be seen on the sheep pasture and horse paddocks, underfoot it was very wet, and very muddy, ideal for a Snipe or Woodcock to be found, or maybe even a Green Sandpiper, it has been known, but very rarely. None of those scarce birds were seen this afternoon though, they would have been disturbed long before I got out. Instead I had to make do with 4 SKYLARK that were out in the sheep pasture, a dozen REDWING in the horse paddock, 6 YELLOWHAMMER that were along a boundary hedgerow dividing the large gardens from Migrant Alley, and a single MEADOW PIPIT that was heard but not seen as it flew over.

The KESTREL was sitting on the apex of one of the Greenhouses, and 4 BULLFINCH were feeding in amongst the old raspberry canes that were under polytunnels until November, they make a good resource for the finch's when left open all winter. A few BLACK HEADED GULLS came and went, as did a more scarce COMMON GULL, and now the fields are more acessible 50-60 ROOKS and JACKDAWS were feeding on them. I walked along the Tall hedge, along the western edge of migrant alley, and then checked the alders futher down the fence line, the only birds seen here were the usual, BLACKBIRD, WREN, DUNNOCK, ROBIN and 4 GOLDFINCH'S. Whilst I was out, flyovers included, HERRING GULL, FIELDFARE, Redwing and a Skylark that dropped down to join the others seen earlier.

I'll be out early tomorrow for a full patch visit, but the weather looks pretty awful - rain all day, lets hope it's not too bad!

Thursday 14 January 2010


The thaw continued today, but with it comes the fog, the slush and the mud, not a very good mixture to be out and about in. I contemplated staying in and watching the garden feeders today, and might well have done so if it were not for the continued disturbance from the neighbours grand gardening schemes. I did watch the garden whilst eating lunch though, and was pleased to see two male SISKIN come in for the Sunflower hearts, the second record of this species already this year.

I spent just over an hour, in the foggy, damp, cold and utterly dismal conditions ( can it get any more unwelcoming on my patch ?) walking over to the lake and back, via the Small Holding and Wet Woods. Despite the unpromising conditions, I was surprised to see there were many more birds about today than recent days, a flock of 8 CHAFFINCH fed with 4 GREENFINCH under a crab apple tree at the small holding, with the usual GREAT and BLUE TITS in good numbers, also a GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER was seen hiding behind one of the pear tree trunks. I think most of these birds would be associating with my garden feeders that are only 50 meters away, and were just biding thier time waiting for an interlude in the work going on.

In the wet woods, I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of calling birds heard, I tracked down the culprits, and found myself in the midst of a feeding flock of LONG TAILED TITS, with a few Great and Blue Tits, as I scanned through them the Great Tits were calling ever louder, mimicking both Marsh tit and Nuthatch remarkable well, and they had me fooled, if only for a minute. I watched for some minutes, hoping for a sighting of the rare and elusive Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, but it wasn't here today, however I found two TREECREEPER and a GOLDCREST - nice to see they have come through the worst of this cold spell.

I left the wet woods and went on to the lake area, finding a couple of NUTHATCH'S on the way, the real thing this time, as well as another Treecreeper. I checked out the lake to asses it's progress in the thawing department - coming along slowly is the answer, there were at least some puddles on the ice now. A quick scan round the scrubby area and large garden, didn't turn up much at all, except the BULLFINCH feeding in the usual Ash tree - 3 of them today.

I decided I would go back into the wet woods, and re-locate the tit flock, maybe I missed something feeding with them the first time, a Chiffchaff, or a Firecrest would of helped the year list along, but it wasn't to be. I caught up with the Tit flock as they were leaving the woods and entering the small holding, and despite much scanning I was still Looking at Long tailed Tits!

The year list is stagnating again, I had a look at my blog for last January, and by this time I was on 63 species, well ahead of this year, and some good sightings too. However January is only halfway through, and once the lake thaws, who knows what might turn up!

Wednesday 13 January 2010

More snow fell overnight, and kept falling right up till midday, but it was quite light snow and added little to the already standing stuff.

This afternoon felt alot warmer than yesterday, and a few more bird species were noted as I walked the Small Holding, Wet Woods and Lake area, only the common stuff, WREN, ROBIN, DUNNOCK, BLUE and GREAT TIT, with a few CHAFFINCH were in the small holding habitat. In the wet woods the recently fallen snow was melting and dripping from the tree's, so I didn't hang about here, but I manged to find a GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER, COAL TIT and a MISTLE THRUSH, as well as more Blue and Great Tits. The lake was still frozen from bank to bank, and not a thing was on it, a check of the adjacent garden feeders didn't provide me with a Brambling, (will I get one on the list this year ? ) but plenty of GREENFINCH, GOLDFINCH and more Chaffinch were at the seed feeders. I checked the nearby Ash tree for BULLFINCH and sure enough 3 males and two females were feeding on the keys.

On my way out of the lake area, I walked down the side of the wet woods along marchants field, and found the LITTLE OWL at its usual roost (too dull for any photo's though). Next stop was Migrant Alley, and as I crossed the Tree Nursery to get there, the first CORMORANT (58) of the year flew over, heading for the lake, where it was no doubt disappointed to see it all the ice!

At Migrant Alley I sat on a fence rail and waited for something new to fly over, but despite a cold, hour long vigil, nothing was added to the year list. Birds I did see included two HERRING GULL, two STARLING, two flocks of JACKDAWS (one of 12 and one of 16), a few WOODPIGEONS, ROOKS and CARRION CROWS, a lone Mistle Thrush and a PIED WAGTAIL that was calling repeatedly from the gloom, but was never observed!

Apparantly less cold weather is on the way hoorah! lets get that lake defrosted!

Tuesday 12 January 2010

Another cold day, with slate grey skies, it barely got light at all ! I spent just an hour out this afternoon, I went over and had a walk round the grounds of the Greenhouse Complex and the small copse that is beside it, just a handfull of birds were seen, three REDWING and a MISTLE THRUSH were feeding on the floor of the copse, and a TREECREEPER was seen on an Oak, with a ROBIN foraging under a bramble bush, and that was that!

I realised I was onto a looser, I wasn't going to find any birds today, and it will stay like this until something different happens with the weather. So I went back home to watch the Garden feeders for the remaining daylight hour. This was just as frustrating, as the large house next door are having their gardens torn out and ''Tidied'', it was full of workmen with a JCB and a dumper truck. Some of the less timid birds came in to feed, and 16 species were noted, the best of which was a SONGTHRUSH, it was trying to pick pieces of of an old ham bone which I have hung from a tree.

The only thing that brightened a less than satisfactory day, was seeing a male Blackcap on a pyracantha bush, not on my patch, unfortunately, I saw it in the middle of Hadlow village square, as I walked home from work, the bush was dripping with berries, and is the only green thing around, being surrounded by shops and street housing, why doesn't the pyracantha bush in my garden ever have berries on it ??

Monday 11 January 2010

After work today I had a 90 minute stroll around the wet woods, and Lake area, then cut across marchants field, and through the tree nursery and back home.

A lot of the snow has still not thawed, and its a very slow process with temperatures only getting to 2-3C today, what snow is left has turned to crunchy ice, and each footstep sounds like i'm walking through a bowl of cornflakes, everything can hear me coming a mile away, but I can't hear them!

I kept stopping and listening whilst walking through the Wet woods, and after three stops I finally heard two birds, one was a WOODPIGEON flapping it's wings as it was feeding on some ivy, the other was the high pitched trembling call of a TREECREEPER, the woods really were lifeless.

As I neared the lake, things only picked up marginally, I found a COAL TIT and a GOLDCREST in close proximity to each other in a fir tree (where else!) The latter species wasn't recorded at all over the weekend. I scanned a large Ash tree, seeing that it was full of seed keys, I thought maybe something good would be feeding in it, a Hawfinch would of been nice, but instead I found 2 Male and two Female BULLFINCH'S, the males really do brighten up a dull day.

The lake shows only slight signs of thawing, nothing there today, so I made my way back home, I watched the sky as I crossed Marchants field and the Tree Nursery, but all that was seen were Woodpigeons. It really was a bleak patch today, the sky was leaden and misty a day to be forgotten !

Below is a photo of the wet woods, with Marchants field in the foreground, bleak and lifeless.
Below is the view turning 180 dgrees, across marchants field, and the Tree nursery with the caravan in it, more bleakness.

Sunday 10 January 2010

The snow that was forecast for the night never happened, in fact it turned a bit warmer by daybreak, and the snow of the past few days was rapidly thawing. That said, it was still only just above freezing, with a nagging cold wind, which brought in frequent sleet and rain showers - a most unpleasant morning!

The birds obviously felt the same way about the conditions, it took me 40 mins, to rack up just 13 species, and by the time i had reached the college stream only 20 species had been logged. Of these the most notable, (but only just) were singles of YELLOWHAMER, which was trying to get at the last remaining grass seeds of a single stalk of grass that poked through the snow, pitiful to watch, and a MEADOW PIPIT that was feeding on a large manure heap, along with a ROBIN, DUNNOCK and SONG THRUSH.

The flock of SISKIN seen yesterday in the alder lined college stream, had got a bit smaller, around 40 birds were seen there, but I could see no Lesser Redpoll with them today. More highlights than the above mentioned, I would be hard pressed to recall, the KESTREL was seen hunting again around the Greenhouse Complex, the first time in 3 days, and 3 COMMON GULLS passed over as I walked home from the first half of my walk.

The second half of my walk was one of the poorest yet undertaken, these wintery conditions have either sent the birds elswhere, or they have perished, with the lack of feeding opportunties due to the snow cover. Just six species were added to the day list, which totalled just a paultry 37, GOLDFINCH, CHAFFINCH and GREENFINCH, - they were associating with my garden feeders not far away, PIED WAGTAIL that was by some open water at the Small Holding, GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER in the wet woods and a COAL TIT by the lake area.

Surely this week winter will release its grip, there are signs of it, it would be nice to see some green grass at Migrant Alley and open water at the lake, I miss the Mallards now i'm not seeing them!

The years list is stalling a bit now, just 57 species have been seen, still 11 behind last January, but looking at my records I see that the average number of species seen for January, is 59, so I'm not totally off track........... just 43 more species to get for my yearly target of 100. :-)

Saturday 9 January 2010

This mornings walk was carried out in cold snowy conditions, in fact as I left, frequent blustery snow showers blew in from the east, I was only half an hour out and thought about heading back home, but then the wind changed direction, and the snow stopped, leaving a clearing sky with some warm (ish) sunshine.

I did better than i thought I would for the species total, although 39 was poor compared to recent visits, it was good for todays conditions. The highlight of the walk was finding a WOODCOCK (57) at the College Gardens, this really is a good find on my patch, only one other year has had woodcock on the list, that was last year. Another good sighting was of a COMMON SNIPE, I'm being spoilt this month with sightings of this species, todays was seen along the wet drainage ditch which runs along the NW of my patch boundary, I have walked this ditch in hope of finding something 'wadery' hundreds of times, and this is the first time it's turned up something!

Not much flew over, but two flocks of LAPWING one of 18 and one of 7 headed west, always good to see. COMMON GULLS were very evident on my patch as well, at least 8 were seen flying in various directions, this is a record number by far, normally I am lucky to see one!

Most of the 39 species seen were just single birds, but one exception was a flock of at lest 75 SISKIN feeding in the Alder trees along the College stream, with them were at least 8 GOLDFINCH and 4 LESSER REDPOLL.

The Small holding, woods and lake area turned up very little, as it was snowbound and frozen, however a COAL TIT was heard, and a MARSH TIT was seen.

More snow is forecast overnight, so it will be another difficult walk tomorrow!

I took the above BLUE TIT photo from the bedroom window this afternoon, the birds were really hungry today, I was continually throwing out food for them, thats on top of all the full feeders!
Below are a pair of COLLARED DOVES waiting their turn at the feeders.

Below: The wet woods - snow bound. No chance of Nuthatch or Treecreeper here today!

Below is Ashes lane just outside my house, the snow thawed a little on the lane this afernoon, depite some beefy snow showers

Friday 8 January 2010

The school was shut today due to the bad weather, so I had the day off work. The early hours were spent watching the garden feeders, where plenty of frenzied feeding was going on by 9 BLUE TIT, 5 GREAT TIT, 2 COAL TIT, 11 GREENFINCH, 21 CHAFFINCH, 14 GOLDFINCH, 8 HOUSE SPARROW, 3 DUNNOCKS, 7 COLLARED DOVES, 3 ROBINS, 11 BLACKBIRDS and 6 STARLINGS, all the usual species to be found.

I threw out a couple of old apples, some old stale biscuits and a few other bits of food scraps, this brought in JACKDAWS and MAGPIES, and by this time 2 GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKERS had joined the throng.

Around 10am there was too much disturbance from the surrounding houses, Kids, Dogs, and a workgang next door rippping out hundreds of years of history from the big old house, they were chopping down a row of old yew tree's and knocking down part of the old boundary wall - just to make a bigger entrance for the owners cars, typical rich city folk and know nothing types. Rant, Rant, Rant!

Off I went then, out onto my patch in the snow and ice. I walked all through the tree nursery, and saw............a Robin, that was it ! I crossed over to the Greenhouse Complex grounds, where I fared little better, finding just a party of LONG TAILED TITS, with a few Blue and Great Tits with them. After an hour or so I was getting chilled to the bone, so decided that despite the disturbance, I would go back to the garden feeder watching, there were at least some birds there!

I added SONGTHRUSH to the days sightings, but nothing else new for the next 90 mins, until a nice male SISKIN came in to feed, the first in the garden this year, 2 WOODPIGEONS made an entry, scaring everything up as they flapped about, the 18th species of the day.

Once agin I felt the urge to go out onto my patch, so I took the wife for a snowy walk around Migrant Alley - as she wanted to go out to see all the snowy landscape, whilst we were out a couple of short lived snow showers passed through, but even with two pairs of eyes the only birds seen were ROOKS, Jackdaws, CARRION CROWS, and a male SPARROWHAWK, which looked amazing as it flew slow and low over the fields, the reflective snowy surface showed off it's plumage stunningly.

Back home again, and another stint by the window produced a good bird for my garden - the years first (and probaby the years only) REDWING, it joined the group of Blackbirds for a minute or two, but was scared off by shrieking, unruly children in the large garden next door ( seen and not heard comes to mind! ) The only other new garden bird for the day, and for the garden year list, was a MOORHEN, I wonder if it will bring its two friends back, as it did during the last cold spell ?

Overall it was quite a good garden day, 20 species came in to feed, taking the years garden count to 22. The only bird not be seen today that was expected in, was the Nuthatch.

Tomorrow its a full patch walk, but I think i'll be lucky to find above 30 species, thats if I get all the way round!

I got a few garden pics today, through the window glass, so they are a bit blurry.

Above is the male Siskin, with a couple of Greenfinch's. Below is a close up of the siskin, - brilliant little birds.

Above and below is the Great Spotted Woodpecker

and below is the Redwing, a real treat for my garden

last of all is the Songthrush, not a usual visitor, so a most welcome one