Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Tuesday 30th October

A noticeable movement of birds moving south over Barming this morning, including the first decent flock of Fieldfares (60) of the autumn and a large flock of Lapwings (92) .
Not much out of the ordinary on the Research Station site at lunchtime - 20+ Fieldfares, 1x Redwing, 5x Meadow Pipit. There was a report of 2x Jackdaws at Bradbourne House, a scarce bird for site this site, although I suspect, based on the observer's previous records, it could have been 2 bin liners blowing in the wind!

Monday, 29 October 2007

Saturday 27th October

I was hoping to get up to Reculver for the Pallas & Dusky Warblers, but as the day progressesd the Pallas wasn't reported and the Dusky was becoming more and more elusive! Instead I decided to pay a long overdue visit to the Harty Ferry Road, Sheppey, enticed by recent reports of the Rough-legged Buzzard. I arrived around 3 pm, and sure enough the Rough-legged Buzzard was sitting on a mound of soil to the east of the prison, distant but identifiable. It preened, occasionally the white on it's tail feather showing through. After half-an-hour it launched itself off the mound and flew low, north giving the briefiest of views before disappearing behind some maize. Almost immediately a Common Buzzard took it's place! My annual pilgrimage to the RL Buzzard complete I ventured to the Ferry Boat Inn to see what was around. Shelduck, Golden Plover and Lapwings made up a small party on the exposed mud, with Curlew and Little Egret creeping around the saltings in front of the pub. As I scanned each fence post in the hope of Merlin or Short-eared owl and flock of Starlings flew up and I immediately locked onto a male Merlin, flying extremley low across the saltings, it's blue-grey back and dark edged wings catching the last of the sun. I always forget how small the males are, this one looked not much bigger than a Blackbird.

I returned to the raptor viewpoint to see if any owls would lurk out, but it wasn't to be, although 20 Marsh Harriers came into roost, some settling on the fields before flocking up and over the reeds. I also managed to disturb 7x Fieldfares that had settled into a hawthorn by the mound for the night.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Wednesday 24th October

No frost this morning, but instead a cold, easterly breeze and overcast skies. There wasn't much along the track from Barming to Ditton, apart from the remanants of a Slow Worm on the path next to the allotments at the top of North Street, Barming. However as I approached the main building on East Malling Research site I noticed what I at first though was a distant Grey Heron, flying south/south-east on the east side of the old Ditton labs. I got the bins on it just to double check and saw it was an Egret species, and straight away noticed it had black feet - not yellow as I've come to expect from the Little Egret(s) that can be found in the area from time -to-time. I tried to get a tag on it's bill colour, but it was now flying away from me and in the low, glum light, and from a distance, it wasn't at all dicernable. I wondered if it might be the Great White Egret that had been reported at RSPB Rainham yesterday, but a report came through at 09:30 that it was still there, although the Cattle Egret had flown!
A quick jaunt out at lunchtime turned up a Kestrel, huge numbers of Wood Pigeon and Stock Dove (approx 200 and 50 respectively in one newly-sown field) and, of non-avian interest, another steam train passing through East Malling Station!

Monday, 22 October 2007

Monday 22nd October

Another cold, frosty morning brought in the first Fieldfares of the winter onto the Barming patch. They 'chack-chacked' from the top of the trees bordering the Parish Fields before an ungainly Grey Heron scared them off by trying the near impossible manouvre of landing on next door's Leylandii hedge!

Fieldfares and Redwings were also evident for the first time this year on the East Malling Research site this afternoon. I counted 10 and 2 respectively, which based on my past records, actually means there's probably 100x more of each on the site as a whole!

Saturday 20th October

My first Redwing of the year dropped into the garden in Barming briefly this morning. There was a lot of bird activity, no doubt brought on by the cold weather. A flock of Long-Tailed tits worked through the trees bordering the Parish playing fields, with a Goldcrest tagging on behind (I desperately scanned for a YB or Pallas Warbler!). A couple of Lapwings flapped west.

Friday, 19 October 2007

Thursday 18th October

An afternoon off work saw me at Cliffe, forlonly looking for the Great grey Shrike, of which there was no sign. However the weather was fantastically sunny and crisp, so I decided to do the Cliffe circuit. Nothing much out of the ordinary, and wader numbers were lowere than expected, especially as it was near high tide. However good number of Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Shelduck and Lapwing were all on show, along with 1x Kingfisher, 2x Little Stint, 1x Ruff and 1x Green Sandpiper (in a ditch). A Harrier sp, probably Marsh, was seen being mobbed by a crow near the seawall, but the heat haze (in late October!) was too intense to get a positive ID. My first Fieldfares of the year also showed up, 200+ were seen, monopolising the hawthorn bushes on the track from the seawall back to the Black Barn. Also 2 large flocks (100+) of Goldfinches slowly moved west.

Wednesday 17th October

No sign of the Black Redstarts this morning, despite an extensive check. A family group of 5x Pied Wagtails reclaimed their rooftop territory! A walk onto the plots in search of winter thrushes drew a blank. However a newly tilled field turned up 10x Skylarks, 3x Meadow Pipits, 30x Linnet and 16 Pied Wagatils. A Kestrel hovered expectantly nearby. 2x Red Admiral and 1x Peacock were blown south in the brisk breeze.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Tuesday 16th October

A fairly bleak day was brightened up by the appearance of a pair of Black Redstarts on the East Malling Research Station site. A phone call from a colleague at 11:30 had me looking out of his window onto the ridge of the Farm Office building where both a male and female were hopping around. In Redstart style they flitted nervously around, occasionally dropping down to the shrubbery around the staff car park. As much as I'd have liked to watch them I had to get back to doing some work! When I finally managed to get out of the office for lunch at 12:30, the male had disappeared, but the female continued to move along the main EMB building roof, occasionally dropping into the guttering or turning over moss in search of food. She was joined on occasions by the 2x Pied Wagtails who normally frequent this elevated spot. A search of the remaining site building roofs failed to turn up the male, although a Red Admiral was seen during a short spell of sunshine. Unfortunately I've not managed to get a photo - lets hope one or both are still around tomorrow.

The female Black Redstart was still present at 18:00 when I left work, appearing to roost in one of the chimney pots on the EMB building. Lets hope she's still there tomorrow.

Monday, 15 October 2007

Monday 15th October

A half-hour walk around Ditton Quarry was fairly quiet, despite the fantastic autumn sunshine. A Bullfinch flock were heard calling as theyworked through the shrubs at the south end, adjacent to research centre land, although only a striking male was seen. A small flock of 10 Linnets were found feeding on Buddleia flowers in the same area. Both Green and Great Spotted Woodpecker were see, making it all 3 species in 2 days! A few Echium and Scabious flowers remained, starkingly blue compared to the surronding orange, red and yellow hues of autumn. Butterflies made the most of the warmth, with a single Common Blue and white spp., and 4x Red Admiral seen.

A flock of 32 Mistle Thrushes was seen to roost on the mobile phone mast by Egham Shed as I left work at 17:30 this evening.

Sunday 14th October

A walk in Knole Park with the family was suprisingly productive, helped no doubt by the warm, sunny weather. Highlights were a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker in a beech tree next the the east wall of Knole House, 8+ Ring-necked Parakeets screaching at various locations in the park and 2x Small Coppers sunning themselves on the reminats of the Oak trees felled by the storm of 1987 (20 years ago, almost to the day).

Friday 12th October

Despite there being lots of rotten fruit on the fields, they've failed to attract any Redwings or Fieldfares. Huge numbers of Woodpigeons dominate the count on the research station, 150+ today, although Linnet flocks seem to be on the increase with a single flock of approx 40 seen on Churchfields East. A couple of Pied Wagtails were see at the Bullock Yard for the first time this autumn, and 5 Yellowhammers were calling in the grubbed up cherries on the bonfire site.

Friday, 12 October 2007

Thursday 11th October

The sun eventually broke through the morning fog and so I decided to pay another, quick lunchtime visit to Wouldham. The Pectoral Sandpiper was a no show, but 2x Common Sandpiper showed well on the west bank, along with 10+ Lapwings roosting on the turf to avoid the high tide. A Snipe showed very well in the reeds. As we left a Sparrowhawk drifted south across the churchyard. A fanatstic sunset finished off the day.

Daniel, a visiting student from Poland, searching for the elusive Pectoral Sandpiper (note the crossed fingers!)

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Wednesday 10th October

I though I caught sight of a flock of Redwing as I arrived at work this morning, but a half-hour sortie around the research station plots failed to flush any out. A Kestrel hovered near the weather station, and a Jay hopped around Great East Hostel with its acorn. However the bird of the day was an unexpected Little Owl, sitting confidently on an apple tree post in the orchard opposite Great East Hostel. It allowed me to get within 20ft of it before flying a short distance into a windbreak. It was easily relocated and again tolerated my close proximity for another couple of minutes before flying low across the orchard and out of sight.

Sunday 7th October

A dash up to Cliffe, late afternoon, to try and catch a sighting of the earlier reported Hoopoe left me disappointed again, although 10x Little Stint,4x Ruff and 1x Avocet and a Merlin were seen during the search.

Friday 5th October

The walk into work this morning was pretty uneventful, although good numbers of Jay (8) were seen, all characteristically carrying an acorn in it's bill. An high count of 33 Collared Dove were also recorded on the 2-mile trip.

A visit to Wouldham in my lunch hour failed to turn up a definite sighting of the Pectoral Sandpiper, although 3 Sandpipers were seen, 2x Common Sandpiper and an unidentified 3rd landed distantly on floating vegetation and was lost to view (probably the Pec!). Also in attendance were 20+ Lapwings, 30+ Black-headed Gulls and 2x Common Buzzards, soaring distantly over the Downs, beyond the village. The corpse of a juvenile Common Tern was also found caught up in debris below the concrete wharf. Non-avian interest came in the form of a pristine Brimstone butterfly fluttering along the east bank of the river, behind the church.

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Wednesday 3rd October

A lovely warm, but misty morning. An early start to get plants in the ground saw flocks of Canada and Greylag Geese noisly fly low overhead to feed in a stubbly field on the east side of East Malling Research site. The mist had lifted by mid-morning and it was poistively warm compared to earlier in the week - a couple of Commas were seen flitting around the Italian Alder windbreaks, and a few Common Darter drifted across the public footpath. A lovely day was rather tinged by the news at lunchtime that yet more jobs were to go at the Research Station.

Monday, 1 October 2007

Monday 1st October

The fields at East Malling Research centre would certainly have been a suitable location for the Bockhill Paddyfield Warbler to alight had it decided to fly west! The constant drizzle of rain throughout the day was not ideal for seeing birds and I had the misfortune to have to check some of the field plots in the rain. However I was pleasantly suprised to find a steady stream of Swallows flying east, mostly in small parties of 2-5 birds. These were supplemented by a Grey Heron, more in keeping with the weather conditions. Then a Sparrowhawk, ignoring a small flock of Linnets, and instead swooping down on the much bigger prize of a flock of Feral pigeons which were feeding in a stubble field by Ditton Lab. It didn't manage a kill, and flap, flap, glided away in a rather embarrassed manner. A quick check of the plot nearest the weather station (viewable from the public footpath) spooked a Snipe from the strawed alleyways, it's zig-zag, towering flight took it up and over a windbreak and north towards Bradbourne House...the first Snipe for me on this site.