Thursday, 17 February 2011

Misty start

With a frost on the car, which caught me out a bit, I arrived at the castle at 7.05, I went and up-dated the sightings board which is situated in the Granary. On the way there it was nice to listen to the Dunnock which likes to sing from near the entrance to the veg. garden. A couple of Canada Geese honked away as they flew east. The Granary was full of calling House Sparrows, I don't mention them much but for a few years we did only have a handful of birds here, maybe only up to 6 at times, this morning though there were at least 15 and flocks last autumn were sometimes 70 strong so hopefully this trend will continue.
So for a change I headed down to the lakes! 3 cock Pheasants were having a bit of a to do and a couple of Mallard flew in, the Grey Heron was back but I couldn't find the Water Rail Stephen had seen yesterday. A small group of 4 Siskin arrived in, just as I met up with Stephen, I set off back to the car and Stephen went into the woods. There were 100+ Woodpigeons over a nearby wood and the Skylarks were again in good voice. There were 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers drumming in the same tree, just above the top lake and a Goldcrest was singing by the corner of the moat from the holly. Nearing the car park at least 3 Greenfinches were calling and flitting around in the treetops and a few Fieldfares and Redwings had flown up from the overflow car park. Later Stephen came across the best flock of Buntings we've had for a while, with 28 Yellowhammers and 7 Reed Buntings, mixed in were a couple Goldfinch and Chaffinch, with a single Lesser Redpoll for good measure.
This was taken yesterday when it was a bit brighter!

It's not a good picture of a Siskin but I like the colours.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011


I was greeted by the soft sounds of a Bullfinch calling as I opened my car door, followed by the contrasting raucousness of a distant Green Woodpecker. The car park was quite busy this morning, with Blue Tits, Long Tailed Tits, Robins, 2 Fieldfares, Carrion Crow, Wren and so on, sometimes the list of birds can be on 20 species without leaving the car park!
I made my way for a quick look at the lake, it was nice to find a Little Egret there the first at the lake for sometime, later Stephen had good views of the Water Rail at the top end of the lake. I went back out into the fields to walk along the stream and hedges, there were a few Redwings around and a Grey Heron flew over high followed closely by 2 Greylag Geese. Along the stream there was again lots of movement of birds mainly in the Alders, I didn't hear yesterdays LS Wood but I found 50 or so Siskins feeding with 1 Lesser Redpoll, Goldcrest and several Long Tailed Tits, I tried in vain to get some shots of Siskin, then looked at the time, I had just under 10 minutes to get to the car park, taking several steps forward and then sliding back in the more than a little soggy mud was hard work but I did get back in time, managing a couple of Yellowhammers a Skylark and Pied Wagtails on the way.
                                                  RAY TURLEY

It is with great sadness I write that Ray Turley died whilst away in India, he was the most familiar face of Dungeness birding and although I didn't know him as well as lots of others, sitting in the sea-watching hide at Dunge with him and being with him on occasions such as the Shirley Moor 'Gyr' are things I won't forget, nor marvelling over his sculpture of a Blackburnian Warbler amongst others. His good nature, great knowledge and warmth will be greatly missed.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Feb. 15th

Another greyish day but not too cold and it was dry, my usual start in the car park was dominated by calling and singing Chaffinches and by the end of the walk the total of singing males just made double figures. Fieldfares were thin on the ground today with only a group of 3 seen flying over the veg garden. I counted 5 singing Song Thrushes on the way round with only 3 each of Treecreeper and Nuthatch. The flocks of Tits already seem to be getting a little smaller and around 10 Long Tailed were seen in 3 separate flocks.
I decided on one of the slightly longer routes today as I had got to the castle just before 7am. This was rewarded when I heard some rapid drumming and the call of a LESSER SPOTTED WOODPECKER (73) from near a small stand of Alders, as I got out into the open I heard the bird again but this time further away just outside the estate, a short wait and some scanning didn't prove fruitful but a really pleasing bird to get. They have bred on or near the estate ever since I started watching here but mostly have proved difficult to see regularly through the year, from now until April/May can be good and then again in for a short time in autumn.
The rest of the walk didn't exactly pale into insignificance but I had had the highlight of the morning . I did hear Yellowhammer, Coal Tit and Skylark as well as having 5 Linnet fly over. Year ticks for the patch are difficult in February after the rush of January so any addition is welcome.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Sun and Showers

I was expecting a nice bright start today but as I arrived at the castle, just after meeting Stephen in the car park, cloud rolled in from the west and it started raining, luckily this was short lived and it dried up after about 10 minutes. A Treecreeper was singing in the car park, the first of 4 either seen or heard this morning and that was just walking to the lake and back! A Grey Heron, which now seems to have settled into an early morning fishing regime was again at the lake as were a pair of Bullfinches and a pair of Mistle Thrushes. A small group of gulls went over very high which consisted of 5 Black Heads and a Common. At least 2 Marsh Tits were at the lake today but heard and not seen.The most unusual birds this morning were 2 Collared Doves, really common in the village but not quite so here, only half a mile away. I had the camera with me, as I'm still trying to get close to a decent photo and failing dismally! Unfortunately I got on the wrong side of a male Chaffinch, we didn't fall out, it was just the light was in the wrong direction! I did get a couple of iffy shots of Song Thrush and Blackbird, I'll keep trying.
Blackbird (sorry you probably knew that already!)

Song Thrush in full song

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Breif visit

In inclement weather I did eventually venture out, still looking for a Mealy Redpoll or a Lesser Spotted Wood, unsurprisingly I didn't find them but I did have a good views of a couple of Marsh Tits and Coal Tits again. I heard 1 Redpoll and numerous Nuthatches. There was a mixed flock of Rooks and Jackdaws in Park field, probably 70-80 birds in all, the most for sometime. I had a look for the Firecrest but there was no sign of it, however a Goldcrest was busy nearby and my first Buzzard this week gave good views at the bottom of Whitegate farm, now owned by the National Trust. Finally a largish flock of about 50 Chaffinches were in the orchard on the way home.

Saturday, 12 February 2011

TTV and patch

It was still a little drizzly when I started my last TTV, just along the road at Knoxbridge on the way to Staplehurst, the November visit had been very productive, probably the highlight today for me was a flock of 20 Pied Wagtails, there was a good selection of species in general good numbers of Starling, Fieldfare, Redwing and a large flock of Black Headed Gulls, there were 4 Yellowhammers with 2 Reed Buntings and a flock 4 Siskin flew over. The total for the TTV this morning was 43 species.

One of four Yellowhammers

Back at the patch for a quick look round and the Fieldfares were numerous this morning, there were also 9 Blackbirds all taking up various positions along one of the thick hedges. A flock of 4 Goldfinches were around the veg garden. Down at the lake a Kestrel was perched in an Oak and a few Long Tailed Tits and Treecreepers were in some Willows. I finally tracked down a small flock of Redpolls which turned out to be all Lessers but there is still time to find the elusive Mealy.
A splash of colour

Just a spalsh!
Overall it felt as though it was a quiet day today, I did add Yellowhammer, Marsh Tit, Bullfinch and Skylark before I made my way home, I'll try again tomorrow all being well.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Always optimistic!

Despite the persistence of what seems to be never ending grey mornings(one day of sunshine soon forgotten!), I always think I'll have a special encounter when I head out for a walk, ok, so today wasn't one of those days!! We did put the moth trap on again last night and added Satellite our newly emerging year list, with 5 of the species from yesterday also present.
The walk was generally damp, some reeds had been cleared from the top lake, where there was still no sign of a Coot or Little Grebe as yet, there was a good Tit flock and a couple of Marsh Tits were very vocal and the Blue Tits had the lake surrounded. Nuthatch and Treecreeper were also round the lake and a lone Siskin flying over was the only one seen today. I couldn't see far across the fields but I could still hear the Skylark out there somewhere, the Fieldfares and Redwings were trying a different field today in a mixed flock of maybe 100 or so. Even though there were no outstanding encounters, it was good to be out looking.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

The Moths are back!

Not that the moths have ever gone away but last night was the first night we trapped this year, we, being Steve Broyd and I, Pete the warden will join us later. This morning we found 7 species of moths including 2 new to the site, they were new mainly because we didn't start trapping until March last year! The new species were Spring Usher and Early Moth. We also had Hebrew Character, Pale Brindled Beauty, Chestnut, March Moth and Dotted Border.
Spring Usher

Early Moth
After checking the moths, I did have half an hour to look round, a Greylag Goose flew south and a Pied Wagtail was interested in what we were up to with the moths! At least 3 Great Spots were drumming and a Goldcrest called from the thick Holly by the B&B, several flocks of Fieldfares were flying in no particular direction and Jackdaws were making a lot of noise over the wood. It was another noisy morning for birds in general which always makes it just great to be out walking, last night I did again listen for Owls and in addition to the birds from the night before there were a couple of Tawny's giving various calls and the Water Rail, which Stephen and I had thought was mute! called from the stream, behind the top lake.
'what's for breakfast?'

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Feb. 9th

Before I start on todays birds, I did manage a quick stop in at the castle last night on the way home and heard Little Owl in the vegetable garden, Barn Owl not far from the lake and 2 Greylags, seen in near darkness, were on the lake. The most surprising sighting for me was a bat! flying up and down infront of the Granary looking like probably a Pipistrelle, being very small, I thought they would be still holed up for the winter!
This morning was mild and grey and sounded spring like again with plenty of birdsong. One Treecreeper was singing well by the moat and two others called near the lake. This morning when I noticed four large birds flying over the lake they turned out to be Cormorants. Coal Tits and Marsh Tits were heard from the wood and a flock of around 10 Long Tailed Tits were sharing the Alders with a dozen or so Siskin. There was not a lot else to report, although 6 Canada Geese flew north as I went back to the car. An average total in 50 minutes of 34 species were seen.

I think these are Colchicums, adding a bit of colour but the poor light doesn't do them justice.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Bring me Sunshine!

I heard the first few birds singing as I was getting ready from about 6.30 this morning, I arrived at 7am, after a little bit of defrosting, me and the car. There was only a hint of mist here and there, otherwise it was a refreshing clear start. A Goldcrest was calling in the car park and 2 crows sat facing away from eachother looking like they'd had a domestic!  A couple of Great Spots drummed and at least 3 Green Woodpeckers were calling from their respective corners of the estate. Still the finches are flying out on their way to feed and still for me, the Redpolls are not playing ball. A Grey Heron fished from the walkway between the two lakes
A light mist over the top lake
Just after I took this picture I headed back up towards the castle and saw 4 larger birds coming from over the wood, these turned out to be GREYLAG GEESE (72), a bird which has become a bit more regular in recent years. A couple of Stock Doves called and a Nuthatch was busy in a nearby oak. Out in the fields the Skylarks, about 5 of them were really enjoying themselves filling the air with their song, a Mandarin flew over the alders along the stream and another single Yellowhammer came out of the freshly butchered hedges, I say butchered, I'm not sure what the correct term is they are not exactly pruned back these days, maybe flailed is a better word! There were good numbers of Redwing and Fieldfares this morning and 5 Greenfinches were near the car park.
A Blue Tit surveying the recent hedge flailing

Dunnocks were in good voice this morning

I think they thought I had food!

Monday, 7 February 2011

Back to the Patch

Two days without visiting the patch and I sort of missed it!! and I think that's sort of worrying! Anyway this morning was again windy but dry, Siskins and Redwings were heard throughout the visit as were a couple of singing Song Thrushes, I headed passed the lake and into the woods, there were loads of Blue Tits and a few Long Tailed, I did heard one Marsh Tit a Jay as well as couple of Treecreepers. Then a familiar honking call was heard as a CANADA GOOSE (71) flew over, my first new species on the patch since Jan. 25th. It was still a struggle to find much this morning but a Yellowhammer came up out of the winter wheat, I also stood and watched as a Skylark in full song gradually made his way higher and higher unperturbed by the strong wind, most impressive!
This was taken on a brighter day! and is where I found my only Long Eared Owl for the site a few years ago.

Birding elsewhere

I didn't manage a patch visit this weekend but was out birding all day Saturday and had a very brief excursion to Dungeness on Sunday. Four of us set out to east Kent on Saturday, we started at Stodmarsh and did a quick stop in the first hide then walked to where the boardwalk takes you back through the wood. Surprisingly there were good numbers of Marsh Harriers in the air from the hide battling the wind, possibly 6-8 birds in all, a Cetti's Warbler called from near the hide and small parties of Gadwall were dashing to and fro'. In the wood, Siskins were the order of the day with several flocks possibly totalling 100+ birds a few Goldfinches were mixed in and a Treecreeper and Great Spotted Woodpecker also showed briefly. After Stodmarsh we headed to Pegwell Bay hoping to meet the incoming tide, which worked out well, there were really good numbers of waders and gulls, a Merlin reported earlier didn't re-appear during our visit but the constant activity of the waders kept us interested, there were alot of Bar Tailed Godwits, the most I've seen for sometime and a couple of Black Tailed were also seen one close to the hide. I did have a glimpse of a bunting dropping in, infront of the hide which was almost certainly a Lapland but it didn't show itself again. Our final stop was Grove Ferry here we added the first Pintail of the day from the ramp and 2 Hen Harriers both female heading towards Stodmarsh. It was a tricky day in the constant wind but it was good to be out and be in good company.
Sunday, really was a brief stop at Dungeness, I stopped three times for a quick scan and managed to see 6 Bewick's and 9 Smew, including a stunning male, the third stop for Glaucous Gull was unsuccessful. I couldn't really have expected much more!

Friday, 4 February 2011

Just a quick post

What a difference a day makes, in the words of Randy Crawford (and various others!), mind you the whole week has been fairly changeable. The light didn't get much above gloomy this morning but one of the first birds that went whizzing through, possibly wind assisted, was a male Kestrel. Which so far has been seen about the same amount of times as Peregrine this year. After a good selection of finches yesterday, Bullfinch, Linnet and Chaffinch were the only ones noted today. A Grey Heron was at the lake and a couple of Treecreepers called from around it. Finally, a few Fieldfares and Redwings looked like they were heading out to a nearby orchard, maybe 30-40 in all.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Feb. 3rd

The lightest morning so far and the birds seemed to be enjoying it as much as I was. I think someone had turned up the volume on the birdsong CD, there was plenty to listen to. The lake was busiest and it is where I spent most of my time. It wasn't busy on it but around it, Siskins were everywhere again, there were more Redpolls around today but I only managed to get good views of about 3 birds unfortunately none were Mealy. Probably the highlight was a Brambling calling as it flew over as there haven't been many around here this winter. A Sparrowhawk was over the wood again but didn't cause much panic in the smaller birds today. Five species of Tits were seen, Coal Tit being the one that is normally hardest to find. The ever present Treecreepers and Nuthatches were joined by a Goldcrest to add to the liveliness of the scene.

Raining Catkins!

A couple of Chaffinches deciding where to go next.
The walk back to the car park included a flyover Yellowhammer, lots of Chaffinches and a few each of Goldfinch, Greenfinch and Linnet. Pied Wagtail is starting be around more in the last few days, after being difficult to catch up with in previous weeks. Dad managed to see Little Egret this morning while he was out.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Misty Morning

We seem to get quite a few misty mornings at the castle, it can be clear at home, about 1 mile away and often misty at the castle, I think it's just to do with the stream running through and temperature etc.. Back to this morning or actually a brief visit in darkness last night. I thought I would listen again for Owls on the way home, I stood for about 40 minutes just listening. Apart from the distant drone of traffic and the odd closer car passed in the lane, it was fairly quiet. There is something almost therapeutic about being out in the dark, especially as it was a very calm evening. I did hear a Snipe at about 5.50pm and another fast flying something a couple of minutes later! A scan round the field with a very average torch did produce a couple of eyes shining back at me on one occasion, a Fox, I would imagine, eventually a Tawny called at around 6.10 and I headed home.
This morning then, as I say it was pretty misty, the Dunnocks were singing well and a Mistle Thrush sang from a stand of aspen. Three Robins chased round the car park and a Green Woodpecker called almost non-stop for the 40 or so minutes I was there. The lakes weren't giving anything away and the usual Siskins and the odd Redpoll were calling as they went over. A few Redwings were feeding in the field near the moat and 5 Blackbirds were gathering the last scraps of rotting fruit under a small apple tree, fairly uneventful really but there is always tomorrow. Stephen got a few pics of the Mealy Redpoll from yesterday, so I've included them here.

Stephens shots of yesterdays 'Mealy/Common'

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

New month new birds?

I seemed to be ready earlier today but still arrived at the castle at 7.10? Anyway it was almost like a Jekyll and Hyde scenario as I got out of the car, yesterday it was pretty noisy this morning there was hardly any song to be heard, it did start up as I made my to the lake. There were at least 3 different Bullfinches calling and just the odd Fieldfare and Redwing going over. I heard Redpolls going over on at least 6 occasions but none stopped. The Heron flew off the lake again as I approached and just 1 Moorhen appeared and no Mallard this morning, I always get my hopes up when nearing the lake, one day there'll be something else there, I'm sure. I continued through the wood and had 4 calling Nuthatch and 3 Treecreepers, Siskins were in evidence again mainly heard and not seen. Walking along the stream I could hear Long Tailed Tits and maybe 3 Jays a couple of Green Woodpeckers also had their say. Since Warren, of the Pittswood patch blog, had mentioned finding Bluebells coming through, I've been keeping an eye out to see when ours were visible and today there was one coming through by the stream. Once in the fields a single Skylark called and there were a few Goldfinches feeding in some alders.One Black Headed Gull patrolled the winter wheat. I headed back to the car park adding Linnet and Greater Spotted Woodpecker and a couple of immature Herring Gulls, the final turn back to look across the fields revealed a further 16 Black Headed Gulls had arrived but little else, a Greenfinch called in the car park as I reached the car. So no new birds for me today but a creditable 36 species in under an hour. Later I got a text from Stephen, he had managed to track down a flock of 12 Redpolls that contained a Common/Mealy Redpoll, a well deserved find as they have been giving him and me the run around this winter. This is the 73rd species recorded at the castle this year.
A murky view across to Park Field