Thursday, 24 February 2011

Thursday 24th February 2011

At last some blue sky and a pleasant walk in to work.  Everything was in song and I was lucky to see 34 species en route, the highlights being:  a pair of Kestrels (Oaken Wood), Little Owl, 2x GS Woodpeckers, 2x Grey HeronsLinnets, Common/Herring/Black-headed and LBB Gulls and a lone Brambling (opposite Ditton Lab) - everything seemed to be paired up.  Best of all, and you'll probably laugh, were a pair of Mallards (no 52 for Oaken Wood if you can count fly-overs) that zipped in, over Oaken Wood and onto Gallagher's pasture just S of Kiln Barn Farm.  As rare on this part of my patch as a 'Coot in Pittswood'.

When you've got no water on your patch this is as exciting as it gets!

By lunchtime the sun had disappeared in East Malling and it looked like Armageddon was on it's way.

I covered another section of the West Malling & Mill Street tetrad, taking in Clare Park and Broadwater, and was lucky to add an elusive Coal Tit to the BTO Atlas.  Both Skylark and Pheasant which I expected to easy ticks today failed to materialise.

There, on the nuts, best I could do without invading a resident's privacy

By the time I came to go home the sky had once again changed and a dramatic sunset was forming, hopefully indicating fair weather tomorrow?!

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Wednesday 23rd February 2011

Today the weather was pretty dire but a peak over my garden fence in Barming saw a good flock of Fieldfare feeding on the wet grass.  At lunchtime I walked over to the West Malling and Mill Street tetrad.  I spent most of my time in the overgrown orchard just S of the railway line and Cottenham Close, East Malling.  The old fruit trees were dripping in Lichens and Moss, quite a sight.

Despite the drizzle it was full of life; Blue and Great Tits constantly calling, Blackbirds feeding along the many paths and three new tetrad ticks in the form of 7x Bullfinches, 2x Goldcrests and a flyover Herring Gull.  A Little Egret was also seen on the Watercress Beds near Springhead.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Tuesday 22nd February 2011

Back to work yesterday after my mishap last week.  I managed to walk into the Aylesford tetrad by Calves Leys Cottage and added Yellowhamer (x10), Coal Tit (x2) and LBB Gull to that square.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Monday 14th February 2010

Weather wise it was good, everything in the woods was glistening as I cycled into work and as the day progressed the developing, warm sunshine made it feel almost Spring like.

Marsh Tit found calling off Sweets Lane made a new record for the Oaken Wood winter tetrad and a butterfly, my first for the year, fluttered ahead of me as I cycled along The Heath, East Malling but frustratingly dipped over a hedge before I could catch up with it.

It was one of those days where life was good.  Unfortunately it all went wrong from there, and on the last leg of my cycle home at 18:00 an idiot decided to drive straight into me.  I didn't know much about it until I found myself sitting on the roof of a car as it was being driven down Heath Road, Barming.  By some miracle, not only did I survive shattering the windscreen with my head and the flip that put me on the roof but I managed to get away with only cuts and bruises.  The headlamp on my helmet must have taken most of the force as it was found embedded in the windscreen, and I was later told by the A&E doctor, in no uncertain terms, that if I hadn't have been wearing a helmet I might not have been around to see the 15th February.  Someone was looking over me.

I like to leave an impression

Needless to say my bike was mangled, so no more cycles in for a short while, and I suppose on the plus side the 3.5hours spent in A&E saved from having to go through all that smoochy, lovey-dovey Valentine's stuff!  Phew, I live another day.

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Sunday 13th February 2011

No photos today - too miserable!  I snatched an hour and a half to try and fill in the gaps off the BTO Winter Atlas records for nearby Aylesford (those highlighted in red were needed for the tetrad) .  I was pleased to see a large flock of Meadow Pipits (26) and Stock Dove (45+) in the rough grassland field just N of the Cemex quarry.  A scan of the quarry turned up Mallard, Teal, GC Grebe, 45+ Cormorants, Common, Black-headed, HerringLBB and GBB Gull.  Feral Pigeon was my next target and proved quite a challenge - I couldn't believe I was searching them out!  Luckily The Forstal Road industrial estate provided the ideal habitat and turned up 14 birds...phew.  Onto the Friars which added Coot, Moorhen, GS Wood, Long-tailed Tit, Sparrowhawk, Canada, Greylag Geese and two Black Swans!  Nine new species, not bad for one and half hours work, but amazingly no Grey Heron despite a large Heronry being located in an adjacent square or Kestrel!

Later, on a trip with family and friends to the Ferry Boat Inn, Harty Ferry, Sheppey, we managed a Spoonbill on the saltmarsh in front of the pub, between courses.

Also news of some more Waxwings locally - 20+ reported at 13:30 on the Oxley Shaw estate, Leybourne.  Some of the Snodland birds wandering???

Saturday, 12 February 2011

Saturday 12th February 2011

Only birding sighting of note was an unfortunate female Blackbird that flew into one of my French doors.  Luckily it was only stunned and after being kept warm in my hands it took flight apparently no the worse for the experience.

Friday, 11 February 2011

Friday 11th February 2011

Approx 150 Starling lifting off.  North Downs as a backdrop.  All browns and greys today.

Wet drizzle again.  Only a short trip out at lunch (surreally passing a group of rifle-carrying officers from the City of London Police...I didn't dare take a picture!).  I cycled up Easterfields and Sweets Lane round the back of East Malling to try and add some records for the NE corner of the Oaken Wood tetrad.  Target species were Common Gull, Stock Dove, Meadow Pipit and Skylark which were all distinct possibles on the small corner of farmland in what is predominately a wooded tetrad.  Well I scored one out of four, but it all adds to BTO records - a Skylark exhalting the smallest patch of blue that broke through the greyness...lovely!  A large flock of Fieldfares were feeding with 200+ Starlings on a newly cultivated field, and a lone Herring Gull and Cormorant flew over west.

Moving onto the N end of Oaken Wood proper I quickly picked out the Gallup of Redpolls, at least 25 with a few Goldfinches associating with them.  Long-tailed, Blue and Great Tits were also feeding on the Birch seeds.  The Little Owl sat out in his usual position near Kiln Barn Farm.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Thursday 10th February 2011

Not much to report in such awful conditions today from East Malling today.  Lots of Fieldfares and Redwings (they're back!) feeding on the ground in the Genebank on the Research Station.  Best sighting of the day, and totally unexpected was a Peregrine SW over North Street as I walked my lad back from school at 15:30.  This is the first for me on the Barming part of my patch, not sure where it's come from (Gallagher's Quarry?) but represents no 55 for the Barming Heath tetrad.

On the way back from picking my youngest up from Nursery I cut through Barming Woods along North Pole Rd and picked out at least five Toads stirred into action by today's wet weather.  Taking the photo of the Toad reminded me of the shot I took of a Pollack on Hythe beach on Sunday....not too dissimilar in appearance eh!

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Wednesday 9th February 2011

Highlights of the cycle in this morning (Barming to East Malling Research via Oaken Wood): 2x Jay, GS Woodpecker, Song Thrush, Bullfinch, 2x Green Woodpecker, Little Owl, 2x Kestrel and 15x Lesser Redpoll.  Not bad for 15 minutes!

I spent my lunch hour studying the Reed Buntings on the Miscanthus plot on the Research station.  They're such a rare visitor on patch I thought I'd make the most of them.  Their numbers had doubled from yesterday's estimate, I reckoned on 26+ today but they were so in erratic in flight, twisting and looping and then quickly dropping down to the ground that I couldn't keep count.  I only managed the count of 26 by scanning the birds that had dropped down on top of a windbreak.

A couple of Yellowhammers were also in with them, easily picked out by their bright yellow heads.  Miscanthus must really be a home from home for these birds, but with very little in the way of seed heads I can't see what they're sustaining themselves on?

Josie and Kieron, thanks for your comments, I've replied to you, see comments at the end of the 30th January and 8th February posts respectively.  Kieron keep up the good work with the blog, let me have any records you've got from Offham between November-now and I can enter them on the BTO Atlas website to fill in some of those gaps!

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Tuesday 8th February 2011

Frosty and foggy at first light, but this soon lifted and thawed to give a long-awaited, windless, blue-sky day.  Oaken Wood was alive with bird song; Song Thrush, Blue TitGreat Tit and Robin approved the change in weather.

By Gallagher's Gallop a Green Woodpecker looped across the track, and a glance across to the band of silver birches revealed a Gallup of Redpolls.  I spent a good half hour scanning through the 35+ birds, which became literately a pain in the neck!

They all looked to be Lesser Redpolls to me, although I caught a brief glimpse of one that I wasn't sure about, it kinda looked grey!

 Back out at lunch to check if the Redpolls were still around (they weren't) I was elated to see a couple of Buzzards drifting over the N edge of Oaken Wood and into East Malling airspace (no 79 for East Malling tetrad).

The birds seemed to be interacting and the darker bird kept trying to lock talons and twisting around (displaying?).  Eventually they drifted apart and the pale bird (juvenile) drifted back to Oaken Wood.  It had warmed up nicely now and I half expected a butterfly to flutter past, but I had to be content with a Ladybird tucked up in the seed head of a Clematis.

A Coal Tit was another welcome addition to the day list and the Little Owl was in it's usual spot.

Checking my strawberry plots on the Research Station in the afternoon I picked a large flock of Gulls on some newly-ploughed land, 90+ predominantly Black-headed but also some Common and Herring Gulls.

I put up 40+ Linnets from some set-aside as I cycled past, and 10x Skylarks and a lone Yellowhammer followed.

I noticed some birds flitting around a plot of Miscanthus and presumed they were more Yellowhammers of Linnets but as I got closer I realised they were Reed Buntings!  I've only had one on the Research Station site, a lone birds 5-6 years ago, but this was Mural of 13 birds! Lovely - no 80 for the tetrad.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Sunday 6th February 2011

The only birding this weekend was spent off patch, an hour at Dymchurch slotted in between a family shopping trip to Ashford and visiting an elderly relative in Hythe.  A small group of Northern Long-tailed Tits have been in the area since November 2010 and I couldn't resist stopping by to see if I couldn't get sight of these little beauties.  I was in luck, the birds were feeding in the tree directly above where I parked my car - I opened the door and was met by the flock!  Another couple of birders were on site and we watched as they spent some time in the garden of the house to the west of the churchyard, sheltering from the strong wing in ivy and forsythia.  Four birds in total were counted...I just couldn't get enough of them (I'm expecting a crude comment from Warren or Greenie!)

I made a quick visit to Hythe seafront to see if the Purple Sandpipers were on the rocks, but they weren't found...not surprising given the strength of the waves.  A group of Turnstones were picking away further along the beach and as I walked towards them I started finding dead Pollack along the tide line, and then more, and then more!  Not sure why they were beached but there were other fish with them, all looking pretty freshly-dead.
Not sure of the ID of the flatfish or the fish second from the bottom right?  Greenie?

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Wednesday 2nd February 2011

Silhouetted blobs in Birch 

Misty and cold, and for some reason I took a slight detour on my cycle into work to take in the track that runs along the N edge of Oaken Wood.  I was glad I did as I picked out 25+ Redpolls feeding at first distantly in the Silver Birch strip that runs alongside the track, where I'd seen a flock in December.  I checked this part of the patch a couple of times since the New Year but drew a blank so I presumed they'd moved on.

I managed to get a bit closer to the flock and despite my best efforts to string a Mealy they all appeared to be Lesser Redpoll.  I was a bit suprised as most flocks of Redpoll I've heard of this year have held at least one Mealy (a influx year like the Waxwings so it seems)....but shouldn't be greedy, guess I've had my fill in previous winters.  Needless to say I'll be topping up the little feeding station I've set up with Niger seed tomorrow to see if I can't bring them down for a closer look!

Another fine morning!  Bike discarded in the haste to get onto the Redpoll flock!

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Tuesday 1st February 2011

Not to much report from my cycle ride in except a largish flock of Herring Gull (20+) over the Gallagher's Quarry, not the commonest of birds in those number on patch.  Closing my eyes and hearing the "kyow" calls I imagined I was at the certainly felt cold enough!

Again only a very short lunch today so I popped out to the corner orchard, East Malling Research and totted up 6+ Brambling, and shed loads of Fieldfare and Starling (where have all the Redwings gone?) the rain!

Three of today's Brambling - Starlings on the wires