Saturday, 30 April 2016

Surprises in Priest's Field.


On Thursday I arose just before sunrise and above was the scene that greeted me at Thursley Common an hour later. Bitterly cold and a veiled mist hanging over the silent, watery landscape.

Fortunately with a cloudless sky it didn't take long for the sun to perk things up providing some opportunities to store some reflective shots for the archives.

The first bird to catch my attention was a lonesome [Barn] Swallow taking a rest on the overhead cable line after its long northerly journey from Africa.

As I gingerly trod along the slippery, frost covered boardwalk I was accompanied by the twitterings of several small groups of Goldfinch moving from tree to tree.

While listening to a Chiffchaff singing a Curlew (see below) erupted noisily from the bog and made a very high circuit of the heath. Over the next 20 minutes two other individuals joined in this early morning excursion. 

My main quarry on this particular morning was to hopefully get some more snaps of the Common Redstarts but as I neared Priest's Field my attention was distracted by the call of a male Cuckoo and then an unmistakable shape flew into the trees bordering the field. I approached as stealthily as possible and caught sight of a Cuckoo on the ground and just had time for a distant record shot before it flew back into the trees to join its partner.

The mass of small branches made it difficult to focus on the other half of this partnership. After a few minutes they flew off together with the male uttering a brief 'sore throat' call. Strangely over the next two hours I never heard the male call again.

As topping on the cake, so to speak, I then heard a Tree Pipit calling while I watched a Meadow Pipit plus two Woodlark feeding in the field. Then nearby another year tick appeared; a male Northern Wheatear in his breeding finery.

This chap was stocking up before he continues his way northwards to breed. After all these distractions I did see seven Redstart but none came within reasonable range of the lens!

Linking to:
Saturday's Critters
Through My Lens

Friday, 29 April 2016

Spring Blossom.

The hedgerows are a blanket of white now that the Blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) is in full flower.

Linking to:
Floral Friday Photos
Today's Flowers

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Castle Hill LNR.

Just a 20 minute walk from home is Castle Hill LNR. Castle Hill has been designated as an Ancient Monument and is thought to be the site of a medieval moated farmstead dating from the 13th century known as Brettgrave. The area is now dominated by mature deciduous woodland but over the past few years active management by coppicing is helping to keep the under-story open thereby encouraging more wildlife.

At this time of year, apart from the typical woodland bird life, the main attraction is the swathes of our native Bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) competing with a green carpet of Cleavers (Bedstraw) beneath an open canopy that is very slowly greening up.

A Song Thrush perches high overhead taking a rest from proclaiming its territory with its characteristic repetitive song.

The reserve boundary is dominated by an old iron fence that in many places is showing the test of time!

Other 'regulars' during my early morning stroll were Robin (above) and the tiny [Winter] Wren (below) with the big voice.

And finally a collage showing a few of the wild flowers that have appeared during the past couple of weeks including the invasive Three-cornered Garlic growing amongst the Bluebells, Red Dead-nettle, Greater Stitchwort, Green Alkanet and Bedstraw.

Linking to:

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Grey Heron.

A recent visit to WWT Barnes provided a few views of our Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea).

The first individual (above) was just chilling out whereas the other one (below) was patiently waiting for something to eat.

Not sure if its utterance was an impatient reaction to its failure to find a mid morning snack or the fact that it was being watched but it quickly returned to focusing its attention on the task in hand.

Linking to:
Wild Bird Wednesday

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Friday Flutters and Patch Birds.

During my patch walks this week the most obvious LBJ was the Chiffchaff with several pairs chasing one another while other singletons were either singing or busily searching for insects.

I have also completed my third weekly butterfly transect walk through the oak woodland on the north of Ashtead Common, hence the return of 'Friday Flutters'.
Due to the lower temperatures the variety and number of each species recorded was very low. Just three Brimstone, including this image of a resting female attempting to soak up as much warmth as possible from the limited sunshine.

The only nectar sources available have been the early flowering Bluebells and Lesser Celandine but this week the woodland floor was starting to come alive with large patches of Wood Anemone. The only other flutter recorded this week on the transect was the Peacock (below).

A Kestrel patiently surveys its surroundings in one of the large open woodland glades.

I always encounter a few of the very acrobatic Long-tailed Tits during my walks and have watched several still collecting nesting material.

Once again this week the three pairs of Lapwing on the fields at Rushett Farm were very vocal as they endeavoured to chase off any of the Carrion Crows that entered their territorial airspace.

Linking to:
Saturday's Critters
Nature Notes

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Ring Ouzel at WWT Barnes.

On Monday morning I decided on a visit to WWT Barnes in the hope of adding one or two common species to my current Surrey year list plus the possibility of seeing a Ring Ouzel that had been reported there over the weekend. 

My luck was in as a slight detour from the entrance bridge eventually provided a distant view through the bins as this thrush was feeding on a grass slope (way beyond the fence above Sir Peter Scott's head) but too far away for my limited gear to capture. Needless to say I was just happy to have seen this species and made my way onto the reserve and added Kingfisher, Sedge Warbler and Redshank to my Surrey year list.

After an hour or so the blue sky turned very grey and on exiting the Scrape Hide I met up with fellow birder and photographer Dave Carlsson. He showed me a image of the Ouzel he had taken and suggested that as there was little else of photographic interest that we head out and see if the bird was still showing and very kindly offered me the use of his 500mm lens. Well as you can guess I was delighted to get the chance of a possible record shot.

Unfortunately the Ring Ouzel wasn't quite as obliging as it had been earlier in the morning plus handling a 500mm lens for the first time was quite an experience. The image above is what I saw through the viewfinder and below is the cropped version. Not too shabby for a first attempt!

A male Ring Ouzel (Turdus torquatus) on its migration to breed on the uplands of northern UK and finally added to my Surrey list.

Dave had previously agreed to e-mail me a copy of the image he had taken earlier that morning and with his approval I am posting, for comparison, two of his quality shots below so you get a better view of its distinctive white crescent.

 Once again, many thanks Dave for the use of your big lens. FAB.

 Linking to: I'D-Rather-B-Birdin' 

Monday, 18 April 2016

Boardwalk Wildlife.

During the past few weeks I have enjoyed several visits to Thursley Common under both sunny and cloudy skies. So here are a few images taken while I have been  treading the boardwalks and tracks in search of the local wildlife. 

More often than not the first bird I usually encounter is a male Stonechat singing from atop a young Birch.

The main boardwalk allows access across the wettest part of the site towards 'Pine Island' where there is often something sitting atop the tallest branches ... on this visit it was a Kestrel. In a few weeks time photographers will line the boardwalk hoping to get that special shot of a Hobby hawking prey over the main pool.

The shorter section of boardwalk below leads towards 'Shrike Hill' and it is here that I look for a dark, long-tailed warbler with a red eye ....

while also listening out for its very distinctive scratchy, mechanical song.

Occasionally I get a brief glimpse of a Dartford Warbler (Sylvia undata) one of the special residents of this lowland heathland habitat. This species is dependent on mature dry heath with gorse in good condition in order to survive cold, harsh winters. The UK population crashed to a few pairs in the 1960's but it has fortunately bounced back although several fires on the common and very wet, cold winters in recent years have not helped but it is very pleasing now to see decent numbers in various locations around this site.
Certainly not a bird that is easy to get close to without an extremely long lens, hence this cropped shot!

Despite the chilly weather there were one or two hardy Common Lizard sunbathing on the boardwalk and well camouflaged amongst the dried grasses nearby a female Mallard was resting.

Heading out onto the tracks across the open heath provided views of Woodlark, more Stonechats and a brief encounter with one of the two Great Grey Shrikes that have been overwintering here. Their tendency to roam widely for food means they can turn up anywhere on the common although the aptly named 'Shrike Hill' is generally the best place to find them.

A detour to a patch of deciduous woodland rewards me with sightings of a recently arrived male Common Redstart (above) plus views of Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler and hear my first Cuckoo of the year before I trudge up onto the gorse covered ridge, accompanied by the twittering of Linnets, for uninterrupted distant views over the extensive heathland before descending back via the sandy tracks to the boardwalk.

Linking to:
Nature Notes
Wild Bird Wednesday

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Singing Redstart.

After a reasonable walk across open heathland this morning I entered a small patch of mixed woodland dominated by a few very old oak trees and listened for the distinctive song of a small migrant thrush recently arrived from Africa. Within a few moments my quarry, a male Common Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus), was located singing high overhead.
Unfortunately none of the three males I saw today offered a decent pose at a lower level so below is an unpublished image I took in June last year which shows off his gorgeous colours.

Linking to:
Wild Bird Wednesday


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