Wednesday 31 March 2010

Well the end of March arrives, and I just hope the weather for April improves! This weeks walks have been plagued by the rain, but today was the worst!

Constant showers and longer spells of rain were blasted along by a stiff, cool wind this afternoon, and although I braved the elements and walked a circuit of Migrant Alley, I knew I was clutching at straws if I thought I was going to find any migrants - or much else for that matter. In the end all I saw of note was a KESTREL, a PEREGRINE, which was toying with some HERRING GULLS and a flock of around 150 STARLINGS.

The unsatisfactory last few walks of March didn't stop it being the best March yet for the number of bird species recorded (71), beating last years record total by two species. The average number of species seen in March stands at 62.2, so it was a very good total. The combined total for March stands at 83, with three species added this month, the WILLOW WARBLER, the BARNACLE GOOSE, and surprisingly the TAWNY OWL.

As the patch walk was a short one I came home and watched the garden feeders, which are being emptied at an alarming rate - kerching! I took some pics throught he rain splattered window, into the gloom of the garden, so they are a bit blurry!

Above and below : Brambling




Above and Below: Mixed flock at the sunflower hearts - GOLDFINCH, GREENFINCH, Great Tit,

Below: Chaffinch, Collared Dove, BLACKBIRD

Tuesday 30 March 2010

Whilst walking home from work across Migrant Alley this afternoon, I was well pleased to find a WHEATEAR, my second this year. I hurried home, and and after a quick drink and snack, I went back out to try and get some photo's of it. However, just as I relocated the bird, the sky turned an ominous dark grey, I took what photo's I could, seconds later the heavens opened and the wind got up ! Ive been here before :-)

I tried to do a circuit of the fields and paddocks, but the now fierce wind was blasting the rain into me, soaking me in minutes, the rain drops were stinging my face, and trying to use my binoculars was it was once again an early trudge off home. I did manage to see both KESTREL and SPARROWHAWK, two MEADOW PIPITS and 15 Gulls sheltering from the elements on the horse paddocks, all but 3 were HERRING GULLS, the 3 others being LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLS.

It can only get better.........?

Now I hope ive got this right, as blogger has decided to show a load of code instead of the photo's as I write this. Below is the Wheatear and above is the BRAMBLING which again visited the Garden this afternoon

Monday 29 March 2010

Apart from two more SWALLOWS that flew over the College grounds, seen whilst walking home from work, there is little to report today. Mainly due to the rain, which arrived just as I was leaving for my afternoon walk, Oh what a surprise!!!

I endured the conditions for just an hour, long enough for a circuit of the fields and paddocks of Migrant Alley, where 10 LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLS sat out the dismal weather. Two MEADOW PIPITS flew over, and the KESTREL was up hunting around the Greenhouses for a short while. I returned home somewhat fed up, and wet!

The garden feeders had little to offer, in consolation though, late on a BRAMBLING visited, now they are always welcome! This would be a good species to get on next months list, lets hope it hangs around for a couple of days.

Below is the Brambling, and despite the clocks having gone forward an hour, giving us more light, it was too dark for photographs by the time I saw it at 17:00

The camera did well to get these images through the double glazing and gloom!

Sunday 28 March 2010

An all together different feeling to the morning for todays patch walk, there was a slight frost, and a chill westerly wind, variable amounts of cloud drifted over, but the odd sunny spell was had by mid morning.

The cool conditions had put a hold on most of the bird song, and there wasn't the amount of birds around either, it was a hard job finding the 47 species that were recorded in the 5 hours I was out.

A couple of species that I didn't see yesterday, included YELLOWHAMMER, a total of 4 individuals flew over, and one was in the pub field, also LINNET, a few were seen along Ashes lane and in the tree nursery. Most exciting of all though was the sighting of my first SWALLOW (76, 71) of the year, one flew meanderingly across Migrant Alley, giving me good views, welcome back to the harbinger of Summer! It was on this very day last year that the first Swallow was recorded, the mean arrival date over the 9 years is now April 1st.

As I watched the Swallow through my bins, a BUZZARD was picked out a little way behind it, then another, the first of three raptor species seen over Migrant Alley today, the others being SPARROWHAWK and KESTREL.

There were very few birds noticed flying over during the morning, and they were mostly HERRING GULLS, with a single LESSER BLACK BACKED GULL, and also just the one BLACK HEADED GULL, two seperate CORMORANT were seen, one went NE the other NW.

Winter left overs were only represented by 3 FIELDFARE, they were in the College Grounds.

The lakeside scrub was given a thorough looking over, trying to find the first Blackcap of the year, but none were found, species such as NUTHATCH, TREECREEPER, COAL TIT, GOLDCREST and CHIFFCHAFF were all found eventually though. On the nearby lakes just CANADA GEESE, MALLARD and MOORHEN were at home.

Above and below is a Mistle Thrush, I dont get many photo's of these big thrushes.

Above and below is the Treecreeper.

Saturday 27 March 2010

I left for my full patch walk at 06:15, in dry and warm conditions, and even had some sunshine later on - makes a change!

I was immediatley met with the sound of calling and singing birds, in just 100m along Ashes Lane I found - WOODPIGEON, STARLING, JACKDAW, CARRION CROW, ROBIN, MAGPIE, WREN, GREAT TIT, GOLDFINCH, COLLARED DOVE, GOLDCREST, JAY, CHAFFINCH, GREENFINCH, DUNNOCK, BLACKBIRD, SONGTHRUSH and BLUE TIT, in that order!

Crossing the Tree Nursery a FIELDFARE flew high over, calling as it did so, the only one seen today, a PHEASANT flew up in front of me, and on the small run off pool a MOORHEN was seen. Walking up the hedgerow along the Pub field, both HERRING GULL and BLACKHEADED GULL were seen to flyover, and on the large manure pile 4 STOCK DOVES were feeding.

Next up was Migrant Alley, where ROOKS fed in amongst the sheep, and PIED WAGATAILS were on the horse paddocks, but there were no migrants today, however a new species for the month was seen at the smaller manure pile near the college stables - a GREY WAGTAIL (70), this March now holds the record for species of bird seen, beating last March's record!

Approaching the College grounds and gardens a CHIFFCHAFF was heard to sing, the first of 9 heard today, they are here in good numbers now. HOUSE SPARROW, GREEN WOODPECKER, MALLARD and MISTLE THRUSH were all added to the day list as I walked the college grounds. I then headed back across Migrant Alley, towards home again for my half time break, where a few flyovers wee added to the notebook - a GREYLAG GOOSE, a lone LESSER BLACK BACKED GULL, two CORMORANTS, a MEADOW PIPIT and 4 SKYLARK.

The second half of my walk around the Small Holding, Wet Woods and Lake area was rather more quiet, just 9 more species were addd for the day, both NUTHATCH and GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER were heard and seen in the wet woods, while around the lake area a pair of displaying SPARROWHAWKS were over the area, keeping everything quiet! However, I did see a TREECREEPER and a pair of LONG TAILED TITS, as well as 3 BULLFINCH around the lake. On the water 6 CANADA GEESE were seen, a few more Mallard and Moorhen, but more surprising was a COOT, it was on the smaller top lake fast asleep, probably not the long staying bird that was on the ornimental lake earlier this month. As I left a COAL TIT was heard singing.

I had time for an hours skywatching back over at Migrant Alley, and was rewarded with 4 raptor species, KESTREL, which hunted around the Greenhouse Complex, as it usually does, two Sparrowhawks, and no less than 6 BUZZARDS, which were continually 'tooing' and 'froing' soaring and displaying overhead, at one point the PEREGRINE came over to challenge them!

A good walk this morning, 48 species being seen, but still no migrant Blackcap, Swallow or Sand Martin.

Above: One of the Common Buzzards, Below: a Sparrowhawk

This was the best I could do with the peregrine!

Also seen today was the first Peacock Butterfly of the year.....

.....and the flowers from both Blackthorn and......

.........Celendine were at last coming out.

Friday 26 March 2010

It was dry this morning, after the overnight rain, and I had hoped that as I walked into work maybe a Wheatear had dropped down on the paddocks at Migrant Alley, but alas, it was not to be today, I did flush up two MEADOW PIPITS though. A bit further on, at the college grounds, I watched a male BLACKBIRD gathering up worms, obviously it had young to feed, a good early brood.

This afternoon I got luckier than in recent visits, weatherwise that is, for I had a whole hour out before it rained, that passed after 10 mins, and despite a bit of a gusty cool wind the weather wasn't too bad.

My aim this afternoon was to try and find a migrant Blackcap over at the scrub area around the lakes. Blackcaps have been recorded in March in 3 out of the 8 years i've studied my patch, 2002, 2003 and 2004, the earliest was heard singing on the 23rd (2003). All the other first sightings have occurred in April, the mean overall first date is the 31st March, so its not in the realms of fantasy that I should find one anyday now, just not today!

I scanned over the lakes just before walking the scrub, but just 2 CANADA GEESE were seen, they were on the Ornimental lake. Back in the scrubby area, I could hear 3 different CHIFFCHAFFS singing, plenty of ROBINS, the odd WREN, BLACKBIRD, SONGTHRUSH, and DUNNOCK, which at first sound a bit like a Blackcap :-). Two JAYS and a MAGPIE were squawking and cackling at something in a dense thicket of bramble strewn pine trees, they may have been mobbing an owl species, but much searching didn't reveal one. After an hour I gave up my Blackcap quest and moved on to Migrant Alley for a skywatch. This proved fruitless as far as seeing any Swallows/Sandmartins, but CORMORANT, and GREY HERON went over, I dont get them everyday, however apart from that it was a quiet skywatch, just the normal WOODPIGEONS, GULLS, CORVIDS, PIED WAGTAILS and STARLINGS were seen. Two birds also not seen today were Fieldfare and Redwing, last year the latter species was last noted on the 25th march, and the Fieldfares last date was on the 4th April, so tomorrows full patch walk may well be a couple of species light!

Thursday 25 March 2010

Another nice afternoon at Pittswood - not!

A very disappointing day today, it was raining when I left for work ths morning and the only bird that I gave a second glance to was a lone REDWING, on the College sports pitch. The rain eased of during the morning, but, as has been the case most of this week, it was back as I left for home!

Once home I waited for half an hour for the rain to stop, consuming the rest of the bakewell tarts while I did so :-) . The rain eventually eased a bit so I set off out for a walk round the fields and paddocks of Migrant Alley. I didn't expect to see much in the conditions, but was hopeful of seeing a Swallow or Sand martin flying over, I didn't, and will have to wait another day for those.

Birds seen were; 2 CANADA GEESE in the empty sheep pasture, a GOLDCREST feeding and singing in a boundary hedgerow, where DUNNOCK, WREN, ROBIN and a few CHAFFINCH'S were also seen. Corvids and WOODPIGEONS were in with the sheep and lambs, along with 22 STARLINGS and that was my lot! Flyovers included LESSER BLACK BACKED, HERRING, and BLACK HEADED GULL, as well as the resident KESTREL, a Sparrowhawk was high in the distance off patch, as was a Peregrine.

Tomorrow looks better weatherwise - if the forecast can be believed, so hopefully i'll have a better post then!

When I left this morning at 06:30, there were two of These GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKERS on my garden feeders, I also flushed one off when I came home from work, and there was another one at 17:00hrs this afternoon, there always seems to be one stuck to the sunflower feeder!

Wednesday 24 March 2010

An early start for work again this morning, but not much was seen of note. Two REDWINGS were at the college grounds again, and both CHIFFCHAFF and GOLDCREST sang.

After being at work all morning, and seeing that the day had turned warm and bright, I was itching to get out on my patch this afternoon, but how surprising that a few minutes after leaving work it clouded over and started raining...grrr.. someone really has it in for me!

It was still raining when I got home, but I could see some brighter sky on the horizon, so I made a cuppa and broke open the bakewell tarts while I waited for the rain to cease. Once the rain stopped, I headed out for the lake area, mainly to check the surrounding scrub for a migrant Blackcap, however, one of the big houses nearby was having its drive cleared of overhanging branches, chainsaws and a huge shredding machine were noisily drowning out any bird song, I did manage to see a CORMORANT leaving the main lake though.

The only thing left to do was move to Migrant Alley, and scan the fields and skies for migrants, a walk of the paddocks and fields was undertaken first, which was better than yesterdays walk; SKYLARK, YELLOWHAMMER, LINNET, PIED WAGTAIL and MISTLE THRUSH were all seen, along with the usual WOODPIGEONS, CORVIDS and a small flock of STARLING that were busy feeding on the sheep pasture. There were no Feldfare seen today, I expect to see them and the Redwing only sporadically now, but I hope to get both on the April list.

I reached my skywatching seat, and was immediatly treated to some weak sunshine, which felt warm, as there was little wind - I was owed that big time! The first flyover seen was a pair of LESSER BLACK BACK GULLS, then HERRING and BLACK HEADED GULLS, a pair of SPARROWHAWKS were high up, and a few finch's went over heading NE. Another Yellowhammer was heard calling as it went past, as were more Pied Wagtails, but it was not to be for any Swallows or Sand Martins today.

I could hear a Linnet singing from the Tall Hedge behing me, and both ROBIN, and DUNNOCK joined in, but as I sat and listened I was sure I heard my favorite springtime bird song, very quite at first, and sounding though it was distant, it soon stopped and I thought I was just being optimistic, but again, a few minutes later I heard the song, this time stronger, and I was in no doubt now that I was indeed hearing my first WILLOW WARBLER (75, 69) of the spring, it was right behind me in the Tall Hedge, a fantastic record, as this is the earliest ever Willow warbler recorded - by 8 days! The mean arrival date is the 11 Apr. In 2004 I had to wait until the 1st of May to record the first one, they mostly only pass through my patch now, and rarely breed, more's the pity.

This the third Migrant species i've had at migrant alley already this year, its living up to it's name again , especially the tall hedge, behind my sky watching seat!

The March list is now the joint highest ever, on a par with last year, just one more species will see it take the the record. The Willow Warbler, being a new species to any March gone before, takes the combined March total to 83, so it should be possible to get into the 70's, maybe ?

Above: Willow warbler in the Tall hedge, I couldn't get very close to it!

Above and below: Lesser Black backed Gulls

Tuesday 23 March 2010

I left 15 mins early for work this morning to allow me some time to check Migrant Alley out before work, unfortunately the area was shrouded in a dense fog, so there may have been scores of wheatear on the fields, but I wouldn't have been able to see them! I did see a pair of GOLDCREST in the Greenhouse Complex grounds as I passed through it, and another was heard in the College Grounds, where two REDWING were chirping away merily in a rowan tree.

This afternoon the fog had lifted into a low gloomy cloud, and occasional drizzle fell from it - another nice afternoon :-). I gave the lake area and Wet Woods a miss today, and went through the Tree Nursery, across the Pub Field and round Migrant alley, ending in a 40 min skywatch.

Only common species were seen in the Tree Nursery, DUNNOCK, BLACKBIRD, SONG THRUSH, GREAT and BLUE TITS as well as the WOODPIGEONS of course. That was much more than was seen in the Pub Fied though, just a few PIED WAGTAILS were on the mountain of manure that now lies there. The field across the way (off my patch to the south) was being muck spreaded, so it will soon be the turn of the Pub Field, the stench of it was horrendous, but it always brings a smile to my face, i'm just perverse like that :-)

A circuit around the sheep pasture and paddocks at Migrant Alley was a dull, damp, and disappointing affair. The odd CARRION CROW was seen, a few STARLINGS, two immature BLACK HEADED GULLS and a pair of MISTLE THRUSH. The skywatch was very poor, I may as well of nooded off to sleep, only two MEADOW PIPITS, a YELLOWHAMMER and a SKYLARK went over, and the KESTREL was about, as well as a female SPARROWHAWK. As I left for home two CANADA GEESE flew down onto the empty sheep pasture, and a check of the short row of a dozen Alder tree's was worth the effort, as two CHAFFINCH, two GOLDFINCH, a GREEN WOODPECKER and a pair of LESSER REDPOLLS were seen.

It's going to be a close thing to beat the March record species total of 69, I need just two more species, but have just 8 days to find them. I might just get a Teal in the wet woods, or a Grey Wagtail along the colllege stream, an early Swallow or Sand Martin would help!

Two Canada Geese flying in as I leave for home.

Speaking of home, I checked the garden feeders out and saw 3 GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKERS all feeding happily together, strange to see so many together. There was also a flock of 47 Redwings in the tree tops over at the Small Holding, which I can see from my upstairs window.

Monday 22 March 2010

The only Photo taken today was of this DUNNOCK.

I left a little early for work this morning, hoping for another sighting of the
Wheatear at Migrant alley, but alas, it had moved on already, all that was there were the pair of CANADA GEESE, not a very good substitute! It was notable that not a single Fieldare of Redwing was seen, they are departing northwards rapidly now.

This afternoon there was a strong, gusty wind, which made things difficult. The birds were all keeping low, and few sang. In the Small Holding there was a group of birds on the Alpaca enclosure including, GREEN WOODPECKER, MISTLE THRUSH, SONG THRUSH, a single REDWING, and a few CHAFFINCH and GREENFINCH. On to the Wet Woods and the first thing I saw was a TREECREEPER, I spent ages looking for one yesterday, and failed! Not much else was seen here, 3 male MALLARD on the pools, and a GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER calling. The lakes were pretty dull again today, not much chance of a different duck now, so I don't spend so much time here, just 10 Canada Geese and 4 male Mallard were recorded.
In the scrub area, COAL TITS were calling and chasing around, and a male GOLDCREST was displaying to a female, raising his crest to her, it was as bright as moulten gold.

A walk over to Migrant Alley for a bit of skywatching was not very productive, just 1 MEADOW PIPIT, 1 YELLOWHAMMER, 2 SKYLARK, the KESTREL around the Greenhouse Complex, and the usual Gulls and Corvids were seen.

I checked the pub field manure heap, but again it was just STOCK DOVES and WOODPIGEONS there. Once the field goes under the plough in a few weeks it could liven up a bit.

Sunday 21 March 2010

I was up early this morning, anticipating the better weather conditions that were forecast for today, well I fell for it again, the forecast was a woeful attempt at meteorology, instead of dry and brightening conditions, it was cloudy windy and raining! Only late in the day did it brighten up.

Despite the inept met. office forecast, I had a very successful day, after a somewhat samey walk around the Small Holding, Wet Woods and Lake area. I recorded 32 species, the most noteworthy being some singing in the rain from the likes of
YELLOWHAMMER, SKYLARK, GOLDCREST, COAL TIT, and MISTLE THRUSH. NUTHATCH called and a CORMORANT flew over the lake area, which had just 12 CANADA GEESE, 7 MALLARD and 4 MOORHEN. I missed the Treecreeper today, but found the BULLFINCH in good numbers - 2 groups of 4 were in the lakeside scrub.

As I crossed the Tree Nursery on my way back for my half time drink, I found a
pair of REED BUNTING, only the second time this year I have seen this species, however, I went one better when I disturbed a SNIPE (67), a nice addition to my March list, it circled round and alighted back over at the Greenhouse Complex. Whilst on my 'halftime' break I looked at the garden feeders, and was pleased to see the BRAMBLING had returned.

The second half of my walk picked up a bit weatherwise, and also bird wise, another, or the same (?) Brambling was seen with a small flock of CHAFFINCH in the old Raspberry canes at the Greenhouse Complex, always nice to see one away from the garden, with them was another 4 Bullfinch. My first SONGTHRUSH of the day was heard to sing as I entered Migrant Alley,but more exciting was my first WHEATEAR (74,68) of the year, spied in one of the horse paddocks, a spanking looking male bird. Unfortunately, due to the poor weather, I left my camera at home for the second half of my walk!

I moved on to the college grounds, where a CHIFFCHAFF was heard singing, and yet another group of 4 Bullfinch were seen, two dozen REDWING were feeding on the lawned areas, but the only FIELDFARE seen today were flyovers. I had a quick look over the 'pub' field manure heap, which continues to be disappointing, with just 4 STOCK DOVE seen there, this field is only separated from Migrant Alley by Ashes Lane, so you would think something would turn up there!

Next stop was back at home to get my camera, then back out to Migrant Alley to re-locate the Wheatear, which I did, and took some photo's despite the poor light. I spent another 2 hours there, mostly skywatching, and turned up some more species for the day list: A GREY HERON, 2 GREY LAG GOOSE, 5 soaring COMMON BUZZARDS, 2 SPARROWHAWKS, 1 KESTREL, 2 MEADOW PIPIT, and an unidentified large raptor that flew over a kilometer to the south-east of my patch, moving south west - it may well of been a Marsh harrier, but I couldn't be 100% sure.

51 species were recorded today, and the months list moves on to 68, just one behind last years record March total - surely this will now be at least equalled ? The year list moves on to 74, still 7 behind the total achieved by the end of last march.

Above: Migrant Alley produces it's second migrant this year. A Wheatear

Above: A female Chaffinch. Below is the Kestrel surveying it's hunting grounds from a tall poplar tree.

lastly, an attempt at capturing a snipe in flight, not the easiest of species to photo, especially in drizzly conditions!

Saturday 20 March 2010

I was out at first light this morning, which was a little later than recent mornings due to the thick blanket of low cloud, out of which drizzly rain fell, this was blown around by a strong wind, and it didn't get any better all day. Needless to say the camera was redundant today.

I made my way over to the Lakes first thing, but the wildfowl were sighted well before I reached them, a pair of MALLARD were in the small holding orchard, a pair of CANADA GEESE flew over, and more surprisingly a pair of MANDARIN DUCK did the same, they appeared to come down into the Wet Woods, but I didn't find them again. Just a few moments later I heard the honking of geese, two were seen coming over, one was a Canada Goose, the other was the feral BARNACLE GOOSE, it's call was a lighter more ''quacking'' call.

In the wet woods, while trying and failing to find the Mandarin Duck, calls of GOLDCREST, TREECREEPER, COAL TIT, GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER and JAY were heard amongst the more common GREAT and BLUE TITS.

On the lakes this morning were 17 Canada Geese, 2 MOORHEN and 6 MALLARD, but the Coot seems to have left now. As I was scanning the waters edge the Barnacle and it's ''mate' Canada Goose dropped in, could make for an interesting hybrid goose! In the surrounding scrub I looked for Bullfinch, but failed to find a single one, the Nuthatch didn't turn up either, nor the Marsh Tit, which may have left my patch by now anyway. As I left the lake area a CORMORANT flew over and looked to drop down on the main lake.

FIELDFARES and REDWINGS are still to be found on my patch, a dozen of each were on Marchants field, adjacent to the Tree Nursery, with them were a pair of MISTLE THRUSH. Making my way up Ashes Lane and back home for a half time drink, a SPARROWHAWK was seen flying over, and 3 LINNETS were singing from a large Ash tree.

After a drink and snack I set off for Migrant Alley, hoping for a Wheatear, or a flyover Sand Martin, however the conditions were against me, the drizzle was blowing into my bins, and making it difficult to scan the fields, I did manage to find a CHIFFCHAFF in the boundary hedgerow, and a few BLACK HEADED GULLS in the sheep pasture, oddly there were two GREY LAG GEESE in the empty sheep pasture field, which on the way back had been usurped by two Canada Geese.

Nothing much of note was seen around the college grounds and gardens or along the stream there. So I walked back to migrant alley and spent two hours around the fields and watching the sky. I didn't get much reward, and it wasn't a comfortable time with the wind blasting the drizzle across the fields, but I saw a few species go over: 2 LESSER REDPOLL, 2 MEADOW PIPIT, 1 YELLOWHAMMER, 3 SKYLARK and a few HERRING GULLS with a LESSER BLACK BACKED GULL with them.

48 species were recorded on my 5 hour walk, and although thats a good total for my patch, I was still a bit miffed at not finding any more migrant species. With an improvement in the weather tomorrow (allegedly) maybe my luck will change, at least I can give my camera an outing.

Friday 19 March 2010

Once again I got the worst of the weather today, low cloud rolled in and drizzle started as soon as I left work, but it's in these conditions that any flyover migrants that may be around tend to come down lower, so with that in mind I braved the wetting drizzle and went straight over to my seat at Migrant Alley.

I sat and scanned the paddocks, and fields for Wheatear, but none were seen today, some years they appear here in numbers, others I struggle to find a single one. I scanned the sky for Sand Martins, or maybe a wader flying through, but again I drew a blank. In fact after ninety minutes, the only things that did fly over were Gulls, LESSER BLACK BACKED, HERRING and BLACK HEADED.

I'd had enough of watching the sky, and decided to warm up by doing a circuit of the paddocks, then going over to the now growing pile of manure in the 'pub' field ( greenie, as you've been offline, you may like to refer to an earlier post to find out what the 'pub' field is :-) ) seen in the paddocks and sheep pasture were; Two CANADA GEESE, two PIED WAGTAILS, 13 REDWING, 22 STARLINGS, 18 JACKDAWS, 34 ROOKS, 4 CARRION CROWS and a good sprinkling of WOODPIGEONS.

I made my to the Pub Field and had a walk round the manure pile, hoping for a Wheatear, or maybe even a Black Redstart, but all there was today were 7 STOCK DOVES. After that I became a little dispondent, and a lot wetter, as it had started rain proper, so I trudged off home, but at least tomorrows saturday and i'll have all morning to scan for migrants - in the rain!

Thursday 18 March 2010

I was out early this morning before work, in anticipation of finding some birds at Migrant Alley again, but it was back to the quiet mode, all I saw of note were 5 LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLS on the horse paddocks.

This afternoon it remained in quiet mode, I again walked through the Small Holding, Wet woods and lake area, hoping to here a Chiffchaff, but none came forth, it was as it has been recently, singing TREECREEPER, GOLDCREST and COAL TIT. On the lakes the 6 CANADA GEESE remained, with 8 MALLARD and 4 MOORHEN, but the Coot had hidden up again or moved on.

I decided to head for Migrant Alley, and passing through the Wet Woods again, I found a flock of 23 CHAFFINCH feeding on the floor, a good look through them didn't produce any Brambling or Hawfinch though. I came out of the woods and crossed Marchants field, where a flock of around 40 FIELDFARE and 8 REDWING were feeding - quite a decent amount of these birds for this late.

Once at Migrant Alley I walked a circuit of the fields, but found nothing of note except another flock of mixed Fieldfare and Redwing, about 30 birds in all. The next hour was spent sitting on my horse jump seat and skywatching, which gave me nothing but HERRING and BLACK HEADED GULLS, and the resident KESTREL hunting around the Greenhouse Complex. I was thinking about moving on, when from the tall hedge behind me, I heard the call of..................a CHIFFCHAFF (73,66) . Well Migrant Alley has turned up its first migrant of the year, a big welcome back to the little warblers!

Below are some photo's of the first Chiffchaff of the year, not a very exciting bird to look at, but it means it's the start of spring migration on my patch.

Wednesday 17 March 2010

Today was much more interesting than yesterday, especially first thing this morning as I walked to work. There were a few bits and pieces around Migrant Alley, a MEADOW PIPIT that alighted on a fence rail had me excited for a moment, I thought it may have been a Wheatear at first ! More interesting was a new species for the month, 3 LAPWING (64) flew up from the Sheep pasture, which is now populated with sheep and lambs.

2 GREYLAG GEESE flew over, and a SPARRROWHAWK chased a flock of FIELDFARE, before settling on a fence post for a rest. A dozen REDWING were feeding in the College Grounds still.

The walk home was also eventful, 4 Meadow Pipits were amongst the sheep with 3 PIED WAGTAILS, and along the boundary hedgerow I heard, then located, a female REED BUNTING (72, 65) calling, the first this year, this species is seldom seen on my patch, but in winter if there is a stubble field left unploughed, small numbers do appear, otherwise is is just recorded as a passage bird in the spring and autumn.

This afternoons Chiffchaff hunt was again negative, but they must be close now. I looked round the wet woods and scrub, and through the tree nursery, and round Migrant Alley, but they were not found. The resident TREECREEPER, COAL TIT, and GOLDCREST were all heard in song, LONG TAILED TITS were seen around the lake area, where 2 CANADA GEESE were on each of the 3 lakes, the Ornimental lake was home to the COOT again, back from hiding :-), but there was no sign of the second Coot seen on the main lake on Monday.

The months list moves on to a more respectable 65, just 4 behind last March's record total, whilst the 72 species for the year, is 9 below where it stood at the end of last March.

Back out from hiding the Coot, also a Canada Goose on the Ornimental lake

Below is a Lamb from Migrant alley, this will be the only photo of one, I promise!

Tuesday 16 March 2010

Not much at all to report from my patch this afternoon, despite the sunshine lasting all day today and the wind easing down, perfect conditions to hear the singing of the first spring Chiffchaff. Alas none was heard, they are late this year.

Whist walking the Wet Woods and lakeside scrub, there was some song to be heard, all the regulars, TREECREEPER, GOLDCREST, COAL TIT, BLACKBIRD and SONGTHRUSH. Scanning the lake, it appears that both the Coots have gone, unless they are hiding up somewhere, which may be possible, did they meet after all, and have now eloped together :-) ? All that was on the lake was 3 MOORHEN - a very poor effort!

After not hearing a Chiffchaff in the probable places, I decided a trip around the fields and Paddocks at Migrant Alley would be a good move, I might just find a Wheatear, but it was all very quiet here too, all there was of note was the KESTREL and a flyover MEADOW PIPIT.

The weather looks set fair for just one more day, after which rain is forecast, so tomorrow will have to be the day for the Chiffchaff !

The photo below is of a big pile of manure, it's going on the field that I walk the edge of to get from the tree nursery to Migrant Alley. It has been pasture for 4 years and will now be ploughed and planted with maize. I'll refer to this field in the future as the ''Pub'' field, as it is behind the village pub. Once work starts on it there may well be some interesting birds visit - lets hope so!

Monday 15 March 2010

A beautiful spring day today, well at least it was whilst I was at work, once I got home the wind had got up and cloud rolled in, just my luck!

It was however a big improvement on last weeks weather, and it was very pleasant to be out. I did my usual walk over to the lake Area, via the small holding and Wet
woods, but it wasn't as lively as I thought it would be. A SPARROWHAWK was over the wet woods as I approached them, but once inside only a few MALLARD and MOORHEN were seen on the pools of water, and a small flock of half a dozen CHAFFINCH fed amongst the leaf litter. Walking the footpath from the woods to the lake, I found one of the MARSH TITS that I didn't find on yesterdays visit, if they are going to breed elswhere they will be leaving my patch very shortly.

On the main lake today I saw just 4 Mallard, and on the Ornimental lake there was the COOT, the small top lake was devoid of any waterfowl. As I walked back, I scanned the main lake one more time, and found.........another Coot! Just to make sure there was two, I looked across the ornimental lake to check on the other one, and it was there! Two Coots, thats an all time peak record count for my patch!

I felt quite pleased with that find, and walked back along the footpath to the wet woods and off to Migrant Alley for some skywatching, finding on the way, my first butterfly of the year, a worn looking RED ADMIRAL, just out of hibernation I should think.

I reached migrant Alley, and took my seat, something I will be doing more of as the spring moves on and the lake becomes less likely to produce anything new. I didn't find any migrant Wheatear though, or flyover migrant Sandmartins, but i'll try again tomorrow. I did see three GULL species though, BLACK HEADED, COMMON and LESSER BLACK BACKED, and the KESTREL around the Greenhouse Complex. Just a dozen or so FIELDFARE and REWDING were out on the paddocks, with 3 MISTLE THRUSH.

As for the Chiffchaffs, well they havn't arrived on my patch yet, but one was reported to me, singing at the nearby Poult Wood golf course, will they arrive tomorrow, the mean arrival date over the last 8 years ?

Above: is a WREN that was in my garden. Below is my Red Admiral, the first butterfly of the year.
Below is the first Bumble Bee of the year, seen in my garden yesterday

Sunday 14 March 2010

One beam of sunlight breaks through at 07:30, a sign of things to come later.

After early cloud broke up, it became quite sunny, and out of the wind it was warm. At last a taste of spring!
I was really hoping for the first spring Migrant to show up today, invariably this would be the Chiffchaff, i've had them singing on my patch as early as the 10th of March, but the mean date of arrival over the eight years is the 16th. They arrived this very day the 14th last year, along with the earliest ever Wheatear, but they are a lot more scarcer species on my patch.
The four hours I spent out this morning from 06:15, was a completely different affair to yesterdays poor visit, just about every species I expected to be out there turned up today - apart from the Marsh Tit, giving me an excellent daylist of 51 species! Much more song was heard too, SONGTHRUSH, BLACKBIRD, GREENFINCH, CHAFFINCH, WREN, DUNNOCK, ROBIN, TREECREPER and GOLDCREST were all giving some decent territorial song. The less musical song of COLLARED DOVE, WOODPIGEON, STOCK DOVE, and BULLFINCH were also appreciated, brightening up the still dull looking woods and scrub areas. One song heard today was especially pleasing, a YELLOWHAMMER, it was singing from the boundary of marchants field and a large garden, which is adjacent the Tree Nursery.
My visit to the lake first thing was initially disappointing again, that was until I spotted a KINGFISHER (62), the first since January, it fished contentedly on the far side. The usual CANADA GEESE, MALLARD, MOORHEN and the COOT were also present. Whilst there, I watched a BLACK HEADED GULL flyover, then dive down to the water, I got my bins on it and saw it had found a dead fish on the surface of the water, this is only the second Black Headed Gull ive ever seen alight on the water !
Later in the morning I did some skywatching at Migrant Alley. This proved much better than yesterdays effort. As well as 3 SKYLARK, a LESSER BLACK BACKED GULL, 18 HERRING GULL and numerous PIED WAGTAILS, I manged to see two single MEADOW PIPITS and best of all 4 raptor species, the first was a COMMON BUZZARD (63), which soared effortlessly in the warming sky, the second was a SPARROWHAWK, its presence alerted to me by the black and white sentinals that are the Pied wagtails, they are so good at spotting raptors! Next up was a trio - yes three PEREGRINES, the two from the tower were seeing off an intruder, great to watch! Withing 5 minutes a KESTREL had turned up to hunt around the Greenhouses.
Also noted today were plenty of REDWING and FIELDFARE groups of 30 -50 of each were seen around the college sports pitch and Tree Nursery, they wont be here much longer, there were already a few of these northern thrushes flying high over my patch - presumably heading back home.

I only got a few pics today, the wind was a bit strong! but this Dunnock showed himsel well.

A wind ruffled GREAT TIT below

and when you're struggling for pics, find a ROBIN ! this one was also fighting with the wind!

Saturday 13 March 2010

What a load of rubbish the weather forecast was! I was looking forward to sunny spells and 10C, in fact it was damp and cloudy with drizzle falling early on, it wasn't until gone noon that the sun tried, but mostly failed to come out. My camera stayed at home!

Given the conditions, it was a hard job finding any spring songsters, but once again it was the GOLDCREST, the smallest bird of them all, that led the way, one was singing just as I left the house at 06:30. Other half hearted efforts were made by WREN, ROBIN, DUNNOCK, SONGTHRUSH and BLACKBIRD but it should be a bit livelier by now!

The quiet part of the day - early on, was used to get to the lake area before anyone else, but nothing was on the water of any significance, 8 noisey CANADA GEESE, 4 MALLARD, 2 MOORHEN and the long staying COOT was all that was on offer. Around the woods and and lakeside scrub, the NUTHATCH, LONG TAILED TIT, MARSH TIT, COAL TIT, and two more Goldcrest were found, GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKERS drummed and GREEN WOODPECKERS called. The BULLFINCH'S look to have paired up, with 4 different pairs seen, and MISTLE THRUSH'S were chasing about, but very little song has been heard from this species so far this year.

The fields and paddocks at Migrant Alley were completely devoid of bird life, the Hadlow College lambing weekend was taking place, and all the activity had dispearsed any birds, it will be the same tomorrow :-(. However I found where all the REDWING and FIELDFARE had gone to, they were at the top of a group of Poplar tree's that line the boundary of the College gardens, a mixed flock of a hundred or so birds were making a wall of sound as I passed beneath them.The highlight of the day was had as I passed back through Migrant Alley, on my way back home, 3 SKYLARKS (61) flew low over, circled round as if to land, but thought better of it and carried on NW, this species really is declining on my patch, due to the lack of nesting habitat, any that is available is frequently disturbed by the college farm and stables, tidying the areas.

It was a poor visit generally, with just 41 species seen, I would expext 47 - 50 at this time of year. A little later, around midday, I was tempted back out by the somewhat 'brighter' conditions. I headed of to watch the sky from my horse jump seat at Migrant Alley. I was hoping for a spring migrant, but none showed today, I did however add CORMORANT to the day list, 3 flew over, and I had some good views of 3 SPARROWHAWKS that were circling together, quite high up. Both Peregrines were on the tower, but didn't visit my patch.

This Sparrowhawk was one of two that visited the garden this afternoon, I wonder if they were the ones I saw earlier over Migrant Alley ?