Wednesday 31 December 2014

The 120th and last full patch walk of the year was undertaken in bright and sunny conditions, with a hard frost once again.

It was a rather disappointing visit, with just 39 species being found in a little over four hours, but the likes of YELLOWHAMMER, that flew over, LITTLE OWL, that was at the Greenhouse Copse, and LAPWING, five of which were with 63 BLACK HEADED GULLS at Migrant Alley, would be very welcome for my new years list tomorrow! The COOT pair and immature MUTE SWAN will almost certainly be here tomorrow, both good January species for my patch, they were crammed into the small area of open water on the ornamental lake again this morning, along with 18 MALLARDS and 2 MOORHENS.

Not much else to note for this mornings walk, the KESTREL pair were again up hunting around the Greenhouse Grounds and a COMMON BUZZARD was hunting low over the Wet Woods again. LONG TAILED TIT, BULLFINCH, TREECREEPER, NUTHATCH and this GOLDCREST were the best of the woodland species seen.

It was a shame I couldn't get a decent shutter speed in the shade of the Scrubby Woods

The images could be a bit sharper, but they are still quite nice to look at  :-)


So the last month of the year ends with 63 species, the 6th best December tally of 13, while the year list ends on 110, the same as last year, this is the second highest annual species tally of the 13 years, but I have put in more time this year than any other, this being my first full calendar year of not having to work!   It was particularly satisfying to have recorded an average of 70 species per month throughout this year, in fact it was 70.17 species, which is just a shade under the 70.25 species averaged in 2010, that's the target to beat in 2015!

Looking at the year overall, of the 110 species recorded, 43 of them bred successfully, with another 4 species possibly breeding, but no recent fledged young were found for them. 

20 of the 110 species were seen only as flyovers, and/or were just single birds seen on one occasion, the remaining 43 species were passage migrants and/or birds passing through.

16 species were seen on 100% of the 120 full patch walks undertaken, whilst another 3 were seen on 99% of visits. The biggest increase in sightings for any one species was for the Mute Swan, it was one of those seen on 99% of full patch walks, this was due to having a breeding pair here for the first time, it was previously just a flyover species, seen less than 5 times year. At the other end of the scale, the biggest decline in sightings for any one species goes to the Greenfinch, it has dropped to being found on just 63% of full patch walks, this from an average of 97% over the previous 12 years.

Just one species was added to the 13 year patch total, that was the Brent Goose, two flocks flew over on separate dates in October, taking the patch list to 140. I wonder if i'll add to that ?

A few more pics to end the year..........hopefully you'll all be following my exploits for 2015, who knows what will happen here!  Happy new year to you all anyway!  :-)    :-)

Kestrel, on its usual perch on the Greenhouses

Tuesday 30 December 2014

Once again it was clear, crisp and frosty this morning, a proper winters day for the penultimate patch visit of the year.  :-)

Early this morning over Migrant Alley

A bit too early for most of the birdlife!

As the sun slowly rose, the first few BLACK HEADED GULLS started to drift in from the SW, I had brought my 100mm macro lens with me, so I took a few shots of the frosty conditions while I waited for the birds to wake up.

I soon moved on, making my way to the Lakes, via the Ashes Lane Fields, where a SKYLARK was heard as it flew over, but only 2 MEADOW PITS were seen there today.

Part of the Ashes Lane Field, not much habitat for birds.

I reached the lakes and found all 3 completely frozen over, apart from the ornamental lake that again had a small, ice free area of water kept open by the fountain. The immature MUTE SWAN, COOT pair, and 26 MALLARDS were crammed into the small patch of water, and 4 MOORHENS walked around the ice bound banks.

Of the scarcer woodland species, I found only JAY, GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER, GREEN WOODPECKER, TREECREEPER, GOLDCREST and BULLFINCH in the Scrubby Woods, it was here that I really kicked myself for not having my 400mm lens with me, as I had some good views of the male Bullfinch feeding on a frosty bramble patch.

One shot I've been really wanting to get, is of a male Bullfinch in frosty conditions, sitting feeding in the sunshine, well today everything came together.......except I had the wrong lens with me! It will probably a long time before I get this kind of opportunity again....blast it!!!  I at least got some sort of image, but ive had to crop it down hugely  :-(

After nipping home to change my lenses, I made my way back over to Migrant Alley and the Greenhouse Grounds to see if things had livened up there now the sun was up proper. It had indeed come to life, with 56 BLACK HEADED GULLS out on the sheep pasture, with them were 5 LAPWING, great to see this species here, it's not quite the sight of 500+ that used to feed here on winter days, along with 20-30 Golden Plover, but with all the disturbance here now I have to accept that this is the way it is now :-(  As I scanned the fields, I heard 3 single YELLOWHAMMERS go over, plus a COMMON BUZZARD flew low past the Greenhouses, but better still, a LITTLE EGRET flew through too, the second this month, I always do well to get this species on my year list, so two sightings in the same month is good going. I checked the Greenhouse Copse for the LITTLE OWL, which was indeed in it's roost tree, then walked through the Greenhouse Grounds, finding the KESTREL pair perched together, the female flew off as I watched, so i walked over to the tree where she was perched, where I was surprised to see she was next to a SPARROWHAWK!  Eventually she flew back to the Greenhouse roof, but the Sprawk mobbed here every move for some time before tiring of the game and flying off  :-)

 Sparrowhawk, pity I couldn't fit the Kestrel in the same frame.

I did get some more Kestrel shots whilst she sat on the greenhouses, I'll show them on another post

Monday 29 December 2014

Another fiery sunrise this morning.

This morning was clear and frosty, a good day to be out and about in the fresh air  :-) My patch visit, although not as productive as yesterday, was still enjoyable in the sunny conditions and although I didn't cover all parts of my patch I still found a good tally of 43 species.

None were on the excitement scale of yesterdays Wigeon, but there was enough to keep me interested, two of yesterdays missing Raptor species turned out today, those being the KESTREL pair at the Greenhouse Grounds and a COMMON BUZZARD that flew low over the Wet Woods, also one of the LITTLE OWL pair was seen at the Greenhouse Copse.

The lakes were frozen over, but the water fountain on the ornamental lake had kept a small area of water open, where 24 MALLARDS, the COOT pair and the immature MUTE SWAN all crammed together, there were only 2 MOORHEN seen around the margins of the lakes today though, where the KINGFISHER was seen again after an absence of 7 days.

Most of the scarcer woodland birds were seen either in the Wet Woods or Scrubby Woods, with single TREECREEPER, NUTHATCH, JAY and GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER, plus 4 GOLDCREST, 4 BULLFINCH, 3 STOCK DOVES and 2 GREEN WOODPECKERS all seen.

There was an increase in MEADOW PIPITS on the Ashes Lane Fields, 30 were counted as they rose around me and a GREY HERON was seen flapping slowly over a few minutes later. 

At Migrant Alley there were fewer Gulls and Corvids than yesterday, probably flushed off before I arrived, but there were 3 Gull species present, BLACK HEADED, HERRING and COMMON GULL. Flyovers from 2 single YELLOWHAMMER, 28 FIELDFARE and 6 REDWING were the best of what went through.

I get very few CARRION CROW shots, they are very wary birds and rightly so, but this one let me get just about close enough for a couple of images

I spent some time photographing the garden birds at my feeders this afternoon, only the regular common stuff, I got lots of shots to keep the 'blog folder' full for future posts  ;-)


Sunday 28 December 2014

The weather had changed for the better today, a light frost under a partly cloudy sky, with just a light Northerly breeze.


With Christmas visiting out of the way now, I had the morning to myself and carried out a 4 hour full patch walk in which a total of 44 species was recorded, that's about par for a December day. The lakes have at last come up with something special for my patch, a female WIGEON (110, 62 ) was present on the small lake, a year tick no less, taking the 2014 species list to 110, the joint second best annual tally of the 13 year recording period. With the Wigeon were 3 CANADA GEESE, nice to some of those back here, a GREY HERON was on the main lake, and the usual MUTE SWAN, COOT, MALLARD and MOORHENS were on the ornamental lake.

Only the Coal Tit was missing from the scarcer woodland species today, the Wet Woods and Scrubby Woods between them produced all the others, those being LONG TAILED TIT, BULLFINCH, TREECREEPER, NUTHATCH, JAY, GOLDCREST, STOCK DOVE ( which have started to sing) GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER, and GREEN WOODPECKER.

A walk through the Small Holding produced the five Thrush Species that can be found here in winter, 24 FIELDFARE flew over, while REDWING, SONGTHRUSH, BLACKBIRD and MISTLETHRUSH were all feeding in the area..

Another pleasant surprise was had as I scanned the sheep pasture at Migrant Alley, there were 18 LAPWING (63) mixed in with the 100+ BLACK HEADED GULLS, thus moving the December list up to 6th place in the rankings, also with them were 19 HERRING GULLS and 3 COMMON GULLS, as well as the mixed ROOK/JACKDAW flock, all however were soon flushed up by an off the footpath dog walker :-(

Flyover MEADOW PIPIT, PIED WAGTAIL, and YELLOWHAMMER  were noted at the Greenhouse Grounds and the LITTLE OWL pair were agin at the Greenhouse Copse, again providing some nice images, they were just too far apart to get both in the frame though. The only slight disappointment of the visit was not finding any Raptors!

Little Owl, nice to get a shot without sticks or shadows in the way!

 Another image of this mornings sunrise

Saturday 27 December 2014

This morning was cold and grey, with a blustery North wind blowing spits of rain into my face, not a very pleasant day to be out!

In those conditions little was seen of much note, so my walk was more about getting some fresh air and exercise after all the boxing junk I had eaten!

I did see some odds and sods about the patch though, a pair of BULLFINCH were seen along Ashes Lane, and a pair of GREY WAGTAILS were feeding around one of the pools of water in the Wet Woods, an unusual place to find this species.

TREECREEPER, GOLDCREST, GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER and JAY were the only scarcer woodland species seen in the Wet Woods this morning, while on the lakes nothing new had joined the immature MUTE SWAN, COOT pair, MALLARDS and MOORHENS that have been present throughout the month here.

The male KESTREL was at the Greenhouse Grounds, and the LITTLE OWL was at its roost in the Greenhouse Copse, a flock of 18 FIELDFARE and 2 REDWING flew over Migrant Alley, where the STARLING flock of around 250 birds were feeding on the sheep pasture, along with 100+ BLACK HEADED GULLS,, 22 HERRING GULLS, 4 COMMON GULLS, plus the 50+ strong ROOK flock.

Not the most productive of visits, but the weather wasn't very conducive for birding, tomorrow looks like a better day weatherwise, so hopefully something new for the months list will turn up, and I might be able to get some photo's, as the 'blog photo folder' is now empty  :-(

Friday 26 December 2014

Only a brief patch visit was possible this morning as I had family commitments from mid morning, however it proved to be a fortuitous one, for as I crossed the frosty Ashes Lane Fields I spied a lone GREYLAG GOOSE (61) fly over, this species brings the satisfying stat of having achieved an average of 70 species for each month of 2014, this has only been bettered by the monthly average of 2010, which was 70.25  :-) This months species tally moves on to 61, which is joint with the tally achieved in December 2011, and is the 7th best of 13.

I had a quick look over the lakes, but just the usual was seen, that being the immature MUTE SWAN, the COOT pair, a dozen or so MALLARDS and half a dozen MOORHENS. I walked the Scrubby Woods for the outside chance of finding a Woodcock, but no luck, it was in fact very quiet there, just a few GOLDCREST, a BULLFINCH pair, plus the GREEN and GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKERS were of note, as I left I saw a pair of MISTLETHRUSH feeding on a shrub well stocked with berries that was in an adjacent large garden.

I walked home via the Small Holding, not finding too much too write about, but a SPARROWHAWK was seen, plus flyovers from GREY WAGTAIL and YELLOWHAMMER, as I approached home a skein of 8 CANADA GEESE flew over high, just the second record this month, where are all the geese I wonder?

Last two images in my 'blog folder' are of this fine DUNNOCK, taken on Christmas eve  :-)

Dunnock, many have already started to sing here  :-)

Thursday 25 December 2014

This morning I treated myself to an off patch visit to Bough Beech reservoir, where myself and a good friend escaped the Christmas excesses to enjoy a few hours birding in the crisp winter sunshine.

We encountered 53 species in all, with many of the winter species not being recorded, they seem to be missing from everywhere this winter, the likes of Siskin, Lesser Redpoll, Fieldfare, Redwing, Brambling, and a distinct lack of Geese, apart from a couple of EGYPTIAN GEESE.

We did however, see a brilliant male GOLDENEYE out on the water, where there were moderate numbers of wildfowl present, which included, MALLARD, TUFTED DUCK, TEAL, GADWALL, WIDGEON, POCHARD, MANDARIN, LITTLE GREBE, and GREAT CRESTED GREBE, no Egrets were seen at all today, and GREY HERONS were few, two SNIPE were seen as we were on the final knockings of the visit. and a GREY WAGTAIL was busy moving up and down the reservoir edge.

KESTREL, BUZZARD and PEREGRINE flew over and were seen well, as was a GREY WAGTAIL that busied itself, moving up and down the reservoir edge. In the more wooded areas of the reserve and around the feeding station, GREEN and GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKERS were seen, plus LONG TAILED TIT, TREECREEPER, NUTHATCH, MARSH TIT and CHIFFCHAFF were all found, as well as the more common Tits and Finches.

In all a very pleasant morning   :-)

Despite the sunshine, photo opportunities were few, but here's what I did get  :-)

Common Shipe...can you see it ? Very well camouflaged!

This GOLDFINCH was feeding alone on a Teasel 

Wednesday 24 December 2014

The forecast sunshine for this morning never materialised until after my full patch walk, which was undertaken in wet, drizzly and windy conditions!

In such weather, the mornings species count was just a measly 36, with nothing much of note at all, certainly nothing for the month or year list  :-(

The best on offer was the COMMON BUZZARD seen in the arable field adjacent to High House Lane, a favoured hunting place for it, there was also half a dozen SKYLARKS out there. The KESTREL pair at the Greenhouse Grounds are always a joy to watch, but the GREY WAGTAIL that was there wasn't too keen on them  :-)

The LONG TAILED TIT flock was back over at the Scrubby Woods, 4 GOLDCRESTS were with them, but nothing was seen of the scarcer woodland birds today. The lakes continue to disappoint, nothing but the usual MUTE SWAN, COOT pair plus a few MALLARDS and MOORHENS were there.

Flyovers from a single YELLOWHAMMER and and two FIELDFARE were the best of what my short skywatch produced.

Later in the morning, I made a visit to Sevenoaks wildfowl reserve, I decided to have a go at getting some photo's of the White Ibis that is residing there..........well everyone else has!

I arrived as the sun was just appearing, but the Ibis was feeding in the shade most of the time, but occasionally it wandered into a brighter spot. I took 188 photo's of it and saved 17, so here's a few of the 17  :-)

White Ibis (Imm.)

Tuesday 23 December 2014

It was overcast, dull and windy again this morning, and as yesterday, finding anything bird wise of note was very difficult, the years end seem to fizzling out with a wimper!

Best birds seen today were the three raptor species, with a COMMON BUZZARD on a fence post at the Ashes Lane Field, upsetting the dozen MEADOW PIPITS, the KESTREL pair back hunting at the Greenhouse Grounds and a big female SPARROWKAK hunted over the sheep pasture at Migrant Alley, where it panicked the 154 BLACK HEADED GULLS, 200+ STARLING and 100+ ROOK/JACKDAW flock.

A pair of BULLFINCH were seen at the Greenhouse Grounds, along with the GREY WAGTAIL, but there was very little in the wooded areas of my patch this morning, just GOLDCREST, JAY and STOCK DOVE were seen of the scarcer woodland species.

A GREY HERON visited the main lake, but alas there were no Duck species seen, apart from the MALLARDS. The Immature MUTE SWAN continues to thrive and the COOT pair look to be overwintering, so as long as the water doesn't freeze, which will make them move on, they should be a good species to add for the new year list   :-)

With little to post about today I thought I'd just look back at the years birdy activities.

I checked up on the number of bird species that were proved to have successfully bred on my patch this year, there were 43 in all, with another 4 probably breeding, but no recently fledged young were found for them, they were Little Owl, Tawny Owl, Lesser Whitethroat and Stock Dove. This compares with 40 confirmed breeders in 2013, with 6 more probably breeding, 43 in 2012, with another 5 probably breeding and 44 in 2011, with 5 more probably breeding, so over the four years things remain overall pretty stable, with any breeding species lost being made up by new comers.

The breeders that have been lost are mainly summer migrant species, like Turtle Dove, Nightingale, Cuckoo and Garden Warbler, the Lesser Whitethroat could just be hanging on with one pair. The loss of these species here is due almost entirely to habitat destruction, as all these birds can be found breeding not far off my patch along the river Medway.

Whilst on the subject of Summer Migrants species, here's the arrival dates for the breeders that did turn up this year, with the mean 13 year arrival dates in brackets.

                                          2014                  MEAN
Hobby                           26th April         (3rd May)
Swift                             4th May            (29th April)
Swallow                        8th April           (3rd April)
House Martin                10th April         (17th April)
Lesser Whitethroat       16th April          (26th April)
Common Whitethroat   20th April         (19th April)
Spotted Fylcatcher        12th May          (12th May)

Blackcaps and Chiffchaffs have overwintered in some years, making the first date a little problematical, but I go by the first song that is heard  :-) their dates are -:

Blackcap                      30th March        (27th Mar)
Chiffchaff                     8th March         (15th March)

The other summer migrants that only pass through, are not always seen annually, but here are the dates for the species that have been recorded in at least 6 of the 13 years of recording.

                                          2014                    MEAN
Wheatear                     22nd March            (5th April)
Yellow Wagtail            15th April              (25th April)
Sand Martin                 12th May               (13th April)
Nightingale                  Unseen                  (20th April)
Reed Warbler               13th May               (18th May)
Willow Warbler            9th April               ( 9th April)
Common Tern              Unseen                  (30th May)

Not very scientific, but of interest I hope!
I'll finish off with the last of my images I have left in the old '' Blog Folder''   :-)

 Female Kestrel at the Greenhouse Grounds

Monday 22 December 2014

This mornings 3 hour patch visit was as dull as the weather, another of those December days that barely gets light!

The moderate SW wind didn't make it easy to hear the calls of many of the woodland species, but I got lucky, as the LONG TAILED TIT flock, of some dozen birds, crossed my path whilst I was at the Scrubby Woods, with them were a couple of GOLDCRESTS. A pair of BULLFINCH were seen feeding on old Blackberry seeds, brightening up the scene somewhat.

There was nothing new to note on the lakes, so I made my way to the Greenhouse Grounds and Migrant Alley, stopping at the Ashes Lane Field on the way, where as yesterday, a COMMON BUZZARD flew up from the grassland, spooking the dozen MEADOW PIPITS that were sheltering there.

The Greenhouse Grounds were extremely quiet, just a few WRENS, DUNOCKS, ROBINS, PIED WAGTAILS, BLACKBIRDS and a pair of PHEASANTS were seen, not even the Kestrel pair were here today! The LITTLE OWL was seen from a distance sitting in its usual tree at the Greenhouse Copse, then scanning the sheep pasture and paddocks of Migrant Alley, I did at least see hundreds of birds, those being 100+ BLACK HEADED GULLS, 150 + STARLINGS plus a mix of ROOKS and JACKDAWS, of which there were at least a 150 of too  :-)

There's been nothing much at my garden feeders this afternoon either! As I write this the SPARROWHAWK is munching its way through a Blackbird that it has just caught, him and the mild weather doesn't make for a busy garden feeding station!

Looking through my 'blog photo' folder, I see its getting glow on images again, here's a few Coot pictures I took last week  :-)

Its always good to see a Coot on the Lakes!

Sunday 21 December 2014

This morning was overcast and grey, with a strengthening, cool westerly wind, I spent a little under 3 hours out on my patch, where there were a few interesting species to be found, but nothing new for the month or year list.

A pair of BULLFINCH were working their way along ashes Lane as I set off, then, crossing the Ashes Lane Fields, a COMMON BUZZARD flew up from the grassland, as did a couple of MEADOW PIPITS. Flyovers from 18 FIELDFARE, a SKYLARK and the first few BLACK HEADED GULLS were all seen as I headed for the Wet Woods, where GREEN and GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER were heard calling.

Arriving at the lakes I could see the immature MUTE SWAN, the COOT pair plus a few MALLARD and MOORHEN on the ornamental lake, the KINGFISHER flew across an empty main lake, then scanning the small lake a SPARROWHAWK flew across my binocular view, nothing was on the water though!

Most of the scarcer woodland species were found in the Scrubby Woods, the LONG TAILED TITS were on their own, but singles of NUTHATCH and TREECREEPER weren't far away, nor was another pair of Bullfinch. GOLDCRESTS were numerous, and much checking of them didn't turn one into a Firecrest. JAY, STOCK DOVE, a flock of 28 GOLDFINCH and another flyover Skylark were noted before I left for the Greenhouse Grounds via the Small Holding, where I saw a single GREENFINCH with half a dozen CHAFFINCH, only the second Greenfinch seen away from my garden this month!

The KESTREL pair were busy hunting around the Greenhouse Grounds and the LITTLE OWL was in the associated copse, I scanned the 100+ Black Headed Gulls that were on the sheep pasture at Migrant Alley, finding one COMMON GULL among them, but not the hoped for Med Gull. A group of 3 REDWING flew over and 4 PIED WAGTAILS flew to and from the sheep pasture and Greenhouses.

Just ten more visits left before the years end now, 3 of those will be full patch walks, taking the total to 120, which is the target ive met every year for the last 13 years now. I still need one more new species for December, this would bring the 2014 monthly average species tally to 70, a rare achievement indeed, having only done it once before  :-) This Decembers list is still way down in the rankings though, 60 species is only enough to take it into 8th position out of 13.

Little Owl at the Greenhouse Copse yesterday

Look at those talons, I reckon Little Owls have the largest talons of all the Owls, in relation to its body size!

Saturday 20 December 2014

Patchy cloud and occasional sunny periods were enjoyed this morning, when I carried out a full patch walk.

After some very uninspiring recent patch visits, today was a bit more interesting, with a good variance of species recorded, the total of 46 was well above average for a December walk. Three raptor species were found, the KESTREL pair at the Greenhouse Grounds, a SPARROWHAWK hunting over Migrant Alley and a BUZZARD that was over the arable field adjacent to High High Lane. Gulls featured strongly too, 100+ BLACK HEADED GULLS were out on the sheep pasture at Migrant Alley, with them was a lone COMMON GULL, plus I had flyovers from a few HERRING GULLS, but more impressively a flyover from a lone GREAT BLACK BACKED GULL (60) finally brought the months tally up to 60, just the third record of this species for 2014.

I took some more photo's of the LITTLE OWL at the Greenhouse Copse, which i'll put up on another post, I also got some half decent record shots of the GREY WAGTAIL that visits the Greenhouse Grounds, but failed to get near enough to the 4 MEADOW PIPITS that were sitting on the boundary fence line.

Over on the lakes the KINGFISHER was very audible, but was only glimpsed once, a GREY HERON flew in to join the immature MUTE SWAN, COOT pair, 14 MALLARDS and 4 MOORHENS that were on the ornamental lake. In the Scrubby Woods I could hear a MISTLETHRUSH singing, plus the LONG TAILED TIT flock showed up again, carrying with them NUTHATCH, COAL TIT, TREECREEPER, GOLDCREST, and the more common BLUE and GREAT TITS. Two REDWINGS were also seen here, plus a couple of BULLFINCH and a flock of 18 GOLDFINCH.

JAY, GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER, GREEN WOODPECKER, SONGTHRUSH and a few flyover FIELDFARE were noted as I walked the Wet Woods and Small Holding.

Grey Wagtail, this is about the best of the images I got of it

I had to lean over a bramble bush, making trying to hold the camera steady in shadey light near impossible.

The high ISO I had to use diminished the picture quality