Sunday, 19 February 2017

Sunday February 19

Another cloudy morning. Mild with a very light south-westerly breeze.

This was not one of our more memorable visits, although it got off to a reasonable start with a very distant female Goosander followed by an even more distant flock of Golden Plovers. Later on we saw about 200 Goldies flying north somewhere beyond Studley but just visible from the patch. Continuing with the theme of distant views, a pair of Peregrines were circling and chasing one another, briefly locking talons before going their separate ways.

There were a few encouraging signs suggesting the commencement of spring, with small parties of Fieldfares going over, 28 in total, and three new Stonechats. These were a dark female in the ridge field, and a male and peachy looking female in the chat field.

Any thoughts of Siberian Stonechat were dispelled when it flew, revealing no sign of a pale rump. Ah well, one day perhaps.

The pool was almost devoid of birds, while the flashes contained at least 93 Lapwings and two Green Sandpipers. Several Teal lurked in the long grass, and Dave spotted a Wigeon which briefly took flight before returning to the puddles in the damp field where it resumed invisibility.

The walk back got us brief views of a pair of Siskins and a Sparrowhawk, while a Mistle Thrush sang from Netherstead.


Better luck next time.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Sunday February 12

With a dodgy forecast and overcast skies I was't too surprised to hear from Dave that he was going to try his luck at Marsh Lane Gravel Pits.

In fact, although there was some light drizzle and a bitingly cold easterly breeze, it wasn't too bad. I decided to head off along the road, but I hadn't gone too far when I managed to see my target species, a Marsh Tit.

With that under my belt I returned to Netherstead and headed out across the fields. At the hedge by the pool I counted 57 Yellowhammers emerging from the stubble field, while the pool hosted a not entirely unexpected first Mute Swan of the year,

At around the same time there was a huge cacophony of sound as approximately 500 Jackdaws and maybe 50 Rooks exploded into the air to the west of the patch. I scanned to see if I could see the cause, and instead picked up a number of gulls heading north, including an adult Common Gull. I typically only get one sighting of these per year.

The field also contained 140 Linnets, but with no wires for them to perch on they remained largely out of view. I pressed on to the flash field and was pleased to see it contained 130 Black-headed Gulls and the Common Gull.

The adult Common Gull
This is the one time of the year when it is possible to see substantial numbers of gulls here, and a prerequisite seems to be the presence of poor weather and lots of standing water.

The Black-headed Gull flock
Also present were nine Wigeon, two Lapwings, and at least 25 Teal, although most of the latter were in the wetter parts of the field and so were largely obscured by grass stems.

There was one more year-tick to be had, but I cannot be too specific about where it was because the edifice involved is strictly off limits. Suffice to say I was very pleased to get a shot of a Barn Owl cowering at the back of a barn without the bird being aware I was looking at it.

A Barn Owl sleeps in the gloom
A very satisfactory morning.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Sunday February 5

A morning of high cloud and low expectations. We decided to follow the road as far as Bannams Wood because I have yet to see a Marsh Tit this year. One of their favourite places has been grubbed out and replaced by a water feature comprising a small pool and concrete waterfall, so it was disappointing, but not surprising, that we didn't find any. I hope they are not going to be added to the depressing list of former breeders which no longer occur; namely Tree Sparrow, Grey Partridge, and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker.

The route did at least facilitate a record equalling tally of six Coal Tits, while a Goldcrest played hide and seek along the hedgerow. Earlier we had counted 22 Meadow Pipits in the grassy field behind Netherstead copse.

Things got a bit livelier as we headed down the track from the road. Approximately 90 Lapwings swirling in the distance contained one bird with white plumage in one of its wings, and while we were trying to locate it we noticed several flocks (a grand total of 62) of Golden Plovers heading east.

Down at the pool we found the first of two pairs of Coots which have arrived to take advantage of the higher water levels following last week's deluges.

Not the most exciting year-tick, but they all count. By this time we were getting somewhat irritated by constant gunshots coming from somewhere beyond Morton springs, we guessed it could be a clay-pigeon shoot. On the flash field flocks of 50 Black-headed Gulls, 48 Teal, and three Wigeon awaited us but they spooked very quickly, we think in part through being unnerved by the gunshots.

Our second year-tick was a Sparrowhawk which powered across a field and away. After this we were unable to see a great deal of interest before we reached our cars.

Pretty quiet.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Sunday 29 January

I arrived just after Dave having negotiated the very icy lane without serious incident. The mist cleared by the time I got to Netherstead and we managed a couple of hours birding before the rain began.

Most of the action took place in the first thirty minutes. Dave drew my attention to a Peregrine sitting on a distant pylon, and as we looked at it, a flock of about 50 Golden Plovers flew east beyond the pylon.

We had hardly finished congratulating ourselves on that bit of luck when Dave struck again, picking up a pair of Goosanders as they flew towards us.

Not quite the coup they once were following two sightings last year, but still a very handy year-tick. The remainder of the morning past without a great deal to set the pulse racing. A Tawny Owl was visible in the oak tree, we counted 13 Reed Buntings and a couple of Yellowhammers, all the pools and flashes were frozen solid so we were quite pleased to see 17 Teal, two Snipe, another party of Golden Plovers, about 20 this time, and at least 121 Greylag Geese as the latter flew by.

Back at the car a flock of 30 Meadow Pipits rose from long grass of the plantation field behind the  Netherstead copse.

So the two year-ticks were both casual visitors to the patch, while I reckoned there were five species which basically live here all year round which we were still to see. One of these muscled its way onto the list as I was driving out, a Kestrel, which flew over the copse and away towards the village.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Sunday January 22

High cloud and frost on the ground with very little breeze, much better conditions for birding.

The first tick of the day was a Peregrine on a distant pylon. Dave and I decided to walk to the road, finding a pair of Stonechats and a Nuthatch before we even reached the end of the access road.

As we reached Bannams Wood we were greeted with the sound of a drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker, a reminder that spring isn't too far away, and also the yaffle of a Green Woodpecker.

Heading down the slope towards the pool we checked out the Tawny Owl tree and were surprised to see not one, but two Tawny Owls at the entrance of their hole.

The Tawny Owls
Unfortunately by the time we got a bit closer, both birds had scuttled down the hole and out of view.

As expected, the pools were all frozen solid, but we still flushed a Grey Heron, and later spotted a Pied Wagtail, strangely absent from the list on the previous two visits.

The hedgerow and stubble field behind the pool contained about 20 Yellowhammers, 15 Reed Buntings, and 11 Skylarks. We decided to walk through the marsh in front of the pool, flushing about 23 Snipe and two Jack Snipe as hoped.

At the flash field the frozen water suggested we would see nothing, but a flock of 15 Wigeon and seven Teal unexpectedly flew in and circled before returning, probably to the Morton Springs angling lake which is just outside my patch boundary. A little further on we spotted some geese in a small field to the west, and closer inspection revealed about 70 Greylag Geese and 16 Canada Geese. Around 15 Siskins were mixed in with Goldfinches and Chaffinches, but one at least posed for a distant record shot. Feral Pigeon flew by to sneak onto my Patchwork Challenge list.


Scanning the distance produced three Cormorants, and two Herring Gulls for the year list.

The final throw of the dice was to check out a small shed at Netherstead which has form as far as roosting Barn Owls is concerned. We didn't find it occupied today, but Dave spotted a recent pellet which we extracted for examination.

What did the Barn Owl have for dinner?

A single Redpoll flew over. Thanks to the birding authorities we no longer have to care how pale it was, because Lesser and Mealy Redpoll have been lumped together, and they are all now just Redpoll. So I've lost a Morton Bagot tick at the stroke of a pen, but at least they'll be no more headaches over their identification.

Sunday, 15 January 2017

Sunday 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.