Sunday 31 May 2015


Another quick update from Wales.
With the weather turning wet and windy today, we took drive around the reservoirs at Elan this morning, picking up some interesting species as we slowly made our way around the mountain roads, species such as WHINCHAT, WHEATEAR, SNIPE, SANDMARTIN, REDSTART, PIED and SPOTTED FLYCATCHERS were all observed.

This afternoon, the skies cleared, so a return to the Gilfach Nature Reserve was decided upon, one of our favoured reserves  :-) The target species today was DIPPER, which we found a pair of feeding a nest full of young, which enabled some photo's to be taken. I'll post one for now, as the computer i'm working on is rubbish for blogging and editing photo's!

The wales bird species list creeps along to 69, the target being 100  :-)


Saturday 30 May 2015

Postcard from Wales

Having arrived safely in Wales, some 4 hours before we could get into our cottage, there was plenty of time to do some birding. We first headed to Brechfa Pool Nature Reserve, finding the likes of COOT, MALLARD, and BLACK HEADED GULL on the water, while overhead, SKYLARKS and MEADOW PIPITS displayed, plus, a RED KITE and a couple of BUZZARDS circled over. A REDSTART was seen, the first of many I suspect, and single of both LAPWING and CURLEW were feeding on the bankside.

The next place visited was a small nature reserve called Erwood, where many WILLOW WARBLERS were heard singing,as well as COAL TIT, GOLDCREST, GARDEN WARBLER and CHIFFCHAFF. More interesting birds seen, included a couple of GOOSANDER on the nearby river, plus a GREY WAGTAIL, 2 GREY HERONS, and 3 SISKIN that flew over calling, highlight for me here though was the pair of PIED FLYCATCHERS, the male of which gave some song.

The final reserve visited was Gilfach, which is a brilliant place for all wildlife, it was here were found our first SMALL PEARL BORDERED FRITILLARIES, one of which posed for a photo :-) Birds seen here included a calling CUCKOO, a family of NUTHATCHES, single of GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER, JAY, plus a hunting KESTREL, which is a bit of a rarity here. PHEASANT and RAVEN concluded our bird list for the first day, which stands at 51.

Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary

Friday 29 May 2015

The day started dry and quite bright, before rain and wind moved in before midday.

I only had an hour out this morning, as I had a lot to do preparing for my trip to Wales tomorrow. I spent that hour out around the Greenhouse Grounds and Migrant Alley, where all was rather quiet for the final patch visit of May.

The were 13 GREYLAG GEESE and 5 CANADA GEESE on the sheep pasture, a place they always spend a few weeks at this time of year, the LINNET / GOLDFINCH flock was still moving around the paddocks, then moved even faster when a SPARROWHAWK drifted slowly over  :-)

There was a female KESTREL out on one of the fence posts, the pair at the Greenhouses were up in the sky, so this was an interloper, there seems to be no activity around the next box at the moment, maybe their breeding attempt failed this year ?  I watched a couple of HERRING GULLS go over and also watched a pair of PIED WAGTAILS taking food to their nestlings that must be in one of the Greenhouses, the LITTLE OWL sat on the guttering, also watching the comings and goings. The only other bird of note was a COMMON BUZZARD that flew low over towards the Wet Woods.

This month has proved very disappointing, with a total of just 66 bird species being recorded, a total that was also recorded in 2007, when visits were not as frequent as they are now. Post 2007 May totals have all exceeded 70 species, with an a mean average of 72, highlighting just how poor this May has been, even accounting for the missed days at the end of the month, and two days out off patch during the month  :-(

The next Blog post will probably be mid June, but I may post something up from Wales should time allow  :-)

This is whats left in the 'Blog Photo Folder'

 Juv. STARLING, still at least a Dozen scoffing the suet in my garden

Beautiful Demoiselle from Wednesday's visit

Broad Bodied Chaser from Wednesday

Thursday 28 May 2015

For a bit of a change I had a day away from my patch, as I had the chance to visit both Stodmarsh Nature Reserve and Westbere.

I went with a new found friend, John, from oop north, whom I had shown round my patch yesterday, thanks for day out John! We set off to Stodamarsh first off, arriving at 06:30hrs, when it was quite cool and cloudy at first, but it brightened up a bit by 09:00hrs. The highlight here was seeing an OSPREY fly over, as well as watching 2 -3 MARSH HARRIERS about the reed beds, plus a KESTREL was also seen hunting, to make the raptor threesome.

The main course for the day though was to go and find some Dragons and Damsels at Westbere, where we arrived at 11:00hrs in some warmer but mostly cloudy weather, with just a few brief sunny spells. Our target species was the Scarce Chaser, and although one immature was seen by John, I failed to see it  :-(

We did see plenty of other Odonata though, in fact it was Odonata heaven!  here's some of the images that I got today.

 Almost Straight away we were treated to a Hairy Dragonfly eating its lunch, on the menu today was Banded demoiselle!

After it had munched through the head and Thorax, it dropped the wings, and pushed the abdomen into its mouth like log going through a timber mill!

In goes the Abdomen

It took less that a minute for the Hairy Dragon to scoff the Demoiselle

Gratuitous close up  :-)

One more  :-)

I was eager to get some Blue Tailed Damselfly images, a species that isn't common on my patch

I got more than I hoped for when I not only found these males, but also 2 of the 5 variant forms of females...........

............ these two images are of the form Rufescens.

..........this is the form Violacea

Right at the end of the visit we found a couple of Black tailed Skimmers, which we wrongly thought may have been Scarce Chasers, we also saw a freshly emerged Emperor Dragonfly, which I narrowly missed getting a photo of  :-)
EDIT:  Ive been reliably informed that the above is in fact a Scarce Chaser after all! A lifer for me  :-) Thanks Mr Heath  :-)

Wednesday 27 May 2015

In probably the best weather so far this month, I made an early trip out around Migrant Alley this morning, taking in the Greenhouse Copse and Greenhouse Grounds as I went, the latter gave me a chance to photograph the LITTLE OWL ( albeit distantly) that hunts from one of the Greenhouses on occasions, both the KESTREL pair were also hunting over the grounds.

Out on the sheep pasture there were 25 geese, 11 of those CANADA GEESE, the rest being of course GREYLAGS, while on the adjacent paddocks there was a flock of mixed finches, about 50 strong, these were made up of LINNETS and GOLDFINCHES. A SKYLARK dropped in briefly, but the only flyover whilst I was there was from a few HERRING GULLS.

A trip over to the woods to look for Dragons was had around 09:30hrs, where I found a Four Spotted Chaser, a couple of Beautiful Demoiselles, and a few White-legged, Common Blue and Azure Damselflies, I of course had to photograph the Demoiselles, i'll save them for another post. I checked the lakes in the hope of something nice turning up, it had, but it was the male TUFTED DUCK , nice to have here, but not a tick for the month!

With the weather warming up nicely I decided to visit the run off ditch that runs along the boundary of one of the sheep fields at Migrant Alley, primarily to try and find a male Broad Bodied Chaser, as i've seen them here before, but that was two years ago, luckily the gods were on my side and I found a single male which gave me some photo's, I took lots so i'll have more to post on later blogs  :-)

My first male Broad Bodied Chaser since 2013.

After taking my photo's I headed off home for a much needed drink, but on the way along Ashes Lane I was stopped by a car, the window wound down and in a broad northern accent the driver asked if I was the 'Pittswood Birder'  'I am indeed' I replied. Turns out he was down this neck of the woods from Northumberland,  'house sitting' and after having read my blog wanted to know where he could get some Dragonfly images, so I was back out once again showing him, we found a few species, and he got his fill of photo's, while I found the first fledgling BLUE TITS of the year  :-)  Nice to meet you John  :-)

Tuesday 26 May 2015

Grey overcast skies began to break up around 09:00hrs, leaving sunny spells to be enjoyed for the rest of the day.

I carried out my final full patch walk of May this morning, where 48 bird species were recorded, with Jay being the only obvious omission. There were no additions to the month or year list, but the inclusion of a male TUFTED DUCK on the main lake was a bonus.

The Scrubby Woods came up with two more successfully bred species for the year, the first being NUTHATCH, at least 3 fledglings were seen being fed in an Oak tree, the second species was the GOLDCREST, at least 4 newly fledged youngsters were noisily begging for food from the adult birds as they foraged around a fir tree, these bring this years successfully bred list to 18. Also of note in the Scrubby Woods were 3, possibly 4 TURTLE DOVES, bringing better prospects of finding a youngster from them this year.

KESTREL, BUZZARD, SPARROWHAWK, HERRING GULL, LESSER BLACK BACKED GULL, and a few SWIFTS were best of what was seen in the sky today.

By late morning I was back home and tried once again to get some STARLING photo's at my garden feeding station, up to 12 Juvenile birds were noisily swarming over the suet feeders. I did get a few shots, but the sun comes from the wrong direction at this time of day and I cant get the position I want, so i'm still not completely happy with them, I kept a few none the less as I've no other images !

Monday 25 May 2015

Desperate to add something to the May list, I tried an early morning sky watch, as the most likely addition to the months list now will be a fly over, so at a little after 06:00hrs I headed off over to my seat at Migrant Alley, initially in some sunshine, but before 07:30hrs the cloud encroached and the wind got up a bit, making for a chilly sit.

In the four and half hours I sat and watched, I recorded the following species, either flying over, or around the immediate area, which included the Greenhouse Grounds, Greenhouse Copse, plus the sheep pasture and horse paddocks of Migrant Alley......................


I may have added 7-10 more species to the days list by walking the woods and visiting the lakes, if time had permitted, but I had things to do in preparation for my Wales holiday that I leave for on Saturday, (that will loose me two more days of the month in which to increase the May list!)

Later this afternoon, I tried again to get some images of the Starlings feeding their young at my garden feeding station, but the light was so poor, I didn't get the shutter speed neccassry to catch the action as I would want, and ended up deleting what I took, maybe i'll get another chance tomorrow if it brightens up.

I got a few images to post as I waited for the Starlings to visit, nothing exciting though!

 This Woodpigeon sat on the feeding log, just as a 30 second sunny interval appeared  :-)

One of the Magpie pair kept an eye on ''its'' food chasing off any would be thieves ;-)

This is the only Starling image I kept, that's not my thumb over the lens in the bottom corner, its the head a flower!

Sunday 24 May 2015

Not too much to report from todays patch visit, an early walk around the fields and paddocks of Migrant Alley, in dull, overcast conditions, produced much the same as yesterday, with 8 CANADA GEESE and 6 GREYLAG GEESE out on the sheep pasture, plus a few LINNETS feeding on the dandelion seed heads on one of the paddocks. A GREY HERON and a flock of 6 HERRING GULLS flew over as I walked, also the female KESTREL was seen on one of the nearby Greenhouses.

Around 09:00hrs the sun came out, so I made my way over to the Scrubby Woods, seeing a COMMON BUZZARD at the Ashes Lane Fields as I went. I checked the lakes before looking around the Scrubby Woods, but nothing apart from a pair of Canada Geese were seen. Once in the Scrubby Woods I was on the lookout for Dragons and newly fledged birds, the Dragons were thin on the ground, just a couple each of White-legged damsels, Common Blue and Azure Damsels, plus a lone male Beautiful demoiselle.

As for the fledglings I did a little better, with the sighting of the first GREAT TIT family, at least 4 were being fed by both parents up in a large Oak Tree, 10 days later than last years first date.

It was disappointing not to re locate the Spotted Flycatcher from yesterday, but it may still be around, hiding up in one of the large gardens.

A couple of Small Coppers were the best of the Butterflies seen today

Azure Damselfly

Later in the morning I spent some time in my garden, hoping to get some shots of the young STARLINGS being fed by their parents, but none turned up! This young GREENFINCH made a decent substitute  :-)

Saturday 23 May 2015

This morning was mainly cloudy, with just a few sunny intervals and light winds.

An early walk around Migrant Alley, plus a look at the Greenhouse Grounds and Greenhouse Copse didn't reveal anything exciting. A couple of GREYLAG GEESE and a CANADA GOOSE were out on the sheep pasture, along with lots of ROOKS and WOODPIGEONS, while the paddocks attracted half a dozen linnets. BLACKCAP and CHIFFCHAFF were heard singing in the Greenhouse Copse, the only birds of note at the Greenhouse Grounds were a WHITETHROAT and a SONGTHRUSH, which was booming out it's song.

A short sky watch before heading off over to the woods provided views of the regular 3 raptor species, SPARROWHAWK, BUZZARD and KESTREL, plus there were quite a few SWIFTS about with the local SWALLOWS and a few HOUSE MARTINS flew through too. A single HERRING GULL and a single LESSER BLACK BACKED GULL were also seen, but a Black Headed Gull would have been better, not had one yet this month.

I headed off over to the Wet Woods, where I could here the young of a GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER calling from their nest hole, wont be long before they come out, hopefully to my garden feeders! I moved on to the Scrubby Woods and lakes, but just before arriving, I heard the call of my first SPOTTED FLYCATCHER (93,66) of the year, on the latest arrival date so far recorded. I soon tracked the call to a large Oak in an adjacent garden, I watched it for some moment before loosing it in the foliage, but whilst looking for it I saw GOLDCREST, NUTHATCH, COAL TIT and LONG TAILED TIT all foraging in the canopy.

A quick scan of the lakes was had, where I saw a GREY HERON and a drake MANDARIN DUCK of note. I then settled in to look for Odonata in the Scrubby Woods, but the weather wasn't really playing ball, I did however photograph a Common Blue Damselfly, a White-legged Damselfly and a Beautiful Demoiselle, I cant walk past the latter without taking a photo!

The TREECREEPER family were again seen, they had split up and were feeding around a Hawthorne Tree. Whilst on the subject of Treecreepers, I was saddened to see a very recently fledged one, dead and squashed in the road outside my house when I got home from my walk. I had been seeing a pair around my garden on and off over the early spring months, so I presume they must of bred in one of the ivy covered trees adjacent to my house, I couldn't locate any other fledglings around though.

My first Common Blue Damselfly image of the year  :-)

Here's the second!

I also took a few more White-legged Damselfly images, although the light was going by then. The males are just turning that pastel blue colour.

Got to have another few images of these Beautiful Demoiselles!

Friday 22 May 2015

Early sunshine gave way to scattered cloud around 07:30hrs this morning, but it remained warmer than of late, with little wind.

A quick circuit of Migrant alley was made first thing, I don't expect any passage migrants here now, but there again you never know! Anyway there wasn't any today, just 5 each of CANADA and GREYLAG GOOSE on one of the paddocks, plus a few LINNETS.

A short sky watch was had, which turned out better than expected, with 4 raptor species being seen, those being SPARROWHAWK, KESTREL, BUZZARD and best of all a PEREGRINE. Single LESSER BLACK BACKED GULL and HERRING GULL also flew over, as did a LAPWING (65) something at last to add to the May list!

Once it had warmed up a bit, I headed of over to the Scrubby Woods, probably the best part of my patch, being free from the combined terrors of dog walkers and farmers  :-) I was eager to try and relocate the Emerald Dragonfly, which I did, but only a brief view was had of it. Whilst there I also found the 5 newly fledged TREECREEPERS, they were high up an Oak tree, in a tight bunch, being regularly fed by both parents. Nearby I heard some familiar calls, and on investigation found a newly fledged family of LONG TAILED TITS, these bring the 'successfully bred' list to 15  for this year. A TURTLE DOVE was heard singing again as I looked for Dragons and Damsels, of which I found 1 Four Spotted Chaser, 1 Broad Bodied Chaser, 2 Beautiful Demoiselle, 4 Large Red Damsel, a dozen at least Azure Damsel, 8 White-legged Damsel and my first Common Blue Damsel of the year.

Lots of photo's today!

Broad Bodied Chaser

Male Beautiful Demoiselle

White-legged Damselfly (minus one white leg!)

 Large Red Damselfly