Sunday, 15 January 2017

January 15

Due to steady drizzle all morning Dave bailed out, while I decided to watch England's innings in the first One Day International against India.

Thus it was late morning before I ventured out. For a while the rain abated, but there seemed to be few small birds about. Eventually the first year-tick flew into view as a Lesser Black-backed Gull drifted north, quickly followed by a Black-headed Gull. In fact when I reached the flash field I discovered at least 30 of the latter, a much better count than is usual. Also present were 18 Lapwings and a Green Sandpiper.

Black-headed Gulls and Lapwings
The ducks were very nervy, but I counted 10 Wigeon and at least 65 Teal, while two Snipe were just visible at the back of the nearest flash.

As the rain returned I headed back, seeing a Raven, two Meadow Pipits, 78 Greylag Geese, and two Canada Geese before I climbed into the car to head home.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Sunday January 8

After being unable to birdwatch here on New Years Day, today was the next available Sunday. It dawned very foggy and mild.

Dave and I decided to walk along the road to at least hear woodland birds, and to an extent this was a successful ploy as we heard Mistle Thrush and Grey Wagtail as well as most of the more expected species.

We were, however, feeling a bit dejected as we reached the pool. Fortunately, the fog suddenly cleared as we approached the flash field and we were able to pick out 11 Wigeon on the furthest flash, a larger flock than any seen in 2016. We also logged 11 Teal and two Snipe.

Four of the Wigeon
Continuing on this theme, although the fog soon started to reform, we were surprised by a flock of 40 Siskins which flew over and headed off down the brook. This was the largest party for several years, and all the more surprising in a winter where they seemed to be rather scarce.

So we ended up with a modest total of 44 species but at least its a start.

Friday, 30 December 2016

Friday December 30

My last visit of an eventful year. Sadly, although it started a little misty, the fog got steadily worse and I eventually gave up. Not how I would have liked to have ended my year.

Before it set in I counted 65 Chaffinches at Netherstead, easily the most seen this winter. Subsequently it was a case of blundering about and seeing silhouetted shapes in the mist.

Somewhere out there is the furthest flash and at least 19 Teal standing on the ice
Mystery bird competition follows:

Bird A
Bird B
Bird C
Bird D
That was exciting wasn't it.

The answers are as follows:

A Yellowhammer, B Fieldfare, C Greenfinch, D Chaffinch.

Happy New Year.

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Tuesday December 27

A beautiful crisp frosty morning. What could possibly go wrong.

I parked at Church Farm for a change, and quickly noticed that the flashes were ice-bound and birdless. Never mind, I headed down the track towards the pool, and paused to photograph the Tawny Owl.

Shortly afterwards, I heard voices. I hoped it was cyclists riding along the road, but then I heard chivvying noises and knew I was in the wrong place at the wrong time. As shots rang out small birds flew by me in a panic, followed immediately by Roe and Muntjac Deer. A Peregrine flew over.

At this point it occurred to me that the shots were getting closer and I turned to retreat back up the footpath to avoid being caught in the crossfire.

I am normally quite good at avoiding shoot days, having been tipped off about Saturdays in October, and had thought Boxing Day might be a good one to miss. Unfortunately it seems as though my luck had run out this morning.

Reed Bunting
Back at the road I noticed the Peregrine returning. It was pretty high up, but I watched anxiously as it flew over the hunting party. In fact, no shots rang out, and the Peregrine circled for several minutes before putting on speed and heading off. I wondered if it had actually been attracted to the shoot by the sight of fleeing birds. Somewhat ironic.

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Thursday December 22

With Christmas on the horizon there is still no birding early Xmas present for me. The morning was sunny after overnight frost. The flashes were frozen, but the pools weren't.

The result was a few Mallard, two Cormorants and a Grey Heron around the pool, while I flushed three Common Snipe from the path. Thrush numbers are down to about 20 each of Redwings and Fieldfares, and I could see 25 Meadow Pipits in the pasture field beyond Netherstead.

A handful of Lesser Redpolls flew around calling, but most of the finches present were Linnets.

The highlight of the morning was a Small Tortoiseshell which fluttered above Netherstead barn, before finding the sunniest spot it could. The temperature was just 9 degrees at the time.

Small Tortoiseshell
I hope it manages to return to hibernation tonight, and remains torpid until March.

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Sunday December 18

A foggy start forced us to walk along the road where most birds were close enough to be seen reasonably well. Friday's Pheasant shoot seems to have left one cock bird completely unconcerned.

Walking the road does at least produce a slightly different selection of birds, with Nuthatch, Coal Tit, Goldcrests, and a couple of Mistle Thrushes being seen. The trees by Greenhills are often the best place on the entire patch for Bullfinches, and we ended up with a count of at least ten, not far from the patch record.

Five of the Bullfinches
The Tawny Owl was showing as we headed down to the pool, where the fog lifted to reveal not very much really. We counted five Wigeon, 63 Teal, 23 Mallard, 82 Greylag Geese, and a Green Sandpiper.

There were still plenty of Woodpigeons, we estimated about 600, and a few large gulls flew over. However, the "best" bird was a Feral Pigeon (or racing pigeon) which just about says it all.

Feral Pigeon (or racing pigeon having a breather)

Friday, 16 December 2016

Friday December 16

A cloudy misty start with a very light southerly breeze. A few sunny intervals during the morning.

The first bird I looked at today was a Collared Dove. So what? You may say. Well I've been getting a little concerned for the local Collared Doves. They were down to two pairs this summer, and I haven't seen one at all for about a couple of months, until today, when there were two.

In fact Pigeons produced the biggest headline today. A large flock rose from the stubble field only to resettle there a few minutes later. I had guesstimated 700, which would have been a new record. Then a gunshot rang out as the Pheasant shoot started up from the direction of Clowse Wood. The Woodpigeons erupted from the field and I managed a camera shot of them before they dispersed.

Nearly 1000 Woodpigeons
Counting the dots when I got home I have come up with a figure of 895, and as there are clearly more just outside the frame it seems certain that there were at least 900 present, and probably close to 1000.

Soon, however, my attention switched to geese. I could hear a substantial flock of Greylags from the direction of the flash field. When I got onto them with my bins I thought I could see a slightly smaller one with them. Unfortunately by the time I reached the field they had all disappeared. I was left with thirty or so Teal, four Lapwings, and a Green Sandpiper to look at. Two Siskins flew passed. This is a species I have found extremely hard to photograph here, so I had them in mind when I set off along the hedgerow. As it happened, I did see them again in a distant alder, possibly with more Siskins. I chose to divert across the brook to try to get closer. Eventually I found the flock again only to discover they were Goldfinches, with just two Siskins. As I mentioned, I hadn't got a decent shot of Siskin here.

I still haven't !

At this point I started to hear geese again, and found that the flock of Greylags was in flight once more. They all looked like Greylags apart from one Canada Goose, and after they went down I decided to walk across the strip field to try to gain height. This did allow me to see the Greylag Geese settled in a distant field, and I got a count of 115. As I was putting my scope away I noticed a medium sized duck pitch down towards the flash. Suspecting a Wigeon I returned to the place I view the flash field from and flushed three female Wigeon and at least 40 Teal.

The three Wigeon

At this point I got onto a small party of distant geese. The scope was up and I established they were Greylags, and that one was a bit smaller than the others. Sadly when they joined the main goose flock all I could see were Greylags so I am forced to conclude it was just a small Greylag.

Meadow Pipit
So that was it. Back at the car 30 Lapwings flew overhead, but the patch remains pretty dull.

Meanwhile the week at Ripple has just got better, with Great White Egret and Cattle Egret turning up on the pools adjacent to where the Dusky Warblers are. Perhaps I should move down there.