During a recent patch walk I noted one pair of Canada Geese siting together at the waters edge but the peace and quiet didn't last long ......
The master raised his head high and began to bellow and honk .... I couldn't see any reason for this behaviour, which can often be witnessed when other pairs encroach on a territory, as there were no other individuals within view .....
Then he then lowered his neck and belted out his aggression on his partner who responded by flattening herself and perhaps this was a precursor to a bit of 'you know what' but she just turned aside and ignored him!
The ruckus was over in a matter of moments and all went quiet again ... just a marital tiff perhaps. FAB.
Patch Update: Sightings so far this week have included Yellowhammer, Hobby and Swallow to bring the 2011 total up to 66.
On Monday we drove south-eastwards into Kent to meet up with two more friends who were desperate for a relaxing day out birding as a break from their heavy work schedules.
The location was the Stour Valley and our day trek around Stodmarsh NNR which started from Grove Ferry where Anita and I listened to our first Nightingale of the day plus a distant calling Cuckoo that was to remain elusive despite Derek's optimism that it would perch close enough for a portrait photo! On our walk to The Ramp we also heard a single Turtle Dove, Cetti's Warbler, Chiffchaff plus Sedge and Reed Warblers. Mallard, Gadwall, Tufted Duck and Coot on the water with Common Terns noisily fishing and a male Marsh Harrier quartering the vast reed beds. Konik ponies are used to manage the damp pastures.
Male Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoenichus).
A distant male Marsh Harrier quartering the reed beds.
During one of our many rest stops as we circumnavigated this reserve we also watched another pair of Marsh Harriers and a minimum of 12 Hobby hawking for insects but regrettably too far away for the lens. Swallow and House Martis were also logged plus a swimming Grass Snake.
Common Whitethroat (Sylvia communis) singing its heart out.
Throughout our circuit we were constantly bombarded by the close explosive and repeated calls from a warbler that shouts out its own name 'cetti-cetti-cetti' from a nearby hidden perch within a dense thicket before immediately flying onto its next hidden hideaway. Fortunately on one occasion my camera was pointed at the right spot when this compact warbler, red-brown above with its distinctive pale supercilium and eye ring, perched for just a few moments to provide a record shot.
Cetti's Warbler (Cettia cetti) pauses briefly before flying to its next hidden song perch.
Another species that likes to sing its repeated, jittery song interspersed with various whistling notes as it slowly climbs up its perch within the reed bed is the [European] Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus scripaceus).
[Northern] Lapwing patrolling his territory on recently created pool where we also logged two Common Redshank but didn't find the Green Sandpipers or Little Ringed Plover that has apparently been seen about 40 minutes earlier.
In the damp woodland a Robin was collecting a varied mixture of flies and caterpillars.
After a welcome cup of tea at the end of our walk we drove across country towards our friends home with a brief stop at the 1500 acre woodland at Kings Wood, Challock to view the impressive display of Bluebells.
Unfortunately when I loaded the 17-85 lens the zoom had become locked at 70mm so this was the best I could produce under the circumstances. A visit to the specialist repair centre is going to be needed very soon to hopefully sort the problem out! Our day ended with a relaxing meal at a very quiet riverside pub plus a large glass of well earned amber liquid.
I'll be heading to Stodmarsh again in 9 days time to go birding with another long-time friend so hopefully I'll manage to get some different species in front of the lens next time. FAB.
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Today we met up with Tony and Jean early this morning for a stroll around Bookham Common.
Initially the most prominent songsters as we wandered through the wooded areas were numerous male Blackcaps while we also spied nesting Jackdaw and Song Thrush plus Mallard on the pond. The most prolific wild flower was Ramsons plus one of the largest bracket fungi (Pycnoporus sp.)I have seen in a while at the base of a very old mossy tree stump..
Out onto 'The Plains' we spotted a pair of Bullfinch, the male looked just like a bright red ball hidden in the shrubbery while overhead a few Long-tailed Tits flitted silently through the branches.
A Great Spotted Woodpecker tried to be inconspicuous as it perched in a tangle of Blackthorn.
A distant calling Cuckoo was heard as we listened to Song Thrush, Chiffchaff, lots of Common Whitethroats and then picked up our first Nightingale singing strongly from within its dense nesting territory. A little later on at 'Nightingale Corner ( see the sign someone had scratched on a log slice in the top collage) we heard our second Nightingale although somewhat less vocal than the first. Jay, Wren, Blackbird, Mistle Thrush, Grey Heron, Blue and Great Tits and a single Willow Warbler were also logged.
After a relaxing alfresco light lunch in our friend's garden we took a mid afternoon stroll around their local fields. Unfortunately very little bird life but plenty of other things to admire. A very large Oak Gall, seed from Goat Willow being dispersed by the very welcome afternoon breeze, bird cherry blossom in the hedgerow and Yellow archangel flowering a bit earlier than usual. Quite a few flutters rapidly flew past us including the following:
Tomorrow we are heading south-eastwards into Kent to meet up with some other friends so I guess I had better turn in a little earlier than usual and remember to set the alarm! FAB.
After all the miles trudged this week I decided to spend a quiet day just chilling out in the garden and surprisingly there was very little noise from either the local traffic or any of the neighbours ......
.... just the gentle sound of water droplets.
Most of the small specie Tulips are well past their best but here are some of the delights that are dotted
around the garden providing that important early spring colour.
Now it is the turn of the Alliums as the stems rise up high and their sheaths slowly unfurl to present their spherical balls of blue, purple and mauve hues. Over the years I have been trying to remove the non-native Spanish Bluebell (Hyacinthiodes hispanica) but it continues to reappear and at least provides an addition to the blue palette at this time of year.
The Lilac that provides a hiding place for the Blue Tits before entering the nest box will soon produce a lovely fragrance as the clusters of blooms begin to open.
Even the avian activity today was fairly downbeat ... the House Sparrows hid from view most of the time; Parakeets made a late afternoon visit but refrained from gorging themselves on the recently stocked feeders; Greenfinch and Great Tit were close by with Woodpigeon, Collared Dove and Magpie but everything went deathly silent as a Sparrowhawk slowly drifted over at rooftop level. I recently refurbished an open nest box and today I noticed that there was a lining of moss and leaves so possibly the Blackbird who has been skulking in the border is starting to build for his partner ... only time will tell.
Blue Tit Nesting Update: I checked the box today and the female is sitting but I didn't disturb her to see what the egg situation might be. The male has been flying in and out at irregular intervals to feed her so all is well at the moment.
Started my patch walk this morning at 9 am and there were still plenty of species singing around the woodland car park. Amongst the sounds of Blackbird, Wren, Great Tit, Chaffinch and Blackcap my ears locked onto a new addition to the year list .. a Garden Warbler, high in the leafy canopy belting out its warble that can so often be confused with a Blackcap.
Mistle Thrush, Magpie, Carrion Crow and Jackdaws were spotted in the horse paddock while a Canada Goose was enjoying a late lie in at the pond. Moorhen, Coot and Mallard were also logged but no sign today of any Mandarin Ducks.
The Grey Heron was on its usual perch eying up a tasty morsel in the water below.
Heading out around the Great Pond I found another Garden Warbler, Chiffchaff, plenty of Common Whitethroats, Long-tailed Tits still carrying nesting material (I thought they were early nesters?), male Reed Bunting calling from the waterside willows plus lots of Orange-tips and Brimstone on the wing. From here I entered the main woodland to find some shade while listening to Nuthatch and Great Spotted Woodpecker. Suddenly everything went quiet and I'm still not sure what prompted me to look skywards through a small gap in the leafy canopy but the size, shape, pale underparts and barring immediately triggered a certain species name in my brain. No time for a picture ... just get the bins up and confirm the supposition. This very chunky Accipiter slowly glided overhead, turning its head and allowed me to see the distinctive head markings plus the yellow base to the bill and its red eye glinted in the sunlight as it skimmed the tree tops. Yes ... an adult male GOSHAWK.
Tonight I located some illustrations from a recent birding publication that clearly show both the bulky view I saw (see above) and its similarity with a female Sparrowhawk (see below) with which this species is so often confused.
I quickly retraced my steps out of the wood to the open grassland but there was no sign in the sky just silence so obviously it had continued its purposeful journey somewhere .. probably eastwards.
Blue Tit sunbathing.
Back out across the grassland heath I listened to a single Willow Warbler but no sign or sound of any Lesser Whitethroats yet. Interestingly the numbers of singing Willows appear to have dropped considerably in the last week so maybe a few have moved on. Another addition the patch year list were Linnets.
About an hour after I returned home another 'mega' flew in via UPS from Texas, USA.
This is a most delightful framed coloured pencil drawing of a Blue Jay by texwisgirl, a talented artist, which I won in a giveaway on her blog The Run*A*Round Ranch Report.So once again many thanks Theresa for making this a special 'mega' day. FAB.
On the weekend after my trip to Pagham Harbour Anita intimated that she would like to have a paddle at the coast and suggested a visit to Pagham Spit. Once again the high tide wasn't until much later in the afternoon but with the sun shining we headed to the coast and while I sorted out my gear Anita carefully navigated her way over the shingle to find a spot to rest and read while waiting for the water to get closer.
I headed off towards the North Wall following the pathway and then the shoreline looking out initially on a very waterless landscape and most of the wildlife very distant.
A male Reed Bunting stopped briefly to say hello.
Looking inland at the North Wall the scene again appeared very quiet with little floating about on the pools.
However it wasn't long before Mrs. Mallard floated past with her ten little charges in tow.
I just wonder how many will eventually survive these early weeks of new life!
I then enjoyed the flying displays of several pairs of Black-tailed Godwits who have obviously decided to hang around and now sporting their rich breeding plumage.
I won't bore you with a list of the species seen but suffice it to say that I eventually logged a total of 51 including listening to Cetti's Warbler belting out its distinctive call from a hidden location.
The final poser was a [Common] Linnet and then it was time for me to respond to a text message ... return to the car ... collect the packed lunch ... and join Anita on her tiny patch of sand amongst the shingle. Sorry no pictures of the person paddling ... permission to publish denied. FAB.
Sightings Update: Nothing new locally so a visit early this morning to Staines Reservoir enabled me to add a very distant Velvet Scoter, Slavonian (Horned Grebe) in breeding plumage plus Common Terns to year list. This was followed by a very brief walk at Barnes WWT (crowded with visitors as expected) to watch the Sand Martins plus an attempt to photograph a Reed Warbler singing deep in the reed bed.
If you want to see Bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta)don't delay a trip out to your favourite woodland location because here in the south-east (UK) they have flowered about two weeks earlier than last year as a result of the warmer, drier weather.
These shots were taken today at Hatchlands Park N.T. and the display is now at its best. The perfumed fragrance as I entered the wood mid morning during part of my bird walk was absolutely wonderful. FAB.
Gentle Reminder: For anyone wishing to join me on the Dawn Chorus Walk (5am on 1st May) at Hatchlands Park please make sure that you have booked your place by phoning 01483 222482.