Saturday, 31 October 2009

Saturday 31st October

A brief jaunt out with my youngest this afternoon, visting the area around Hall Park Farm, Barming. I've not been along this footpath for a few months so was pleased to see Skylark, 7x Yellowhammer, 4x Meadow Pipits, melanistic Pheasant and best of all for me, a Common Buzzard picking over the carcass of a 'Sparrowhawked' feral pigeon. This is only my second record of Common Buzzard in Barming and most probably the same individual I saw about 6 weeks ago in nearby Teston. It was reassuring to see some farmland stalwarts, especially after reading about the continued decline in their numbers in the recently published 'State of birds of Britain, 2008'. The local farmer who usually leaves winter stubble has ploughed half his field bordering St Margaret's church, but has left a good area of set-aside. It's attracted 30+ Black-headed Gulls and a number of crows, but hopefully will continue to hold all the aforementioned species.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Friday 30th October

Over Ditton Quarry again at lunchtime, all the usual suspects, including some elusive Bullfinches. A GS Woodpecker seemed to be very showy and vocal, not a regular species here for me. An added bonus was a Skylark over, often heard on the adjacent Research Station site but as not yet actually seen from the Quarry! Blackbirds were again very vocal. Fieldfares and Redwings continue to elude me - the research station should be a huge Fieldfare feeding station with the bounty of windfalls. Finally I managed to catch sight of 7x flighty Fieldfares as I checked the plots just before dusk, along with 4x Mistle Thrushes.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Thursday 29th October

A foggy start to the morning, with only 3x Pied Wagtails sitting out on the fencing around Gallagher's Gallop nr Kiln Barn Farm. The Little Owl was also still present in the barn. The day inproved and at lunchtime I went out in search of winter thrushes, but despite kicking through the orchards on the research site I failed to find either a Redwing or Fieldfare, amazing when numbers have been reasonably high around the county. I decided to check the area south of the research station and did a circular walk through The Rocks back to Kiln Barn Road. A Kestrel aborted landing on a post after catching sight of me nearby (!), 30+ House Sparrows washed in a newly-created puddle and another couple of Pied Wagtails sat out on a barn roof. There is a large area of horse paddocks in this area, lying slightly elevated and directly south of the Medway gap and full of posts, fences and short turf that ought to make it ideal for migrants, but have I ever seen any here?! Of course not. I was hoping a Ring Ouzel might be loitering as quite a few have been dropping in and around London today - no chance!
The picture above is looking north towards the Downs (Upper Halling by exposed chalk face and Snodland/Holborough by chimneys). The large shed-like buildings are Aylesford Newsprint (adjacent to M20). The railway line is the Maidstone west - London mainline, between East Malling and Barming mainline. The area immediately north (just the other side) of the railway is research station land. The tower of St Peter's Church, Ditton can be see just above the first train carriage on the right. From where I took this picture I could just make out the M2 Medway bridge near Rochester. I can't understand why this area isn't more productive for migrants - it's right opposite the Medway gap which must surely funnel birds between the downs in a strong N-NE. Oh well, I'll keep watching!

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Wednesday 28th October

Today didn't quite live up to expectations weather or bird-wise. It remainded overcast but suprisingly mild for the end of October. A pair of Yellowhammers dipped into the hedgerow alongside Gallagher's Gallop as I cycled in. At lunchtime I did a tour of the resaerch station site in East Malling hoping to get some winter thrushes, but despite good numbers of them being reported elsewhere in the county today I turned up a blank. I moved onto Ditton Quarry, where a pair of Bullfinches were glimpsed, a Jay made it's prescence known with it prehistoric squawks. Blackbird numbers appeared to have increased with 9 individuals seen feeding in hawthorn, possibly continental birds? Lots of fungi have emerged over the last week - not sure I can put a name to them all, but I think this one's a Blackening Wax-cap (Hygrocybe nigrescens)?

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Tuesday 20th October

All the usual suspects at Ditton Quarry at lunchtime, plus a single Redwing skulking in some hawthorn and a fly-over Little Egret. A pellet was found along one of the tracks, broken up, grey colour and quite furry, but not much bone, presumably a Tawny Owl's (which would be new for the Quarry list, but possibly a Sparrowhawk's?

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Saturday 17th October

With my wife at home all weekend (and not working 12hr shifts!) and able to look after the kids for the morning I took advantage of getting out to do some birding. In these times of recession, and extorniate petrol prices, I've set up a 'birding fund' from money I'd been gifted at Christmas, birthday (and down the pub!). My birding fund was £35 in credit after the pelagic trip I was give an as birthday present in St Ives in September was cancelled. Already £12 of that had be spent on Dunge dash to see 5x Glossy Ibis a couple of weeks ago and all week I'd been staring at pictures of the Brown Shrike in Staines waiting with my usual optimism to hear it had flown! But it was Saturday, I had the car, I had the petrol money, I didn't have the kids.... I was off! A Common Buzzard soaring over jcn 9 of the M25 added some interest to the journey. I arrived at Stanwell Moor within an hour, and realised I wasn't the only one who had had to wait until the weekend to see this bird! The Brown Shrike was located very quickly and showed very well for the next hour and a half I was there. An extremley smart bird, very active and feeding well, mainly on beetles. A couple of Stonechats were the only things giving it any grief, although it looked up on a couple of occasions when the some Ring-necked Parakeets and a couple of Jumbos went over. I rarely twitch outside of the county, but this was a great bird to see and well worth the trip - thanks Mom for the belated birthday present!

Thursday 15th October

3x Jackdaws over Kiln Barn Farm, Ditton this morning - not the commonest of birds on this patch. Jays are guaranteed everyday at the moment as they dementedly collect acorns, and Woodpeckers are more evident than at anytime of the year. The Green Woodpeckers spending all day picking and probing away at the short turf in the paddocks just of Kiln Barn Road and Great Spotted Woodpeckers drumming more incessantly in Oaken Wood, Barming. No sign of Black Redstart today.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Wednesday 14th October

Another day, another Redstart! Driving to work via North, Barming I was suprised to see a new sign up outside the Redstart pub. The pub has just changed hands and is due to reopen after extensive refurbishment on Friday. The new sign is obviously part of the 'spruce up', but the bird on the sign didn't look familiar to me? My initial thought was they'd cocked up and put a Brambling on the sign - then it clicked - it's an American Redstart. Guess it's the only time I'll ever see one of those on patch! Yank bird or not I wish the new publican all the best!
Back over the quarry at lunchtime - no Black Redstart but my first Fieldfares of the winter - 3 feeding on an elderberry bush with 2 Chaffinches and a female Bullfinch of all things!

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Tuesday 13th October

I've not cycled into work for about a week now and also being missing out lunchtime wanderings - but today was too nice not to get out. I had 40 minutes and decided to visit Ditton Quarry to see if I couldn't find some butterflies enjoying the unexpected warmth. Thirty minutes later I had no butterflies and only 7 bird species! Turning to leave I caught a glimpse of an all dark, slender bird in the shadows of an elderflower bush. At the same time I noticed a dog walker walking directly towards it! The bird was flushed onto a dog rose and I caught site of it's flame-red tail in the bright sunshine - Black Redstart. I managed a poor record shot before it flew off into the surronding scrub. I had only 10 minutes before I had to get back to work and managed to get a few more glimpses of the bird as it worked it's way around the shrubs, but it was very restless and was too distant and mobile to get any better photos. As I left a single Large White flew by - the only butterfly seen.

Returning to the Quarry after work I was unable to reloacte the Black Redstart, but managed to bring the species total for the day up to 25! This included 3x Redwings over towards the research station orchards - my first this winter.

Quarry list:

Black Redstart
House Sparrow
Blue Tit
Great Tit
Long-tailed Tit
Song Thrush
Mistle Thrush
Redwing (over)
Carrion Crow
Grey Heron (over)
Black-headed Gull (over)

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Wednesday 7th October

With the Bald Birder off on his world travels ( I thought I'd better check out Bradbourne House/Lake on the East Malling estate. Previous texts have alerted me to Pied Flycatcher, Waxwing, Whooper Swan and Med Gull, it was time to find something of my own! A few Goldcrests flitted around the yews (but no Yellow-browed Warblers or Firecrests that seem to be invading east Kent!), 6x Mistle Thrushes chacked from one of the lakeside reminding me that the first Fieldfares are not far off. The lake was full of Coots, Moorhens and Black-headed Gulls but nothing out of the ordinary. I wonder if the Bald Birder had been with me what he would have pulled out the bag!

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Tuesday 6th October

The rain, long awaited, really set in today. Puddles started to appear where last week there had been dust bowls. A 30 minute walk around the Research land, East Malling proved pretty barren. The rain-beaded apples added a bit of colour to the gloom.
A Kestrel hung in the air over it's patch near the Great East Hostel (adjacent to the public footpath from the Church), a bounding charm of Goldfinches moved restlessly around the grassed area near the main buildings. A pair of Linnets were new for the month. Four Swallows zipping low and fast south and a fresh Comma were unexpected finds.

The highlight of the day for me though was the increasing roost of Starlings on site - 500+ minimum and weighing down the wires across the plots.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Sunday 4th October

After a relaxing holiday in Cornwall (poor birding though this year with only a single Balearic Shearwater and Baird's Sandpiper), and taking a phone call from Eddie Denson telling he was looking at Tufted Puffin as I walked the coast path from St Ives, it's taken a bit of time to settle back into Kent (and work!). A trip down to Dungeness for 5x Glossy Ibis is as about much birding as I've managed.

A fantastic sky this morning over Barming (also recorded by Warren on his Pittswood Patch), clouds eventually turning into 'cotton-buds' I was pleased to hear a GS Woodpecker, and a Jay and Sparrowhawk over the garden. Meeting a neighbour over the park he told me how he'd heard birds calling last night - I couldn't think what they might be , unless they were Redwings on the move? As things warmed up a Hummingbird Hawkmoth and Peacock butterfly visited the garden - summer's lingering on...just about.

Holly Hill, nr Birling produced a couple of Common Buzzard this afternoon; one being mobbed by crows, the other completely ignored! 2x Red Admiral and Comma and a Hornet all added interest.