Thursday 31 December 2015

Early cloud on the eastern horizon prevented a nice sunrise, but once it cleared the morning became bright and sunny

So in sunny (for once!) conditions I carried out the final full patch walk of the year, the 120th. It didn't provide any new species for the month or year, but the species total recorded was a little above average, with 44 being found. 

A view up onto the hills to the NW of my patch, across the mostly baron sheep pasture at Migrant Alley

Of the 44 species seen today, there were a few highlights for me, one was finding the half dozen YELLOWHAMMER along the sunny side of the Greenhouse Copse, where there were also a pair of BULLFINCHES present.

A stunning male Yellowhammer, a distant shot at 40 meters, but they dont allow close approach!

Another good patch bird to find here is the GREY WAGTAIL, one was seen at the Greenhouse Grounds again, but I failed to get an image of that! One of the overwintering CHIFFCHAFFS that have been seen recently was at the Greenhouse Grounds too.

LESSER REDPOLL, SISKIN, SKYLARK, and REDWING were recorded as flyovers only, as was a CORMORANT.

Up to a dozen MEADOW PIPITS were at the Ashes Lane Fields, while over at the lakes nothing at all of interest was seen on the water this morning. Song from MISTLETHRUSH and SONGTHRUSH boomed out for most of my 4 hour walk, with those, the likes of WREN, ROBIN and DUNNOCK also gave some song, making it feel very springlike  :-)

In the Scrubby Woods and Wet Woods, only the Long Tailed Tit and Jay were not found of the scarcer Woodland Species, but the others, NUTHATCH, TREECREEPER, COAL TIT, GOLDCREST, STOCK DOVE, another pair of Bullfinch, GREAT SPOTTED and GREEN WOODPECKERS all showed well, but not well enough for a photo!

The only raptors seen today were the female KESTREL hunting along Ashes Lane and a pair of BUZZARDS that were soaring low over the Wet Woods.

Hopefully, I will do equally as well, preferably better, for the first patch walk of next year as I did the last of this!

A few December stats...........

The 67 species found during the month was the joint 4th best effort out of the 14 years of recording, having the same tally as December 2009. The mean average tally for the previous 5 Decembers is 66, so that was surpassed....just! The only addition to the 14 year combined December tally was the Mediterranean Gull, that tally now stands at 92, which is the 8th best of the 12 months.

Ive already mentioned that the year list was disappointing for me this year, at 104 it was 5 below my target, and the worst tally since the 99 species seen in 2007, when visits were far fewer than now.

I always like to set the target of finding an average of 70 species per month over the course of the year, it's difficult to achieve, being done just twice (2010 and 2014). This year I reached an average 68, but of course, I'll try again next year, these challenges I set get me up and out, even when there's not much else out there to enthuse!

I'll end with a few garden images I took this afternoon and to wish everyone who reads these pages a healthy and enjoyable 2016   :-)

A Lesser Redpoll visited my drinking/bathing pond, not much light there, but not a bad image  :-)

Not much else visiting in any numbers today apart from the BLUE TITS

Well Worth taking a photo of, even though I have scores of them already!

Wednesday 30 December 2015

The penultimate patch visit of the year was undertaken in mostly cloudy conditions, with just a few bright spells and a strengthening SW wind.

An early visit to the lakes provided the most interesting find of the day, when 2 male and a single GOOSANDER were present, but not a single mallard was seen. A few SISKIN, 7 or 8 in number, were feeding in a silver birch at the lake edge from where I could hear both SONGTHRUSH and MISTLETHRUSH singing.

NUTHATCH, GOLDCREST, LONG TAILED TIT, COAL TIT, BULLFINCH, STOCK DOVE, JAY, GREAT SPOTTED and GREEN WOODPECKERS were seen in the Scrubby Woods and Wet Woods, no Treecreeper today though.

I didn't see or hear a single Meadow Pipit as I crossed the Ashes Land Fields, but it was getting very winy by then, so the noise of that didn't help, although I did pick out the call of a GREY WAGTAIL as it flew over towards the Wet Woods.

A scan across Migrant Alley only provided the same BLACK HEADED GULL flock, but at least I picked out a COMMON GULL among them today, along with a dozen HERRING GULLS. A BUZZARD flew over and flushed everything up, the first one ive seen here since the 19th, that was the only raptor about today though, as the female Kestrel wasn't seen around the Greenhouse Grounds, nor were the Lesser Redpolls, they all seem to be in my garden at the moment!

A short lived spell of sunshine around 11:00hrs gave me a chance to get some images from my garden, the sunlight just about touches the tops of the bushes, the rest of my garden is in shade at this time of year, so I was restricted to photographing what sat there!

As I said, the LESSER REDPOLLS are visiting my feeders, by the dozen  :-)

More Redpolls than CHAFFINCHES!

Half a dozen GOLDFINCH are always present

Only one pair of BLACKBIRDS are visiting 

Tuesday 29 December 2015

A morning of sunshine and showers made for some spectacular rainbows.

The only gold at the end of the rainbow were GOLDFINCHES at the Greenhouse Grounds

During my two hour walk today I visited the Greenhouse Grounds, Migrant Alley and the lakes, with short visits to the Wet Woods and Scrubby Woods. The Greenhouse Grounds had a flock of 15-20 LESSER REDPOLLS still knocking around the area, with them were a few CHAFFINCH and Goldfinch. There were 6 YELLOWHAMMERS present again in the rough grass area adjacent to the Greenhouse Grounds and the Greenhouse Copse.

Looking out over the sheep pasture and paddocks of Migrant Alley, it was once again a case of scanning through the 100+ BLACK HEADED GULLS, but just HERRING GULLS were found among them today. A flock of 50-70 STARLINGS was also on the pasture, along with a few ROOKS, JACKDAWS, CARRION CROWS and WOODPIGEONS, it was nice to see a couple of SKYLARKS about the place too.

Crossing the Ashes Lane Field, en route to the Lakes, at least 15 MEADOW PIPITS were seen, along with a SONGTHRUSH that song lustily from an Oak tree.

Songthrush. The contrast in the mornings weather can be seen clearly here, lovely blue sky!

Just a CORMORANT and a GREY HERON were of note on the lakes when I arrived, then a quick look through the Scrubby Woods and Wet Woods provided views of LONG TAILED TIT, COAL TIT, TREECREEPER, NUTHATCH, GOLDCRESTS, BULLFINCH, JAY, GREEN and GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER, plus song from MISTLETHRUSH and STOCK DOVE, this despite the work crew that were slashing, chainsawing and burning in a part of the Wet Woods - oops- I mean tidy up those nasty pieces of dead wood and decaying tree trunks  :-)

Monday 28 December 2015

There were some long sunny periods this morning and as I need to undertake only one more full patch walk for the year, which I have booked in for the 31st, rather than visit my patch, I made a visit to Sevenoaks Wildfowl Reserve.

I took my camera out and instead of counting species and bird abundance, I just enjoyed what was there, snapping away at the Geese mostly, and a frustratingly distant Kingfisher !

Anyway here's a load of images from today  :-)

Egyptian Goose, touching down

Egyptian Goose safely down  :-)

Canad Goose

Greylag Goose, preening away.


Tufted Duck

Lastly, the distant Kingfisher, I wasn't going to post it, but I reckon the image has some merit!

Sunday 27 December 2015

It was another one of those mornings that barely got light, with a gusty wind blowing in pulses of drizzly rain, but once again it was very mild.

There was very little of note to be found during my 2 and a half hour visit, the female KESTREL hunted around the Greenhouse Grounds, were the only finches of any number were around 8 SISKIN. The adjacent sheep pasture at Migrant Alley had attracted around 50 STARLINGS, plus the usual 100 or so BLACK HEADED GULLS, with a few HERRING GULLS and a COMMON GULL among them.

At least 7 MEADOW PIPITS flew up from the Ashes Lane Fields as I walked to the lakes, where the only notable bird seen on the water was a GREY HERON. The Scrubby Woods and Wet Woods were given a brief looking through, the best on offer from these habitats were a LONG TAILED TIT flock, a TREECREEPER, a GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER and a COAL TIT.

A shorter post today allows me the time to look back over the year, one which has seen much habitat destruction take place on my patch, which in turn diminishes the species of birds that can be found here.

Just 44 species of birds were confirmed successfully breeding this year, not a disaster, but the numbers of each of those species is declining year on year now. As recently as 2011 I recorded 49 species as confirmed successfully breeding on my patch, in 2012 it was 48, in 2013 it was 45 and in 2014 it was 48, so as you can see, this years breeding total of  44 is a 10% decline in species over 5 years.

Keeping a patch year list, monthly totals and monthly means, gives some incentive to get out and try to better previous records, but few records tumble now-a-days. This years target of 109 species ( the mean average for the previous 5 years) fell woefully short, with just 104 being recorded, the worst since 1999, when patch visits were far fewer. The mean average number of species seen per month this year was 68, that puts it only in 7th place out of the 14 years of study.

Had it not been for some very fortunate one off flyover species, with me being in the right place at the right time, the year total could have been a lot worse, species like Green Sandpiper and Egyptian goose fall into this category, while Marsh Tit, Little Grebe, Pochard, Gadwall and the famous Great Bustard were all one off sightings. Missing birds from the 2015 year list, that could of reasonably been expected, were the likes of Nightingale, Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler, Wigeon, Shoveler Duck and Golden Plover.

The Great Bustard record has to be the highlight of the year though, but I was just as pleased, if not as excited, to find the migrant Tree pipits that arrived one September morning, a real rare bird here. Equally as pleasing were the Brent Geese, 6 of which were feeding on the sheep pasture at Migrant Alley, the first to be seen actually on my patch rather than just flying over.

The Great Bustard - highlight of the year!

Tree Pipit, a patch rarity

Brent Geese, the first to actually visit my patch

Friday 25 December 2015

A quick, two hour, Christmas day patch visit today didn't provide any avian gifts for the month or year lists.

The walk started in semi bright conditions and ended in wet and windy conditions, making for a dark and miserable Christmas afternoon outside, just as well there was some cheer at home, with a huge turkey roast and a  trifle dessert to follow  :-)

Anyway, back to the birds, which were few today, the best being the flock of LESSER REDPOLL at the Greenhouse Grounds that had returned, around 20 were seen, also 3-5 YELLOWHAMMERS were again in the rough grassland adjacent to the Greenhouse Copse and a SKYLARK trilled as it flew over. The female Kestrel was nowhere to be seen today, nor were there any other raptors found.

The LITTLE OWL was back in the old shack at the Ashes Lane Fields, where one of the overwintering CHIFFCHAFFS was found along the drainage ditch.

I visited the lakes, ever hopeful of a duck species turning up, but just a CORMORANT was of any note there. Walking back through the Wet Woods a LONG TAILED TIT flock was found, with them were the GOLDCRESTS, TREECREEPERS and a pair of COAL TITS, as I watched the feeding flock, a STOCK DOVE was heard singing further in the wood.

Not much time for any more than that today, my next visit will be on the 27th, as i'm off visiting family tomorrow.

All that is left to do now is go and digest my roast dinner in front of the telly, watching some crappy old film i've seen ten times before!, Oh! and of course to wish all the readers of Pittswood birds a peaceful and happy Christmas  :-) No pics today, the 'blog folder' has run dry............Bah Humbug!

Thursday 24 December 2015

A visit to Sevenoaks Wildfowl Reserve this morning, with a good mate of mine, is a near annual festive treat, pity the weather wasn't in such a festive mood though, with strong winds and lashing rain endured throughout the time we were there, typically as we left it brightened up!

Our reward for sticking out the conditions was finding 45 bird species, most of these being seen from the shelter of the hides, where out on the water plenty of duck species were seen, these being MALLARD, TUFTED DUCK, WIGEON, GADWALL, TEAL, SHOVELER, SHELDUCK, and POCHARD, with those were the likes of LITTLE GREBE, GREAT CRESTED GREBE, COOT, MOORHEN, GREYLAG, CANADA and EGYPTIAN GEESE as well as a few CORMORANTS, plus a couple of grey HERONS.

At least 11 SNIPE were seen out on the islands, where there also 100's of LAPWINGS gathered, plus 100's more of BLACK HEADED GULLS with HERRING and COMMON GULLS among them, but just 1 LESSER BLACK BACK GULL was seen, that being a flyover.The odd MAGPIE, JACKDAW and CARRION CROW foraged among the hoards, where a couple of PIED WAGTAILS could just about be seen.

Some effort was put into looking in the surrounding woods, but the conditions were not conducive at all, however the likes of  LONG TAILED TIT, COAL TIT, GREAT TIT, BLUE TIT, GOLDFINCH, CHAFFINCH, GOLDCREST, TREECREEPER, SISKIN, JAY, STOCK DOVE, WOODPIGEON, BLACKBIRD, WREN, DUNNOCK, ROBIN and GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER were all found, there were some glaring omissions from our list, like Dunnock, Greenfinch, Songthrush, Redwing, Mistlethrush and Green woodpecker, no doubt had the weather been kinder and our stay  longer we would have found them eventually. It was notable that only FIELDFARE seen were half a dozen feeding on a distant field off the reserve.

In all, despite the weather, it was still a good mornings outing and a nice change of both scenery and birdlife from my routine walks at Pittswood  :-)

A few images to brighten the post, again these are from my garden feeders, taken yesterday.

The male Greenfinches are coulouring up nicely, ready for the coming breeding season

This looks to be a female, much dowdier, but then again it could be a first winter female, sometimes it's hard to tell with this species  :-)


Collared Dove

Blue Tit

Lesser Redpoll

Wednesday 23 December 2015

After not 'blogging' yesterday due to the wet and windy weather preventing any sort of proper patch visit, the weather this morning couldn't have been more different, with blue skies and sunshine, lasting all day once the early cloud dispersed from the eastern horizon.

Dawn cloud dispersed by 08:30hrs, leaving the day warm and sunny, warmer even than some June days I've been out in! Even some of the blossoms on the Blackthorn trees are ready to burst fourth and a yellow poppy is almost in flower in my garden!

The weather may have been kinder today but the birding was a bit slow, a visit to the Lakes early on only provided a fishing CORMORANT of note. The Wet Woods and Scrubby Woods had plenty of GOLDCRESTS about, as well as two separate flocks of LONG TAILED TITS, a couple of NUTHATCHES a COAL TIT and a pair of BULLFINCHES. STOCK DOVE, MISTLETHRUSH, SONGTHRUSH, WREN, ROBIN and DUNNOCK were all in song and a GREAT TIT called it's ''Teacher'' ''Teacher'' spring time call  :-)

Crossing the Ashes Lane Fields, I counted 6 MEADOW PIPIT in the pasture, then a superb PEREGRINE FALCON zoomed overhead, I just got a snp shot of it as it passed  :-)

Peregrine in the blue sky, I dont know what's rarer!

Arriving at the Greenhouse Grounds I immediately heard a CHIFFCHAFF singing, then located two together. The female KESTREL sat up on one of the Greenhouses, but only 2 SISKIN, 2 LESSER REDPOLL and 4 GOLDFINCH fed in the Alder Trees, with the bramble understory containing a few BLACKBIRDS and SONGTHRUSH plus a GREENWOODPECKER came and went. 

YELLOWHAMMERS were again seen in the rough area between the Greenhouse Grounds and the Greenhouse Copse, hard top tell how many as they are so flighty, but no more than 6 i'd say.

One of the two Chiffchaffs seen today

I feel a bit robbed now i've heard them singing, it is always one of the pleasures of a March day to hear the first Chiffchaff sing since the Autumn before

I went a bit mad with the photo's!

Monday 21 December 2015

A few brief sunny spells this morning were paid for by 11:00hrs, when it turned very wet and windy again.

Just a couple of hours were spent out on my patch, where the most noteworthy record was the sighting of no less than three CHIFFCHAFFS at the Greenhouse Grounds, incredible, maybe they have started to return to breed already Lol! A couple of LESSER REDPOLL and 4 YELLOWHAMMERS were also at the Greenhouse grounds, but few finches remain now that the supplementary feeding has stopped.

The KESTREL flew out over the sheep pasture at Migrant Alley, where there were a gathering of 3 Gull species, BLACK HEADED, HERRING and LESSER BLACK BACKED, but no Med Gull today.

Half a dozen MEADOW PIPITS flew up from the Ashes Lane Filed as I walked to the lakes, but there was nothing at all to see on the water today, except the MALLARDS and MOORHENS.

LONG TAILED TIT, COAL TIT, NUTHATCH, BULLFINCH, GOLDCREST and MISTLETHRUSH were the best of the woodland species seen today.

Up to 12 Lesser Redpoll are still using my garden feeders, the most common bird on them now  :-)  Here's the rest of yesterdays images I took at my garden feeding station............

Lesser Redpoll



Sunday 20 December 2015

Today was mostly overcast with a light SW breeze and temperatures were well above normal again, but rain moved in around 11:30hrs, just as I ended my walk.

I had a four and a half hour full patch walk this morning, which turned up 46 bird species, that's a little better than average for a December day.

There were some bits of interest today along with the usual regular stuff, a glimpse of the rear end of a WOODCOCK (66) that was disturbed in the Scrubby Woods took the months tally to 66, which is the average number of species seen for the previous five Decembers. I also added MEDITERRANEAN GULL (67) to the December list, the first for any December in fact, when one was seen with the BLACK HEADED GULL flock at Migrant Alley, i've been anticipating one for weeks  :-) There were also 5 LAPWING there today, plus the only raptor of the day flew over, that being a BUZZARD.

The overwintering CHIFFCHAFF was seen in the same bush as yesterday at the Greenhouse Grounds, where both SISKIN and LESSER REDPOLL were found feeding in the Alders in small numbers, maybe a dozen of each. A skein of 16 GREYLAG GEESE flew over as I made my way to the lakes.

The only species of note on the lakes today was a KINGFISHER, but the Scrubby Woods and Wet Woods were almost springlike, with drumming GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER being heard, as well as song from BLACKBIRD, SONGTHRUSH, MISTLETHRUSH, ROBIN, WREN, DUNNOCK, GOLDCREST and STOCK DOVE, I even watched a STARLING displaying from a chimney   :-) I reckon we are in for a really early spring this year!

Photo's today are from my garden feeding station, taken yesterday afternoon.

I counted 15 of these Lesser Redpolls, they just cant get enough of the sunflower hearts!

The CHAFFINCHES find them irresistible too  :-)

I'll post the rest of the images tomorrow  :-)