Thursday 31 March 2011

The last day of the month, and this afternoon was the last chance to add to the March list. The weather was not too bad, a bit blowy, with some heavy cloud, which became lighter at times giving the odd bright spell.

A quick visit to the lakes was not without some reward, as I saw a LITTLE OWL fly from cover as I passed the through the Small Holding. The Wet Woods had 2 drumming GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKERS in it, but with the wind noisily blowing through the tree tops, I didn't hear anything else.

On the main lake, there were two male MALLARD, no doubt the females are on nests somewhere, as was the CANADA GOOSE, two more Canada Geese were on the small lake, with another male Mallard, and the COOTS were on the ornamental lake, thats a full month they have been around now , excellent :-)

I had a walk around the scrubby wood today, and heard a BLACKCAP singing, the first to return to this area. Also here, were BULLFINCH, TREECREEPER, GOLDCREST, and two LONG TAILED TITS, as well as the MARSH TIT. I stopped and had a listen for 10mins, hoping for a Willow Warbler to break into song, but only the CHIFFCHAFFS, DUNNOCKS, WRENS, ROBINS and BLACKBIRDS were singing.

I moved on to the Pub Field, and gave the pough a good scanning, but nothing was noted but JACKDAWS and a single male PHEASANT. The Tree Nursery had a little more interest, 2 LINNETS, 4 PIED WAGTAILS, 2 MISTLE THRUSH plus a flyover SPARROWHAWK.

Migrant Alley proved to be a windy place today, and it was hard to get out of it, but I stuck it out for an hour, scanning all the fencelines and posts, but no Wheatears were seen. A vigil watching over the sky only produced Corvids, 2 LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLS, and a singing skylark, so my run of spring migrants has come to an end - for the time being :-)

It's been a good March though, the total of 68 species is the 3rd best of the ten years, 3 behind the record total, set last year, but I think I was unlucky not to reach 70, considering I had 4 species that have never been recorded in any March previously. They being Woodcock, Stonechat, Black Redstart and Common redstart, these bring the combined March total for the ten years to 87, that makes March the joint 5th most productive month with December. The average number of species seen in march is 63, so I passed that easily enough :-)

Wednesday 30 March 2011

The first rain for some time fell as I walked home from work this afternoon, and continued on for a couple of hours, before petering out around 16:30hrs. So it was a shortened patch walk this afternoon, but a none the less worth while one.

After checking the COOTS on the ornamental lake, and the nesting CANADA GEESE on the main lake, I gave a quick scan of the all the lake edges, to make sure nothing else was lurking, it wasn't, and I moved on to the Tree Nursery and Pub Field, seeing the MARSH TIT along the footpath from the lake to the Wet Woods, will it stay into April ?

The rain fell at its heaviest whilst at the two fields and only a half hearted scan was done, but nothing was seen apart from the Corvids, WOODPIGEONS and STOCK DOVES. I quickly moved on to Migrant Alley, getting wetter all the time, plus the wind made it feel cold, and I thought about giving it a miss, however I decided to stick with it, and pushed myself up against the tall hedge adjacent to my sky watching seat, and watched the sky.

Within a few Minutes a small movement of MEADOW PIPITS went over heading NW, about 16 birds were involved, the most ive seen all year. Ten minutes later another strung out flock went over, following the first, this time 8 birds were seen. Once again, a few moments later the 'seep' calls of Meadow Pipits were heard again, but this time as I raised my bins, I got onto a SWALLOW (81, 68), as I watched it, I saw two more! The first Swallows of the year, what a joy, that certainly cheered the afternoon, and then, as if on cue, the rain stopped :-)

The first Swallow sightings of each of the last 9 years, are quite close together, stretching over 14 days, from the earliest on 23 March 2003, to the latest which was on the 5 April 2007. The latest date of 16 April, which was made in the first year of recording in 2002, doesn't really count, and can be explained by the lack of visits in that year, I used to work all day back then :-) However taking that into account the mean arrival date for the ten years is the 1st April.

I stayed watching the sky for another half hour, eventually beginning to get a bit cold in the wind, but before I headed off home, I heard two LITTLE OWLS calling in the Greenhouse Copse, also two GREYLAG GEESE flew over, and a group of 7 Gulls alighted in the sheep pasture, five of those were LESSER BLACK BACKS and the other two were HERRING GULLS.

With just one day left of the month, I am unlikely to beat the record March total of 71 set last year, but I might just find one more species to equal the second best total of 69 set in 2009. That year, by the way, was a remarkable year, as I recorded the fastest 100 species, a total achieved by May 17th, the total by the end of March that year was 81 the same as the year total today, so it could be another quick 100 this year :-)

Tuesday 29 March 2011

On the way to work this morning, I crossed a slightly frosty Migrant Alley, and was well pleased to see a WHEATEAR (80,67), a very smart looking male, this is the 6th spring migrant species seen on my patch so far this spring. Wheatears have turned up in 4 of the last 5 March's, the mean arrival date for the ten years, is now Apr. 6th. In the early years, records were all from late April, and one even from May, but visits were not as frequent in those days :-)

On my return from work tried to relocate it but the bird had moved on, probably too much disturbance for it. The afternoon visit was very quiet, the COOTS were on the ornamental lake, and the nesting pair of CANADA GEESE were on the main lake, another pair were on the small lake. A total of 6 MALLARD were counted, along with with just one pair of MOORHEN, one of which was carrying nest material.

There was still a bit of weak sunshine, so I looked for some Butterflies around the scrubby Wood, but failed again to see any. I listened to TREECREEPER, BULLFINCH, DUNNOCK, GREENFINCH and BLACKBIRD singing, with at least 3 incessant CHIFFCHAFFS, all defending their territories vigorously. As yesterday, I didn't linger too long, and headed over to the Tree Nursery, Pub Field and Migrant Alley. There wasn't to much seen at all today, a COMMON BUZZARD was over the Tree Nursery, a MEADOW PIPIT also flew over, and the KESTREL flew over the Pub Field, putting up all the Corvids there. I'd forgotten, Tuesdays afternoon is the student ''work party'' day at Migrant Alley, and they were putting up the paddock fencing - still! Another two posts went in today, they will be there till Christmas at this rate! Needless to say nothing was seen there, apart from a SPARROWHAWK that dived into a garden, almost grabbing a COLLARED DOVE, nice try! Back home whilst filling the feeders, the MARSH TIT turned up, I hope it hangs around for April, be nice to get for that months list :-) Above and Below the only photo of the day - A Common Buzzard

Monday 28 March 2011

As I left for work this morning, I heard the song of my second BLACKCAP of spring, singing from a bush in one of the large gardens, they have arrived early on my patch this year. Of the Ten years of recording, this is the fourth record of a singing Blackcap in March, the other 3 years were the early years of '02, '03, and '04, the mean arrival date is now 31st March.

This afternoon, I first paid a visit to the lake area, mainly to try and find some Butterflies, and check up on the COOTS. Despite some warm sunny spells, not a single Butterfly was found, but the Coots were both found. Also noted, on the main lake, was one of the pairs of CANADA GEESE they have made their nest on the small island, and the female was sitting on it :-)

Whilst in the Scrubby Woods, failing to locate butterflies, I could hear a small amount of spring song, predominantly from CHIFFCHAFFS, but SONGTHRUSH, BLACKBIRD, ROBIN, DUNNOCK, WREN and GOLDCREST also featured, but the one I enjoyed most was the MARSH TIT song, very pretty, if a bit repetitive! I didn't stay long, as it was the scarce Migrant species I was after, and they are most likely to occur over on the fields.

I walked up the Pub Field and scanned the newly turned soil, but couldn't locate a Wheatear, it's not looking like I'll get one in March this year. The usual gang of Corvids were seen, along with half a dozen PIED WAGTAILS and a PHEASANT, not quite what I wanted :-)

Next stop was Migrant Alley, always the best place for a scarce migrant, but a walk of the pasture and paddocks came up negative, not helped by the SPARROWHAWK circling over the place! I spent an hour at my skywatching seat, where I continued to scan the fence lines and posts, as well as the sky, but it proved very disappointing today, just WOODPIGEONS, CHAFFINCH, Corvids, and Pied wagtails were seen. I decided enough was enough, and headed for home, but at the last moment I had a change of heart and went for a look around the Tree Nursery.

Here I almost immediately heard the faint call of what I thought was a Redstart, I tracked the call down, but couldn't find the bird, although the call, now louder, convinced me more it was a Redstart. I stopped and scanned along the edge of a row of Laurels, and Wow!! There it was, a stunning male REDSTART (79,66) , what a blindin' bird!! Easily the best looking species to grace my patch ( I always say that!)

Redstarts on my patch are seen less than annually, and all but one sighting, in April 2006, have involved Autumn birds, all being the duller female or immature types, this sighting was my first ever spring plumaged male, cracking bird :-) I had just a 5 second view, before it flew into cover, and I couldn't locate it thereafter, despite spending another 40 minutes looking for it, a shame, as it would of made a great photo.

The Redstart pushes the Year list to 79, and the months list to 66, the 3rd best March out of ten now :-) Below is the Sparrowhawk, seen over Migrant alley, the only photo I took today

Sunday 27 March 2011

Sorry for the way all the text has appeared with no breaks, blogger didn't put in my paragraphs!! It was overcast but bright for the last full patch walk of March, the cloud did eventually break mid morning to allow some hazy warm sunshine through, not too bad at all. Just before leaving this morning, I saw the male BRAMBLING under the feeders picking up spilt sunflower hearts, a good start :-) Setting off down Ashes lane it was quite evident that the brighter conditions were much more conducive for bird song, a multitude of WREN, DUNNOCK, ROBIN, GREENFINCH, CHAFFINCH, BLACKBIRD and SONGTHRUSH song had me scribbling away in the note book, calling from BLUE TIT, GREAT TIT, STARLING and PIED WAGTAIL, as well as the more raucous calls from JACKDAWS, CARRION CROWS, and MAGPIES all played their part in proceedings. A GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER could be heard drumming from the Wet Woods, and flyovers from both GREYLAG and CANADA GEESE, plus WOODPIGEON made up 18 species before I travelled 200 yards! Things quietened down a bit as I entered the more degraded habitat of the Tree Nursery, and Pub Field, but COLLARED DOVE, PHEASANT and a flyover BLACKHEADED GULL kept the list ticking along. No migrants were observed at Migrant Alley, despite much scanning of paddocks and fencelines, just the ROOKS were added to the notebook, so I moved on to the College Grounds, and it was here where the College borders onto the stream, that I heard my first BLACKCAP (78,65) of the spring, what songsters they are!! A walk through the grounds had me finding more of the common species, but a couple of singing GOLDCREST, plus multiple CHIFFCHAFFS and a MISTLE THRUSH joined the daylist. After making my way back home for a snack and a drink, I set of out for the lakes, via the Small Holding and Wet woods. HOUSE SPARROWS lined the guttering of a house as I entered the Small Holding, where I found 2 LINNETS, 4 GOLDFINCH and a GREEN WOODPECKER. Before even entering the Wet Woods I could here a NUTHATCH calling, and at least 3 more drumming Great Spotted woodpeckers, however once in the woods only a STOCK DOVE was added to the list, singing its haunting tune. On the lakes today it was, as has been the case for some time now, just a matter of checking up on the 2 COOTS, and 6 Canada Geese, and seeing how many MOORHEN/MALLARD showed themselves. The Scrubby woods was alive with all the calls and song of the mornings previously heard birds, but new for the morning was the COAL TIT, TREECREEPER, and BULLFINCH, as well as 3 JAYS that chased through the under storey of the Oaks. My last hour was spent going back over to Migrant Alley, via the Tree Nursery, the sheep pasture next to the Tree Nursery had two Canada Geese on it, and as I walked round them, so as not to put them up, a fox ran past behind them, and did just that! A flock of 5 MEADOW PIPIT headed west, as I left the nursery. More scanning of the sky and fencelines at Migrant Alley failed to turn up that Wheatear or flyover Sand Martin, but LESSER BLACK BACKED and HERRING GULLS were added to the list, as well as a singing SKYLARK and the ever present SPARROWHAWK. Half a dozen SISKIN dropped into the Alders in the Greenhouse Complex behind my seat, so I went and took some photo's of one. The last bird on the list today was the LONG TAILED TIT, a pair were in the hedge along Ashes Lane as I neared home, the 46th species for the day. This Female Blackbird came up quite close, it was feeding in the Greenhouse Complex Grounds Below is one of the Siskin that came down
This Wren was in my garden this afternoon, collecting moss from the pond edge for it's nest.
Below: one of the Marsh marigold blooms from my other pond :-)

Lastly, here's the fox running round the back of the Geese :-)

Saturday 26 March 2011

I cant believe that todays full patch walk was already the penultimate one ! Tomorrow will be the months 8th full patch visit, thats the minimum number that I do in any month.

The lovely sunny weather had gone today, leaving it grey and somewhat misty, with poor visibility, and this may have contributed to the only thinly distributed bird song heard during the 6 hour walk

Of the 48 species recorded, song was heard from BLACKBIRD, SONGTHRUSH, MISTLE THRUSH, WREN, DUNNOCK, ROBIN, CHAFFINCH, GREENFINCH, LINNET, TREECREEPER, GOLDCREST, STOCK DOVE and CHIFFCHAFF, of which I counted 9. That sounds like a lot, but it was spread over the whole of my patch, and over the 6 hours!

I see by the comments on my posts that migrants are now arriving, but I didn't find any new ones today, my patch is mainly made up of secondary habitats, and the early arrivals go for the best habitat first, so they always visit me a little later. :-)

There were some birds of note still, despite the non arrival of the spring migrants, a REDWING was seen in the College gardens, and 5 MEADOW PIPITS flew over Migrant Alley, where there were 3 YELLOWHAMMERS on the new paddock. Flyovers by LESSER BLACK BACKED GULL, HERRING and BLACK HEADED GULL, as well as GREYLAG GOOSE and CORMORANT added some interest to the day list.

The COOTS remain on the lake, and with them were 6 MALLARD, 2 CANADA GEESE and 2 MOORHENS. Raptors today were represented by both KESTREL and SPARROWHAWK.

No butterflies were recorded in todays cooler, and duller conditions, and the task of recording them this summer has taken a devastating blow, as the small area that held so many of them last year, that was beside the Pub Field, went under the plough yesterday. An absolute disgrace ! All in the name of keeping things tidy! This area was left last year, so why plough it now? The college own it, and they are not exactly struggling to make ends meet, how much maize can you get from a tennis court sized area ? Not a lot, and certainly not worth the fuel the tractor used to plough it!!

Anyway, .......Photo's were few and far between today, but I thought you might be interested to see this Rabbit, it's half white and half normal, an attractive ''smokey'' colour :-)
Below is my first ''Ladies Smock'' flower. This wildflower is food for the larvae of Orange Tip butterfly, but its rare on my patch, it's only found in my garden ! A well managed area indeed :-)

This BRAMBLING visited my garden this afternoon, a nice looking male. That, along with the MARSH TIT that also visited, took the daylist to 50.

Friday 25 March 2011

Walking to work this morning, it started off bright and sunny, but within minutes I watched a fog bank roll in, and visibility was restricted to 30 meters, however 30 meters was all that was required to see the second spring migrant species of the year sitting on the last piece of fenceline at Migrant Alley, not one that I was anticipating though, it was a BLACK REDSTART (77, 64)BRILLIANT!!!!!! What a great find! This is only the 3rd spring Black Redstart in the ten years of recording so far, and two of those were seen last spring! It's also the only record of this species for March, that made my day alright :-)

I had a good scan of the paddocks and sheep pasture at Migrant alley as I walked back home from work, but the bird had moved on.

After a bite to eat, I made a quick visit to the lake, just to check up on the COOTS, which were still about, only a pair of MALLARD and a single MOORHEN were on the other lakes today. A quick look round the Scrubby Wood was mainly to try and get a new butterfly species, but I only found the Comma again. A few birds were about as well, TREECREEPER, NUTHATCH, COAL TIT, BULLFINCH, and GOLDCREST were all seen, while quite a few of the BLUE TITS were now observed carrying nest material, as was a ROBIN and BLACKBIRD.

I spent most of the afternoon watching the Pub Field, which was already being ploughed in, frequent scanning of the fresh turned earth provided me with at least 13 PIED WAGTAILS, as well as the gang of Corvids. Surprisingly the only Gulls seen were a flock of 7 BLACK HEADED GULLS, they only stayed for a few minutes, before moving on northwards. Above the field I saw the female SPARROWHAWK, then a few moments later one of the PEREGRINES flew over clutching its dinner. Six STOCK DOVES, and two CHAFFINCH were the only other birds seen on the plough.

I finished with another quick look around Migrant Alley, hoping for a Wheatear, but still they elude me, I think I have probably missed one or two whilst I have been at work, as I find the best time to see them is mid morning. 7 STARLINGS a few WOODPIGEON and a flyover LESSER BLACK BACKED GULL made up the afternoon. The day goes to the Black Redstart seen first thing though, well chuffed with that :-)

Thursday 24 March 2011

Another fantastic, warm sunny day over my patch today, but the weekend draws near and we all know what that means :-)

4 GREYLAG GEESE flew over Migrant Alley early this morning as I walked in to work, nothing else much seen in the half hour walk in though.

This afternoon, it was the Butterflies that got my attention more than the birds, with 4 Peacocks and 2 more Comma's seen, it's good to have them to distract me from the lack of birds around at the moment.

With most of the winter birds now gone or virtually gone, and only the CHIFFCHAFF to replace them so far, things are pretty quiet. I did find 4 SISKIN in the Scrubby wood, the last remnants of winter. Nearby on the lakes, nothing has changed, and it is unlikely to now, the 6 CANADA GEESE were present, along with the pair of COOTS, and a pair of MALLARD, with just one MOORHEN found.

TREECREEPER, GOLDCREST, LONG TAILED TIT, COAL TIT and BULLFINCH were all found in the Wet woods, and/or in the Scrubby Woods, along with the already mentioned Chiffchaff, but all except the latter were recorded in smaller numbers than of late. A pair of MISTLE THRUSH was in one of the large gardens just off the footpath that leads from the lake back to the woods.

I skipped the Tree Nursery today as it had a work crew in it, and headed for a look at the Pub field. Here the field was being heavily muck spread, the stench in the warm conditions was appalling, but I bravely sat and scanned the field, sure that with all those flies about something would be out there. All I found were 2 PIED WAGTAILS and the usual gang of mixed corvids, not worth putting up with the smell for really :-)

A walk around the paddocks and sheep pasture at Migrant alley was also a bit disappointing, but there is still lots of disturbance here to be fair, so I cant expect much. The only birds of note were a small flock of STARLINGS and a GREEN WOODPECKER.

A little later, I went back to the Pub field, just to make sure I hadn't missed that Wheatear, I hadn't ! I did see a mixed flock of Gulls come down and inspect the field though, 2 of them were LESSER BLACK BACKED, 5 were BLACK HEADED and 4 were HERRING GULLS, they left when they realised the tractors weren't actually ploughing, that will happen in the next few days, so it will be worth checking when it happens.

Ive not added anything to the months list since last weekend now, and the total remains stuck on 63, which is joint fourth best out of the ten years, and still 8 behind the highest March total set last year. I desperately need some migrants!

Photo's today are of the Comma Butterfly again, I'm not taking them for granted just yet :-)

Also this Mistle Thrush, I don't get many Mistle thrush photo's !

Wednesday 23 March 2011

A fantastic day for being out and about, with sunny, warm, and calm conditions prevailing throughout the day, enabling me to find my first Comma Butterfly of the year (above).

The MARSH TIT hasn't left my patch yet, it was heard singing in the Wet Woods as I passed through to get to the lakes, it will be only a matter of a couple of weeks I should think, before it leaves for it's breeding area.

On the lakes it was again down to the COOTS, and the 6 CANADA GEESE to provide the entertainment, but I did locate the frogs that I found on Monday, they were swimming in the shallows of the main lake, but I couldn't find any spawn, probably due to these things below.

I counted, 23 of these large fish along the side of the lake, I wonder if they would eat the frogs ? Probably!

Just a brief walk around the scrubby woods was had, that's where I found the Comma Butterfly, nothing else out of the ordinary was seen here though, but COAL TIT, TREECREEPER and GOLDCREST were heard singing.

Next stop was the Pub Field and Tree Nursery, the former was being muck spread again, and it looked good for a migrant Wheatear, but all I found today were CARRION CROWS, JACKDAWS and ROOKS, with a couple of STOCK DOVES, as I scanned I heard then located a pair of LINNETS singing from the dividing hedgerow of the Tree Nursery/Pub Field, the first to be found actually on my patch and not flying over it this year!

The Tree Nursery had nothing of note in it at all today, but it has had a stay of execution, as I have found out the lease on the field has been extended for six months, to allow more time for the clearing of the field.

My last stop, was at Migrant Alley for a scan of the fence lines and posts for that elusive March wheatear, it wasn't found, but they don't always get sighted in March, sightings have been recorded in three of the last four however, with the mean arrival date for the last 9years being April 7th.

An hours skywatch didn't produce the early Swallow, or a Sand martin, but I did get a YELLOWHAMMER and two LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLS go over, as well as seeing the resident KESTREL and female SPARROWHAWK. Two BUZZARDS were also seen up high, but were just to the NW of my patch.

Nothing was seen of any of the winter Birds today, the first time this year, but I will probably get one or two more sightings of Redwing, fieldfare or Siskin.

Tuesday 22 March 2011

Due to very heavy disturbance on my patch this afternoon, very little was recorded. This sometimes happens on my patch, as it is made up up of large gardens and pockets of privately owned land, but worryingly it's getting more frequent in recent years.

Lots of the large gardens on my patch have new owners, and they are busy slashing and burning the mature growth in them, they all seemed to be out today! Also out today were the Hadlow College tree surgeon crew in the large house by the lake area. Hadlow College also had students ( I use the word Students loosely!) all over Migrant Alley doing various ''work'' in between shouting and screaming and chasing each other around!

So with all that going on what did I see ? Well the MARSH TIT was singing in the Wet Woods, the 6 CANADA GEESE were on the 3 lakes, along with the two COOTS, and the KESTREL was hunting above the Tree Nursery. A SISKIN and a MEADOW PIPIT flew over, and were noted down as potential 'last' dates.

Not a good day on the patch today!

Monday 21 March 2011

Dense fog this morning hung around until 10am, thereafter it became Sunny and warm, easily the warmest day of the year so far :-)

Needless to say, as soon as I had finished work the cloud started to bubble up, and by 3pm it was cloudy - bah! I did however get to walk home in some of the warm sunshine, and at last found my first butterfly of the year, fluttering around the blossom of a Blackthorn tree in the Greenhouse Complex, it was a lovely Peacock, the first addition to my new Butterfly recording spread sheet.

I had already walked through Migrant Alley on the way back from work, and had seen no Wheatear yet on the paddocks, so I went to the Lake area first, hoping for more Butterflies, but no more were seen, I did see a new COOT on the main lake though, it will no doubt be passing through, the other two Coots were busy feeding on the ornamental lake, where two CANADA GEESE were also seen, the other four regular Canada Geese were on the main lake. Two MOORHEN were the only other lake dwellers today, well, not strictly true, as I found at least 6 frogs in the shallows of the main lake, the first time I have seen frogs here! I did once find some spawn a few years ago, but as always it's quickly gobbled up by the large fish, so I dont hold out much hope of seeing any tadpoles here.

A quick Jaunt round the Scrubby Wood found it ringing with the sound of CHIFFCHAFFS, at least 5 were heard here now, they really have arrived in force, a great sound on a warm spring day :-) The familiar songs of COAL TIT, GOLDCREST, and TREECREEPER were also heard, as well as song from the more common BLACKBIRD, DUNNOCK, WREN, ROBIN, and SONGTHRUSH.

As the last of the sunshine went, I took a walk over to Migrant Alley, passing the Pub Field on the way to look for a possible Wheatear, none was seen, just the usual Corvids, plus 8 STOCK DOVES. Once at Migrant Alley, I again had Wheatear on my mind, but the scan of fencelines, posts and paddocks proved fruitless. My seat beckoned, as my legs were aching by now, and I took up my skywatching position, again hoping for a passing Swallow or Sand Martin, neither appeared, but I did see the KESTREL and SPARROWHAWK up hunting, as well as 2 MEADOW PIPITS going north. A very distant flock of birds appeared only as a smudge in the sky, as they were so far away, but they were probably Geese of some kind - way off my patch.

After an hour I headed off home, but tomorrow will be another day closer to finding that Swallow, or Wheatear.....

Above: One of the Frogs in the Main lake

Sunday 20 March 2011

Not quite the wall to wall sunshine of yesterday, but some sunny spells were enjoyed on my 5 hour full patch walk this morning. The day never really took off birdwise, perhaps I am a bit too eager to find that newly arrived migrant !

The 45 species recorded this morning, was a little lower than could be expected for late march, and the numbers of birds about was well down on yesterday, with very little song heard, so what's going on there then ?

Two more new CHIFFCHAFFS had arrived over night, one in the College Grounds, and another that had joined the bird found yesterday in the Scrubby Wood, bringing the total to 4, counting the one in the headland wood at Migrant Alley, these were at least all singing !

The COOTS are settling in well on the ornamental lake, the male showing lots of aggression, defending his territory as 6 MALLARD dropped in from high. Only two CANADA GEESE were on the remaining two lakes, the other two pairs were seen out in the fields, at Migrant Alley.

Winter species were very thin on the ground, they involved a single flyover SISKIN, and 2 REDWING at the College Grounds. A YELLOWHAMMER was one of two species seen today that were not seen yesterday, it was calling from the hedgerow between the Pub Field and the Tree Nursery, the other species was one of the PEREGRINES from the Tower, it was seen whilst I was at my sky watching seat, where I spent an hour, but didn't see much more than HERRING, BLACK HEADED and LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLS, although another MEADOW PIPIT was heard going over, and a female SPARROWHAWK circled high up over the sheep pasture.

Hopefully, during the next 7 to 10 days, a few more Migrant Species will be added to the year list, although it is relatively early for them still, March has in the past produced early Wheatear, Swallow, Sand Martin, Blackcap, Willow Warbler, and even a Hobby! So i'll just have to keep watching and listening :-)

Photo's today come from my garden feeders

My garden favourite, GOLDFINCH

Plus a Siskin, I wonder if it was the one I heard going over earlier this morning?

Saturday 19 March 2011

Above: Early morning at the Small Holding. Below: Blackthorn blossom.

Today I carried out a full patch visit in conditions that were totally opposite to yesterday, a lovely crisp, frosty and clear morning, which developed into a warm sunny day, about time too!!

Above: Sunlight streaming into the College Gardens.
I spent 6 hours roaming my patch today, but despite the great weather I didn't find a single new species to add to the March list, I felt sure a new migrant would turn up today, oh well, I still recorded some cracking birds.
CHIFFCHAFFS were singing, one in the Headland, at the north end of Migrant alley, and another in the Scrubby Wood adjacent to the lakes, where 6 CANADA GEESE, 2 MALLARD, 4 MOORHEN and the pair of COOT were seen. The Scrubby Wood wasn't as busy as I thought it would be, but TREECREEPER, NUTHATCH, COAL TIT, and GOLDCREST all sang, joining in with the regular Tits and Finch's, plus WREN, DUNNOCK, ROBIN, BLACKBIRD and SONGTHRUSH. There were also a few winter species about, 4 REDWING were foraging on the floor, under the brambles, and 2 SISKIN were seen in an Alder tree, but they were very much scarcer around the place than of late.
Another winter species, the LESSER REDPOLL, was also seen, two of these smart little finch's were seen in a Silver Birch over at the Greenhouse Copse, where I also found one of the pair of LITTLE OWLS that lives there, it was sunning itself in the midst of a tree.
I spent alot of the time around Migrant Alley, hoping for a Wheatear to drop in, but it wasn't to be today, however, I watched flyovers by GREY HERON, LESSER BLACK BACKED GULL, GREYLAG GOOSE, SPARROWHAWK, BUZZARD, KESTREL, and FIELDAFARE. A MEADOW PIPIT dropped into the Tall Hedge briefly, and a few skylarks were up and singing in the dark blue sky.
In all, 50 species were recorded today, the last of those was the LONG TAILED TIT, seen as I walked home along Ashes Lane around Midday. There were some notable omissions from the list today though, namely Mistle Thrush, Yellowhammer, and Marsh Tit, the latter I am expecting to leave my patch anyday now, but the other two are usually seen.

This Carrion Crow was out feeding on the frosty Sheep pasture early on.
Below is one of the Lesser Redpoll seen in the Greenhouse Copse

Lastly this BULLFINCH was feeding on buds from an apple tree, which grows on the bank of the main lake.

Friday 18 March 2011

Washout!! That's what today was! Persistant, and at times heavy rain for most of today saw me abandoning any ideas of an afternoon patch walk, especially after already getting soaked walking back home from work, but at least during the walk I saw 4 COMMON GULLS (63), which had joined the 100 or so BLACK HEADED GULLS at Migrant Alley, just a small silver lining :-)

Tomorrow is meant to be a much better day, but i'll wait and see about that!

Thursday 17 March 2011

I again heard the CHIFFCHAFF singing this morning as I walked to work, I also saw a single FIELDFARE at Migrant Alley, and a single REDWING in the College Grounds.

After work, I ventured out into slightly less gloomy weather than of late, the sky was a lighter shade of grey, and the wind had dropped, which made it feel more pleasant.

16 GREENFINCH and 18 CHAFFINCH were on the Alpaca enclosure at the Small Holding, along with 2 GOLDFINCH and numerous BLUE and GREAT TITS, 2 JAYS flew from the old orchard, and a GREEN WOODPECKER was on a large lawn. The Wet Woods held little at all today, more calling Blue and Great Tits and a drumming GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER were about it.

Moving on to the lake area, I watched the pair of COOTS feeding on the weed that is growing up from the bottom of the ornamental lake, this is why they have stayed, in the past there has been no weed for them, I dont know where it came from, probably an introduction from another species of duck or goose, the other two lakes have no weed at all, and explains why little is seen on them. Today was o exception to that, only two MALLARD and a MOORHEN were on the water, although as I left the 6 CANADA GEESE dropped in.

I didn't go round the Scrubby Wood today, but as I watched the sky above it, a TAWNY OWL (62) hooted twice from the deep cover where it roosts, a nice addition to the March list :-) I also heard a NUTHATCH, a TREECREEPER, a COAL TIT and the MARSH TIT from where I stood.

The Pub Field today was again full of Corvids, 75 JACKDAW, 22 CARRION CROW and 27 ROOKS were a conservative count, the KESTREL flew across from the Tree Nursery, but they took little notice of it. I carried on to Migrant Alley, and scanned all the fence lines and posts, but no Wheatear today, at least a hundred BLACK HEADED GULLS were in with the Sheep, where despite much scanning I couldn't find a Common Gull amongst them, Ive not recorded one this month yet.

I ended the walk with a 40min skywatch at my seat, however not much flew over, HERRING GULL, LESSER BLACK BACKED GULL, SPARROWHAWK, SISKIN and PIED WAGTAIL were the best that I could come up with. I was surprised to hear 2 LITTLE OWLS arguing over at the Greenhouse Copse not far away, must be the first time Ive had two owl species during an afternoon visit! Whilst at my seat I was entertained by a pair of LONG TAILED TITS and a GOLDCREST in the tall hedge behind me.

Above: One of the Coots that are attempting to breed on my patch, the first ones ever :-)

Below: One of the Long tailed Tits that was in the tall hedge.

Wednesday 16 March 2011

This morning as I walked into work I heard the song of a CHIFFCHAFF, it was singing from the wooded headland at the north end of Migrant Alley, nice start to the day :-)

However, it was another frustrating patch visit this afternoon, low cloud hung in the sky, and a mist lingered in the air, making for very poor visibility, it was useless for trying to spot small flyover birds, and a cold NE wind made it uncomfortable to attempt to do so! Back in February I thought i'd be watching my first Butterflies by now, but spring seems to have stalled somewhat :-(

There were still some winter species around my patch today, I counted 45 REDWING in the trees around the Small Holding, whilst in the nearby Alpaca enclosure a good flock of Finch's were seen mostly CHAFFINCH, but also a few GREENFINCH. In the Wet Woods a single pair of MALLARD were on the flooded pits, a GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER called, and GREAT and BLUE TITS did likewise, a TREECREEPER was heard to sing, but that was about it.

Walking the footpath to the lakes, the large wooded garden to the left had a few birds in, notably 6 SISKIN, but more menacingly was the gardener/handyman wandering around with and airgun, I hope he's not just shooting at anything that moves, makes me wince to think of a shot coming from the garden hitting anyone on the footpath, me in particular!

Over on the lakes the pair of COOTS have added a bit more to the nest site, fingers crossed for them :-) Only the usual species were keeping them company, 4 CANADA GEESE 4 MALLARD and 2 MOORHEN.

just a brief stroll into the Scrubby woods was had again, where NUTHATCH were seen, as well as three different pairs of LONG TAILED TIT, a COAL TIT sang, and more song from the likes of BLACKBIRD, ROBIN, WREN, DUNNOCK and MISTLE THRUSH cheered the gloomy afternoon a little.

The Tree Nursery was re-visited by the digger as well as me today, it was having another hack at the drainage ditch, it's now lost all the nesting cover, as well as the grasses and vegetation that held all those Butterflies I was photographing last year. The Pub Field has a new pile of Manure on it, ready for spreading, surely it will bring in the first migrant Wheatear of the spring ? It wasn't there today though, although a big Corvid flock of over 100 birds were! They were mostly JACKDAWS and CARRION CROWS with a few ROOKS.

I paid a visit to Migrant Alley, but stayed only long enough to scan all the fence posts and fence lines in the hope of finding a Wheatear, but it wasn't to be today, eventually I got fed up with the constant nagging cold wind, and made my way home, seeing the KESTREL up hunting by the Greenhouse complex on the way.

No chance of any photo's today, far too gloomy, maybe tomorrow :-)

Tuesday 15 March 2011

I had no walk to and from work today, as I had to attend a training course, in town, which was held in a windowless room :-( I'm told it was a lovely morning out, grrrrr.......

Arriving home this afternoon, I was later than normal, but the sun was hanging on....just, a thin veil of cloud was slowly building, and by 16:00hrs it was overcast with a cool N wind blowing.

My visit to the lakes was just a very short one, a quick check to see if anything new had dropped in overnight really, it hadn't, but the CANADA GEESE had returned, and the COOTS appear to be building a nest in the dead bullrush stems on the ornamental lake! Fantastic! I hope they are successful :-) I only visited the scrubby woods to listen for newly arrived Chiffchaffs, however none were heard amongst the regular BULLFINCH, TREECREEPER, GOLDCREST and COAL TIT. A few REDWING were seen in the leaf litter, it's getting quite late for them now, the mean last recording date for Redwing is the 31 March, but they become fewer and fewer in number as the month progresses.

The reason for not hanging about in the lake area, was so that I could spend some time over at Migrant Alley, scanning the fields and fences for a possible Wheatear, but on arriving I found a gaggle of students from the college putting up paddock fencing, which was a bit of a joke to watch :-) so that put an end to any birding there, I did have a half hour skywatch, looking out for a Sand Martin, but all I saw of note was one of the PEREGRINES from the tower. I ended the watch early when the cool N wind increased and the cloud thickened up.

Not much of a patch watch today then!! I ended up taking photo's of the garden birds back at my feeders, but the male SPARROWHAWK kept the more interesting species away. In all a very frustrating day :-)

Here's the garden photo's though.........

Daffodil above. ROBIN below
and the ever present BLUE TIT !

Monday 14 March 2011

After a gloriously, crisp, and sunny morning, the skies turned a uniform grey for the afternoon patch walk, uncanny how many times that happens :-)

I spent 2 hours out, and visited the lake area, it wont be long now before I change the afternoon walk, and put the emphasis on Migrant Alley, the Pub Field and the Tree Nursery, hoping for some summer migrants to show, but for now the 'winter walk' continues. As soon as I entered the Small Holding today, I could hear the sound of REDWINGS, 40 - 50 of them were giving some sub song and generally chattering, it was quite something to hear them! Also in the Small Holding a GREEN WOODPECKER was seen, two JAYS screeched as they flew to the Wet woods, and the usual BLUE TITS, GREAT TITS, CHAFFINCH, and GREENFINCH were scattered around the area.

Nothing much happening in the Wet woods, just the sound of more Great and Blue Tits calling, but on the edge of the wood, just where I exit, is a large Oak tree, here I recorded 4 LONG TAILED TITS, 2 NUTHATCH, 4 GOLDFINCH, 2 GOLDCREST, plus a GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER.

The lakes were dismal today, although the COOTS were still around, so thats always a bonus :-) apart from them just 2 Moorhens were seen. Nearby some garden feeders were very active, with twp PHEASANT, and at least 20 Chaffinch, with probably 10 each of Goldfinch and Greenfinch all feeding, a COAL TIT was also seen here.

A quick walk round the scrub wasn't too productive, but a silver birch had a TREECREEPER and 2 SISKIN feeding on it. At least 4 BULLFINCH were seen/heard, and a couple more Long Tailed Tits were checking for nest sites in the brambles.

I had a cursory look round the Pub Field, Tree Nursery, and Migrant alley, but only came up with BLACK HEADED GULL, HERRING GULL, Corvids, WOOD PIGEONS, and a male Pheasant, but thats not surprising given all the disturbance over the weekend. I did find a Goldcrest in the Tall hedge behind my skywatching seat, probably the same individual seen last week. No sign of singing Chiffchaffs today :-(

Above: Pheasant at Migrant Alley

Above and Below: Siskin, from the Scrubby Woods. It wont be long before they all leave now, the latest date I have for them on my patch is the 13th of April, but the mean last date is the 24th March

Sunday 13 March 2011

A repeat performance of yesterdays 6 hour patch visit was had this morning, the weather had reverted back to the heavy cloud and gloom, but a very good total of 51 bird species was recorded once again.

Despite the dull and gloomy conditions, birds were heard singing or calling as soon as I left the house, and as I walked the 200m along Ashes lane towards the Tree Nursery, 20 species were recorded in quick succession, they were :

After that little lot, the only new species picked up at the Tree Nursery and Pub Field were, a MOORHEN, which was on the run off pool at the end of the Pub Field, BLACK HEADED GULL, of which 2 flew over, a SONGTHRUSH that sang from a large garden and a pair of LONG TAILED TITS in the hedgerow.

Migrant Alley was quiet, just a flyover MALLARD was put on the list, but as I entered the College Grounds things livened up a bit with GOLDCREST, GOLDFINCH, MISTLE THRUSH, GREEN WOODPECKER, JAY and flyover GREY HERON all seen, but bird of the day, without doubt was the newly arrived CHIFFCHAFF (76,60). Its simple but cheerful song announced its arrival, a slightly early one, at 3 days ahead of the mean arrival date for this species, very welcome it is too :-) Crossing the sports pitch on the way back, I heard a wall of sound, and looking into the trees I found at least 30 REDWING, whilst at the same time 3 GREYLAG GEESE flew over.

Walking back across Migrant Alley, the north end this time, a couple of BULLFINCH were heard in the headland woods, and song was heard from a YELLOWHAMMER, the first one to sing this year, also singing up above me was a SKYLARK. The row of trees forming the northern patch boundary had at least 35 FIELDFARE in it, and a flyover PIED WAGTAIL completed the list for the first half of my walk.

Next up was the Small Holding , Wet Woods, and Lake area, where just 7 more species were added to the list, those being SPARROWHAWK, SISKIN, NUTHATCH, COAL TIT, MARSH TIT, COOT, and a new species for the month, a LITTLE OWL (61) this was in the Small holding.

As yesterday, I headed over to Migrant Alley for a skywatch, before the mayhem of all the traffic from the Lambing weekend arrived, in the hour I was there, I recorded LESSER BLACK BACKED GULL, HERRING GULL, ROOK, KESTREL and a pair of CANADA GEESE, presumably ones that weren't on the lakes today!

The 51 species seen today, included 5 not seen yesterday, so the weekend total of 56 species is not a bad result, considering it's taken 13 days to get to 61 species :-) The months list is now looking a bit healthier, 61 species puts it in joint 5th place out of ten.

Later in the afternoon, I went to see if I could locate and photograph some Waxwings that were just a stones throw from my patch. Although I found them easy enough, the light was dire, I don't think it could of got any darker without it being nigh time :-) I counted 38 Waxwings and took lots of photo's, of which just two record shots were salvageable !

Waxwings - the first to grace my camera :-)

Saturday 12 March 2011

I was out at first light today, and spent the ensuing 6 hours carrying out a full patch walk. There was a thin wispy layer of cloud, which at times the sun burnt through to give a few warm brighter spells.

My first port of call was the College Grounds, I needed to get there early to avoid all the disturbance that was to come from the lambing weekend being held there. On the way I passed through the Tree Nursery, the Pub Field and Migrant Alley, all the time listening for the song of the Chiffchaff, but despite the very springlike conditions it was not heard :-(

It was a pleasant enough walk though, with plenty of song from the common resident species, DUNNOCK, WREN, ROBIN, SONGTHRUSH, CHAFFINCH, GREENFINCH and GOLDCREST to name a few. Around the College Grounds, where the first Chiffchaffs often turn up, it was still dominated by the winter species, 8 FIELDFARE, 5 REDWING, and at least 6 SISKIN were in the gardens.
On my return through Migrant Alley, I scanned the fence lines and posts for an early Wheatear, but they havn't arrived at the coast yet, so i'm unlikely to see one here for a few days more at least. Flyovers were adding to the mornings species list, with CORMORANT, GREY HERON, GREYLAG and CANADA GEESE, BLACK HEADED and HERRING GULL all moving around the area, by the time the first half of the walk was through I had tallied up 37 species.

The second half of my walk, added just 7 more, TREECREEPER, NUTHATCH, LONG TAILED TIT, GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER, of which 4 were competitively drumming, BULLFINCH, SPARROWHAWK and last but not at all least the COOTS :-) With them today was a Cormorant, 16 Canada Geese, 4 Greylag Geese, 2 MALLARD and 2 MOORHEN, so it was a busier place than of late.

A little after 9 o'clock, I had completed a circuit of the patch, so I spent an hour at Migrant Alley, just sitting and watching the sky, paddocks and pasture there. A few more species went on the daylist, both KESTREL and BUZZARD were seen, making up a trio of Raptors for the day, a MEADOW PIPIT dropped down for a minute or so into the sheep pasture, only the second one seen this month, but the most pleasing species seen there, for me, were 3 LINNETS (59) that sat on the fenceline, these could be the first Linnets returning to Breed on my patch.

Another walk around the lakes and Scrubby Woods was had, mainly to try to record my first Butterfly of the year, but none were found. Ive started a new spreadsheet this year, just to record butterflies, so i'm eager to get it started :-)
A leg weary walk home across the Tree Nursery, was interesting, firstly, a PEREGRINE was seen going overhead, 4 Raptors in one morning! Secondly, I bumped into the Tree Nursery manager, she tells me all the remaining trees are to be shredded, then the ground prepared for the next leasers. This apparently is going to be one of the local farmers who will grow arable crops here, this is at least better than the College putting sheep on it, but how much better time will tell, hopefully it wont be too intensively farmed.

Despite being out for 6 hours, I didn't mange a single photo. Instead I had to rely on my garden feeders, where these Siskin dropped in, there were 4 in all. Also noted were a COAL TIT and MARSH TIT, both which I missed earlier, they brought the list to an impressive 51 for the morning.

Above & Below: Male siskin

Below: female.

Friday 11 March 2011

This morning started with just a touch of frost, but with no wind and wall to wall sunshine, it felt very springlike. So I was a bit miffed to say the least when it clouded over, and the breeze picked up by the time I had finished work !

I felt sure my first Chiffchaff of the year would have arrived overnight, but it wasn't to be, this afternoon I looked and listened as I walked over to the lakes and around the Scrubby Wood, but it was predictably the same species that were encountered. The TREECREEPER was back singing again, and without yesterdays gale blowing I could hear the GOLDCREST singing as well, a few SISKINS were still about, they had all departed by March 9th last year, I even had one at my garden feeders early this morning. The only frequently seen woodland species that wasn't seen today was the Nuthatch, they are very quiet at the moment.

The lakes were also predictable, the 6 CANADA GEESE, and the pair of COOTS were all that was seen, but this was probably due not only to the gas cannons, but also the gardener of the big house next the the lakes, whizzing around on his lawn mower all afternoon - ah! the sound of spring!

My visit to the Tree Nursery and Pub Field was a little more rewarding, but only a little, the partially muck spread maize stubbles, on the Pub Field, had another increase in Stock Doves, there now being at least 23 with the gathering of ROOKS and JACKDAWS, but there were no Gulls today. A work crew were still in the Tree Nursery, but I had a walk round anyway, all I found were a few female PHEASANTS and the odd WREN,DUNNOCK,ROBIN, and BLACKBIRD.

I decided on a walk over to Migrant Alley, and just as I was leaving the Tree Nursery, a REED BUNTING (58) flew over, a nice species for the March list, and only the second one seen this year, it's loud call as it flew over, was explained when a few seconds later a male SPARROWHAWK flew over, with a PIED WAGTAIL mobbing it!

I walked the boundary hedgerow that divides Migrant Alley and the Greenhouses to get to my seat, and a well earned sit down, on the way the hedge provided me with a few GOLDFINCH, and a Goldcrest, which gave me a photograph. On taking my seat, the wind got up a bit, and it felt chilly again, the only noteworthy flyovers were a KESTREL, another SPARROWHAWK, this time the female, and a pair of CORMORANTS.

Above: the Goldcrest that was in the boundary hedgerow

Below, well its one of them lambs! Tomorrow the College hosts its annual event, the ''lambing weekend'' This really makes me grumpy, as half of Migrant Alley is turned into a bloody car park :-(, i'll have to be out at the crack of dawn to get round the college grounds before it all kicks off!

Thursday 10 March 2011

Early this morning, as I walked in to work, one of the PEREGRINES was seen wheeling above the College Grounds, by it's size I would say it was the female, a very nice sight to start the day :-) I also noted a REDWING feeding in the gardens there, they are getting fewer and fewer now as the spring progresses

Back to this afternoons patch walk, it was a very difficult visit, the wind was so strong and gusty that hardly anything could be heard calling or singing. There were the now usual group of CHAFFINCH, GREENFINCH, GREAT TIT, and BLUE TIT, in the Small Holding, plus the GREENWOODPECKER on the large lawn nearby.

The Wet Woods was just not conducive to finding birds, the wind roared through the bare tree tops, clattering the branches together, and if there were any birds about, I didn't notice them! Well, tell a lie, there were 2 pairs of MALLARD on the pools of water!

Thats two pairs more than were on the Lakes today! The only birds seen here were the COOTS, not often I can say that! A little later, the 6 CANADA GOOSE dropped in, two to each lake, they had obviously been flushed off before I got there today, along with anything else that may of been there, - frustrating for me.

The Scrubby Wood had 3 pairs of LONG TAILED TITS, and a calling COAL TIT, one of the few birds that could be heard over the wind, the other being a MISTLE THRUSH that was using it's rattling alarm call. The white rumps of a pair of BULLFINCH were seen as they flew off from an Ash tree, where 6 SISKIN were preening and chattering. I didn't find any Goldcrest, Nuthatch or Treecreeper here today.

Moving on to the Pub Field and Tree Nursery, I once again scanned the half finished muck spread Pub Field, where there were at least 12 STOCK DOVES along with the scores of Corvids, which were mostly JACKDAWS and ROOKS. My Tree Nursery visit didn't reveal yesterdays Stonechat, nor could I find a Grey Wagtail in the drainage ditch, all that was there were 6 female PHEASANTS.

I then went to seek some shelter from the wind, hiding behind the newly erected poly tunnels at the Greenhouse Grounds, from here I looked over Migrant Alley, and the boundary hedge, which was sheltered from the wind, birds of note here were a pair of GOLDCREST and a TREECREEPER :-) Nothing much flew over in my brief skywatch, but a CORMORANT was only the second seen this month, and the inevitable SPARROWHAWK.

This week has been up and down so far, two days of nothing much, and two days with a year tick added, but no sign of the first spring migrant, which will almost certainly be a Chiffchaff, last year I had to wait until the 18th, however in 2003 I had my first singing on todays date, so it should be anytime now :-)

The only photo I got today was this effort of the Treecreeper in the boundary hedgerow.

Wednesday 9 March 2011

Above: The first Celandine flower of the year

Much of the sunshine had gone for this afternoons patch stroll, and a gusty west wind was blowing, what sun there was, brought out the first of the Celandine flowers growing along the footpath that crosses the Small Holding. There were quite a few GREAT TITS and CHAFFINCH'S here today as well, they were associating with the Alpaca enclosure, where the wind blows all the seed from the hornbeam tree onto the ground. Two GREEN WOODECKERS were on the lawn of the nearby large house.

As yesterday, the Wet woods was all quiet, just the odd BLUE TIT, more calling Great Tits, and a few more CHAFFINCH foraging for seeds in the leaf litter. It remained relatively birdless along the footpath that leads to the lakes, but once I neared the scrubby woods and lakes area, SISKINS could be heard, along with ROBIN, WREN, DUNNOCK, more Tits, GREENFINCH, GOLDFINCH and GOLDCREST. The gas cannons have started up again, so I wasn't very confident about finding much on the lake, and so it proved, but at least the two COOT remain, as well as 4 CANADA GEESE and just 2 MALLARDS.

In the scrubby woods, BLACKBIRDS were foraging on the woodland floor, along with at least 3 REDWING, a COAL TIT sang, and 4 LONG TAILED TITS were present, they had another Goldcrest tagging along with them, however the Treecreepers and Nuthatch have gone quiet for the time being. Around 3 o'clock the sun went in, and stayed in, making the air feel chilly, which soon had the birds going into quiet mode. Time to move on and check the Pub Field, and Tree Nursery.

Once there, I dithered about whether to have a look around the Tree Nursery, even though the digger was still 'tidying' the ditch, or check out the muck spread Pub Field, I plummeted for the latter, but scanning that field I saw that the field hadn't been finished, and the muck that was down from yesterday had only attracted JACKDAWS, ROOKS and WOODPIGEONS to it, although it was good to see 8 STOCK DOVES on it as well, a good number for my patch.

I then reverted back to the tree Nursery, where I thought I might just find my first Grey Wagtail of the month skulking along the newly cleansed ditch, I didn't, but something much better was seen, a STONECHAT (75, 57) it flew right across in front of me, alighting on an old stem some 30m away, what a great bird to find !! A real rarity on my patch, with just 2 records for last year, one of those was also here in the Tree Nursery. How fortunate I didn't go the route of the Pub Field after all, but that's patch watching for you, being in the right place at the right time :-)

Here's the Stonechat, a year tick, I know it's a rubbish photo, but the bird was very wary of me, and didn't allow any sort of approach, so rather than chase it around, I just took this distant photo, I'm sure you can make it out - Just!

Tuesday 8 March 2011

Once again there was wall to wall sunshine for my afternoon patch visit today, but despite the lovely spring conditions, my bird sightings were pretty meagre.

The Small Holding had both GREAT SPOTTED and GREEN WOODPECKERS present, and the regular BLUE and GREAT TITS had formed a small flock in the old orchard there, otherwise little of note really.

The wet woods is drying out a bit now, but there is still enough water in the ditches to maybe find a late Teal or mandarin duck dabbling around on, but not today, in fact the only thing heard or seen was another Great Spotted Woodpecker, the reason for this became clear when the big female SPARROWHAWK flew out of a large Oak, then proceeded to weave it's way through the trees.

Walking the footpath from the woods to the lake area, there is a large garden on either side, one is a larged lawned affair with lots of Oak trees peppering the lawn, I saw two MISTLE THRUSHES here, the other garden is a wooded one, where I record lots of woodland species, but today only the GOLDCREST was present, but I was bemused at the gardener there, he was actually raking up the leaves and debris from the woodland floor and burning it ! What for ? It's a wood for christ sake! Another case of over tidying!!

Anyway, I proceeded to the lakes, but the excitement of yesterday wasn't repeated, the Pochard had departed, as had the single Coot, the pair of COOTS on the ornamental lake were still present though :-) Each of the three water bodies had a pair of CANADA GEESE on, the only other water fowl seen was a pair of MALLARD.

The slim pickings continued as I walked the Scrubby Wood, only a pair of LONG TAILED TITS, a singing COAL TIT and a pair of BULLFINCH were seen out of the usual woodland species.

I decided to visit the Pub Field and Tree Nursery, the latter had a work crew in, ''tidying'' the ditch that runs the length of it, so nothing seen there, the Pub Field also had some work going on, muck spreading was in progress, readying the field for this years crop of Maize - see below.

This had attracted 40-50 ROOKS, 2 PIED WAGTAILS, 8 FIELDFARE and 2 STARLINGS, the BLACK HEADED GULLS weren't far away, circling above. The patch KESTREL was seen flying low over as well.

I carried on for a quick sit at Migrant Alley, and despite it being a bit early, I scanned the fenceline and fence post for an early migrant Wheatear, I didn't see one of course, but it's good to get some practise in :-) I didn't see much at all really, a few WOODPIGEON, and corvids, plus 3 STOCK DOVES flying over, and a long distance view of one of the Peregrines on the tower at Hadlow square, oh, and lots of Sheep and lambs

As I said it was slim pickings today, but everyday cant be a good one when you patch watch :-) I had enough light left when I got home to get a few garden bird photo's, below is the Great Tit that eluded me on sunday.

Above and below is a GREENFINCH

lastly, another GOLDFINCH, I cant resist these!

Monday 7 March 2011

Typically, after a dull and cold weekend, Monday dawned bright and crisp with a slight frost, the rest of the day was wall to wall sunshine, with just a hint of that cool wind.

This afternoon, after work, I had limited time to get out, but the 90 minutes I did spend on patch was rather exciting for me. I took my usual route through the Small holding and Wet woods, noting down the parties of CHAFFINCH in both these habitats, there has been an influx of them over the past few days, The Wet woods was very quiet otherwise. On approaching the lakes, I could here the CANADA GEESE making there usual racket, but when I arrived to scan the main lake, I found with them a pair of GREYLAG GEESE, but the star attraction for me today, was the duck that swam with them - a cracking male POCHARD (74, 56), Yes!! A bit of reward for all my efforts put in watching these patches of water :-) This is only the 4th year that Pochard has been on the year list, but those are the consecutive years from 2008, being seen in just a single month each of those years.

The lone COOT had also stayed around, as had the pair on the ornamental lake, but just 1 pair of MALLARD were seen and a single MOORHEN, however this represents a very busy time for these waters!

Pleased with my new year tick, I had a quick scan of the scrubby woods, turning up NUTHATCH, TREECREEPER, SISKIN and a lone FIELDFARE, which was a bit of a surprise. Both SPARROWHAWK and KESTREL were hunting over the area, but for such a nice day, there were few birds about.

A short visit, but a most enjoyable one :-)

Here's the Pochard, not terribly good photo's, they certainly don't do him justice, but he was a long way out on the water, and I didn't want to flush him :-)