Sunday, 27 September 2015

Sunday September 27

A sunny morning with a light easterly breeze.

As I waited for Dave to arrive there was a sudden commotion as Rooks, Jackdaws and Woodpigeons took to the air in panic. A short scan produced a large accipiter. A big Sparrowhawk? Perhaps, but the wings looked longish and broad-based. Size is hard to judge, but as it suddenly dived into the trees in the distant wood known as The Alders, I got some perspective and felt it was larger than a Woodpigeon or a Rook. The circumstances and apparent size of the bird left me suspecting it was a Goshawk, but I'm not sure I clinched the identification.

Dave arrived and we waited, but there was no second appearance. However, there was evidence of visible migration, with 15 Swallows heading south, and 37 Meadow Pipits on the telegraph wires. A male Stonechat appeared on the sturdy fence among the Meadow Pipits.

Stonechat & Meadow Pipit
Three Redpolls flew south, and the whole area was generally busy with birds. We dragged ourselves away from the potential Goshawk, and started a circuit. A single House Martin flew around, and we located two Blackcaps, another male Stonechat, and two or three Chiffchaffs.

At the west end of the bridle path a small bird flew past me and perched in the big willow. I focused on it and was for a moment perplexed. Some kind of chat? Then it shivered its tail and I realised I was looking at a female Redstart. As I shouted its name to alert Dave, the bird took off and headed out of the tree and away across the pool field.

We carefully followed the fence line, flushing about 20 Yellowhammers, and several Meadow Pipits, but no Redstart. At the flash field we counted 56 Teal, three Green Sandpipers, and 12 Snipe. Dave then spotted two Wigeon, the first of the autumn, as they flew past, and followed this up with a view of the Little Owl. I just got onto both Wigeon and Owl before they disappeared, the latter into the foliage of the oak tree it has probably been occupying all year.

As usual the walk back was quieter, but at least today felt as though the autumn migration was underway.

Thursday, 24 September 2015

Thursday September 24

A sunny morning with a moderate to fresh south-westerly breeze. I strolled around the patch this morning without, to be honest, seeing anything very unusual.

There are still plenty of hirundines about, at least 16 House Martins and three Swallows at any one time, and not much sign that they were moving. The remaining summer migrants have largely gone, although I still logged 10 Chiffchaffs and three Blackcaps.

One surprising feature of the day was the registering of Owls and imposters. I reached the slurry patch just beyond Netherstead, and was watching four Chiffchaffs darting about in the bright sunshine, when a Tawny Owl hooted several times from the planted bushes beyond. There was no hope of seeing it though. Later on, I was at the hedge by the Flash field when I heard a Little Owl, or I thought I did. After peering through the hedge I could see no sign of it, but it called again, this time rather strangely. Several more weird calls followed, plus one which sounded exactly right for Little Owl. By now I was starting to suspect an imposter, and I had a pretty good idea what it would be. I was therefore not too surprised when a Jay flew out of the hedge and away. No more calls were heard. Jays are surprisingly good mimics, although in my experience they rarely bother, preferring the standard squawk.

The Flash field contained 37 Teal, 20 Snipe, and three Green Sandpipers. A few Siskins and Meadow Pipits flew over.

On returning to my car I found I had failed to take any blog-worthy photos, and had also not sketched anything. My target birds for today were near-passerines, and so I set off to look for a Woodpigeon. This proved a surprisingly lengthy task, but eventually one appeared.

Hardly worth it really.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Sunday September 20

This morning I had arranged to take Sue on a tour of the patch.

We began promptly in thick fog! Sadly the overnight news on the House Martins was not good. It seems as though one had attempted to fledge this morning but something had gone catastrophically wrong. It's wing on the ground beneath the nest was the only evidence of its brief stay on the planet. The other fledgling remains in the nest for now.

We strolled around the fields as the fog quickly lifted. Typical of a pre-arranged tour, the birds were rather shy, and the best I could point out was a single fly-over Lesser Redpoll, a dozen or so migrating Siskins and Meadow Pipits, and the occasional Swallow.

The Flash Field contained 43 Teal, 20 Snipe, and six Green Sandpipers.

Reed Bunting
Anyway it was nice to get to know Sue a little better, and she certainly enjoyed the opportunity to get an idea of the geography of the patch.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Friday September 18

Today's story actually began on Wednesday. Sue Matthewman rang me from her home at Netherstead with a tale of woe. A House Martin's nest containing two chicks had disintegrated and fallen to ground at a neighbour's apartment. What to do? We decided she would try putting them in a neighbouring vacant nest, but this was 20 metres from the original site. Time passed and the relocated chicks looked anxiously out with no sign they would be fed. Sue sent a text, (I was stuck at work) mealworms or maggots? I suggested mealworms. It didn't look as though the experiment was going to have a happy outcome. Then better news followed, and by the following day it was clear the chicks had been found and were being fed.

So this morning I appeared on Sue's doorstep to offer my congratulations and photograph the stars of the show.

Aaah !
After a brief time spent failing to catch a Field Vole which one of Sue's naughty cats had brought her as a present (it was last seen heading under a dresser after taking a tiny chunk out of my finger), I set out on a quick circuit of the patch.

It was soon clear that the numbers of summer migrants were much reduced, even the hirundines. Several of the Swallows I saw were heading determinedly south. Some Meadow Pipits also flew south and a number of Siskins called from high in the sky.

Birdwatching can be completely unpredictable, but most of the time the opposite is the case. I was therefore pleased, but not surprised, to find the first two Stonechats of the autumn in the chat field.

One of the Stonechats
Both Stonechats were males. A little further on a late Whinchat appeared in the hedge.

At the start of my walk I noticed I had forgotten my notebook, so my sketchbook had to deputise. I reached the flash field and scoped the occupants, 38 Teal, five Green Sandpipers, and four visible Snipe. I am running out of new non-passerines to draw, and was left with one of a number of Lesser Black-backed Gulls which flew over, the bird in question being a juvenile.

On my return I has a brief view of a Stoat, and met another birdwatcher, Jan, who was doing her own circuit with dog in tow. We had a pleasant chat, but no new migrants appeared by the time I reached my car.

Sunday, 13 September 2015

Sunday September 13

Another sunny morning, this time with a very light southerly. I was joined by Dave for the first time in a while, but we were destined for a pretty quiet visit.

The four Whinchats were still present, and I managed to see two high flying parties of Siskins totalling 22 birds heading south-east and heard several other calls suggesting that the actual numbers going over was considerably higher.

Scanning the distant ridge field from Netherstead, we saw a flock of 200 finches take flight, but by the time we reached that area following a full circuit there was no sign of any of them. I imagine they were a mixture of Greenfinches and Goldfinches as Linnets have been surprisingly scarce since the breeding season.

Warblers included four Whitethroats and two Lesser Whitethroats, and the flash field contained 41 Teal, 14 Snipe and four Green Sandpipers.

A few dragonflies were flying in the sunshine, including a Migrant Hawker.

Migrant Hawker
Common Darter
We returned to the dragonfly pools where I am sorry to report that the fish is dead, it is no more, it is a late fish, it has ceased to be etc etc. apologies to Monty Python. Looking on the bright side, Osprey bait?

Ex - fish
Back at our cars, as we reflected on a pretty steady visit, a single Grey Wagtail headed south-east, a reminder that we are still in the migration season.

Friday, 11 September 2015

Thursday September 11

A lovely sunny morning with a light to moderate south-easterly breeze. I returned to my usual circuit today, and noticed that some feeders had been erected by the small pond. This area was good for Greenfinches anyway, and this morning there were about 80 present plus at least 15 Siskins and a  Lesser Redpoll.

Moving into the chat field beyond, I inadvertently moved the Greenfinches before me, and then found four Whinchats and two Whitethroats. The former posed very nicely for photos.

There were no more Whitethroats today, so they are definitely disappearing now. At the flashes I counted five Green Sandpipers, four Snipe and 33 Teal. Also present was a single Black-headed Gull, and as I was hoping to sketch gulls today, it got the treatment.

Gulls are annoyingly scarce at Morton Bagot, and mostly occur as fly-overs. Having finished sketching, I then added a year-tick. The bird in question was Golden Plover, and it only made it onto the list by calling a couple of times as it flew over. I scanned around, but couldn't see it. the species was a bit of a banker, and I will be disappointed if I fail to actually see one this autumn.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Sunday September 6

Sorry about the grumpy outburst in the last post. Today the sun was out and I have got over it. So this morning was sunny with a very light northerly, conditions which always leave me in a good mood even if I don't see much. Which is just as well.

I decided to start at Church Farm for a change, and then did a big circuit through the village and back across the fields.

There has been a subtle shift towards later staying migrants, but it was hard to detect actual passage. The first elderberry bush I looked at contained four Blackcaps, and through the morning I logged 16 Chiffchaffs, 64 Swallows and 40 House Martins. Whitethroats are less numerous now, but I still counted five, while a single Sand Martin over Netherstead was probably the day's highlight.

There was very little overhead passage, just five Meadow Pipits and one Siskin (unseen as usual). Also invisible was a calling Little Owl.

The flashes contained only six Green Sandpipers, four Snipe, and 17 Teal.

I notice a number of sites did day-lists yesterday. I didn't join in because a.) I was unaware it might happen, and b.) the likely "team" have either gone on holiday or moved away. It's probably just as well because I only mustered a lamentable 53 species today, admittedly without putting in much effort.

I'll leave you with a couple of photos.

Great Spotted Woodpecker
Unidentified Fungus

Friday, 4 September 2015

Friday September 4

After a week of rather unexciting weather, today was much in the same vein. A light northerly and mostly cloudy. I set off on my rounds seeing diminished numbers of common migrants, six Whitethroats, a Lesser Whitethroat, a Whinchat, but still plenty of hirundines and at least 10 Chiffchaffs. Several Siskins flew over calling, but I didn't manage to actually see any of them.

I was a little dismayed to find that the main land-owner has gone mad with the strimmer since my last visit, and there are now wide swathes of cut grassland surrounding the weedy fields. I imagine this has more to do with the forthcoming shooting season than with agriculture, perhaps the pheasant shooters can't bear to walk more than a few feet from their Range Rovers.

Anyway, I couldn't find the Corn Bunting among the handful of Yellowhammers and Reed Buntings, and the Black-tailed Godwit has gone. The flash field contained just three Green Sandpipers and 25 noticeably nervous Teal.

There was one group of birds which did its best to impress. The raptors. Three Kestrels in the ridge field were a precursor to a sighting of the immature Peregrine which flew onto a pylon. I decided to go for the sketchbook rather than the camera, but this was probably a mistake as the bird flew off just after I started drawing an outline of its head.

About an hour later, having seen several Buzzards and Sparrowhawks, my fifth raptor of the morning, a Hobby, put in a brief appearance. This encouraged me to spend 30 minutes scanning the skies hoping for something bigger and better. It was not to be, and instead I contented myself with some attempts at circling Sparrowhawks.

In addition to seeing the raptors I logged four Meadow Pipits flying south, and noticed that some of the Swallows and House Martins seemed to be determinedly heading south-west. The scanning also picked up a single Common Swift, possibly my latest for the patch.