Sunday 31 March 2013

Another cold start, with a frost for the last full patch visit of March, rather annoyingly the sky was two thirds clear when I set off, the third that was covered in a bank of cloud was of course obscuring the sun!

As I have in the last two visits, I set off to the College Grounds first thing, passing first through the Tree Nursery, where the sighting of the day was had - a JACK SNIPE (66) this could have been the same bird seen here in January, but either way, its a great bird species to have on my patch  :-) Also of note in the Nursery were around 8 MEADOW PIPITS.

A cold wind blew across the frosted sheep pasture and paddocks of Migrant Alley, where at least 200 Gulls had again gathered, the 2 MEDITERRANEAN GULLS were soon picked out, their strange calls helping with that, and a few COMMON GULLS were mixed in with the BLACK HEADED GULLS that made up the remaining flock.
About 65 B H Gulls here with at least one Common Gull
Over 100 B H Gulls here ( note the hedgerow behind them, six years ago this was planted, what a state, i'll not mention the nearby establishment who planted it)
I actually managed a record shot of a very distant Med Gull
But one more step towards it and it was off!
There were also around 45 FIELDFARE on the paddocks, but no Redwing today, a solitary LAPWING was also seen feeding with them.

The College Grounds were much the same as yesterday, no sign of the Chiffchaff seen on Friday, so this March will go down as the first that I have not heard a Chiffchaff sing! Whilst ticking off the regular species seen at the gardens and grounds, I again watched the MISTLE THRUSH busily building its nest. I was saddened by the fact that it is probably wasting its efforts, it has built the nest above a bust walkway, a location that has failed before due to the disturbance it receives  :-(
Mistlethrush gathering nest materials
Over at the lakes today I was surprised to see the GOOSANDER pair were on the water again, a GREY HERON, the CANADA GEESE pair, a MALLARD pair and the COOT were also present.
With better light today, and a bit of patience, I got a half decent Goosander photo, here's the male  :-)
Goosander, female
The Scrubby Woods was again good for finding the likes of GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER, JAY, BULLFINCH, LONG TAILED TIT, and NUTHATCH, but no Coal Tit or Treecreepers were seen. In the Wet Woods the only thing of note were the MANDARIN DUCKS. On the walk home GREYLAG GOOSE and KESTREL made up the list to 47 species, not too bad, but disappointing not to have found any spring migrants.

March ended with a tally of 66 species being recorded, this is the joint 4th best March tally, joint with last year, in which the weather was totally the opposite, so i cant be too disappointed with that effort  :-) The mean species total for the previous five March months is 67.5. Three more species were added to the 12 year combined species list for March, they were Jack Snipe, Egyptian Goose and Mediterranean Gull, that list now stands at 91.

Summer officially starts tomorrow, and with it ( hopefully) some spring migrants will arrive, this year I will be especially looking out for the likes of Cuckoo, Lesser Whitethroat, Garden warbler, Spotted Flycatcher and Turtle Dove, all of which are barely hanging on here, with just one or two breeding pairs left  :-(

Saturday 30 March 2013

Another 4 hour full patch walk was again undertaken in cold conditions, the biting NE wind is still blowing, and there were snow showers to contend with too.

Numbers of birds seen were quite low, as would be expected, but as yesterday a good number of different species were encountered, with 50 being seen in all. The Tree Nursery provided me with the sight of 7 MEADOW PIPITS as they got up and flew off NW, then the Pub Field was scanned for an unlikely Wheatear, which of course in these conditions wasn't there, the muck spread field did attract 4 STOCK DOVES, a few WOODPIGEONS and about 45 ROOKS though.

Migrant Alley was a busy place this morning, a large flock of birds were on the sheep pasture, this was made up of about 120 STARLINGS, plus 60 FIELDFARE, 4 REDWING more Woodpigeons and Rooks,  as well as a flock of approximately 40-50 BLACK HEADED GULLS which contained the 2 MEDITERRANEAN GULLS again, 2 COMMON GULLS and a LESSER BLACK BACKED GULL were also with them, more exciting than all these though was the unlikely sighting of a pair of EGYPTIAN GEESE (79,65) that were stood amongst the massed birds! Amazing what these fields produce at times  :-) these are the first Egyptian Geese since 2010.

On to the College Grounds, where most of what was expected turned up, GOLDCREST, PIED WAGTAIL,BULLFINCH, GREEN and GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER were all found easily, plus a nest building MISTLETHRUSH. An unlikely gathering of 8 GREENFINCH, 4 GOLDFINCH, 3 CHAFFINCH, 6 BLUE TIT, 4 GREAT TIT a COAL TIT, 2 BLACKBIRDS and Mistlethrush were all joining forces to mob something I couldn't see amongst an ivy clad tree, probably an Owl species, but the tree was in a private garden so I couldn't investigate further. A GREY HERON flew onto the college stream and 4 HERRING GULLS went over in formation - 5 Gull species in a day is good here  :-)

I made my way over to the Lakes, Wet Woods and Scrubby Woods, on the way noting hunting KESTREL and SPARROWHAWK as well as hearing a flyover SKYLARK call. On the water today the GOOSANDER pair were still fishing, a CANADA GOOSE patrolled as its partner was attending the nest, and the COOT was presumable doing the same, but the nest site is concealed from me, if it has one at all. Only 4 MOORHEN and a MALLARD pair were noted here today.

Within the Scrubby Woods and Wet Woods, I found a few more species that had yet to be found this morning, NUTHATCH, SISKIN, PHEASANT, and JAY, plus the pair of MANDARIN DUCK again.

A good walk today, but made less enjoyable by this awful spring weather, at least the year list is creeping along, 79 species is good for this early in the year, whilst the Months list of 65 species is moving up the rankings, its sits in joint 5th place out of twelve now, with just one March day to go, it wont get much further - a bit disappointing.

I had no photo's from the day, until this afternoon, when a male Sparrowhawk swooped down and chased a Blackbird round my garden, the luckless Blackbird was caught, but then a second male Sparrowhawk swooped in and tried to steal the hard fought for meal of the first sprawk, after a bit of a scrap the second bird flew up onto the next doors washing line and watched its rival devour its prize - is it any wonder activity at my feeders has dropped of dramatically recently! I couldn't get a photo of the bird on the washing line, but here's the one with the Balckbird, shame it was through the double glazing though!
Sparrowhawk 'mantling' its prey


Friday 29 March 2013

A four and a half hour full patch walk from 06:00hrs, (minus a half hour for a breakfast stop around 09:00hrs) yielded a very good list of 51 bird species. I was pleased with that, considering the cold conditions and that horribly cutting NE wind blowing too.

The first species on the list was not a regular, it was the GREYLAG GOOSE, a pair flew over calling as I left my house, thereafter it was a case of jotting down the likes of JACKDAW, WOODPIGEON, MAGPIE, PHEASANT, DUNNOCK, ROBIN, BLACKBIRD, SONGTHRUSH, BLUE TIT, CHAFFINCH, GREENFINCH, and CARRION CROW which appeared in quick succession.

 I walked over to the College Grounds first, checking out the Greenhouse Grounds on the way, where only the KESTREL was of any real note, then Migrant Alley, where 24 BLACK HEADED GULLS, at least 50 FIELDFARE and 8 REDWINGS were seen on the sheep pasture there, the first of four single MEADOW PIPITS seen through the morning that flew NW was also seen.

More regular species were ticked off as I worked through the College Grounds with its adjacent stream and formal gardens, most noteworthy were the likes of BULLFINCH, HOUSE SPARROW, PIED WAGTAIL, STOCK DOVE, MISTLE THRUSH, and at last my first CHIFFCHAFF (78,64) of the spring  :-) It called but didn't sing, unsurprising of course, as it was busy trying to feed and keep itself warm! So they have finally arrived, 14 days later than the average first date for the last 11 years!

Another Chiffchaff called from the banks of the main lake, where the GOOSANDER were still fishing, I wonder if they will stay around for April, i've not recorded this species in this month before. The COOT was still present, and 3 pairs of CANADA GEESE were on the water too, along with the feral BARNACLE GOOSE, but only 1 MALLARD pair and 2 MOORHENS were found today. This GREY HERON was sitting at the far side of the lake in a tall fir tree  :-)
Grey Heron. The first seen at the lakes this year
A look through the adjacent scrubby Woods, had me listening to a calling NUTHATCH, as well as a drumming GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER, a few SISKIN were heard going over, and at least four GOLDCREST were seen, LONG TAILED TIT was another species to join the list before I then moved on to the wet Woods. Here I again saw the MANDARIN pair, giving some more hope that they will breed here again.

On the way back home, I crossed the sheep pasture between the Wet Woods and Tree Nursery, and found that the Black headed Gulls from Migrant Alley had re located there, amongst them I found 2 COMMON GULLS and the pair of MEDITERRANEAN GULLS that have been frequenting my patch for the last month or so. There were also around 100 Fieldfare sitting in some nearby Oak trees, making a huge din!

Nearing Home, as I was walking along Ashes Lane, I noted two COMMON BUZZARD and a SPARROWHAWK up high, as well as the last species for the day which was a LESSER BLACK BACKED GULL  :-)

Here at last - Chiffchaff!

Thursday 28 March 2013

My final morning at work has come and gone, and my days will hopefully be more wildlife filled from now on  :-)

I had only until 15:30hrs for a patch visit after work, giving me 90 minutes out, I spent most of that 90 minutes over at the Lakes and scrubby Woods. As I was walking to the area across the forlorn looking Tree Nursery, a pair of GREYLAG GEESE flew low over, and as I followed them in my bins I caught sight of the KESTREL pair perched on the Grenhouses, not seen the Kestrels since saturday.

I had a quick scan over the muck spread Pub Field, but nothing was there today, the wind was cold and biting again, and I cant say I looked as thoroughly as maybe I should have!

Over at the Lakes I once again found a pair of GOOSANDER, they now take their place as the latest recorded on my patch. Also on the Lakes were two pairs of CANADA GEESE, 1 pair of MALLARD, 4 MOORHENS and a COOT.

I spent a while looking at listening around the lake edges and Scrubby Woods, hoping for the call or song of my first spring Chiffchaff, but they have still not arrived yet  :-( I did see a pair of BULLFINCH, a TREECREEPER, and a whole host of BLUE TITS, not sure why they had come together. A GOLDCREST sang, a COAL TIT was heard to call, and a GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER drummed from over at the Wet Woods, where I spent 15 mins, finding the pair of MANDARIN on the pools of branch entangled water  :-)

A short visit then, but from now on every visit will be at least 3 hours long, all I need is some warmer weather - or even this bloody cold wind to drop out!!

I took some distant record shots of the Goosander
Goosander pair escorting one of the Canada Geese
Male Goosander
Female Goosander

Wednesday 27 March 2013

This morning, whilst on my penultimate walk to work through the Sheep pasture at Migrant Alley provided me with a couple of nice sightings, a pair of LAPWING (62), the first seen since Feb 23rd, they were joined by 6 COMMON GULLS and a MEDITERRANEAN GULL. These winter visitors were not exactly the visitors I was hoping to find at this time of the year! Further on, as I passed through the College Grounds, I had a look up the nearby stream, and was very pleased to see my first GREY WAGTAIL (77,63) of the year bounding its way across the water, are things beginning to move at last ?

This afternoon I made a visit to the Pub Field, the sun was trying to peak through the greyness of the day, and although it's warmth could be felt, the nagging and biting east wind soon took it away, none-the-less it was a much brighter day, and I was hoping to scan the newly muck spread Pub Field in an attempt to pick up a spring migrant, alas despite me scanning the field till my eyes watered, no new visitors were found. I did see about 70 ROOKS, 50 JACKDAWS and a mix of WOODPIGEON, STOCK DOVE and FERAL PIGEON - that is until a female SPARROWHAWK flew low over, scattering them all into the sky and off to pastures anew!

I decided on another visit to Migrant Alley, I wanted to scan all the fence lines, posts and paddocks for a possible spring Wheatear or maybe even a Black Redstart, but again I failed to find either, just more Rooks and Jackdaws were present. I passed through the wooded headland to the north of the paddocks, hoping to hear my first Chiffchaff of the spring, but just a singing DUNNOCK and scolding WREN were found, passerine birds are really thin on the ground here at the moment  :-(

Alas, another day goes by without a spring Chiffchaff, 12 days have passed since their 11 year Median average arrival date, and I have never gone a March without a Chiffchaff, thats unthinkable!

I spent half an hour shivering in the wind at my sky watching seat, seeing little go over, a LESSER BLACK BACKED GULL and a few SISKIN were the best of it, a LITTLE OWL called from the Greenhouse Copse a hundred yards away. On the way home this pair of MALLARD were seen at the Greenhouse Grounds, dont know what they are doing here!
Mallard pair
So things look like they might be on the turn, the two new species seen this morning take the March list to 63, the joint sixth best March tally out of 12, joint with 2006. Will I find a Chiffchaff before the new month  ? Stay tuned!!

There was still some light left for some garden bird photo's when I got home, ive photographed them so often I get to recognize individuals now! But they do Brighten the post  :-)
Long Tailed Tit
Nuthatch - with nut :-)

Tuesday 26 March 2013

I'd like to thank all those who commented on yesterdays post, all of which empathized with my sadness at having to watch more wildlife habitat disappear. Thank you all for the ideas and suggestions some of which I can put into action  :-)

As for today, well, the wintery weather just will not relinquish its grip, the icy wind was still blowing this afternoon for my afternoon visit, while the temperature stayed at no more then 3C.

I headed off over to the lakes, passing through the doomed Tree Nursery, where work was going at full pace to remove the remaining trees and shrubs, a JCB was uprooting everything, ready for the shredding machine to mulch them all into the ground, consequently no birdlife was seen here, well, that is apart from a GREEN WOODPECKER.
The lines of fir trees here were all lying prone within the hour  :-(
I paid a quick visit to the Pub Field too, as I could here more machinery there, I found that the field was being ''muck spread'' normally an exciting thing to watch ( yea, i'm a wierdo!)  but it brings in the birds  :-)  At least it woould have brought in the birds had the temperature been high enough to bring in the flies and insects that in turn bring in the birds! There were only a few BLACK HEADED GULLS hawking behind the tractor, but they didn't stay long. Maybe if the field is not ploughed too soon a passage Wheatear, or Black redstart will drop in - if the weather warms up a bit!
''Muck spreading at the 'Pub Field' - exciting, normally   :-)
Walking over towards the Wet Woods to get to the lakes, a COMMON BUZZARD was seen low over the tree tops, the walk through the woods and footpath though was very quiet, just the calling of GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER and GRAEAT TIT were heard, not very springlike at all.

On the lakes I was pleasantly surprised when I saw a pair of GOOSANDER once again, these usurp the pair seen on the 23rd as the latest winter sighting for this species. The CANADA GOOSE pair were also seen, the female sitting tight on her nest, the only other lake dwellers today were a few MOORHEN and a COOT, I really hope the other Coot is somewhere on here nest at the moment  :-)

Female Goosander - 50 meters plus away, and in dark conditions, but its the best I could get!
Male Goosander
Very little else was noted at all for the rest of my walk, despite me searching through the Scrubby Woods and then walking back over to the Greenhouse Grounds, the most noteworthy birds were a flock of around 40 FIELDFARE that flew over the Greenhouses. Still no Chiffchaffs! but in this weather I wouldn't want to visit these shores either!

Here's a couple of images from my garden that I took later in the afternoon, again taken through the double glazing and in poor light - but they still brighten the page  :-)
JAY on the 'blog log'
Doesn't take them long to find the hidden peanuts  :-)

Monday 25 March 2013

There was no birding for me today. Yesterday evening I learned of a proposal by Hadlow College to build a 'free school', and that it was to be built on the fields at Migrant Alley.

This afternoon there was a consultation on the proposal, at the local council offices, to which I attended, it looked horrendous, a double storey school, playground and football pitch right on the greenbelt! I of course filled in the forms stating the reasons for my objections to the proposal, but you know whats its like, I was fighting off tanks with a dead fish!

Although planning permission has not yet been granted, a few pupils from the school I work at have already been enrolled for this Septembers intake, what does that tell you!

The 'Free School' will allow children to learn in a countryside environment, enabling them to be taken out into the surrounding countryside and explore what nature has to offer - a pity then, that very school may take away an important piece of that habitat. The field forms part of a migratory corridor, for not only the common migrant bird species, but also some rarer ones such as Whinchat, Stonechat, Grasshopper warbler, Ring Ouzel and Turtle dove. If this proposal goes through at this site, and I suspect it will, it will be another nail in the coffin for our already under pressure migratory birds, denying them a place to refuel for there long journeys ahead   :-(  A sad day indeed.

Just to add insult to injury, I passed the Tree Nursery on the way to the meeting, and spoke to some guys there who were preparing the site for clearance. By the weekend the field will be back to bare earth and then ploughed in. I knew this day would come, but it still very sad to know that this spring i'll not be meeting with the 19 species of butterfly that lived there, nor see the Grass snakes, and slow worms, also to lose those fantastic Bee Orchids that I found there last year, plus those jewel like Damselflies, not to mention the fantastic bird species that the habitat enticed in, Barn owl, Common Snipe, Meadow Pipit, Skylark, Jack Snipe, and Firecrest, all visited, while the Lesser and Common Whitethroats bred here last year along with many other common species, and where will the Kestrel pair hunt for small rodents now ?

A very sad day indeed for me.........some serious thinking needs to be done, with just a few days before I finish work for good, should I find pastures new ? Or carry on and record the demise of the 'Birds ( and other wildlife) of Pittswood' for future reference? After all someone will want to know where it all went, one day ?
Bee Orchid at the Tree Nursery last year

Sunday 24 March 2013

A thin coating of snow covered my patch this morning, and as I left for my full patch walk the sleet/snow was still falling in a bitterly cold NE wind, temperatures didn't get above freezing until the middle of the day.

I spent just 3 hours out, not really enough time to do a full patch walk justice, but in the cold conditions it was not a good idea to hang around in one spot for too long. I was surprised that I amassed a daylist of 44 species, as birds were very few and far between, even the likes of BLUE TIT, DUNNOCK, WREN and BLACKBIRD had to be winkled out !

As expected, no spring migrants were found, indeed the only signs of spring from the birds was a bit of song from a ROBIN and some drumming from a GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER over in the Wet Woods.

Trying to pick out some highlights from the visit then -  easily the best sighting was a flyover PEREGRINE (61) only the second sighting of one this year, it flew west over the Scrubby Woods, seen whilst I took shelter under some outbuildings next to the Lakes. On the Lakes were just 1 pair of CANADA GEESE which have a nest on the island, 1 pair of MALLARD, 4 MOORHEN and a COOT.

Both BULLFINCH and GOLDCREST called from the adjacent Scrubby Woods, and a TREECREEPER was seen there too, while overhead the first of 5 single LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLS noted during the visit flew over.

A BUZZARD and a SPARROWHAWK were up hunting over the Tree Nursery, but there was no sign of a KESTREL today, unusually. 4 REDWING were moving around the shrubs, with at least 3 SONGTHRUSH and the GREEN WOODPECKER pair.

At Migrant Alley,18 BLACK HEADED GULLS and 2 COMMON GULLS were with the 50-70 ROOKS, and 5 FIELDFARE flew over, the only ones recorded this morning.

A GREY HERON was seen over on one of the small ponds at the College Grounds, where a small gathering of 6-8 SISKIN were seen feeding on fallen Alder seeds, MISTLETHRUSH, LONG TAILED TIT, PIED WAGTAIL and a good number of GREENFINCHES, (a good number being 8-10 nowadays) were all seen in the garden areas.

Not a bad visit, but not as enjoyable as previous March visits, both 2011 and 2012 on todays date had warm sunny conditions, with Chiffchaffs and butterflies!

No photo's today - sorry folks  :-(

Saturday 23 March 2013

This is what greeted me this morning :-
Yep, more snow
Although none of the snow accumulated, it went on all morning, I did attempt a full patch walk, but got soaked by both the snow and the cascading water from the trees in the Wet Woods, so I abandoned the walk - another day lost to the weather  :-(

I was out barely 90 minutes, and saw very little birdlife at all, unsurprisingly! However, my visit to the lakes proved of good fortune, as I found a pair of GOOSANDER (60) my first this month, and the latest record for this winter visiting species for my patch. I was able to sneak right up on them, to within 5m and watched the female catch a medium sized fish, which wriggled about in its bill - would have made a cracking photograph, if, like so many mornings this year, the conditions hadn't of prevented the camera being taken out  :-(

Also on the Lake were a pair of MALLARDS, one of the COOT pair, a Pair of CANADA GEESE and 4 MOORHENS.

I trudged back home, through the at times shin deep mud, but at least the mud was so watery it didn't stick to my boots  :-)

Once home there is always my garden to watch over, maybe my first Brambling of the year would visit, or maybe the first Lesser Redpoll of the month, but no, a pair of SPARROWHAWKS constantly harassed the feeders, keeping out most other species, only the quick reacting Tit species came in for any time.

Here's one of the trouble makers !! Shame I had to take the photo's through the double glazing, mind you I had the ISO racked right up, and had the exposure compensation down by two thirds, but still only got a shutter speed of 1 60th of a second.
Nothing behind it!
Nothing to its left
Nothing to its right
Nothing below it, so it flew back to its concealed perch and waited for another opportunity!

Friday 22 March 2013

Well spring isn't getting any nearer, a biting NE wind was blowing this afternoon, so the chance of an early Migrant was again very unlikely on todays patch visit.

I went over to the Greenhouse grounds and the small copse associated with them, but it was deathly quiet, just a few BLUE and GREAT TITS calling, with the odd WREN, luckily the LITTLE OWL pair were at home in the copse, and gave me these snaps  :-)
Little Owl. For such a small Owl it really does have some formidable talons!
Little Owl -big talons!
Little Owl - big furry talons  :-)
After the Owl encounter I decided to get out of the wind and sit behind a line of shrubs over at the Tree Nursery. I stayed for 40 minutes, seeing a few bits and pieces, flyovers from the following were seen ;  4 MEADOW PIPITS, a few local GREENFINCH, GOLDFINCH, and CHAFFINCH, two COLLARED DOVES, a flock of 16 STARLINGS, 1 LESSER BLACK BACKED GULL, 4 HERRING GULLS, 13 BLACK HEADED GULLS, 1 CORMORANT, 1 SPARROWHAWK and 1 KESTREL.

A pair of MALLARDS alighted on a large puddle 50m or so from my position, and my view across the sheep pasture in the adjacent field had me watching 141 WOOD PIGEON, 3 STOCK DOVES, 4 MAGPIES, 19 FIELDFARE, and a single REDWING. SONGTHRUSH, GREEN WOODPECKER, DUNNOCK, ROBIN and more WRENS were heard in the surrounding shrubs and vegetation, and another Little Owl called from its hiding place in a large garden on the other side of the sheep pasture. I soon felt the chill of the afternoon though, and called it a day, another all too brief visit, but little else would have be found. The weekend looks like a real taste of winter returning again, temperatures of 2 or 3 degrees Centigrade and a biting easterly wind - oh, and rain of course! Looks like another poor one!

Thursday 21 March 2013

A couple of REDWING were seen at the College Grounds as I walked into work this morning, and about 50 BLACK HEADED GULLS were at Migrant Alley, but I had no time to scan them for a possible Med Gull.

After work this afternoon, in some more dull, but at least dry conditions, I was hoping for some sign of spring as I walked over to the Lakes, but there is nothing happening as yet, it fact things seem to have regressed a bit if anything! I found 3 pairs of CANADA GEESE, 2 pairs of MALLARD and just one pair of MOORHEN on the Lakes I also saw one of the COOT pair, I wonder if the other is on a nest ? Last year the first Coot young were seen on 21st of April, so it is possible  :-)

All the while I was out, I was listening for the simple chiming song of the first spring Chiffchaff, but it was not heard, perhaps not unsurprising given the prevailing weather set up, only in one previous spring has the Chiffchaff arrived later than todays date, that was back in 2006 when the first was heard on the 27th March, the median average first date for this species' arrival over the last 11 years is the 15th March.

TREECREEPER, COAL TIT, GOLDCREST and BULLFINCH were birds of note seen in the Scrubby Woods, but generally bird activity was very subdued.

I left the area and headed out across the open sheep pasture between the Wet Woods and Tree Nursery, and was suddenly aware of a BUZZARD just above me, I'd missed where it flew out from, probably because I was daydreaming about spring migrants  :-)

One of the KESTREL pair hunted at the Tree Nursery, and a SPARROWHAWK sped over higher up. The ever present GREEN WOODPECKERS were seen among the shrubs, as were a few SONGTHRUSH, but little else of note.

I ended the visit at Migrant Alley, where I scanned all the paddocks and fence posts for a possible spring Wheatear, but like the Chiffchaffs, I think it will be a while yet before one of these show up. The earliest Wheatear on my patch was back in 2009 when one showed up on the 14th March, in the previous year the first was on the 15th. Out of the eleven years so far recorded, a March Wheatear has occurred in five of them, so there's roughly a 50/50 chance of a March sighting.  :-)

A group of 11 well spaced FIELDFARE flew over, and I watched another Kestrel hunting, probably the mate of the one at the Tree Nursery, a few SISKIN were heard to call as they flew North, and that was about it for the afternoon.

Time was made for a few attempted garden bird photo's, but given the poor light and the attentions of the Sparrowhawk, it was very difficult! I did get these to brighten todays page though.

Wednesday 20 March 2013

Still recovering from my cold virus, I decided to get some fresh air around 10:00hrs, I had just an hours walk over the fields and paddocks at Migrant Alley, then back home via the Pub Field and Tree Nursery.

It was cool and overcast, but I'm sure I saw a glimpse of sunshine, or maybe I imagined it, perhaps I shouldn't have mixed the Paracetamol and Anadin  :-)

This large puddle on Ashes Lane has at least got a little smaller since Monday
I didn't see too much, and was just enjoying some fresh air really, not looking too hard for wildlife.

View along the Hedgerow that divides the large gardens from Migrant Alley, lots of standing water here too, plus is that a BLACKBIRD  on the floor, to the right :-)
Another ''hedgerow'' at Migrant Alley, hard to believe it was planted six years ago. It has barely grown at all, every year it gets hard grazed by the sheep and horses
This is a view across Migrant Alley over to the Greenhouse Complex, the thin line of vegetation you can see are the Alder trees there, and a thicket of Bramble below - good for a drop in Migrant bird  :-)
A few WOODPIGEONS and ROOKS were seen on the fields, and a SKYLARK sang from somewhere high up, just 5 FIELDFARE were noted here today.

Here's the 'Pub Field' ( with the Pub ) you can see the huge pile of manure waiting to be spread on it, ( the field that is, not the pub!) the field will then be ploughed and planted with a Maize crop.
Above is the Trackway through the Tree Nursery, lots of deep puddles here too.
Two GREEN WOODPECKERS, a SONGTHRUSH and a pair of flyover CANADA GEESE were about it for here, but as I said earlier, I wasn't really birding too hard.

Another view of the Tree Nursery. This is where I saw the Barn owl, you can see it is an excellent habitat for wildlife. The whole place is on borrowed time though, the owner and last company to lease it are in dispute over who should clean the field up, until then it's a haven for the wildlife  :-)
Well that was my short walk today, I should be fighting fit tomorrow ( I hope) and get out for an afternoon walk once i'm out of work, - talking of work, next Thursday will be my last day there, no longer will I be chained to a job, although i'll probably have to do some casual work from time to time.

This will give me time for more patch work, as well as visiting other places occasionally. From April I'll be adding to my patch work with some innovations to keep me incentivised, such as having a ''60 species in a day' event. This will be held on the 1st of May every year, or near to as possible, weather permitting. I'll spend from dawn till dusk out on my patch trying to find 60+ bird species. Only once have I recorded 60 species in a day on my patch, so it will be a good challenge  :-)

I'll also be resurrecting my monthly censusing, counting every bird of every species seen, this will take place in the middle of each month. I gave up doing this a few years back as it took too much time.  I may even do an all day big sit, but I have yet to make up my mind about that one  :-)

Most of these ideas come from a fellow patch worker ( Don Taylor) I hope he doesn't mind me knicking them ! It was he who inspired me to get into patch watching when I read his book '' Bird Watching in Kent'' Up until that point I only had an interest in birds not an obsession, visiting a few reserves every year, and watching the garden feeders, now i'm pleasantly obsessed with what I can find on my little bit of Kent  :-) Thanks Don if you're reading this  :-)

One image from my garden, taken before the thicker cloud rolled in - 

Tuesday 19 March 2013

No work today, and no patch visit, I'm bogged down with a rotten cold! 

I tried a bit of garden bird watching throughout the day, but the SPARROWHAWK really has got the garden pinned down  :-(  Its frequent and failed attacks are keeping everything away from the feeders, apart from a few brave and fleet winged BLUE and GREAT TITS, but at one point I was visit by a few SISKIN briefly, 6 came in together, nice to see them  :-)

I heard the LITTLE OWL calling from the Small Holding more than once this afternoon,  but that was about it for the day.............and I'm out of photographs again  :-(

Things can only improve from this point on  :-)

Monday 18 March 2013

After a bright-ish start to the day, heavy rain then moved in by midday, making for a soggy afternoon, that, combined with me having contracted a pesky cold ( that will no doubt turn into man flu!) prevented any sort of patch visit after work. What a miserable March this has been   :-(

The only birding I got in today was during my walk into work, where I noted a dozen or so FIELDFARE and 4 REDWING on the sheep pasture at Migrant Alley, they were amongst 75-100 STARLINGS.

A KESTREL stared down at me from a telephone pole on the walk back home, it just sat there, wet and bedraggled, not bothering to fly off as I passed, I just walked on, wet and bedraggled not bothering to stand and admire him! Bloody weather!!

I tried to get some garden bird images once i'd dried off this afternoon, but little came in to use the feeders, and the conditions were far from optimal, my continual sneezing didn't help matters  either ;-)

Here's what I did get, only the regulars though.
This is the Green Woodpeckers apple, I know you didn't want more images of the Green Woodpecker though  :-) just look at the weather!
You gotta feel for this wet LONG TAILED TIT - how do they survive these conditions!
Long Tailed Tit
COAL TIT enjoying the rain......not!
This BLUE TIT seems to have avoided the worst of the deluge