Sunday, 10 May 2015

Tales of Martins, Swifts, Wheatears and Wagtails

A busy week on the patch ,with a few squeezed visits in the week which resulted in 2 new species for the year list and also some nice birds which are passing through . At the start of the week Tuesday late afternoon was graced by a superb Yellow Wagtail which was still in the area and a rather washed out male Wheatear on a ploughed field . Also a good sighting was a flock of 150 plus Lesser Black Backed Gulls on the same ploughed field.
The Thursday was next notable sightings with the male Yellow Wagtail seen again and the first Swifts of the year with a party of 5 over the patch.
With family pressures it was a rather truncated visit on Saturday which resulted in the usual suspects been seen but with added bonus of  10 Sand Martins which went straight through north .This takes the number of species seen on the patch this year to 73,and we still have hopefully a few summer guests to arrive yet .
With the rather poor coverage so far this weekend Willow and  I were determined to survey the patch properly this morning and as a result we were out and about fairly early.
Overhead it was good to report that there seemed to be a few more Swallows of late with a healthy count of 32 plus over the patch this morning. They were kept company by 14 plus House Martins and a couple of Swifts. The counts for the Swallows and House Martins were both high spring counts so far this year.
Other birds which passed over were a Cormorant which passed south and a calling Yellow Wagtail which went due north. 3 Buzzards seemed to be in the process of just getting up but were soon soaring over the patch .
In the hedges and other areas of cover this morning were a good count of 9 plus Whitethroat, lower numbers of Blackcaps with 7 today, and also this was mirrored with just 5 Chiffchaff .Other Warblers present were 1 singing Willow Warbler and 2 Lesser Whitethroat. It nice to give the Bullfinch fan a mention as I managed to catch site of 1 today on the edge of the patch .The first for quite a while.
Over the pastures a healthy 8 plus Skylarks were singing, but I could only find 2 Stock Dove today.
Perhaps the oddest record for today was a high flying Curlew which called as it passed over. I did not see it so it must of been quite high ,perhaps it was a passing migrant ? .
The only other bird of note was a calling Green Woodpecker .Talking of unusual sightings a summer plumaged   Black Headed Gull seen on Tuesday was a very rare sight on the patch at this time of year.
So we are now standing at a species count of 73 for the year so far . The next few weeks are the most critical if we are to get to the magic 90 for the year so please let the bird gods be kind over the next few days .

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Migrants trickle in

As we hit the month of May summer migrants trickle through the patch albeit in low numbers so far apart from Blackcaps which seem to passing through in numbers at the moment. In complete contrast Swallows and House Martins are still in very low numbers and apart from the Cuckoos of last week I have not heard or seen another one yet, quite worrying .
That all been said the last week has brought us 3 new species including one of the stars of the patch. The 27th of April was a bank  holiday in Holland so after a late walk I had a very quick jaunt around the patch ,it brought a good record of a migrant Sedge Warbler from a ditch ,it is only the second record for the patch and as it turns out may be part of a influx to the local area ,a local birder on a neighbouring patch has also recorded the same species for the first time this week.
3 Little Egret passed over north and an unusual record for this time of year was that of a Jay which passed to the east.
A busy day on Wednesday meant that a very quick walk up the road ,as usual I was scanning all over and then the best bird of the week so far showed in the form of a stunning male Whinchat ,a real cracker of a bird .It was on the same hedgerow as ones I saw last year in the spring .That took us to the count of 70 for the year so far.
Thursday dawned and after work I managed to find a personal biggy for me in the  form of a brief Yellow Wagtail which I picked up by the call as it bombed over a hedgerow ,71 in the bag . Another migrant Sedge Warbler and a singing Lesser Whitethroat made up a brief but productive walk on the Thursday lunchtime.
The next time I managed to get out was Saturday and I was expecting a real cracker of a walk but in the end the list of birds was a slight disappointment .
A good search of the hedges and areas of cover found 6 plus Chiffchaff and a average number of Blackcap with 7 plus. Other warblers were a single singing Willow warbler , a single Lesser Whitethroat and a still low number of 3 Whitethroat, I am expecting more of the latter very soon.
On the pastureland 5 plus Skylark sang and a good number of 9 plus Stock Dove fed .
Overhead 8 plus Swallow passed over ,some bombing straight northwards .2 Raven called to each other and 8 House Martin were seen in the distance. An unusual sight was that of a single Mute Swan passing towards the river meadows
The best of the rest were a Green Woodpecker which called but was not seen and a Greater Spotted Woodpecker that passed over.
Sunday was a cold windy day ,very May like if you are in Iceland ,but we pressed on anyway.
In the hedges were 11 plus Blackcap ,but in truth I think there were many more, 4 Chiffchaff, the singing Willow Warbler , a slight increase of 5 Whitethroat ,including my local bird that sings just up from the cottage ,a nice total of 3 Lesser Whitethroat which wheezed and chacked from the cover .
A great sight was of 2 Yellow Wagtails near their usual haunt from last year ,and another male which called as it passed over towards the river meadows .
The most bizarre sighting so far this year was of a fine male Wheatear which passed over my head ,landed in an apple tree and then was off in a flash ,in all my years of birding I cannot remember seeing a Wheatear in a tree before.
A very brief bubbling Curlew was heard ,and there were more Skylarks than of late on the wing with up to 9 singing today. Again Stock Doves showed with 7 seen today.
Overhead just a single Swallow and House Martin  showed , they are scarce this year so far, where are they ?
The best of the rest were a Green Woodpecker on an apple tree and a vey wet Buzzard which was seen trying to dry out in the wind ,perched onto of a dead tree with its wings out stretched .
So this week we have jumped to 71 species for this year and we are waiting for some our summer guest still to arrive. The weather needs to change so I have my prayer mat out , hoping for some warm southerly winds.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Bl;ackcap Bounce

A busy week on the patch resulting a jump of 4 species to add to the patch list for the year. In the brief visits I managed in the week the first new year tick was in the form of the first 8 House Martins of the year over Town Street farm .Also of note on that day was a calling Curlew and a fine male Sparrowhawk.
I managed a quick blast onto the patch on Tuesday and Summer migrant numbers were still low but a flock of 6 Meadow Pipits  over to the north  were a surprise .A good garden tick came in the form of 2 rather juicy and sexy looking garden Bullfinch, the first for a few weeks now.
So Wednesday brought me one of the best birds that pass through in the spring and summer in the form of a fine looking male Wheatear which spent two days on a bare field just above the cottage before moving on .
So by the time Saturday arrived Willow and I were hitting the patch by 6.30am and it was obvious that there had been a fall of birds around the area.
The first bird we heard was a calling Green Woodpecker and it was kept company by a drumming Greater Spotted which was nearby.
The most plentiful bird of the day was 13 plus Blackcap which seemed to have arrived in force ,birds were singing from hedges trees and even the smallest areas of cover. Chiffchaffs had crept up a little with 7 plus been seen or heard and its close cousin the Willow Warbler numbered 2 .
A good bird to see were the 3 Lesser Whitethroat which kept the still low numbers of Whitethroats (2)  company .
Overhead 6 plus Swallow passed over and there were 7 House Martins over Town Street farm, still no passing Sand Martins yet though .
On the pastures were 2 Red Legged Partridge , one of which posed nicely on a fence post for awhile.4 Skylarks praised the heavens but their numbers seem down on last year . However Stock Doves seem to have increased on the patch as far as breeding birds are concerned.
A nice surprise was an over flying Little Egret which headed towards the river meadows from where the best sign of spring was heard in the form of a calling Cuckoo ,later on another Cuckoo passed over head flying strongly north .A great tick for the year and proof that spring has arrived.
The final sight of note was that of a Lapwing which moved north .That is very late sighting for this species on the patch even though they are at Coombe Hill Meadows and sometimes Ashleworth Ham both which are close to here.
On the raptor front just a single Buzzard today.
So Sunday dawned and I was full of hope that even more birds would of been dropped upon us, but alas it was not to be, but that been said the walk was not without its merits as the patch will always give you something to see.
A search of the hedgerows found 11 plus Chiffchaff ,so a few more than yesterday ,still 2 Willow Warblers ,both which are singing from the same areas as yesterday . Blackcaps numbered 10 plus today and there were 3 Whitethroats but no Lesser today. The best bird however was a singing Yellowhammer on the edge of the patch ,a bird which is sadly lacking from around here.
Overhead a few Swallows moved over but they numbered only 4 plus and 3 House Martins were still around Town Street farm. A surprise was a nice flock of 8 migrant Linnet which kept our resident pair company briefly. Winter still lingered in the form of 2 Meadow Pipits which sprang from the long grass ,both headed northwards quickly.
Around the feet of the cattle 3 Pied wagtails fed and 2 Red Legged partridges called from cover. The 4 Skylarks kept singing their heads off. Stock Doves numbered 10 today.
From the river meadows called a distant Cuckoo .
The raptor front came up trumps today with 6 Buzzard a female Kestrel and the 68th species of the year in the form of a superb Red Kite which drifted north just after midday.
The best of the rest were the usual Green Woodpecker, Greater Spotted Woodpecker.
So a busy week on the patch finishes and I expect a few more summer migrants will hopefully arrive next week, so Binos at the ready me thinks.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

So It Begins

After reading all week of large arrivals of summer migrants the patch has been fairly quiet, although Wednesday was enlivened by the return of one the best birds around here .The sound of the Curlew means that the spring has arrived in nearby river meadows. A few pairs manage to hang on down by the river so when I heard one calling it meant our species list jumped to 62 for the year.
 Other birds of note over the last week were a small passage of Willow Warblers with some singing near the cottage ,a vocal Little Owl in the early hours of Thursday morning . Blackcaps were noticeable with their song being the first  heard from the cottage since last spring. The last vestiges of winter were seen in the form of 4 Meadow Pipits on Wednesday, they will no doubt be the last ones until Autumn beckons once again .
 So it was not until Sunday was I able to get out with Willow so we were out by 7am. The walk started quietly enough and I was beginning to think how hard patch birding was especially with the plethora of birds being so near by ,but we persisted and a good search of the bushes and hedgerows resulted in the fact that a good number of Blackcaps had arrived and a good count of 9 plus been had ,the highest of the Spring so far this year. Chiffchaffs had arrived in smaller numbers but a high count of the  Spring this year was had with 6 plus. More will arrive in both cases in the next few days that's for sure.
A familiar song caught my ear and it resulted in finding the first 2 Common Whitethroat ( number 63 )   of the year. As I carried on the song of the Willow warbler rang out ,but in the event it was the only one of the day. A contrast against the last few days previous .
I searched an area in the hope of finding a Wheatear on one of the bare fields but to no avail ,but in one of the nearby hedges the rattle of the first of the Springs Lesser Whitethroat ( number 64 ) caught my attention.
I started to give some attention to what might be passing over and a nice count of 10 plus Swallow  zipped over. A little Egret passed towards the river meadows as did a small party of 3 Greylag geese. Aside from that the skies were a blank and I had hoped for a few birds been seen given the clouds that had been lacking over the last few days.
 On the pastures 2 Red Legged Partridges broke cover ,and a small count of just 4 Skylarks sang out. We do however seem to have our Linnets back with at least a couple of pairs around and 6 other birds passing over no doubt migrants just passing through on the way north . 8 Stock doves were around their usual haunts and a unseen Raven gronked , as if to advertise its presence.
A drumming Greater Spotted Woodpecker was heard as was at least 2 Green Woodpeckers ,their calls ringing across the patch .
On the raptor front just 2 Buzzards both were worming on a bare field. So we seem to rolling on the Spring bird front and I cannot wait to see what turns up over the next few days.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

An overdue update.

Its been two weeks since I updated the blog so sorry for the break in proceedings, life gets in the way sometimes ! .Last week was notable for just 3 things the lack of migrants in comparison to elsewhere, the addition of the 59 th species of the year for the patch in the form of a stunning male Yellowhammer and cracking view of a Little Owl in the daytime. I have to also confess that I have succumbed to the delights of Ashleworth Ham with its Garganey ,Cranes Swallows and Sand Martins. Its sometimes nice to have a little bit of east birding as patch birding can sometimes be soul destroying  (its also worth mentioning that I missed a Great Grey Shrike at Ashleworth as I was working ).
So Saturday was a different kettle of fish after a warm dry week with blustery showers a gusty wind and  a cooler feel to than of late.  As we finished our walk the weather was in a better frame of mind.
 Willow and I were out to find some summer migrants this morning as everywhere appeared to have been awash with birds this past week.
A good search of the hedges and bushes did find a slight increase in Chiffchaffs with 7 today and the best bird for me today was the first singing Willow Warbler of the year. Number 60 in the bag for the year. A surprise was the lack of Blackcaps they seem to late in arriving on the patch this year and so far we have had just a couple of birds pass through .
There did seem to be a bit of overhead passage and the first Linnets for months passed over with 25 plus this morning ,a  flock of 20 was nice to see. A small number of Meadow Pipits were on the deck with 6 this morning and its always a special moment when the first Swallows appear on the patch with 2 zooming through northwards .( 61 species ticked). .
On the pastures 10 Stock Doves were dotted about and at least 8 plus Skylarks were in fine voice. Its nice to report a Mistle Thrush at this time of year so maybe we have a pair in the vicinity or it could of been a migrant bird.
A Red Legged Partridge was heard but not seen and a Jay was seen near to the cottage. There were also a unruly gang of around 30 plus Lesser Blacked Backed and Herring Gulls on pastureland.
It was a good day on the raptor front with a female Kestrel, 2 Buzzard and a Sparrowhawk which was mobbed by the local Jackdaws.
The final birds of note were 2 Pied Wagtail at a nearby farm site
So we are at 61 species for the year so far and in  the next couple of weeks we can hope for it the jump up a bit. Heres hoping

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Spring Stalls as Winter hangs on

The last week on the patch has been very quiet with the main high light being a very brief singing Blackcap midweek , it has not been seen or heard of since so must of been in a hurry to carry on North. I had seen a couple in the winter so it may of been a departing bird or maybe an arriving summer migrant.
Apart from that a calling Tawny Owl was the only other real high light in a week short of any other summer migrants.
So when Willow and I hit the patch on Saturday we did not expect to find anything out of the ordinary .The weather was grey and breezy with the odd shower not very spring like at all !
The only Summer migrant that we are recording at the moment is small numbers of Chiffchaffs that are passing through at the moment. A bird seems to have set up territory in nexts doors orchard and as such is in fine voice. I managed to find 4 on Saturday including a bird in hedgerow after a sharp shower so maybe it was passing overhead and had been brought down by the rain .
The winter hangs on in the form of winter Thrush with a fine flock of 150 plus Fieldfare which have been feeding in the top fields , a single Redwing was heard passing over and a Mistle Thrush was in a tree near to the cottage. There appears to be plenty of singing Song Thrush around as well.
On the pastures 8 Stock Doves were seen and 5 Skylarks were singing their hearts out in the belief that spring must arrive soon.
The trickle of Pied Wagtails continues with 6 passing over. The best bird of Saturday was a very approachable Raven which seemed quite happy for Willow and I to stop and get a good luck .They really are massive when you see them on the ground  .
The best of the rest (it was a poor morning were a Green Woodpecker, Greater Spotted Woodpecker and 3 Buzzard.
With the clocks going forward and the start of British Summer time it was only normal for it to be smashing down with rain and a howling gale to be taking place.
I was pretty reluctant to go out but Willow can be pretty persistent and lays on the guilt trip so I was out the door by 8am.
It was more of the same fair really with a single Chiffchaff singing and plenty of resident bird song going.
Winter Thrush consisted of  92 plus Fieldfare and again a single Redwing.  On the pastures were a good count of 10 plus Stock Dove and Skylarks kept on singing with 6 doing their best in the  howling wind .
A small group of gulls consisted of 15 Lesser Black Backed, 5 Herring and 1 Common Gull feeding on sheep pasture. The only other birds of note on the fields were 4 Pied wagtails.
 On the raptor font a single Buzzard was seen worming and a large female Sparrow Hawk put the fear of God into the local Blackbirds.
An unusual sound was that of a calling Moorhen ,confirmation that our birds seem to have returned for the summer .
The usual Green and Greater Spotted Woodpeckers were noted. So a very quiet week ends and with the weather not looking good it might be the same this upcoming week.
The best birds of the week for me were 2 Common Crane which visited nearby Ashleworth Ham  on Saturday evening .They were  found by local birders Alan Hooper and Steve French aka The orchard Centre Crew , a good sighting and it was nice to chat to some local birders and just see whats going on the local bird scene Alan and Steve are building  a nice list at a young site and you can find Steves blog if you visit the Gloster Birder site. Although not on the local patch it was hard to resist not going to see them .

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Winters last /Summers first

The  last week has seen a few birds move through the patch with winters birds overlapping the first of the spring migrants.
On Wednesday in a quick lunch time dash on only part of the patch I found the first 3 Chiffchaff of the year ( number 57 for the year ) along the magic hedgerow , they were feeding quietly all in the same bush ,one bird looked very grey but I am not brave enough to claim a Sibe , along side them was another migrant Gold crest .They were obviously newly arrived birds as they fed very close to where I was standing ,unconcerned about my presence. also seen on my dash was another Sparrowhawk which passed over and a good count of 11 Buzzards were up enjoying the conditions. Add to that a pair of displaying Ravens and it turned out to be a good little half an hour.
So when Saturday arrived Willow and I were out by 7.30am .We emerged into bright sunshine if not a little colder than of late.
The first bird to hit the radar was a calling Green Woodpecker but as usual we did not see it ,we did however see another later on in the walk .The other member of the woodpecker family we see here The Greater Spotted got into the act with 1 drumming bird and then a flyover pair .
Winter Thrush have still been passing through and after seeing small numbers of Redwings  ( 1 to 5 birds), it was a surprise to find 28 plus birds including one flock of 21 that passed over due north. Fieldfares have been seen in just ones and twos of late so when  I entered the top field s I was not expecting a large flock of 141 plus ! They have been in much lower numbers of late so these must be passing migrants.
Along side them were a nice number of 9 Skylarks many of which were singing . A small number of 7 Meadow Pipits passed over north.
From somewhere in the hedges called a Red Legged Partridge and a nice showing of 8 Stock Dove was nice. After a few days of double figure counts of Pied Wagtails it was back to earth on Saturday with just 2 seen .I have not found a White wagtail yet in amongst the smart Pied yet.
After the winters absence it was great to hear the song of 4 newly arrived Chiffchaffs ,they will increase over the next few weeks, although looking back they were 3 days later than last year.
On the raptor front a female Kestrel was seen getting a good kicking from the local Jackdaws and 3 Buzzards were up and about. Species number 58 then appeared on the radar when a Little  Owl was heard calling from one of the old trees ,it must have had a bad night as it was calling at 8.45am.
A single Jay was seen flying strongly northwards. On the pastureland a good size flock of 30 plus Lesser Blacked Backed Gulls and 18 Herring Gulls were present.
 So with a good Saturday in the bag it seemed only right that we would find our first Wheatear on a grey but milder Sunday morning , well we didn't and overall it seemed a fairly quiet and disappointing walk, but as usual the patch will always find a little something to keep you coming back.
The first part of the walk was pretty quiet with very little to report apart from the good numbers of Skylarks which were singing, I counted 8 in the end. There appeared to be a few more Pied wagtails passing this morning but we still only counted a total of 6 in the end.
On the pastures were a Red Legged Partridge ,a count of 11 Stock Dove which is almost usual now.
As I neared the old orchard an unfamiliar song rang out ,I knew from  it somewhere  and it proved that I was right in searching the old grey matter when I saw a Redwing in full song .I had heard when in Northern Finland a few summers ago. In the end I counted just 4 Redwing in total will they be the last until the Autumn ?
As I walked further on a single Meadow Pipit passed over northwards, but my attention was then drawn to a further flock of 30 plus which landed a ploughed field. They seemed to have dropped from on high as I had not even clocked them until they were almost above me.
From the nearby trees and hedges 2 Chiffchaff  called there numbers down from yesterday ,no doubt the other birds had moved on.
Getting to the top fields I soon picked out a few Fieldfares but all of sudden they all erupted into the air and over 240 plus were counted along side 80 plus Starling ,at first I was annoyed with myself but suddenly realised it was not me that had put them to flight but a superb male Peregrine Falcon which screamed through the centre of the wheeling flock. Bloody fantastic !
The best of the rest were 2 Green Woodpecker, 2 Greater Spotted Woodpecker and 2 Buzzard.
 So winter birds still linger with us and the first summer migrants are starting to arrive and we found 2 new species for the year although I think we may be a bit behind last year at his same point.
Things should start to quicken up in the next few weeks, so in the words of Shaw Taylor "keep em peeled".