Saturday, 28 April 2012

This week

Work and weather are certainly conspiring to make getting out and getting time on the computer tricky (excuses, excuses!! and not complaining, happy to be working again) I managed a couple of visits this week but no additions to the year list. Any summer migrants at all were pretty difficult to find apart from BLACKCAPS and CHIFFCHAFFS, the only other one recorded was COMMON WHITETHROAT!! The resident birds are busy building or feeding, I saw GOLDCRESTS collecting nest material and BLACKBIRDS and ROBINS feeding young, so despite the lack of migrants there is plenty going on. The Bluebells are starting to carpet the wood with the Wood Anenomes starting to make way for them. Last Saturdays walk already seems a long time ago. I'll try and get out more this week but work again looks busy so apologies in advance.
On the picture front here are a couple from this week and some from earlier in the month.

Monday, 23 April 2012

Saturday's Bird walk

At 5am we met in the car park, it was dry and calm and the first birds were just starting to sing ROBIN and BLACKBIRD were the first on the list. We added birds reasonably quickly as the light improved. By 6.30am we were on 38 species including a male SPARROWHAWK with a BLUE TIT in it's talons, a LESSER SPOTTED WOODPECKER called nearby but we couldn't locate it, a JAY flew along a hedge and we managed to find a nice male REED BUNTING in song.
After the coffee break we headed round the fields, the COMMON WHITETHROAT sang, there was nothing in the new pond but a pair of YELLOWHAMMERS were seen in the hedge just beyond the pond. The walk made it's way into Digdog Lane, we heard NIGHTINGALE, saw 3 COMMON BUZZARDS and then the highlight of the morning whizzed by in the form of a PEREGRINE. There were plenty of SKYLARKS singing and after we added GOLDFINCH and GREENFINCH just before breakfast at 9am we had reached 50 species. Another enjoyable walk with a great mix of people and amazingly we stayed dry!!
Later I spent from 4.30- 6pm looking across the valley, 5 BUZZARDS were seen 2 COMMON GULLS, 3 LESSER BLACK BACKED GULLS, 2 HERRING GULLS, a CORMORANT and 2 SWALLOWS, so 55 species total but nothing new for the year, there is still loads to come.

Friday, 20 April 2012

April 20th

A pleasant walk this morning, the HOUSE SPARROWS were exceptionally noisy as part of a group of 15 or more dived in to the middle of a small willow near the barn. There was no sign of Wednesdays Willow Warbler by the lake, which was generally quiet. Moving round the fields several SKYLARK sung and up to 10 YELLOWHAMMERS were in pairs as I scanned one of the newly planted fields (peas i think), it was pleasing to see so many still around. A NIGHTINGALE (81) sang from the clump of trees it seems to occupy every year, always a more than welcome song. A little further on and a COMMON WHITETHROAT (82) was heard, Dad had heard and one in the same area yesterday.
One of the pairs ofYellowhammer

There wasn't loads more to report although a CUCKOO sang nearby but I'm hoping tomorrows guided will be lucky with the birds as well as the weather a morning like this morning would be great.
An ever inquisitive Robin


Thursday, 19 April 2012

A few migrants appear

After roaming around and neglecting the patch, I have managed a couple of little visits over the last few days. Just before the Madrid trip, Warrens wandering BARNACLE GOOSE (77) put in a quick fly by appearance with a GREYLAG GOOSE. The first new summer migrants after getting back were two SWALLOW (78) flying south in a the cold northerly on Sunday 15th, later in the day a short spell of sunshine encouraged a CUCKOO (79) to sing from Bull and Birches wood. Yesterday morning, before it rained, I found a WILLOW WARBLER (80) singing by the lake in the company of a pair of BLACKCAPS and a very active CHIFFCHAFF. Below are a couple of pics from this weeks walks.

Blue Tit
I have missed a couple of birds, the first Nightingale was heard by Dad on the 12th and another local birder had a low flying Red Kite that came over from castle and must have almost flown over my house at 6.10pm on Friday, I arrived home at 6.20!!!

Sunday, 15 April 2012

5 days in Spain

Six of us set off early on April 7th to bird around the Madrid area. Our flight left before 8am from Gatwick which gave us a good chance to get some birding in that day. Our itinerary, worked out by Edge (Mark), took us from Sepulveda to Benavente to San Juan then finally to Guadarrama. A total of  at least 150 species were seen or heard, 6 of which were new for me.
There were lots of highlights, near Sepulveda we searched hard for DUPONT'S LARK which gave itsef up after singing from the darkness and generally managing to ghost between sparse vegetation, here to were numerous GRIFFON VULTURES, flying at eye-level on the edge of a gorge being joined sporadically by the odd EGYPTIAN VULTURE (first new bird) and BOOTED EAGLE.
Griffon Vulture

 A drive north and west took us to an area near Benavente and a village called Villafafila, we pulled up in a lay-by surrounded by large arable fields scanning these fields we found no less than 350 or more GREAT BUSTARDS!!! a sight I will never forget, groups 30-60 and odd birds here and there, amazing. Dave wandered down the road and found 9 BLACK BELLIED SANDGROUSE (tick no.2) a difficult bird to find and a real bonus.
Great Bustard

 The other stand out moment here on the first day at this site was, Gav finding an IBERIAN GREEN WOODPECKER in a small clump of trees at least half a mile away, I am still in awe!!
The next morning was spent around a large lagoon just south of Villafafila it held, GULL BILLED TERNS, KENTISH PLOVERS, 4 SPOONBILLS, TAWNY PIPITS were flying over there were also plenty of BLACK WINGED STILTS and AVOCET. A quick stop at a small clump of trees produced several BONELLI'S WARBLERS, IBERIAN CHIFFCHAFF, GREAT SPOTTED CUCKOO, SUBALPINE WARBLER and SHORT EARED OWL. GREAT BUSTARDS were in the fields and 3 HOOPOE flew over there. All the time round the lagoon LESSER KESTRELS and BLACK and RED KITES were seen. After some great tapas in the village we decided on a circular route around the area that held the Great Bustards. The highlight was when Stephen picked out a LITTLE BUSTARD (tick no.3), in a stubble field, great find! we managed to find another 4 birds on the other side of the road.The rest of the afternoon we drove round slowly adding to the list of birds, our second and third GOLDEN EAGLES a MELANISTIC and an INTERMEDIATE type MONTAGU'S HARRIERS, along with more Great Bustards, White Storks, several races of Yellow Wagtail, ROCK SPARROW, to name but a few.
White Stork


Subalpine Warbler

Montagu's Harrier

Great Spotted Cuckoo

Little Bustard

The next day was a longish drive to a little place called San Juan which has a large dam, from here we found BLACK VULTURE (tick no.4), SHORT TOED EAGLE, BONELLI'S EAGLE and good numbers of AZURE WINGED MAGPIES but not the hoped for Spanish Imperial Eagle.
Azure Winged Magpie

Black Vulture

Our final day saw us in temperatures of -3 degrees C in the morning to 20 degrees in the afternoon!! We looked for and found CITRIL FINCH (tick no.5) in those bitterly cold morning temperatures at around 1700m altitude, here we also had CRESTED TITS and CROSSBILLS. We descended from the mountains and started seeing Griffon Vultures again with the odd Black Vulture and a Short toed Eagle. Another stop now not far from Madrid added a singing GOLDEN ORIOLE, LESSER SPOTTED WOODPECKER and further on SARDINIAN WARBLER, WOODLARKS plus a ew butterfly for me Provence Hairstreak. The last part of the day before our flight back was spent on some plains to the north-east of Madrid one random stop found us adding SPANISH IMPERIAL EAGLE (tick no.6) to the trip list, a great finish!! we weren't quite done as we found approximately 20 Great Bustards which were watched while we could see planes taking off from Madrid airport in the background.
Provence Hairstreak

Red Kite

Citril Finch

There were many more highlights in that short time, these are just a few, the atmosphere was always jovial and I thank my travelling companions for making it so enjoyable with some great anecdotes from everyone especially Mr.G and great organisation from Edge, thanks to all :-)

Monday, 2 April 2012

Recent bits and pieces + Bird walk.

Apologies again for not managing to comment or reply to comments recently, I'm hoping to get back to regular posting over the next couple of weeks!! I have managed to get out and about here and there over the last week or so. Last weekend (Mar 23-26th) was spent in Barcelona, looking at the fabulous work of Gaudi and eating Tapas etc!! Highly recommended :-)
A bit of Gaudi on the roof of La Pedrera

Back on the patch the first BLACKCAP (76) arrived on the 28th, with 3 present when I took a group round on Saturday 31st March. Dad is 90% sure he had a RED KITE on the 29th. It was a little distant and the light was against him. We have also been getting a few moths despite the cold nights with a very early Purple Thorn and a very nice Pine Beauty.
Purple Thorn morning of the 29th

Pine Beauty
The walk on Saturday was really enjoyable, a lovely group attended and we managed to find 52 species during the morning. The highlights were 2 MANDARIN,3 BLACKCAP, 1 FIELDFARE, 20 REDWINGS, many CHIFFCHAFF, (9-10) and good numbers of GREEN WOODPECKERS calling and still a dozen or so YELLOWHAMMERS. Despite it being a bit cooler than of late there was plenty to keep us occupied a surprising omission was Bullfinch which have been ever present so far this year.
Nuthatch in full cry!!

Blue Tit

One of the Yellowhammers still staying around.

Yesterday I finally saw my first butterflies at Sissinghurst this year, 2 Peacocks and a Large White.

Peacock no.2