Monday, 19 December 2011

December 19th

A nice chilly morning!! with some lovely colours in the sky at first which soon faded. As with most patch watchers, although always optimistic, I'm not really expecting to add anything else to the year list but will be checking out where everything is for the start of 2012.

This morning I headed to the lake to see if the Water Rail was anywhere to be seen, it didn't appear and the lake was 90% frozen, just half dozen MALLARD sat on it, quacking away to each other, probably talking about the weather!! A MOORHEN was in the field above the lake and 2 GREEN WOODPECKER flew towards the garden. In the garden itself I counted 15 BLACKBIRDS feeding under, or in, various apple trees, among these were one or two FIELDFARE and a MISTLE THRUSH. BLACK HEADED GULLS are still being attracted the most recently sown field, which is now flushed with green shoots, around 10 birds were there, with more coming in from the south west as I continued my walk.

There was a nice flock of LONG TAILED TITS by the offices, with two or three BLUE TITS and a TREECREEPER, REDPOLL and SISKIN also called as they flew over. A BULLFINCH posed ever so briefly in the bright sunlight as I was heading back to the car but again eluded the camera. Another small flock of birds consisted of several GREAT TITS, CHAFFINCH and several BLUE TITS and 5 REDPOLLS stopped off in the top of a Silver Birch, one of them looking a bit frosty with a big white wing bar, I didn't see the rump, so I'm not claiming Common Redpoll yet but hopefully it might just be a matter of time :-)

Friday, 16 December 2011

Moths Review and Winter first.

I have missed the last couple of mornings as it just seems too dark when I have to leave for work, I did just get a short walk in on Wednesday 14th which produced 34 species the highlight being a LITTLE EGRET with a supporting cast of REDPOLLS, SISKIN and a good mix of other regular species. I spoke to Dad after his walk on Thursday, he had seen 2 BUZZARDS and found our first wintering BLACKCAP!! a bird I've not recorded in the winter months before.

MOTH REVIEW 2011 (taken from information compiled by Steve Broyd)

Steve Broyd has been extremely busy analysing the data we have collected for the moths this year, which gives a very detailed look at where we are in our survey work so far, concentrating mainly on macro moths.
The first figure that jumped out of Steve's findings was that we had recorded 27,339 moths over 160 nights of trapping, I was amazed we had processed so many moths, it made me wonder just how many there are, if this was just from one site and not every moth ends up in our 2 traps!!
Our year started on February 9th, which was our earliest start in the 3 years we've surveyed, because of this we added two new species of early flying moths the aptly named EARLY MOTH and SPRING USHER. Our first new migrant was BLOSSOM UNDERWING which occurred in reasonable numbers around the coasts of southern Britain, we recorded 3 in total, not bad for an inland site. DOTTED CHESTNUT was another star of the early part of the year with 6 being recorded between 15th March and 19th April. Other highlights in this period included 129 GREAT PROMINENTS and 888 SMALL QUAKERS!
3 Alder Moths were found in May

The next 'big event' was an influx of the nationally scarce RANNOCH LOOPER, we recorded a creditable 66 of these migrants with a possible highest single night count in the south east (if not the country) of 57 on the 6th June. New moths for the site continued to arrive in May and June, BUTTONED SNOUT, CREAM SPOT TIGER, WHITE SATIN, FOUR DOTTED FOOTMAN and NI MOTH, to name a few. There were other notable moths at this time including our third RUDDY CARPET for the site and our second RED NECKED FOOTMAN.
Several Blotched Emerald were found in May and June (picture by Steve Broyd)

Another stat that jumped out of Steves' great review of the year is that in 2010 we recorded 250 different species in July alone!! A cooler July this year produced only (I say only!!) 175 species. Despite the drop in numbers there were still new moths, CLANCY'S RUSTIC and BORDERED STRAW. We were also lucky to have two very scarce return visitors CLAY FANFOOT and MAPLE PROMINENT.
Maple Prominent (picture by Steve Broyd)

 Summers last offerings were firsts of TREE LICHEN BEAUTY and JERSEY TIGER in August. September almost went by without a new moth being recorded but on the night of the 29th we added FOUR SPOTTED FOOTMAN to the castle records.
Tree Lichen Beauty

Jersey Tiger (picture by Steve Broyd)
Four Spotted Footman (picture by Steve Broyd)

Numbers of moth species tend to decrease as it gets to the latter months of the year but sometimes numbers of particular species can be exceptional as with LUNAR UNDERWING which gathered an impressive 2711 moth nights between September 15th and October 29th. October gave us our first SCARCE BORDERED STRAW and November our first JUNIPER PUG.
We concentrate, as I say mainly on the bigger macro moths that occur here, but we do pick up lots of micros which I am slowly getting to grips with (emphasis on the slowly). Steve knows nearly all the micros we get and when I pointed out a largish, in micro terms, moth that we had both missed on the 31st October, Steve recognised it as a rare Mediterranean migrant URESIPHITA GILVATA, I'm looking forward to the time, if and when, I can pick out the names of this difficult group of moths. The final stats are, we recorded 362 species of Macro moth this year and the total number of species recorded rose by 22 to 430 in 3 years!
All the recording is carried out by Steve, Peter Dear, the National Trust Ranger and myself. Pete sets up the traps each night for us all to check in the mornings. I'm looking forward to see what next year will bring and trying to learn a lot more :-)

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

December 13th

After the overnight wind I thought I'd have a look to see what would be braving the receding wind, not much was the answer!! The car park held one calling ROBIN and a couple of CHAFFINCHES as usual, a single REDWING called as I walked by the barn. Looking across the valley the sky was almost birdless just one or two corvids appeared and disappeared. Gradually a few more bits started to make themselves known, a LINNET and a couple of REDPOLLS flew over and several singles of FIELDFARE were noted. MEADOW PIPITS were most vocal as they came up from the fields and a SISKIN called from behind me. Four YELLOWHAMMERS flew over silently, while I checked the water level in the new pond, which after last nights rain looks to be collecting the water pretty efficiently.
The puddle is growing :-)

 Starting to make my way back a BUZZARD was a surprise, battling against the wind and on the other end of the scale a GOLDCREST called from by the stream. The last couple of additions were SKYLARK and BULLFINCH and so to work just as the sun peeped over the low cloud on the horizon.

After the weekends Owl fest I wondered if these areas might produce one, one day!!

Monday, 12 December 2011

December 12th

Another bright morning, the first 3 birds that flew over were 3 REDWING, followed by a couple of FIELDFARE, numbers don't seem to be building as yet, I wonder if this is it for the winter thrushes here. It was nice to hear lots of single notes of CHAFFINCHES as they called from the various hedges. For the fourth or fifth time in a row BULLFINCHES called but remained unseen, I must get a look at one soon! A SISKIN called several times from behind the gardeners cottages and 5 LONG TAILED TITS appeared out of the half light in front of me as I walked towards the fields.

There were two notable absentees this morning, I didn't hear or see a single Redpoll and the Woodpigeon flocks that have been a feature of recent visits were nowhere to be seen, although there was the odd single silhouetted sitting in the poplars. A COMMON GULL flew south, later 2 BLACK HEADED GULLS went the same way but somewhat higher as 3 HERRING GULLS headed north. One YELLOWHAMMER called in the fields and 27 SKYLARK got up with a few MEADOW PIPITS and LINNETS as I strolled the field margins. The final couple of birds of note were a single REED BUNTING calling from 10 acre field and 2 CORMORANTS that circled a couple of times before disappearing behind the trees.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Sheppey - December 10th (Owl fest!)

Who would have thought a few months ago when we arranged a trip to Sheppey that the day was going to be so nice, after strong winds in the week as well, the weather was a real bonus. We set off at 7am from Sissinghurst, us being Wendy, John, Rachel, Pete and myself, we then met Dave at Elmley just before 8am. A drive along the entrance track produced just one MARSH HARRIER and an obliging KESTREL. We did a short walk through the farm yard and almost immediately picked up our first SHORT EARED OWL of the day just below Kingshill Farm. We stayed for around half an hour, the Owl was very active almost all that time, we added a few ducks, finches and thrushes from here before we headed off to Shellness point. The BRENT GEESE were next to the track down to the hamlet, with a few LAPWINGS and GOLDEN PLOVER for company. We walked to the point to check out the wader roost, before we got too far our second SHORT EARED OWL of the day lifted from the salt marsh and eventually disappeared over the seawall.

We checked the mouth of the Swale and found about 15 COMMON SCOTER, with a few hundred MALLARD and several TEAL. The waders in the roost were the usual mix of KNOT, BAR TAILED GODWIT, with one very light grey individual, OYSTERCATCHER, DUNLIN and a few scattered TURNSTONE, GREY PLOVER and SANDERLING. On the salt marsh were around 30-40 CURLEW, many REDSHANK and the odd LITTLE EGRET.

We made our way back to the car park for a walk along the seawall, a distant HEN HARRIER was our first of the day and a calling LAPLAND BUNTING was new for a couple of our party as it flew west. On the way back to the car a MERLIN shot out from a bush in front of us and more owls started to appear near the car park and over the fields south of Muswell Manor, at least 4 were seen giving good views and occasionally coming together hissing loudly at each other as they tangled claws, fantastic! We got 2 more owls at Muswell Manor, hunting behind the houses, taking the total for the day to a possible 7!! On Capel Corner we picked up SNIPE and a distant BARN OWL.

Red Legged Partridge and Mute Swans - Capel Corner.

The Raptor viewpoint was our final stop, as we approached 2 more SEO's appeared one right next the car, following the ditch, probably the best views of the day, in all we saw at least another 4 birds making the total for the day a conservative 11!!! At times they seemed to be the only birds around, one appearing as another dropped out of sight, a truly memorable day! The viewpoint also gave us our only PEREGRINE of the day 2 SPARROWHAWKS and 30 or so CORN BUNTINGS, along with several sightings of probably just one female HEN HARRIER. Finally we headed home after 4pm as the temperature dropped. Got a bit carried away with the photos!!

Friday, 9 December 2011

Decmber 9th

It was a beautiful start to the day today, slightly cool but lovely and clear. REDWING was one the first birds to put in an appearance flying quickly across the car park. A ROBIN followed me across the car park, as I tried to take photos of it, mostly getting too close to focus on in the improving light.

BULLFINCHES were calling, again locating them proved difficult, I'm sure it wasn't that difficult before I started carrying the camera around with me!! Heading out to the fields, the sky was littered with groups of WOODPIGEONS going in different directions, like fast moving little clouds. The corvids were also heading out to the fields, I'm not sure why but it may have been due to the lack of cloud cover, they were really high enjoying the free air space and the chance to get high! Just half a dozen BLACK HEADED GULLS quartered the Lodge field and a single LESSER BLACK BACKED GULL flew north. Overall it was pretty quiet but it didn't matter.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

December 8th - a short visit

An even shorter visit this morning, 7.55am-8.20am. It felt a little like the quiet before the storm, there were several CHAFFINCHES calling around the car park, with the odd ROBIN and a SONG THRUSH in full flow. Walking out to look across the valley one FIELDFARE went over and a flock of 120 or so WOODPIGEONS made their way south. It was still too dark for photos, so I decided to just take in the view. The second scan picked up a LITTLE EGRET sitting in an Oak by the stream, which stayed there for about 5 minutes. A few REDPOLLS were calling and eventually a flock of 12 birds was noted in the Silver Birches by the barn, a GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER was also calling from the Silver Birch. I could hear the ever present BULLFINCHES but failed to see any, a YELLOWHAMMER called from out in the fields and 2 MEADOW PIPITS flew directly overhead. I managed to record over 20 species in my short visit, sometimes I wonder whether to go to the patch if time is against me but after this mornings walk, maybe it's worth doing more often :-)

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

December 6th

I was at the castle for 7.30am, there was a light frost with small patches of white on a few scattered areas, apart from being cooler than of late it was looking like it was going to be a nice bright day. The first stirrings I heard, along with the BLACKBIRDS and ROBINS, were a few GOLDFINCHES in the hedge chattering away to themselves. A few FIELDFARES went over and 15 flew up from the hedge by the veg garden, followed by a couple PIED WAGTAILS from the field behind the hedge. REDPOLLS were buzzing overhead and just a single LINNET called as it went over. As I made my way to the lake, a scan across the valley produced 3 COMMON GULLS and a BLACK HEADED GULL over the fields, a KESTREL hovered a couple of times lit by the early rays of sun. The lake appeared empty but a fleet footed bird ran for cover in the reeds, just giving me enough time to pick out a longish bill and a white undertail, it was nice to see the WATER RAIL back, hopefully it will give a few better views over the course of the winter. With only 40 minutes available for the whole visit I headed back, there were now another 16 BLACK HEADED GULLS over the fields and 2 TREECREEPERS shot across in front me by the moat. 34 species  for the walk was again satisfying as I wasn't sure if I would get out at all today.
I forgot I took this pic. on Sunday! the finished pond including water :-)

Sunday, 4 December 2011

December 4th

Two days in a row, wow! I was joined by Mike this morning. Starting at 7am, a few thrushes were leaving their roosts and 3 GOLDCRESTS were by the barn. We headed towards the lake and picked up 9 GREYLAGS heading high north and 2 GREEN WOODPECKERS that flew up from a field and posed on a fence unfortunately too far away for a picture.By the lake there were REDPOLLS and SISKIN flying around and a GREAT SPOTTED WOODPECKER called several times a BULLFINCH or two also called, while 2 MEADOW PIPITS flew over. Around the small pond in the wood a flock of tits included 2 MARSH TITS, the first of 5 seen today, not for the first time the flock seemed agitated, a PEREGRINE drifted over which their latest concern! A BRAMBLING then called as it flew over and a TREECREEPER and NUTHATCH joined the flock. We continued out in to the field coming across another tit flock on the way which contained at least one COAL TIT, also a SPARROWHAWK that flew lazily across the top of the wood. We were doing well for species and one of the first birds we saw as we left the wood was a BUZZARD. More SISKINS were seen, a flock of 13 in the Alders. Other birds added in the fields included REED BUNTING, YELLOWHAMMER, the second GREY HERON of the day, LINNET, JACKDAW, JAY and HERRING GULL. A quick look across the valley produced 4 CORMORANTS and another SPARROWHAWK. We ended the morning at 11am, neither of us managing any pictures in the poor light. I left Mike in the car park, hopefully something posed for him after I left. I got home and totalled up our efforts, 50 species was more than I had first thought. It was a really nice morning with good conversation and a nice selection of local birds. 

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Back on the patch... at last!

It was only a quick visit but I had an hours walk late morning this morning, it was nice to be out, that's for sure. I managed 33 species, nothing amazingly outstanding but that didn't matter. A few CHAFFINCH and GREENFINCH were in the car park with a mix of REDWING, FIELDFARE and BLACKBIRD.


A couple of BLACK HEADED GULLS went over to join 22 that were quartering the only field that has been sown so far. There was just one REDPOLL near the barn and 5 MAGPIES were in the field below the Granary. A BULLFINCH called from the hedge below the veg garden and a COMMON BUZZARD drifted over as I tried to locate the Bullfinch.

I heard a couple of YELLOWHAMMERS and REED BUNTING as wandered the fields. The pond is now finished and has two big 'puddles' in it, which is an encouraging start, I didn't take any photos of the finished article as I only had the long lens with me, hopefully I'll take some tomorrow. I added MEADOW PIPIT, SKYLARK, GREEN WOODPECKER, GOLDFINCH and HERRING GULL before heading home.