Saturday, 22 December 2012

Saturday 22nd December 2012

Horrible rainy day, but at least it confined me to the house and luckily led me to peer out the kitchen window....which turned up a couple of Hawfinches with a flock of Greenfinches, feeding in a field maple in the South Street Playing Fields (off Church Lane), Barming.  They remained just long enough for me to get a snap through the kitchen window, before flying off strongly NW.  Glad they're back - an early Christmas present!

If visiting the playing fields please be aware that the field maples are backing onto residents property so be respectful of their privacy.

Probably last post before Christmas, so wishing you all a happy one!

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Thursday 13th December 2012

Two very distant Waxwings!

I managed to get on the East Malling Research site for sunrise but only had 20 minutes to see what was about.  No Waxwings unfortunately, but a couple of flocks (60+ in total) of Lapwings over south, and then unexpectedly 2x Raven, playing in flight east.

A quick sortie at lunchtime found five Waxwings feeding, distantly, on apples in the orchard behind (east) of the churchyard.  I pointed these out to a visiting birder from East Peckham (sorry didn't catch your name) who must have got some cracking shots of two birds feeding on some apples (I didn't have my camera with me at this point!).  More Lapwings were found sitting out in newly ploughed ground with Common and Black-headed Gulls and an Egret (that looked too big for a Little!) flew east mid-afternoon

Birding today totalled 30 minutes, so not a bad day at all!

Also interesting to read this evening that Alan Woodcock had relocated some of the Waxwings in Ditton Court Quarry today.

Wednesday 12th December 2012

Wow - what a cracking morning, a real winter wonderland.  Bitterly cold as I cycled into work just as the sun was rising.  Thirty-one Waxwings were quickly found feeding on the guelder rose berries near the 'concept pear orchard' sign on the EM Research site.  However they quickly took flight when a Blackbird screamed out an alarm call.  Three birds returned momentarily, but moved on after only a couple of minutes feeding.  It was good to see a good number of birders on site, but I heard that only Greenie and Phil Sharp had connected with any of the birds, and that was only a total of eight birds mid-morning (good to catch up with you guys again!).

I waited until it felt like my fingers would drop off for a Waxwing (or even a Fieldfare or Redwing) to come and feed on this lone apple - what a cracking picture it could have been!

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Tuesday 11th December 2012

The last couple of days have been a real bonus with lovely crisp, sunny weather.  I spent yesterday (Monday) lunchtime searching out Waxwings both on the EMR site and in nearby Broadwater Farm (thanks for the heads up Mike P).  There were very high numbers of Fieldfare, Redwing and Starlings, especially at the latter site.  Unfortunately no Waxwings.......well not until I was a minute away from work when I heard the distinctive trill of a Waxwing.  

Sure enough a couple of Waxwing were seen perched in a windbreak alongside the concept pear orchard.  A quick scan in the orchards (the ones I'd checked 50 minutes earlier!) brought the total up to 8 birds, matching the number Ross had reported on site last Friday.  I informed a couple of people on site, but was surprised to get a call at 3pm informing that the Waxwings were perched up in a silver birch near the glasshouse area, and there were now a "few more" than the original 8.  I grabbed my bins and made the short walk to where they'd be reported....and was met with a tree literately dripping with Waxwings, 51 in total!  Unfortunately the sun was starting to set, and  I was advised that it would best not to broadcast the news as the site was hosting a special visitor the following morning.

So to this morning (Tuesday) - another crisp, fine start to the day, and I was at work for sunrise.  Waxwings could be seen feeding in the orchard near the main lab buildings, and a Sparrowhawk did a good job of spooking everything up, revealing 32 Waxwings amongst the massed winter thrushes.  They settled down into the silver birch tree in the glasshouse area, adjacent to the 'Concept Pear Orchard' sign alongside the public footpath through the site.  A quick sortie at lunchtime showed that 12 birds were still present, but there was no further sign c 3pm.  Also of note today were a group of Lesser Redpolls in Ditton Court Quarry and 2+ Reed Bunting in the Pea Field, N of the Water Tower, Barming.  I've got plenty more photos but I don't want to inflict Waxwing fatigue on readers!


If visiting the site please walk in from East Malling village (or from Ditton) using the public footpath across the site.  The Waxwings are favouring a berry bush next to the 'Concept Pear Orchard' sign near the glasshouse area.  If not feeding here they often perch in the nearby silver birches  or alder windbreak.  They are also feeding in the apple orchard where the site road bends to the left by the main lab buildings.  Hot drinks, snacks and cold and hot food (and toilets) are all available at the Orchards Cafe which can be reached by following the footpath through the main site. 

This is a private site, so please keep to the public footpaths and under NO circumstances  drive on the site roads or enter the orchards/glasshouse area. 

Oh, and the special visitor.....HRH Duke of Kent....

HRH Duke of Kent (left), Prof Peter Gregory (right) and Viscount De L'Isle (rear), as viewed from my office window.  Completely off topic but I was interested to read that Viscount De L'Isle's father was a Victoria Cross holder as was his grandfather, Lord Gort.  Also present at today's do was Bobby Neame of Shepherd Neame fame and who's great-uncle (?) Philip Neame also won the VC, as well as gold medal in the 1924 Olympics.  I also learnt that the Duke of Kent was a cousin to both the Queen and also to Prince Philip.  I don't think you'd ever be short of a conversation with this lot! 

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Saturday 8th December 2012

They've landed in East Malling, but not this one - this was taken this afternoon off patch in Tovil.

Winter thrush numbers have been building up very quickly on the research station over the last week, with a big influx of Redwings in the last few days in particular.  It was inevitable that a Waxwing or two would turn up, and as predicted eight turned up yesterday (Friday), perched up briefly in the tree right opposite my office window....unfortunately I wasn't there to see them!  But thanks to the Bald Birder for letting me know about it!  Also are a few Lesser Redpolls about this week, with one on the wires over the orchards on the Research Station mid-week, and 4+ more, seen with 5+ Siskin in Ditton Court Quarry on Wednesday.  Waxwings - well I checked late today for them in East Malling but I couldn't locate any, I'll give the orchards a good scour next week, but in the meantime I was pleased to see 27 of these Scandinavian beauties in a more typical haunt this afternoon, between Tesco and Lidl car parks in Tovil...almost makes you want to ask for a Sorbus hupehensis 'Pink Pagoda' tree for Christmas!  I do wonder if they favour lighter-coloured berries, this isn't the first time I've seen them feeding on pink/white berries in preference to bountiful clusters of orange and red berries nearby.

Large numbers of Fieldfare and Redwing have arrived in the orchards on the East Malling Research Station - this snatched shot (through a windbreak) was of c.150 Fieldfares sitting on the wires.  Imagine how many more are feeding on the ground/trees in the other 20 or so orchards in the area!  No wonder pinning down those Waxwings has been so difficult!

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Friday 30th November 2012

Last day of the month and a cracking day weather wise.  Fieldfares dominated the day.  Starling numbers have built  up steadily, but there was only a smattering of Redwings.  6x Meadow Pipits were in the Concept Pear Orchard and 15+ Skylarks lifted out of the nearby stubble field.  It was good to meet up with a couple of birdwatchers on the footpath through the research site, looking like for Waxwings - nice to meet you ladies, sorry but I didn't catch your names.