Thursday, 31 March 2011

March 31st

I did have a quick look on the patch yesterday afternoon to see if the rain had dropped anything in, unfortunately, I just got wet and that was about it!!
This morning also had a drizzly, slight return to winter feel about it but the first bird I heard as I opened the car door was a Blackcap singing near the small pond at the entrance. I spent some time looking around the car park but didn't add much, 3 Chaffinch, 2 Greenfinch, 2 Robins, a Wren and a Blackbird.

 Making my way passed the Granary after finding nothing in the veg. garden, I disturbed a Sparrowhawk which flew off through the archway. There were a few Redwing still around, they were by the moat this morning, in the Oaks. The lake was nearly devoid of birds, save one Moorhen. So it was through the woods, 2 Goldcrests sung just passed the bottom lake and a pair of Marsh Tits showed well but the light for a photo was poor, 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers argued over a drumming post and the first Bullfinches I heard today were back out in the field, on the edge of the wood, I didn't find much else although a pair of Yellowhammers were also seen well, there was nothing on the freshly planted fields, which is where I was hoping for maybe a Wheatear, if I was lucky, finally a flock of 7 Linnets were feeding by one of the young hedges.
I think these are Milk Maids, hopefully someone will correct me if I'm wrong!!

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

March 30th

This morning it was back to the moth traps first thing, after a couple of species being added while I was away, which were Red Chestnut and Early Tooth Striped, we managed to add another couple this morning with a Muslin Moth and an Early Thorn. Numbers weren't amazingly high but at least 15 species were recorded.
While we recorded the moths a Redpoll stopped off in a nearby Silver Birch and 2 Siskins flew over, the winter theme continued with a dozen or so Redwings and at least 3 Fieldfares before we put everything away.

Treecreeper taken yesterday early evening
Pete the warden joined me for the rest of the walk, it was fairly quiet in respect of the number of species but the birds that were there made up for it in volume, especially round the lake. We saw 3 Great Spotted Woodpeckers a couple of Bullfinch, lots of Chiffchaff singing but no sign of yesterdays Blackcap. The Greylags flew in and a couple of Moorhens ran for cover. There was something I forgot to mention yesterday, that was I watched my wife do a tandem skydive on Friday (I didn't fancy it myself!!) at Headcorn and after she landed I spotted an adult Red Kite heading east, it was all the more pleasing as my Dad was with us and saw it to. Below are some random images, also from yesterday early evening.
Part of the gardens this time without Daffodils!

I like the effect lots of Blackthorn gives, looks like it's snowed but only on this part of the hedge!!

More Blackthorn.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

March 29th

After missing visits over the weekend, I met up with Alex the Assistant Warden at the castle this morning and we did a circuit taking in the lake, woods and fields. There were probably 10 each of Wren and Chiffchaff singing this morning, we could hear them from almost every point of the walk, the wood is quite damp so the Wrens do well here. A flock of 8 Linnets were seen in the edge of the mist near the veg. garden and Greenfinch and Goldfinch were both noisy as we walked by the moat, 2 Canada Geese flew through the valley calling as they went before we got to the lake.
At the lake it was again noisy 2 Nuthatches called 2 Greylag Geese were still present and at least 3 Chiffchaff were heard but the short snippet of song that really caught my attention was a BLACKCAP (79), just singing occasionally from the island on the bottom lake. Stephen had heard one on Friday, so this wasn't the first of the year here but still nice to add to the list in March which hasn't always been the case, also on the island was a Bullfinch and Blue Tit. Moving on through the wood we added Marsh Tit, Treecreeper and Great Spotted Woodpecker. Out in the fields, Skylarks were singing, I only heard 1 Yellowhammer today and we stopped to listened to Song Thrush that was close by in stark contrast the 3 Jays that continue to follow each other round the estate! On the way back to the car Goldcrest, Long Tailed Tit and Mistle Thrush all put in an appearance.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

March 24th

Once again it was a pleasure to be out, the car park was again noisy, a Chiffchaff was at the top end several Magpies announced their presence, I did count 11 at the weekend. A couple of Long Tailed Tits stopped briefly and 4 Jackdaws flew over.

A briefly stopping Long Tailed Tit!

The view that greets me most mornings a few yards from the car park
 I decided to do the longer walk via the lake through the woods. The Greylag Geese were again present but down to 3 birds today, a couple of Moorhens chased eachother across the top lake and a Mistle Thrush was singing well, from within the wood. I came across a couple of Treecreepers busy feeding and the Great Spotted Woodpeckers were almost growling at eachother, before one went off to start drumming. Marsh Tit, Coal Tit, Nuthatch and Jay were also added.

Couldn't resist more Daffodils
Walking along the stream a Buzzard called about 5 times, making me think yesterdays raptor call was still a possible Red Kite. A Meadow Pipit flew north, several Yellowhamers were singing and a Herring Gull flew east. Looking along the line of trees that follow the stream there is one obvious dead branch that sticks up out of the top of an Oak, I always think there should be something on it, sometimes there is, this morning it was a Little Egret, the first for sometime, they don't hang around here much passed April or May so sightings are more sporadic this time of year. A Red Legged Partridge called and I saw 3 Bullfinches on my way back to the car, a total of 8 Chiffcaffs were heard today. Another enjoyable hour or so with 43 species keeping me interested as ever.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

March 23rd

After yesterdays excitement, I was eager to get to the patch again this morning, I met Steve Broyd and we went through the moth traps, there were reasonable numbers, considering Steve had scraped ice off his windscreen this morning!! Nothing new but 91 Small Quakers were counted between the two traps. While we were checking, a raptor called and both of thought possibly Red Kite but the bird didn't come into view and only called twice, also as we walked between the traps Mandarin were heard a little way away. One Herring Gull went over and a few Siskins were heard, I made a quick visit to the lake, 6 Greylags were there and the 2 Mandarin flew in. Walking across the fields, I could hear Skylarks, Yellowhammers, Song Thrushes, Linnets and Chaffinches just to name a few, there were Woodpeckers drumming as well Long Tailed Tits and Goldcrests in the hedge, overall it was just really pleasant taking it all in. The 3 Jays that seem to have been hanging around together recently, then flew along the hedge and stopped briefly but too far away for a photo. Back at the car 15 Fieldfares flew south?
Not many opportunities today, as it was mainly misty until just before I went to work!!

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Great finish!

After being at work early yesterday and not getting a walk in, I was looking forward to this morning.
The moth trap was on overnight and produced 170 moths including 2 new for the year a Brindled Pug, earlier than expected and an Early Grey, making the total 22 species for the year so far. As we finished the moths we heard Starlings and saw them wheeling around in a tight group, out of the mist came 2 Sparrowhawks which headed off in different directions. A Siskin called as it flew over as did a couple of noisy Greylags. I headed as ever to the lake, I met Stephen coming up from the fields, we did a quick scan of the lake before we got close and found 6 Greylags and a pair of Mandarin, the first for me for a while, the Mandarin flew to a nearby tree then disappeared into the wood. Standing by the lake we could hear at least 2 Chiffchaff, a couple of Treecreeper and Nuthatch, a Mistle Thrush and a few other of the commoner species, there were 2 more Greylags on the bottom lake. Stephen continued through the wood and I went on towards the park field, I followed a couple of Bullfinches along the hedge, which made a total of 7 this morning in all, a Collared Dove called as I neared the car park and another single Siskin flew over.

Distant Bullfinch

View across Park Field
I put my bins and camera in the car and was just about to start up when right in front of me going passed a gap in the hedge a RED KITE (78) flew!, it stayed reasonably low, went straight over the car park and towards the village, fantastic! I did manage to grab the bins, the bird wasn't a full adult and had got, what looked like an orange tag in the wing, but I couldn't make it out very well as it went away. Stephen had at least 1 possibly 2 last year, I missed out, so hopefully this is the first of more records to come. The earliest record I've had is February 12th but we have seen birds into May, I don't remember any autumn records, I'll have to check.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

March 20th

After managing only a short walk yesterday and not really a birding walk, it was nice to get out this morning. By the time I left the car park I had already seen 18 species, the pick of which were around 20 Redwings and a flyover Redpoll. It was a good day for Goldcrests and after the ones in the car park there were another 3 pairs round the estate. As I walked passed the Granary a BRAMBLING called and 2 birds flew west, a nice male Kestrel then drifted through the valley.
I was heading to the lake when Stephen rang to say he had found 2 Red Legged Partridge, so I diverted round the fields first, I lost track of the amount of Yellowhammers this morning but 10 would be a reasonble guess, a Meadow Pipit flew north and there was 1 Rook with 7 Carrion Crows. One thing that was quite apparent today is that there had been a good increase in Chiffchaff numbers, I counted 5 singing birds not including the one outside my house as I left for my walk, it certainly made for a very spring like walk.

There wasn't alot flying over this morning and I picked up just 11 Black-headed Gulls and 4 Herring Gulls at some height, I was struggling to locate the Red Legs when Stephen called again to say he was following them up the hedgerow, I stopped and scanned and saw the 2 RED LEGGED PARTRIDGES (77) waddling along the hedgerow in the distance.
I continued into the wood adding Reed Bunting on the way, once in the wood I found Treecreeper, 4 Nuthatches, 2 Coal Tits, 4 singing Marsh Tits, a male Sparrowhawk and several Siskins flew over calling. I tried in vain to get a decent picture of one of the Marsh Tits but frankly it was a bit laughable!! See below.
The amount of tail shots twigs etc!! this was the best!!
 I finished with a look across the valley which was fairly uneventful, a short walk this afternoon added a female Sparrowhawk, Common Buzzard, my first butterfly of the year a Peacock in a hurry and 2 Orange Underwing moths only my second ever sighting, the first being yesterday.

Friday, 18 March 2011

March 18th

I was pleasantly surprised to head out and not get the rain that was forecast for this morning and it wasn't too cold either. The Redwings and Fieldfares hang on, today Redwings were in the ascendancy with 20 and only half a dozen Fieldfare, 2 Greylag Geese flew over the car park and I heard Greenfinch, Goldfinch and Bullfinch in quick succession. I stopped to take a pic of a Great Tit that was determined not to turn round and a BRAMBLING flew into a nearby tree called twice then carried on North, only the second one of the year for me, so a nice start.

Finally he turned round
 I did the backwards walking thing again finding 4 Reed Buntings, 4 Skylarks at least 8 Yellowhammers and hearing several Linnets. Today a Chiffchaff was in full song and it lasted more than a few seconds, though there was still nothing on the freshly ploughed field. Two Canada Geese flew over and I later found them on the lake.

Admiring the fine hedges

I wasn't sure which pictures to put on, so I did the lot!!
Shame it's a bit dark.
 The only gulls today were 2 Herring flying north over the wood and the 3 Jays were again by the lake. Heading passed the lake there was no sign of Marsh or Coal Tit today and I really only added Nuthatch, Jackdaw, Stock Dove and Goldcrest to the list as I made my way back to the car via Park Field.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

March 17th

I haven't seen the forecast but hopefully there is some clear warm weather on the way!!

That was going to be my post today but I did find a few birds this morning lurking in the mist. There was quite a lot of noise from Fieldfares and Redwings, just sub-song really but they were all practicing at the same time. I did the walk backwards today, I walked the fields first then finished at the lake. The Lodge Field has now mostly been ploughed, apparently half of it had been done yesterday or the day before, I just didn't notice in the mist, I took some time scanning it but to no avail, I did see 3 Green Woodpeckers chasing eachother along the stream, I heard 2 Skylarks and possibly 4 Yellowhammers this morning, I'm trying to find where each territory is and there was one singing from a new spot this morning, so I hope they all stay. Two Herring Gulls and a Common Gull flew through low enough to see and the Reed Bunting was again on the bend of the stream. Three flocks of Siskins were heard from different points around the walk and there were Canada Geese nearby. In the wood I heard Nuthatch and saw 2 Teecreepers, 2 Marsh Tits, 4 Great Tits, a Coal Tit and numerous Blue and Long Tailed Tits. A couple of Song Thrushes were also in the wood and several Wrens were singing well. At the lake 2 Greylag Geese were on the bottom the lake and a Goldcrest showed well, a Bullfinch called, as with quite a few of the birds this morning, unseen. 41 species were recorded, certainly an improvement on yesterday. No photographs at all today, I find it hard enough when the light is good!!

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Did the Moths see the light?

It was mistier this morning, so I didn't expect much, as we looked at the moth trap 8 Siskins flew over, we checked the traps, numbers were definitely down on a couple of days ago but we did find a really nice Dotted Chestnut, which was a nice surprise. The other moths in the first trap were mainly Small Quakers, Clouded Drabs a few Chestnut, Common Quaker, March Moth and Twin spotted Quaker. The second trap was a little more sheltered and there were around 14 Oak Beauty, 2 Yellow Horned and our second year tick of the day a Lead Coloured Drab, very apt for the overall ambiance of the morning!!

Dotted Chestnut

Lead Coloured Drab, note the fairly distinct 'Kidney' mark,  unfortunately the feathered antennae are hidden, another diagnostic feature.

I missed the lakes and went straight round the fields, hoping for a lost Wheatear or something of the like. There were several Goldfinches and Linnets calling and I again counted 3 Yellowhammers in song. A Meadow Pipit called as it flew over the first for sometime, I heard it or others on at least four more occasions on my walk round this morning. By the stream I found just one Reed Bunting and finally heard a Chiffchaff singing!! albeit briefly. Back towards the castle I saw 2 Bullfinches, heard a couple of Great Spots drumming and a Pied Wagtail called in the distance. Just 26 species this morning well down on the 40+ I have had in the last few days but still good to be out as always.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

March 15th

So, not quite the same as yesterday, as far as brightness goes but still a pleasant walk in the mist this morning, there were a few more Fieldfares and Redwings this morning, maybe a dozen of each on the edge of the overflow car park, a Mallard was making a noise in the small pond next to the main car park, several Jackdaws were flying out from the wood and a couple of Green Woodpeckers could be heard. Walking passed the veg garden a couple of Greenfinches flew up out of a nearby hornbeam hedge and I could hear Greylags in the mist (not quite the same as Gorillas, but hey!). At the lake there were 10 Greylag Geese, I think that is possibly a site record, certainly the most I've had on the lake at one time.
The fence infront is stopping people get too near last years Hornets nest!
I thought the geese were going to stay as they didn't fly until I turned to leave.

 I continued through the wood and heard my first Redpoll of the month go over. There was a sudden burst of noise as a Sparrowhawk circled over for a few seconds and then a Chiffchaff called but once again didn't sing!! Although a Goldcrest more than made up for the lack of Chiffchaff song, with a non-stop rendition of his favourite tune. Other birds included, Bullfinch, Grey Heron, Linnet, 3 Yellowhammers singing and a Treecreeper. Later speaking to Dad he reported he had seen 4 Brimstone butterflies and Steve Broyd was watching at least 5 of the day flying Orange Underwing moths when I spoke to him at lunchtime, my visits are normally too early or too late to catch up with these insects regularly, hopefully I'll get a chance at the weekend.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Another Sunny Start

What a fantastic morning to be out walking! The birds thought so to and were sitting up singing wherever possible. The Goldcrest in the car park was particularly noisy as were the House Sparrows and Goldfinches, even the Grey Heron joined in although not quite as melodically as the other birds! Two flocks of about 30 Chaffinches flew high east early on, the first bit of movement I've seen recently apart from a few small flocks of Starlings whizzing through and small amounts of gulls passing overhead. The lake was quiet again, one Siskin flew over it and I could hear Long Tailed Tits nearby, 3 Jays flew from an Oak just above the lake, the most I've seen together so far this year sometimes in autumn 6-8 can be seen together. The light was nice on the lake and I tried a couple of shots to capture it, with limited success. I didn't get out to the fields but could hear distant Yellowhammers and Skylarks, also the 2 Greylags flew over again. A Sparrowhawk drifted low over the wood and back at the car park I managed to find 1 Fieldfare and 2 Redwings a single Common Gull flew low east there as well. Later Stephen actually heard a Chiffchaff something I'm still looking forward to, even though the song is monotonous, it does add to the feeling of spring an I would certainly miss it if it disappeared.
Trying to capture the light, more practice needed!!
I was enjoying the reflections this morning, (I think this looks slightly better when you click on it to make it bigger??)
One of many birds enjoying a song!

Sunday, 13 March 2011

March 13th

Today was the first long walk I've done since the holiday, it was a bit grey but quite mild. After no winter visitors yesterday some of the first birds today were Redwing and Fieldfare, just a handful of each, there were also a couple of Goldcrests again in the car park. Pete the Warden and Steve Broyd were checking the moths, I dropped in on them and they had added two species today, Grey Shoulder Knot and Engrailed, there were 17 Oak Beauties today and 39 Small Quakers, I'm not sure on other numbers but still a reasonable amount were recorded today.
The first few Daffodils start giving some colour
 Back to the birds and although there was no big surprises the species kept coming, a noisy flock of around 70 Linnets were seen and while watching these a Chiffchaff called, possibly the same one as the other day it still didn't want to sing though! 6 Canada Geese flew north and at least 12 Lesser Black Backed Gulls mainly flew north. Yellowhammers again sung from several spots on various hedges and 3 Reed Buntings were near the stream, as I walked up the hill to look across the valley a nice flock of at least 60 Siskin noisily passed overhead. As I looked across the valley 2 Greylags flew west followed by a single Cormorant also a flock of over 100 Black Headed Gulls flew south. Finally a look at the boggy area near the entry road produced 5 Common Snipe.There was no sign of the Stonechat today but that was probably too much to ask. I walked from 7.00am until 11.30am and managed 54 species this morning, which was more than I thought the total would be.
Sorry, couldn't resist another Yellowhammer
One of the two Greylags flying over

Saturday, 12 March 2011

March 12th, Moths and Birds

Last night the Moth trap went on for the first time this month, it was quite a busy night with good numbers of Small and Common Quakers, Hebrew Characters a couple of each of Oak Beauty, Yellow Horned, Twin Spotted Quaker, several Clouded Drabs, March Moth as well as a Shoulder Striped and a Small Brindled Beauty and a couple of Dotted Borders for good measure! there were probably just over 100 moths in all.
Oak Beauty
On the bird front this morning it was again very spring like and with reports of Wheatear and Sand Martins from Dungeness, as always I was optimistic. Yellowhammers and Skylarks dominated the air waves and several Grey Herons were drifting up and down the valley, Stephen text to say the Stonechat was still around and I was standing where it had just flown to! within a few minutes I relocated the bird in the same newly planted hedgerow as yesterday.
Slightly nearer than yesterday but not much.
Otherwise it was much the same as yesterday but without Chiffchaff and Grey Wagtail and for the first time for ages no winter visitors were seen or heard. It was a fairly short visit as I'm working today :( but I'll be back tomorrow all being well.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Like Buses!!

After yesterdays, I would say wash-out but wind-out would be more appropriate! I set off this morning with high hopes as it was calmish, sunny and really nice to be out. A Collared Dove was calling and there were a couple of Goldcrests in the car park. A Siskin flew over and a couple of Mistle Thushes were singing as again the lake beckoned, once again it was nearly devoid of waterbirds, 3 Moorhen and that was it even the Mallard had deserted! A Bullfinch posed briefly and I may have got a poor photo, Long Tailed Tits were again evident round the lake. I made my way into the wood and found a couple of Coal Tits that were accompanied by my first CHIFFCHAFF (74) of the year, normally I hear them singing first but this one was busily flying round bits of honeysuckle and birch trees and didn't utter a single phrase. Moving on I came across Marsh Tits, Treecreepers a small group of Redwings in the wood and several drumming woodpeckers.
On leaving the wood a couple of Mallard were in the small ponds dug a couple years ago and 2 Greylags flew south, then the second year tick of the morning flew along the stream a GREY WAGTAIL (75), two new birds in a morning, I was pleasantly surprised. Following the stream along the edge of the fields a couple Yellowhammers were again singing about 6 Fieldfares flew up into the alders, I scanned the hedgerows and found my third new bird of the morning a STONECHAT (76), I tried to get photos and was again struggling with spot focus on my little Panasonic but what a nice way to end the walk, 2 Canada Geese did fly over while I was watching the Stonechat. That made 47 species today compared to yesterdays 28!!
An obliging Yellowhammer
Finally got a shot of sorts!

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Holiday - The final few days

We started the next leg of our journey from the Ngorongoro Farmhouse a really surprising place that was pretty much self sufficient, set in 500 acres of farmland, an early morning walk rewarded us with singing Willow Warblers a Blackcap and a European Bee-eater, there were some new birds to, African Citril, Brown Crowned Tchagra and a stunning Bronze Sunbird.
After breakfast we headed off to Tarangire National Park we arrived just before lunch and while we waited for Wilson to get the tickets we saw Ashy Starlings, White Headed Buffalo Weaver and Red billed Hornbills a nice start to the game drive. Once through the gates we encountered our first mammals, a nice herd of Elephants, followed by Waterbuck, Giraffe, Impala, Bohors Reedbuck and Zebra. Tarangire is a much more bushy and long grassed reserve and viewing can be difficult but it does hold around 7000 Elephants if I've remembered that rightly, which delighted my wife as she loves Elephants and there were plenty of young calves around for cute photos!!
We pushed on but it was very hot and the TseTse flies were biting a bit too much for comfort!! We did find a nice Black Headed Oriole and Forest Kingfisher, there were good numbers of Blue-Cheeked Bee-eaters as well. On the mammal front we did add one Lion and an Unstriped Ground Squirrel! The heat and flies finally beat us around 4.30 and we headed for the lodge, only half an hour before we were scheduled to be back. What was nice was as we had a cold drink a Genet appeared in the rafters of the lounge then disappeared outside!

                                                       Blue-Cheeked Bee-eater
Our last game drive was again in Tarangire, we were fully refreshed and Wilson took us on some quiet tracks to look for Hunting Dogs and Kudu. We started with a group of 5 Ostriches and a really confiding Lilac-Breasted Roller, mammals were again difficult, we found some fresh Leopard prints and spotted some more Impala and Waterbuck with again loads of Elephant, driving along the edge of a marsh we saw Glossy Ibis, Hottentot Teal and we stopped to identify my only confirmed Cisticola of the trip, Winding Cisticola. (I thought stopping for lots of LBJ's would have been pushing my luck a bit too far!!) Once back in the bushy areas a good run of birds included Straw Tailed, Pin Tailed and Steel Blue Whydahs plus Emerald Spotted Dove and at last the magnificent African Fish Eagle, in fact 4 in total. Wilson had to speed up a bit as our ticket lasted only 24 hours on the way back to the gate we did find our last Lion and lots more, you guessed it Elephants and very welcome they were to.

Our final day was a rest day in our lodge in Arusha, I did a couple of small walks trying add a couple of final birds, a Sulphur Breasted Bush Shrike was a colourful addition as was Red Headed Weaver.
We ended the trip having seen 37 species of mammals and just over 250 bird species in 8 days, it was full on but we slept well and had a great guide for the week, lots of safari vehicles whizzed passed during the week and I wondered how much they all saw. It's now time to start saving for the next one!!

March 9th

I did a quick visit last night after work from around 5.40- 6.15, I waited by the lake hopefully to catch some Mandarin coming to roost nearby, these didn't appear but a large female Peregrine flew low over the lake at about 5.50 making me wonder where it was roosting, Stephen had probably the same bird over the wood at the weekend. Apart from that there were several Redwings flying in to roost in some holly and a Kestrel went to roost on the tower.
With the wind most definitely turned it wasn't quite as cold as recent mornings, there were 3 Bullfinches in the car park and it again was nice and lively with good numbers of Chaffinches and House Sparrows and a couple of singing Dunnocks and Robins. A single Fieldfare flew over with several Starlings and a small group of 4 Siskins soon followed. Linnets normally like the veg garden and this morning a couple were investigating it, as I approached the lake a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker called 3 times but I was unable to see it. A few gulls drifted over as well this morning of four different species, the most for a while. The Marsh Tits were back this morning associating with a couple of Goldcrests, Blue Tits and Long Tailed Tits. In the fields there were 6 Skylarks, I could hear at least 2 Yellowhammers singing and a couple of Grey Herons flew over, later Stephen had a lone Lapwing over after he looked for what I was pretty sure was a Black Redstart, I had seen briefly this morning, unfortunately it didn't re-appear and my distant flight views weren't totally conclusive.
This Goldcrest stayed still just long enough!

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Another bright morning!!

What lovely start to the day again, it didn't feel quite as cold as yesterday despite the frost, birds were singing from around 5.45 this morning as my alarm went off, I arrived at 6.50 hoping to add to the years total of 73 which I seem stuck on at the moment! Especially as Stephen had added Grey Wagtail over the weekend, I thought there might be a chance also March does turn up some good birds, we've had Great Grey Shrike, Red Kite and Stonechats sometimes appear at this time of year.
As I left the car park I heard a whirring of wings and just caught sight of a medium size bird disappearing over the roof of the coffee shop, unfortunately I couldn't be sure what it was, my guess would be Woodcock or Partridge but the sighting was all to breif. The sheep were up and about and it was interesting to watch Pied Wagtails and Starlings searching the the place the sheep must have slept as the grass was green with no frost.
A small group of 12 Black-Headed Gulls dropped in with 1 Common Gull but didn't stay long, at least 3 Treecreepers were singing today and instead of the more usual Marsh Tit, 2 Coal Tits called, just for a change! Out in the fields it was again Skylark, Yellowhammer and a few Fieldfares that were most evident, a Grey Heron again flew over and a Great Spotted Woodpecker wouldn't come round to the side of the tree that I could photograph! I spoke to my Dad later who walked round after me and he had seen 4 Buzzards together quite low, giving as good views as he'd ever had.
Chaffinches at dawn, nearly.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Ngorongoro Crater

Just walking to breakfast at the lodge on the edge of the crater was an experience in itself! We were on our way soon enough heading through the forest on the way down to the crater, we added Hildebrandt's Francolin, Northern Anteater Chat and loads of Abdim's Storks were on the crater floor. Our first mammals of the day were Zebra soon followed by Buffalo and a good herd of Eland one of the larger antelopes. Dusky Turtle Doves and several Rollers followed as we drove passed more Wildebeest and Thompson's Gazelle, there were animals everywhere! Soon our first predators appeared, a Black Backed Jackal sat low in the grass a Hyena walked among the Zebra then the first Lion was seen in the distance, this was joined by another and 5 more lay a couple of hundred yards away, watching the reactions of the other the animals as 2 of the Lions headed out in to the open was fascinating, these Lions looked ready for a meal, the thinnest ones we had seen so far, they again walked passed our vehicle and disappeared into some long grass.
Birds continued to come Little Bee-eaters, Red Billed Firefinches and a fantastic dancing Pin Tailed Whydah, Hammerkop and a really colourful Rosy Breasted Longclaw, it was fantastic. Wilson took us off the beaten track a bit and I was lucky to spot a Serval out in the open, he said we had been lucky to find it, I mis-identified it as a Jackal originally!! It was a little way away, that's my excuse anyway.
From our vantage point Wilson picked up a Black Rhino in the distance, we headed that way and added Common Jackal and a few more birds, Long Toed Plover, Malachite Kingfisher and Pink Backed Pelican. We watched a stand off between a Buffalo and Hyena the Hyena giving in fairly easily, a wise move! We saw lots of young animals during the trip but one of the highlights was after lunch, where we avoided the Black Kites taking our food by staying in the vehicle, we saw a Lion our eleventh of the day, as we watched it 2 little heads popped up, we watched as the Lioness licked her cubs and when she'd had enough she wandered a few yards away for a rest.
                                                        A selection of youngsters
We added 2 more Black Rhinos on our way out of the crater and as we drove up through the forest to the rim of the crater I was searching hard for a Turaco again, unfortunately again to no avail until  a shout from the other side of the vehicle, my wife and the man from London had just seen a bird with bright red/scarlet wings- of course a Turaco and I had missed it, at least it gives me an excuse to save for another trip!!! We headed to our next lodge ready for a trip to Tarangire the following day.

March 7th

Arriving at 7.10 after the expected but forgotten about defrosting of the car, it was a beautiful morning, crisp, cold and bright. The birds were fairly lively, plenty of Chaffinches singing a couple Great Spotted Woodpeckers chased around in the aspen. The sheep field held about 15 Starlings and 6 Fieldfares and there seemed like there were more House Sparrows than normal as well, judging by the din coming from the granary and various other localities. A good flock of Woodpigeons lifted simultaneously from a small wood on the edge of the estate but unfortunately there was no sign of what may have disturbed them, a further scan across the valley only produced a small flock of 12 Chaffinch flying over and 5 Goldfinches close by.
Once at the lake it was again quite noisy with Great Tits, Nuthatches, Treecreepers and Mistle Thrushes all singing or calling. One small flock I came across held 2 Goldcrests, 2 Marsh Tits, 3 Great Tits and 2 Long Tailed Tits, I tried to get a couple of shots but failed to get anything passable. Other birds of note today were a flyover Siskin and 1 Common Gull, a Jay, Grey Heron and several Greenfinches.
View from a bridge- (didn't see Kim Wilde though!)

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Cloudy morning

It was cloudy in more ways than one today, after all the excitement of the holiday I now have a cold which meant my planned Sunday morning stint ended as a brief foray and nothing more! I did again hear and see good numbers of Long Tailed Tits, a single Buzzard was the first for a while and Nuthatch, Bullfinch a couple Green Woodpeckers were all noted a few Fieldfares and Redwings were still in evidence but my senses were distinctly cloudy today. You'll be pleased to hear the holiday postings are nearly done!! I didn't say what the holiday was all about, basically it's a big birthday for my wife and we saved for ages to go somewhere different, she chose and what a good choice. I'll try the patch before work again tomorrow, hopefully with better results!!

Day - 3 and 4 Serengeti

At the end of day 2 we had seen 22 species of mammals and over 100 bird species a really good start. We were looking forward to a full day on the Serengeti, there was, of course, plenty to see we got our entry ticket where we added Brubru a small black and white bird with chestnut flanks, our first Pygmy Falcon posed well for us and Fischer's Lovebirds zoomed around in all directions. The first mammal stars of the day were a group of 3 Cheetah resting under a small tree, a mother and 2 cubs another great sight and one of those we weren't sure we would see.
With such a good start it was hard to keep up that level of excitement throughout the day. With the vastness of the Serengeti, there were periods of time when there wasn't loads to see but we still added our first Spotted Hyena and were still seeing Tawny Eagles many Montagu's Harriers, a few Pallid Harriers. Thompsons and Grants Gazelles appeared in varying numbers with Wildebeest and Zebra for good measure. We turned off the main track towards a long row trees a few different birds were here with a Blcak Coucal, African Goshawk and several Ostriches and Vultures, up ahead there were a couple of vehicles parked and it was soon apparent they were intently watching our second Leopard lounging in classic fashion on a low branch!!
Two Leopards in two days way more than I could have ever expected, we headed on to our lunchtime spot buzzing again from our mornings experiences. Lunch wasn't without it's moments we sat at a table and moved on quickly when I found a Spotted Bush Snake sliding around above our heads, there were more birds here too with D'Arnaud's Barbet, Speckle Fronted Weavers lots of Grey capped Social Weavers and a courful Amethyst Sunbird.
After lunch within minutes we watched a Hippo munching his way mower like through the grass, looking pretty mean! and most exciting of all less than half a mile on a herd of Zebra was being stalked by a Lion! it was gripping stuff, four other Lions looked on waiting for their moment to join the fray. Unfortunately fpr the Lions but lucky Zebras the chase was aborted after about 20 yards

 If you click on the top picture you can see the Lion stalking in the middle of the picture, the other Lions looked on then once the the attempted kill was aborted all four Lions proceeded to walk in front and behind our vehicle, giving the chance of the photo at the bottom of the three.
I don't think we expected anymore today but another few hundred yards down the road a superb Martial Eagle was seen, one of the birds I was really hoping to see on this trip. The last couple of hours produced our first Black Backed Jackals, Striped Mongoose plus birds such as Grey Woodpecker, Steel Blue Whydah, Black Bellied Bustard and Coqui Francolin.
We were up early on our last morning in the Serengeti, the light was fantastic, White Storks were in every tree, several Vultures were visible which led us to more Lions, it was more than obvious why they were here 100,000+ Wildebeest stretched out in every direction interspersed with Zebra, something we'll never forget!

This Jackal was a bit lost in amongst the herds of Wildebeest but did pose nicely for us, the morning was soon gone, taken up with all those Wildebeest but my wife did get a nice shot of a Black Shouldered Kite before we made our way to the Ngorongoro Crater.