Sunday, 30 April 2017

Sunday April 30

There was very nearly no coverage today. I was tied up with a celebratory lunch and Dave had intended to join me on the patch tomorrow.

Fortunately the weather forecast intervened. Monday is supposed to be a bit wet, which caused Dave to change his plans and visit today. The first I knew of this was when Lyn took an apologetic call from Dave with a list of potential year ticks present on the flash field. Fortunately for me we calculated I had time for a quick dash down before the first guests arrived.

The birds in question were significant from a patch point of view only. After a classic old man jog across the fields (mainly walking, a few brief runs, and a lot of stumbling) I joined Dave to find that the most important, a Curlew was showing well just beyond the nearest flash.

A former breeder on the patch, since they disappeared they have been just about annual, with records typically in March or early April. Indeed yesterday I had learnt from Mark Islip that he had seen one fly over some weeks ago, so I felt my chance had gone. Hence the panic.

The second species found were a flock of four Dunlins which had unfortunately relocated to the furthest flash. With them had come a number of Little Ringed Plovers, Dave had seen five, but I only managed to locate four of them. Terrible record shot of the Dunlins coming up.

Blurry Dunlins
This is another species which occurs every year, but often involving just one record. I think this is also the largest flock to be seen here.

Dave also saw a Swift but had not heard the Grasshopper Warbler.

I managed to get back home in a bit of a sweaty state, but with brownie points all safely intact.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Friday April 28

Today I was joined by Richard L and Richard B. Yes I know, the three Dicks. The weather was grey with some drizzle at first, but eventually dried up, with the sun peaking out for a while.

My companions enjoy a good walk in the countryside and although keen to see and hear any birds available, were just as happy looking at bluebells and hares, which was just as well.

Brown Hares
Bluebells in Bannams Wood
We did hear a lot of birds singing, the best being the continued presence of the Grasshopper Warbler, a fly over Yellow Wagtail, and at least three Lesser Whitethroats.

The other ornithological highlight was spotting a Lapwing chick in the flash field. Also present was a Green Sandpiper, and four Teal. These will no doubt have left by next Saturday, when a bird count competition is planned involving this patch and others in the Midlands.

A Grey Heron showed well in the pool
At least three Wheatears are still present on the ploughed field, and Common Whitethroats are on the increase and becoming more visible.

Common Whitethroat
The Sedge Warbler was still singing at the dragonfly pools, but the Coot chicks have been reduced to three.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Sunday April 23

Sunny intervals with a very light westerly breeze. Fairly cool.

While I waited for Dave to arrive I wandered around the Netherstead area, hearing Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat, and my first Sedge Warbler of the year. A Peregrine sat on a distant pylon and a male Wheatear ran around in one of the horse paddocks.

Dave appeared and we set off on our usual circuit. We reached the chat field where we scanned unsuccessfully for chats, but all that was forgotten when we realised we could hear a Grasshopper Warbler reeling. It repeated its song well enough for us to get a rough bearing as to which end of the field it was, but I'm afraid that was that. After fifteen minutes it hadn't sung again, we're not very patient at the best of times, and we decided to abandon it and head for the pool.

The pool was unusually productive. Nine Tufted Ducks, a Snipe, and a pair of Gadwall had joined the resident Mute Swans.

A pair of Gadwall
We were trying to see another singing Whitethroat and a singing Sedge Warbler, when Dave pulled up short at a call, and thankfully the bird, a Yellow Wagtail, called again allowing me to hear it clearly. Scanning the sky produced no wagtails, but instead three Sand Martins heading north.

We reached the flash field full of optimism, but saw only the pair of Gadwall, presumably the same birds as earlier, five Teal, three Green Sandpipers, a few Lapwings, and a Little Ringed Plover. This afternoon I picked up a text from Mike from yesterday in which he revealed he had seen amongst other things, a Common Sandpiper here.

Back to the present, we followed the footpath back until we reached the ploughed field where we found six more Wheatears, four males and two females. A couple of the males showed excellently for a while.

At the plantation near the Pheasant pens a Willow Warbler sang, and numerous Blackcaps were in full voice.

We had seen quite a few Orange Tips flying past, but the one butterfly I managed to photograph was a Speckled Wood.

Speckled Wood

However, the visit ended on a slightly frustrating note as a phrase of song broke through our chatting leaving us both wondering whether we had just heard a Garden Warbler. We waited around for a while but whatever it was remained silent. I didn't record any Garden Warblers here last year, so it would have been on a par with the Grasshopper Warbler if we had been able to confirm it.

A darn good visit nonetheless.

Monday, 17 April 2017

Monday April 17

A largely cloudy morning with a couple of very light showers and a light north-easterly breeze. Spring here is still proceeding with the handbrake on.

I took the opportunity to walk the road transect counting singing birds, pausing briefly to photograph a singing male Blackcap.

The singing birds were generally all the expected species, with Willow Warbler probably the scarcest here.

I then headed down to the flash field hoping that the overnight showers might have dropped something in. Before I got into position however I was taken aback to hear a singing male Redstart. This species is more or less expected as a passage migrant in very small numbers, but they are very reluctant to sing until they reach breeding habitat, and this was the first one I had ever heard singing here.

It stopped singing after a couple of phrases, and called a couple of times enabling me to actually see it. It took another 20 minutes of hide and seek before I finally got an acceptable shot of it.

They are absolutely stunning birds. I was so pleased to see it that I didn't really mind that the flash field and pool contained a rather disappointingly similar array of species to my last visit, namely 13 Teal, a Gadwall, two Redshank, four Green Sandpipers, two Little Ringed Plovers, two Tufted Ducks, and eight Lapwings.

The ploughed field contained no Wheatears but is proving irresistible to the local buntings, with at least 12 Yellowhammers and two Reed Buntings present today. A pair of Linnets showed well in the hedge bordering the field.

A male Linnet
The Lesser Whitehroat was still singing, but there was no sign of any Common Whitethroats. My only other year tick being a bang on time return of a House Martin to the Netherstead barn conversion complex.

Thursday, 13 April 2017

Thursday April 13

Cloudy and cool with a very light north-westerly breeze, quite a difference from last weekend.

Another morning was spent diligently censusing the local birds. A pair of Starlings and a singing Mistle Thrush the most notable species found. However, I was also on the look out for migrants and recorded four singing Willow Warblers, and a fine male Wheatear.

There are now at least three Swallows present, and as well as the Lesser Whitethroat which was still singing spasmodically, I heard and saw the first Common Whitethroat of the year.

At the flash field a Little Owl was showing well, and the Gadwall had moved to the nearest flash. Three Mistle Thrushes flew over.

Little Owl
A scan for waders revealed seven Lapwings, four Green Sandpipers, two Redshanks, and two Little Ringed Plovers, while Teal numbers were continuing to dwindle, now down to eight.

With no butterflies at all because of the cold weather, the only insects were a few hardy Buff-tailed Bumblebees. However, at the dragonfly pools my first chicks of the year were provided by a pair of Coot with at least three young.

Coot brooding two chicks

Sunday, 9 April 2017

Sunday April 9

A warm and sunny morning with a light southerly breeze. For the first time this year there were plenty of butterflies about.

Small Tortoiseshell
Brimstone - male
Orange Tip - female
I headed for the south end to walk a transect counting breeding birds. This route turned up the first of two singing Willow Warblers, probably passage migrants.

I reached the flash field and quickly noticed a Gadwall sleeping on the bank of the furthest flash with 20 Teal, two Shelducks, nine Lapwing, and a Redshank.

Sleeping drake Gadwall
It woke up for just long enough for me to see the salient features. I normally see a Gadwall here each year, but it isn't quite annual, so I was pleased to get it under the belt. A pair of Little Ringed Plovers and a Green Sandpiper were present on the nearest flash.

I headed back via the pool, which contained a Little Grebe, a Grey Heron, and three Tufted Ducks. Rather more interesting was the rattling song of a Lesser Whitethroat which I heard three times before it decided to remain silent and thus invisible. This was my earliest ever Lesser Whitethroat in the UK.

One species I had been hoping for then flew into view, my first Swallow of the year. I don't know, Lesser Whitethroat before Swallow, what is the world coming to.

At least eight pairs of Common Buzzards were displaying, but I couldn't pick out any other raptors.

On the return journey I noticed that the colony of Yellow-legged Mining Bees was extremely active, and that there was another species of mining bee, with wasp-like black and yellow bands, also in the colony, as well as numerous Dark-bordered Bee Flies.

Finally I should mention that I saw three species of deer this morning, Roe, Muntjac, and Fallow. The latter rarely visits the patch in daylight hours, and the ones I have seen always seem to be coming from Clowse Wood, as they were today.

Friday, 7 April 2017

Friday April 7

I had arranged to take Richard L and Richard B around the patch today. This meant a slightly later start, but we had got our act together by 10.00am. It was a cloudy morning and slightly cool, but with barely a breathe of wind.

The conditions meant that there weren't very many birds singing, but one I had been hoping for did manage a single song phrase before resuming its silence. I refer to a Willow Warbler.  One or two Chiffchaffs and a single Blackcap also gave away their presence in this way.

The main activity took place at the flash field where we got the first sighting of the year of the Little Owl.

Little Owl
To my surprise, the Black-tailed Godwit was still present, although it was on the furthest flash. Also present were a handful of Teal, Lapwings, two Green Sandpipers, Redshank, and two Little Ringed Plovers. A Fieldfare called as it flew off.

Turning round to look at a Raven on some pylons, beyond it we spotted a Buzzard and what was probably a Red Kite, but they were so far away I wasn't 100% certain. I had been scanning all the likely looking fields for a Wheatear to the amusement of my friends, but I had the last laugh when I spotted one in the main ploughed field.

Not the closest view I've ever had.

The best thing of all was that all the Richard's enjoyed themselves.

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Sunday April 2

Cloudy at first, then sunny but chilly with a light north-westerly breeze.

A slightly strange start as Dave and I both heard the trill of a Little Grebe near the Dragonfly Ponds, but then failed to locate the bird, which would have been the first ever seen there, despite circling the pools...and no it wasn't a Whimbrel, worse luck.

The only year tick today was a Blackcap singing from the hedge near the beehives. The pool contained two pairs of Tufted Ducks, while the flashes continue to host the Black-tailed Godwit, plus 14 Teal, a few Lapwings, two Redshank, two Shelducks, two Green Sandpipers, and a pair of Little Ringed Plovers.

Time for a token bird photograph.

We also saw plenty of Brown Hares, two Grey Squirrels and a Muntjac.