Friday, 29 January 2016

29th January - I Look At Eye Level And It Isn't Enough

It would seem that when ever I have the chance to get out around Four Marks the weather decides to intervene.  That said despite the cold spell in the middle of the month there has been little change in the wildlife, other than more Snowdrops and Daffodils are flowering following the return to the unseasonable mild weather.

This week sees the RSPB Garden Birdwatch, and I could almost predict the species I would see now, the same usual suspects have been appearing, the four species of tit, Great, Coal, Blue and Long-tailed; Goldfinches aplenty, the Blackbirds, two Robins and the the two tiny visitors the Wren and Goldcrest.  This time last year a Blackcap was a regular visitor, but there has not been any sign of one this winter, and the last time a Siskin appeared was back at the start of October.

There was though one quite spectacular visitor this morning, as I watched the feeders the birds scattered, and I was treated to a really close view of the resident Red Kite as it swooped onto some bits of food scattered on the lawn.  It made two passes and each time was too quick, and too close for the camera, but I did manage to get it as it drifted away from me continuing its search for food

There is little sign of the weather changing, strong winds and more rain forecast overnight, and pretty much the case of Press: Play: Repeat through next week, which incredibly is February, where on earth did January go?

With the state of the country side and wildlife around Four Marks so depressing at the moment I have had to raise the spirits by travelling away and getting out and about in Hampshire and surrounding counties.  You can catch up with what I have seen here.  Hopefully normal or at least some different service will return soon.

Monday, 18 January 2016

17th January - Twenty Four Little Hours

Yesterday was wonderful, cold, blue skies and wonderful winter sunshine.  It gave me the chance to really use the new camera, and I was pleased with the results as Ian and I spent a great day on the South Coast

What a difference this morning though, it had rained or maybe there had been sleet, in other parts of the country there was a dusting of snow.  The temperature was just above freezing, and it was very damp and grey.  The rain had stopped by mid morning, and rather than sit around Helen and I decided to go out for a walk.  As we heaed along Brislands there were signs of the sleet returning.

The hedgerows were silent, not even a Robin singing, we headed down Brislands towards Manor Farm and the cow sheds.

As we passed the empty sheds a Grey Wagtail called, and then flew in front of us across the road and over onto the large puddles.  I tried to get a view and the opportunity for a picture, but it was off again, this time over the sheds and out of view.  It was here last year at about the same time I found my first one for the patch.  Clearly they like the area around the cows.

As I searched for the wagtail I noticed in the field behind the sheds there were quite a few Fieldfare, their chuckles now able to be heard.

After giving up on the wagtail we headed down the road.  I stopped to watch a Dunnock in the hedge and then became aware of the fact that the field was absolutely covered in Fieldfare.  This picture shows a portion of the field and the number of birds.  By taking blocks I estimated there must be at least 500, and probably more if I was honest.

As we reached the furthest point it started to rain, typical.  We decided to carry on to Gilbert Street after holding up two tractors in the lane as we needed to find a passing place.

House Sparrows called from the hedgerows, and there was at least one Song Thrush singing.  The rain had put a halt to any photographs.

Just before Swelling Hill starts to rise I heard a calling Firecrest in a holly bush, and could just make it out creeping through the branches.  This is the first time I have heard or seen one here, and this was another welcome year tick on a very gloomy day.

There was no sign of the Mallard on the pond, and very little else as we walked quite firmlly home as the rain continued to fall.  On a positive note we got some exercise, and also managed to see two birds that might have been difficult this year.  On the negative note it was so disappointing the weather did not continue in the way it was yesterday.  What a difference a day makes!

Friday, 15 January 2016

15th January - So I Turned Myself To Face Me

At last a change in the weather, the rain and cloud has gone, and this morning blue clear sky, a rising sun, and ice, lots of it.  The first real cold weather of the winter around here, and it looks like it is here for the next few days.

As I have reported previously the birds and wildlife around the patch is very subdued, and in fact the best place to watch anything is around the gardens of the houses, so there is no better place than the garden.  Helen saw a Firecrest in the week, and I was hoping that it might turn up again.

There was quite a bit of activity early on, Great Tits being the busiest unusually to start with nipping in to take the black sunflower seeds.

As I watched the early activity a Red Kite drifted over, but not in a position where I could get a suitable photograph.

A reminder of the mild condition we have been having, at the bottom of the garden the daffodils and Snowdrops are shooting.  This area is quite cold and sheltered and the flowers here are always later than those in the light so to see them here at this time of year was quite a find.

Following the Great Tits were the Coal Tits and the Blue Tits, the Coal Tits adopting there "now you see me, now you don't" approach, while the Blue Tits would perch at the top of the trees in the weak sunshine.

There were up to six Blackbirds, all males in the garden, they would patrol the lawn expending more energy than they surely need to, chasing the others off.

Another Black but much larger bird was hanging around the other gardens, but never comes anywhere near mine.  A Rook just sat in the nearby trees watching, but never coming any closer.

Inevitably the Long-tailed Tits arrived, heading straight for the fat feeders, but also takingthe chance to sit in the sun.

Then another small bird, and if you ever wondered how these small birds keep warm in sub zero temperatures then here is a good example of what they do.  This Goldcrest has fluffed up its feathers to hold the air in close to its body.  The feathers being an excellent insulation.

In doing so it also appears bigger as it sat in the sunshine.

Having warmed up it went straight to the fat feeder, where it surprisingly for such a small and cautious bird spent some time.

Goldfinches were also present, and after feeding on the sunflower seeds they are always keen to take a drink, the seeds must be dry and difficult to swallow!  Fortunately I had been out and melted some of the water, although it was freezing once again.

It was though able to still manage to drink from a part that had not melted yet.

Things took a little break then, and as I sat in my office I noticed a Sparrowhawk fly pastthe window, I quickly went to the other side of the house, and watched as it flew up into a nearby tree where it sat hidden by the branches.

The cold weather bringing not only the small songbirds in to feed, but also attracts the predators to prey on them.

The skies remained clear, and the temperature cold, and with this came a lovely sunset away to the west.

Off to the south coast again tomorrow in search of the birds not seen last week.  But I am also hopeful of gettingout around the patch in dryer and more wintry conditions

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

11th January - Said You Took a Big Trip

Said you moved away, happened oh so quietly, they say.....

Nothing much has changed the weather still stuck not knowing whether it is spring, summer or autumn, but definitely not winter.  I haven't been out around the patch, I suspect hat little has changed since my last walk on New Year's Day.  The garden has seen the same birds taking advantage of the feeders, with now two wrens to support the two Goldcrests that creep  amongst the shrubs on the bank.

Rain appears to be the constant as well, and heavy showers have rolled in from the south west, bombarding the back windows and leaving patterns on the glass that light up as the sun invariably decides to emerge just as the darkness is about to engulf once again.

I did get down to the south coast this weekend to enjoy the variation in wildlife that brings and you can see what was about here

But all is not lost, it looks like we will be getting a blast of winter towards the end of this week, with temperatures reflecting where they should be at this time of year, and hopefully some clear skies and dry weather.  With those clear skies the stars will look very different tonight, and I will see you in the sky, tonight.

Friday, 1 January 2016

1st January - A World in White Gets Underway

Spent the New Year on the south coast, and the first bird I heard of the year was a singing Robin, and the first bird seen was a flock of Brent Geese.  It may very well be a new year but the weather is still very much the same, overcast with th threat of rain.  The temperature this morning though was a lot colder.

Back home I decided to go out for a walk through the woods while the weather stayed dry, but there was always the sense that the rain was not too far away.  I was not expecting too much, but there was always the thought that maybe there could be that New Year's Day Mega.

As I walked along Brislands the sun was trying to break through the cloud, but never really succeeded

Looking across the fields as I walked along the lane I could see plenty of Woodpigeon, but also a collection of smaller birds that turned out to be Chaffinches.

I decided to enter Old Down from Gradwell Lane, and as I walked to the footpath a Robin was the only bird I could hear,

The path alongside the paddocks, and then pout across the field was very wet and muddy, and it was very difficult to walk, taking three steps forward and slipping two back!  A head there were Woodpigeon and crows on the fields, and then three smaller and duller birds slowly making their was across the field.  These were Red-legged Partridges and the firs I have seen around Old Down for some time.

It was very quiet in the wood, the colder weather silencing the singing Great Tits.  I walked along the perimeter path, and soon found a small flock of calling birds.

Moving quickly through the trees they were difficult to pin down, it was a mixed flock of Long-tailed Tits and of course Goldcrests, this winters influx bird, they seem to be everywhere.  One appeared above my head.

On reaching the Kitwood path, I turned back into the wood, pausing to listen, the best way to find birds in the wood.  I soon heard the "seep" calls of Redwings and scanned the trees to see if I could find them, they always seem to be able to merge into the bare branches.  Finally one moved and then another and as they settled back into the branches I was able to see them.  Distant, but recognisable as Redwings.

I walked around to the the crossroads with just Wrens calling and darting out of the dead bracken.  I turned down towards Old Down Cottage, and then along the short path to the perimeter.  This is a good spot for Marsh Tits and very soon I was hearing a pair calling, one coming close as they foraged in the branches looking for small insects.

At the perimeter path I could hear Fieldfare and picked them up on the field, but as soon as I moved to get a better view they flew up into the trees and disappeared.  There were Blackbirds in the field, and they were unconcerned, there was also a Jay, but that too flew off as I tried to get a better view.

All around there were birds, Chaffinches, Goldfinches and quite a few Great Tits and Blue Tits.  I then managed to find the Fieldfare in the top of the tree, but again as I moved into a better position they flew off across the field to the trees on the other side.  I found them perched at the top of the trees with a crow, again a very distant shot unfortunately.

I walked slowly on disturbing Bullfinches from the brambles, and Goldfinches from the low dried out weed stems, one bird appearing in the open and allowing me the chance to photograph it.

Bullfinches seemed to be everywhere and as I walked more came out of the bramble.  A female sat long enough for me to get a closer look and I could see that they were feeding on the rotten blackberries, her mouth full of seeds.

The males were not performing and would drop out of sight once they had flown up.  The females though appeared to be quite happy out in the open.

Looking out across the fields to the west I could see a hazy cloud rolling towards us, not a good sign, the rain seemingly not to far off.  I decided that it was time to make my way home, and headed out of the wood through to the Brislands path, then down Brislands through the puddles and home.  

A brief New Year's Day walk, and the chance to get five tit species and four thrushes on the new 2016 list.

I have been asked if I could publish the list of birds seen in 2015, so here it is, the new birds for the patch are in bold.  There are of course some notable omissions, namely Barn Owl, Little Owl, Sand Martin, Great Black-backed Gull, all birds that should have been found but eluded me

Mute Swan
Great Tit
Coal Tit
Red-legged Partridge
Marsh Tit
Grey Partridge
House Martin
Grey Heron
Long-tailed Tit
Red Kite
Willow Warbler
Garden Warbler
Golden Plover
Black-headed Gull
Song Thrush
Mediterranean Gull
Common Gull
Mistle Thrush
Lesser Black-backed Gull
Spotted Flycatcher
Herring Gull
Rock Dove / Feral Pigeon
Stock Dove
Collared Dove
Tawny Owl
House Sparrow
Grey Wagtail
Green Woodpecker
Pied Wagtail
Great Spotted Woodpecker
Meadow Pipit
Carrion Crow
Lesser Redpoll
Common Crossbill
Blue Tit

Here is to finding them all again this year, thirty are already in the bag!