Thursday 31 July 2014

This morning was dry, warm and sunny for the final patch visit of the month, which proved to be quite a good one.

My early walk around the paddocks and sheep pasture of Migrant Alley not only produced a fly over YELLOW WAGTAIL, but also the first TURTLE DOVE (71) of the month, which flew NE, probably the last one i'll see this year. KESTREL and SPARROWHAWK also flew over, flushing up the STARLING flock, they had decreased in number to only around 40 birds. A small party of SWIFTS moved through, and the daily movement of GREYLAG and CANADA GEESE was again observed.

Greylag Geese

Two female / immature MANDARIN DUCKS were on the main lake today, with a lone MALLARD and a GREY HERON. The ornamental lake only had the regular MUTE SWAN, COOT, MOORHEN and two more Mallard.

In the Scrubby Woods my first LONG TAILED TITS for a week were found, I counted 13 as they flew the gap from one Oak tree to the next, only 3 BLUE TITS were with them though. GOLDCREST and COAL TITS sang, BULLFINCH were seen well in a Hawthorn bush, and along with the BLACKCAP and CHIFFCHAFF, I saw a WHITETHROAT, obviously a migrant bird, as I don't see Whitethroats in the Scrubby Woods outside of the migration seasons. On the walk home I spotted a LITTLE OWL in an Oak tree of a large garden which lies next to the small holding.

The Turtle Dove seen today brings the months species list to a record breaking 71, two species better than the previous best effort for July. Four of those species were new for the 13 year combined July list, taking it to 93, surprisingly only one species behind the August and September combined tallies. The new species were, Mute Swan, Snipe, Red Kite, and the good old Barnacle Goose  :-)

I had a nearly day with the Brown Hawker Dragonfly, .........again, but managed a couple of acceptable shots of the male Southern Hawker   :-)

Southern Hawker

This ROBIN sat nicely in the sunshine, shame it was on barbed wire!

Wednesday 30 July 2014

The cloud came and went during this mornings patch visit, where it eventually turned very warm again.

I was out for another 5 hours, but found very little indeed to excite, a female MANDARIN DUCK flew over Migrant Alley as I did a circuit first thing, the Corvid flock there had increased to around 300 birds, a few PIED WAGTAILS, LINNETS and GOLDFINCH were also on one of the paddocks. The Wooded Headland to the north of Migrant Alley had a calling CHIFFCHAFF and at least 3 BULLFINCH.

A short skywatch was made from my usual seat, where the skeins of both GREYLAG and CANADA GEESE were watched going over, the only gull species today were HERRING GULLS, but a few SWIFTS were also seen today, with many more seen flying SW just to the south of my patch, a lone HOUSE MARTIN flew over, and the regular 3 raptor species were seen, those being KESTREL, SPARROWHAWK and BUZZARD, although I probably saw both peregrine and Hobby in the far distance too. Behind my seat, in the tall hedgerow that marks the Greenhouse Grounds boundary, a noisy family of WRENS had fledged, and two WHITETHROATS were seen.

Over at the lakes it was very quiet today, nothing but the usual MUTE SWAN family, MOORHENS and two MALLARDS, with just 2 of the four COOT family seen again.

The Scrubby Woods was full of feeding BLACKCAPS, helping themselves to the berry laden Elder trees, a few of the regulars turned out, GOLDCREST and COAL TIT, more Bullfinch, plus TREECREEPER and NUTHATCH, but there is no sign of a mixed feeding flock that can often be found at this time of year.

Once again I ended up chasing Dragonflies around, finding Southern Hawker, Brown Hawker, Common Darter and White Legged Damselfly, I even got a shot of the Brown Hawker today, only a distant record shot, but it's the closest i've got this year!

I watched this one catch a moth and settle in an Elder tree to eat it, alas, there was a bank of Nettles and Brambles between it and me!

I tried to push my way nearer, but the Hawker took just a minute to devour the moth, and off it went again.

Tuesday 29 July 2014

 Migrant Food  :-)

This morning was overcast, cool and windy, but by 11:30hrs the sun arrived, making it feel very warm again.

In the cool, dull conditions first thing, very little was seen of note as I walked around the Greenhouse Grounds and Migrant Alley. The 150 or so STARLINGS were still present on the paddocks along with the ROOKS, JACKDAWS, CARRION CROWS and WOODPIGEONS, only 5 LINNETS joined in the gathering. The were 18 SWALLOWS lined up on one of the fence lines, waiting for it to warm up I suppose, so they could feed. Overhead just one group of 4 HERRING GULLS were seen, plus a SPARROWHAWK and KESTREL up hunting, a few skeins of GREYLAG and CANADA GEESE went over, involving a hundred or so individuals, they will be evident now for most of the Autumn period as they to and fro at each end of the day.

I spent a little longer around the lakes and Scrubby Woods this morning, seeing 2 KINGFISHERS, one on the ornamental lake and one on the main lake. A GREY HERON was also present, along with the usual MALLARD, MOORHEN, MUTE SWANS and COOTS, of which there was only one adult and one fully fledged youngster, have the other two dispersed ?

In the Scrubby Woods I noted all that I could expect at this time of year, the best of those being the NUTHATCH, TREECREEPER, GOLDCREST, COAL TIT, a few very vocal BULLFINCH, STOCK DOVE, JAY, GREEN and GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER, plus the summer species of BLACKCAP, CHIFFCHAFF and a very smart looking LESSER WHITETHROAT, only my third sighting of this species for July. There were 3 BUZZARDS soaring above once the sun had come out, which was my queue to do some dragonfly hunting.

I have been after a decent image of a Brown Hawker since they emerged, and despite seeing three or four on the wing this morning, they rarely settled, apart from just one, which I watched settle about 25 meters from me, I didn't see the exact nettle it landed on, so sneaked up to the spot where I saw it go in, but once I got there I just couldn't see it!  One wrong move and it was off, just 2 feet from me, another chance blown! Sod it!!!

A bit later though, I saw both a male and an immature Southern Hawker, I watched them very carefully, and tracked them down to the exact spot, unfortunately it was a bit dull and shady, but I got a few images  :-)

Male Southern Hawker

Male Southern Hawker

Male Southern Hawker. I just couldn't get an angle to remove that annoying nettle leaf away from its legs!

Male Southern Hawker

Immature Southern Hawker

Immature Southern Hawker

Immature Southern Hawker

Monday 28 July 2014

It was cloudy and much cooler early this morning, rain threatened at times, but none fell during my 3 hour visit, later in the morning a few sunny spells broke through.

Most of the 3 hours were spent around Migrant Alley, the Greenhouse Grounds and the Ashes lane Field, hoping for an early migrant to show up, but I think i'm pushing my luck for a Whinchat or Wheatear just yet!

Around the sheep pasture and paddocks of Migrant Alley there were again a large flock of STARLINGS, at least 150 strong, the Corvid flock had roughly 40 ROOKS, 20 JACKDAWS and a dozen CARRION CROWS, amongst those, 30-40 WOODPIGEONS were dotted about. A small flock of a dozen or so LINNETS were also on the paddocks, with a family of four PIED WAGTAILS and a scattering of GOLDFINCH. Overhead, as I walked the circuit of Migrant Alley, three single LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLS, and small groups of HERRING GULLS flew over, along with some good sized BLACK HEADED GULL flocks, two were over 40 strong. I took up my seat for 40 minutes and watched the sky, seeing SPARROWHAWK, KESTREL, a brilliant HOBBY chasing the SWALLOWS and a single SWIFT. A dragonfly that I saw from some way out over the fields, slowly flew ever nearer to me, eventually settling on the hedgerow behind my seat that is the boundary the Greenhouse Grounds, it turned out to be my first Migrant Hawker of the year - a female  :-)

A walk around the Greenhouse Grounds was a sombre affair, after all the change there, but I did see a CHIFFCHAFF, two BLACKCAPS and two WHITETHROATS, as well as more Pied Wagtails, and the regular WRENS, DUNNOCKS, ROBINS, BLACKBIRDS, SONGTHRUSH, COLLARED DOVES, GREAT and BLUE TITS and four finch species  :-)

The ashes lane Fields were very quiet, not much habitat left here either, just the boundary hedgerow and drainage ditch, a SKYLARK flew up, and another Whitethroat was seen but that was about it.

Nothing much to report from the Scrubby Woods and Lakes, all much the same as yesterday, with the MANDARIN DUCKS being the highlight there.

This young GOLDFINCH was tucking into Buddleia seed in my garden

I chased a few butterflies around later in the morning, seeing Brown Argus, Small Copper and Common Blue and loads of Gatekeepers, but in the wind it was difficult to photograph them, I only saved these two images out of the fifty plus I took, and they are a bit iffy!!

Brown Argus

Sunday 27 July 2014

I undertook a full patch walk this morning, the 10th and last for July, I like to keep an average of 10 full patch walks per month  :-)  It was cooler this morning with the odd sunny spell, but it felt much more comfortable than the recent hot and muggy conditions.

The first two birds on my list of the 51 species recorded today were not the usual characters, a PHEASANT and a NUTHATCH were both heard to call as I set off down Ashes lane, these were quickly followed by the common regulars of BLUE TIT, GREAT TIT, GREENFINCH, CHAFFINCH, SWALLOW, GOLDFINCH, WOODPIGEON, MAGPIE, JACKDAW, BLACKBIRD, ROBIN, DUNNOCK, WREN, and COLLARED DOVE.

At least two WHITETHROATS and a CHIFFCHAFF were in the Greenhouse Grounds, finding what cover they could, which included  the spokes of the bicycles that were leaning up against a tree  :-) A KESTREL was also seen hunting around the glasshouses, plus four JAYS were an unusual sight for this part of my patch.

Out on Migrant Alley there were at least 150 STARLINGS with the Corvid flock, a few more Linnets and Goldfinch were present with them, as were a couple of PIED WAGTAILS. The Swallows were coming down to a leaky water trough to drink, allowing for a photo.

The Small Holding had a MISTLETHRUSH present, as well as a calling LITTLE OWL the best sightings there, while the Wet Woods had both GREEN and GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKERS calling, plus TREECREEPER and STOCK DOVE seen. Over on the lakes the regular MUTE SWAN, COOT, MALLARD and MOORHENS were joined by the less regular KINGFISHER, GREY HERON and two MANDARIN DUCKS, there were also around 50 GREYLAG GEESE on the main lake.

The Scrubby Woods added BLACKCAP, COAL TIT, GOLDCREST and BULLFINCH to my day list, but I didn't stay too long there, instead preferring to go over to my seat at Migrant Alley for a sky watch, which provided the likes of LESSER BLACK BACKED, HERRING, and BLACK HEADED GULLS, as well as SPARROWHAWK, BUZZARD, more Kestrel and Greylag Goose sightings, and a whole host of SWIFTS moving high over, however, the bird of the day for me was the GREY WAGTAIL (70) that flew low over, calling as it went, which takes the months bird list to 70 species, setting a new July species record  :-)

Whilst watching the garden feeders this afternoon, I noticed a immature Collared Dove with two adults, at last successful breeding has been confirmed for this species! That will be about it for breeding species this year now, with 43 species having been proven to have bred on my patch, and another 4 probably breeding, but not found evidence for, those being Little Owl, Tawny Owl, Stock Dove and Lesser Whitethroat. This years 47 species compares with the 49 recorded in 2011, 48 recorded in 2012 and 46 recorded last year.

The Great Spotted Woodpecker young are still regulars at my feeders, they are slowly losing there red crowns  :-)

Saturday 26 July 2014

Once again the early cloud burnt off by 09:30hrs, leaving the rest of the visit hot and humid.

I spent around 90 minutes, in the cool of the early morning, sitting on my seat over at Migrant Alley hoping that my sky watch would produce one more new species for the month and so set a new July record. It didn't materialise though, but the sky was a bit busier than the last few mornings, with GREY HERON, HERRING GULL, BLACK HEADED GULL and LESSER BLACK BACKED GULL all flying over, along with a few skeins of both CANADA and GREYLAG GEESE. Two SWIFTS were noted also, and a superb HOBBY put on a show for me, chasing the 30-40 SWALLOWS over the sheep pasture. KESTREL and SPARROWHAWK also drifted past.

I made a visit to the lakes and Scrubby Woods, again hoping for one more new species to turn up to set the July record, I could hope that a Marsh Tit or Willow Warbler might visit, or a duck species on the lake, but it didn't happen today! On the main lake there were at least 60 Greylag Geese, with 5 Canada Geese, the 4 MANDARIN DUCK were also seen, as was a Grey heron. The ornamental lake was home to just the MUTE SWAN and COOT family, with a couple of MALLARD and around a dozen MOORHEN.

In the Scrubby Woods, bird song tailed off as the heat set in, but COAL TIT, BLACKCAP and CHIFFCHAFF sang for a while, and the calls of NUTHATCH, BULLFINCH and TREECREEPER were heard. I also had a glimpse of a LESSER WHITETHROAT, a species that I thought was new for this month, I was happy to think I had set a new July record, until I later added todays sightings to my spreadsheet and saw I had already seen one earlier in the month  :-(

The only WHITETHROAT of the day was seen along the drainage ditch in the ashes lane field as I searched it for a possible migrant Sedge Warbler, not had one this year yet! With 5 visits left this month to find that new species, I feel quietly confident that I will indeed find it  :-)

The Ruddy Darters were at the now virtually dry run off pool at the Ashes Lane Field, I had hoped for a Grey Wagtail to be feeding there  :-)

Friday 25 July 2014

I had a three hour patch visit this morning, under some mostly cloudy skies, but not much was noted, I am still a bit numbed by the loss of a good chunk of habitat over at the Greenhouse Grounds.

I made a circuit of the paddocks and sheep pasture at Migrant Alley first thing, just in case an early migrant had dropped in, but it wasn't to be, only the LINNETS, STARLINGS, WOODPIGEONS and Corvid flock were seen. Over flying HERRING GULL, LESSER BLACK BACKED and SPARROWHAWK were also noted, along with the local SWALLOWS, no Swifts were seen today though, I suspect they will be few and far between now, as they are leaving the country slowly but surely.

I checked the remaining habitat at the Greenhouse Grounds, just two WHITETHROAT were seen for the summer species, but plenty of ROBINS, DUNNOCKS and BLACKBIRDS foraged around on the now bare earth, a SONGTHRUSH also joined them for a while, as did a PIED WAGTAIL.  Whilst looking over the devastation there, I noted that a few new Oaks and a Silver Birch had been planted, and a gully had been opened up allowing a pool of water to collect, just a couple of feet in diameter, but it's something!

I spent a short time over at the Scrubby Woods and lakes, the best sighting was of the MANDARINS, the same four I saw the other day, a GREY HERON was also seen though. I looked across to the paddocks that are adjacent to the lakes, not a place I often look over, as I cant get access, but it looked good for a passage ''Chat'' maybe i'll take the time to look across more often at Migration times. There were lots of GREYLAG and CANADA GEESE out there though, a mixed gaggle of of least 50 were seen.

In the Scrubby Woods it was generally quiet, but some BLACKCAP and CHIFFCHAFF song was heard, plus the calls of NUTHATCH, TREECREEPER, BULLFINCH and COAL TIT.

On the walk back home I saw two BUZZARDS low over the Wet Woods, being mobbed by a KESTREL. I also stopped in the Small Holding to photograph some Butterflies.

After failing to correctly Identify a Brown Argus a couple of days ago, I have made amends and am certain this is one!

Underwing shot to confirm

There were plenty of Common Blue Butterflies about as well, plus a few of these Small Coppers

Thursday 24 July 2014

It was good to be out in the cool of the morning in some beautiful sunny skies, but the ''good to be alive'' feeling came to an abrupt halt as I reached the Greenhouse Grounds.

I had noticed a digger turn up at the Greenhouse grounds yesterday afternoon and assumed that some drainage work was going to be done around the Greenhouses, but when I arrived this morning I found that about a third of the wonderful habitat there had been completely obliterated!  Bramble as high as my head, Elder trees laden with fruit, wildflowers and grasses - the lot just totally wiped out  :-( 

I spoke to the guys there, who were sympathetic, but they were only doing what they had been asked to do by the bosses, more space was needed to enlarge the migrant pickers campsite.  I was told that some of the grounds will be left to regenerate, but that could take a couple of years, and wont help any second broods of nesting birds that have just been destroyed  :-(  Another sad day for my patch.

I didn't really have the incentive to carry on the walk today, it may take a while to come to terms with the situation.

Later in the morning I made a trip out to sevenoaks wildfowl reserve to try and cheer myself, the place was alive with pushchairs and buggies being pushed by nattering mothers!  What has this place come to!!

I found a couple of quiet places though, and settle down to take a few Damselfly images, here's my efforts  :-)

This is the Male Banded Demoiselle, I tried experimenting with different backgrounds some work better than others!

I was pleased to come across a few Red Eyed Damselflies, a species i've not got any decent photo's of

There were hundreds and hundreds of these Common Damsels about too!

Wednesday 23 July 2014

As yesterday, the early sunshine disappeared during the middle part of the morning, returning again around 10:00hrs, when it became very warm and sunny.

There wasn't much to put in my notebook as I walked the paddocks and sheep pasture at Migrant Alley, then checking the Greenhouse Grounds. An overflying pair of BLACK HEADED GULLS and 4 single HERRING GULLS were the only flyovers, but SPARROWHAWK and KESTREL were up hunting, upsetting the local SWALLOWS, I eventually saw the Sparrowhawk fly off over to the Greenhouse Copse with a prey item. CHIFFCHAFF, BLACKCAP and a WHITETHROAT were in the Greenhouse Grounds, along with the many ROBINS, DUNNOCKS, WRENS, BLACKBIRDS and PIED WAGTAILS, small family parties of both GOLDFINCH and LINNET were also flitting about the place.

I moved on to the Wet Woods via the Small Holding, the latter had a LITTLE OWL calling, but the former was very still, just MOORHEN and GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKERS were heard. I checked the lakes, where it was good to see the KINGFISHER on the ornamental lake, along with the MUTE SWAN and COOT family, plus at least 12 Moorhens, the other two lakes were devoid of birds, not even a Mallard was seen, until I spooked 4 MANDARIN DUCK from the tree overhang on the main lake, three of them looked like immature birds, the other a female.

Things warmed up in the Scrubby Woods, not just weather wise, as I sat and looked over the Oaks and Elder Trees, many BLUE and GREAT TITS were seen, along with COAL TIT, NUTHATCH and TREECREEPER, Blackcaps were gorging on the Elder Berries and before long I spied my first GARDEN WARBLER (95, 69) of the year doing the same, just as I forecast in yesterdays post  :-)  The year list moves on to 95 now, but it's been a slow old year, I will have some hard work ahead to reach the 100 mark, let alone my target of 109, which is the average yearly species count for the past 5 years. The July list is now the joint best ever, with 69 species being seen, equal to last July and the July of 2007, but with 8 days left of the month, surely I can find just one more new species, perhaps Turtle Dove or Lesser Whitethroat will show up, or maybe a passage Sand Martin will go over  :-)

I again spent some time trying to photograph Dragons and Butterflies, and had some success  :-)

This female Banded Demoiselle was a nice surprise find, I dont often see them here

Blue Tailed Damsels are not that common here, so I was pleased to add this shot to my collection

This Ringlet was a first for the Scrubby Woods, and only the third record for my patch

This Brimstone was a welcome sight, I dont get many images of these and haven't seen one since May. It becomes the 21st Butterfly species recorded this month  :-)

The light was at a completely different angle in this shot

The nearby Buddleia bushes were laden with peacocks, Red Admirals and Comma's