Monday, 31 January 2011

January, over and out.

So, the last visit of the month, it actually felt quite mild as I walked out the front door and on arriving at the castle the birds were in good voice. For the first time this year a male Chaffinch was in song, joining the Robin and now singing Dunnocks. It was much lighter this morning than on previous work mornings which meant in the first 10 minutes instead of the usual 8-10 species, I managed at least 20. Notable were the Siskins, a flock of 8 and a few singles, mainly because after being out for a good four and a half hours yesterday, I didn't see or hear one! A Grey Heron got up from the lake as I approached and possibly the Water Rail dived into cover but I couldn't be certain. The Sparrowhawk was up early again and at least two Great Spotted Woodpeckers were drumming, I was enjoying all the activity, still by the lake a Pied Wagtail called on its way over as did Yellowhammer and Redpoll, Treecreepers and Nuthatches were not to be outdone and added to my predicament of which way to look next. As I made my way back to the car a few gulls were starting to congregate in the winter wheat, I'm sure there were more to come but as usual time had run out! Stephen was out at the castle yesterday and got some nice video grabs of  Firecrest, what little stunners they are!!

Stephen managed to get these images yesterday, they certainly brighten the day!

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Jan. 30th a good day.

I met Pete Smith at the car park at around 8.00 this morning and what a gorgeous morning it was!! We headed towards Bull and Birches, there were half a dozen Redwings in the car park, as we walked across the newly planted orchard a single Lapwing flew north only the second sighting so far this year, this was followed by a Cormorant and the first of five gull species today a Lesser Black Backed Gull.

Newly planted orchard 
 As we approached an area of boggy ground a Common Buzzard flew by and dropped into a nearby tree, then there was a whirring of wings and the first of a total of 14 Common Snipe took to the air, in amongst these we were lucky to find the Jack Snipe which gave good flight views, I tried a couple shots of the Buzzard as it moved from tree to tree.

Distant Buzzard!

Pea Soup?

for two!
The wood was reasonably busy when we got in it, several Long Tailed Tits and Marsh Tits were seen and we were really lucky to find 2 Firecrests which showed briefly. Jay and Treecreeper were added as we left Bull and Birches and made our way to the lake, a couple of Mallard were sifting through the weed on the lake and were more intent on the weed than worrying about us. The lake was quite quiet there were a couple of Moorhens and a total of 9 Mallard. Moving on to the fields there were a reasonable number of gulls settled, I tried hard to find Med. Gull but failed! Pete headed off and I had a look along the hedges and found a Reed Bunting and a couple of Yellowhammers and at least 3 Bullfinches, the Skylark flock came up from the winter wheat and numbered around 20 birds. As I walked back to take in the view another Buzzard was seen being mobbed by a crow right next to them was a Sparrowhawk, when I took my bins down another bird was right above me the female Peregrine, all this in about half a minute, fantastic!! I left for home but was back at the patch walking with my wife after lunch on a nice bright afternoon, I added 3 Redpoll a Kestrel and Meadow Pipit as well as a party of 3 Buzzard to end on a total of 54 species for the day, a really enjoyable day it was to!

View across to the Greensand Ridge

This might become the Robin blog!!

See what I mean!!

Friday, 28 January 2011

Cool winds

It was slightly lighter this morning, with the broken cloud but as I got out of the car not one bird was singing! A few Redwings called unseen, Blackbirds and Robins flew from in front of me but it wasn't until I got to the lake, a 5 minute walk depending on how many birds there are, that the first song was heard, a Song Thrush from the shelter of the wood, maybe the other birds didn't fancy sitting out in the cool easterly.

Early morning at the lake
I did a complete circuit of the lake, which again was quiet until a flock of Long-Tailed Tits alerted me to an incoming threat! A Sparrowhawk appeared briefly overhead, later it was seen doing it's characteristic undulating display just over the woods. The usual Siskins, Redpolls and Linnets were all heard flying over in the next few minutes. Taking another different route from my usual early morning ramblings, I headed towards the park field, here about 10 Mallard took flight from a damp area at the bottom of the field and my first Marsh Tit of the week was heard, a couple of Stock Doves then drifted by on V-shaped wings. I made my way uphill and spotted a Buzzard heading away over the car park. Back at the car park a Treecreeper showed really well and I thought I might actually get a photo but it disappeared, I got in the car and the Treecreeper was back, right in front of me through the windscreen, so I grabbed the camera and had a go at a couple of shots, unfortunately the results weren't great but here is the best of them!! I think you can just tell it's a Treecreeper? You might need to squint a bit.

Dodgy shot through the windscreen!

Thursday, 27 January 2011

A different route

This morning felt much cooler and I decided to take a more sheltered route passed the lakes and into the woods, the path follows roughly along the Crane Brook and comes out in the fields (after jumping over it at a suitable point) on to some newly formed small pools, which have already proved popular with the local dragon and damselflies over the last year. The wood was fairly quiet, a couple of Treecreepers were calling but I couldn't locate them in the half-light. Two Goldcrests also called and I managed a quick glimpse of a silhouette up in the holly, the holly is always popular with crests and most of the Firecrests found at Sissinghurst have been close to or in it. Making my way out to the small ponds, two larger birds caught my eye, these were a couple of the local Buzzards, they quickly disappeared behind the trees. A Green Woodpecker landed close by and was unusually quiet! Siskins had started to move by now and small flocks of 7-12 birds were skipping across the tops of the alders probably around 50-60 in all. Just 2 Common Gulls and 2 Black-Headed Gulls flew east and 4 Skylark came up from the winter wheat. Heading back to the car park, I met Stephen, he had just had 10 Redpoll over and as we stood chatting I had my first Redpoll of the morning, finally back at the car park a nice flock of Long-Tailed Tits were noisily making their way across it, I would have stayed to enjoy them for a bit longer but it was now 8.05 and I only had 25 minutes to get to work!!! Ooops!

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

All is quiet

This Kestrel is a regular at work, he sits about 30yds from our canteen, this was taken through the window. Sorry it's not a pic from Sissinghurst but it was a bit gloomy this morning!
It's not really too surprising that it was a bit quiet this morning. It was still fairly dark when I arrived and it was also a bit misty, at least 6 Robins were singing and I noted a Dunnock calling. I think that this call is one that doesn't always seem to register with me, for whatever reason. When I look back in my notes at the lists of birds so far this year Dunnock is missing from all but a few, yet it is a common bird here so I'd like to work out why I haven't heard it or seen it as often as I expected, maybe they are just less conspicuous in general at this time of year?
Through the mist I did manage to count just over 100 Fieldfares flying over the gardens and the walk round the field yielded a couple of Yellowhammers and a singing Reed Bunting. The resident thrushes were all in good voice and a few Siskin and Goldfinch were milling around the car park as I left. I'm really looking forward to a bright clear morning again, not that I'm complaining, it was still a nice way to start the day.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Last night and this morning

On the way home from work last night, I detoured to the castle to listen for owls and was really pleased to hear a BARN OWL (70), it was calling from along the stream where a large strip of meadow is being nurtured, hopefully Barn Owl is one bird that will benefit, hearing it there is at least a good start. There was also 1 Tawny calling from just outside the estate.

This morning I started by scanning the fields where I'd heard the Barn Owl last night, it was still only half light, unfortunately I couldn't find it but I did pick out a Fox running across the field and then had a first for the castle for me when a Badger came into view just behind the Fox. I've always known they were on the estate but in the 14 years of regular visits they had failed to materialise. I went on to the lake hoping for a returning Little Grebe but the lake again was quite peaceful. With time as ever against me I managed to catch up with a Little Egret heading towards the lake and there were a few Linnets and Siskin still around. A distant flock of geese went unidentified as they flew north. Stephen added Canada Goose to the swelling year list yesterday and found the Linnet flock to be over 100 again. I also had a call from my Dad this morning to say the Firecrest was still present.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Some wanderings and back to the patch

First the 'wanderings', yesterday four of us set off to north Kent for a day in the field. We arrived at Reculver close to 7.30am in what could be described as inclement weather, it was pretty cold in the north wind. Heading for Coldharbour, it appeared fairly quiet, a small group of Sanderling were on the beach and a female Stonechat clung on to the side of a bush for dear life! Then the small group of Snow Buntings tumbled by keeping low, as ever they were camouflaged very well but we did manage to find one grovelling around before they disappeared over a breakwater and out of sight. There were good numbers of Brent Geese maybe 200 or so which were undecided on whether to stay on the beach or head to the fields as they flew back and forth during our visit. We neared Coldharbour and picked up 3 larks heading down the beach but were unable to relocate them immediately but eventually another birder found them settled and we had brief views of the 3 Shore Lark, my first in Kent, as we headed back we found them again and everybody saw them well, suddenly the weather didn't seem quite so bad!

We made a quick stop at Tescos in Whitstable and were fortunate that the Waxwings dropped in while we were there. After a few minutes they departed and we moved on to Oare Marshes, there was the usual good selection of waders that included around 70 Avocet but the highlight of the visit was a ring tail Hen Harrier that graced us with its presence. Also a really well marked male Marsh Harrier was a joy to watch as it hovered over the reeds. Our last stop was New Hythe, somewhere I haven't visited much, the first real noteworthy bird was an adult Whooper Swan, I don't know if it has been around just for the winter or if it is a sort of 'feral' resident, still a nice bird. We were lucky also to find a Bittern sitting in the reeds but showing well enough. Lastly a female Goldeneye was seen on the next lake and the weather really wasn't quite so bad by the end of the day.

Today at the castle it was quite a struggle really, not much flying about at all, a few Green and Goldfinches were in the car park and I was met by a couple of curious Robins

Part of the welcome party

As I walked by the veg garden a distant Buzzard drifted south and 3 Great Spotted Woodpeckers chased each other round a nearby birch. The lake was still pretty quiet but I enjoyed watching 3 Goldcrests going about their business. At least 3 Mistle Thrushes were heard singing around different parts of the estate and the Siskin flock numbered about 50 as it flew over the lake. I decided to check the Linnet flock Stephen had found on Friday, I found them and there were about 60 birds plus 3 Skylarks feeding in the low winter wheat. The winter thrushes are starting to congregate in the Park field, normally they appear here just before they are ready to go, there was probably a mixed flock of about 100 birds, the valley watch today did produce the Peregrine again high up this time and barely flapping as it flew east.

These thrushes decided to fly off to save me getting frustrated with more out of focus close-ups!

Friday, 21 January 2011

Jan. 21st - A little brighter

Back down to the lake this morning which remains almost free of waterbirds apart from 2 Moorhens, in actual fact everything was a bit thin on the ground today, the usual departing thrushes were fairly non-existent, I did hear several Redpolls going over and a handful of Siskins. I waited by the lake for about 20 minutes before moving on to look over the fields. It was nice to hear a Great Spot. drumming and then 2 were seen in the car park, at least 2 Green Woodpeckers were also making themselves heard, with one making a quick sortie around the vegetable garden. There were about 20 House Sparrows whizzing around this morning the most for a while, again mainly around the hedges near the veg garden, I ended with 27 species in around 50 minutes which was surprising as it felt as though it was fairly quiet!! Stephen was also out and about this morning and was fairing slightly better with 2 flyover Brambling, a Little Egret, 6 Mandarin and the discovery of a large flock of Linnets on the edge of the estate, maybe as many as 150 birds, I'll look forward to checking through them at the weekend!!

Starlings starting to gather... they really are Starlings!!

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Jan 20th.

The cloud at first light meant that it stayed fairly murky for a large percentage of the visit, so for the first half hour I was listening much more than watching. The number of singing Song Thrushes has risen during the week with around 6 birds singing away this morning. I missed out the lake and walked round the fields, the first bit of activity was by the stream where small groups of Siskin were coming in to feed on the Alders, also here were at least 2 Yellowhammers were calling from the scrubby area on the corner of the stream and 4 Bullfinch were in the hedge that runs up the hill towards the castle. A few more finches started to appear in the skies and included 7 Linnets, 1 Goldfinch and several Chaffinch. A Goldcrest was in the hedge below the vegetable garden, where yesterday afternoon Stephen found 2 Waxwings feeding on rosehips, he also had the Jack Snipe again yesterday. I arrived back at the car park and met Stephen, as we chatted a Peregrine flew north west over the car park, after saying we don't see that many, 3 sightings in less than a month is a good return. After I left Stephen added Greylag Goose to this years site total, when 5 birds flew east.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Morning Skies

I was up reasonably early honest!!
It was cool and calm, as I made my way to the lakes and I was enjoying the the sun coming up, I decided if the Marsh Harrier had returned I would stay by the lake as long as possible this morning to cover any avenues of escape!! Needless to say the bird didn't appear but it was fairly busy nonetheless. A small flock of Siskin circled the lake several times and a single Redpoll called as it flew over. Fieldfares went over in small flocks and I counted at least 100 birds in all. The gulls I had seen in previous evening visits, were heading out in the opposite direction, mainly Common with a handful of Black-Headed. A Treecreeper called constantly and around 12 Goldfinches bounced across sky, I was as ever loathed to leave.

I may have missed the Harrier due to enjoying the colours in the sky for too long this morning?

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

What next?

I arrived at around 7.05 and could hear a Tawny Owl as I got out of the car, as ever I was accompanied by waking Blackbirds, Robins and Wrens as I made my way, first to the Granary where the National Trust have put a chalkboard up to inform visitors about recent wildlife sightings, I added a couple of bits then continued on to the lake, it was actually pretty quiet 3 Moorhens, 1 Siskin over a Bullfinch called and several Redwings and Fieldfares were heading out to feed. I made my way back towards the car park when I noticed a raptor being mobbed by a crow, MARSH HARRIER (69), I've only had a handful of records over the years and never in the winter. It looked like it had come up from the lake area, so I could have easily walked passed it when it was roosting!! Now I'm thinking will it roost there again tonight? Maybe I'm using all my luck up early this year!

Sunday, 16 January 2011

New for the year - Sun!!

Poor attempt at an early Buzzard!
What a gorgeous morning, still slightly windy but it didn't detract from the mornings viewing. Today started as yesterday finished with two Buzzards flying across the entrance road also here were Snipe and Kestrel, I tried a couple of photos but the light wasn't great, just before 8am. I met up with Stephen and we added 3 Cormorants and 2 Little Egrets flying over fairly high also a Redpoll and a Meadow Pipit called as we passed the vegetable garden. I headed for the lake there was a nice flock of around 50 Siskin by the lower lake but there was nothing actually on the lake, Long Tailed Tits, Marsh Tits and Goldcrests were all busy feeding in the same alders as the Siskins.
Just some proof of the sun.
I left the woods behind and started walking the fields, I heard what was probably a third Buzzard of the morning, it circled the wood and drifted north. It felt almost spring like especially when several Skylarks burst into song, there were about 15 in all. A Yellowhammer flew up from by the stream, the first for a week or so and a Reed Bunting called from one of the hedges. Probably like alot of birders I almost constantly scan the skies, especially as raptors are one of my favourite groups of birds, this paid off again this morning when I saw 6 LAPWING (68) heading across the edge of the estate coming from the Frittenden direction. I think doing this blog has actually made me go out on to the patch a bit more than usual, so far the results have been noticeable, lets hope it carries on!! I met up with Stephen again who had seen possibly a fourth Buzzard of the morning perched in trees along the stream around the same time I'd been watching the last one drift away. I managed to see a Sparrowhawk as I made my way to the top of the fields then spent some time taking in the view, there were lots of birds flying about, mainly distant gulls and good numbers of thrushes, 44 species for the morning was about average.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Always hopeful...

I set out at 9.30 after completing a few chores, the wind was reasonably strong and it was just drizzling a little, I decided to head into the woods to find a few sheltered spots and check out the tit flocks, a couple of Greenfinches were calling near the car park and the House Sparrows were particularly noisy. As I stopped by the vegetable garden around 150 Woodpigeons took to the air over a nearby wood but I couldn't find any raptors in among the swirling pigeons. Once in the wood the first small flock of birds was located a couple each of very confiding Nuthatches and Treecreepers would have given good photo oppertunities but with photography a particular weak point of mine the chance went begging!! (must be quicker and read the manual!) a Marsh Tit was also here, the first of 5 to be seen this morning. Then next little flock again contained Marsh Tit and a couple of Goldcrests. I continued finding smallish flocks one of which included a Coal Tit, not always easy here, I was hoping for maybe a Lesser Spot to be mingling in, it wasn't to be but a bonus did appear in the form of a WOODCOCK (66) flushed from near the path. I headed to Bull and Birches the small wood on the left as you approach the castle, here I heard the Firecrest and added COLLARED DOVE (67) before coming across a flock of at least 10 Long Tailed Tits with more Treecreepers, Nuthatches and Marsh Tit.
This small pond is the least disturbed on the grounds and always worth a look!
Still practicising my photography and Great Tits add a bit of colour.
My final act was the usual, taking in the view, immediately a Buzzard appeared in the bins as I started to scan this was followed closely by a second, they headed off in different directions, it turned out to be a busy 5 minutes around 300 Black Headed Gulls flew south with a handful of Common, a Sparrowhawk battled against the wind following the stream  and a Peregrine, different from last weeks bird as this was a smaller male, flew strongly south!! It was a surprising walk all in all, despite always being optimistic, I didn't really think there was going to be quite as much activity as there turned out to be.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Jan. 13th.

I was a little late this morning, not arriving at the castle until 7.20, the birds were also a little late as there was virtually no sign of activity bar 1 Robin singing in the car park. I went to one of my favourite spots, by the corner of the moat, this has a few trees and hedgerows nearby as well as a view towards Frittenden. Nothing really moved for the first few minutes but a Song Thrush started singing in a nearby hedge, the first one I've heard singing so far this year, a really nice way to start the day and it had the airwaves all to it's self for a short time. A small raptor flew low across one of the more distant fields and I couldn't quite make out whether it was a Sparrowhawk or a Merlin due to the poor light and the distance, it kept low, flapping and gliding, as it disappeared from view. The Buzzard flew through at 7.40 being mobbed by a couple of crows, good numbers of thrushes emerged from every which way but apart from the Bullfinch calling nearby, there were no overhead finches. As I left a Kestrel was seen hovering over a patch of boggy ground near the main road, and so to work.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Morning of the 11th

The rain woke me before I was due to get up but thankfully it had moved through by the time I left at 7.10, a few Robins and Blackbirds were trying to wake the other birds as I made my way down to the lake, I stood near the reedy end of the lake hoping a stray Bittern might just take to the air! I am an incurable optimist. I was suddenly aware of dark shadow hurtling by at about head height only a few metres away, it turned just after it passed me and lifted just above the treetops, it was male Sparrowhawk judging from the size, another early rising raptor.
With limited time, as ever, I went and waited by the corner of the moat, Feildfares and Redwings were the most active for the first few minutes then, a good range of finches called as they left their respective roosts, mainly Chaffinches but a few Redpoll, Siskin, Goldfinch and Linnet were all heard over the next 15mins or so. It appears so far this year I should be extra vigilant just as I'm leaving, with Peregrine and Pied Wagtail being added to the year list at the end of recent visits, today was no exception a last look across the brightening view revealed a LITTLE EGRET (65) sitting on the edge of a freshly flooded area in the fields, how it got there without me seeing it when I was by the moat, is a mystery but it was a pleasant surprise and a nice way to end the visit.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Another dark morning!

A quick visit this morning from 7.10-7.50am. It always surprises me how early some birds of prey come out of their roost, last week and today a Buzzard flew across the valley around 7.30 in the half light. The lake was partly frozen and didn't produce anything other than 2 Mallards, Bullfinches were calling from a couple of different spots and the Tawny Owl seemed slightly more distant this morning, walking back to the car a Pied Wagtail(64) flew up from by the barn. I have added a site species list during lunch hour, despite leaving the list at home!! so it might get updated over the next couple of days.

Late afternoon 9th Jan.

Part of the Gull flock.
This was taken Saturday after the blow and shows some of the view

After watching Liverpool get beaten, I decided to console myself with a visit to the patch. Again thrushes were the most prevalent as I walked across the car park. On the edge of one the flocks going over was a Snipe, any wader type bird here is always noteworthy! 5 Linnets wheeled around the vegetable garden and a Sparrowhawk flew through. Once again I positioned myself to take in the view across the valley to see what might be heading to roost, I don't do this alot and had forgotten how many gulls passover in the winter on their way maybe to Bewl Water?? A few small mixed flocks of Black heads and Common started heading over soon after I arrived and were followed by a couple of flocks of over 100 then one flock over 200, in all 500+ Gulls headed west in less than half an hour! probably 90% Common, also during this time larger gulls were heading south? around 25 Herring and 8 Great Black Backed, the latter the most I've seen here in one flock, a Goldcrest called on and off from behind me as I watched the gulls. A total of 41 species were recorded in a little over an hour. I had a text from Stephen on Saturday to say he possibly had 2 Ravens over and was 90% sure, so I'll keep an eye out, he also had two Little Owls duetting this morning (9th).

Saturday, 8 January 2011

After the blow...

As I hadn't seen much before work during the week, mainly because it was mostly dark! I was pleased that the overnight and morning wind and rain had passed through by mid morning, so I managed a 2 hour walk from 11am-1pm. A quick stop on the entrance road produced Snipe and a Buzzard was perched again in what appears to be it's favoured tree for the time being. Moving on to the car park which can be quite productive, there were a few Goldfinches and thrushes flying over, the vegetable garden always looks good for birds and 2 Meadow Pipits flew up from it but that was all, in spring and autumn it's the favoured area for Whinchat and Wheatear. A Little Owl was a nice surprise as I stood by the corner of the moat as it flew from it's roosting place. The woods and lake were fairly quiet despite it being the first time I've seen the lake without any ice for weeks. Back out into the open fields I spent most of my time scanning, I only heard 1 Siskin and saw 1 Redpoll as I turned and scanned the woods a SPARROWHAWK (62) skimmed over the top of the wood(at least it makes the picture a little more relevant!). My walk usually ends looking across the valley as it is great view and a nice way to finish, today it was especially memorable as I saw movement infront the distant trees and as the bird broke the sky line it was revealed as a large female PEREGRINE (63) not a bird that we see often, maybe a couple of times a year and a great way to end the walk, I watched it drift closer and get dive-bombed by a couple crows then it disappeared towards Staplehurst.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Just testing!!

This Sparrowhawk, which incidentally isn't on my Sissinghurst patch list yet this year!! was seen at work at Paddock Wood in the autumn, it stayed with it's kill for at least 10 minutes moving off only to make another pile feathers on a different section of a grassed area at the back of our warehouse, I don't take many pictures but was lucky that this bird stayed around to give me a chance. I may dig out a couple of other photos but hopefully from Sissinghurst next time, just to check that getting this one onto the blog wasn't a fluke!!

Jan. 2nd and 3rd.

On the 2nd I managed another walk round with my wife, which takes in a couple hop fields, a real rarity these days, and some established orchards, the orchards were full of thrushes, maybe several hundred each of Fieldfare and Redwing, there were also 100-150 Starlings, eventually I also managed to find 1 Waxwing sitting in the top of a birch. Once at the castle the second raptor of the year appeared in the shape of one of the resident Kestrels (55) soon after this 3 Gulls headed north-east one of which was a Great Black Backed (56) and the other 2 were Lesser Black Backed (57) which completed the set of gulls I would expect to see this year as Med. Gull is just less than annual at the moment. The final bird to be added to my list today was a Brambling (58) which was in a flock of about 50 Chaffinches. We haven't had many finch flocks apart from the good Siskin numbers, so this was a nice addition. Onto the 3rd and a 7 o'clock start, another Tawny Owl called at first light and a brief foray into Roundshill Wood (part of the National Trust estate) didn't produce the Woodcock I was hoping for but the Marsh Tits were being very vocal and and a single Cormorant (59) flew over the woods. After making my way along the stream which produced the big flock of 100+ Siskins, I got a call from Stephen he had just located a Water Rail on the top lake, luckily I was heading that way and found it again nearby, number 60 for the year and it was only the 3rd Jan. I later picked up a Feral Dove/Pigeon (61) which I'm always in two minds about counting but there it is.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Jan 1st - Off to a flyer!!

It was a cool  grey start to the year but it was dry and there was very little wind, the first birds I heard on the morning of the first were the Redwings with their high pitched whistles as they left their various roost around the grounds, if  I had bothered to get up a bit earlier I would have heard a Tawny Owl or two!! Lots of commoner birds followed, including Siskins, Bullfinches, Redpolls flying over and a lone Meadow Pipit. Everything slowed down a bit when I got to about 35 species, then as I walked one of the newly planted hedgerows a familiar trilling sound drifted from somewhere over the stream and a single WAXWING flew almost over my head and then veered left towards the woods, I met up with Stephen, who had managed to flush a Woodcock and had Kingfisher near the lakes, I then headed off to a bit of boggy ground that had held Jack Snipe before Christmas, luckily the JACK SNIPE was found easily as were the first 4 Common Snipe of the day, with the days total in the early 40's, it was time to see if the FIRECREST had also hung around it had and gave really close views. Thinking about calling it a day, I checked out the large pond by the sewage works in hope of maybe a Grey Wagtail which didn't materialise but I was still pleased with the first Grey Heron of the day and the only raptor of the morning, a Buzzard perched in a nearby tree. At 49 species, I headed home.

A bit later my wife and I went for a walk so we headed back to the castle and I managed to add Moorhen and Kingfisher for 51. Once at home again I decided to I would do one last visit at dusk as I had not quite made it before first light in the morning, I was rewarded with 2 flyover Mandarin and at least 3 calling Tawny Owls and 1 Little Owl, so 54 was my total, Stephen had managed a couple of different birds including 2 Brambling. 57 for the first day was a better than expected start, we didn't find Collared Dove, Pied Wagtail or Sparrowhawk, so amazingly 60 birds today was quite feasible!!