Wednesday 1 May 2013

A new month begins, and to kick it off I carried out my patch challenge to try and find 60 species in a day, no easy task here !

I was up at 04:00hrs, and after a quick cup of tea I was out on my driveway 15 mins later. In the darkness I waiting for the first bird to sing, which was a BLACKBIRD, it was joined soon after by at least 10 more as I set off down Ashes lane. Rather disappointingly that was about it for the 'dawn chorus',  ROBIN, WREN and WOODPIGEON joined the Blackbirds, and a CARRION CROW called, but after that it was pretty flat!

I headed off over to the College Gardens and grounds first off, as it wouldn't be worth visiting there again after about 07:00hrs, as it would be packed with people. On the way I passed through the Greenhouse Grounds, where I added SONGTHRUSH, BLUE TIT, and a distant calling PHEASANT, as well as a calling LITTLE OWL that rang out from the Greenhouse Copse. Two CANADA GEESE flew over Migrant Alley as I walked through, and I was surprised to see a flock of HERRING and LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLS on one of the paddocks, at least 40 birds were present. A GREAT TIT was heard to sing from the Wooded Headland as I passed by, as was a CHIFFCHAFF, a CHAFFINCH and a DUNNOCK, while overhead the first MAGPIE, ROOK and JACKDAW flew past - 19 species for the list thus far, a poor start!

Entering the College Grounds, little seemed to be active, and I spent an hour tracking down the likes of HOUSE SPARROW, MALLARD, COLLARED DOVE, STARLING, GOLDCREST, MISTLETHRUSH, GOLDFINCH, BLACKCAP, GREENFINCH, STOCK DOVE and MOORHEN.

Walking back out onto the pasture and paddocks at Migrant alley, I visited the Wooded Headlands there, and found a WHITETHROAT, a JAY and the first of many sightings of a SPARROWHAWK as it flashed past me, the SWALLOWS were quickly onto it, and saw it off into the distance. Making my way to the freshly drilled Pub Field I heard a SKYLARK singing, and a GREYLAG GOOSE flew over calling noisily, but not another species was added to the list until I had reached the Wet Woods, a fair distance away, when I added a GREEN WOODPECKER, the 37th species for the day.

By now I was pretty cold, the North wind had picked up and the sun had not yet broken through the clouds, but at least by the lakes there was some shelter. I ticked off the COOT, and a GREY HERON that fished by the bankside, a handy addition for the day, as was the feral BARNACLE GOOSE, nothing else was seen for the list on the water though, however, a bonus species in the form of a MUTE SWAN flew low over, almost alighting on the main lake, but thought better of it and carried on its way. A check of the adjacent Scrubby Woods was made, and I added TREECREEPER, BULLFINCH, and COAL TIT to take the tally to 44 species.

I headed off through the Wet Woods again, and out through the Small Holding, adding just NUTHATCH, and GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER to my days tally. Next stop was home for a hot drink and toast, but before that I had a quick look at the Greenhouse Grounds again, where this time I added PIED WAGTAIL, LINNET and at last the KESTREL pair.

So that was the end of the full patch circuit, and having just 49 species was a bit disappointing really. By 08:50 I was at home having a very quick hot drink and some toast, which paid off, as  I got to see a SISKIN on my garden feeder- the 50th species for the morning.

By 09:10 I was out again, walking the Ashes lane field, where the Wheatear pair that had been there for the last 4 days had moved on - typical! Back round the Pub Field and a re-visit of Migrant Alley only added LONG TAILED TIT to my list, so I once again headed over to the Scrubby woods and lakes, but had no luck with the likes of Turtle dove and Garden warbler, I did disturb a BUZZARD from a large Oak tree though. I left the area by 11:30 with 52 species on my list, and despite another walk around Migrant Alley, the Wooded Headlands, the Pub field, Ashes lane field, Greenhouse Grounds and the copse there, plus a two hour sky watch, not one more species was added for the day. I finally gave in at 17:00hrs after more than 12 and a half hours.

So I finished on 52 species, which isn't too bad, but the likes of House Martin, and Yellowhammer could have been anticipated, as could those late migrants - Turtle dove, Swift and Garden Warbler, there was no Lesser Whitethroat today either, and with yesterdays Tawny Owl, and flyover from the Peregrine, I might just have got to 60!

I took one or two photo's during the day, but didn't really stop to do much. This Sparrowhawk was in my garden, eating a Blackbird, as I sat drinking a refreshing glass of juice on one of my breaks.
Yet another garden kill for for the Sparrowhawk
I also recorded my first Speckled Wood butterfly on one of my walks through the Wet Woods
My first Speckled Wood butterfly this year, last years first was on April 13th
I don't normally take photo's of birds while they are incubating eggs, but this Chaffinch nest I showed on an earlier post is quite open, and visible from the footpath. I very quickly took a snap of it from 5 meters away, and left the sitting bird none the wiser  :-)
Chaffinch - will the nesting attempt have a positive outcome ?


Marc Heath said...

Up at 4am, now thats real birding! lovely to be out in the field for that length of time.

Alan Pavey said...

Your list has moved on nicely Mate, I'm hoping work quietens down so I can get back out in the week.

ShySongbird said...

Well you certainly gave it a jolly good go Warren and well done on the more than respectable 57, it certainly made an interesting read. I bet you were glad the weather was decent for your marathon!

I hope the victim of the Sparrowhawk in your garden hadn't got nestlings. I remember you said you have seen your first Blackbird fledgling recently so that and it's siblings will be particularly vulnerable :-(

ShySongbird said...

I forgot to say I was pleased to see the Chaffinch progressing, the nest does still look horribly exposed though. Lovely to see the Speckled Wood, they don't seem to be featuring on blogs much yet.

Marianne said...

Wow, and I thought I was doing well when I got up at 5.30am the other day... sorry you didn't make the 60 but 52 is very good. Lovely photos, esp. the pristine Speckled Wood, and the Chaffinch hunkering down on her nest :)

Chris said...

Wow impressive capture of the sparrowhawk! And let's hope for the best for the chaffinch.

Unknown said...

A real marathon, shame you fell at the final hurdle; but at least you have a benchmark for next May!!