Friday 28 February 2014

I was late out again for the last patch visit of February, due to early rain, but by 08:00hrs it passed through, leaving a dry and sometimes bright morning with little wind.

I headed off over to the lakes first off, fingers crossed that there would be something different on the water, on the way, as I crossed the Ashes Lane Field, I saw a group of 14 MAGPIES and 23 JACKDAWS feeding on the sodden grass there.

I was disappointed when reaching the lakes, no new Duck species had dropped in overnight, and I was left with the regulars of MALLARD, MOORHEN, MUTE SWAN, and COOT, plus the semi regular CANADA GOOSE, GREYLAG GOOSE and feral BARNACLE GOOSE, with the CORMORANT looking on from its tree top perch.

I didn't spend too much time in any of the woods, as it is unlikely i'll find any new species for the year in them, instead preferring to spent most of the morning over at the Greenhouse Grounds and Migrant Alley, as something different might fly over or drop into the Greenhouse Grounds. There were 5 LINNET, 8 MEADOW PIPIT, and a PIED WAGTAIL to be found around last years discarded raspberry canes, along with the usual BLACKBIRDS, SONGTHRUSH'S, WRENS, ROBINS, DUNNOCKS, BLUE and GREAT TITS. A GOLDCREST sang from an adjacent garden, plus the LITTLE OWL was in the Greenhouse Copse, but apart from a few CHAFFINCH and GOLDFINCH, that was about it.

In desperation the try and find something new for the February list, I spent nearly 2 hours watching the skies from my seat at Migrant Alley, where flyovers from the likes of KESTREL, BUZZARD, SPARROWHAWK, STOCK DOVE, SKYLARK, REDWING and MISTLETHRUSH were all seen, but mostly it was a case of watching the local Corvids and WOODPIGEONS go over, the only Gull seen was a single HERRING GULL.

I conceded defeat in the end, the months list ending up with 64 bird species, that's the fifth best tally from the 13 February's recorded so far. Two more species were added to the year list this month though, those being the Water Rail and the Grey Heron, but apart from finding that Water Rail.its been a bit of a disappointing start to the new year. The year list so far is on 66, which compared to the previous five end of February totals is poor, here's the figures for the end of February for the past five years ;-
2009 - 73
2010 - 69
2011 - 73
2012 - 69
2013 - 75
As you can see there is a big drop in species recorded, the mean average count for those five years is 72, six more than this year ! The missing species are the likes of Snipe, Lapwing, Tawny Owl, Brambling, and Teal, most of which only visit here in colder weather, which has been lacking this winter  :-(

Photo's today are from my garden feeders, where I had another visit from the male LESSER REDPOLL, but the sun had gone when it arrived, typical!  I hope you like SISKINS, 'cos there is a lot of those coming up  :-)
Just enough time to get a couple of images of the Redpoll and it was off again

Siskin, Male
Siskin female

Thursday 27 February 2014

The up and down weather continues! This morning it was back to the rain, which I allowed to clear before setting off out, but that wasn't until 08:30 unfortunately. There were still a few birds about at that late hour though  :-)

I watched a pair of LONG TAILED TITS in the hedge as I set off along Ashes lane, no doubt they are already prospecting for a nest site. On the lakes today it was quite busy,  a single CORMORANT was fishing on the small lake, 4 GREYLAG GEESE, 8 CANADA GEESE, the feral BARNACLE GOOSE and a pair of GOOSANDER were on the main lake, the MUTE SWAN and COOT pair were on the ornamental lake as ever, but only MALLARDS and MOORHENS were present with them.
One of the Greylag Geese
There wasn't so much activity or singing in either the Scrubby Woods or Wet Woods today, although I did hear a GOLDCREST singing, and saw a pair of NUTHATCH chasing through a large oak tree.

Not a great deal was on any of the fields today, I noticed a large pile of manure has been tipped in the corner of the Pub Field, ready to be spread over it, maybe that will attract a few birds down! Migrant Alley was only attracting JACKDAWS, ROOKS and WOODPIGEONS, plus the odd SKYLARK, it remains to be seen if this migrant favoured part of my patch will still attract anything in a few weeks time after all the disturbance and change that has gone on there.

The Greenhouse Copse was again home to one of the LITTLE OWLS, and the Greenhouse Grounds looked good, as I approached I could see the half dozen MEADOW PIPITS flitting around, plus a group of CHAFFINCH and GOLDFINCH in the Alder trees, 3 LINNETS were also in the tall boundary hedge, but as I set my camera up for some action a SPARROWHAWK flew in, and everything flew out! SONGTHRUSH, BLACKBIRD, DUNNOCK, ROBIN, PIED WAGTAIL the whole lot all flew up and away, whilst the likes of the WRENS and TITS all alarmed deep from within cover. I saw where the Sprawk went, and watched it chasing something around the poly Tunnel frames, so whilst it was busy I sneaked up as close as I dare, and got a few images of it :-)
A brief sky watch was had, but very little was seen, just 6 HERRING GULL, a GREY HERON and a BUZZARD were the best of it. On the walk home I noticed 3 REDWING in a large Garden, a bit distant for a photo, but I took one any way, its been a long while since I have had a chance to photograph a winter thrush of any kind!
A short potter around the Greenhouse Grounds just after midday was not very productive, however, it provide me with my first Small tortoiseshell butterfly of the year, I got a record photo :-)
Small tortoiseshell
Later this afternoon I noticed that that the male LESSER REDPOLL was back at the feeders in my garden, as well as at least 6 SISKINS, the Siskins stayed around for some photo's but the Redpoll didn't, maybe i'll get lucky again before it moves back north. A surprise in the garden was seeing a fully fledged WOODPIGEON, blimey, the mother must have been on eggs during all those storms!

I've got quite a few Siskin photo's from yesterday and today, i'll post them all eventually, along with the other garden bird images I have have taken during the brighter moments of recent days, here's a couple I was pleased with, the colour of the male Siskin as it sat in the low sunshine was just fantastic!
Male Siskin
Female Siskin

Wednesday 26 February 2014

Early sunshine warming the Scrubby Woods
A totally different morning from yesterday, with bright blue skies from the off, giving me the chance of a five hour full patch walk.

I recorded a good tally of 48 species while out, this was made up to 50 when two species not seen on my walk, NUTHATCH and LESSER REDPOLL were seen at my garden feeders during my snack break at home  :-) I took these images of it later in the afternoon, the light was just a bit strong to show it's lovely rosey breast properly, but it's a shot I was after, so its a keeper  :-) I took a few more photo's of the garden birds which i'll post tomorrow, as the weather looks to be returning to wet and windy!
Male Lesser Redpoll
He's been visiting for a while, at last I've got an image of him
Back to this mornings walk and the day's tally could have been much larger, as no Gulls or winter thrushes were seen, unusual for this time of year. The lakes had plenty going on, with 7 GREYLAG GEESE dropping in to join the 8 CANADA GEESE and the BARNACLE GOOSE that were already there. The MALLARDS and MOORHENS were busy nest building, and the COOT pair look to be readying themselves to do the same, I wonder if the MUTE SWANS will find a place to nest ? As i waited around the waters edge for something to happen, it did, when 5 GOOSANDER arrived with a splash, 3 of them being females, shortly after I watched a pair of BUZZARDS fly low over, they were encountered more than once today!
Common Buzzard, seen later in the walk over the Ashes Lane Field
The Scrubby Woods and Wet Woods were good for a whole host of woodland species, nothing too unusual but good to hear and see the likes of LONG TAILED TIT, COAL TIT, TREECREEPER, GOLDCREST, BULLFINCH, GREENFINCH, SISKIN, STOCK DOVE, SONGTHRUSH, MISTLETHRUSH, GREAT SPOTTED and GREEN WOODPECKERS, plus a pair of MANDARIN DUCK on the pools of water in the Wet Woods.

Out on the Fields I found a LITTLE OWL in the old shack thats in the Ashes Lane Field, the first sighting of one there for ten days, a couple of SKYLARK were also up singing. Not much but ROOKS, JACKDAWS and WOODPIGEONS were out on the paddocks and pasture of Migrant Alley, but in the adjacent Greenhouse Grounds a couple of YELLOWHAMMER were present, as well as 3 LINNETS, 2 PIED WAGTAILS and 8 MEADOW PIPITS a nice little collection for here! The only flyovers that were of any note during my sky watch, were a SPARROWHAWK and the female KESTREL.
DUNNOCK at the Greenhouse Grounds
Closer Dunnock
Plenty of ROBINS at the Greenhouse Ground s too  :-)

Tuesday 25 February 2014

Frequent blustery showers frustrated my patch walk this morning, where much of my visit was spent trying to shelter from the rain. Consequently there was little recorded, although it was good to see a female GOOSANDER had returned to the main lake, where 8 CANADA GEESE were also present. Three raptor species were seen as I watched the sky while sheltering from the rain, a COMMON BUZZARD, a SPARROWHAWK and the male KESTREL, theyall hunted around and over the Greenhouse Grounds and Ashes lane Field.

Short and sweet today!   Here's a few finch pics from my garden taken on Sunday

Monday 24 February 2014

Early cloud cleared this morning, to leave it lovely, sunny and springlike for my 4 hour patch walk, where virtually every resident bird species on my patch was found, all bar the Sparrowhawk, Little Owl (surprisingly) and COAL TIT, but the latter was seen at my garden feeders as I was having a quick tea break  ;-) So, in all, a huge daylist of 53 species was recorded.

Early on in my walk a GREY HERON flew over, as did this PEREGRINE, I just managed to get a silhouette image of it....
On the lakes today the MUTE SWAN and COOT pair were joined by just 4 MALLARD, and only 2 MOORHEN, there were also 19 CANADA GEESE though, plus 2 GREYLAG GEESE and the feral BARNACLE GOOSE, a CORMORANT watched on from the top of a bankside tree.
One of the Coot pair
 Over on the fields today a group of gulls were disturbed and flew up and away, but I managed to sort out HERRING GULL, LESSER BLACK BACKED GULL and BLACK HEADED GULL as they did so. Around 60 ROOKS were also seen on the pasture, they were with 20-30 JACKDAWS, the odd single MEADOW PIPIT was heard, but the SKYLARKS were more obvious, 4 birds getting up and singing every few minutes. I was pleased to add YELLOWHAMMER (64) to the months list, a pair were seen well as they flew over the Greenhouse Grounds, the February list is still struggling though, it has now reached the fifth best total of the past 13 years, last Februarys record total of 70 species is looking unassailable now!

Whilst looking and not finding the Little Owls in the Greenhouse Copse, a PHEASANT flew up, and overhead a BUZZARD was seen, the Copse did provide views of a few dozen FIELDFARE and REDWING though.

A short visit around the Greenhouse Grounds around noon was not too successful - I'd seen most of what was on offer after all  :-)  But I did catch up with the female KESTREL. Later, back home in the garden, Bumble bees and Honey Bees were visiting the now fully open Crocus' and mini Daffodils, a chance for me to practice some macro photography - I am a bit rusty, but here's a few images  ;-)

Sunday 23 February 2014

A moderate wind picked up this morning, blowing in a few short sharp showers, making for a less enjoyable patch walk than in recent days. There wasn't to much to be seen in the changed conditions, the lakes had the MUTE SWAN and COOT pair present, along with 8 CANADA GEESE and the Feral BARNACLE GOOSE, pus a scattering of MALLARD and MOORHEN today.

In the Scrubby Woods I could just about hear COAL TIT and GOLDCREST singing over the wind, a couple of LONG TAILED TITS looked like they were prospecting for a nest site, and a GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER called and drummed.
This Oak tree in the Scrubby woods was victim of the recent storms.
The Wet Woods were checked for a possible Teal, but none were found, just a couple more Mallard and Moorhen pairs, however I did get a glimpse of two pairs of MANDARIN DUCK that were also in there. NUTHATCH and TREECREEPER were both active, feeding on the trunks of mature oaks.

Out on the Fields it was quite miserable in the wind and showers, but there was some interest, mainly on the sheep pasture at Migrant Alley where a group of mixed gulls were feeding I counted 13 HERRING GULLS, 18 BLACK HEADED GULLS and 6 LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLS, a few single MEADOW PIPITS and SKYLARK were heard on the wind, and what was probably my first Yellowhammer of the month was also heard, but it was gone in a flash, blown along on the wind, so I couldn't be sure - one that got away ?

Later in the day there were a few brighter spells, and on seeing both LESSER REDPOLL and SISKIN at my garden feeders I of course tried to get some images of them, which proved difficult in the wind, I did get some shots, just a shame the redpoll always had a bill full of sunflower hearts  :-)

I also took some shots of the other finch's, i'll post them later this week  :-)
This male Siskin was in full spring plumage, brilliant birds  :-)
Another male Siskin
There was also a female Siskin coming in, but it only stayed briefly.
I took this image despite the feeder in view, as it might of been my only chance
It did return however, and gave me a few quick views
It kept getting chased off by a Nuthatch
But returned three or four times to fill up on sunflower hearts  :-)
Lesser Redpoll, shame it's not the lovely rosy breasted male :-)

Saturday 22 February 2014

Another sunny, spring like morning, gave me the chance to get round for a full patch walk this morning, where a total of 48 bird species were encountered, which is good going on my patch, if Redwing and Treecreeper had been found, which were undoubtedly out there somewhere, the not often reached total of 50 species could have been achieved  :-)

As it was, most, if not all the species seen were expected, but in the excellent weather it was just good to be out among them  :-) Highlights for the day were the 5 GOOSANDER, two of which were males, they were on the main lake, also up there on the highlight list were the 3 raptor species of KESTREL, of which a pair hunted in the Ashes lane Field, BUZZARD, 3 of which soared together over the Greenhouse Grounds, and a SPARROWHAWK that terrorised the area in general!

It was good to hear the first singing LINNET of the year at the Greenhouse Grounds, something I always look forward to each spring, and seeing the pair of LITTLE OWLS in the Greenhouse Copse always raises the pulse a bit, even though they are there or there abouts most days! Also in the Copse were about 50 FIELDFARE, it was difficult to know how many exactly as they moved continually through the higher parts of the trees, they were making a real cacophony of sound though!

SKYLARKS sang over the sheep pasture at Migrant Alley, and a COMMON GULL flew low over, half a dozen MEADOW PIPITS are still around, and will in all probability hang about until April, the mean average last date for Meadow Pipit here is the 19 April, only in the winter of 2002/3 did the last sighting date appear in March.

Not too much excitement for the camera today, again I used the borrowed 100-400mm canon lens.  I waited for 45 minutes for the Goosander to come close enough, but they had me sussed today  ;-)
This MALLARD splashed down as I waited though.
Kestrel. Not as good as the 500mm lens can achieve, obviously, it having more focal length
I had one quick shot of one of the Little Owls as I passed   :-)
This ROBIN sat in the sunshine, can never resist them :-)

Friday 21 February 2014

It was still and cloudless as I set off for a full patch walk this morning, staying that way up until around 11:00hrs, when the cloud started to build and a few light showers were had.

For such a bright day, numbers of birds were low, but species wise there was plenty to see, however, the 45 species seen provided nothing new for the year or month list  :-(  The highlights of the 4 hour walk mainly occurred at the lakes, where 2 male and 2 female GOOSANDER were present, along with the feral BARNACLE GOOSE, 12 CANADA GEESE, a CORMORANT, a KINGFISHER, plus the COOT and MUTE SWAN pair and the usual sprinkling of MALLARD and MOORHEN.
Barnacle Goose with its Canada Goose partner
Canada Goose
At last a decent Goosander image
There was enough light for once, and one of the males came within 25 meters  :-)
I particularly like the reflection of the bird on the water
GOLDRESTS, COAL TITS, TREECREEPERS, DUNNOCKS, WRENS, ROBINS, SONGTHRUSH, MISTLETHRUSH, BLACKBIRD, and CHAFFINCH, were all heard singing in the Scrubby Woods and Wet Woods, all mingled in with the sound of drumming GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKERS and the calls of GREEN WOODPECKERS, BULLFINCH, NUTHATCH, LONG TAILED TIT, GREAT TIT, BLUE TIT, and JAY, making for a very springlike affair  :-)

There were fewer birds around the fields and Greenhouse Grounds, but it was good to hear SKYLARKS singing over the Ashes Lane Field, and the LITTLE OWL gave views at its usual perch in the Greenhouse Copse. At least 6 MEADOW PIPITS were feeding in the grassy areas in the Greenhouse Grounds, where a few GOLDFINCH were seen in the Alder trees, with just one SISKIN. Only one PIED WAGTAIL was seen on the Greenhouse rooves, and the male KESTREL was hunting around the place. The only flyovers noted today were two BLACK HEADED GULLS and 4 HERRING GULLS, not a single Redwing or Fieldfare was seen all morning though.

All the photo's today were taken with a 100-400 'L' series cannon lens, which I have borrowed from a mate, I may purchase one if I feel it would enhance my photo's, i'll need some more practice with it to get a good comparison against my 150 - 500mm sigma lens, here's some more images I took this morning, I tried to get some extreme backgrounds to see how it handled the light, which it did well, although the images are not the best, that was down to my poor focusing, and lack of co-operation from the subjects!
Dunnock. It's perch looks most in focus, my fault!
Wren. I got 4 images before it flew off, but I missed the 'catch light' in its eye.
Great Tit.The 100-400 lens did ok here, a bright white background complicated things