Friday, 30 April 2010

Friday 30th April

An early start - the kids got me up 05:15, so it seemed criminal not to go for the Iberian Chiffchaff that was residing in a wood in Walderslade only 15-20 minutes away.  So just before 06:00 I found myself standing next to Andy Appleton and another birder from Bromley listening and watching this Spanish sprite.  It was noticeably different from my local chiffies - more yellowy tinge and of course the call and song were very distinctive.  Five Swifts overhead, my first of the year, were an added bonus

Back in Barming I made another attempt to locate the Cuckoo that everyone apart from me seems to have heard, but no luck.  The first apple blossoms were just starting to unfurl in the orchards just east of South Street.
The cycle into work turned up a showy Garden Warbler on the east side of Oaken Wood, it's bubbling warble competing with a nearby Blackcap. A quick sortie of the paddocks round East Malling turned up my third Wheatear of the week, sitting on a telegraph wire of all places near the Paris Farm paddocks - possibly Wednesday's bird lingering?  Three Swallows were also seen to scythe across the paddock turf.

I finished the day with the briefest of views of the Hoopoe at Lenham Heath.  Good to see it, even if it was for such a short time and good to catch up with a few familiar faces!  All in all not a bad day.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Thursday 29th April

Appointments with a couple of visitors today and doing the school run curtailed my usual cycle into work.  After dropping my lad off to school I stopped by take a peek at some paddocks that lie south of Sweets Lane/Easterfields, East Malling.  The habitat looked perfect for migrants, but all I picked out was a Pied Wagtail and a couple of Linnets.  The scratchy song of a Whitehroat carried from the nearby hedgerow. 

Three Orange Tips and a possible Small Tortioseshell flitted by. Taking a final scan around the hedgerows and trees surronding the paddock I picked out a Wheatear sitting a top one of the smaller trees.  It nervously from one tree to the next but never touched down on the ground. 

Not sure if it's 'Greenlander' - didn't seem as big or orange as the bird I had on Tuesday, but still my 3rd Wheatear for the Spring so I'm not complaining!

I managed a quick trip out at lunchtime, no Wheatear but for you train buffs a King Arthur class steam loco through East Malling station as I waited to cross the line - 30777 Sir Lamiel on it's way to Canterbury

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Tuesday 27th April

A wonderfully sunny day and actually warm!  I did the usual circuit/routes from Barming through Barming Woods to East Malling Research Station via the Paris Farm paddocks.  All the usual species were encountered (Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Willow Warbler, Jay) but I was pleased to find the Common Buzzard again at the northern edge of Oaken Wood.  It was sitting out on the branch of an Oak, but as I closed in to get a photo a couple of Mallards made a low, quacking pass and it took flight (what were the chances of that - I've only recorded Mallards twice before in the wood!).  Consolation was soon to follow in the shape of female Wheatear in the centre field at the southern end of Gallagher's Gallop (just SW of Kiln Barn Farm).  I noticed it because it was orange and stood out like a sore thumb in the paddock.  Although it was distant it appeared large, with a very upright stance, and just looked orange! 

It was also was peculiar in that rather than hopping or fast, jerky running this bird walked....slowly!  Very strange.  Anyway I managed some superb shots which I hoped would help me confirm if it was of the 'Greenland' race (Oenanthe oenanthe leucorhoa) or not - but they didn't quite turn out as expected (see below)!  That peachy-orange smudge on the left was the bird - you may be able to make out it's colouration and upright stance - or you might not!  Enlarging the pic by double-clicking on it might help, it definetly had an orange tone to it.

Having bagged what I thought were excellent photos I moved on, taking in the Little Owl (sorry but he's so photogenic) and Kestrel feeding on a Slow Worm

A pair of Linnets flew from a hedgerow as I approached Paris Farm Paddocks and a Yellowhammer fed on the dung heap. 
A Skylark sang high over head, but the paddocks once again failed to yield anymore migrants.  Crossing the railway at the east end of East Malling railway station I was pleased to hear a Chiffchaff calling and see a GS Woodpecker sticking it's head out of a nesting hole.

Out again at lunchtime in the hope of connecting with the Wheatear proved unsuccessful, although a couple more Yellowhammers were seen and good numbers of Peacock butterflies, along with singles of Green-veined White, Orange Tip, Speckled Wood and Large White were seen.

While working out in my strawberry plots this afternoon, I saw another Yellowhammer and 10x Stock Doves feeding in the strawed alleyways.

The cycle home in the dying sun was rewarded with 6x Swallows feeding voracioulsy over the Kiln Barn Farm paddock and the song of Blackcaps along the length of Gallagher's Gallop.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Monday 26th April

A tour of Barming Woods and Paris Farm Paddocks before work this morning turned up good numbers of Blackcap and Chiffchaff, but no Tree Pipit or other migrants. 

A quick visit to Ditton Quarry at lunchtime proved more successful with my first Whitethroat and Garden Warbler of the year.  Blackcaps, Chiffchaffs and Bullfinches were also seen.

On the way home I caught sight of a couple of Swallows and the Little Owl opposite Kiln Barn Farm, Ditton. 
A visit to the orchards just before sunset produced a couple of Linnets and Chaffinches but no sign or sound of the Cuckoo that has been reported by other locals. 
The pear trees were in full blossom with the first apple blossom starting to open.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Wednesday 21st April

Blackcaps, Willow Warblers and Chiffchaffs were heard on my ride into work this morning - a scan of the Paris Farm Paddocks failed to turn up any migrants though. 

At lunchtime I decided to explore some of the coppiced Chesnuts in Oaken Wood, Barming hoping to see or hear a Tree Pipit.  As I cycled the path an Orange Tip butterfly fluttered ahead of me, landing briefly to allow me to get some photos.  Peacocks were also on the wing.  A Crow calling above me alerted me to a Common Buzzard that was soaring overhead, I've not seen one in this part of the woods before.  I continued up to the dusty track that leads to Seven Wents.  There's been some fresh coppicing along this ride and as I neared Seven Wents the wood opened up into a large clearing, more like heathland than woodland.  A bird took to the air as I neared a stump overhanging the path and to my utter suprise I watched what I quickly recognised as a female RING OUZEL flying low across the coppiced stumps and in to a thicket of chesnut branches.  Its half-moon gorget and silvery-pale wings were very apparent as it flew at 90 degrees to me.  I scanned the area and saw it's head poking up, but as soon as I moved closer to get a pic it flew again but deeper into the coppice and I couldn't relocate it.  How strange that I'd been watching this species only last Friday down in Cornwall, never dreaming I get one on my own patch the following week, and in such and unusual location for this species - the last place I would have looked for one.  I recall reports of one in a garden in nearby Wateringbury and Don Taylor has one in his rarity hedge a couple of years ago at Wierton Hill, so they do turn up in the most unexpected of places!  With reports of a Hoopoe at Kemsing, a Black Redstart in West Malling, Wood Warbler in Mote Park and Redstart in Chatham I guess I had to get something!

The area of coppice where the Ring Ouzel was seen (unfortunately it had flown by the time I took this pic!)

On the cycle home I picked up 2 Swallows feeding low across the pasture opposite Kiln Barn Farm.  A quick visit to Mote Park for the Wood Warbler turned up a blank, but I guess you can't have too many goodies in one day!

LATE NEWS: Talking to JC about the Ouzel, he informed me a Hobby had flown over Kiln Barn Farm when he went to see the Little Owl this week.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Tuesday 20th April

No chance to check the  local patch today but driving towards East Malling this morning I saw a lone Swallow perched on the wires opposite the North Pole Pub, Teston.  Later I stopped by New Hythe briefly and was pleased to hear a Nightingale as I stepped out the car.  A couple of minutes later I was watching it singing, out on on an exposed perch, the sun catching it's rusty-red tail...I'd forgotten how reddy/brown these little gems were.  If only I'd had a camera!

An omission from yesterday's report was the sighting of the Bald Birder briefly visting his old breeding territory before migrating North!

Monday, 19 April 2010

Monday 19th April

Back on patch today after a 2 week holiday - and what a difference.  Blossom everywhere, the first Bluebells emerging and some new patch/walk-in ticks...and not just for the year!  Walking from Barming to East Malling on my usual route I was suprised to hear a Nuthatch calling as I approached the allotments at the top of North Street, Barming.  What's unusual about that I hyear you say - well I've never seen a Nuthatch in Barming in the 5 years I've lived there!  There's plenty of suitable habitat, but I've just never seen or heard them.  It got better - as I approached the track I saw not one, but two birds calling loudly to each other and chasing each around an oak.  A GS Woodpecker was equally vocal and joined in the chase - fighting over a nest hole?! 

Moving on a couple of Chiffchaffs called along Gallagher's Gallop and a Song Thrush sang from alongside the quarry.  Then my second new tick for my 'walk-in' route - a lone Greylag Goose flying low west.  As I approached the underpass a couple of Blackcaps could be heard, with one bird showing briefly - a new patch tick for the year.  A male Bullfinch also called.  The Little Owl was in his usual spot at Kiln Barn Farm, and just a bit further on a couple of Swallows (another patch tick for the year!) sat on the wires near Kiln Barn Cottages.  I'd seen loads of these in Cornwall, but always reassuring to see them back on patch!  A couple of Lesser Black-backed Gulls sat out on Kiln Field (just west of the East Malling Conference Centre).

At lunchtime I paid a brief visit to the Paris Farm paddocks, East Malling, hoping for a migrant.  A couple of Stock Doves sat out on land at the back of East Malling church with a crowd of Wood Pigeons.  A GS Woodpecker drummed away from within a nest hole near the railway crossing and a Coal Tit flitted around the pines at the east end of the railway station.  No migrants were seen in the paddocks, only a Mistle Thrush hoped around on the turf, and a Peacock butterfly basked in the sun.

2nd April-18th April

A fantastic two weeks off patch, holidaying down in St Ives, Cornwall with all the family.  We stopped of in Wilshire on the way down and I spent a couple of hours at Liddington Hill looking for Ring Ouzels, no sign of them, but fantastic vies of a Red Kite 'playing' with a tuft of grass, throwing it in the air and swooping down to catch it.  Four Wheatear were seen on the hill, and a female Merlin perched out in a nearby bush, eyeing the displaying Meadow Pipits.  The largest parcel of Linnets I have ever seen lined a fence - 150+ birds, undulating in flight and swooping from the fence down to the ground and back.

In Cornwall most time was spent on the beach soaking up the unexpected sunshine but I managed a bit of birding.  Manx Shearwaters, Gannets, Fulmars, Kittiwakes and regular streams of Auks were easily picked out from the caravan we were staying.  I didn't even need to search out Buzzards and Raven - they just appeared.  Sand Martins, Swallows, Stonechats and Wheatear were daily ticks, and a few passing Sandwich Terns fished off the harbour one afternoon.  Hoopoe, Woodchat Shrike (inc Balearic), Dotterel and Great White Egret were all on offer, but I was unlucky in not seeing of them when I finally wrenched myself away from the beach.  However I spent a few sunny mornings walking the Polgigga circuit, Nanquidno Valley , The Lizard (Windmill Farm and Church Cove) and Rosewall Hill, St Ives.  Bird of the holiday ahd to go to the fine Ring Ouzels that seemed to be turning up everywhere.  I had one at Windmill Farm (The Lizard) and four (2 m, 2f) on Rosewall Hill, St Ives, all showing extremley well.  I met a lot of local patch watchers who were all extremley knowledgable, friendly and helpful, one even pointing me in the direction of a Dartford Warbler near Eagles Nest, nr Zennor (of Snowy Owl fame).