Thursday, 4 October 2012

3rd October - Flying High, Gently Pass On By

Rain late in the afternoon and overnight meant I did not get out Tuesday evening, the morning started dry and clear.  After checking the Trektellen migration count web site for the local sites I decided to pop out late morning to see if there were any visitors overnight.  It would appear there had been swallows and house martins moving for the last few days.

I checked the field off Brislands, and chased a pair of Bullfinches through the bushes but with no luck, they just kept calling at me but never showed long enough for a good view.  There were goldfinches and blue and great tits about though, but this Blue Tit was all I had for my time there.

Jays were once again busy in the trees around the cemetery, and i decided that it may be worthwhile checking the hedges and bushes along side the recreation ground.  I walked around the football pitch, once the scene of some amazing performances.  There was a stream of swallows making their way across the field, and a group of five Pied Wagtails flew over.  I could hear chiffchaffs calling, but as usual they were difficult to see.  I walked around to the dressing rooms, and then walked down past the skateboard park.  There is a dense area of bushes and trees here, and as i approached I could see Blackbirds feeding on the grass.

There was quite a bit of activity in the area, so I stood and watched the trees to see what would develop.  There was at least four calling chiffchaffs, and this individual was flycatching from the sycamore tree.  As you can see it was quite successful

At the back of the area there was a group of hawthorn trees covered in berries, and the blackbirds would fly in and defend the tree from others.  This female was extremely intolerant of other blackbirds but was quite happy to let the goldfinch stay, probably because she didn't see it as a threat

The blackbirds were then joined by this gorgeous looking Song Thrush.  We do not get that many around here, we have one in the garden every so often, but I wouldn't call them common, by far the more numerous thrush (blackbird aside) is the Mistle Thrush, which you hear almost everywhere calling from the trees..  This song thrush was soon chased off by the blackbird.

There was the usual collection of Long-tailed Tits - they seem to be everywhere at the moment, and with them a few blue and great tits.  I think there were two bullfinches present as well, but I only ever saw one.  It was a male but not in full plumage as the ping breast feathers were very patchy.  A pair of Goldcrests started to feed right in front of me, creeping through the oak leaves, and then jumping out every so often to chase an insect, or find a better location.  This sequence of photographs goes some way to representing the behaviour.

Overhead there was procession of swallows and house martins, and they would pause to fly around the trees.  The chiffchaffs would show more in the little pockets of sunshine, and this one came out into the open from the middle of the elderberry bush.

You will note that this individual lacks the eye stripe that was present in the photos I took of the individual I identified on Saturday as a Chiffchaff.  Looking at these pictures has made me re-visit those again, with a view to Willow Warbler but I am still convinced the primary feather projection is short, and therefore I was right in picking Chiffchaff.  As always I am open to debate.

As I left the area I heard more calls, and estimated there to be at least ten individuals in the vicinity, so maybe we did get a small movement over night, or the previous night.

The number of Collared Doves has increased in the garden.  Up until a few days ago we would get  a maximum of two, and they would use the feeders, now there are at least six, maybe more.  A couple have very white feathers on the wings, so they may be young birds.  They will have to watch our the black and white cat that seems to have taken an interest.  I caught it with grey feathers the other evening but I couldn't find a body.  Here are four of them.

As seems to be the way lately, just as I was going out in the evening it clouded over, and there were small spots of rain.  Undaunted I drove down to Plain Farm, and set off around the Rotherfield Estate footpath.  In the field by the Mountains Plantation there were a lot of swallows and house martins feeding low over the ground, and as I walked up the path they were moving south over my head.  The fields are all clear now, and look perfect for a raptor.  As I thought this a large Buzzard lifted up from the ground.  The rain continued to threaten, and I paused at the quarry for some brief shelter, and to check for birds.  As usual there was the hueet call from within the bushes but no show, however the star was this Robin, that sang unconcerned from the elder bush.

I left the quarry, and made my way up the road past the farm.  More swallows and house martins were flying over the maize field, and around the farm buildings.  The rain picked up as I walked on, it was quiet everywhere.  The mist nest have been moved, and are now up by the house, blackbirds were in the hawthorn bushes and a couple of wrens called from the barn.

Along the clearing by the field boundary, three Roe Deer fed in the grass.  It took awhile for any of them to see me, this one finally hearing the click and noise of the camera.

I took the footpath past the houses, checking the fields for any sign of life.  Wood pigeons would occasionally fly over, and I could see pheasants feeding in the fields, but no sign of what I wanted to see.

Now if you were an owl, or a harrier would you not want to hunt here:

or even here maybe?

The fields have everything, long grass and meadow, seed feeders and maize, which probably means mice rats and voles.  I will persevere in the hope that something decides it looks like home.

I took the road towards Lye Way, pausing to look across the filed to the west.  The clouds were still quite dark from the rain, and the sun was getting low enough now to peak out from under them.  This created a lovely scene against the field and the distant trees, and no there wasn't a bird in sight!

More swallows were flying over as I approached Lye Way, ahead was a gate looking out over the field.  I went through and scanned across.  I picked up what at first I thought was a pigeon, then from the shape I thought could be peregrine.  It flew fast, but with a flap glide motion, with the glide for quite a while , the wings also appeared broader with a bigger bulk to the body.  The head and neck appeared to be longer than that of a sparrowhawk.  As it turned from me, and lifted the wings to flap the body was much bulkier beneath the wings, and it appeared very whitish.  You know when you think you see something you want to see, and there is doubt, and then there are those times when you see something and there is no doubt, this was that time, it was a Goshawk.  It flew away and over and flashed into Dogford Wood.  I didn't go for the camera, because I didn't have time, and I wanted to be sure with binoculars.  I was sure, a raptor, but not one I expected.  To calm down from the excitement though I watched a pair of buzzards over the wood.

Elated I walked along Lye Way towards the car.  I noticed what could only be a raptor coming towards me from the field, I though it might be the Goshawk returning but I could quickly see it was smaller.  Then it flew up into the dead branch on which I had photographed a yellowhammer in June.  As it landed on the branch I could see the streaked breast, the ruddy colour of the leg feathers and the black head, no doubt again, a Hobby.  As soon as I reached for the camera it was off, and I managed some poor shots as it flew away.  I walked down the road, amazed but annoyed at missing the chance.  I checked the wires and posts in the field but there was nothing.

As I reached the junction of Hawthorn and Lye Way I walked to the gap in the hedge to view the field in front of the plantations.  The trees are now just starting to show the autumn colour, and in a few weeks they will be looking superb.

Looking across the field, it was covered with swallows and house martins, not as many as I had seen last month, but still a good number.  As I watched  heard the call of a falcon, and looking over to the trees saw the hobby flying up.  The shape of the wings was unmistakable as it flew around.  It wasn't in hunting mode,a and wasn't concerned with the swallows around it.  It gradually drifted off away to the north west.  The light was not good by now, and once again I have silhouettes of a bird of prey

As a postscript to this, it was interesting to see that a Hobby was reported the following morning from Miles Hill in Aldershot.

As i made my way down the hill to the car I noticed five Red-legged Partridges in the opposite field.  This is the most I have been able to record as a group.

I drove back around Lye Way in the hope that something may show again. it didn't but on the wires I did see three Yellowhammers, the first since July.

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