Monday 30 April 2012

The month ended with a dry day, a bit of an April rarity, in a month that has turned out to be the wettest on record!

The sunny periods lasted just long enough for my afternoon patch visit, but didn't tempt either of the ''missing'' migrants onto my patch, the Lesser Whitethroat and Turtle Dove. The Lesser Whitethroat has always had its first arrival date somewhere in April for the last 10 years, the earliest being the 14th and the latest the 27th, while the Turtle Dove has only once had its first arrival date outside of April, that was on May 1st 2004.

Whilst looking for the missing migrants in the Scrubby Woods the most prolific song was from the BLACKCAPS, they were joined by fewer CHIFFCHAFFS, SONGTHRUSH, ROBIN, DUNNOCK and CHAFFINCH, I could also just hear GOLDCREST and TREECREEPER singing somewhere in the scrubby tangles. On the lakes the COOTS were re-located and they still have two of the original 4 youngsters with them, a CANADA GOOSE was still sitting tightly, seem ages now, perhaps the eggs are infertile ?  There were plenty of Speckled Wood and Orange Tip Butterflies about, as well as Large and Small whites, also my first Damselfly was recorded, a Large Red.

I left for Migrant Alley, via the Tree Nursery, where two GREEN WOODPECKERS and a COMMON WHITETHROAT were seen of note. At Migrant Alley there was a nice flock of 20 or so LINNETS, but no sign of yesterdays Black Redstart :-(  My sky watch produced 3 raptor species, BUZZARD, KESTREL and SPARROWHAWK, but not a single Gull. At least six SWALLOWS seen feeding over the sheep pasture were all local birds, a GREY HERON wrapped up the more noteworthy species for the day.

The stats for this month are a little disappointing, the total number of species recorded was 69, which puts it in 7th place out of the 11 years. However, April did have some highlights, the Raven seen on the 14th and 22nd was a patch tick, taking the combined April list for all 11 years to 103. The Red Kite seen on the 11th was also memorable, as of course was yesterdays Black Redstart  :-)

Despite the sunny conditions it was one of those visits where nothing went right for the camera  :-(  but I did get a couple of garden bird pics later in the day, one being of the first BLACKBIRD fledgling of the year, although it looks to have been fledged for quite some time. This is the fourth species to have successfully bred on my patch so far this year  :-)
First young Blackbird of the year
Starling at the fat, taking some back for the youngsters, which should be out in 10 days or so  :-)

Sunday 29 April 2012

The gales and heavy rain that battered the area overnight continued into this morning, so preventing the final full patch walk of the month, in fact it prevented any kind of visit, until later this afternoon, when the clouds suddenly broke up and the sun shone, although a strong SE wind was still blowing.

I decided to make a circuit of Migrant Alley and have a short skywatch from my seat there, but before I had even reached Migrant alley, I spied my first SWIFT (88,68) of the year, tumbling about in the wind over the Greenhouse Complex, maybe the month will end on a bit of a high after all!  It would have been disappointing not to have found my first Swift in April, as only twice in the 11 years has the first one not been recorded in this month ( 2003 and 2008) the 11 year median average arrival date for Swift is the 29th of April, so they were right on cue this year  :-)

Happy enough with that little triumph, I proceeded on my way round Migrant Alley, and was met with huge puddles of water filling every dip and depression in the ground, some of it over a foot deep, this took some carefull negotiating!
These twp puddles were over a foot deep, and were joined by by a shallower stretch of water just under the grass. It looks nice and warm and sunny, but there was a strong cold wind blowig over that hedge on the right!

Just as I reached the far puddle in the above photo, a small bird flew over my head and back the way I'd just walked, diving into the hedgerow, I followed it with my bins and saw the unmistakable red tail of a Redstart - fantastic! I thought it was a female Common Redstart at first, a scarce enough passage migrant here, but after sloshing my way back through the puddles, and getting a bit closer to the bird, I saw it was in fact a female BLACK REDSTART (89,69) an even scarcer species on my patch! Brilliant bird! A shame I couldn't get within 30m of it for a photo though  :-( This is just the 3rd spring record for my patch, all having occurred in the last 3 years, Migrant Alley didn't let me down after all this year, it normally throws in something nice over the course of the spring  :-)

I finshed my circuit of the fields and paddocks without anymore excitement, a HOUSE MARTIN flew over, and I enjoyed seeing a mixed flock of GOLDFINCH and LINNETS feeding on Dandelion heads in one of the paddocks, also watching 4 LONG TAILED TITS in the wooded headland to the north, they were all collecting food, but I didn't see any fledglings about. A SPARROWHAWK drifted over, and one of the KESTRELS was up hunting, a GREY HERON also slowly flapped its way over the sheep pasture, and was mobbed by all the ROOKS!

 The month has indeed ended on a bit of a high note then, but there are still a couple of spring migrants that would have been expected to have been recorded this month, but haven't, namely the Turtle Dove and the Lesser Whitethroat, and maybe just, the Hobby. Tomorrow afternoon will be the last chance to get them on this months list, which with todays two additions just about scrapes up to 69, which is in fact the mean average species total for April, but 8 speceis behind the record April of last year.

During the rain and gales of this norning, I tried to take some photo's of my garden birds, it was difficult in the poor conditions but here they are anyway  :-)
Wet and bedraggled COLLARED DOVE
Another wet and bedraggled Collared Dove

Saturday 28 April 2012

The penultimate full patch walk for April was a thoroughly wet one, and proved to be a rather disappointing affair consequently. There was a bit of a surprise at the lakes however when a Red Breasted Goose was seen amongst the 17 CANADA, 6 GREYLAG, and lone feral BARNACLE GOOSE, but I have to draw the line somewhere in counting these ''plastic'' escapes as patch ticks, and I wont be counting this one! A check on the Coots was a bit worrying, as the whole family were not seen, hopefully they were hiding from the weather.

In the Scrubby Woods a CUCKOO sang constantly, but yesterdays newly arrived Garden warbler was not located, the only other spring birds here were the CHIFFCHAFFS and BLACKCAPS. New spring arrivals were not forthcoming on other parts of my patch either today, and only SWALLOW, around the College Stables and WHITETHROAT at the Greenhouse Grounds were recorded.

The only raptor seen was one of the KESTRELS, and the only Gull species was a HERRING GULL. A sky watch in some pretty heavy rain only produced a GREY HERON and a SKYLARK, which took the day list to 45 species - if I include the Red Breasted Goose!  Not a good day out at all really  :-( Tomorrow looks even worse as far as the rain and wind are concerned, effectively writing off the end of April,  I may have to limit myself to some kind of sky watch from cover Early tomorrow morning  :-( 

The camera stayed at home, but I forgot to put this Whitethroat photo up yesterday, so i'll use that to brighten the page  :-)

Friday 27 April 2012

At last the weather has calmed down a bit, allowing an afternoon stroll over to the Lakes and Scrubby Woods area, plus a 40 min skywatch at Migrant Alley. I was hoping to hear the sound of Turtle Dove or Lesser Whitethroat in the Scrubby Woods, both these migrants species are due in any day now, but they were not forthcoming, however, a bit of a surprise was in store when I heard, then managed to track down my first GARDEN WARBLER (87, 67) of the year, I was a bit surprised to find it, as this species is normally not seen until May on my patch, todays record is only the second April record in eleven years, last year I didn't record one at all in spring, and had to wait until the return migration in Autumn.The eleven year median average arrival date for Garden warbler is now the 3rd May.

Whilst in the Scrubby Woods, BLACKCAP, CHIFFCHAFF, GOLDCREST, BULLFINCH and COAL TIT were all seen well, and with all the resident birds singing, it felt much more like April  :-)  A quick check on the COOT chicks over on the lake confirmed they are now down to just the two.

As I walked over to my sky watching seat, I noticed a good flock of STARLINGS in sheep pasture next to the Tree Nursery, at least 35 were collecting food for hungry nestlings. Before taking my seat, I had a scout around the Greenhouse Grounds, and was pleased to find the WHITETHROAT had returned there, also a Blackcap has set up territory here, as usual the commonest bird here is the WREN and as usual I got lots of photo's of one  :-)

The Skywatch was an average affair, with three raptor species being seen, those being the KESTREL pair, a single BUZZARD and a pair of SPARROWHAWKS. The eagerly awaited first Swift of the year didn't show, but that can only be days away now, a few more SWALLOWS have arrived though, and they were watched feeding around the sheep. Lets hope for some decent weather for tomorrows early full patch walk  :-)

Garden Warbler - First of the year  :-)
Garden Warbler. It was singing away in an Elder tree, whilst in a Hawthorn tree just yards away a Blackcap was in full song too, thats more like April !
Whitethroat at the Greenhouse Grounds
Female BLACKBIRD, also at the Greenhouse Grounds
Wren.  I took about 21 shots of it, and they all had they annoying white stick spoiling the photo
I had to wait for it to re-appear and shoot over again   :-)
SONGTHRUSH. I took a photo of this same bird in the same tree earlier in the year, it had its back to me on that occasion too !

Thursday 26 April 2012

When I left for work this morning my garden looked like a herd of Elephants had rampaged through it, after a night of heavy rain and gales, there were snapped off Elder branches, Lilac Blossoms, leaves and various other debris scattered about the garden, and worse of all the portable greenhouse which held all the Tomato and cucumber seedlings as well as lots of other just germinating seeds, was found in bits along the side passage  :-(.

One cheery but brief bit of relief from the wind and rain, was hearing my first YELLOW WAGTAIL ( 86,66) of the year flyover Migrant Alley as I walked into work, it's arrival over my patch comes just one day later than the 11 year median average date.

The rain had mostly cleared for this afternoons walk, but the wind was still almost gale force, blowing in some light squally showers. I made a visit to the Lakes and Scrubby Woods area, but in the wind little was noted, as I passed through the Small Holding two MISTLE THRUSHES gathered food for their nestlings, and at at the entrance of the Wet Woods both CHIFFCHAFF and BLACKCAP were heard singing.

Over on the lakes 17 CANADA GEESE, were seen, along with the feral BARNACLE GOOSE, but just two drake MALLARDS, one MOORHEN and the COOTS were the only other birds there, the Coots look to be down to two chicks now, but I was looking from a distance and may of missed the third  :-)

In the Scrubby Woods it was too noisy with the wind gusting through the trees to hear anything except only the closest Blackcap and Chiffchaff, the only other thing of note seen here were both Orange Tip, and Speckled Wood Butterflies.

A shortened visit to Migrant Alley for a sky watch didn't excite at all, just the KESTRELS were seen, ....................the disappointing month continues  :-(

The camera stayed at home today, but here are the last of the photo's I took on Sunday......
This is a typical Blackcap effort, nice and close, but obscured by twigs  :-)
 Then if you do find one out in the open, it's too distant, the frustrations of bird photography :-)
Blackcap, male in full song

Wednesday 25 April 2012

Another absolute shocker of a spring day with heavy rain all morning followed by hefty showers and a strong wind for the afternoon. Needless to say, that stopped any thought of going out for a patch visit today, it's not so much the getting wet, but in that kind of weather little can be expected of any note  :-(

So the afternoon was spent watching the garden, where as usual when the weather is like todays, the SPARROWHAWK sets up residence, until finally getting it's lunch. Unfortunately todays lunch was one of only two STARLINGS that feed in my garden, more unfortunately, this was probably one of the pair nesting in my roof, a sad demise to a rapidly dwindling bird on my patch  :-(

As the Sprawk was the only bird showing, I tried to get some shots of it, the first two were taken as it made a failed attempt to make a kill early in the afternoon, the other shots are of it eating the Starling an hour later. A shame I had to take the photo's through rain splattered double glazing ! Also a shame that the sprawk chose to eat its meal behind that green pole!   :-)
Just look at the razor sharp talons on that!
The Starling had already been dragged to the nearby pond and drowned, then as the Sprawk started eating a hefty shower passed over, making photography difficult to say the least
I was down to a 30th of a second shutter speed, at ISO 1000, aperture F6.3 and through wet double glazing, its amazing how well the photo's turned out!
The shower passed over and a glimpse of sun back lit the scene
The Sprawk was sat here eating for 40 mins, finally taking off with the remains of the Starling to go elsewhere.

Tuesday 24 April 2012

The rain slowly cleared over the course of the morning, leaving a mostly cloudy afternoon for my patch visit, although at times the sun did break through, making it feel a bit warmer.

I walked over to the Lakes and Scrubby Wood area, I wanted to see how the COOTS were doing with their four youngsters, I found them easy enough, but alas one of the chicks has already gone!
Two of the Coot chicks - the first ever seen at Pittswood   :-)
I think this adult is the male

Whilst with the Coots, a WILLOW WARBLER was heard to sing, no doubt another ''just passing through'' The BARNACLE GOOSE was also seen with its CANADA GOOSE mate, plus two MOORHENS three drake MALLARDS and another Canada Goose sitting tight on its nest.

In the Scrubby Woods I listened hard for a Turtle Dove, Lesser Whitethroat or maybe an early Garden Warbler, but none have arrived here yet, the already arrived, paired up, and nesting CHIFFCHAFFS were very vocal, as were the BLACKCAPS, they were also busy with nests. GREEN and GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKERS were making themselves obvious today,  the songs of ROBIN, DUNNOCK, BLACKBIRD, SONGTHRUSH, and WREN, as well as all the calls of the Tits and finch's plus a distant NUTHATCH made for an enjoyable hour there.

The habitual sky watch over on my seat at Migrant Alley, produced a SPARROWHAWK, and four local SWALLOWS, but not the hoped for Yellow Wagtail, the KESTREL pair were both seen around the nest box, with the male hunting over the Greenhouse Complex too, the recently arrived Whitethroat in the Greenhouse Complex Grounds seems to have moved on  :-(
A view through the Wet Woods
ROOK on the sheep pasture at Migrant Alley

Monday 23 April 2012

It rained all afternoon, and is still raining now  :-(  so no patch visit was made, if the rain stops, I may try for an evening visit, but it doesn't look very promising out there - another April day lost. Its all very frustrating losing birding days to the weather in April, this is one of the bonus months of the year when an unexpected species may drop in on its migration, 75 % of the 138 species found on my patch over the 11 years have been found in the month ofApril!

On the way into work today, as I crossed Migrant Alley, I spied a small passerine perched atop one of the hedgerows looking most chat like, it was about 250 meters away, and in the opposite direction to work, i'd be late in if I decided to investigate further, so I decided to investigate further  :-)   Frustratingly it dived into the hedge a bit further away from me, but I carried on, thinking that a Wheatear or Stonechat would be worth the hassle I'd get for being late in. When I finally caught up with the bird it turned out to be  ................................... a CHAFFINCH, blast it!

Here's few photo's from yesterdays patch visit.........I'll hold back a few for Tuesday, just in case !
SWALLOW the same bird as seen on Saturday, on the same perch :-)
I got a bit closer in this shot, but the foilage in the foreground was in the way
This Sparrowhawk kept the garden quiet all afternoon, so nothing much to see here either  :-(

Sunday 22 April 2012

The showery rain held off until after my 5 hour patch visit today, where once again some nice birds were seen, but still nothing new for the month or year list. In all, 50 species were noted, the highlight being a re-occurrence of the RAVEN, at least, I suppose it to be the same bird seen on the 14th, it flew over calling deeply as it headed SE.

Another successful breeding species joined the years list when a recently fledged SONGTHRUSH flew from the Tree Nursery and across Ashes lane to the Greenhouse Complex, where a COMMON WHITETHROAT was singing, presumably the bird seen at the Tree Nursery yesterday.  Of the other spring migrants that have arrived so far, two SWALLOWS were settling in at the College stables, the CUCKOO was calling from the Scrubby Woods, at least 9 singing CHIFFCHAFFS and 11 BLACKCAPS were also spread around the patch.

The KESTRELS, a SPARROWHAWK, 3 BUZZARDS and a PEREGRINE were all seen up hunting, the latter speeding low over Migrant Alley before making a grab at a WOODPIGEON, causing the pigeon to lose no more than a few feathers. It was interesting to here the TAWNY OWL continually calling from its roost over at the Scrubby Woods, where my second visit for the BTO Nightinglae survey come out negative.

On the lakes today the COOTS and young were all doing well, the BARNACLE GOOSE had returned with its CANADA GOOSE mate, along with a further 8 Canada, and 6 GREYLAG GEESE, just 2 each of MALLARD and MOORHEN were also present.

I took quite a few photo's - of varying quality  :-) I'll post a few today and save the rest for later, as the weather this week doesn't look very camera friendly!
This Mistle Thrush was on the College Sports Pitch, the young of which should be fledging soon, it's just finding them!
Mistle Thrush
LONG TAILED TIT, similarly will have young fledging soon  :-)
Long Tailed Tit
GREY WAGTAIL, I was pleased to get some sort of photo of this species, I dont get many chances with them, pity I couldn't et closer to it.
Grey Wagtail

Saturday 21 April 2012

The rain stayed away for todays full patch walk, and in the four and a half hour visit a good total of 49 species was recorded, nothing new for the month or year list, but some interesting records were found all the same.

A CUCKOO was heard calling from the Scrubby Woods/Lakes area early in the visit as I crossed Migrant Alley, where 4 HERRING GULLS, 2 LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLS and an immature BLACK HEADED GULL were seen on the sheep pasture.
Black Headed Gull
A pair of SWALLOWS were seen at the College Stables, whilst a little further on at the College Grounds, the first successful breeding birds of the spring were recorded - MOORHENS, a pair were feeding at least three young on one of the small ponds.Walking the College Stream, I heard CHIFFCHAFF and BLACKCAP singing, but they were the only spring birds seen, I was hoping for a Lesser Whitethroat. On the way over to the Scrubby Woods and lake area, I saw the KESTREL pair in the vicinity of their nest box.
The Swallows are home!    :-)
At the lakes there were 10 CANADA GEESE and 6 GREYLAG GEESE, with just 2 drake MALLARDS and 2 MOORHENS, more of interest was a drake MANDARIN DUCK, maybe it has a female incubating eggs nearby, as one did last year ?  The most cheering sight here though was finding the first ever successfully breeding COOTS for my patch, at least 4 young were seen being frantically fed by both parents, good to get a new patch breeder  :-)
Mandarin Duck
In the Scrubby Woods, the hoped for Nightingale wasn't found, a negative result for the first visit of the BTO nightingale survey, but plenty of Blackcaps, and Chiffchaffs were singing, as well as the regular GOLDCREST, SONGTHRUSH, BLACKBIRD, WREN, DUNNOCK, and ROBIN, more unusual for here was a SKYLARK singing away as it drifted over, 4 BULLFINCH and a TREECREEPER was also noted.
A newly arrived WHITETHROAT was seen in the Tree Nursery as I made my way back over to Migrant Alley for a sky watch, which was pretty quiet, a SPARROWHAWK, and a trio of BUZZARDS were seen, plus a single HOUSE MARTIN heading NW.
Whitethroat - just about a normal view of one  :-)
Later in the afternoon whilst watching my garden feeders, this handsome, but not entirely welcome Sparrowhawk dropped in.