Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Wednesday 31st. December 2008

Before going visiting this morning , and in terrible light conditions , the 'chak-chak' of the Fieldfares sounded closer than other days .
From the back bedroom window , I could see three of them , on surrounding trees , making sure the coast was clear .
Eventually , they came closer and chased off the three Redwings that had been feeding on the berries .
Once sure of their safety , they got 'stuck in' and had a good feed . I thought they would stay around , and secreted myself amongst the shrubs once they had finished their first sorti .
Half an hour later , they were nowhere to be seen , not even heard , and I was frozen stiff . I returned to the back bedroom window , by the radiator , but they didn't show . A cousin of theirs did put in appearance on the garage roof , before decending to the path for a good helping of raisins .


Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Tuesday 30th. December 2008

As we unloaded the car after the monthly shop , I could hear Fieldfares , somewhere in the back gardens . The frost had not melted at all , so after putting out some fresh water for the birds , I tried to blend in to the shrubs down by next door's Cotoneaster bush and waited . Several times I heard them calling in the gardens 4/5 houses further up the road , but must have had a food supply up there , because they never came to the berries . A small flock of Redwings did nervously come to feed , but it was a bolted meal and run . I did manage one quick shot before they left .
By now , I was cold through , so I decided that before warming up , I would go back to Hayes Farm and see if I could get a shot of the white/black ducks . Walking through , I soon found the mixed Finch flock , which seemed to be larger today . Still just as difficult to get close to , as they would let you get so close , then fly off en mass to where you had just come from . I did get a shot of a female Linnet on the ground , but the rest were rubbish . Two male Pheasant were feeding on the remains of the maize crop , and in and around one of the horse paddocks , a flock of about 20/25 Redwings were nervously feeding , and amongst them 3 Song Thrush and several 'foreign' Blackbirds . Another mixed Thrush flock was feeding further along with the free range chickens around a manure heap . I caught one of the Redwings here on a break between sortis to the manure pile . On the path to the Trout Fishery , I was overflown by 8 noisy Rose Ringed Parakeets , and on the ground were large numbers of Woodpigeon and the odd Collared Dove . When I arrived at the Fishery , it was 90% frozen over , with just a small area of open water near a clump of Willows , and not a sign of the ducks I was looking for . But a 'whistle' alerted me to 3 Wigeon , two drakes and one duck , that were not there last time . The two Little Grebe were still present and were happily dive feeding in the open water . Eventually two of the Wigeon came a bit closer , but they were very wary of any movement .
I thought at one stage that I saw white plumage , well back in the Willow , and after a while , the three ducks appeared in open water . Once I saw them closer than before , I get the impression that they could well be 'bitsers' , as in bits of this and bits of that . When I saw them at distance the other day on the water , they looked more streaked black on white ground with yellow bills . For a small area of water so close to Bromley , it held these three , 3 Wigeon , 7 Mallard , 20+ Coot , 3 Moorhen , 2 Little Grebe , 2 Greylag Geese , 2 Canada Geese and about 10/15 White farmyard type geese , one pictured here with the Grelags .
Whilst looking for the three 'bitsers' , a Grey Heron flew in , but after thinking about landing , thought better of it and flew off again , only to be followed out of the woods by a Sparrowhawk . On my way back to the car I passed a mixed Tit flock moving through the trees on the edge of the wood , and amongst the Blue , Great and Long Tailed was a single Marsh Tit . By the time I got back to the car , the temperature was tumbling again , but it had been an enjoyable walk , and even though the ducks were not something special , I must remember to visit again on a clear Winter's day .

Monday, 29 December 2008

Monday 29th. December 2008

As the weather forecast is constant for the next few days , I decided to do the monthly bird survey at Down House , home of Charles Darwin , this morning . With the thermometer barely above freezing , I began wondering if it was such a good idea . The house is still close for refurbishment , so I had to park in the village and use the footpath to access the grounds . First job of the morning was shepherd , as one of the Jacob's Sheep had managed to squeeze out of a broken dog paddle next to a stile , and was wandering about on the footpath , fortunately flacked at this point by a hedge on each side . He didn't seemed bothered about my approach until I got within 10 mtrs. , when he raced to the hole he had used to make his escape , and just managed to get his body through . Most remarkable was the fact that he got his head , with one horn straight up and the other out sideways , through the hole without touching the sides . Just the other side of the stile another sheep was stuck fast with Bramble wrapped all around it . It had probably stuck for ages , but as soon as it saw me , it made a supreme effort and tore itself free . The excitement over , I started the survey which takes one and a quarter hours , and covers the fields , orchard and gardens . It was obvious after the large first field that numbers would be low , and so it was .
The full list was ; Blackbird (4) , Carrion Crow (6) , Chaffinch (2) , Dunnock (3) , Fieldfare (2) - settled briefly but flew on almost immediately , Goldcrest (2) - one in Holly on the edge of the cricket field , and this one that I spent minutes photographing , but this was the only half decent shot , Great Tit (1) , Green Woodpecker (2) , Great Spotted Woodpecker (3) - chasing around the cricket ground line abreast , Jackdaw (2) , Jay (1) , Long Tailed Tit (9) - I tried to photograph these in the orchard , but they just didn't stop , Magpie (3) , Rose Ringed Parakeet (7) , Robin (1) , Woodpigeon (6) and Wren (2) .
On my way back to the car , I found a flock of 14 Fieldfares in a field across the lane , and the odd one or two were coming down to ground to feed , at a distance . In the garden of the first house in the village a Nuthatch was calling .
I had to go to the yard up on the Greensand Ridge to drop something off , so I decided to call in at Bough Beech before heading home . If I thought it was cold earlier , standing on the Causeway was even colder . Half of the North Lake was frozen over , and very little was on the open water .
I did not stop there long , but did see a pair of Bullfinches flying along the Causeway and into the adjacent gardens , and also a Kingfisher , it's plumage electric in the sunshine . I made my way up to the Oast House , and looked in at the feeders . All the usual suspects were in attendance , but no sign of any Brambling . Down by the stream , a large lens was pointed towards the scrape , obviously had something interesting . I hovered around in the background , and eventually the female Bearded Tit came into view . She was feeding on the seedheads of Willowherb , occassionally moving off some distance , then returning . I stayed quiet and waited for the photo opportunity , but she always managed to stay within the seed heads , and was always on the move . I got my shots and left her to finish her lunch , whilst I set off home to get mine .
Ken , thanks for your offer of help with the white/black ducks , I will try for a photo in the next few days , it will probably make things easier .

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Sunday 28th. December 2008

Couldn't help but notice this morning , every time I looked at the feeders for that Winter rarity , in my dreams , a Dunnock , usually a secretive , retiring bird , was sat watching how the others were doing it . He occassionally hopped down to do a bit of clearing up under the feeders , but then returned to his 'watching perch' again .
Eventually , when the Finches retired to digest their meals , he made several abortive attempts to perch on the feeder . In the end , he managed to hang on , and was treated to a top class meal , rather than relying on scraps from the top table .
Needless to say , no Winter rarities turned up .
After lunch I set off for a look around Hayes Farm , not so much a working farm these days , it hosts Boot Sales throughout the year , and livery for many horses . It also has a small Trout fishery tucked away in the middle , and even on this cold afternoon , three intrepid anglers were trying their luck . I was cold enough walking around , never mind standing still in that biting wind , that takes dedication . On the said fishery there were Mallard , Coot , Moorhen , pure white Geese , a pair of Little Grebe and three strange looking ducks , white ground colour with black markings and yellow bills . Positively not male Smew or Goldeneye , but they never came close enough for a photograph . I shall have to pop back there again soon .
Walking around the fields , I came across another eight Rose Ringed Parakeets in an Oak tree , getting the last of the sun's rays . It is almost impossible to go out without seeing/hearing these birds anywhere around this area .
Large numbers of Woodpigeon were feeding on the ground in the horse paddocks , and a flock of about 50+ mixed Linnets and Goldfinches were constantly feeding and then retiring en mass to a tree behind some houses , before swooping down to feed again .
A small flock of eight Redwings flew over calling , but the flew on over the wood and disappeared from view .
Headed home by way of Keston Ponds to see if the Ringed Teal - thanks again Ken - was still about . There was no sign of it on the middle pond , where it was yesterday , but there was another strange looking duck . It will probably turn out to be some sort of Mallard hybrid as it was closely attended by a drake Mallard , but I haven't seen one like it before . I had a look at the lower pond , and found the Teal there , where it seems to have tagged on with the Mandarins .

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Saturday 27th. December 2008

I did do a local walk yesterday , but , given that the wildlife found was almost non existent , I did not post . The best seen was a Mistle Thrush and a Gt.Spotted Woodpecker , and it wasn't till I was almost back home , that the horse field on the bottom lane produced a mixed flock of Crows , Jackdaws and Rooks , to provide any numbers . I even popped in to the farm lake , hoping that something might have dropped in , but it was just Mallard , Coot , Moorhen and a single Grey Heron fishing in the shallows .
Really hard frost this morning , and a biting easterly wind . I had hopes of the conditions bringing something special to the gardens , but it wasn't to be . The usual appeared for the food , and we mixed in some fat , saved from the cooking over the last few days , and this was willingly taken as well . There are still some Cotoneaster berries left for the Waxwings , when they get here .
This morning , I set off for another look around High Broom Wood , near West Wickham . In previous years , it has been good for Siskins and Redpolls at this time of year , and once again I was rewarded with the Siskins , feeding on the seeds in the tops , all the way along the Alder lined Beck . I tried for some shots , but because of the height of the trees , approx. 75ft. , and the gloomy light conditions , it proved futile . I could not find any Redpolls this visit . I also tried to photograph a Goldcrest , but movement and light said no . No surprise that the most numberous bird was the Rose Ringed Parakeet , with some 15/20 charging noisily through the trees . At one point , the whole flock settled in one tree about 5mtrs. off the ground , but by the time I got to it , the majority had flown , leaving just this six posing for the photo . The gloomy conditions affected this shot too . I found one Redwing , sat high up , but no others came to join him . Long Tailed , Blue , Great and Coal Tits were all seen/heard , and Greenfinches and Chaffinches were few and far between . Crow , Magpie , Jay , Wren , Blackbird , Woodpigeon and Collared Dove made up the full list . Just as I was about to leave , from one of the adjacent gardens , came the Spring 'wee-wee-wee-wee' call of the Nuthatch , and when I got him in the bins , he had a Gt.Spotted Woodpecker sat right next to him . The Nuthatch was well out with his seasons , as I was perished when I got back to the car .
Before heading home , I called in at Keston Ponds , for ever the optomist , to see if there were any new arrivals . A quick look around the edges returned answer no , then I noticed a small duck heading for the bank . I'm certain it is an escapee , but seeing as it will probably be the only stranger I find there , I'm posting it anyway .
and for a size comparison ,
I have looked through Google images , and although I found two images of the same duck , neither named the species . Anyone got any ideas ?

Many thanks to Ken ***Disabled Birder Of Halling*** , who has identified the duck as a drake Ringed Teal , a native of South America , so a positive escapee . Apparantly , one of the most popular small ducks in collections . Thanks too for the reference info . Greenie .

Thursday, 25 December 2008

Thursday 25th. December 2008


This morning broke gloomy and dank , but we decided on a pre Christmas lunch walk , and set off to Kelsey Park , almost in the middle of Beckenham . We haven't been there for some time , mainly because it is always busy , but this morning's weather seemed to have kept many away .
The park is long and thin with a lake dividing the two thin park areas , surrounded by houses . Through the lake runs The Beck , after which Beckenham is named , and just as it leaves the park , The Beck enters a culvert , passes under the town , and is hardly seen until it reappears out of a culvert in Cator Park .
The most noticable thing on the lake was the raft of Black Headed Gulls ( est. 120/140 ) noisily anticipating each walker as a prospective feeder with a surge towards them , only to resume their raft formation when dissappointed , hoping the next one would provide food .
Because the birds rely on visitors bringing food , they are much more willing to approach the banks , making photography much easier . This was the case with a pair of Tufted Ducks .
As we walked around the bank , we came across a really heady perfume , and tracked it down to a shrub in flower . I don't know what it is , but to be in full flower in these conditions was unusual .
A bit further on was a very smart looking male Pochard .
Almost in the centre of the lake is a small island , which the Herons have turned into their home . I am not certain , but I think this is the second largest Heronry in Kent after Northward Hill , with some 15/20 nesting pairs in most years . Some of the nests can be seen in this shot , and already , some of the residents are claiming squatter's rights .
All around the lake are notices not to feed the Canada Geese , and their mess covers the walkways . I believe the Council are attempting to control their numbers by pricking some of their eggs . One thing they do save is lawnmowing , as a flock of 50/75 were seen this morning , nibbling away at the manicured lawns .
Two Cormorants were seen , one fishing at the far end of the lake , and one 'drying off' after no doubt having caught his breakfast . Mind you , drying would take a considerable time in this morning's conditions .
Other species seen included Mallard , Coot , Moorhen , Greylag Goose and Kingfisher ,

and he had also caught his breakfast .

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Tuesday 23rd. December 2008

As I went into the back garden this morning , the birdsong was reminiscent of Spring , with Song Thrush , several Robins , two Collared Doves and the constant jabbering of the Finches . Talking of which , they were lined up in the adjacent trees , just waiting for breakfast to be distributed . This was just one Ash tree overlooking the garden . As soon as I closed the gate and came inside , they were down .
I spent the morning doing a few chores around the house , and after lunch , set off to find the High Elms Hawfinch and Firecrest , in my dreams .
A two hour walk proved very quiet , apart from the usual Rose Ringed Parakeets breaking the silence with their squalking . Not a single Winter Thrush was seen or heard , a few Corvids and a few Tits provided some distraction , but the majority of the time , there was just nothing about . Not surprisingly on the Conservation field , where contractors are putting up perimiter fencing , presumably with the intention of grazing in future years , which will be good for the butterflies . On the edge of the Golf Course near the Beech Walk I spotted a Thrush , but it turned out to be a Song Thrush , sitting very quietly in a Hawthorn bush . By the time I got to the golf practice area , I was really hoping to find something on the ground , but all the area could muster was a Magpie . I headed back to the car , and although it was not 3 o'clock yet , the light was fading very quickly . Passing under a large Sweet Chestnut , I found another two Thrushes , sitting quietly , within 3 metres of each other . Still not our Scandinavian visitors , just one each of their English cousins .
On the very next tree , I found two specimens of Pleurotus ostreatus=Oyster Mushroom . The first , a very fresh young specimen , and the second , at it's full grown stage .
On the way home , I called in at Keston Ponds to see if the Goosander or Goldeneye had turned up yet . Answer no there , but there were three pairs of Mandarins , for once not hidden away , because a family had just been feeding them . The males colours really cheered the afternoon up and I was thinking that they do not seem to have dulled down at all in colour , still looking as vibrant as if in breeding plumage .
With evening gloom fast enveloping , I made my way home .

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Sunday 21st. December 2008

So , the sun finally rose on the dawn of the day of ' The big erection at Pittswood' .
But , enough of that , it wasn't happening until after lunch .
The big question of the morning was , will the male Brambling put in an appearance . Once the food was put out , it was long before the Finches started zeroing in from all directions . At one stage , the Laburnum tree next door and the feeders in our garden , held a count of over 25 Goldfinches . Chaffinches on the ground and on feeders , exceeded that number . Greenfinches were more numerous than of late , with a count of 11 . Collared Doves (6) , Woodpigeon (5) . Starling (9) , Coal Tit (1) , Robin (2) , Jackdaw (7) , Dunnock (2) , Blackcap-male (1) , Rose Ringed Parakeet (4) , Blackbird (3) , Song Thrush-singing (1) , Blue Tit (2) , Great Tit (2) , Wren (1) , Magpie (3) , Carrion Crow (1) and Redwing - in the Cotoneaster (2) , all put in an appearance , but the Brambling did not .
Disappointed , I got the few bits and pieces together for 'The erection' , and left a bit early , to call into Sevenoaks Wildfowl Reserve / Kent wildlife Trust , site on the way . I didn't have long , but managed a quick look around , and came to the conclusion that there a lot of Lapwings and Black Headed Gulls about . Grey Heron , Cormorant , Tufted Duck , Pochard and Coot , were also seen .
A couple of the more common species , and one less common , were seen around the feeders behind the Visitor Centre .

On leaving Sevenoaks , I made my way to Pittswood for the alotted time , and 'The erection' began . I won't say too much , but , when it was in place , to my mind , two words came into the frame . One was 'dog's' and the other was 'swingers' .