Saturday 28 February 2015

The last patch visit of the month was a bit of a let down, mainly due to the weather conditions when a moderate, cool wind blew constant drizzle across the area.

There was one highlight of the visit though, out on the sheep pasture at Migrant Alley 105 gulls were feeding, 103 of those were BLACK HEADED GULLS, 1 was a COMMON GULL and the other was was a MEDITERRANEAN GULL, my second this year, but it's a scarce patch bird!

Other noteworthy finds for my patch this morning were - a male KESTREL hunting at the Small Holding, 13 CANADA GEESE and a GREYLAG GOOSE visiting the main lake. A pair of SKYLARK were over the Ashes Lane Fields plus around 140 FIELDFARE and 9 REDWING were feeding on sheep pasture next to the Greenhouse Grounds.

Flyovers from HERRING GULL, PIED WAGTAIL and YELLOWHAMMER were the best I could come up with today.

The February list ended on a respectable 65 species, the average for the previous 5 Februaries, this is the joint 4th best February tally of the 14 years, the same tally as 2011. No new species were added to the combined 14 year February list, which remains on 87.

The year list is bumbing along ok with 68 species so far, two ahead of last year, but way behind 2013 which had 75 species by this time.

Here'a some comparable figures for the end of February patch totals for this and the previous 6 years :-

2009 - 73
2010 - 69
2011 - 73
2012 - 69
2013 - 75
2014 - 66
2015 - 68

This gives an average for the 7 years of a little above 70 Species.

Looking ahead, March is upon us, and the first trickle of summer Migrants can be expected, Sand Martin, Swallow, Wheatear, Black Redstart, Chiffchaff, Blackcap and Willow Warbler have all turned up here in March, i'll be fortunate to get 3 of those species in the March of the same year though!

A few images left in the blog folder to show, the first being a Coot from Bough Beech that I forgot to put up yesterday!




Friday 27 February 2015

For a bit of a change today, I had a visit to Sevenoaks wildfowl reserve and Bough beech Reservoir, before coming home and squeezing in a quick 90 minute patch visit  :-)

It was a cold start at sevenoaks, even with the sun shining, the fact that most of the reserve seems to be in shade first thing doesn't help! Nothing too spectacular was found, although the WHITE IBIS was still present on the largest of the lakes. There were also plenty of LAPWING, CORMORANT, CANADA GEESE, and GREYLAG GEESE there, as well as TEAL, SHOVELER, TUFTED DUCK, GADWALL, GREY HERON and a few SNIPE.

At least two KINGFISHERS were seen, plus along the wooded walks the likes of GOLDCREST, TREECREEPER, LONG TAILED TIT, GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER, JAY and SPARROWHAWK were all easily found, along with the more common species. As I said, nothing spectacular, but it's always nice to see a few water birds that are unlikely or rarely going to visit my patch  :-)

 This GREAT CRESTED GREBE was the only bird to get near enough for a photo, but it was still a bit far off!

It was much the same at Bough Beech, nothing too spectacular being seen, but watching a DUNLIN on the shore of the reservoir next to a couple of Snipe was a little bit unusual and a nice treat for an inland birder like me  :-)

There were at least 6 GOOSANDER out on the main reservoir, along with small numbers of WIGEON. A minimum of 6 BUZZARDS were up soaring over the area,plus probably the largest flock of Grey Herons I've seen dropped in - 26 in all, quite something to see!

Around the visitors center, only the regular Tits and finches were seen at the feeders there, along with a few HOUSE SPARROWS, a pair of Long Tailed Tits, a couple of PHEASANTS and a NUTHATCH, no sign of any Marsh Tits or Brambling - or Siskin for that matter!  A REED BUNTING sang from the nearby reeds and a KESTREL was hunting in the area.

Dunlin at Bough Beech ( Snipe in foreground)

Snipe ( Dunlin in background)

Back at Pittswood, a 90 minute stroll around my muddy patch was worth the effort, with the KESTREL pair seen up hunting over the Scrubby Woods, 3 BUZZARDS low over the Ashes Lane Fields and a SPARROWHAWK hunting in the Wet Woods. Half a dozen GREYLAG and CANADA GEESE were visiting on the main Lake, along with the white farmyard goose. Earlier, while passing through the Small Holding there were at least 20 FIELDFARE feeding on a grass field there.

A walk over to the Greenhouse Grounds didn't produce too much, although a scan over at the Greenhouse Copse showed the LITTLE OWL at roost.

Thursday 26 February 2015

There was already drizzle blowing in the air early this morning, before heavy rain moved in around 11:00hrs, which lasted throughout the afternoon.

I did at least get a couple of hours out on patch, but it was a rather disappointing, with little of note being seen. On the lakes just 2 CANADA GEESE were visiting the resident COOT and MUTE SWAN pairs and around the Wet Woods and Scrubby Woods only GOLDCREST and BULLFINCH were found of the scarcer woodland species.

A pair of BUZZARDS interacted over the Ashes Lane Fields and at the Greenhouse Grounds the KESTREL pair sat together on the poly tunnel framework, the drainage ditch there was been visited by a pair of MALLARD, such are the high water levels now. One of the LITTLE OWLS were seen in the usual roost tree at the Greenhouse Copse, where a pair of LONG TAILED TITS and another Goldcrest were found.

Out on the sheep pasture at Migrant Alley, there were 66 BLACK HEADED GULLS with a lone COMMON GULL, but the massed FIELDFARE and REDWING flock seen yesterday had dwindled to just 16 and 4 birds respectively.

A short sky watch under an ever darkening sky only produced 2 HERRING GULLS, a GREY HERON, a MEADOW PIPIT, 2 YELLOWHAMMERS, a SPARROWHAWK, plus the local corvids and WOODPIGEONS.

Not a day for the camera, but here's a few images taken earlier in the week..............

House Sparrow. This was seen along High House Lane on Sunday

Long Tailed tit from my garden

GREENFINCH, another garden visitor

Wednesday 25 February 2015

A persistent light rain fell up until 09:00hrs, making it feel miserable first thing this morning, however, once the rain cleared it felt very mild, especially in the fleeting sunshine that was had  :-)

I was out on my patch for a little over four hours, I didn't find too much of interest at the lakes and woods and in the dull, wet conditions, bird song was at a premium, ROBIN and WREN were the only songsters heard. Only one pair of CANADA GEESE remained at the lakes, along with the MUTE SWAN and COOT pairs, not a single MALLARD was seen on the water, but two pairs were on the pools of water in the Wet Woods, along with at least a dozen MOORHEN.

By the time I reached the farmland area of my patch the rain had ceased and some very short bursts of sunshine were much appreciated. Finding a flock of 10 YELLOWHAMMERS along High House Lane was a real surprise, i've not seen this many hear for years, there was a pair of LONG TAILED TITS working their way along the lane too. The adjacent fields were again attracting many winter thrushes, with at least 400 seen, they were split 60/40 in favour of FIELDFARE over REDWING.

The LITTLE OWLS were both sitting in their usual roost tree today, not seen them there since the 22nd. The female KESTREL was hunting around the Greenhouses Grounds, and scanning out onto the nearby sheep pasture and paddocks of Migrant Alley, I saw 77 BLACK HEADED GULLS, 3 COMMON GULLS, and 88 WOODPIGEON, but only 27 ROOKS and 19 JACKDAWS had turned up today.

As it was warmer and windless, I decided to have a skywatch from my seat, this proved interesting, as I had my first REED BUNTING (68,65) of the year fly over, plus a CORMORANT, a MEADOW PIPIT, a SPARROWHAWK, a BUZZARD and two MORE Yellowhammers.

It's good to get the year list moving again, as well as the months list, this February now reaching joint 4th place in the rankings and at 65 has now reached the mean average species count for the previous 5 Februaries  :-)

Black Headed Gull on the sheep pasture at Migrant Alley

Tuesday 24 February 2015

The sun shone for most of my five hour full patch walk this morning, in which I recorded a little below par, 42 species, this didn't include Jay, Mistlethrush, Common Buzzard and Treecreeper, all of which could have been reasonably expected on my list today, nor for the first time this year did it include any Meadow Pipits.

Once again, nothing new was added to the month or year list, but there were plenty of birds to see - and attempt to photograph. The easier subjects were the 16 CANADA GEESE and lone GREYLAG GOOSE that were at the lakes today, with those there were a few MALLARD and MOORHEN, plus the COOT pair and MUTE SWAN pair. I enjoyed myself with the new camera in the decent light!

Mute Swan

Canada Goose

Greylag Goose


After my photographic spree, I checked the Scrubby Woods, finding GOLDCREST and COAL TIT in fine song, plus calling STOCK DOVE, BULLFINCH and LONG TAILED TITS of note. 

In the Wet Woods GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKERS were drumming and GREEN WOODPECKERS were calling, more Long Tailed Tits, Goldcrest and a couple of NUTHATCHES were also found, as well as the GREY WAGTAIL that was back feeding around the pools of water, I spent ages getting up close to it on several occasions, but failed to get a photo of it!

Goldcrest, almost in the light!

Out on the fields along High House Lane the 100+ FIELDFARES were feeding again, with those were 20-30 REDWING, with probably the same number of STARLING too.

The paddocks and sheep pasture at Migrant Alley had a small number of gulls today, 23 BLACK HEADED, 2 COMMON and 3 HERRING were all feeding and interacting with the large number of Corvids out there, which consisted of 150+ ROOKS, 150+ JACKDAWS  and a few CARRION CROWS scattered among them.

The only raptor seen on my visit was the female KESTREL at the Greenhouse Grounds, which was very quiet today.

Monday 23 February 2015

Cloud came and went this morning, making it feel warm when the sun was out, if sheltered from the strengthening wind !

I had a 3 hour patch visit this morning, hoping as ever to find something new, but it was down to the regulars to entertain again today.  A pair of COMMON BUZZARDS were seen again around the Pub Field and Ashes Lane Fields, the Wet Woods had a small mixed feeding flock, comprising of 2 x TREECREEPER, 2 x LONG TAILED TITS and 2 x GOLDCRESTS, also nearby were a small band of around 15 CHAFFINCHES again.

 Long Tailed Tit

Long Tailed Tit, on the lookout!

On the lakes there were just 2 CANADA GEESE visiting today, the regular COOT pair, SWAN pair and a few MALLARDS / MOORHENS were also present. A COAL TIT sang from the Scrubby Woods, where at least 4 BULLFINCH were also seen.

Out the fields adjacent to High House Lane, there was a mixed feeding flock of at least 400 birds, around 250 were FIELDFARE, with over 100 STARLINGS with them and a few REDWING. I decided to try and creep up on some of the winter thrushes to obtain a photo or two, but a SPARROWHAWK had the same idea and beat me to it!!  I was a bit annoyed to see all the birds scatter just as I was getting close  ;-(  I did get a fleeting shot of a Fieldfare as it went over though  :-)

Fleeing Fieldfare

It got away, as did all its comrades!

I checked the Greenhouse Copse for the Little Owl but it wasn't there today, the nearby Greenhouse Grounds had a pair of MISTLETHRUSHES, the GREY WAGTAIL and the KESTREL pair of note, but Migrant Alley was devoid of birds today, just a few WOODPIGEONS on the sheep pasture, I wonder what scared off the Black Headed Gull flock that is usually here ?

Sunday 22 February 2015

There was a sharp frost this morning, with clear skies and no wind, but it was only a short respite between the wet and windy weather, as more rain spread in for the afternoon.

I used the decent weather to carry out a 5 hour full patch walk, in which I recorded a good tally of 47 species. The early sunshine made for a much more pleasant visit and as I left home there were plenty of birds active, with COLLARED DOVE, CHAFFINCH, GREENFINCH, GOLDFINCH, DUNNOCK, CARRION CROW, JACKDAW, BLUE TIT, BLACKBIRD, ROBIN, HOUSE SPARROW, MAGPIE, STARLING and WOODPIGEON all being seen or heard in the 200m walk along Ashes Lane.

Crossing the Ashes Lane Field there were a pair of SKYLARKS singing above the unimproved grassland there, as there was last spring, not a place for them to breed though, as the management here is not wildlife friendly, also there was a dozen FIELDFARE and a pair of MISTLEHRUSH on the sheep pasture part of the fields, plus I saw a pair of BUZZARDS fly from a lone Oak, then into the Wet Woods, where I found my first of 6 GOLDCREST for the day.

On the lakes today it was all change from yesterday, with 12 CANADA GEESE visiting, plus a trio of GOOSANDER, one being a superb male. I got some very distant shots of them and cropped them down for the blog   :-)



Canada Geese 

The adjacent Scrubby Woods was given a good searching through, where I found more Goldcrest, a singing COAL TIT, 4 BULLFINCH, a calling NUTHATCH, GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKERS drumming and GREEN WOODPECKERS ''yaffling'' , but Treecreeper, Long Tailed Tit and Jay all went unseen, as they did all morning in fact.

The arable and bean fields off High House Lane had more Fieldfare on them, around 100 birds in all, with just a few REDWING scattered among them. Lone YELLOWHAMMER, MEADOW PIPIT and PIED WAGTAIL flew over as I made my way to the Greenhouse Copse, where the expected LITTLE OWL sat waiting, I thought about getting a few shots of it using my new camera, but I couldn't get a clear view of it, so left it in peace  :-)

The Greenhouse Grounds was home, as usual to the KESTREL pair, but I also found the first SONGTHRUSHES of the morning, as well as a PHEASANT.

Migrant Alley was brimming with BLACK HEADED GULLS, there were at least 200 on the paddocks and sheep pasture, a long scan through them could only produce two COMMON GULL with them though. As I was scanning through them I heard a TAWNY OWL call, it sounded like it came from the Wet Woods some 300 meters away, such was the stillness of the air this morning  :-)

A bit of a skywatch was had, but I only added HERRING GULL and CORMORANT to the list, two of which went over together, plus this STOCK DOVE that I snapped as it whizzed past. I took a few more images this morning, experimenting with the 7D MKii, i'll post them up tomorrow.
 Stock Dove / Feral Pigeon ?

Saturday 21 February 2015

Rain, sleet and wet snow fell early this morning, not clearing until gone 09:00hrs, so a late patch walk was had, lasting only two hours. Large parts of my patch walk are now saturated and can hold no more water, the mud is getting worse day by day on the footpaths.

I was in hope that the watery conditions on my patch would bring me my first Snipe of the year, but no luck with that, nor was there any finding a visiting new duck species on the lakes, only the MUTE SWAN pair and COOT pair were of note there today.

The Scrubby Woods had two pairs of BULLFINCH present, as well as a NUTHATCH and at least 4 GOLDCRESTS, while the Wet Woods had TREECREEPER, a singing COAL TIT, two more Goldcrests and at least 15 CHAFFINCHES feeding in the leaf litter.

A BUZZARD flew low over the Ashes Lane Field and the KESTREL pair were seen mating at the Greenhouse Grounds, where the GREY WAGTAIL had returned to feed on the drainage ditch there. The LITTLE OWL sat in its favoured roost tree at the Greenhouse Copse and a scan over Migrant Alley yielded 38 BLACK HEADED GULLS and 2 COMMON GULLS on one of the paddocks. Flyovers from single YELLOWHAMMER, 2 FIELDFARE and 4 REDWING were about it for this morning.

The poor light prevented me trying out the new camera I bought yesterday, and the only photo's left in the blog folder are these garden bird shots.

Great Spotted Woodpecker



Friday 20 February 2015

Rain fell throughout the early morning, leaving me kicking my heels indoors, I suppose I could of got out, but i'm running short of inspiration, there is only so much mud and wet you can take!

Anyway, I decided on a whim, that I would get all my unused camera gear ( all that stuff that I said would be good for a back up, that I'm sure many photographers have!) and take it down to the local camera shop to see what I could get for it, I had an old 50D camera, a 70-300mm Canon lens and a 150-500mm Sigma lens, after a bit of bartering I ended up accepting 750 quid for the lot, ( I probably could of got more selling privately, but that's more hassle!)

So what did I do with 750 quid ? Well I used it to part pay for a new camera, a 7D MK11, I was going to get the canon 100-400mm MK11 lens, but the missus raised an eyebrow at the need to stump up £1300, even with the £750 my old stuff had raised  :-)  I'll have to save up some more for that purchase! My now ''old'' 7D will serve as my back up camera.

Now all I need is some decent weather to try the 7DMk11 out!

In the meantime, here's a few garden images taken last week with the 7DMK1, they are good enough, but there are a few nice improvements on the 7DMK11 that will make things easier for me, such as an increase in shooting speed to 10 frames a second, plus the ability to attach a 1.4 extender to my 400mm prime lens and retain auto focus, the focusing system itself is slightly superior also. So far the only negative thing about the camera is the instruction manual - nowhere near as informative as the 7D edition!!

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Long Tailed Tit

Just like the Nuthatch, I cant resist photographing these little wonders  ;-)

PS: Apologies to those who had to read through all the camera jargon, birds will be back on the agenda tomorrow!

Thursday 19 February 2015

A shorter patch visit this morning, under mostly cloudy skies, was worth the effort as I had some different species turn up from the last couple of visits, one of those a new tick for the month / year list  :-)

Over at the lakes the COOT pair look to be settling in well, as do the MUTE SWAN pair, just 4 MALLARDS were also seen, but 8 CANADA GEESE and a lone GREYLAG GOOSE were also present today.

In the Wet Woods and Scrubby Woods TREECREEPER, COAL TIT and GOLDCREST song was heard, with a total of 9 of the latter being seen overall today. The LONG TAILED TITS look to have split into pairs already, three separate pairs were seen.

Coal Tit, from my garden on Tuesday

The highlight for the visit today was seen flying over Migrant Alley - a LITTLE EGRET (67,64) this is a bonus species for my patch and can be missed from the year list quite easily, as they are mostly only ever seen as flyovers, had I arrived at Migrant Alley 30secs later I would have missed this one, then who knows how long the next one might take to cross my path!

Out on the sheep pasture and paddocks there were 100+ BLACK HEADED GULLS and 2 COMMON GULLS along with the large mixed Corvid flock, plus around 100 WOODPIGEONS There were  FIELDFARES and REWDINGS scattered over most of the paddocks, an estimate of 75-100 birds in all.

I braved the chilly wind and ever darkening skies for a sky watch from my seat at Migrant Alley, spurred on by the Egret sighting I sat for an hour, recording flyovers from single SKYLARK, YELLOWHAMMER, LESSER BLACK BACKED GULL, CORMORANT and PIED WAGTAIL, also a pair of BUZZARDS went over low, and the female KESTREL swiftly flew past heading for the Ashes Lane Fields, no doubt after a MEADOW PIPIT lunch, of which I saw 10-15 there earlier in the walk. 

The Little Egret takes the months list to 64, the  same tally as the whole of last February and the 5th best February so far, while the year list moves on to 67, this time last year I had reached 66 for the year and 63 for the month, so I'm a bit ahead :-)

Wednesday 18 February 2015

As yesterday morning, this morning dawned clear, sunny and frosty, allowing for a good 3 and a half hour patch visit, cloud started to build in by midday, when it became overcast, before once again turning sunny later in the afternoon.

Despite not covering all the habitats on my patch, I found a reasonable amount of activity from the bird life here, the mornings tally reached 42 species, but Jay, Pheasant, Mistlethrush, Grey wagtail and Skylark were off the list after putting in recent appearances.

Nothing was added to the months list, which at 63 lies in joint 6th place in the rankings, hopefully I can add a couple more species before the months end to equal the average tally achieved for the previous 5 Februaries.

Highlights seen today were modest, the 3 local raptor species are always an impressive sight, with the KESTREL pair seen well at the Greenhouse Grounds, where later in my walk I saw 3 BUZZARDS up together soaring low, another Buzzard was seen first thing in the Wet Woods. A male SPARROWHAWK was hunting at the Small Holding, no doubt on the way to my nearby garden feeders!

At least 200 BLACK HEADED GULLS flew from the sheep pasture at Migrant Alley, the large flock was seen as I crossed the Ashes Lane Field, so I don't know what put them all to flight, the Ashes Lane Fields had at least 8 MEADOW PIPITS but nothing else of note.

When I arrived at Migrant Alley it was completely birdless, but as I sat and sky watched, which only produced flyovers from YELLOWHAMMER, PIED WAGTAIL, and HERRING GULL, I watched the Black headed Gulls return in small numbers, just 20-30 whilst I was there, but more impressive were the numbers of Corvids that dropped in, I counted 218, most of those being ROOKS, with JACKDAWS and a few CARRION CROWS mixed in.

The LITTLE OWL sat at its roost site in the nearby Greenhouse Copse, and was heard to give a few calls, plus BULLFINCH and LONG TAILED TIT were at the Greenhouse Grounds.

Nothing of real note on the Lakes today, but I am always pleased to have the MUTE SWAN and COOT pair present nowadys  :-)

GREAT TIT these were giving thier ''Teacher Teacher'' calls all morning

The NUTHATCH gave its spring ''wee wee wee '' calls

While the ROBINS sang from just about everywhere

Tuesday 17 February 2015

After some moderate overnight rain, this morning broke clear, sunny and frosty, a joy to be out!

I was out for over 6 hours today, carrying out a full patch walk, which yielded me very good tally of 46 species, unfortunately none were new for the month or year list though.

I was pleased to see the COOT at the ornamental lake has found itself a mate, hopefully breeding will take place again this year, nothing else much of note was on the water, though 7 CANADA GEESE were visiting.

The Wet Woods and Scrubby Woods were filled with song and spring calls today, with CHAFFINCH, GREENFINCH, GREAT TIT, NUTHATCH, TREECREEPER, GOLDCREST, SONGTHRUSH, BLACKBIRD, MISTLETHRUSH, STOCK DOVE, GREEN WOODPECKER, GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER, WREN, ROBIN and DUNNOCK all calling or singing, only Coal Tit was not recorded, but the two - three pairs on my patch were probably about somewhere.

I also saw the GREY WAGTAIL in the Wet Woods and spent 40 minutes trying to photograph it in the difficult dappled light, not the best results but ok to look at  :-)

 Grey Wagtail in the Wet Woods

When the Grey Wag crossed into the dappled sunlight, it glowed like a yellow light, over exposing all my shots!

 Even with the exposure compensation at -1 the shots came out over exposed  :-(

Moving onto the fields and farmland there were still plenty of FIELDFARE moving around, with smaller numbers of REDWING. There were 15 MEADOW PIPITS that had returned to the Ashes Lane Field, at one pint being chased by the male SPARROWHAWK. The KESTREL pair were at their  usual place - the Greenhouse Grounds, where I also saw a pair of BULLFINCHES and four LONG TAILED TITS. The LITTLE OWL was in the Greenhouse Copse, but out on the sheep pasture and paddocks of Migrant Alley only 2 COMMON GULLS were of much interest, the only BLACK HEADED GULLS and HERRING GULLS today involved a few flyovers, other flyovers seen included SKYLARK, YELLOWHAMMER, PIED WAGTAIL and at least 3 different BUZZARDS. 

I spent most of this afternoon trying to get some garden bird images to brighten future blog posts, which I succeeded in doing, with some shots of the COAL TIT which was missing on this mornings walk, as well as some of the other regulars, which should keep the blog posts illustrated  ;-)