Saturday, 29 August 2009

Saturday 29th August

Had to go into work today, filming for BBC Countryfile (look out for me on your screens next Sunday evening!), but the upside was that I caught sight of a new bird for me in Barming/Teston area as I drove there - a Common Buzzard, soaring over the rookery by Barham Court Lodge off the A26 Tonbridge Road. On the way back, another raptor, Harris Hawk, drifting over the Glebe Lane/Tonbridge Road area.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Thursday 27th August

All white-arses today-Wheatear, House Martins and Bullfinches! The (or another) Wheatear was still in the field behind Kiln Barn Farm cattle shed, Ditton this morning. In the opposite field Swallows, House and Sand Martins swept low over the turf and finally, a female Bullfinch shot across by path just before I reached work.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Wednesday 26th August

The 'muck' field at the top of Gallagher's Gallop, Barming was deserted as I cycled into work...not even a Wood Pigeon. I was pushed for time to free-wheeled down the bridleway intent on getting into work on time - if a migrant wouldn't be attracted to all the flies in that field then there wouldn't be one anywhere else on my journey - WRONG! A Wheatear at the bottom of the hill brought me to a screeching halt. There it was, pumping it's tail, all brimming with confidence and in the exact spot I got them last year.

10+ Swallows and 20+ House Martins swept low across the cattle field and the Little Owl was kept tucked up against the wind in the barn at Kiln Barn Farm.

Back out at lunchtime to the same spot and the Wheatear was bounding around the cattle field by Kiln Barn Farm, the Swallows and House Martins had been joined by 15+ Sand Martins.

The Wheater had moved on by the time I left work at just after 6, as had the House Martins, but the Sand Martin tally was now nearer 60+. They were hugging the tree tops at the eastern perimeter of Oaken Wood.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Saturday 22nd August

Early morning mist rolled across the marshes - this wasn't looking good for Montagu's. I was off patch again and my eyes were pretty much stuck together from rousing so early. My plan was to get to Elmley for first light, the forecast was for a still, bright sunny morning, perfect for picking out Harriers, or so I thought. There's a certain eeriness about Sheppey when it's like this, instinct tells me to stay in the car!

As I crossed the entrance track, I was surronded by murmarations and deceits, Starlings and Lapwings lifting from thr marsh.
Each mist-laiden pool was occupied by Little Grebes, Coots, Swans or Little Egrets. As Kings Hill Farm loomed nearer I started to see the first raptors of the day - a Kestrel sitting motionless on a post and a couple of Marsh Harriers drifting, dipping in and out of the mist.
Swallows sat out on the wires at Kinghill Farm as I made my way towards Sharfleet where I set-up the scope and waited. A female Marsh Harrier slumbered on a nearby fence post, a Barn Owl took flight from the oak trees and a pair of Little Owls scowled from the ground beneath the same trees.

Wheatears and Yellow Wagtails scurried around the short turf. Then a Harrier lifted from the seawall, silhouetted at first, but a it's white, ring-tailed band glowing in the rising sunshine. It flew, buoyantly, along the top of the seawall, banking over it as it approached the track, revealing a lovely chesnut-orange wash to it's underparts - a juvenile Montagu's Harrier. Others who had been further along the track followed it as it dropped out of view. We waited patiently for another hour before it showed again, catching the thermals and soaring higher and higher over the Swale in perfect sunshine. While we waited 2+ Hobbies, Common Buzzard and a distant male Montagu's Harrier all put in appearances. On leaving I tried to locate one of the Long-eared Owls in the orchard - I manged it, just, photo below!!

Friday, 21 August 2009

Friday 21st August

Another bright morning, and as I made my way to the top of North Street, Barming I got the gentle whiff of fresh manure - maybe it's the horticulturist in me, or maybe it's because muck means migrants! I found the source of the stench at the top of Gallagher's Gallop. The field, atop the hill and facing north towards the Medway gap had been freshly 'mucked' - something had to have dropped in here, I could see the flies, but where were the birds? Nothing - despite scanning the ground, fence posts, bushes and brushwood jumps - if this had been Pittswood I'd been knee deep in Wheatears, Whinchats and Wagtails!
Undeterred I cycled down the bridleway to the source of all the muck, the cattle field near Kiln Barn Farm - cows, more muck, water, fence posts galore, hedgerows - all perfect habitat for a migrant but again nothing. Then from no where I heard the high-pitched calls of hirundines overhead.
In the adjacent field there were 50+ Swallows, interspersed with 10 or so House Martins. They were sweeping high then low, through the feet of the cattle and even alighting onto cow pats and the ground - why here and not a few hundred yards up the road where there were more visible flies? And if the migrant Swallows and Martins were finding this site where were the passerines? Occasionally they landed on the fence posts but seemed intent to be on the move.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Thursday 20th August

Visiting Ditton Quarry for 30 minutes at lunchtime I caught sight of a male Bullfinch. A party of young Chiffchaffs chased both flies and themselves around a wild rose. They looked absolutely pristine and responded to pishing, cocking their heads curiously.

Four House Martins battled the wind as I cycled home, no juv Bullfinch today, but a Jay picking up the first of the fallen, undeveloped acorns.

Tuesday 18th August

Connected with one of my favourite butterflies today, a pristine Clouded Yellow flew acroos my path as I walked the strawberry fields at East Malling Research. My first for the year, but it flew with purpose and strongly of towards Hermitage Lane, Barming.

Cycling home I glimpsed the Little Owl in Kiln Barn Farm cattle shed and the juvenile Bullfinch calling along the bridleway leading from the water tower (off North Street, Barming)

Monday, 17 August 2009

Monday 17th June

Back to Ditton Quarry at lunchtime, probably the first time in 3 months! Lots of Common Blue and a smattering of Gatekeepers and Painted Ladies. The south-west corner of the quarry was alive with warblers, Chiffchaffs mostly but good numbers of Common Whitethroats, mostly juveniles. On the way back to work I caught sight of a bird looping out of an elderberry bush, stopping in my tracks I was delighted to see a Spotted Flycatcher darting around the bush - my first for the Quarry.

Cycling home I saw a the Little Owl hunched up in the girders of Kiln Barn Farm barn and then newar tghe water tower (just north of North Street, Barming) I heard a call I faintly recognised, but wasn'y 100% with. It sounded like a very loud Bullfinch, not that Bullfinches are ever very loud. Creeping through the undergrowth I caught sight of what looked like a cross between a juv Common Rosefinch and a Corn Bunting! Of course it was a juv Bullfinch, entirely grey-brown unlike it's distinctively marked , and colourful, parents and so heavy-billed. Good to see they've bred successfully again this year.

Noticed this Convolvulus flower in the orchards this evening, presumably munched on when still in bud.

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Saturday 15th August

Off patch late afternoon (and yesterday for Red-backed Shrike at Halling Common) - to a deserted Queendown Warren, nr Stockbury. I was hoping to get good views of some Blues, Silver-spotted Skippers and maybe Lady's Autumn Tresses. Much to my suprise (considering I had the kids with me) I scored on all three (better than Villa did against Wigan, doh!).

I didn't manage any decent shots as it was pretty windy, but James my eldest was fascinated when an Adonis Blue walked onto his finger (and then flew off!).

Good numbers of Chalkhill and Common Blues, 8+ Silver-spotted Skipper, a couple of Small Coppers and 5 colonies of Autumn Lady's Tresses.

Exciting the kids even more, just before their bedtim,e I took them down to Paddock Wood to watch 'Tornado' steam through. A Sparrowhawk drifted down Red Hill, Wateringbury as I waited at the traffic lights on my way back to Barming.
WARNING: Video starts off very loud with 'Tornado' whistle!

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

Tuesday 11th August

The 'Discovery' harvest in the Barming orchards is now complete, only the windfalls remain and what's not taken for juicing will provide winter fodder for the Fieldfares - not that I was considering winter in today's 26.C heat!

On my way back home from work early this evening a lone House Martin dipped over the hedgerow and accelareted ahead of me. As I followed it racing into the distance I picked out a large flight of Swallows congregating around a young Oak. Some were on the wing but the majority were sitting in the uppermost branches. I rarely see Swallows other than on the wing or sitting out on a telegraph wires on this patch, and with wires so close I wasn't sure why these birds chose an Oak tree? There were 30+ birds, quite vocal, but seeming intent to roost.

Monday 10th August

40+ House Martins feeding voraciously over a windbreak opposite Kiln Barn Farm, Ditton this evening.

Saturday, 1 August 2009

Saturday 1st August

An hour snatched in my garden in Barming yielded a couple of smart Painted Ladies and a smiling male Brown Hawker.