Monday, 31 January 2011

Monday 31st January 2011

With my legs warmed up from yesterday's cycle ride, I breezed into work, taking 5x Bullfinches at the N perimeter of Oaken Wood and my old mate, the Little Owl, back in his usual haunt at Kiln Barn Farm.

The sun showed signs of putting it's hat on (hip, hip hooray) at lunchtime, so I decided to trespass on Alan Woodcock's nearby patch.  Mike Easterbrook joined me and as we arrived at the chosen Cotoneaster tree the Waxwings duly left!  Luckily Alan was on the scene and guided us to the privet hedge just down the road, where despite the dull light we got some excellent views of 21x Waxwings, a few Blue Tits and a Chaffinch!  A very quick look at Little Alders Lake turned up a Goldeneye that seemed to be favouring an aquatic lifestyle, barely breaking the surface to get decent views.  And when I got back to work the sun shone non-stop until dusk!

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Sunday 30th January 2011

I took in 5x TTV BTO Atlas this afternoon on a 9-mile bike ride with my two lads.  They were all centred around TQ75, starting off in my own tetrad of Barming Heath and crossing into Aylesford, Allington, Maidstone, Tovil and back.  Amazingly I only managed to add four new species to the winter atlas; 2x  Coot by Allington Marina and Jackdaws on the walls of Allington Castle (Allington TQ75N), A Grey Wagtail at Allington Lock (Sandling & Pratling St TQ75P) and Chiffchaff next to the toilet block between the two bridges at Fairmeadow, Maidstone (Tovil TQ75M).  I was amazed not to add more to the Allington square which has a winter species list of only 31, now including a Coot which was apparently the first one in 4 years if you believe the Atlas records!  I fancied my chances at ticking off Mute Swan, Pheasant, Grey Heron, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Fieldfare, Jay and Goldfinch which are still absent from this square, but despite locating some ideal habitats for all these species I couldn't fine them!  Perhaps they aren't there?!

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Saturday 29th January 2011

A couple of hours this morning on patch, completing the BTO Atlas second winter TTV for Barming Heath (TQ75H).  The obvious change from the last TTV was the massive increase in Fieldfare and Chaffinch numbers in the South Street Orchards, there were literately swarms of the latter, but no a single Brambling amongst them!  Most of the walk was rather disappointing, but I managed to add to new species to the tetrad in the form a single Moorhen near the only water body in the square, a small, hidden pool to the east of the Hospital and 5x Siskins feeding nearby Alder trees.

A huge, heavily-laden Cotoneaster bush hid a good number of Redwings, but unfortunately no Waxwings...though I wouldn't be surprised if doesn't get 'discovered' before the winter is out.

The old mental hospital site only yielded a single Goldcrest today.  The site has been converted into very nice flats/houses, but it's austere fa├žade still gives me the creeps.

It has a good collection of mature trees in the grounds including redwoods and London Planes, and only on of these planes a bright bracket fungus was taking hold...I really must gen up on the names of these and not have to rely on Greenie!

A footpath along the northern perimeter of Maidstone Hospital took me temporarily out of the square but provided some excellent sightings; it was alive with finches and tits with a GS Woodpecker and a couple of Jays thrown in for good measure.

Bullfinches being as elusive as ever! 

This afternoon I made a fleeting visit to East Malling Research to seed the track and saw at least one Brambling sitting in the nearby cherry trees.  To top of the day The Bald Birder popped by on a rare visit into Kent - little was said about the Slaty-backed Gull!  He did tell me he'd added a link to his flickr site which included his famous shot (well it made all the nationals) of the Humpback Whale breaching off the Isles of Scilly, check it out, along with lots of other goodies here.

Friday 29th January 2011

Just a quick glance in the corner orchard before going into work - 5x Brambling feeding on the seeded track.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Thursday 27th January 2011

Just 10 minutes outside today so at the risk of same old, same old I visited the corner orchard on the Research Station, East Malling to see if the Bramblings were still showing.  The orchard had been pruned and mown and surrounding windbreaks flayed yesterday so I wasn't sure they'd still be around.  The orchard was surprisingly alive, perhaps a combination of the brisk north-east chill and the disturbance exposing new food sources.  

I was pleased to immediately pick out 3x Bramblings sitting out in a Cherry tree.  Despite the change in wind direction the gloom of the last week persisted and I didn't reckon on getting any decent photos, especially as the birds were fairly distant.  However the birds seemed quite content and I managed to creep a bit closer to get probably the best photo I've got of a Brambling...shame the sun couldn't have come out!  The birds knew I was there but didn't fly, although looking back at my snaps one bird was giving me the evils (not dissimilar to the stare a Hawfinch gave me in my garden in 2008)!

Check out those eyes!

Wednesday 26th January 2011

A slippery cycle into work, with Bullfinches, Jay and GS Woodpecker the highlights.  Drawing up at the seeded track on the research station I picked out 8x Brambling washing in the puddles along with 20+ Chaffinches.  No camera though!  A couple of Herring Gulls were 'stomping' on the grass no doubt trying to raise a few earthworms to eat.

I managed 10 minutes out at lunchtime, no Bramblings probably due to the Sparrowhawk that glided low through the orchard as I arrived.  The only other sighting of interest was a rare one, Twisden and his chums slipping past on their return from a ramble, blurred photo on account of their great speed.  'No Exit', a great motto/mantra to live by boys!

Monday, 24 January 2011

Monday 24th January 2011

The corner orchard was being pruned when I arrived at work this morning and then the windbreaks were flayed so as I expected it was pretty bird less by lunchtime.  The pruning has also involved knocking the apples from the trees that the Waxwings were feeding on so I suspect they won't return.  I made my way to Ditton Court Quarry, picking up 5x Siskins in the alders just N of Ditton Lab.  The quarry was as usual; Fieldfares, a lone Redwing, a couple of Bullfinches, vocal GS Woodpecker, Jays and Magpies and 'charming' Goldfinches.

I noted what looked to be 14x Bee Orchid rosettes in a part of the quarry I've not seen them before and also an interesting bracket fungus, but I have no idea what it is (Greenie?).

The tree it was growing on was covered with lichen, moss, fungus and bugs - a micro world.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Fame at last!

Right Click to enlarge

Sunday 23rd January 2011

 An unexpected bonus in the form of 15+ Waxwings slightly off patch in Paddock Wood.  We were just to embark on a family outing to London, weekend engineering work had forced us from East Malling to Paddock Wood.  As I walked through the car park I commented that I thought I'd heard a Waxwing, to which my wife said, "What like those" and pointed to a collection of birds in the a tree adjacent to booking office!  It's the first time she'd seen them so all credit, but I guess they're pretty unmistakable!  With 10 minutes to spare until our train arrived I watched them drop down to feed on the Pyracantha bushes next to the '20 minute' bays and chatted with a couple of interested bystanders.  The only one who didn't seem to be enjoying it was a male Blackbird who was very defensive of the larder he was slowly seen being stripped before his eyes!

Some photos below, but the old excuses I'm afraid....light was terrible and I was using a tiny compact x3 zoom.

On reaching London, and walking up the path past the 'big guns' to the Imperial War Museum I heard more Waxwings trilling, to the east by the London Plane trees, but having already subjected my family to one group of Waxwings I found I was being hurried on and didn't catch sight of them.  They're everywhere.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Friday 21st January 2011

No lunch break today so I had a quick 10 minutes before work to check the seeded track (becoming a bit of an obsession of mine!).  3x Brambling made a brief appearance, and I managed a few shots in the dank drizzle.  It snowed an hour later, but then developed into a beautiful, bright sunny day, but  I was stuck indoors...grrrr.

Thursday 20th January 2011

A short lunch break today so not much to report. 1x fine looking Brambling made a fleeting appearance on the seeded track.  The only other highlights were a couple of Mute Swans on Bradbourne Lake, the first this year, as were these Snowdrops.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Tuesday 18th February 2011

A lovely sunny day but only 6x Brambling to report on the Research Station, flushed by a Sparrowhawk from the corner orchard and looped overhead, brilliant white undersides as they made their way towards the Genebank.  No photos despite my best efforts so here's some sent to me today from the father of one of last year's French students.  We met one evening and spent a few hours watching a Nightjar in Oaken Wood.  Photos I aspire to take - especially the Nuthatch, thanks Christian!

Monday 17th February 2011

Lots of chaffies, but no Bramblings on the deck

An awful day - non-stop rain.  I decided to check out one of the seeded tracks to see if I couldn't get some better snaps of a Brambling.  I used one of the work pickups as a hide, and shelter.  Thirty plus Chaffinches came down to feed, along with a couple of Blackbirds, but the only Brambling I saw was in the top of some adjacent cherries and refused to come down to be snapped!

Distant Brambling that preferred rotting apples to bird seed!

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Sunday 16th January 2011

The best day of the month but unfortunately with prior commitments I couldn't get out to do the birding I'd like to have done.  A roundabout route allowed me to snatch sight of 11x Teal on the River Medway opposite New Hythe railway station and a brief sortie into work added a single Brambling in the Genebank and 17x Pied Wagtail (a record count for me on site) on the lawn of Bradbourne House.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Saturday 15th January 2011

I didn't manage to get out on patch today, but browsing on the Web picked up some excellent photos that David Armitage took of Waxwings in Ditton Court Quarry on 2nd January (the same day I picked up the Waxwings on the research station).  His pictures can be seen here.  David has since contacted me to say he had 17x Waxwings that day feeding on berries in the SW corner of the Quarry, and also drinking from nearby puddles - a good record for the Quarry, thanks David.

Friday, 14 January 2011

Friday 14th January 2011

Just a quick post to report a quick sortie around the East Malling Research site at lunch today.  I had put seed down on one of the orchard tracks to try and attract Brambling down, and I did see one briefly when I checked but the chicken wire across the gate precluded getting any pictures.

I sat it out for another 10 minutes (in the rain!) and saw the following coming to feed or wash in the nearby puddles: 5x Blackbirds, 2x Magpie, Dunnock, Robin, Fieldfare, Stock Pigeon, 10+ Chaffinches and eventually 6x Brambling...oh and a Grey Squirrel.  The weather was awful and I only managed one crappy shot of the Brambling but I think you can just about make out what it is (strange the Squirrel snap turned out so well)!

The Genebank was pretty much deserted, apart from a cock Pheasant strutting around the base of the trees. The Medlars looked just about ready to eat - looking at fruit on my lunch hour, it must have been bad!

Next stop was Bradbourne, again nothing out the  ordinary, but a bit of variety: 83x Canada Geese, 21x Moorhen, only 43x Coot, 3x Little Grebe, 1x Shoveler, 9x Mallard, 2x Grey Heron, 1x Green Woodpecker, 14x Black-headed Gull, 3x Herring Gull, 5x Mistle Thrush and 6x Redwing.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Wednesday 12th January 2011

A quick scan of the corner orchard at East Malling Research on my way into work turned up 5x Brambling, mostly washing and drinking from the puddles on the dirt track, but a couple flew up to the trees giving a brief opportunity to get a snap...again in abysmal light conditions.

Just before lunch I saw Eddie scanning the orchards, he'd had no luck with Waxwings but hopefully he managed a Brambling.  As much as I've loved scanning that corner orchard the last few days I felt I needed a change of scenery and so hitched a lift to Bradbourne Lake at lunchtime.  Nothing out of the ordinary there but it made a refreshing change to see some of the regular birds without feeling any pressure to search for Waxwings.  The lake held all the usual suspects; 43x Canada Geese, 47 Coots, 7x Moorhen, 9x Mallard and 3x lingering Shoveler (1 drake, 2 ducks).  On land, a Grey Heron appeared irriated by my intrusion and took flight landing on the wall of the Hatton Fruit Garden, only to be irritated by a couple of Magpie.  A Green Woodpecker, 2x Jay, Mistle Thrush, Goldcrest, Pied Wagtail and 20+ Redwing, feeding on the lawn of the House all added some interest.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Tuesday 11th January 2011

A quick scan of the corner orchard, East Malling Research failed to find any Waxwings - I think they've finally moved on.  A parcel of 20+ Linnets bounced, alternating between flapping and gliding on closed wings,  across the orchard and dropped down onto the canes in the concept pear orchard.  At lunchtime I scanned the orchard again - good number of Fieldfares and Redwings and a very distant Common Buzzard over towards the Downs by the Medway Gap.

I saw a couple of other birders scanning the orchard and catching up with them realised it was Sue and Frank who'd been on site last week.  We chatted and walked down to the Genebank (orchard at the back of the churchyard), and Sue informed me they'd see Waxwings on site on Saturday (I'd not be able to find any on my short visit).  Sue picked out a Green Woodpecker feeding on the orchard floor and a Brambling was amongst a flock of finches and thrushes that flew across the orchard from one of the trees adjacent to the road.

Sue & Frank:  Good to catch up with you again, I hope you managed to find some more Brambling (or a Waxwing!).  Re: Walland Marsh, the pub was the Woolpack Inn just of the A259 SE of Brookland.  Take that road across the marsh towards Lydd and you'd be unlucky not to connect with a few Tree Sparrow or Berwick's Swan at this time of the year.  Late afternoon opposite the pub should turn up Hen and Marsh Harrier at this time of the year with a Barn Owl to boot if you're lucky!  Either view the 'marsh' from outside the pub or take the footpath to the grassy mound and scan across the whole area - things should start appearing as the light fades!

Monday, 10 January 2011

Monday 10th January 2011

No waxwings today - the weather had returned to it's normal gloom.   2x Brambling were in the corner orchard with the massed thrush and Starling flocks as I walked into work, and a small exhaltation of 9x Skylarks danced over the stubble field near the weather station.   At lunchtime searched the orchards again but they were fairly empty compared to recent days.  22x Common Gull and 2x Black-headed Gulls lined the bypass road.  I tore myself away from the orchards on the research site to check out Ditton Quarry on the off chance any Waxwings had lingered there - but again no luck, although looking at the now bare berry bushed I'd photographed a few weeks ago I think they had paid a visit recently!  The only birds of note were Goldfinches, they seemed to be everywhere and one charm feeding in an Alder tree held at least 40 birds.  No photos as the light was so dismal!  Good to catch up with John from Meopham, hopefully you got to see something!

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Sunday 9th January 2011

A lovely crisp morning, but treacherous on the roads evidenced by a VW Beetle in the field opposite St Margaret's in Barming.  I was luckier and managed to get to the research station in East Malling without a mishap.  The orchard next to the Kiln Barn Road gate was alive with Fieldfares (300-400), and the apples were 'furred' with frost.  As I drove to the corner orchard a figure strode in front of me, Greenie, at last our paths had crossed!  We chatted away and I was glad to hear Greenie had already connected with some Waxwings before I'd arrived, phew, I really thought he'd left it too late.

At one point this tree held Waxwing, Fieldfare, Redwing, Goldfinch and Chaffinch (double click to enlarge).

As we scanned across the orchard Greenie spotted another Waxwing on one of the Silver Birch trees and to cut a long story short we spent the next hour and half photographing Waxwings and winter thrushes, watching a Sparrowhawk scatter the massed flocks and chatted away about just about anything under the sun (discovering we're both villans - well who else are you supposed to support if you come from SE London!).

John Clements graced us with his presence and after watching some Bramblings washing a puddle in the corner track I had to make my way home.  A great morning and good company - looking forward to catching up soon Greenie ;-)