Monday 31 May 2010

The last day of May, and the last patch visit of May, today was the final chance to find just one more bird species to equal the may record of 72 set last year. It was obvious from the outset that it was going to be a difficult, if not impossible task, as the weather was in a cool, damp and gloomy mood, with a moderate westerly wind adding to the miserable conditions.

Barely a bird was singing at 06:30 when I left the house, a CHAFFINCH, a BLACKBIRD and a distant COLLARED DOVE were all doing thier best, while LINNET, GREENFINCH, SONGTHRUSH and ROBIN made some attempt at a tune, but this morning thier efforts were more akin to a February day!

Just to give you a taste of how poor the day went, it was a full 2 hours into the walk before I recorded a GREAT TIT or a MAGPIE! These two species are normally one of the first in the notebook.

Trying to pick out a hightlight is difficult, but I was amused by the antics of one of the SPOTTED FLYCATCHERS that are in the College Grounds. I watched it chase off a Squirrel, repeatedly diving at it, I could hear its bill snapping angrily at the animal, which must have got to near to the nest site.

By the end of the 3 and a half hour patch walk I had recorded just 44 species, well down on the 50+ of recent days, it would have been worse but for a late flurry of sightings in the last few minutes, which included KESTREL, JAY, GREAT SPOTTED and GREEN WOODPECKER.

So in the end the record May total, set last year, will hold for at least another year. Although a little disappointed, I can't moan at the 71 species I did get this month, especially as it included such rarities ( for my patch) as Red Kite and Black Redstart.

This months total of 71 stands at the 2nd best May out of nine years, and is 6 better than the May mean total. Also two new species were recorded that have never occurred in May before, the Barnacle Goose and the already mentioned Black Redstart.

A new month and a new challenge tomorrow, i'll be chasing 67 species, which was set in 2008. Last year I fell short by 3, so i'll be doubly determined now!

The only Photo's I got this morning were very poor efforts. The SKYLARK below was seen at Migrant Alley

And the CUCKOO below was at the Lakeside Scrub, I'm sure these birds have eyes in the backs of their heads, I just can't sneak up on them!

Sunday 30 May 2010

An early blog post today as i'm off out visiting friends this afternoon and evening.

Well this mornings patch walk finally gave me a BLACK HEADED GULL (71) to add to the May list, in fact 4 flew over, quite high up as I passed through the College grounds. Just one more species needed to equal the record May list now, and two more to beat it, but just one May day left, it's going to be tight!

As well as the Gull highlight, there were a lot of other birds about today, and despite a strong, cool NW wind, I managed a cracking total of 52 species, thats some going for a 4 hour walk on my patch!

Species that wern't seen yesterday were: GREYLAG GOOSE, 4 were on the sheep pasture at Migrant Alley early on. KESTREL, 2 were over Migrant Alley and the Greenhouse Complex, with another, or one of the same birds over the Lakeside Scrub. 4 HOUSE MARTINS were over the College Grounds, also a family of NUTHATCH'S were seen in a large Oak in a garden next to the Wet Woods, and the Black headed Gull, already metioned. This gives a weekend total of 55, Kingfisher, Grey Heron, and Treecreeper being on yesterdays list but unseen today.

Other noteworthy birds were the pair of SPOTTED FLYCATCHERS at the College Grounds, the LITTLE OWL was again present on the Greenhouses and a passage of GULLS going west, included LESSER BLACK BACKED and HERRING GULLS.

Thats it for today, a short post, i'm pushed for time again ! Photo's below are Top: LONG TAILED TIT : Middle: WHITETHROAT : Bottom : COAL TIT

Saturday 29 May 2010

I was eager to get out this morning, hoping to find two more new bird species for May, so as to at least equal last years record May haul of 72. Looking at the weather forecast, rain was due in by mid morning, so my visit might have to be cut short.

As it happened, the first spots of rain arrived just after I finished the patch visit, which was a little better than recent full patch walks, with a total of 50 species recorded, unfortunately though, non of them were new sightings for this month. I can't complain at 50 species, that's always good going at any time of year, but as always seems the case, it should have exceeded 50, omissions to the list included; House Martin, Yellowhammer, Kestrel and Grey lag Goose - all usually found, and species like Hobby, Buzzard, Garden Warbler or Nuthatch are not exactly rare on my patch - one day i'll get to the 60 species mark, which I have only achieved once in 9 years!

Highlights of todays walk were finding a KINGFISHER at the Lakes, where a dozen CANADA GEESE and a GREY HERON were also found, along with 4 MALLARDS and two MOORHEN - thats quite busy for these small water bodies!

Another highlight was seeing a LITTLE OWL perched on one of the Greenhouses, and in the scrub around them, a LESSER WHITETHROAT was recorded, the first seen on a full patch walk since May 8th.

Over at the lakeside scrub it was very busy, with BLACKCAPS, WHITETHROATS, CHIFFCHAFFFS, TURTLE DOVES, and CUCKOO all singing, and the seasons first GREAT TIT, BLUE TIT, and COAL TIT fledglings were all seen, their hungry begging calls adding to the apparent chaos of the place!

Other noteworthy species were: TREECREEPER singing in the wet woods, SPARROWHAWK carrying prey over the Tee Nursery, and the pair of SPOTTED FLYCATCHERS getting down to the bussiness of nest building.

Just two more visits left for May, I need a bit of luck to come my way to get the months record :-)

Photographs were not easy to come by, the dwindling light level saw to that. I managed a couple though. First is a PIED WAGTAIL and below it is the LITTLE OWL, both on the Greenhouse Complex.

Friday 28 May 2010

It was a bog standard May day as far as the weather was concerned, broken cloud and sunny intervals, with a light wind.

I decided to go over to the Lakeside Scrub this afternoon, it's been a few days since I last visited, but first I checked out the Butterflies in the Tree Nursery, finding, Peacock, Brown Argus, and Common Blue. I also checked the WHITETHROAT territory, and saw one carrying a large grub for it's young, i'll take that as a sign of successful breeding, another species for my patch, and one more to enter onto the Breeding Atlas data base. The same hedgerow is home to a pair of CHAFFINCH who were also feeding young, and the DUNNOCK nested here too but they appear to have fledged.

Over at the Lakeside scrub it made a welcome change to here some woodland bird song, CHIFFCHAFF and BLACKCAP mainly, but another Whitethroat was heard, and two CUCKOO'S called - trying to out do each other. Another two songsters battling for the loudest song contest were a couple of SONGTHRUSHES, whilst nearby on some power lines a TURTLE DOVE sang.

Butterflies recorded here were Small Copper, and Red Admiral, as well as the common White species. My second Broad Bodied Chaser was also found, giving me a chance to photograph it.

On the lake just 2 MALLARD were seen, and whilst there I heard a GOLDCREST singing as well as BULLFINCH'S calling. On the walk back home I heard a TREECREEPER calling as I walked through the Wet Woods, I scanned the treetrunks and found it, with a bill stuffed full of insects, no doubt about this species breeding on my patch.

So another day passes without any additional species for the May list, but the last 3 days of the month will all incorporate full patch walks, so I might just get lucky :-)

Below are some of the Butterflies seen today - again, they look better if you click on the image to enlarge them.
Above : Brown Argus

Above and Below: Small Copper, the camera doesn't show the true colour of this species I feel. They appear much redder in real life.

The next two photo's are of the Red Admiral, again the camera has failed to show the true colour, the Orangey stripes should be more red.

last of all the Broad Bodied Chaser, could be a Female, or a recently emerged insect of either sex.

Thursday 27 May 2010

It rained for most of the morning -the first proper rain for weeks, and this afternoon a low dull cloud continued to keep things dull and damp.

Around 16:00 the cloud started to break, and some sunshine broke through, my cue to get out around the Tree Nursery and Paddocks at Migrant Alley.

There were no butterflies or moths to be found along the hedgerow in the Tree Nursery, but DUNNOCK, WHITETHROAT and CHAFFINCH were all back and forth with food for thier nestlings. A quick walk around the Nursery perimeter produced a few common species, GREENFINCH, MAGPIE, GOLDCREST, ROBIN, WREN and a GREEN WOODPECKER.

A circuit around the Sheep Pasture and Paddocks at Migrant Alley was a pleasant enough walk, ROOKS, JACKDAWS, CARRION CROWS, WOODPIGEONS and LINNETS were all to be found, as well as two STOCK DOVES. I reached my skywatching seat at 17:10, and sat for an hour to see if anything interesting might go over, Black Headed Gull or a Lapwing would be good. A Gull came over straight away, but it was a HERRING GULL, a little later 3 LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLS went over, but that was it for the Gull species.

As I sat and listened, I could here a CUCKOO calling from the Lakeside Scrub area, a SONGTHRUSH singing from the Greenhouse Complex, a BLACKBIRD singing from one of the nearby gardens, and two SKYLARK over the cut silage field. As well as the earlier Gulls, flyovers included GOLDFINCH, TURTLE DOVE, KESTREL, PIED WAGTAIL, COLLARED DOVE, and the low flying SWALLOWS, above them were a couple of HOUSE MARTINS and even higher were at least two dozen SWIFTS. GREAT and BLUE TITS were in the Tall Hedge behind my seat, where another pair of Whitethroat were also present.

In all, a very relaxing late afternoon - but still nothing added to the months list, or the year list, just 4 days left to get those two species :-)

I took these two photo's in my garden - something to brighten the page up!

Above: Goldfinch's, Below: Jackdaw

Wednesday 26 May 2010

It was cool and mostly cloudy for this afternoons walk, with an occasional sunny spell. I again walked the Tree Nursery, looking for Butterflies, Moths or Damsels, and was partly successful. Brown Argus, Holly Blue, Small Tortoishell and a Spanking fresh Small Copper ( which got away from the camera) were all seen. The Silver 'y' moth was seen again, as well as the Burnets Companion, a very small as yet identified moth was also seen.

Birds were thin on the ground, but a couple of WHITETHROAT sang from the boundary hedge, where both Dunnock and Chaffinch were feeding nestlings.

I also took a walk over to Migrant alley, but the field margins had been pointlessly mown, taking away the wildflowers, thistles and nettles - Hadlow College strike again! No butterflies were recorded here!

Above: Mown field margin. On the right of the fence is the Greenhouse Complex, they have a more relaxed attitude to wildlife on their land.

I didn't stay long, as I just wind myself up the more I look at the habitat that's been destroyed. Whilst there though, the GREY HERON flew over (above) and a HOBBY was also seen, a couple of SKYLARK sang high up, and a few SWIFTS were hawking insects with the Swallows - at least the farmers cant ruin the sky!

Above: The unidentified Moth, i'm sure one of the experts that read this blog will enlighten me to it's identity :-). Edit: Now ID'd as a Small Yellow Underwing thanks Dean

Below: is the Silver 'Y' moth, you can make out the silver 'y' on each wing - just!

Below is another Brown Argus, I love these little Butterflies

Below is what i reckon is a very worn female Holly Blue. Edit: but I reckoned wrongly :-) it's a female Common blue, Thanks Greenie.

lastly another worn Butterfly - small Tortoiseshell

It looks like the May bird list for this year will fall just short of the record 72 recorded last year, I still need two species to equal it, and have just 5 days to find them, the only birds I can realistically expect are the Black headed Gull or maybe a flyover Lapwing - we shall see.

Tuesday 25 May 2010

The weather was a lot cooler today, but still sunny, and it was a lot more comfortable to be out and about in. Unfortunately though, I only had just over an hour to get out this afternoon, so I decided I would go over to the Tree Nursery and track down some Butterflies that can be found along the boundary hedgerow.

Being short of time i'll leave you with the pics of what I found, but of note birdwise, a KESTREL was hunting above me for much of the time I was out.

Some of the pics can be enjoyed more by clicking on them to enlarge them :-)

Above. This Female CHAFFINCH had yound nestlings to feed.

Below: two pics of a Common Argus Butterfly - my first this year.

Next a photo of another Small Copper, this one looks to have been beaten about a bit, it was in an aerial battle with another when I saw it.

The next two pics are of a Common Blue Butterfly - which refused to open it's wings ! Edit: The top one is in fact another Brown Argus ( cheers Greenie!)

Below: A wildflower interlude Oxeye Daisy

There were also some Damselflies about, but I think i'll wait for some advice from Greenie or dean before coming to any ID conclusions :-)
Edit: Top Damsel is in fact an Imm. Large Red, the lower one is a female Common Blue ( Thanks again Greenie)

Also found along the hedgerow were two moth species, the first I havn't a clue what it is! But the second may be a Silver 'Y'
Edit: The first Moth is a Burnets Companion ( Thanks Josh)

Oh! I seem to have put the Oxeye up twice!

Monday 24 May 2010

Sunny and warm again this morning, and whilst walking to work I saw the first GREY WAGTAIL (70) of the month, it was on the stream that runs adjacent the College grounds, just two more new may species needed now to equal the record May count :-) Also of note this morning was seeing recently fledged GOLDCRESTS, at least 4 young were being fed in an Oak tree in the College Grounds.

This afternoon became very warm, and I decided i'd go over to the ponds in the College Gardens to try and find some Damsel / Dragonflies, as trying to find birds in the hot sun would not be very productive. I have to pass through Migrant Alley to get to the College, and everything was still and hot, the only birds out on the fields were the 'panting' ROOKS and a few WOODPIGEONS, however the KESTREL was as busy as ever hunting around the Greenhouses, and a Small Copper butterfly was also found.

Just before reaching the ponds I checked up on the SPOTTED FLYCATCHERS, as they weren't far away, I found them both calling, and then a chase ensued, which might have involved a thrid bird, i'll have to keep a careful watch in the coming days.

At the ponds I was greeted by loads of Blue and Red damselflies and a female Broad Bodied Chaser. Below are some photo's of them, but first here's the Small Copper butterfly

First Odenata - a Female Broad Bodied Chaser

These two pics below, I believe, are Blue tailed damselflies, but I dont mind being corrected by the more knowledgable, should I be wrong :-)

last damselfly is an azure Blue - I reckon :-)
After I'd got too hot, I walked back home across Migrant Alley, and saw a COMMON BUZZARD and a HOBBY circling over, very nice!

Sunday 23 May 2010

No complaints about the weather this morning, it was sunny and warm, with little or no wind - just perhaps, a touch too warm :-)

All the good weather didn't help the species list for the day get any better than yesterday though, but it was a much more enjoyable walk as everything was singing and calling.

As usual my pencil couldn't keep up with the species being recorded as I left the house, WOODPIGEON, JACKDAW, BLACKBIRD, MAGPIE, STARLING, SWALLOW, CHAFFINCH, ROBIN, STOCKDOVE, COLLARED DOVE, GREENFINCH, WHITETHROAT and WREN all got scribbled down in the first 50 yards of walking along Ashes Lane.

It all calmed down a bit as I entered the Tree Nursey and walked the Hedgerow along the Pub Field towards Migrant Alley, just four new species went on the list, those being COCKOO, BLUE TIT, HOUSE SPARROW and GREAT TIT.

At Migrant Alley there were 27 GREYLAG GEESE and 6 CANADA GEESE grazing on the sheep pasture, and the noisey Juv. Starlings were present in good numbers, also seen were LINNET, SKYLARK, ROOK, PIED WAGTAIL and a SONG THRUSH called from the north end scrub.

A circuit round the College Grounds and gardens produced GOLDFINCH, LONG TAILED TIT, CHIFFCHAFF, HOUSE MARTIN, MOORHEN, MALLARD, GOLDCREST and PHEASANT, but best of all was seeing the SPOTTED FLYCATCHER with a mate, lets hope they breed successfully here.
Crossing the College sports pitch, I saw a dozen SWIFTS high up, and saw two HERRING GULLS perched on the floodlights. The final species added from the first half of my walk was a LITTLE OWL, that was seen on the Green Houses.

Next up was the Wet Woods and Lakeside Scrub area, the former gave me both the WOODPECKERS - GREAT SPOTTED and GREEN, and the latter, despite being full of song only gave me BLACKCAP, TURTLE DOVE, MISTLE THRUSH, BULLFINCH, and JAY. A quick scan of the lakes was had, where a GREY HERON went on the list, the 46th species for the day, but it was frustrating not to find the Lesser Whitethroat, or Garden Warbler, or indeed not being able to locate Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Yellowhammer and Kestrel. The last species on the day list went to the SPARROWHAWK which flew over Marchants field, next to the Tree Nursery as I was walking home.

So no new species for the month or year list, and with 3 full patch walks left in May I still need 3 new species to beat last years record May haul. The year list remains 7 short of my 100 target.

Below are 3 photo's of the Spotted Flycatcher, the best pics ive got of them so far, you can even see the spots on thier breasts :-)

Below is one of the Herring Gulls that was perched on the floodlight at the Sports pitch.

Saturday 22 May 2010

With the forecast for the warm and sunny weather to continue, I was up and out early, however, once again the weather gods had played a trick on me, overnight it had turned cloudy and cool, with spits of rain on the wind !!

Just look at the pic. below it was 'orrible. It stayed like that until around 11 o'clock, when the sun finally came out - by then my walk had finished.

Oh well, I did a full patch walk anyway, and managed to winkle out 46 species, but it was hard going. Much of the canopy is now on the tree's, so it's down to finding most of the birds by ear, and in the grotty weather they weren't singing very much!

After the initial rush of 18 species in the first 10 mins, things slowed down, and species were picked up in just ones and two's. Of the summer Migrants, most were found, TURTLE DOVE, CUCKOO, WHITETHROAT, CHIFFCHAFF, BLACKCAP and the SPOTTED FLYCATCHER, which is still calling for a mate over in the College Grounds, but there was no sign of Lesser Whitethroat or Garden Warbler.

Of the resident species, WRENS, DUNNOCKS, ROBINS, CHAFFINCH, GREENFINCH, BLACKBIRD and SONGTHRUSH were the main songsters, with only one each of COAL TIT and GOLDCREST.

I did have a highlight for the morning when 6 MUTE SWANS (69) flew over in 'v' formation, that was a cheering sight, and brings the months total up to the second best May count, now 3 behind last Mays record.

As I said, as soon as I got home the sun broke through, and I sat out in the garden to warm up a bit, finding 4 more Large Red Damselflies on one of my ponds ( below)
Also took a few pics of the birds on my feeders, below is a nice Male HOUSE SPARROW

.........and below is a GOLDFINCH, they are still coming in to feed in small groups.

Around 3 o' clock this afternoon I had a walk over to my skywatching seat at Migrant Alley to look for raptors, I managed two in my hour visit, a SPARROWHAWK and a KESTREL, the latter was not seen earlier in the day. So I ended up with a daylist of 47, not very good for a May day, and it could of been 50, if such normally easy birds like the Pheasant and Jay had been seen!

Above a SWALLOW and Below a ROOK, found in much sunnier conditions this afternoon.

Friday 21 May 2010

The warmest day of the year so far today, and it was tee-shirt weather right from 06:30, at long last summer has arrived!

This afternoon it was very warm, so I knew that the bird sightings would be few and far between, however, it's just the kind of weather to bring out some damselflies, and it was these i was trying to find. I had some instant success too, as I passed my garden pond on the way out I found my first Large Red damselfly of the year!

I walked over to the run off pool over at the Tree Nursery, there is sometimes damselfly activity here, before the water evaporates later in the year. Again I was successful, finding another large Red and a Blue species, that flew past, and rather rudely just kept going! The only notable bird at this point was a WHITETHROAT singing from the Nursery/Ashes Lane boundary hedgerow.

The next Damselfly / dragonfly spot is over at the NW side of my patch, along the watery ditch behind Migrant Alley, this too will dry up soon, but sometimes has a few damsels and dragons, but alas, not today. With the sun beating down on me ( i'd forgotten my hat!) I sought some shade, and went over to the scrubby wood at the north end of Migrant Alley, more to see if I could find any new species of Butterfly, than to find any birds. There were plenty of Butterflies about, but none were new for the year - Peacock, Orange Tip, Green Veined White, Small White, Speckled Wood and Comma were all on the wing, the bird life was represented by another singing Whitethroat, the LONG TAILED TIT family and BLUE/GREAT TITS whizzing about collecting food for their nestlings.

Needing to sit down and rest my aching legs, I reached my skywatching seat and stayed for 40 mins in the hope of seeing a Black headed Gull go over, or maybe something more exciting, but it was not to be, only the KESTREL showed, while a few PIED WAGTAILS chased the thronging insect life, and the massed ranks of the Juv. STARLINGS continued to beg for food. Five STOCK DOVES were new for this week, and a SKYLARK was again singing over the cut silage field.

When it's cooled down a bit later this evening i'll go out again and see whats about.

Whilst topping up my ponds this afternoon, I got a new species of animal for the Garden, this Slow Worm, an excellent record for my small plot! Just think what I could achieve with one of the large gardens that surround mine!

Below is a photo of the Large Red damselfly that was by one of my ponds.