Sunday, 31 January 2010

Another year passes by.

According to the calendar I'm another year older but fortunately not deeper in debt. So after yesterday's exercise I adopted a more relaxed pose today including undertaking the RSPB Garden Watch (through the window as the temperature was just below freezing) for the obligatory one hour late this morning. 
In order of appearance, here is the final list and highest numbers seen at any one moment:
Blue Tit (4)
Greenfinch (3)
House Sparrow (4)
Robin (1)
Blackbird (1) Subsequently a male and female were seen leaf turning in the main border.
Blackcap (3) A male plus 2 females.
Woodpigeon (1)
Song Thrush (1)
Great Tit (1)
Starling (4) Numbers eventually rose to 8 an hour later as they squabbled for feeding positions.
Magpie (2) One was stripping buds off the Hawthorn.
Dunnock (1)
Collared Dove (1)
LESSER REDPOLL (1) This to my knowledge was a garden first. A very fleeting glimpse of this individual right at the end of the recorded 60 minutes before it disappeared into a neighbours garden not to return.

Other species seen flying over were Grey Heron, Carrion Crow and Black-headed Gull but no visit from Parakeets at all today.
Starling in prime position.
Blackcap checking out the competition? 

So my total sightings for January 2010 finally reached 99 after seeing Yellowhammer and Scaup yesterday. This includes 61 species seen in Surrey and 23 in the garden. Far from the highest count for the first month of the year but then I am taking a far more relaxed approach to bird watching than I did some twenty years ago! Have a good week everyone.  FAB

Pagham Harbour on a high tide.

A cold but bright morning so a drive to the coast seemed appropriate.
Pagham harbour at high tide.
At the harbour entrance I finally located Mediterranean Gull plus the usual Black-headed, Great Black-backed and Herring Gulls with Turnstones feeding along the pebble shore line. Out on the water were Red-breasted Mergansers, Mallard, Wigeon, Teal, Shelduck and Northern Pintail.
A single Redshank making rings in the water.
Next was a very muddy walk, including a trudge through a waterlogged path, over to the North Wall to catch up with the large flock of Brent Geese. I scanned for the Black Brant and Pale-bellied but only located the latter amoungst all the Dark-bellied Brent.
The damp field and pool margins also held Tufted Duck, Shovellers, Lapwing, Knot, Golden Plover, Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit and at least 50 Common Snipe feeding out in the open. 
An erruption of Brent Geese as they moved to other locations with the tide on the turn.
Scanning skywards I located several Common Buzzards and a Sparrowhawk before commencing my return walk which also produced my first Yellowhammer for 2010 plus Chaffinch, Reed Buntings, Blackbird, Wren, Dunnock, Green Woodpecker, Grey Plover, Cormorant and a second Sparrowhawk.
Back at the Lagoon the scope was needed to finally locate a very distant male Scaup plus Little Grebes, Moorhen and at least 6 Goldeneye.
With tide falling I bade farewell and started the long drive home.  FAB.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Garden Watching - Female Blackcap

The first sighting of Mrs. Blackcap was during the snowy weather and she could regularly be seen perched in either the Hawtorn or the Prunus and seemed to hold her own against most allcommers wishing to get to the nearby feeder. Certainly less intimidated than the the male and I've watched her chase Blue, Great and Coal Tits away although the gang of 8 Greenfinches was a different story!
Over the ensuing days we have seen two seperate females in the garden at the same time but I couldn't tell them apart although one of them is now boldly flying onto feeders very close to the house including pinching biscuit crumbs put out specifically for the Robins. 
I bet I won't get this close to a migrant visitor in the Spring.   FAB.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Mid Week Watery Stroll.

A mid week stroll took me to Papercourt Pits, where I commenced a clockwise circuit of the main sailing pit which was still two thirds frozen. Initial sightings were Robin, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Dunnock, Blue and Great Tits. Occupants on the water included Great Crested Grebe, Tufted Duck, Pochard and Coot. 
Around the far side I passed a small group of Mallard who didn't fly away!
This Coot was also quite inquisitive.
Half way round the sky darkened and the rain started so I quickly donned waterproofs and packed the camera away. Carefully skirting the small pond I spied a pair of Mute Swans. A group of 6 Shovellers were lurking close to the bank but despite treading slowly and carefully they decided to fly away and find cover elsewhere. The trees were alive with twittering Long-tailed Tits and masses of Goldfinches but no Redpolls so I headed off towards the Wey Navigation. The track crosses between open (desolate) fields and a newish reserve that is not freely accessible. Very little life seen except Blackbird, Redwing and Wren.
Masses of seed heads along the pathside.
Crossing a small stream I spotted willow buds beginning to open amoungst the rows and rows of salix being grown commercially here on this damp meadowland. Following the course of the little stream I passed a small pond again with no active life around it.
As I headed onward along the increasingly muddy path a flash of brilliant blue dashed past me and appeared to stop somewhere ahead. Trading carefully I eventually caught up with the Kingfisher but only one distant shot (just visible in the bottom right picture) before it headed onward along the streambed. I followed and sighted it once more before it also continued its daily journey.
Crossing the Wey Navigation I headed out onto Papercourt Marsh with the occasional sighting of Cormorant and Black-headed Gull passing overhead plus a pair of Mute Swans over the distant trees.
Carrion Crows gathering with a few lookouts posted.
I ventured a little way beyond this bridge that would eventually be my homeward route and met a Mute Swan drifting silently upstream.
After crossing the Wey Navigation I spotted a pair of Tufted Ducks and 20 Lapwings who promptly took flight together with a  group of Redwing that had been feeding nearby. One perched high above and this was
the best I could do (cropped)! With little else appparently about apart from Fieldare calling as they passed
overhead I took a few shots of the river transport before heading back across the farmland track.
 Definitely far better suited to these muddy conditions than me!
Nearly back at the car my final encounter was with a Great Spotted Woodpecker high above me in an oak but despite the lack of foliage this male was not going to make it easy for me to get quality shots.
With the late afternoon light and very cold fingers I took this series using manual focus. Still not what I'm really after but it will have to do for now.       Have a good weekend.   FAB.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Garden Watching - Male Blackcap

I am pleased to report that the Blackcaps (Sylvia atricapilla) are still around and making regular forays into our garden. So here are a few very recent snaps, again through the window, of Mr. Blackcap.

Unlike the females, the male is very wary around the feeders and is easily spooked.

Do you think he knows I'm inside?

Not sure how long this guy or the two females will hang around but it's great having his company.  FAB.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Window Watching - House Sparrow

When we first set up home here in the early 70's House Sparrows (Passer domesticus) were quite numerous but sometime in the mid 80's they disappeared completely. Around eight or nine years ago they returned and although they do not nest in our garden (probably in a neighbours) I am delighted that they visit every day. They often congregate in the Pittosporum, chatting constantly, and sending out warning calls to their friends if there is a natural predator in the vicinity. Long may they see our domain as a safe haven.   FAB

Window Watching in January.

Much of this months garden watching has been done through the window so here are a few of my regular daily visitors.

Pair of Starlings, probably up to no good!

This one was game to try anything!

House Sparrow (female) keeping watch.

Greenfinch (female) waiting her turn.


Just a lazy Collared Dove

Ring-necked Parakeet playing hide and seek!

Blue Tit checking who else might be around.

Another few hours spent in the garden today; more pruning and moving pots around but hoping to get out somewhere locally tomorrow if the weather behaves.    FAB.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Rooms To Let?

Whilst doing some clearing up in the garden over the weekend I checked the nest boxes around our small garden to ensure they were in good order, firmly affixed and ready for occupation.

Well, apart from one box that has no roof any more and the floor looks decidely dodgy all the others appear to be in working order. With one exception (the derelict one) all the boxes face somewhere between NNW to NNE so that they are protected from the glare and heat of the sun. (That's a joke at the moment as I haven't seen any sun!)

The big question is: "Who will the occupants be in 2010?"

Well I can tell you that the Blue Tits have recently been spotted inspecting the woodcrete box up in the Birch and yesterday I heard someone tapping inside the new 'blue' two-storey box behind which in previous years there has been both Robin and Dunnock nests in the ivy but breeding was unsuccessful.

For five out of six years, Blue Tits have regularly nested in the oldest oak box on the rear of the garden shed but last year the Great Tits claimed this as their residence and gave me hours of pleasure watching their comings and goings. I'm tempted to convert this to an 'open' fronted box to see if we can encourage Robin, Dunnock or even Blackbird to use it. To my knowledge the birch log box has never been used so may have to be relocated.

So who's your money on and what birds do you expect to have nesting in your garden in 2010?     FAB.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Walking Damp Woodlands.

Late Thursday morning I headed to my usual parking spot near the River Mole but decided to take a totally different route. This time it was a short walk upstream and then heading uphill while trying to stay upright on very sticky, wet chalky footpaths.

Taking a brief rest at the railway bridge before the uphill journey into uninspiring woodland consisting mainly of nude grey Ash trees and a few green Yew dotted here and there. For the first half hour or so it was deathly quiet apart from the occasional 'squawk..squawk' of overflying Parakeets and  'krra..krra..krra' of the local Carrion Crow population.

The verdant green mosses covering previously felled logs and....

Ferns recolonising an old stump show just how damp the understory canopy is throughout this hillside. My journey eventually got me to the edge of Updown Wood where it borders the open farmland with a greater mix of trees including some Birch and Beech. Here the bird life began, at last, with Blue, Great, Coal and MarshTits. Then through the branches I heard a Nuthatch calling and eventually managed a couple of record shots just to prove to you that I actually saw something!


My attention was then drawn towards a group of Long-tailed Tits and scanning through the flock I eventually located 3 Lesser Redpolls (another tick for 2010) but only a rear end shot..not for publication. 

View over the open farmland and river valley to the 'posh' houses on the opposite hillside.

Lots of 'Old Man's Beard' (Clematis vitalba) decorated both sides of the trackway as I headed

downhill and out into the open fields to see Green Woodpeckers, Jackdaws and several Mistle Thrushes with Redwing feeding amougst the stubble field.

On the way home I stopped at Epsom Common Pond, still partly frozen over, and no water life at all.
Only met one dog walker...not surprising with these underfoot conditions. On the edge of the woodland I heard the thin repeated call of a Treecreeper which then flew onto a nearby tree but quite high up.

This is the first time I've attempted to capture this well camouflaged species and the shots in this collage are all cropped slightly.

Finally the reflective quality on the little pond devoid of any fishermen.

Hope you all have a good wildlife watching weekend.  FAB.


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