Thursday 31 May 2012

The last of the fine sunny days has passed, and this afternoon was cooler, with grey clouds and a brisk wind - not very good for insect hunting! I did however make another visit to the ponds at the College Grounds this afternoon, hoping against hope to find one of those Variable Damselflies, I didn't, but thee were a few Azure Blues, Common Blues, and Blue Tailed Damsels about, bu the light was poor and the wind blew them about so the photo opportunities were few, just a couple of grainy ones were obtained
Azure Damselfly
Blue Tailed Damselfly
Whilst at the ponds I had a look around the rest of the garden for butterflies, but not a single one was seen, I did find a SPOTTED FLYCATCHER though, always good to see one of those :-)  I also saw a BLACKCAP pair carrying food to some young that were either in the nest or already fledged, but I couldn't find either so i cant confirm successful breeding just yet :-) As I was leaving the College Grounds I walked across the sports pitch there, here a crowd of JACKDAWS flew up into a line of trees, where I could just pick out a newly fledged one, so Jackdaw at least can be added to the confirmed Successfully breeding list for this year.
First fledgling Jackdaw of the year -just look at the annoying dirt on the image ( just below and to the left of its bill tip Grrrr....)

I stopped off at Migrant Alley, and watched the sky for an hour, I saw the first of the GREYLAG and CANADA GEESE start to drop into the sheep pasture, and a YELLOWHAMMER called as it went over, only the second recorded this month. SWIFTS and SWALLOWS dotted the sky, looking like the dirt on my camera sensor ( which is going into the technicians on Saturday afternoon, so no camera for two weeks !) The only raptor seen was one of the local Kestrels, while the GULLS were represented by LESSER BLACK BACKED and HERRING. Not much else to report on a bit of a flat afternoon, the last one of May, which turned into a bit of a mixed month really.

The May bird species list ended on 69, the fourth best May from eleven, and 3 species better than the mean 11 year May average, but it's the first May not to have reached 70 or more species since 2008. On the brighter side I recorded my first Spring Osprey, and my first May Redstart, these two additions bring the combined May total to 91 Species, so I really could have done better this month!

The year list is on 97, not bad for the end of May, the next possible additions probably wont be added until the Autumn now, hopefully Whinchat, Stonechat, and Sedge warbler will take me to the 100 mark, but they're not certain visitors to my patch, hopefully a few bonus species will also turn up to take me to my target of 109 for the year   :-)

Wednesday 30 May 2012

It wasn't quite as hot and sunny for this afternoons patch visit, but warm enough for some Butterflies in the sunnier periods. I split my time this afternoon between the Tree Nursery whilst the sun was out, and sky watching at Migrant Alley when it went in again  :-)

Four raptor species were recorded during the sky watch, BUZZARD, SPARROWHAWK, KESTREL and a HOBBY, but the one I wanted, the Peregrine wasn't seen, I haven't added it to the months list yet, frustrating, as it was on the scaffolding around the village tower this morning when I passed on the way to work. Two Gull species went over - LESSER BLACK BACKED and HERRING GULL, and plenty of SWIFTS and SWALLOWS were hawking for insects, it was nice to see a party of six HOUSE MARTINS with them at one point. Out on the sheep pasture 19 GREYLAG GEESE were grazing, there were a mix of 76 Greylag and CANADA GEESE there this morning, plus the feral BARNACLE GOOSE. The paddocks had a mix flock of GOLDFINCH and LINNET, the ever present WOODPIGEONS and Corvids were also there, plus three STOCK DOVES dropped in with them for a short time.

Back in the Tree Nursery, birds were few, just the GREEN WOODPECKER and WHITETHROAT of note, so I chased a few butterflies about for some photo's :-
The Male Common Blue's were found first
Male Common Blue
Also this Female Common Blue
Female Common Blue
It didn't take long before the first Brown Argus was spotted
Then a pair were found mating
The pair in the previous photo were joined by another, but didn't get a look in  :-)
Just one Small Copper was found today
On the way home, this recently fledged MAGPIE was seen in a large garden

Tuesday 29 May 2012

Not much to say on the bird front today, the first newly fledged CHAFFINCH was seen along Ashes Lane as I walked to work this morning, being fed by the male adult, this is the 19th species so far this spring to have succsessfully bred on my patch. The sheep pasture at Migrant Alley was full of GREYLAG and CANADA GEESE again, and the TURTLE DOVE sang from the wooded headland.

After work, I decided to visit the College Grounds, not somewhere I enjoy going in the afternoon normally, as it's full of people, but it does have some small ponds where the Damsels and Dragonflies can be seen, so I spent an hour photographing what I could find, until the clouds rolled in and the Odenata melted away and disappeared.

When I arrived, in bright sunshine, this GREEN WOODPECKER was feeding on the lawn.
Green Woodpecker
When I got to the ponds, I found lots of Azure Damsels, and a few Blue Tailed Damsels, the Female Blue Tailed Damsels came in different colour forms :-
Female Blue Tailed Damsel - maybe the 'Rufescens'  form ?
Female Blue Tailed normal form
Female Blue Tailed
The Azure Damsels were mostly males, but I think the second photo below shows an immature female, so I stand to be corrected if I am wrong  :-)
Azure Damsel - male
Azure Damsel Female - I think :-) Edit: Well done to Greenie of for spotting this is in fact a female dark form of the Variable Damselfly, an odenata patch tick!
I spotted my first Emperor Dragonfly hawking over the pond, and after some time waiting, I saw it alight on a dead stem, just about close enough for a few photo's, which unfortunately are spoiled a bit by the ''crap'' that seems to have found it's way into the camera ( that's what the little black marks are on the other photo's too) Looks like i'll have to send the Camera off to be cleaned, that means a week without it, what will I do !  :-)
Emperor Dragonfly - Male
Emperor Dragonfly
Emperor Dragonfly
Emperor Dragonfly
Finally as I walked home, I saw this moth in the hedge, anyone want to ID it for me  :-)
Unidentified moth ( Thanks to Dean of who Id'd the moth as a Green Carpet )

Monday 28 May 2012

 There were around 70 GREYLAG and CANADA GEESE on the sheep pasture at Migrant Alley this morning, and a TURTLE DOVE was purring from the Wooded Headland, from which it flew and alighted at the top of an electricity pylon, where it purred loudly. Both SPOTTED FLYCATCHERS were calling in the College Grounds as I passed through to get to work.

It was hot and sticky this afternoon, one half of the sky was blue, the other half was dark grey, as a thunderstorm was breaking to the east, but it never got near Pittswood  :-)

In such hot and humid conditions there is little point in trying to find birds, so it was back to the Tree Nursery for some Damsels and Butterflies, I say it was pointless looking for birds, but I did see both GREEN and GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER, a JAY, a SKYLARK, and flyovers by HERRING GULL, BUZZARD, SPARROWHAWK, and CORMORANT, the latter is only the second record this month, the other being on the 12th. A male KESTREL hunted over the Tree Nursery and Greenhouse Grounds, I'm still hoping it is breeding in the nest box over the large garden adjacent to Migrant Alley.

I spent 90 minutes chasing flutters, before running out of energy under the hot sun, but I did manage to see lots of Brown Argus, Holly Blues and Small Whites, as well as a couple of Small Coppers. Common Blues have made more of an appearance, 4 were seen, and I watched a pair mating, but wasn't quick enough with the camera to catch them at it  :-)  Butterfly of the day goes to the Small Heath, two were found today, after the single one found last week which was a butterfly patch tick. Only White Legged Damsels were found today, and also there were plenty of Mother Shipton moths about. 

Here's the photo's for today, I hope you enjoy them, as I lost a lot of sweat getting these!  :-)
Small Heath Butterfly - Only the second patch record
Small Heath
Common Blue Buttefly
Brown Argus Butterfly - easily the most common species in the Tree Nursery
White Legged Damselfly Immature. What stunning markings it has on its face  :-)
White Legged Damselfly

Sunday 27 May 2012

The fine settled weather continued for the last full patch walk of May, and without the strong wind of yesterday, a few more species were able to be recorded, in all a fantastic 52  bird species were seen  :-)

Most of the no shows from yesterday turned up, TURTLE DOVES were heard 'purring' from both the wooded headland at Migrant Alley, and at the Scrubby Woods, COAL TITS were also seen in the Scrubby Woods, and also a family were feeding in the College Grounds, a LESSER WHITETHROAT was collecting food in the Greenhouse Complex Grounds, and the NUTHATCH showed up with their young over at the Lakeside edge, another for the confirmed successfully breeding list, but still no Long Tailed Tit for today, or a Bullfinch. It was good to hear a CUCKOO calling, and another was heard way off in the distance, a single HOUSE MARTIN that flew over was the first for 7 days.

The two SPOTTED FLYCATCHERS were staking out a territory in the College Grounds, again mostly too high up for a photo, this DUNNOCK was sitting where the Spotted Flycatcher had been a few seconds earlier, alas it flew off just as I was getting closer, but the Coal Tits did come near enough for few snaps.
Dunnock - Almost a Spotted Flycatcher!

Recently fledged Coal Tit
Recently fledged Coal Tit
This PIED WAGTAIL was feeding nearby on the sports pitch
Pied Wagtail
A STARLING was singing on the nearby roof of one of the college outbuildings
Also this SWALLOW was sitting on its usual pearch at the College stables
Very early on in the walk, I passed the flock of GREYLAG and CANADA GEESE, with the feral BARNACLE GOOSE among them, I counted 70 birds in all, with more coming in.
Canada Geese coming in to land
In the background of the above photo you can see part of the Greenhouse Complex, this is where the LITTLE OWL was seen to catch a vole and take it to waiting nestlings, I presume, as it flew off into the Greenhouse Copse with it :-)  The light for photography at 05:30hrs this morning was fantastic, as can be seen by the photo of the LINNET below, they didn't allow close approach, but they look great in the orange light  :-)
By nine o'clock it was laready hot in the sun, and the majority of the birds melted away into cover, and the light became too harsh for photo's, as can be seen with the CHAFFINCH below  :-)
I melted away into cover too shortly after, but it had been a good 4 and a half hours out. Later, whilst sitting and sipping a cool drink in my garden, a BLACK HEADED GULL (69) drifted over, the first this month, not at all a common bird here in May, nice to see one in breeding plumage  :-) 

I also spent some time photographing the Damsels around my pond, one of which was an Azure Damsel, my first this year  :-)
Azure Damselfly
Azure Damselfly

Saturday 26 May 2012

Clear blue skies and warm temperatures right from the off today for my full patch walk, a stiff northerly breeze made it feel comfortable, but difficult to photograph the insects, not that there were many about today for some reason, this Beautiful Damoiselle was out before 07:00hrs though.
Immature Beautiful Demoiselle
The majority of the six hours I spent out today was spent looking for bird activity, and although a good total of 48 species was recorded, it was a bit disappointing not to add any species to the months list, being that for the last ten years May has produced a combined total of 91 species. It was also disappointing not to have recorded a Turtle Dove, Lesser Whitethroat, Garden Warbler, Nuthatch, Long Tailed Tit, or Coal Tit all of which are out there hiding up, todays species list could well have been in the mid fifties  :-)

The best of what was recorded though probably goes to the SPOTTED FLYCATCHERS, two males were calling in the College Grounds. Earlier in the walk I again encountered the Geese on the sheep pasture at Migrant Alley, 26 GREYLAGS, 16 CANADA, and the feral BARNACLE GOOSE were present, overhead the only SKYLARK of the morning was heard singing as it drifted over my patch - a species that no longer breeds here due to the constant mowing regime of the college equine centre and the over grazing by sheep.

Successful breeding was confirmed by two more species though, the first new fledged BLUE TITS were seen being fed in the Wet Woods, and a MAGPIE was being fed by both parents in the Scrubby Woods, these bring the total to 17 species. A female CUCKOO gave a call whilst I was in the Scrubby Woods, but despite the fine weather not much singing was occurring, BLACKCAP, CHIFFCHAFF, SONGTHRUSH, BLACKBIRD, ROBIN, CHAFFINCH and GOLDCREST were the main stars.

Flyovers were nearly none existent today, only the local birds were moving about, these included SWIFTS, SWALLOWS, a BUZZARD, a SPARROWHAWK two KESTRELS, which showed some interest in the nest box, have they bred I wonder ?  Also a few HERRING GULLS went over, but again it was disappointing not to have House Martins on list this morning, their last strong hold on the College buildings having been lost due to refurbishment work, you'd think a land based college would have thought about putting up nest boxes  :-(

Other notables :- The COOTS are doing well on the Lakes with their two offspring, the WHITETHROATS in the Tree Nursery are carrying food to nestlings, and a nice flock of LINNETS are on the paddocks at Migrant Alley, at least 40 were seen this morning.
Given the excellent light today, you'd think I would have got some bird photo's, but I failed entirely, despite spending ages waiting for the Spotted Flycatchers to come down from their high song posts, some mornings go like that though. All I can offer are these, better luck maybe tomorrow  :-)
Immature White Legged Damselfly
Brown Argus

Friday 25 May 2012

The ''Tree Nursery'' a wildlife haven...............for now.
This morning on the way to work there was a mix of Geese on the paddocks at Migrant Alley, 26 CANADA, 20 GREYLAG, the feral BARNACLE GOOSE and the feral RED BREASTED GOOSE, an unusual sight on this part of my patch! I also saw the SPOTTED FLYCATCHER and a nice male BULLFINCH in the College Grounds.

This afternoon it was hot and sunny, but with a refreshing breeze, and I headed of to the Tree Nursery for yet more Butterfly action, ( see top photo) I'm getting quite addicted to these little jewel like creatures, well, this weather wont last forever, and when it goes, so will the flutters, so get 'em while you can I say  :-)

I didn't find anything out of the ordinary, but I did see my first Common Blue of the summer, the 15th butterfly species of the year, and 18 days later than last years first record. I also noted Orange Tips, Small White, Holly Blue, Small Copper, and Brown Argus, which are far more abundant than last year, I was finding one every ten paces along the hedgerow! I also got to see my first White Legged Damselfly of the year ( I hope i'm right this time!) a Large Red was also recorded.

In the two hours I spent ''butterflying'' in the Tree Nursery I only noted a few birds, GREEN WOODPECKER, WHITETHROAT, GOLDCREST, BULLFINCH, CHAFFINCH, GREENFINCH, GOLDFINCH, LINNET, BLACKBIRD, WREN, DUNNOCK, HOUSE SPARROW and ROBIN were about it, I also noted a COMMON BUZZARD and 2 KESTRELS up hunting, a few HERRING GULLS went high over, but the day was again mainly for the flutters, tomorrow i'll be out early for a full patch walk to catch up on the birdlife.
Here's a few of todays flutter photo's  :-)
Small White
Orange Tip
Brown Argus - a stunning little butterfly, you dont notice the irridecence on the wings when in the field
Holly Blue
Small Copper - these small flutters look like red hot lumps of coal, that have jumped from the fire into the grass
Large Red Damsel
White Legged Damsel
Unknown moth  :-) It was very small, and had a tiny orange dot on the bottom of each hindwing.