Saturday 31 March 2012

The last day of March, and so the final full patch walk of the month, which was undertaken in cool, gloomy and overcast conditions, it was a pretty standard affair, with 47 species turning out in just over 3 and a half hours. A couple of winter species were hanging on, with both MEADOW PIPIT and FIELDFARE being seen flying NW over the Greenhouse Complex, the latter has a mean 'last seen' date of the 30th of March for the previous ten years, so it may well be the last I see of this species until the Autumn, although they have been recorded in April in four of the years. As for the Meadow Pipit, its mean 'last seen' date is the 13th April, so its probable that I will get it on the April list.

Spring arrivals were what I was out to find today though, but apart from a couple more CHIFFCHAFFS, and the second BLACKCAP, which was singing in the Scrubby Woods, no others were seen, making March a bit disappointing in this respect, the last March without a Swallow was back in 2008, and the last March without a Wheatear was 2007.

Raptors and Gulls were numerous, and seen in the sky throughout the visit, they included BUZZARD, SPARROWHAWK, and KESTREL for the former, and HERRING, LESSER BLACK BACKED, and BLACK HEADED for the latter. GREYLAG GOOSE, CANADA GOOSE and STOCK DOVE, were other notable flyovers this morning.

Six Canada Geese were also over at the lakes, along with 4 MALLARD, 2 MOORHEN, and the COOT pair, while the surrounding Scrubby Woods, as well as having the already mentioned Blackcap, also had GOLDCREST, BULLFINCH, NUTHATCH, JAY, and LONG TAILED TIT, no Coal Tit, or Treecreeper were found today though.

So the last day of March mirrored march as a whole really, an average type month, with few highlights, these were represented by the Red Kite (11th) and the MARSH HARRIER (15th) both of which have never been recorded in any March before, these take the combined 11 year March total to 89. The average number of species recorded for the month of March is now 63, so that was exceeded by 2 this March  :-)

I didn't take the camera out this morning , as it was far too gloomy, but a brighter period around midday allowed some of the now dwindling garden visitors to be photographed.
DUNNOCK in full song
Dunnock, post song!

Friday 30 March 2012

Warm and sunny again this afternoon, but according to the weather forecasters it will be the final warm day, the weekend will be much cooler and cloudier - still, it was good while it lasted  :-)

With it being so summer like, I headed off to find some Butterflies at the Tree Nursery, where a few species did turn up, all the same ones as yesterday though, those being Orange Tip, Small Tortoiseshell, Small White, and Holly Blue, only the latter stayed for a photo, but it was a poor effort, I was back on the 500mm lens, added to that I can never seem to get the exposure right with these holly blues!
Holly Blue
I kept an eye and ear out for the birdlife whilst there, and as well as the usual GREEN WOODPECKERS, PHEASANT, WREN, and DUNOCK, I also found a CHIFFCHAFF, and a SONGTHRUSH. Moving on to the Tree Nursery, it was all a bit disappointing, as a work crew were on site today, but I did of course get another Wren Photo, probably my favourite one yet  :-)
Wren, yes yet another one, get 'em while there is very little green cover out there!!
There was some song around the place, mainly that of BLACKBIRDS, LINNET and CHAFFINCH, whilst overhead the KESTREL wasn't put off by the work crew, it still hunted over the area. Migrant Alley was given a miss today, as there was some sort of horsey event going on and there were people everywhere, what a change in this place from 4-5 years ago when I never saw a soul here  :-(
Chaffinch, in full song, the sound of early spring  :-)
I decided to visit the Greenhouse Copse, and just as I left the Greenhouse Grounds, some horsey people flushed up a RED LEGGED PARTRIDGE from the boundary with Migrant Alley just before I got there  :-(  In the Greenhouse Copse I found a pair of LONG TAILED TITS gathering nest materials, but not much else, just a few BLUE and GREAT TITS, and another couple of SONGTHRUSHES. A SPARROWHAWK was the only noteworthy species seen on my walk back home.
Long Tailed Tit
Baby Rabbit, what can I say!
With tomorrow being the last day in March, I am running out of time for adding more species to this months list, it languishes in joint fourth place from eleven, but at least tomorrow will be a full patch walk, and with the change in the weather thats forecast, who knows - maybe a new migrant species will appear!

Thursday 29 March 2012

The run of unseasonably warm weather continued today, making for a very pleasant afternoon patch visit. It was more notable for Butterflies than birds though, and three new species were seen for the first time this year, first off was an Orange Tip, a lovely male specimen drifted along Ashes Lane as I walked towards the Tree Nursery, it was here that I found both Holly Blue and Small Tortoiseshell. All three of these species have emerged earlier than last year, the Orange Tip by 4 days and both the Holly Blue and Small Tortoiseshell by 6days.
First Small Tortoiseshell of the year, in not bad condition
Birds seen in the Tree Nursery were few, GREEN WOODPECKER being one of the few, but more noteworthy were the two MEADOW PIPITS that flew up and away NW, overhead, a SPARROWHAWK was circling high.

I spent over an hour at Migrant Alley, walking the pasture, paddocks and fence lines, looking for that elusive spring Wheatear, or maybe a flyover Swallow but both evaded me again. A few of the regular species kept me amused though as I wandered the nearby Greenhouse Grounds and the adjacent copse, LONG TAILED TITS, BLUE TITS, GREAT TITS, GREENFINCH, GOLDFINCH, CHAFFINCH and LINNET were all showing breeding intent, either singing on territory of actually nest building, a couple of PHEASANTS scared the life out of me as I tried sneaking up on the Long Tailed Tits for a photograph, exploding from just a foot in front of me, as they invariably do.
Blue Tit
A COMMON BUZZARD flew reasonable low over, giving me the chance of a photo, but with a smaller lens on again today, I couldn't quite get the detail on it, one of the ROOK flock also came unusually close, and got it's photo taken too  :-)
Common Buzzard
Common Buzzard
Rook, I couldn't quite see what it was feeding on, these birds must be having a hard time at the moment, with the weather so dry, the ground isn't giving up invertebrates easily
The regularly seen KESTREL was up hunting, and one of the LITTLE OWLS called from deep inside the Greenhouse Copse, that was pretty much it for the afternoon session, although i did take yet another WREN photo before heading home :-)
Another Wren!

Wednesday 28 March 2012

I've managed to throw off the worse effects of this cold virus, and was back to work today, on the walk in, it was interesting to see 40-50 Gulls on the College sports pitch, most of them were BLACK HEADED GULLS, but with them were at least 7 HERRING GULLS, as well as 4 LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLS and 3 COMMON GULLS.

This afternoon after work, I visited the Lakes and Scrubby Woods, it was unseasonably warm with temperatures in the 70's F, so i was anticipating some Butterflies, I did find the odd one, but not as many as conditions would have suggested, just 2 Comma's, 2 Small Whites, and a possible Small Tortoiseshell, but the latter two species didn't stop around!

As for the birds, well, it was nice to see the BULLFINCH, GOLDCREST, and LONG TAILED TITS, as well as the CHIFFCHAFFS, which are arriving on mass now, but I was hoping to hear a Blackcap, alas, that will have to wait another week or so yet, their mean arrival date on my patch is the 30th March, so the one I heard last Saturday morning was early for my patch, in fact it was the second earliest for the eleven years of recording.

On the lakes today there were 8 CANADA GEESE, plus the feral BARNACLE GOOSE with it's Canada Goose mate, as wells as four MALLARD, one female is still sitting tight on a nest. Four MOORHENS were also seen and the COOT pair are still around  :-)

I then made my way over to Migrant Alley, which proved Migrant-less, its been a poor start this year for early spring Migrants, will I get one to add to the March list ? This month in previous years have had Black Redstart, Common Redstart, Willow Warbler, Wheatear, Swallow and Stonechat all turn up over the years, all I got today was a passage MEADOW PIPIT heading North  :-)

The sky was clear and blue, not good for picking up any arriving Swallows, but I did get lots of raptor activity, with 4 BUZZARDS, 2 SPARROWHAWKS and a KESTREL all giving great views as they displayed and/or hunted..................same again tomorrow, hopefully with a migrant for the list  :-)
I took a smaller lens out this afternoon, so as to get closer to the Butterflies, it was too warm for them to be basking opened winged, but I got some nice shots of this Comma.
You can see the white ''Comma'' mark quite well on this shot
The drawback of a smaller lens is not getting such a close up of the birds, but this Wren was quite distant anyway
Above is one of the Bluebell flowers that are now peppering the green carpet of the Wet woods, another two weeks and it will be a carpet of Blue  ;-)

Tuesday 27 March 2012

Still under the influence of this cold virus, so little was achieved today. A circuit of Migrant Alley was made mid morning, hoping for my first Wheatear of the year, but it was not forthcoming, a MEADOW PIPIT flew over though, and an adult MUTE SWAN did likewise, only the second record of the year, I photographed a ROOK,  but didn't stay long. On the way home again, a quick look over the Tree Nursery was had, which coincided with the low flyover of a BUZZARD, I snapped away at that, and noted a SPARROWHAWK up high behind it, also the KESTREL was up hunting over the Greenhouse Grounds, where it was seen to catch a small rodent.
Buzzard and tormentor!

Monday 26 March 2012

No meaningful patch visit was made today, i'm still full of this lousy cold!!  How frustrating, especially as the weather is so warm and sunny.

I twice walked the circuit of Migrant Alley, once around 10:00hrs and again at 15:00hrs, but I wasn't really with it at all today, only brief scans of the fence lines and paddocks were made, but no summer migrants were found, I did see plenty of raptor activity though, with 4 BUZZARDS, two SPARROWHAWKS and a KESTREL, all up at the same time.

Hopefully tomorrow i'll feel a bit more enthusiastic, until then I'll leave you with some WREN photo's I took this morning, plus a WOODPIGEON from my garden and the GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKERS I took yesterday, also at my garden feeders  :-)
This Wren was in full song, and sat patiently while I snapped away
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Great Spotted Woodpecker

Sunday 25 March 2012

I awoke this morning with my throat feeling like I had been swallowing rusty razor blades! What a stupid time of year to get a cold virus! Consequently I was up late, and didn't get out till 07:30, which I then realised I had to put my watch forward an hour for British summer time, so that made it 08:30, half the morning gone already  :-(

Feeling unwell and sorry for myself, I didn't do a full patch walk, and only took myself for a circuit of the fields and paddocks of Migrant Alley, where in overcast skies and a very chilly northerly wind I felt even worse! Add to that I didn't find a newly arrived migrant it made for a frustrating time. I stopped when I reached my skywatching seat, and hunkered down against the cold wind, looking out for the distinctive shape of my first Swallow against the greyness, but one never showed up in the two hours I spent there.

It did however brighten up, with some good sunny spells towards the end of my vigil, the short walk, from home, around Migrant Alley, through the Greenhouse Complex and watching the sky had actually brought me quite a good tally of bird species, nothing like as good as the 53 seen yesterday, but 38 was surprising. These were mostly the common resident species, WRENS, ROBINS, DUNNOCKS, PIED WAGTAILS, finches, tits,Corvids plus WOODPECKERS GREEN and GREAT SPOTTED, as well as the SONGTHRUSH, MISTLETHRUSH and BLACKBIRDS.

Flyovers were had from four Gull species, HERRING, BLACK HEADED, LESSER BLACK BACKED and COMMON, plus the two raptors species of SPARROWHAWK and KESTREL, two single LESSER REDPOLLS flew over half singing half calling and a SKYLARK sang from high up, a species I didn't find yesterday. A MEADOW PIPIT was heard, then picked up as it flew NW, and 8 CANADA GEESE flew towards the lakes.

As you can see not a very full report today, bare with me during my suffering of this cold virus  :-) At least I did find the enthusiasm for a couple of photographs  :-)

This Great Spotted Woodpecker was taken first thing this morning, through the double glazing, so its a bit grainy looking, I took some more of it later in the day, i'll post them tomorrow.
Great Spotted Woodpecker
The Kestrel doesn't allow close approach, but this is as close as I have ever got to it!
The female Blackbird around the Greenhouse Complex normally obliges with a photo
Female Blackbird
I visited the ''Goldcrest Conifer'' and today there was a pair there, not as nice photo's as Fridays efforts, they kept to the shady part of the tree, but nice none-the-less

Saturday 24 March 2012

More warm sunshine for this mornings full patch walk, a walk that produced a good mixture of species, as March visits often can, with the chance of recording out going winter visitors and the incoming spring ones. Today I had a few of each, and with most of the regular resident species turning out a brilliant total of 53 species was recorded in the four hour visit, had coal tit, Skylark and Buzzard showed up the day list could have threatened to reach the mythical 60 species  :-)  There are of course always the chance flyovers to lookout for, and today I got one of those too when the years first MUTE SWANS (76, 64) flew over the Greenhouse Ground/Migrant Alley early in the walk, both were immature birds.

Of the remaining winter species seen, a REDWING was in the hedgerow along Ashes Lane, and two FIELDFARE were seen in the Wet Woods, as well as two MEADOW PIPITS that flew from the Tree Nursery. The spring arrivals were represented by the now establishing CHIFFCHAFFS, 4 were in the Scrubby Woods, 3 were in the wooded headland at Migrant Alley and two more were in the College Grounds, where, along the streamside vegetation my first BLACKCAP (77, 65) of the year sang, what a pleasant sound that was  :-) My joy was compounded by seeing a KINGFISHER fly down stream, pursued by a SONGTHRUSH!

Four MANDARIN duck flew over the west end of Ashes lane, and two YELLOWHAMMERS were in the crop left for the wildbirds that is at the western border of my patch a bit further along the lane. Other noteworthy flyovers were two GREYLAG GOOSE, and two LESSER BLACKBACKED GULLS.
Immature Mute Swans, the first Swans this year  :-) Nothing I could do with the photo, they were so low all I got was a fleeting look as they whizzed over!
Distant Greylag Geese, in the morning haze
The lakes were relatively active today, with twelve CANADA GEESE, the feral BARNACLE GOOSE, 4 MOORHEN, 4 MALLARD, a GREY HERON, a CORMORANT and of course the COOT pair. Raptor species seen today were multiple SPARROWHAWK sightings plus the KESTREL, while the Gull species were represented by 44 BLACK HEADED GULLS on the college sports pitch and 2 flyover HERRING GULLS, as well as the already mentioned Lesser Black Backed Gull.

The year list moves on to 77, just 32 more to find for my target this year! Whilst the months list moves on to 65, which is the joint 4th best March total, joint with 2006, still a week to get it higher though  :-)

A few more species were seen nest building, among them this JACKDAW

Another Jackdaw  :-)
It was also interesting to see this HOUSE SPARROW in the hedgerow along Ashes Lane, it was part of a colour ringing scheme I was involved in a few years back, you can see the colour rings on its legs, this tells me the bird was ringed as a Juvenile back in May 2007, so its nearing its 5th birthday  :-)
Ringed House Sparrow ( ringed 20 may 2007)
Other photo's today were................
Chiffchaff ( the bits around its bill are the wet feather sticking together!)
Male Linnet, acquiring its spring red breast patches
This singing DUNNOCK captures the feel of the Morning, blue skies and birdsong!