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.