Sunday 31 July 2011

It was sunny and warm for the last patch visit of July, and during the 5 hour visit I noted 48 species, but not a single raptor today!

As I set off, it was very quiet indeed, with not a single bird being heard to sing, and very few were calling or even showing themselves, the walk from my house to the Greenhouse Complex, which would normally yield 20 - 25 species turned up just 10! Of interest, they were, in order of appearance, COLLARED DOVE, WOOD PIGEON, SWALLOW, ROBIN, JACKDAW, GOLDFINCH, CHIFFCHAFF, CARRION CROW, GREENFINCH and GREEN WOODPECKER.

Once in the Greenhouse Grounds it was again very quiet, but this LINNET below was part of a group of 4 birds.

The scarcity of birds continued as I crossed through the pasture and paddocks of Migrant Alley, but I noted HERRING GULL , LESSER BLACKED BACKED GULL and a pair of STOCK DOVES go over. Next stop was the College Grounds, where thankfully there were birds! It always pays to get here early, before people arrive, the likes of this GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER was showing well,

As I walked through the grounds a mixed feeding flock of CHAFFINCH, GOLDFINCH, BLUE TIT, GREAT TIT, GOLDCREST, TREECREEPER, COAL TIT, Chiffchaff and of course the much photographed SPOTTED FLYCATHERS ( below) all chased about in a pair of large Oaks and the line of Pine trees.

The second part of my walk over to the Scrubby Woods and lake proved to be a pretty standard affair, although I did get a rare opportunity to photograph this KINGFISHER ( it's there honest!) It was some 35 meters away, on the other side of the lake :-)

Also on the lake were 12 GREYLAG GEESE, 4 CANADA GEESE, 6 MALLARD, and 4 MOORHEN, and as yesterday, the GREY HERON came in as I left for the Scrubby Woods. This SWALLOW was on the line as I entered the woods.

Not much was seen bird wise here, lots of BLACKCAPS about in the bush with all the berries on it, they were joined by a GARDEN WARBLER, a NUTHATCH called from nearby, while up above HOUSE MARTIN, Swallow and the only two SWIFTS of the day were seen. Of more interest in the woods today was the sighting of these butterflies

Above, Common Blue

Above and Below: Small Copper

This impressive Southern Hawker was also patrolling the area.

Next I visited the Tree Nursery, the WHITETHROATS were easily found, and this Common darter made for a good photo

However the bird of the day, was the last bird recorded, it was found on the run off pool at the bottom of the Nursery, I always thought I may find a wader here one day,on the muddy fringes, but the pool is hidden by trees and shrubs, so it seemed unlikely, but one did find it this morning, a superb GREEN SANDPIPER (102, 65)

Initially I flushed it up, and it flew off calmly without calling, so i thought it may return, I hid myself in the surrounding vegetation, and sure enough 15 mins later it was back, allowing a photo of sorts :-). I took just three, and then left the bird to feed, and carry on it's battle with the MOORHEN that was chasing it around!

The Sandpiper took the final tally for July to 65, which is the 3rd best July out of ten, joint with 2009, this is better than the July average of 63, though still 4 short of the peak of 69 recorded in 2007. Not a bad effort considering the poor weather we had a times. The combined list for the ten July's now moves to 86, the additions to list, made this month, were the Green Sandpiper and the Whinchat.

Saturday 30 July 2011

Sunny skies slowly gave way to scattered light clouds for todays 5 hour full patch walk. A pleasing total of 49 species were noted, but there were still some regularly seen birds not on the list today, such as Pheasant, Coal Tit and skylark.

The Whinchat that appeared yesterday at Migrant Alley had moved on, so it was down to finding the regular summer visitors today, which was quite hard going, however SWALLOW, HOUSE MARTIN and SWIFT were up over the pasture feeding, a TURTLE DOVE sang for a short time in the wooded headland, and CHIFFCHAFF, BLACKCAP, WHITETHROAT and SPOTTED FLYCATCHER were all found in the College Gardens.

There was no sign of a feeding flock over at the Scrubby Woods this morning, but NUTHATCH, TREECREEPER and GOLDCRESTS were easily found, while on the lakes there were 27 CANADA GEESE and 3 GREYLAG GEESE with the ever present MOORHENS and MALLARD, just as I was leaving the area a GREY HERON dropped in.

Nearing the end of my walk, as I crossed the Tree Nursery I spied two large raptors above the Greenhouse Complex, and assumed they were buzzards, I walked over to Ashes lane to get a better view, just as they decided to move off to the NW. As they moved off I watched them frequently stop and hover, not like a Common Buzzard does on the wind, but like a Kestrel, hovering for 15 - 20 seconds before moving further and higher away, I'm pretty sure they were Harriers of some kind, but frustratingly they were not identified sufficiently to give what would have been a very rare year tick, how frustrating!!

Raptors that were identified today included COMMON BUZZARD, SPARROWHAWK and HOBBY, oh, and the LITTLE OWL in the Small Holding if that counts as a raptor :-)

A few butterflies were on the wing early on, and this Gatekeeper looked stunning in the low light.

As did this Brown Argus above and below

Below is a young Blackcap, this was seen along the Stream that flows adjacent to the College Grounds

Lastly, the last bird on the list today was this Hobby, I just had time to point the camera and press the shutter as it flashed through the area!

Friday 29 July 2011

Last evenings walk around Migrant Alley was a more comfortable affair, and there were more birds to be seen than in the afternoon visit. A flock of at least 25 LINNETS were on one of the paddocks, as were 33 STARLINGS. 3 single LESSER BLACK BACK GULLS flew over, and a LITTLE OWL called from the Greenhouse Copse, another HOBBY was also up hunting.

This morning I found myself yet again walking the fields and paddocks of Migrant Alley, this time on the way to work. However, today a nice surprise was waiting for me, my persistence with this place has paid of, with a handsome WHINCHAT (101, 64), the first this year, it was sitting out on the fence line, a superb species for my little patch, the end of July does often bring a 'chat' or Wheatear, but I thought this time i'd missed out, just goes to show, patience is everything :-)

This afternoon as I walked home, I again located the Whinchat, and after lunch I was back out to try to photograph it, which I managed, but I couldn't get very close to the bird :-) It was associating with the flock of LINNETS, and a group of 8 HOUSE SPARROWS.

I was quite near to the College Grounds, so I decided on a quick visit to check up on the SPOTTED FLYCATCHERS, I found one family, two adults with at least two young, they were feeding busily on flies - what else :-) Whilst taking photo's of them a party of BLUE and GREAT TITS came through, with them was a TRECREEPER that narrowly missed getting on my camera, and also this COAL TIT that didn't escape so easily!

This ROBIN shows the reason lots of birds are hiding away at the moment, they are heavily in moult, and their flight is somewhat hampered whilst their new flight feathers come through.

I took lots of Whinchat photo's these 3 are the better ones

I also filled my boots with Spotted Flycatcher pics, again these are the 3 better ones

The Whinchat takes the year list past 100 now, and the months list onto 64, which is the joint 4th best July tally out of the ten years of recording, along with 2006 and last year.

Thursday 28 July 2011

A very warm and humid afternoon made for an uncomfortable walk, the camera and bins felt like a huge burden as I walked round the Tree Nursery, the straps getting ever stickier round my sweating neck!

I came across these two mating Skippers, Small I think, but they may be Essex skippers, other butterflies in the nursery included lots of Meadow Browns and Gatekeepers, with ones and twos of Peacock, Red Admiral and Comma. Not much was happening on the bird front, just WHITETHROAT and GREEN WOODPECKER showed up here.
I had a sit down in the shade, by the run off pool, the MOORHEN was again present, but with it was it's mate and 4 newly fledged young. Three to four CHIFFCHAFFS called in the surrounding tree's and shrubs, and over the water I counted 6 Common Darters, they didn't alight for any amount of time, so I took this flight shot.

After a while I summoned up the energy for a walk around the pasture and paddocks of Migrant Alley, not a good idea really, the sun beat down relentlessly on my balding head ( forgot my hat !), but it was worth it, as I saw a COMMON BUZZARD being seen off by two HOBBIES, the 'Ki Ki Ki' call of the Hobbies brought my attention to the action above me. I was only out for half an hour after that, and didn't see much more, a SKYLARK got up from the pasture, and a few SWALLOWS fed overhead. Once it cools off a bit I'll do an evening walk, i'm much more likely to see some birds then :-)

Wednesday 27 July 2011

In my haste to write off yesterdays poor visit, I forgot to mention an unusual sighting I had as I passed the Greenhouse Complex on the way to work. Amongst the SWALLOWS gathered at their post roost on top of the Greenhouses, was an almost white one, the only colour on it was a tinge of pink under its chin, and a few black smudges on its shoulders, a very impressive and beautiful leucistic individual.

This morning I again looked for the bird, but couldn't find it, although I did see at least 4 SAND MARTINS in amongst the SWALLOWS there today.

This afternoons visit was quiet again, and there was very little to spark any excitement, which is, after all, only to be expected on a humid and warm late July afternoon. A visit to the Scrubby Woods had me sitting under a shady Oak tree, watching the heavily berried bush that the Garden warbler was seen in at the weekend, I was hoping for another one or maybe something even better, but my vigil was only rewarded with lots of BLACKCAPS, these were mostly immature birds born this year. The only song heard was from a SONGTHRUSH. I wonder where the mixed feeding flock has moved off too ? I expect it will return soon, they generally move in a circuit of the area.

Whilst sitting under the Oak tree, I watched and photographed a Purple Hairstreak, it fluttered down onto the ground and was taking salts from a bare patch of earth.

I ended the visit with a walk round the Tree Nursery, the WHITETHROAT family were still together, and fattening up for their journey south next month, while overhead both KESTREL and SPARROWHAWK were seen. Butterflies were represented by Meadow Browns mostly, but a few Gatekeepers were also flitting about, as were the Small Whites and a Red Admiral.

I did get a couple of photo's while out, below is a MOORHEN, seen on the run off pool at the bottom of the Tree Nursery.

also the Puple Hairstreak taking on salts from the exposed earth.

Tuesday 26 July 2011

There was not the excitement of a year tick this afternoon, nor even a month tick, in fact the birding was very slow, the heavy cloud cover made it feel quite muggy and dull.

I walked over to Migrant Alley first of all for a bit of Sky watching as it's in these conditions that I always feel a large Raptor may drift over, it did, but it wasn't quite the one I wanted, instead of a Kite or Harrier, I got the more reliable BUZZARD, in fact there were two :-) I also saw a SPARROWHAWK and KESTREL up hunting. Only two Gulls went over, one each of LESSER BLACK BACKED and HERRING GULL, a GREAT SPOTTED WOOD PECKER bounded past and all the local SWALLOWS were feeding nearby. SWIFTS have very much reduced in number, maybe the vast majority have already migrated south now, they certainly become less recorded round here come the end of July.

I did a circuit of the pasture and paddocks at Migrant alley, just in case an early 'Chat' or Wheatear had dropped in, but no luck today, they generally don't turn up until the second half of Aug. I did see a few LINNETS, GOLDFINCH'S, a small flock of STARLINGS and a huge 200+ mixed corvid flock, mostly JACKDAWS.

I had a walk up the side of the Maize crop in the pub field, where CHIFFCHAFF was the only customer, and finished with a search of the Tree Nursery, this only had the WHITETHROAT family and another Chiffchaff skulking in the shrubs. Not a very exciting visit at all today! Even the Butterflies sat today out, only a few Meadow Browns, Gatekeepers and Red Admirals were seen, and of course the ever present White species :-)

In the gloomy conditions I didn't even point the camera at anything while I was out. The following photo's were taken in my garden at the feeders, still not enough light really though.

Above GREENFINCH (juv)

Above CHAFFINCH Female

Above GREAT TIT (juv)

Lastly , Thanks to Davo and Dean, who between them identified yesterdays moth as a Rosey Rustic -cheers guys

Monday 25 July 2011

The weather was warm and sticky this afternoon, one of those days when even the butterflies laid up in rest.

I still went over to the tree nursery to find some though! There were fewer about than yesterday, but Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper, Speckled Wood, Red Admiral, Small Skipper and Brown Argus were found along the hedgerow, where the families of both LINNET and WHITETHROAT scolded at me when I came to close. On reaching the end of the field, I walked across to the other side and made my way back down again, searching the long grass and vegetation that grows up from the drainage ditch there. I was startled by a small brown bird that flew up in front of me and shot into a row of Shrubs, I could just see it through my bins, and was extremely pleased and excited to find my 100 bird species of the year looking back at me - a SEDGE WARBLER ( 100, 63) no less!!

After that pleasant experience, I went over to check the Scrubby Woods and Lake area, seeing both KESTREL and COMMON BUZZARD go over as I went. Upon nearing the lakes I could already hear the 15 GREYLAG GEESE and 7 CANADA GEESE that were there, with them were 6 MALLARD and 4 MOORHEN, one of these was with another two newly fledged young. A nearby chattering alerted me to 6 SWALLOWS sitting up on a phone line, so I sneaked up on them, making sure I had the light with me, in order to get some photo's, just as I was viewing them through the lens, a flippin male SPARROWHAWK came dashing through, sending the Swallows in all directions!

I next made a circuit of the Scrubby Woods, but it was unusually quiet, there was just the song of a lone SONGTHRUSH, and a half hearted attempt at singing by a BLACKCAP, but the call of CHIFFCHAFFS was ever present as I went round, the only other notable bird was a TURTLE DOVE siting up on the power cables.

On the way home again I saw this GREEN WOODPECKER on one of the large lawns

It soon flew off when it heard the camera shutter though!

A quick search around the Greenhouse Complex was well worth the effort, I saw the usual PIED WAGTAILS, Blackcaps, Whitethroats, and Chiffchaffs, but I also watched another Sedge Warbler flitting from a thick mass of nettles into a dense stand of willowherb!! Quite something, as Sedge Warbler has never been recorded in any July before :-)

The 100th species for the year has come in the second quickest time, but out of the ten years of recording on my patch only four times has 100 species been reached, these years are from 2008 onwards, the year when I upped my visits and went part time working :-)

Below are the previous dates upon which I reached 100 species:

2008 - 30 Oct

2009 - 17 May

2010 - 27 Aug

Not much in the way of Photo's today, just this distant Turtle Dove

With a Brown Argus below and a Small Copper below that.

I also came across this Moth, one for all you moffers out there to ID for me :-)

Sunday 24 July 2011

Another 5 hour full patch walk this morning turned up slightly fewer bird species, 46 in all, the likes of Skylark, Pheasant, Coal Tit, Sparrowhawk, and one or two others seen yesterday were missed today. On the other hand, I had GREY HERON, of which two flew over Migrant alley early on, and another was on the main lake, plus a LESSER WHITETHROAT that was seen in the Tree Nursery, neither were recorded yesterday.

Much of the mornings activity mirrored yesterdays, but a notable flock of GREYLAG and CANADA GEESE flew over the Wet Woods around 8:00am, I watched them take to the air from the recently cut Rape field just off my patch, from my vantage point at Migrant Alley I counted a minimum of 200 Greylags and 70 Canada's, amazing to watch.

The berry bearing shrub at the Scrubby Woods was again hosting at least 5 BLACKCAPS, and the GARDEN WARBLER. Amazingly, after seeing my first Garden warbler of the year yesterday, a second bird was seen feeding with a mixed Tit flock in the Wet Woods, it was high up in the canopy, the first time ive seen one with a Tit flock.

With the long sunny spells this morning, the other wildlife came into there own, with 14 Butterfly species being seen, most of these were feeding on a large Budlea bush in the Scrubby Woods, 7-10 Red Admirals, 2 Peacocks, 2 Commas, lots of Gatekeepers and a few Large and Small Whites made for a great sight.

Also this morning my first sighting of some Odenata species for what seems like weeks, Brown Hawker, Common Darter and White legged Damselfly were seen.

I took a real mix of photo's today, here's a few :-

Above: A GREEN WOODPECKER, feeding on the floor of the Scrubby Wood

Above: One of the WHITETHROATS at the Tree Nursery, I located the family of 6 that fledged there a week ago.

This Fox was enjoying the early morning sunshine, just look at the contentment on it's face!

Three of the Butterflies are below, first the Peacock, the a Gatekeeper, and lastly a Red Admiral

Above is a Common Darter and below is the White legged Damselfly

Saturday 23 July 2011

A cool NW wind blew this morning, and variable amounts of cloud drifted over, allowing only brief sunny spells to be had.

I was out for little over 5 hours, and recorded an excellent 51 species, most being the regular resident species, but there were also a few passage birds going through. These included at least 4 SAND MARTIN flying North over Migrant Alley, a bit strange, as I would expect them to be going South!

Two skeins of geese flew over, one of 34 CANADA GEESE, the other of 9 GREYLAGS, also noted going over were a flock of 7 HERRING GULL, 2 single BLACK HEADED GULL and a LESSER BLACK BACKED GULL, there were also 2 of the latter in one of the paddocks at Migrant Alley, all making it feel a little more Autumnal.

The College Grounds had a mixed feeding flock of LONG TAILED TITS, GREAT TITS, BLUE TITS, a COAL TIT, 4 GOLDCREST, 2 TREECREEPER and 4 CHAFFINCH loosely associating with them, also at least 4 SPOTTED FLYCATCHERS were seen in their usual territory. The nearby trial garden area had a mix of BLACKCAP, WHITETHROAT, and CHIFFCHAFF, plus the more run of the mill DUNNOCK, BLACKBIRD, WREN, ROBIN and SONGTHRUSH.

Later in the walk I was over at the lakes and Scrubby Woods area, where on the water 22 Canada Geese were loafing and preening, maybe part of the skein that I saw earlier. In the woods just one TURTLE DOVE showed itself, and a family party of Chiffchaffs showed well enough for some photo's, while I was doing that, I looked up and saw the only HOUSE MARTIN of the day, which led me to the sighting of a COMMON BUZZARD, very nice :-)

On the way out of the Scrubby Woods I saw alot of activity in a large shrub, which was laden with ripe berries, I watched and waited, a wait that went well rewarded, for not only were there two families of Blackcaps, 8 birds in all, but also a GARDEN WARBLER (99, 62) the first seen this year, this will have been a dispersing bird from elsewhere, as I didn't have any breeders here this year.

A selection of photo's were taken today, as usual some better quality than others :-)
Above and below are one of the Chiffchaffs that were in the Scrubby Woods

Below is an immature MOORHEN, this was on one of the College ponds.

Above is a SWALLOW on the line over Ashes Lane, below are a family of Swallows at an area just before the Small Holding

Above is a Long Tailed Tit, and below a nice cock HOUSE SPARROW

Below is a photo of the berry laden shrub the all the Blackcaps and the Garden Warbler were feasting in

Lastly, a Red Admiral, there were 7 of them on one Buddlea !