Thursday 28 February 2013

The weather for the last day of February was much the same as it has been throughout this month, that is, dull, and gloomy with a cold wind  :-(

The final patch visit this afternoon was a bit of an anticlimax really, I'd hoped to maybe add just one more species to the February list or maybe even the year list, the likes of Reed Bunting, or maybe one of the local Peregrines, species that were seen last month, might have been anticipated, but it wasn't to be.

Very few birds were seen as I crossed the Tree Nursery, and adjacent field of sheep pasture on the way to the lakes, and the Lakes themselves were hosting just a couple of MOORHENS plus the COOT pair. It was obvious that the area had been heavily disturbed earlier in the day. The adjacent Scrubby Woods was good for a few REDWING and FIELDFARE, as well as  3 - 4 BULLFINCH, a lone GOLDCREST was the only noteworthy species seen as I walked back out through the Wet Woods then back onto the Tree Nursery, where a SPARROWHAWK and a KESTREL were up hunting, keeping the heads down of any bird life that may have been in the shrubs.

A quick look around the Greenhouse Grounds and the Greenhouse Copse proved fruitless, as a work party were littler picking the area. A large mixed flock of WOODPIGEON, ROOKS and JACKDAWS were flushed up from the fields at Migrant Alley by something, probably the constant explosion of gas cannons from the off patch rape field, not a good afternoon's visit  :-(

February overall though has been a very good month species wise, the 70 species recorded is a new February record, beating the previous best tally by two  :-)  No less than five of those species were new to any February, those being, Wigeon, Gadwall, Barn owl, Med Gull and Waxwing, these five took the combined 12 year February list to 86.

The year list is higher at this point in the year (75) than at this time in any other year, giving some hope that I might find a hundred patch species in record time, the date to beat is May 17th .

I wonder what march will bring ? Certainly I would do well to reach 70 species  :-)

No photo's taken today, in the poor conditions, but here's a few Long tailed Tit images from yesterday to brighten the page a bit.#
Long Tailed Tit
Long Tailed Tit
More Long Tailed Tits  ;-)

Wednesday 27 February 2013

This afternoons penultimate February patch visit was at least undertaken in somewhat brighter conditions than yesterday, the sun even tried to come out very late on  :-)

A flock of mixed winter thrushes, around 60 or so, seen at the sheep pasture adjacent to the Tree Nursery, was mostly made up of FIELDFARE, but there were a few REDWING amongst them too. The Tree Nursery hasn't produced the Barn owl since I saw it at the weekend, maybe it was just passing through, only a couple of GREEN WOODPECKERS and a GOLDCREST were of note there today.

Four more Goldcrest were seen in the Wet Woods, probably the four seen yesterday, with them were two TREECREEPERS. Also in the woods, a pair of MALLARDS, a GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER, at least 4 SISKIN and a few BLACKBIRDS were the only birds seen.

On to the lakes, and the COOT pair remain, they look on course to make a breeding attempt in a few weeks time, just the second ever on my patch by this species. Eleven CANADA GEESE, and the BARNACLE GOOSE were also present, as were four GREYLAG GEESE, a pair of Mallard were the first seen here this week, but not a single Moorhen was recorded this afternoon.

A pair of BULLFINCH were seen well in the adjacent Scrubby Woods, where a few more of the common birds were encouraged to call or sing in the better conditions today, GREAT TIT, BLUE TIT, COAL TIT, DUNNOCK, SONGTHRUSH, WREN, and CHAFFINCH attempted some springlike noises  :-)

I walked back over to the Tree Nursery, to give the Barn owl another chance to meet me, I hung around for half an hour, it was still chilly in the wind, so I huddled up against a line of shrubs and awaited, but it didn't show, maybe i'll try later in the day tomorrow. One of the KESTREL pair was up hunting, and a few BLACK HEADED GULLS went over, not long after that I headed home for a warming cuppa.

I did manage a few distant Geese photo's today, and also took some more Long Tailed Tit images from my garden whilst I had lunch, i'll keep the tit images for another post.
Canada Geese
Greylag Geese
The Feral barnacle Goose
Not a Goose  :-)  One of the COOT pair  :-)

Tuesday 26 February 2013

This winter has produced more than its fair share of gloomy, dank, and dismal days, and today must rank up there with the worst of them!

I did my usual walk over to the lakes this afternoon, under a leaden sky, a cool wind and spits of rain blowing in my face, it was so dull that I kept trying open my eyes wider to let me see better  :-) I passed through the Tree Nursery and the field of sheep pasture on the way to the lakes, where even the most common and regular species seemed to have called it a day and gone to roost early, only the hardened Scandinavian FIELDFARES were about, 28 of which were seen, plus 2 REDWING and a small flock of STARLINGS, probably migrant birds themselves.

I reached the lakes, and started to scan, and yet again found the GADWALL pair, the highlight of the day  :-)  plus 2 pairs of CANADA GEESE, 4 MOORHEN, and the COOT pair, a CORMORANT was in its favoured tree overlooking the largest of the lakes, but nothing new to add to this months record list was seen.

One species I'd love to find is the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, they used to breed on my patch, but the last pair did so 13 years ago, and only very sporadic records of single birds have been seen since, so I searched the most likely place, the place they last bred, and the last place that one was seen back in December2009, which was the Wet Woods. My search was of course fruitless, but I did come across a confiding quartet of GOLDCRESTS that were feeding with a TREECREEPER and a pair of BLUE TITS, plus a lone GREAT TIT. A couple of JAYS screeched, BLACKBIRDS, ROBINS, and DUNNOCKS fed in the waterlogged soil, 2 pairs of MALLARDS dabbled on the stagnant pools of water, and flyover GOLDFINCH and SISKIN were heard above the tree tops. By 15:00hrs I was out of the by now very dark woods, and heading home, feeling very cheated, there should have be at least 2 hours more usable daylight left on any normal day at this time of year!!

Nothing left to brighten the blog with from the ''Blog Photo Folder'' just have to hope for some better weather soon   :-)

Monday 25 February 2013

Back to work today  :-(  so it's back to the afternoon patch visits, which was a pretty short affair today, the weather was utterly miserable, being cold, damp and still with a cutting wind that blew spits of rain about.

As usual, I visited the Lakes first, via the Tree Nursery, where my hope of seeing the Barn owl wasn't realised, though I did see quite few FIELDFARE, maybe 75-100, along with 50 -75 STARLINGS and a more countable 8 REDWING plus 2 MISTLE THRUSH, these all fed on the adjacent field of sheep pasture, in the Nursery itself the only birds of note were two GREEN WOODPECKERS and 4 PHEASANTS, ive not seen many of those this month.

Over at the lakes, just 4 CANADA GEESE remained, but it was good to see the GADWALL pair had returned. The COOT pair were feeding on water weeds, and 4 MOORHEN were visible in the bankside vegetation.

I had a quick look and listen around the Scrubby Woods, and heard the drumming of GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKERS, also the calls of BULLFINCH, COAL TIT, GREAT TIT and NUTHATCH rang out, two TREECREEPERS chased through the trees, whizzing past me as I stood listening  :-)

I gave the Wet Woods a cursory looking over, but it was well quiet in there today, just a pair of MALLARDS was recorded, they have forsaken the lakes now, as they do at this time of year, they can safely breed in the dense cover on the pools in the Wet Woods.

A final stake out of the Tree Nursery was had, but the Barn owl ( if it is still around) eludes me and I had to make do with the KESTREL pair, plus a SPARROWHAWK, a lone LAPWING flew over calling, strange to see just one.

I think it's a case of 'treading water' now for the last few days of February, while hopefully Spring will come rushing in very soon now :-)

Obviously not camera weather today, and the 'Blog Photo Folder' is running dry, these are the last of the images from my garden feeders, taken last week.
Robin - On the 'Blog Log'
Coal Tit
Green Woody

Sunday 24 February 2013

Another cold morning, with a biting wind again, making it feel even colder. I did get round for a full patch visit today, the last of February, and manged a reasonable species count of 41.

My first port of call was of course the Tree Nursery, I was hoping for another encounter with yesterdays Barn Owl, but despite a 40 minute stake out, which would have been warmer had I waited in my fridge,it never showed, and I reluctantly moved on, more because I was getting chilled than anything else!  Whilst waiting for the Barn Owl, I noted a couple of BULLFINCH, a GOLDCREST, a GREEN WOODPECKER, 4 SONGTHRUSH and 3 GOLDFINCH all in amongst the shrubs, while overhead, a BUZZARD and a SPARROWHAWK were up early.

I quickly got to the Lakes, where 15 CANADA GEESE were the most obvious birds on the water, along with the feral BARNACLE GOOSE, but I quickly found another 3 GOOSANDER, two of them males, the run of good fortune seeing these fantastic birds continues  ;-) The COOT pair and 4 MOORHEN expectantly got on the day list as well, but the 23 BLACK HEADED GULLS that alighted on the water whilst I was there was a big surprise, the first time I have ever seen this species actually on the Lakes!
Male Goosander. I only had the camera on me because of the chance of bumping into the Barn owls. The light was atrocious, and I was trying to focus through a hawthorne bush and a wire fence, not a good combination for nice photographs, but ok for record shots   :-)
Male Goosander
Male Goosander. I got to within 20 meters of the male birds, but the light just didn't improve  :-(
Female Goosander
Female Goosander
A brisk walk over to Migrant Alley, trying to put some warmth back into my feet, soon had me looking at around 75 FIELDFARE on the sheep pasture, with them were a dozen REDWING and 2 MISTLE THRUSH, the KESTREL pair were up on the nearby Greenhouses, and both HERRING GULL and COMMON GULL flew over. Crossing the sheep pasture 70-80 STARLINGS were seen on the adjacent horse paddocks with about 50 ROOKS.

The College Grounds were very average today, and it was notable that not a single bird sang, not even the ever cheerful ROBINS, I noted down the regulars, of which GREENFINCH, CHAFFINCH, COAL TIT, GREAT TIT, JAY, and HOUSE SPARROW had not yet been added to the day list at that point.

The walk home was cold, and my head was tucked down into my coat for most of it, I did however see two GREYLAG GEESE that flew over, the last species added for the day..........I didn't venture out again!

Saturday 23 February 2013

Frequent, heavy snow showers passed through the area for this mornings patch walk, making for a bone chilling and difficult patch visit, most of the time my bins were made redundant, as the snow was so heavy, but little of it settled though and by midday it was all thawed  :-)

Despite spending 3 hours out in the conditions, I didn't get round to visit all of my patch, the College Grounds were missed, but a good look around all the other areas was possible.  A surprising species tally of 44 was recorded, surprising as the likes of Coal Tit, Long Tailed Tit, Treecreeper, Nuthatch, Mistlethrush and Redwing weren't found.

However, there was a real surprise awaiting me in the Tree Nursery, I had already passed through it and was crossing the sheep pasture towards the Wet Woods, when I looked back, as I often do, and fleetingly saw a CARRION CROW mob a big white bird, they then both disappeared behind a row of shrubs, but I waited, then out from the other side came a BARN OWL (75,69)  WOW ! Fan-bloody-tastic!!! This is just the second Barn owl I have recorded in the 12 years of watching my patch, the last one was an individual that overwintered in 2008/09, well that certainly made me forget the cold  :-) and of course, it sets a new February species tally   :-)

Scanning the field next to me, also sheep pasture, there was a trio of geese species, 4 of them CANADA, 2 GREYLAGS and the feral BARNACLE GOOSE. Moving on to the lakes, all was very quiet, the snow fell heavily and the wind was biting, just 3 more Canada geese were seen, plus the COOT pair and a couple of MALLARD and MOORHENS, but as I was leaving I heard the hooting of a TAWNY OWL, very nice, two Owl species on the same visit   :-)

A GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER drummed from the Wet Woods, where two GOLDCRESTS where also watched at close range, I heard a couple of SISKIN flyover, and a JAY squawking, but apart from that everything was staying hidden.

 I made my way over to the Greenhouse Grounds, via the Tree Nursery again ( I just wanted more Barn owl views - which I got) but my mission was to get to the Greenhouse Copse to find a LITTLE OWL, which I did, making this visit an historic one indeed, as its the first time I have recorded three owl species on the same visit :-).

A small triumph was yet still to be had, for as I stood at Migrant alley in a near blizzard, I heard the first YELLOWHAMMER (70) this month call as it flew over, extending further the February species patch record, a LAPWING was also seen to battle its way north against the driving snow, and I was surprised to see a pair of SPARROWHAWKS displaying in the sky, clearly relishing the conditions, which I personally found too much in the end, so headed off home, frozen toed, but well happy with my sightings for the day   ;-)

Of course, late this afternoon I was out again, lying in wait at the Tree Nursery hoping for a sighting of the Barn owl, Camera in hand, I gave it ninety nimutes, but it never showed, I did see another two Little Owls though, plus a COMMON BUZZARD, a CORMORANT and a couple of REDWINGS,  none of which were seen this morning, taking the daylist to a creditable 47 species  :-)   I'll try again for the Barn owl tomorrow, I just hope it stays around for a while.
Barn Owl - pellets, found in the shack at the Tree Nursery, that's all i could manage photographically!
Here's some blog brighteners from the Garden, taken earlier in the week -:
Marsh Tit
Add caption

Friday 22 February 2013

I only made a short patch visit this morning, in some bitingly cold winds and swirling snow flurries, but it wasn't without some reward.

Again it was the Lakes that provided the highlight for the visit, when two MUTE SWANS (68) were seen on the water, only a handful of sightings of this species have been had actually on one of the small Lakes here, so it was nice to see them, looking whiter even than the swirling snowflakes  :-) Just one more new species for this month is now needed to set a new record February species tally!

A scan around the rest of the water and tree overhangs was pretty disappointing, just two MOORHEN and a pair of CANADA GOOSE were company for the COOT pair, that is until a pair of GADWALL dropped in, these must surely be the ones I saw yesterday at the College Grounds, and on the lakes 3 days ago.

I spent some time just watching and listening around the Scrubby Woods, and saw a pair of COAL TITS chasing about, plus a GOLDCREST feeding in a spruce tree, BULLFINCH, NUTHATCH, and TREECEEPER were heard to call, then a GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER started drumming.

I got a bit chilled soon after, and moved on to the Tree Nursery to seek some shelter from the biting wind and to watch the sky for a while, I was hoping for something nice to pass over, maybe my first Yellowhammer for the month would be seen, however, after 15 mins I had only recorded HERRING and BLACK HEADED GULLS, but did also have the bonus of 17 LAPWING, before succumbing to the cold and heading of for a hot brew  :-)

This afternoon I did some garden bird watching, however things were much quieter than recent days, mainly due to this cheeky SPARROWHAWK continually dropping in, at one point it was on the floor creeping about, trying to stalk its prey like a cat!  I took some ''through the double glazing'' record shots  of it :-)
Sparrowhawk - creeping about like a cat
Blog brighteners for today are the rest of the LONG TAILED TIT images taken from my garden earlier in the week, when I thought spring was just about to arrive!
Long Tailed Tit
Long Tailed tit
Long Tailed Tit
Long Tailed Tit
Long Tailed Tit

Thursday 21 February 2013

Off work for the rest of the week now, so i took the opportunity of making a full patch walk this morning, boy was it cold though! A biting easterly wind and a frost under an overcast sky made for tough going first thing.

There wasn't too many birds about, understandable in the cold conditions, but a good variance of species were found, 44 in all, with some good patch birds among those. Raptors were about again, with the usual patch pair of KESTRELS up hunting, as well as a BUZZARD over the Wet Woods, where I was shown a flyover SPARROWHAWK by the 2 TREECREEPERS with flock of 8 GOLDCREST I was watching, They saw it well before I did, despite the hawk being at least 50 foot above the tree canopy, their alarm call alerted me, they must have some eye sight!

A WOODCOCK was flushed in the Scrubby Woods, but the adjacent lakes didn't oblige with any new ducks today, there were however 16 CANADA GEESE and 6 MOORHEN with the COOT pair, plus a CORMORANT in one of the bank side tree tops, the only MALLARDS seen today was a pair in the Wet Woods.

The sheep pasture and paddocks at Migrant Alley had 2 MISTLETHRUSH, about 120 FIELDFARE, plus a single REDWING, overhead, HERRING GULL, BLACK HEADED GULL and COMMON GULL were all seen passing by. I had a good look around the College Grounds and gardens, where the undoubted highlight was seeing a pair of GADWALL on one of the tiny ponds! I have never in the twelve years of watching this area seen anything but the odd pair of Mallard and a few Moorhens on these ornamental features! Also of note in the gardens were a couple more Redwing.

I walked back out across Migrant Alley, heading for the Greenhouse Grounds, and was well happy when I saw 24 LAPWING (67) flap their way slowly over - another one for the February list, just 2 more species and a new February record will be set! When I got to the Greenhouse Grounds it felt absolutely freezing with the wind coming straight of the sheep pasture, but I stuck it out and found a couple of BULLFINCH, 6 SISKIN and a PIED WAGTAIL to end the days list.

Later this afternoon, it brightened up slightly, and I spent some more time in the garden photographic studio (shed!) My dear friend and fellow blogger 'Songbird' asked me a while back,  ''could I get a photo of a Siskin on the blog log''  well I have finally succeeded in tempting them down onto it Songbird  :-)  Here's a few images, I hope you enjoy them, as I froze my toes off getting these :-)
Siskin (Male)
These two also sneaked in on the act  :-)
Sneaky NUTHATCH :-)

Wednesday 20 February 2013

The early cloud had burnt back by the time I got out on patch after work this afternoon, leaving a bright day but with a cold wind.

As is usual at this time of year, I wandered over to the lakes again, seeing KESTREL, BUZZARD and SPARROWHAWK up hunting over the Tree Nursery as I passed through, but little passerine activity was noted.

Two TREECREEPERS chased around the trunk of an Oak that stands on the sunny side of the Wet Woods at this time of day, also seen there was a GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER.

I always feel a surge of anticipation as I approach the Lakes, what would I find ? The majority of the time I just record the Mallards and Moorhens, sometimes a few Geese, with maybe a Cormorant or Grey Heron, the Coot pair have recently added some interest, but i'm always on the lookout for a duck species :-) Having seen Gadwall, Teal and Goosander on recent visits, I was pretty much resigned to that being it for a while, but no, after quickly locating the COOT pair, and seeing a KINGFISHER fly past, I soon had great views of a GOOSANDER, another female, thats the 3rd Goosander record this month! That wasn't the big excitement though, for as I tried to manoeuvre for a photograph of the Goosander, a pair of WIGEON (74, 66) swam out of the overhanging tree branches, wow! Another year tick, and just the sort of thing I was hoping for, this is the best winter yet for ducks on these small lakes  :-) Just one pair of MALLARD, 5 CANADA GEESE and 6 MOORHEN were also present.

I watched the Goosander and Wigeon for a few minutes, and heard NUTHATCH, BULLFINCH, and COAL TIT call from the Scrubby Woods as well as a few SISKIN flying over.

I got some sort of record photo, only of the male Wigeon though, as they quickly swam into another tree overhang and didn't re-emerge again.
Wigeon - a cracking drake :-) Not a good image, as the only real place to photograph anything on the water is always facing into the light at this time of day
After creeping back out of the lake area, so as not to flush the Goosander and Wigeon, I made my way over to the Greenhouse Grounds, but again passerine activity was very limited, only a GOLDCREST and a couple more Siskin in the Alder Trees were of note. A scan across Migrant Alley provided me with views of 2 COMMON GULL, as well as about 40-60 FIELDFARE and 2 MISTLETHRUSH on the sheep pasture.

Knowing that the LITTLE OWLS like a bit of sunshine, I decided to walk over to the Greenhouse Copse where they can be found, if not already disturbed, sunbathing at their favourite perch. Today I got lucky and found two, but only one was in a position to photograph  :-)
Little Owl
Little Owl
So yet another good patch visit, the Wigeon takes the year list to 74 now, I might get a tilt at the quickest 100 bird species recorded on my patch at this rate, that was achieved back in 2009, when I had amassed 100 species by May 17th, Ive not got anywhere near that record since! Interestingly, in that year I had one less species on the list by todays date  :-)

The months list is moving at a pace now, 66 species is the 3rd best February, and is just 3 off setting a new record.  Ive got the rest of the week off work now, so i'll be all out to achieved it, the likes of Yellowhammer, Lapwing, or one of the local Peregrines may well turn up, or maybe my luck will continue at the lakes, a Mandarin Duck isn't out of the question :-)

Tuesday 19 February 2013

I took a days holiday today, as I had to await a delivery that I didn't want to miss. My delivery arrived at 13:00hrs - my old pair of Nikon binoculars, fully reconditioned, very pleased, just like new again  :-)

Whilst waiting for the delivery I had plenty of time to watch the garden feeders, and despite some dense fog for most of the morning there was plenty to be seen, here's a list a what turned up, and a few record shots taken through the double glazing  :-)

Blue it, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Long Tailed Tit, Marsh Tit, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Chaffinch, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Starling, Blackbird, Collared Dove, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Magpie, Jackdaw, Jay, Wood Pigeon, Siskin and Nuthatch..........22 species in all, a very good tally for the 6 hours watching  :-)
This afternoon I paid my usual visit to the lakes, the weather was absolutely stonking, wall to wall blue sky, warm sunshine and not a breath of wind :-)  This didn't entice many birds out though, they all seemed to be taking a break from feeding and enjoying the weather!

The KESTREL pair were hunting at the Tree Nursery, and a male SPARROWHAWK flew low past whilst I was there. A few SONGTHRUSHES flew up, as did a couple of GREEN WOODPECKERS but apart from those and the BLUE and GREAT TITS that were constantly calling, nothing out of the ordinary was noted.

Cutting through the Wet Woods, I heard more Blue and Great Tits calling, as did a TREECREEPER, a GOLDCREST was heard to sing,then a COAL TIT did likewise. Approaching the water I could here the CANADA GEESE, not as many as yesterday - just 3 pairs were seen, I scanned the tree overhang at the waters edge and counted 4 pairs of MALLARD, then noticed a pair of ducks out in the open, these turned out to be GADWALL (65), blimey, no Gadwall since March 2005, then I get two records for this year in consecutive months ! I'll not complain though, its a good February species to add, in fact no February has had Gadwall on the list, so it increments the 12 year combined February total by one more, taking it to 84, the same as January, but 4 behind March  :-) I checked the COOT pair, which were feeding on the water weed, and noted that there was an increase in MOORHEN, 4 pairs were found today.

I got some record shots of the Gadwall, the sun was right in my eyes and they remained distant, but these are the only images i've got of Gadwall on my patch, so they go into the archives, that makes 118 species out of the 139 recorded on my patch that I have mug shots for  :-)
Gadwall- Female
Gadwall - Male
Gadwall - Pair
I spent more time later this afternoon taking some proper garden bird photo's, and have enough images for a week of gloomy weather, i'll post them when I need some 'blog brighteners'!

Monday 18 February 2013

A frosty, but sunny and bright walk into work this morning was made all the more enjoyable when I spied 3 WAXWINGS sitting high up in an oak tree in a garden adjacent to the sheep pasture at Migrant Alley, a walk to work doesn't get much better than that! Around 60 FIELDFARE were also seen, they were feeding in the sheep pasture.

This afternoon after work, I headed off over to the Lakes as usual, where I found them to be very busy, relative to normal that is! I found18 CANADA GEESE, 2 MALLARD, 6 MOORHEN a KINGFISHER, the COOT pair and a surprise gathering of 4 TEAL (63) an unusual sighting on the lakes, as are many duck species, but Teals, when they do show up, are normally to be found in the Wet Woods - still, a most welcome addition to the month  :-)
This is a view of the smallest of the 3 lakes, you can just make out one of the female Teal amongst the far branches, just about centre of the photo  :-)
The 18 Canada Geese were somewhat more obvious!
The adjacent Scrubby Woods was given a good look through, and I was pleased to see a WOODCOCK (64) fly up and drop back down further into the woods, another good species to add to the February list :-) Also of note in the scrubby Woods today were a pair of LONG TAILED TITS, a singing COAL TIT, a GOLDCREST and at least 4 BULLFINCH.
Goldcrest in the Scrubby woods
I didn't have much time left for much more birding, but a quick look around the Tree Nursery was had, where a KESTREL was seen hunting, and a SPARROWHAWK flew over, 2 GREEN WOODPECKERS and 4 SONGTHRUSH were also seen, but it was only a quick look round.

For a short 90 minute visit it wasn't a bad result, the Teal and Woodcock take the February list to 64 now, that's the 4th best out of the 12 years of recording :-)