Monday, 30 April 2012

Golden Wonder

Monday 30th April 2012 Mild (13C), N/E breeze F4, dry and sunny. I started with a Nightingale survey this morning, 5am just north of the main Thornden Woods. The west half of the tetrad stretches out to Chestfield Golf Club, and I located 4 Nightingales in thick hedgerows away from the woods. The eastern half was even more productive, with a minimum of 12 Nightingales singing. On more than one occasion recently I have come to realise that it's important not to rush through the tetrad, walking slowly or standing quietly for a few minutes can often reveal a bird which wasn't singing on initial approach to an area. As well as the general 'buzz' from finding so many singing birds, on walking across the fields at the top of Knockhimdown Hill a came across 7 Wheatears and 2 Whinchats in one small area. After a short trip home for breakfast I headed out to Shuart for a walk out to the coast to look for migrants. I managed 2 Wheatears, a selection of warblers and 2 Yellow Wagtails on the path north. By now it had warmed up, so I hid my jacket under a bush, to be collected later, and continued wandering around. Shortly afterwards I received a text from the wife asking to be picked up from a friend's house, so my trip was short-lived. I had lunch then set off to West Brook Valley, but it was very quiet. I was just thinking of taking a trip to the towers when I received a txt from Chris Hindle advising me of a male Golden Oriole at Shuart. I ran all the way to the car and got to Shuart as quick as possible, and set off up the track to the railway line. Taking time to look in the clearings along the hedge, I suddenly noticed the oriole flying distantly across some fields.
I relocated it in a bush beyond the hedges, and managed a couple of snaps of it, but then a cyclist came haring down the path and the oriole flew off to the railway embankment bushes. Next was a trip up to the Reculver towers to look for Wheatears to photograph. However, just after leaving the car I was looking at a Snow Bunting feeding near the rocks. This is the latest migrant Snow Bunting seen at Reculver.
I finished the day with a short visit to Chambers Wall, where the highlight was a sighting of a Stoat at close range. Of course, as I lifted the camera it disappeared into the hedge.

Friday, 27 April 2012

Sedge Warbler count

Friday 27th April Bright, mild, dry with a strong southerly breeze F5-6 Last weekend I enjoyed a long walk round the east of the Reculver area, and there were good numbers of warblers singing. During the week my friend Tim Hodge expressed 'surprise' at the count of 30+ Sedge Warblers recorded. Knowing Tim well, I take this to indicate suspicion of doubt, and I admit it was an estimate, there were so many I hadn't counted methodically. This morning, as it was too windy to carry out a decent Nightingale visit, I spent 4 hours re-visiting the area I walked last weekend, with the intention of counting the birds with more deliberation. I had to know, was it over-enthusiasm, duplication or errors made in the recognition of a Sedge Warbler song, or were there really that many Sedges in the area. The strong winds blowing across the marsh meant there were far fewer birds in general displaying and singing, and it was much harder to hear birds away from the path. I was very careful to ensure each bird recorded was a different bird, which isn't too hard with Sedge's, they tend to stay in one small area while singing. I am greatly encouraged to have counted the following on my morning's walk: 2 Swifts, 6 Swallows, 1 Grey Wagtail, 4 Yellow Wagtails, 2 Lesser Whitethroats, 24 Whitethroats, 1 Cetti's, 2 Willow Warblers, 3 Chiffs, 4 Blackcaps and 34 Sedge Warblers. Several areas there were no Sedge's singing today, yet I know they are normally present. This afternoon I had a pleasant walk round Denge Wood, where the wind wasn't quite so intrusive. Not far into the woods I could hear a Tree Pipit singing, and a pair of Common Buzzards flew over. Warblers heard were Chiffchaff, Willow, Blackcap and 2 Garden Warblers, my first this spring. Butterflies seen were several Peacocks, 1 Brimstone and a few restless Orange-tips. With much patience I managed a few photos.
This evening I had a Hobby fly over Boughton golf course.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Nightingale survey begins

Sunday 22nd April Cold (4 C), light breeze, clear skies. I decided to make the most of the good conditions this morning to survey one of my tetrads for the Nightingale survey. Although it was forecast to be a bit breezy and quite cold, the rest of the week looks a lot worse, so I was up at 3.30am all set to be at Clowes Wood at first light. Leaving the house there wasn't a breath of wind, and from the garden I could distantly hear a Nightingale singing. As I arrived at the car park at Clowes, just after 4 o'clock, I realised I had mis-judged what time first light was in late April! It was still pitch-black. However, as soon as I got out the car I could hear 2 Nightingales singing, so I set off in the dark. By the time I had covered the tetrad and returned to the car at 8am, I had recorded 7 singing Nightingales. I also heard and saw several Tawny Owls, and a couple of Woodcocks flew over just before 5am. After breakfast I ventured out again, taking a short walk at Shuart. Birds seen and heard were pretty much the same as recently, but the highlight today was my first Orange-tip Butterfly, a lovely male restlessly flapping along the edge of the path, not pausing to be captured by the camera.

Saturday 21st April

Saturday 21st April Cold (6 C), very calm, overcast and some drizzle. I reached Chambers Wall this morning at 6am, and spent a little time listening around the car park. Plenty Whitethroats and Sedge Warblers singing. I walked up to the railway line, adding a couple of Chiffchaffs, and then 2 Willow Warblers could be heard singing in the distance. As I waited at the crossing the Willow Warblers appeared beside me and carried on west along the embankment. I walked east up to Plumpudding stables, counting many more Whitethroats and Sedges, plus 2 Blackcaps and another Willow Warbler. 2 Green Sandpipers flew over calling, dropping down into the dykes at the swan's neck. There were 5 Tufted Duck and 3 Shoveler on the open water, and a female Marsh Harrier out hunting. I could hear a Cetti's singing as I passed Shuart, and then I saw my first 2 Yellow Wagtails this year, flying around over the fields. On reaching the coast I walked back west towards Coldharbour. There were few birds around apart from more Sedge's along the coastal dykes, a steady trickle of Meadow Pipits flying west, and 3 Whimbrel west. Out on the beach were 3 Brent Geese, and 4 Sand Martins flew west. Back at the car park there were 2 Lesser Whitethroats singing, and a few Swallows flying back and forth along the Wantsum. I had half an hour over at Shuart before heading home, hoping for a few butterflies as the sun warmed the air, but I only saw a single Green Veined White.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Chilly Saturday

Saturday 14th April 2012
Dry, some cloud, cold N/E breeze 6 - 8 C

At last the weekend is here, so I was up at Reculver around 6.30am this morning. I chose Shuart for my morning walk, and wrapped up against the cold wind, set off north.

Walking past the farm I heard Fieldfares calling, and picked out 2 birds at the top a tall tree for a few minutes before they flew north.

Early activity was mostly counting Chiffchaffs and Blackcaps singing, a couple of Sedge Warblers were singing by the pools, and a Cetti's in the usual spot singing away. As the path opened out at the end of the hedges I spotted a distant harrier over by the riding stables, and with the bins I watched a ringtail Hen Harrier fly fast east, then cut inland through Brooksend. Also in the area were 2 or 3 Marsh Harriers.

I walked west along the embankment until reaching the Chambers Wall crossing, adding a few Swallows and Whitethroats to the list. At least 4 Kestrels could be seen hunting, and 2 Sparrowhawks were also seen. A Willow Warbler sand briefly near the car park.

I carried on my circular route along Potten Street Road back to Shuart, adding a few more to the numbers of warblers and Swallows, and an unusual sight of a Grey Heron sitting in the middle of a wheat field, but little else.

This afternoon I took a walk in Church Woods, hoping for a butterfly or two, but I failed to see any at all. I did hear a few Chiffs and Blackcaps, and loads of Willow Warblers, which were nice. Also a pair of Sparrowhawks displaying.

Whilst watching a warbler singing I heard a rustle of leaves beside me. I looked down and a grass snake was making it's way through the leaf-litter.

Later at home I was tidying up the garden when I disturbed a Slow Worm.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Good Friday birding

Friday 6th April
Very cold start, light N winds, bright and sunny and dry.

After scraping the ice from the windscreen this morning I drove towards Reculver for a bit of fresh air. The sun was so bright I chose Shuart this morning, so when I set off I would have the sun behind me for the first couple of hours.

There were plenty of birds singing around the farm, including several Chiffchaffs and a couple of Blackcaps.

A Cetti's and a few more Chiffs were singing as I made my way north to the railway crossing, but little else in the way of migrants. April at Reculver can be really slow going if there is a north wind blowing, and today was a typical early spring day.

I walked west, eventually reaching the Chambers Wall crossing, adding little to my list for the day, though it was a pleasant walk. I was debating whether to retrace my steps, walk back along the coast, or head inland when Chris Hindle rang to say there was a drake Goosander off Coldharbour, so decision made I went north again. Goosander is a scarce bird in the area, and to see a drake at close range would be a bit of a treat.

On reaching the lagoon I could see the Goosander resting on a part of the shingle in Coldharbour itself. A rare opportunity for a photo.

The return journey to the car was long and rather dull, though a flock of 60+ Sanderling was nice as it flew past, I suspect they were disturbed by the dog-walkers letting their dogs run along the beach at high tide scaring everything away.

After lunch, it was such a nice day I took myself over to Denge Wood. I was hoping for a few butterflies, as my year list is stuck on 6 at the moment (Red Admiral, Peacock, Small White, Small Tortoiseshell, Comma and Brimstone).

The woods were empty, and it was so peaceful, and nice to get out the chilly wind. Birdsong was mostly provided by many Chiffchaffs, and a few Goldfinches flew over. After about half an hour I reached a mixed woodland area with short grass and flowers. Here there were a few Peacocks in immaculate condition.

Apart from 1 Small White seen a little later, these were the only butterflies on the wing. I could hear a pair of Nuthatches singing and calling loudly, and with a little patience they landed nearby. A bit far off for a decent photo, but a record shot was quite nice.

During the next few hours I had a Crossbill fly over, a Tawny Owl calling and a number of tits, including a pair of Marsh Tits. All in all it was a really relaxing and enjoyable afternoon.