Sunday, 29 March 2009
Saturday, 28 March 2009
I had to return again later in the day so I paid a quick visit to Ditton Quarry around 16:00 to check out the Redpoll situation. Five Lesser Black-backed Gulls dipped in and out of the sky and a Song Thrush sang from the shrubbery. Being careful, after Tuesdays mistake (!), I located a flock of 8+ Redpoll feeding on the ground near the alder trees in the SW corner of the site. Bingo - I quickly picked out a Mealy Redpoll amongst them, instantly recognisable by it's more 'washed-out' appearance and bulkier, larger size. I attempted some photos but the flock were very flighty, often taking cover in a nearby willow, and not tolerant of me approaching too close. After watching them for a good 10 minutes or so they took flight as a Kestrel loomed overhead.
After pollinating, and with more rain clouds looming, I scanned across the nearby ploughed area next to the new experimental Pear Orchard. I was hoping for something out of the ordinary -but a cock Pheasant with a harem of four hens was all I was rewarded with. For some reason the male Pheasant kept lying low in the mud, not for my benefit I'm sure. Driving back to Barming I saw more hen Pheasants and 8+ BH Gulls in the field adjacent to St Margaret's Church.
...to this. What was he up to?!
Thursday, 26 March 2009
Cycling home at 18:00 I was pleased to hear a Siskin singing again, this time from a tree on the corner of Kiln Barn Road where the bridleway carries straight on up to the water tower in Barming. Scanning through the treetops I picked out another eight. This really was turning out to be the day of the Siskins! A couple of Lesser Black-backed Gulls loafed around in the wind, drifting off to roost no doubt and Green Woodpecker yaffled unseen in Oaken wood.
Tuesday, 24 March 2009
Cycling home at dusk I had a Sparrowhawk float over and a Bullfinch restlessly bounding ahead of me as I laboured up the bridleway hill to the Water Tower, Barming.
Monday, 23 March 2009
Sunday, 22 March 2009
In between pollinating we took the kids to Knole Park, Sevenoaks and I was hoping for some birds while we wondered around, but very little showed. I spent most my time loitering aroun dead trees while the kids climbed them - some fanatastic patterns on those that had lost their bark.
Before returning to work in the afternoon I dropped by Ditton Quarry on the off chance of Redpolls. After 10 minutes I located one...then two...then five Lesser Redpolls working through the Alders in the SW corner. Then unexpectedly a Mealy Redpoll joined them giving brief, but excellent, views for a minute or so before the whole flock suddenly took to the air for no apparent reason. I suddenly remebered I'd got work to do (!) so left without trying to relocate the flock.
Friday, 20 March 2009
I tried for the Red Hill Waxwings at lunchtime, breaking my own biking record from East Malling to Wateringbury...I only had an hour! I spent a good 30 minutes scanning aroun the orchards by Red Hill and Wateringbury Place but couldn't locate them. Coming back through the wood north of Wateringbury village I was pleased to add another couple of Commas to the list and see the Wood Anemone in full flower.
Wednesday, 18 March 2009
Lunchtime was very warm and I decided to cycle back into Oaken Wood - it was about this time last year that my boss saw a Camberwell Beauty there while on an lunchtime run. It's been a few months since I last went through the wood itself and I was suprised how dry all the paths were. A number of new areas have been coppiced so will be worth checking for Tree Pipit and Nightjar in the summer. Butterflies were flying in good numbers and I totalled 12x Comma and 5x Peacock on my short ride. I also noticed numerous pieces of roofing felt laid down and then happened across a lady from the Kent Wildlife Trust who was carrying out a survey on lower plants for Gallaghers. She told me that apparently Tree Sparrows were present in the wood, but didn't know any other details - something I'll be following up! There seems to be quite an intense wildlife survey being carried out in the wood, I've noticed mammal boxes in some of the coppice as well - hopefully no a prelude to a possible extension of the quarry?! Another Chiffchaff was found near the underpass.
Monday, 16 March 2009
There's a Redpoll in there! Suprisingly well-camoflauged on the ground......
Sunday, 15 March 2009
The ragstone wall that yielded a bounty of butterflies.
Saturday, 14 March 2009
Thursday, 12 March 2009
Wednesday, 11 March 2009
We needed some waders, so off to Shellness but there was not much to see, all the gull count went up. Onto Minster beach, where I picked out a distant flock of Sanderling, only for James to point 2 on the beach right under our feed! Ken of Halling fame also showed well - a new life tick for me, wonder when I'll get him on my patch list! Onto Sheerness, up and down any number of stairs just east of the sailing club looking for a Purple Sandpiper, but we were out of luck.
Elmley was the next and last port of call on the island. We failed to see the Merlin along the entrance track, and kicking through the oaks only added Goldcrest to the list. Down to the hides; Wellmarsh was very disappointing considering it was high tide - only a scattering of Ringed Plover proved their was life out there. However Southfleet was much better with good numbers and views of Avocet. The Swale held very little - I'd heard there'd been a clear out of wildfowl over the last few weeks. Only the Water Pipit further along the seawall could drag us up now. As we approached the beach where it had been reported a pipit flew up high of the wall and across the path and onto the pasture - was it the Water Pipit....I'll never know, it didn't return! Scanning across to relocate a GBB Gull I picked out a Peregrine sitting out some harassment from a group of irrate Lapwings. Then possibly one of the best sightings of the day for me - a Hedgehog! Sad I know but I've not seen a live one over 2 years. It curled up as we approached, before rolling own the slope! James' pessimism of finding a SE Owl would have had us back to the car in no time, but my optimism and Gordon Allisons's update on SE Owl sightings from the previous day saw us sitting out on the bench at Wellmarsh waiting for an owl to turn up. A second and third Peregrine were seen while we waited and right and cue at 16:15 a SE Owl slipped across the saltmarsh and put on a fantastic show for 10 minutes or so. James was happy so off we trotted, taking in a Pochard on the way (we'd written this off for the day). Back at Kinghill Farm we dipped on Little Owl but added a secon sighting of Ken. He was just off to the hides, and how I'd wished I joined him - Garganey grip off...grrrrrrrrrrrr! Final port of call was Rose Hill Wood, Bobbing for Firecrest - it was always a long shot and we failed, but at least added the elusive trio of Goldfinch, Song and Mistle Thrush to the list. A respectable 80 species, with some quality birds, on the list......and then 81 as a flock Fieldfares flew overhead as we strolled into The Bull, Barming!
Tuesday, 10 March 2009
I returned at lunchtime to meet up with Ken Beckett who had contacted me to say he'd be interested to see the Redpolls. We saw small numbers of Lesser Redpoll in various Alders in the enjoyable 45 minutes we spent there but unfortunately no Mealies. Someone else has to see them!!! Ken also saw a couple of Goldcrest, Long-tailed Tit, male Bullfinch and Song Thrush while there.
Monday, 9 March 2009
Back over the quarry at lunchtime with Mike Easterbrook, we met David Blakesley with scope scanning the ground under the alders. 3x Lesser Redpoll crept through the leaf litter but no Mealies. Checking the other alders were found a Siskin and had teasing glimpses of more Redpolls but these were all to too brief to ID.
Sunday, 8 March 2009
Friday, 6 March 2009
I guessed a few butterflies might be on the wing, so feeling lucky I ventured over to Ditton Quarry at lunchtime. A 'nest' of Common Lizards were curled up under a strip of roofing felt out I'd left out on a sunny bank way back in the summer. I couldn't quite make out how many there were - all legs, heads and tails! It was looking fairly quiet on the bird front, a Kestrel hovered overhead and a pair of Long-tailed Tits noisly guarded a bramble, potential nesting site I assume. However I heard the call of a Redpoll, I'd assumed they'd gone - the Fieldfares and Redwings had disappeared overnight and in my head I was thinking spring! I quickly latched on to a Lesser Redpoll but it moved off through the Alders and was gone as quickly as it had arrived. Determined to track it down I scoured the scrub for another 10 minutes and eventually struck lucky with a flock of 12 Redpolls feeding acrobatically in a lone Alder. No sooner had I got the camera focused on one of the birds when a police helicopter suddenly appeared and 'buzzed me' for a couple of minutes, sending the flock back of into the trees. Eventually the cops decided I wasn't the guy they were looking for, 'buzzed off' and the birds returned. Two of the birds looked slightly larger, bulkier and paler to me, possibly Common Redpolls, but the plummage within the flock was quite variable and I'm no expert. I've added a number of photos below of putative Common Redpolls (and I've got more from most angles if anyone can tell me what I should be looking for) - any comments?
Wednesday, 4 March 2009
I read Warren's blog today and he seems to be experiencing similar habit destruction on his patch (http://pittswoodpatch.blogspot.com/). On a more positive note the hedgerows along Gallagher's Gallop (the bridleway between Kiln Barn Road, Ditton and Noth Street, Barming) have been yielding lots of territorial birds, singing out their claim on . Dunnock, Wren, Great and Blue Tit, Yellowhammer, Chaffinch and Bullfinch have all graced me with their vocal performaces as I've past by in the last week. The buds of the hedge are full, ready to burst, just waiting for that prolonged period of warmth that is so temptingly close. But why they remain barren it's become easy to pick out the remanats of last year's breeding season. Nests litter the branches and boughs. I've included pictures of 3 below, any ideas what species they belong to?
Tuesday, 3 March 2009
On my return to work I got a call from my wife to say that a Little Egret was walking along the pavement on Mill Street, East Malling just east of The Rising Sun pub! She commented on it's very large, yellow feet! The watercress beds and millstream run close by but what it was expecting to find in the gutter I'm not quite sure.