Saturday, 28 April 2012

Singing in the Rain.

My attempt to complete a patch walk late am today was again thwarted by two heavy downpours. The under foot conditions were already fairly waterlogged after the last few days showers and the water levels are still rising ... but it's OK if you are a duck or goose! 

What does always surprise me is the volume of bird song especially when it is raining although I guess they still need to proclaim their territorial rights regardless of the conditions. Most notable, of course, were the Blackbirds and Robins (they appear to sing at any time of day and at every opportunity). As I tried to gain some relief from the sparse leafy canopy during one of the heaviest showers I was serenaded by Wren, Linnet, Chaffinch, Dunnock, Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Willow Warbler  and a probable Garden Warbler. The chorus died down as a male Sparrowhawk dropped into a nearby tree for a few seconds rest. A pair of Bullfinches also made a brief but silent appearance.

As the rain abated a Common Whitethroat put in an appearance and after flitting from one tangled clump of vegetation to another it finally decided it was time to add its short scratchy voice to the existing chorus.

I hope the weather is kind wherever you are this weekend ... enjoy your wildlife watching. FAB.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Blue Tit Nesting Update.

The weather hasn't been kind enough for the last few days so I found a few images from the very recent archives of our daily garden visitor ..... the Blue Tit.

"I wonder what's going on over there?"

It would appear that the nest box on the rear of the tool shed has been abandoned ...... the nest looks almost complete but we have a sneaking suspicion that a local cat has been paying them too much attention during the settling in process! However a few days ago while enjoying a brief period of sunshine I spotted the pair of Blue Tits checking out another nest box higher up in the Birch tree at the bottom of the garden .... the male entered with some nesting material but after a chirpy exchange of calls from his partner they promptly departed. With the continued inclement weather it has not been possible to monitor any comings and goings from the house but if I get any positive proof  in the coming days I certainly let you know.   FAB.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Songsters and Flutters.

The early morning sunshine didn't last very long today before the rain clouds drifted through producing localised heavy downpours and even hail! I took a gamble and headed over to Bookham Common mid morning and was rewarded with plenty of bird song and my first sighting this year of several newly arrived Common Whitethroats.
The most common songsters where Chiffchaffs but every time I raised the camera they stopped singing!

 A male Chaffinch showed off his fresh colours as the sun peeked through the clouds.

 As soon as the clouds rolled in again the little Jenny Wren also stopped singing.
The other songster that eluded the camera (so what's new!) was the Nightingale but I did locate three separate territories around the common. While listening to the glorious outpourings of one male for over 20 minutes  I had a close shave with a Sparrowhawk that dashed past my shoulder and dived into the tangled mass of undergrowth and silenced everything for quite some time. I didn't see the Sprawk exit but the Nightingale wasn't harmed as it had moved to another hidden perch and continued to sing until the next rain shower dampend every ones efforts. You can follow this link to listen to a recording of this beautiful songster.

Once again with the changeable weather the only flutters I saw were this single Speckled Wood plus a high flying Holly Blue while trying to chase down one of the many Orange Tips that were on the wing today.
Eventually one male Orange Tip alighted for a lengthy rest but would only sit with its wings closed as usual. The image above was taken with my compact Canon Powershot and provided a much clearer outcome than the image below taken with the 70-300 lens!
Wherever you are I hope you have a glorious wildlife watching weekend ..... FAB.

Wet Local Birding.

I waited for a break in the rain before starting a stroll around my local patch today but as expected the woodland around the car park was fairly quiet .... just a few Blue and Great Tits, Song Thrush, Blackbird, Robin and a distant singing Blackcap. 
A handful of Mallards were occupying the fringes of the Stew Pond and just as the sky darkened I located one male Mandarin resting in its usual spot while its three companions promptly hurried away to the other side of the water. A Coal Tit carrying nesting material into its new home unfortunately eluded the camera!

Skirting around High Meadow I heard several Chiffchaff singing and during a brief period on sunshine a male Blackcap appeared briefly before disappearing into deep cover as a Sparrowhawk flew overhead. After a short time the birdsong restarted and the wistful song of a Willow Warbler (first for this year) drifted towards me on the strengthening breeze. 

On my return to the Great Pond the heavens opened once again ..... one of the Canada Geese decided to sit it out on one leg!

While the resident Grey Heron also stuck it out in the open .... getting wetter and wetter just like me .... but it did allow me to creep a little closer than would normally be permitted although trying to keep the gear dry was somewhat hopeless!

 A quick ruffle of its feathers to shake off some of the excess rainfall!

More rain is forecast for the next few days so I'll probably have to raid the recent archives for the next few posts. FAB.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Brent Goose.

If you head to an estuary on the south coast during the winter months you are likely to come across a visitor from the arctic north enjoying up to at least five months (from late Sept to late April) of our milder winter climate. 

Large numbers of the dark-bellied form of Brent Goose (Branta bernicla ssp. bernicla) find their way from Russia and Western Siberia to the 125 hectares of grazing marshes on the northern shores of Langstone Harbour to feed on their main food source of eel-grass. 

Unlike the larger and noisier resident Canada Geese they feed together in much larger flocks, quietly chatting away to each other until disturbed when their gargling, guttural call instantly increases in volume .... then its a quick lift off ...... a circuit or two in the air before landing again to continue their daily feeding activities.

During a visit to Farlington Marshes at the beginning of March I spent a while watching this particular group, always with a few individuals acting as lookouts while their companions are feeding, before considering whether I should attempt to get closer for some decent images.

As there was no natural cover and I don't own any specialised camouflage clothing I did consider crawling through the short grass but instead adopted the very slow walking approach. Every now and again some of the nearest individuals would move a few feet further away but after a while they soon became more tolerant of my presence.

As with all wildlife it is important to understand the boundaries and not push your luck by getting too close so I just settled down and shot a few frames of those that where within reasonable range.

Some are just happy to sit and enjoy the late winter sunshine while their partners have a stretch.

This dapper looking goose has me charmed every time I see it. What could be better than spending some quality time with this delightful species.

Many of them will now be making their way northwards again so I'll probably have to wait until next winter to get reacquainted with them.   FAB.

For more images from around the globe .......check out WORLD BIRD WEDNESDAY.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Magpie (Pica pica).

An inquisitive Magpie (Pica pica) perched quietly very close to where my car was parked recently and obliged me with a few images.

 Yeah ... I'm keeping an eye on you as well!

I wonder what the others are up to?

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Recent Butterfly Sightings.

Like many other wildlife watchers, here in the UK, the mild and dry late winter and early spring weather has prompted the early first flights of various butterfly species. Here are just a few that I have seen fluttering both through my garden and during various walks over the past few weeks. 

 The Brimstone (Gonepterys rhamni) resting just above the leaf litter.

 The Comma (Polygonia c-album) collecting some moisture from a muddy patch close to a stream.

I have been seeing lots of male Orange Tip (Anthocharis cardamines) in the past few days but they were constantly patrolling their territories and rarely stopped to rest. The females are generally much more secretive but I located one hunting for some nectar from the few Violets blooming in a hedgerow and whilst it was difficult to get an uninterrupted view she did perch just long enough for a couple of quick snaps.

 The above image does at least show some of the beautiful green-marbled under wing pattern.

And last, but not least, the Peacock (Inachis io) who for some reason can often be found sunning itself on an old piece of a discarded plastic bag.

During a recent patch walk I spotted another small winged object fluttering around the vegetation surrounding a small stagnant pool. I gained the impression that it reminded me of a Skipper due to its orange-brown underwing but was obviously a day flying Moth ..... but which one?
It settled briefly on the leaves of reed mace just a few inches above the water but constantly moved its location and I had a devil of a job to relocate it but eventually managed a passable  shot. 
Thanks to Dean I now know this is a Light Orange Underwing (Archiearis notha) which flies from March to April and favours Aspen in open woodland, of which there is some nearby.     FAB.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Mandarins on show.

I'm pleased to report that the plumber was 'ace' yesterday so plenty of hot water on tap once more ..... so thanks Kevin. He also shares an interest in birds so I was able to help identify a raptor species he had seen recently while watching a Ring-necked Parakeet eyeing up the feeders in our garden.

With a very cold easterly wind and overcast sky I only managed an hour circumnavigating the 'Great Pond' on the patch around midday today. While driving towards the car park I spotted 5 raptors very slowly circling over the woodland ... obvious shape suggested Common Buzzard but one individual definitely had much longer wings and a more languid, slower wing beat. I was in a long queue of vehicles so couldn't stop at the roadside and by the time I had parked up they had disappeared eastwards so any positive ID goes unanswered!
One of the Canada Geese is always on sentry duty while its partner has a preen.

The visit didn't lead to any new sightings and the lighting across the water didn't help my photography efforts but I took a few shots of the Mandarin Ducks as they came a little bit closer than normal. Today there were six males but only one of the two females I have seen recently on view. Well at least the female was getting plenty of attention.

 Him and her playing follow the leader.

The list for today as follows:
Mandarin Ducks (6F and 1F);
Tufted Duck (now a pair on the pond so we may see a repeat of last years breeding);
Mallard (6), Coot (1), Moorhen (2), Canada Geese (6), Grey Heron (1);
Common Buzzard (5), Kestrel (1), Sparrowhawk (1) disrupting the local Woodpigeons;
Carrion Crow, Magpie, Blackbird, Robin, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Wren, Chaffinch, Chiffchaff (3) and Blackcap (1).

We are entertaining Anita's parents tomorrow so may not have time for a patch visit!     FAB.

More from Warnham LNR.

I didn't get any wildlife watching in yesterday as we were waiting on a plumber to call and repair our hot water system that failed last Sunday so as a follow up to my previous post about Warnham LNR, here are a few more images from my day out in Sussex.

 Magpie (Pica pica)

 Male Reed Bunting  (Emberzia schoenichus)

This species is a resident breeder occupying around 185,000 UK territories during the summer. Its main habitat being reedbeds and riverine scrub which was only a hop and skip away from this feeding station.

 Next up is the much stripier female Reed Bunting.

Titbit: Over 50% of Reed Bunting chicks are not fathered by the pair mate but result from an adulterous liaison .... probably the highest recorded of any bird!

Most of the Nuthatches (Sitta europaea ssp. caesia) that I normally see are high up in the woodland canopy so it was a pleasure to see this individual, however briefly, much closer to the lens even though it didn't want to sit still!   FAB.

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Hatchlands Park Walk.

In a month's time I'll be leading a Dawn Chorus walk again for the National Trust at Hatchlands Park so as the park has just reopened to visitors from 10am I took the opportunity yesterday to carry out a reconnoitre by following 'The Long Walk'. 

The sign says 'allow 1.5 hours and stout, waterproof shoes are essential' ... certainly NOT after our long dry spell. At the Ice House I noticed the first small patch of Bluebells coming into bloom. Despite the lack of overhead foliage most of the birding was done by ear. As I passed The Centenary Plantation Chiffchaff and Blackcap were both singing prominently. While seeking out a Mistle Thrush belting out its calls from a very high perch a Common Buzzard appeared high over the treetops and quickly disappeared from view. 

Views across the parkland from the highest point on my walk.

As I entered Little Wix Wood another Blackcap was heard singing from its usual patch of dense shrubbery while Blue and Great Tits flitted about with a Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming.
It won't be long before the whole area is carpeted in blue .... so if you live in the south-east UK and want to see Bluebells I wouldn't leave it too long .... like last year the best displays are going to be early unless a really heavy cold snap holds them back.

A brief rest at the Old Barn Information Centre (which is sorely in need of revamping the posters etc.) where I was fortunate to catch a couple of cropped images of a soaring Common Buzzard.

Heading towards the most northernmost boundary the wild flowers provided an alternative medium to photograph (Primroses, Violets and Wood Anemone) while a number of Nuthatches stridently called as they  moved through the trees. I also added Pheasant, Dunnock, Green Woodpecker (heard laughing), Long-tailed Tit plus the usual corvids, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow and Jay and a distant squawk from a Parakeet. Several more Chiffchaffs where located plus a record shot only (see collage below) of a male Blackcap.

Mahonia in full flower certainly brightened up the tree lined pathway before I headed  back into the open to check out the inhabitants of Sheepwash Lake (really only a pond) ... Canada Geese, Mallard, Moorhen and Coot. As I returned towards the car park droplets of water started to fall .... the first rain for such a long, long time but regretfully it didn't amount to much ... hardly dampened the soils surface.    FAB. 


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