Sunday, 25 January 2015

25th January - Lately I've Been....

Garden Watch this weekend but we have been away, you can get the details here.  Keep checking back as there will be two posts

Arrived back this afternoon, and took the time to count in the garden, but as is usally the way the birds have decided to stay away.  All last week it was busy, but today there has been very few.

The Woodpigeon was here though as you would expect.

While the female Blackbird was clearing up some of the food dropped from the feeders.

The maximum number of Blue Tits in the period  watched was three, a very poor turn out, the apples though were their main attraction.

Three Long-tailed Tits came through, again a very small number compared to the flocks in the teens I had in the week.

A Song Thrush was singing in a tree nearby, and two Robins squared up to each other before one backed down and flew off

So my very poor count for the afternoon was as follows:

Blue Tit - 3
Long-tailed Tit - 3
Blackbird - 4
Song Thrush -1
Woodpigeon - 2
Collared Dove -1
Goldfinch - 2
Greenfinch - 1
Chaffinch -1
House Sparrow - 4
Robin - 2
Starling - 5

Lets hope this is helpful for the RSPB, but for me it was very dissappointing

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

21st January - Some People Laugh In The Dark

The start of the week saw clear skies, sunshine and freezing temperatures.  While the temperature has increased a little bit today, it was gloomy, damp and probably rfelt even colder despite the slight rise.

As you would expect on a day like this in the middle of January the garden was busy at first light.  Our female Blackcap is still monopolising the apples that I have skewered onto the tree branches, and this morning she was tucking in to some welcome sugar energy.

And she was taking some quite sizeable chunks out of the apple.

A little later on I noticed a large bird drifting towards me from my office window, once again it was a Red Kite, not sure what the attraction is around here, but they are now becoming very regular.  It came towards me very quickly and I just managed to get the camera out before it disappeared over the house.  Yet another poor Red Kite photograph, but at least it is a little better than last Sunday.

Thinking it was going over the house I raced downstairs to see if it would come over the garden, but it was nowhere to be seen.  I half expected it to be perched on the apex of the roof, but unfortunately it wasn't to be found anywhere.

There was though a lovely view of a male Bullfinch in a bush a couple of gardens down.

For once out in the open, it was stripping the newly emerging buds on the branches, and then rubbing its bill to clean it.  I managed to get a little closer, and also to get a better exposure in what was a very grey and dull day.

Then as if from nowhere the Kite reappeared over what was probably the gardens off Lymington Bottom.  This time a little more distant, but of the last three I have taken probably the clearest to show some of the "red" in a Red Kite.

I waited to see if it would come back, but it continued on towards the new development and down along what was probably Brislands.

I turned my attention back to the garden where a small flock of Long-tailed Tits had arrived.  Over the last few weeks I have been out in the garden when they have arrived without the camera, and have got very close to them.  Today I had the camera, and would you believe it they were a little nervous of me.  I stood very still calling to them in re assurance and finally managed to get this one on a branch in the tree.

Another became a little braver and posed for me at the top of the tree.

They made there was around the garden, visiting mainly the fat balls and feeders, and then as quickly as they came they were gone, one leaving first calling out as it left, and then the rest all follow, their long tails flapping as they head away to another food source.

I went back into the warmth of the house.  I kept an eye out during the rest of the day for anything else of interest, but it all went quiet as a few showers passed through.  Saturday and Sunday is the Garden Bird Watch.  I will be taking part on Sunday, and it will be interesting to see what turns up, and in what numbers.

Sunday, 18 January 2015

18th January - As I Was A-Walking For My Recreation

I have been away for most of the week, and missed the storms and high winds.  Fortunately there was not much damage locally.  Over the weekend the temperatures have dropped significantly, and we have even seen the first real snow of the winter.  This seems to be the signal for a regular winter visitor to the garden to turn up.

Creeping through the branches of the trees she has taken up guard around the apples I have skewered onto the the branches, and has defended them from even the advances of the Blackbirds.  Once upon a time she would have only been with us through the summer, but nowadays over wintering Blackcaps are getting more and more a common feature of the winter garden.

She sat like a sentinel watching for anyone who dare come too close.

There was rain and sleet during the morning, but this cleared through by midday.  I had some jobs to do first thing, and by the time these were finished the sun was out, and despite the cold, it was quite pleasant.  A Red Kite drifted very close over the garden, the tail working overtime as it twisted and turned while continually looking down.

We set off for an afternoon walk and as we walked towards Lymington Rise there were two Red Kites over the trees in the distance.  This though has to be one of my worst Red Kite photographs.

We headed up Brislands, and then out towards Old Down.  It was cold, and quiet as you would expect.  Looking across to the north the fields looked a beautiful green in the afternoon sunshine.

By contrast looking to the south, the view was a dirty winter brown.

The field may look empty, but just before I took the picture there was a flock of about 20 Skylark flying low over the stubble, and then dropping out of sight, there must surely be many more all over the field.

A little further on movement in the field caught my eye, and I found a pair of Mistle Thrushes feeding.  The pair quickly turned into two pairs.

We carried on down the lane, declining to go through the wood as it would have been very wet and muddy.  The hazel alongside the lane were already displaying a good show of Catkins.

Looking back up the lane the sunshine was turning the bare trees and lane a golden colour.

We could hear House Sparrows at the cattle barns but they were tucked away in the hedge, and would only chirp every so often.  Apart from them there was nothing else, it was very quiet.

As we walked down the lane Robins and Dunnocks flitted from the hedge to the dirt by the side of the road.  At the bottom of the hill a couple of weeks ago there were a couple of Meadow Pipits, today I heard the familiar seep call, and there was one again in the same area, but sitting, today on the grass.

Turning up Court Lane, we stopped at the orchards where they were quite a few birds attracted by the trees and a set of feeders in one of the gardens.

As usual there were Goldfinches looking splendid in the sunshine.

This is a good spot for Bullfinch, and as I thought it I heard the soft piping call.  Then a male and two females broke from the trees and flew across the lane to the orchard.  They are always secretive birds, and it is almost impossible to get close to them in the open.  I could see the male, and I was close, but he was sitting in the middle of the tree.

Once again a flash of crimson pink through many branches.

A male Chaffinch was much more confiding, sitting out in the open.

There was also a pair of Dunnocks, this one being the closest.

A feature of this winter has been the number of Blackbirds about.  As we left this afternoon there were eight birds in the garden.  As we headed down the road towards Andrews Lane you could see the ivy moving as Blackbirds were stripping the berries from the ivy.  They get quite animated as they do this, attacking the bush to tear the berries off.

Gilbert Street was proving to be quite good for birds.  In the hedges more House Sparrows chirped away giving away their presence, from the volume I would consider this another good sized colony.  Robins sang everywhere, and Great and Blue Tits called from the gardens.

A Rook sat in the sunshine on the overhead wires.

A little further on we came to the Desmond Paddocks, the field lit up by the afternoon sun.  In the field was a large flock of Fieldfare, I counted a total of 82 birds, one of the largest winter flocks I have seen.  In amongst them were a few Redwing as well.

Some came a little closer, and you can see the characteristic way they hold their wings low from the body.  They also have this gorgeous maroon plumage on the back and wing  contrasting against the grey blue head, neck and rump.

Head on they have the chest and belly spots of a thrush with a lovely orange brown hue.

There was more activity in the laurel and conifer bushes as we walked up Swelling Hill.  Robins everywhere again, and Long-tailed Tits calling in the branches.  The Snow drops are now out in full, and looked wonderful in the dappled light.

The walk up the hill is always a slog, and today there was nothing to distract us as walked.  We paused briefly at the pond, where the water level is very high, but that was about all we observed.  

We headed down towards the school, in the trees above were a few Yellowhammers, and in the stubble field, a Song Thrush, and yet another Mistle Thrush.

We decided to walk along Lymington Bottom, and were immediately rewarded when suddenly the alarm calls rang out, and a Kestrel flew in front of us.  The calls though were too late for probably a vole, as the Kestrel held one in its talons as it flew low past us, and then away to a convenient post where it would become an evening snack.

A Great Spotted Woodpecker called, and then flew away across the top of the trees, Long-tailed Tits called as they streamed across the road, and the Starlings were beginning to collect at the top of the trees as the sun began to drop away in the west.  The Starlings were joined by a lone Redwing, calling as it flew into the top of the tree.

A typical winter walk, cold and mainly quiet but with enough about to make it interesting.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

11th January - The Wrong Side Of The Bed

Yesterday was the first of my away trips, and the details and pictures are here.

The Red Kite sighting continued through the week, one or two birds drifting over the house.  A Sparrowhawk was an unwelcome visitor to the garden this morning too, unwelcome to the feeding birds, but for me a very welcome visitor.  It had been a cold clear night, and there had been a slight frost but the air was warming up when I set off for a quick walk around the woods.  The sun was also out and this was the incentive for the birds to be calling.  Robins were in full song, and I could hear at least two Song Thrushes singing high in the trees.  Both Great and Blue Tits were also calling from the oaks around the cemetery.

I wanted to see if it was possible to walk around the woods, and I was also hopeful there might be some new birds feeding in the larches.

As I approached the entrance I could see the farmer had started to erect fences and gates to the fields.  It seems that in Four Marks we are constantly facing challenges and battles, if it is not with the construction firms that want to turn every field and open area into a building site its the local farmers who for some reason are suddenly fighting those people that enjoy the countryside.  It would appear the default position of the farmer is that we are all out to destroy or damage their land.

When these gates and fences are in place once again it will not be possible to use footpath #19 as the area has still not been cleared despite the council informing me the land owner had been told to clear and provide access.  What has suddenly changed for this different approach to be taken by the farmers?

My rant over I negotiated the muddy path, and then took the diagonal footpath.  Its a sheltered spot here and the foxglove leaves still hung on to the white frost from the night.

There are many large trails now in the wood created by the heavy vehicles that have moved through to clear out the tree trunks that have been cut down.  These trails though are very wet and muddy.  I walked along one towards the west end, a small group of Goldcrests called from the trees nearby, and I managed to catch one before it flitted away and out of sight.

At the west end of the wood the tree clearance is severe.  Interestingly the majority of the trees clears seem to be hazel, and you have to wonder the possible impact that could have had on any Dormice that may be in the wood.  There has been considerable effort taken to protect the dormice that are thought to be in the hedgerows around Brislands, providing them with a nice bridge to cross the entrance ways.  I doubt there are any Dormice there, but I would reckon there were some in the hazel in Old Down and that they have probably been decimated now following this drastic clearance.

Oh dear I am rather grumpy today, which I really shouldn't be after the wonderful day yesterday.  I walked along the footpath back into the wood, once the darkest part of the wood, now fully open with a path dried by both the sun and wind.  I do feel the wood will benefit from this clearance, and that come the spring it will be easier to see the birds, and there will be a lovely show from the wild flowers.

I stopped to listen for bird calls, and immediately heard the sharp "kick" call that resonates around the wood.  A female Great Spotted Woodpecker flew in to one of the trees still standing and continued to call as she sat there.

Blackbirds scurried around in the leaf litter under the large beech trees, and every so often there would be the call of a Song Thrush as it shot from the low branches.  The blackbird numbers are as plentiful in the woods as they are around the gardens and fields.  There has definitely been a big influx this year.

As I made my way up to the crossroads there was a a lot of activity on the path with birds drinking and bathing in the puddles.  I stood and watched Wrens and Dunnocks appear in the fallen branches, and Great and Blue Tits flying backwards and forwards across the path.

Another increase this winter has been in the number of Grey Squirrels I have seen in the wood, it seems that they are everywhere, the rustle of leaves as they scamper through the leaf litter, and the barking calls from the trees as they move at speed across the branches.  I suspect that the number hasn't increased but that it is again a result of the clearer space, and the fact that I can now see and hear them.  

Looking across through the larches it is amazing how many dreys there are high up in the trees.

I stopped again to listen for birds.  This area is usually the best place for Goldfinches and in the past Siskin and Redpoll and even Crossbill.  But today I could hear a few Goldfinches, but nothing else.

I headed around the south perimeter, this part of the wood is dry, and the paths are much easier to walk.  With the clearance though the markers I have always used to know where I am have gone, so you suddenly find your self at the Kitwood entrance.  As I reached the Gradwell path I could hear knocking above me and I stopped to watch a Nuthatch attempting to open what looked like a hazel nut.  It had wedged the nut into a crack in the bough of a large Oak Tree.  It would constantly stop to look around for danger, then would go back to hamering the nut

The blows were very powerful, lifting the head and then bringing it down with quite a bit of force.

I came out of the wood and crossed to the paddocks.  I could hear Yellowhammer calling, and as I got closer to the trees a flock of 26 came out of the tree and flew away out over the field.

As I watched the Yellowhammer a Buzzard called and then came out of the tree as well and flew away from me along the line of the hedge.

The Yellowhammer were still calling and it sounded like there were many still in the tree, I though, could only see one sitting on the edge of the tree.

I walked a little further, and another flock of 27 came out, then followed by another 22, making a total of 75 Yellowhammer, quite a good count.

I walked down Gradwell, and could hear the buzzards calling above.  High in the sky there were two soaring, but the calls were quite close, suddenly from over the tree, a Buzzard swooped over me quite low.

Yet another buzzard picture but I do love watching and listening to them, the call, for me, epitomising the wildness.

There was still another about, and I watched this one come low over the field and then out of my view, but I knew it must be there, as a group of Woodpigeon suddenly took flight.  I walked on and found it sitting in the bush behind the big house on the corner of Brislands and Gradwell.

A little further on I could see berries dropping to the ground from a Holly tree.  I looked and found the culprit at the top of the tree, a Mistle Thrush, eating the berries, and obviously dropping a few.

I made my way back home, stopping quickly to take advantage of an opportunity that doesn't arrive that often, a perched and settled Carrion Crow, normally they fly off the moment the camera is raised.  This one seemed quite content in the sunshine, and shows well the difference between it and the Rooks, no bare patch at the base of the bill.

A typical January walk, bits and pieces about, but nothing out of the ordinary, still a lovely morning.