Saturday, 31 January 2009

Saturday 31st.January 2009

Down House , the home of Charles Darwin , which I am told , will be the UK's sole submission for World Heritage site status , in this the 200th. anniversary of his birth , was my target today , to do the bird survey , which along with all the other surveys , will form part of that submission .
It was a sunny but bitterly cold morning , and everything was quiet on site prior to the re-opening of the revamped displays in the house in two weeks time .
The bird count was very quiet as well with only 14 species recorded . The best of the day were two mall flocks of Winter Thrushes , both overflying , one of 9 Fieldfare and 1 Redwing , and the other of 11 Fieldfare . The second flock landed briefly in an Oak behind the cricket pavillion , but took off again almost immediately . I did manage a distant shot of the 'tail end Charlie' of this flock , but a second later , he too was gone . 2 Green and 3 Great Spotted Woodpecker were recorded , and it was also a low 2 for the ever present Rose Ringed Parakeets . Since my last visit , I noticed that the tree surgeons have done a large amount of work on their nesting tree , probably because it is on The Sandwalk , much walked by visitors to the site . It will be interesting to see if the RRPs use it this year , or choose another , of which there are many , trees with damage , making ideal nest holes . The rest of the sightings were the normal common species recorded on each visit , but I did have a very melancholy Mistle Thrush singing , but unfortunately he was outside the recording area .
In the orchard , amongst the fruit trees are a couple of Hazels , and probably because they are more protected , had much more advanced female flowers than those I posted yesterday . One of these female flowers was sure to be pollinated , as it was directly above the male catkin , and in this shot you can see the male flowers in the catkin , which produce the pollen .
Some might remember my encounter with the Jacobs sheep that had escaped onto the adjacent footpath . I tried to explain it's horns , but with the camera back , managed to get a shot of the strange configuration . Like at Rouse Farm , a few of the ewes have already had their lambs , and I promise this will be the last shots for the year of lambs .

I thought this last one hadn't made it , but with binoculars I could see it was breathing and shortly afterwards , it was bouncing along beside it's mum .
On the way home , I stopped off at the Common to make sure the fire left following yesterday's work day was OK . Always a problem leaving a fire on a public area , especially as this one was so close to a car park , but all was well . Whilst working there yesterday , another Wasp Spider egg sack was found . The light was not good then , so I went back and photographed it today . This one is lighter in colour than those found in previous years andis still 'plugged' at the top-open end . I will keep an eye on it in the Spring , and post any changes .
Finally , whilst walking in the sunshine , in areas where moss was growing , there appeared to be a carpet of red/orange , raised up above the green of the moss . I'm not sure if they are new shoots or flowers . Any ideas ?

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Thursday 29th.January 2009

Well , I've finally got it back , and nakedness , hopefully , will be a thing of the past . My camera arrived back today , and as we had finished our work earlier than anticipated , I got the opportunity to get out and abouit this afternoon to make sure things were working properly .
My first stop was Keston Ponds , where the 'Friends of Keston' had just finished clearing up all the rubbish deposited in and around the ponds by anglers and other visitors . The Mallard type numbers have gone up to over 30 and an additional Canada Goose brings them up to 4 . I could only find 5 Mandarins , 1 female short from last visit . Three of them , 2 males and a single female ,were asleep on a branch , just above the water line .
Also still around is the male Ringed Teal . He is never still , paddling from one end of the pond to the other , with those stumpy short legs .
The other usual suspects were around in their usual numbers .

Near where I parked the car , I noticed that the catkins on the Hazel bush were well open , so I stopped to see if any of the female flowers were out yet . It took some searching , but eventually

I found the odd one or two flowers just bursting bud , and you can see the pollen released from the male catkins on the female flower and bark , blown by the wind . These pollinated female flowers , if allowed , will go on to produce the Hazel/Cob nuts .
The camera was working fine , so I decided on another try for the Stonechats on the Bridleway at Rouse Farm . In the field below what was the milking parlour , the 2 Mistle Thrushes were fossicking on the ground , in almost the same spot as last time . At the other end of the field , 3 Redwing were feeding on the ground , the first I have seen for a little while now . The noisy pair of Rose Ringed Parakeets were in their Oak at the dog-leg in the Bridleway . As I approached the old fence line where I first saw the Stonechats , I saw a movement in the hedge , but it turned out to be a pair of Wrens , who noisily scolded me for interupting them . I scanned the fence line and the hedges both sides , but no sign of the Stonechats , but I did get distant views of a Sparrowhawk being seen off firstly by a Magpie , then a pair of Carrion Crows , until it was off their patch .
In the field beyond the hedge , the 6 ewes now have 6 lambs , but are still segregated , for some reason from the rest of the flock .It isn't because they are the only ones with offspring , as in other fields , I estimated 12/15 lambs that I could see , and probably more that I couldn't . I noticed quite a few Carrion Crows in attendance in those fields , no doubt waiting to do the cleaning up . Most young were singletons , but I did see two sets of twins .

On the way home , I stopped off at the Common , but things were very quiet , but I'll be up there working tomorrow , so might find something then . By now the sun was dropping and so was the temperature , so I made my way home .

Monday, 26 January 2009

Monday 26th.January 2009

After yesterday's terrible weather , today was my only opportunity to get out and about , as I have four days volunteering coming up starting tomorrow .
The sun was shining , surely one of Steve's Bitterns would put in an appearance . As I drove down to New Hythe , the sun was enveloped in a blanket of cloud which seemed to be ever thickening . I arrived just after 10 o'clock , and made my way straight to the reed bed . The saturated ground necessitated wellies , not my favourite footware , especially on a cool morning . I got into position and waited , scanning the reed bed opposite . I was treated to a Kingfisher flypast and also a pair of Great Crested Grebe doing their 'walking on water , facing each other , with a bill full of weed, whilst waggling the head from side to side' bonding dance . I would have had no chance with the Kingfisher , but the two Grebes were only 20 metres away and would have made a great shot , if I had a camera . Before leaving , I chased them again , and they say I should have it back before the weekend . I gave it well over an hour , but with no movement at all , set off around the area . In the Alders on the end of Millstream Lake , a flock of about 10/12 Siskins were noisily feeding , then joined by another 15/20 whilst I was watching them . A little later , another small flock joined them , and when they eventually flew off , they must have numbered 40/50 .
Heading towards the railway , almost directly behind the Bittern's reed bed , a Cetti Warbler burst into full song , but did not show itself , and almost immediately , a Green Woodpecker flew across in front of me and settled in one of the larger trees in the scrub area . Nothing unusual on the way down to the river , which looked as if the tide had just turned and was rushing back towards the sea . Along the river path , many Bullfinches were heard , but only one female seen . Where the tributary joins the main river , a flock of about 15/20 Redshank took off calling and headed back down the tributary . Just before the wooden bridge , another Cetti Warbler started to sing , but stopped as quickly as it started . The Sunken Marsh was as quiet as a grave , and little was seen until a flock of about 20/25 Lapwing , wheeling behind the Paper Mill , looking as if they were going to settle at Holborough .
At the end of the millstream , at the entry to the car park , a Chiffchaff was quietly feeding amongst the dead water vegetation . Further down , a small flock of Goldfinches were seen feeding on Teasle and by the Treatment Works a flock of Long Tailed Tits were working their way along the waterside bushes .
I arrived back at the Bittern viewpoint full of hope , but even though I put in another hour and a half , no Bittern was seen . A Little Grebe showed up tight against the reeds and a pair of Great Spotted Woodpeckers flew over . Dissapointed , I made my way back to the car and headed for Lunsford Lane . Parking up , I made my way between Alders Lake and the small fishing lake without seeing anything exciting , unless you would put dozens and dozens of Coot in that bracket . On reaching Lunsford Lane again , I followed the Millstream , which was more like a mountain torrent . Halfway towards the bend , I found a flock of six Redpoll and had very good views .In the woods behind the millstream I found another three , but they could have been some of the previous six .
Back at the car I thought I was too close to not attempt to see the Waxwings at East Malling . I found the church and along the footpath met a chap on his way back . He said that they were not here but had been told that they were on the adjacent housing estate . As he knew where to go ,I I followed him and we found the site , but no Waxwings . We split up looking , but nothing . I went back to the car and back to the churchyard and after a little while , located 15 Waxwing in a tree , just inside the Research Station in brilliant sunshine . There were also good numbers of Fieldfare about , but the cloud rolled in again , and I made my way home . Thanks Adam for the info on the Waxwings , given the amount of food available to them in Apples at the Research Station and berries in the gardens , I can't see them needing to come my way at all , so it was good to get a good show today .

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Sunday 25th.January 2009

Having spent yesterday's beautiful weather hedgelaying below the Downs in deepest Surrey , it meant that the Garden Birdwatch was done in absolute foul conditions this morning .
Needless to say , as in previous years , the final list did not do justice to the normal visitor's list on the average day . Seven bankers did not put in an appearance . Blue , Great and Coal Tit , Wren , Goldfinch , Magpie and Gt.Spotted Woodpecker all decided to eat elsewhere this morning . Having had counts of 30+ Chaffinch , today was really low .
Twelve species decided to dine here during the one hour watch , they were :
Blackbird 4 , Chaffinch 7 , Collared Dove 3 , Robin 2 , Greenfinch 1 , Jackdaw 7 ( one with a metal ring on left leg ) , Rose Ringed Parakeet 1 , Feral Pigeon 2 , Dunnock 1 , Song Thrush 1 , Woodpigeon 2 , and the star turn , a Goldcrest , which posed nicely on the feeders , if you had a camera to take the photo .
In answer to Ken's question on my last post , the Rose Ringed Parakeets are regular visitors to the garden and feeders . Today's one was feeding on the Sunflower hearts . Several gardens have feeders in the vicinity , and the largest count of Rose Ringed Parakeets was 17 in the garden next but one to us , about 2/3 years ago .

Friday, 23 January 2009

Friday 23rd. January 2009

Once the morning deluge abated , I took myself off for a local walk . I thought I would try again , to see if the Stonechats were around . In one of the large fields , I had good views of a pair of Mistle Thrush , feeding on the ground . Two Rose Ringed Parakeets were in the Walnut tree near the farmhouse , and another two were in the Oak tree at the dog-leg in the bridleway .
All was still as I got to the area where I saw the two Stonechat nearly a week ago now and even after spending some time scouring the adjacent hedges and fencelines , there was no sign , probably moved on .
It wasn't a wasted journey though , because as I walked on further , in the field on the right , I came across my first lambs of the year . There were five ewes , each with a singleton offspring . A sixth ewe was a good distance away , looking as if she was to become a mother at any time .
The main flock of sheep had been taken off the last field I saw them in , probably because it was like a bog , and were tightly grouped in another , drier field .
Not a lot else was seen apart from the occassional Corvid , Finch and Tit . As I walked through the wood on the way home , as Warren said the other day , the Bluebells are pushing through well , and the Lesser Celandine is in leaf , but as yet , no flowers .
Still no camera , but a day hedgelaying near Dorking tomorrow , who knows ?

Tuesday, 20 January 2009

Tuesday 20th.January 2009

Volunteering was cancelled as the Warden had to be elsewhere today . I set off this morning over the Common making for Keston Ponds . Very little to record en route , and when I got to the Ponds , the road between the middle and lower pond was being resurfaced . Any wildlife was found as far distant as possible from the commotion going on . The Ponds are now completely free of ice , but now littered around the shallows are all the branches , trunks , bits of post and rail fencing , in fact anything that could be thrown onto the ice , was , and what didn't sink on thawing , is floating there . A bit like the Kent beaches will look like if the tide brings in all that timber from the Russian ship . Anyway , many of the pre-freeze residents have returned including the Ringed Teal and four pairs of Mandarin . Also making up the numbers , 3 Canada Geese , 8 Moorhen , 6 Coot , 19 Mallard type , the white fronted brown duck , the Aylesbury type duck , the 2 Muschovy type ducks and 3 Black Headed Gulls .
As things are so quiet , I'm taking the oportunity to expand on a comment from John/Go Wild in Kent , following my last post , regarding fungi .
I mentioned that I had looked for a fungi that might have been fruiting , and John hadn't realised that fruiting was occurring at this time of year .
Although Autumn is considered 'fungi time' , with over 3,000 species in Great Britain , there are always some species fruiting or sporulating , at any given time .
Breifly , from an amateur enthusiast , what we see as fungi/mushrooms/toadstools , is only the fruiting body of the organism , which produces the spores , which then drop or shoot out of the fruit , to carry on the species .Given the right conditions , and the organism is at a sexual stage of it's development , the fruits are formed .The fungi organism lacks chlorophyll , and therefor has to feed off other materials , live or dead trees , roots or buried rotten wood etc.
The fungus organism is a mass of fine hairs , called hyphae . These develop into a network, called the mycelium , within the host material . Much of this mycelium cannot be seen without a microscope , but more robust material , like that which enables Honey Fungus or Boot-lace Fungus-Armillaria mellea to spread , can be found under the bark of infected trees .

The following are a few examples of fungi fruits , found at this time of year . The shots were taken over the past few years .
Sarcoscypha coccinea-Scarlet Elf Cup , taken at High Elms last year ( Early Winter/Early Spring)This was the one I was looking for the other day .
Xylaria hypoxylon-Stags Horn or Candle-snuff Fungus ( All year round ).
Flammulina velutipes-Velvet Shank ( Late Autumn-Spring ) .
Piptosporus betulinus-Birch Polypore or Razor-strop Fungus ( All year round ).
Crucibulum laeve-Common Birds Nest ( Autumn / Early Spring )
Common is in the name , but believe me it isn't . The twig the fungi is on is thinner than a little finger .
Daldinia concentrica-King Alfred's Cakes or Cramp Balls ( All Year ) .
Daedaleopsis confragosa-Blushing Bracket ( All Year ) .
Many of the 'bracket' fungi can be found all year round .
I do hope I haven't been 'telling too many Grannies or Grandads how to suck eggs' .
Last comment , amazing how the feeders have been less busy since the cold snap finished .

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Sunday 18th.January 2009

A crisp sunny afternoon sent me off to High Elms Country Park for a two hour walk . The walk was fine , but very short on wildlife .
As usual , Rose Ringed Parakeets were most numerous , but followed very closely by Magpies . Several Nuthatch were seen/heard , some giving their Spring 'whee,whee,whee' call and some their 'keeping in touch call' , similar to a Blue Tit and just one with the normal 'twit,twit,twit' call . Just below Burnt Gorse , I came across a flock of 10/12 Long Tailed Tits , who were quite prepared to feed within 2 mtrs. of where I stood .
No sign of the Common Buzzard beyond Burnt Gorse , but as I went looking for it , I put up two Roe Deer in the woodland above . I didn't get a chance to see their gender , just their back ends at pace away from me .
I had a look for fungi that I have found there in previuos years , Sarcoscypha coccinea-Scarlet Elf Cup and although this is it's fruiting time , there was no sign as yet .
At the Conservation Field , the fencing is finished now , and I would like to think that the field will be grazed in future , rather than cut and taken off . Grazing will make it more beneficial for butterflies , but it is also managed for orchids and there is a five bar gate giving 12ft. access at one end , we will have to wait and see .
The odd Robin , Song Thrush , Wren , Blue and Great Tit made up the rest of what was seen , not a great deal .
On the way home , I called in at the Farm Lake , primarily to see if the Coltsfoot , which grows there prolifically was showing , following the photo posted by Steve/Kingsdowner yesterday . Unfortunately , the area has been strimmed by the gardener very recently , but even so , there was no sign of growth yet . My book says Feb/April in flower , so given the severity of this Winter , Steve's finding is unusual .
There were no surprises on the lake , with 1 Grey Heron , 15 Mallard type , 1 Coot and one Moorhen . I thought one or more of the Mandarins , which seem to have vacated Keston Ponds , might have taken up residence , the odd one has done so in the past , but nothing this time .
I couldn't return home without checking out the Stonechats that I found yesterday . I parked at the end of the Bridleway and walked in from there . Two things were different from yesterday .There was a fresh wind blowing across the fields and there were several groups of people passing along the Bridleway . I scanned the fenceline in the quiet periods , but I did not find them . I shall try again soon .

Saturday, 17 January 2009

Saturday 17th. January 2009

I must admit , I was quite pleased that it was a Saturday off from hedgelaying when I saw what was outside the curtains this morning . The wind howling and rain lashing , finishing up with hail . Eventually the clouds cleared away and the sun came out , so after lunch , I set off on a local walk .
All the birds seemed to think Spring had arrived and were singing their heads off , especially the Great Tits .
On the Bridlepath near Rouse Farm , a Wren was busily working it's way along the hedge , quite oblivious of my presence . Whilst watching it , I noticed a movement in the field beyond , which turned out to be a Mistle Thrush feeding in an area recently vacated by the sheep flock . Past the farmhouse and down between the recently flail butchered hedges , things were very quiet until I noticed something bob down onto the path and back up onto the hedge , at a distance and by eye , looking like a Robin . Through the binoculars , sitting in the sun was a male Stonechat . I closed the distance between us , but apart from a couple of hops either side of the hedge , he returned and showed really well on the top of the hedge . I got to within 10 mtrs. of him and he just sat there . Like with the Goldcrest the other day , how I wished my camera was on my hip , insead of in bits in the repairers . Eventually , he disappeared over the other side of the hedge , so I gingerly crossed the path and looked over . There he was on an old fence post . Then , another movement further along the fence line , and a female lands on another post . I stood and watched them for some time , and at one point she was sat on a post and he was on some wire 20 cms. away from her , the pair of them , no more than 10/12 mtrs away . What a cracking shot it would have made , but it's no good crying over dropped cameras . These were the first Stonechats I have seen in the area , I wonder if they will stay ?
On the footpath between Nash and the bottom of Fox Hill , I disturbed a Green Woodpecker which flew off and landed on a wooden power pole . It sat still and I was watching it with the binoculars , when from around the back of the pole , comes another . The one I disturbed was a female and the new arrival from around the back , a male . They sat either side of the pole and once again the possibility of another shot was lost . They flew off together down the field and disappeared into the long grass , to be replaced on the cables about 5 mtrs. away from the pole with a calling Meadow Pipit and , as I watched it , two Bullfinches were calling behind me . I couldn't see them as they were directly into the sun , but nice to hear . I used to see good numbers of these Meadow Pipits on the wires all over the farm , but they have been few and far between over the last few years .
From the footpath , I made my way up onto the Common , but any excitement was over . I headed for the area where I had the Bullfinches the other day , but all was quiet . I got Gt.Spotted Woodpecker calling and a pair of Long Tailed Tits and a couple of Wrens on the heather/gorse patch .
The walk back home was uneventful as well , just the usual in the horse paddock on the bottom lane and four noisy Magpies , before getting back to the resident Jackdaws around the houses .

Friday 16th.January 2009

Having spent the last three days getting soaked and cold out volunteering , I was looking forward to getting out today . Only trouble was , the weather was miserable , misty and wet .
A brief clearer spell emerged around lunchtime , so I took myself off back to Hayes Farm . I haven't seen or heard any Winter Thrushes for a good few days now , but as I approached the stile leading into the farm , a dog owner , about 100 mtrs. infront of me , put up a large mixed flock that were feeding on the ground . It was a mixture of Redwings , I counted over 50 in one Lombardy Poplar when they settled and there were many more in other trees on the boundary with the houses . Far fewer Fieldfares , just 5/10 scattered about . 25+ Woodpigeons landed with the Finches in a large Oak . When looking through the Finches , I could only find Chaffinch and Goldfinch , with no sign of the Linnets that had been with them on the last visit .
I made my way over to the Trout Fishery , which I found still partially frozen . The most numerous on the open water were 11 Coot , sorry to mention it Warren , 1 Moorhen , 2 Little Grebe , half a dozen Mallard , the 3 Bitser ducks and 3 Black Headed Gulls .
As I left the Fishery , a Mistle Thrush burst into full song on a distant Oak tree , only to be outdone by 5 Rose Ringed Parakeets , screeching , as they overflew the Thrush .
Along the hedgelines , I found Great , Blue and Long Tailed Tits and Magpies and Carrion Crows put in an appearance for the Corvids .
As I got to the field used as a car park when the Boot Sales are on , I spotted a flock of 11 Canada Geese feeding on the ground and when I got the binoculars on them , could see a flock of 100+ Woodpigeons some distance behind the geese . A wet area had appeared in this field and 2 Pied Wagtails were feeding around the water .
By now the sky had dulled over again and the threat of drizzle had returned .
As I headed back to the car , the female Kestrel was on her favourite scaffold pole and in the bushes nearby Greenfinches could be heard .
Amongst the remains of a poor Maize crop , 3 male Pheasants strutted off at speed with my approach . As I got back to the stile , a flock of 35+ Starlings settled in the big Oak and started chattering incessantly and at the same time the threatened drizzle started to fall .
I made my way home .

Friday, 9 January 2009

Friday 9th.January 2009

Firstly , news , or lack of it , of the Racing Pigeon . Having found it close to death , a night in a new loft , the cat's basket out in the garage , it looked in much better health in the morning . It should have looked better , given the amount of food it had eaten , and the amount of droppings it had passed . On reporting it to the Racing Pigeon Club , I recieved back a computer generated message to the effect that they would contact the owner , and I would be contacted by email or phone regarding collection . I hadn't had a phone call , so checked the emails , of which there were none . Having cleaned out the 'loft' and replenished food and water , I thought I must hear something yesterday . Nothing transpired , so the Pigeon spent another night in the garage . By this morning it looked as fit as a fiddle and cooing happily . I waited till mid morning and not recieving any message , decided the best thing to do would be to release the bird . I did not want to release it in the garden , as it would probably just stay and feed on the path , as it had obviously now got a taste for the birdfood put down . So I took it back close to where I found it , opened the front of the basket , and nothing happened , it was quite happy sitting at the back of the basket . A bit of encouragement , tipping the basket above an adjacent fence post got the bird out , but it just sat on the post preening itself . Eventually , I clapped my hands and it flew into the adjacent hedgerow . With warmer conditions and a full stomach , I left it to reorientate itself , and hopefully get back to it's own loft and food .

Bit worrying that people involved apparently couldn't give a monkey's about the bird .

On the way back , I stopped at a very frozen Keston Ponds . All three are almost totally frozen over , but because they are spring fed , flowing from one to the next , small areas of open water exist on all three ponds . There was no sign of the Canada Geese , Mandarins , Ringed Teal or the dark duck with white breast . Mallard , Coot , Moorhen , Aylesbury type and Muscovy type remain .

Amazingly , with warning notices all around the ponds , the snow lying on top of the ice shows that some people have foolishly ventured into the middle of the middle pond , some 15/20mtrs. from the bank . 'Haven't got the brains they were born with' comes to mind .

I also stopped at the Common to check the fire we left yesterday after our workday . Even after nearly 24 hours , just removing the ash from the top produced a temperature which made you take a step back . Having a walk around the area I could hear Bullfinch , and after a while searching , found two females feeding together on Silver Birch seeds . As I was watching them , a movement on my right caught my attention and it turned out to be a Goldcrest . I have spent ages recently attempting to get some decent shots , today , because the camera is in for repair , the Goldcrest was the most confiding I have ever seen , and came within a few feet of me and occassionally posed motionless . I believe it's called 'Sod's Law' .

On the way back to the car , I stopped at a Glade that we worked on before Christmas . I had seen Deer prints in the snow in several parts of the Common , but here there were so many prints . As I walked towards a line of lanky Gorse , a Roe buck exploded out of cover and headed off to cover in another bunch of Gorse . Looking back at the prints in the snow , there were also Fox and Badger prints as well .

If that wasn't bad enough , when I got home , Carol informed me that shortly after I left , she had a male Brambling in the garden , and watched it through binoculars for 2/3 minutes . I put some fresh food down and sat at the back bedroom window for just over an hour .

During that time I had ; Gt.Spotted Woodpecker ,Redwing (2) , Chaffinch (20+) , Goldfinch (7) , Greenfinch (10+) , Rose Ringed Parakeet (3) , Dunnock (2) , Starling (4) , Blackbird (2) , Song Thrush , Collared Dove (3 incl. male displaying ) , Jackdaw (2) , Woodpigeon (3) , Robin , Magpie (2) , Blue Tit , Coal Tit and a fly over Common Gull , but no sign of the Brambling .

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Wednesday 7th. January 2009

After putting out the birdfood , I watched eagerly for another sighting of the Redpoll . Far fewer Finches descended onto the path compared to yesterday , and the Redpoll was not to be seen . Later on , I went out for a walk , naked , well not actually naked , but feeling naked without my camera strapped around my waist . The sooner that comes back the better .
Yesterday I posted the flyover of Lapwing , saying I hadn't seen any locally for some time . Today , as I walked along the footpath through Rouse Farm , in amongst the Sheep were three Lapwing feeding on the ground , and five minutes later , a fourth flew over , heading to join the other three .
Around the livery stables at Nash , normally a good Winter Thrush site , things were really quiet . Most of the Corvids put in an appearance , and in the bottom horse paddock a flock of 50+ Woodpigeon were feeding on the ground .
The odd Blackbird , Finch , Tit , Wren and the inevitable Rose Ringed Parakeets , broke up the walk nicely .
As I made my way up the footpath towards the top of Jackass Lane , I could see something on the ground in the middle of the footpath . As I got closer , it didn't move , but I was still unsure what exactly it was . By the time I got up to it , it was obviously a Pigeon , at first I thought Stock Dove but then changed my mind . The poor thing looked on it's last legs , and made no effort to move , even when I was right over it . It was all puffed up and looking decidedly iffy . I couldn't just leave it there to die , so I picked it up , and noticed a ring on one leg with GB and a number printed on it . A racing Pigeon , not a wild bird , but it's ancestors were , and it didn't deserve to die of exposure in the middle of nowhere . I had woollen gloves on , so holding over the wings and under the breast , I started on my way home , with the intention of dropping it off at a lady who looks after sick/injured birds for the RSPCA . Jackass Lane was like a skating rink not having been gritted , and I could have done with my arms by my sides in case of a slip , but instead , they were both out in front of me . The looks from drivers as they passed me were something to behold . The bird was getting warmth from my gloved hands , but it kept closing it's eyes , probably napping , but still worrying .
As if I didn't have enough to deal with , as I got to the junction of Jackass Lane and Fox Hill , I was confronted with a torrent raging down Fox Hill and flooding Gates Green Road , just a lane with very few drains , and my route home . The splashes from passing cars onto the roadside hedge , reminded me of the shot Warren posted the other day . Fortunately I had my walking boots on and the thick soles kept my feet out of the worst of the water . The flooding continued for a good half mile , before reaching civilisation and roadside drains .
Eventually , I arrived at the lady's house , and she was out . So I put the bird in the cat's basket , put in a bowl of water and a bowl of the birdfood we put out on the path , puy the basket on a table in the garage and put a sheet over the top and sides and left the bird alone .
I contacted the Racing Pigeon Club and reported it found , but haven't heard back further .
The bird has eaten well and will hopefully have a better night in the garage than on the footpath .If the owner comes forward he can take it , if not once rested and fed/watered , I'll release it . At least the temperature is on the way up .
The Cotoneaster shrub will probably close down tomorrow , just enough for breakfast I'd say .

Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Tuesday 6th. January 2009

Well the day started off really well , and finished up really bad .
Carol had put the bird food out as usual , and as usual , within seconds of coming back indoors , the path was covered with Finches . There were many more Chaffinches than usual , probably 40/50 , plus Greenfinch and Goldfinch . At one stage , I looked down the path and amongst the Chaffinches was a much smaller bird . I grabbed the binoculars and sure enough , the small bird turned out to be a Redpoll . I dashed up to the back bedroom window and confirmed the identification from above . Almost immediately , something spooked everything from the ground , including the Redpoll . A few minutes later , whilst watching a second Fieldfare on the Cotoneaster next door , I caught sight of the Redpoll again in the Laburnum on the other side , sitting in the sunshine . I reached for the camera and as I focused , it was gone again . Although I gave it a good hour , the Redpoll did not return to the garden .
I had to make do with watching 4 of the 5 Turdus family members , having two private battles . The 2 Fieldfares were waring next door with 3 Redwings , whilst on the rockery in our garden a Song and Mistle Thrush were arguing over feeding rights to the berries on a Berberis . Size seemed to dominate in both battles , as the Fieldfares and the Mistle Thrush seemed to be winning . Only other thing of interest was a Collared Dove in the garden collecting nesting materials and flying off to their favoured nesting area , a line of conifers .
With no sign of the Redpoll returning , I set off for a walk over the Common . Just as I arrived at the edge of the Common , I noticed a small flock of birds flying over high and showing mainly white . Gulls of some sort I thought as they approached , but then the wings showed too broad for Gulls , and with the binoculars , identified 8 Lapwings , nothing to shout about out in the country , but the first I have seen locally for many a year . On West Wickham Common , it was much as usual birdwise , until I came across a flock of 17 Long Tailed Tits and just 2 Blue Tits , feeding frenziedly .
Over on Hayes Common , I found 2 Redwing and heard at least 2 Bullfinch and 1 Nuthatch . I found another smaller flock of 5 Longtailed Tits , together with a Gt. Spotted Woodpecker and a Nuthatch , feeding together on a dead tree . As I was leaving the Common heading back home , I stopped to check on the Purple Hairstreak eggs on the Oaks in the Glade . I didn't hang about too long , but did find a few on the now mostly leafless trees . No doubt , the Tit flocks will have taken many of them whilst foraging .
Then came the bad part of the day . When I got home , I was taking off my belt with the camera bag , when my camera fell out of the bag , and onto the ground . Having checked it out , some parts still work , but the Command dial , which operates several functions , doesn't . The camera is going in for repair tomorrow , meaning that any posts for the next couple of weeks , will be text only .
Whilst writing this , I have had a phone call from another enthusiast , saying he had 10 Lapwings over Salt Box Hill / Biggin Hill this morning too , probably some were the same birds .

Sunday, 4 January 2009

Sunday 4th.January 2009

After all yesterday's excitement , it was back to reality today . The Cotoneaster supermarket is still holding on , but will probably closing before next weekend . Unless of course , a flock of Waxwings turn up , and clear it out in one go . Today , Redwing numbers rose to five , and the regular Fieldfare was in close attendance for most of the day .Whilst watching the Thrushes , it was interesting to see the Finches visiting the Cotoneaster , not for the berries , but seemingly getting moisture from the part thawed frost on the leaves . Even though we put out fresh water several times today , it frosted over almost instantly , so hopefully the frost gave them sufficient moisture . Also visiting several times each day are the male and female Gt. Spotted Woodpecker , they really have taken a liking to the joint fat / seed , pressed into the holes in the log . Before lunch , Carol and I visited Beckenham Cemetery at Elmers End , to visit my parents grave and also for a walk around the adjacent South Norwood Country Park . After visiting the grave , we decided to just do a walk within the Cemetery as it was so cold . It was surprising how many species we found in just a 20 minute walk . The list consisted of 2 Green Woodpecker , a flock of about 15 Redwings feeding alongside the tram tracks , 3 Song Thrush , several Blackbird - both ours and foreign , Pheasant , Magpie , Jay , Carrion Crow , a good sized Blue , Great and Long Tailed Tit flock , 2 Wren and of course several Rose Ringed Parakeets . I'm sure there were other species to be found , but Carol was getting cold , so it was back to the car . As I had the camera with me , I took a few shots of the more well known resident's graves . The first was the inventor of the flushing toilet , Thomas Crapper .
The second , that of the man who saved Winchester Cathedral .
Apparently , over a period of six years , working six hours a day in total darkness , in depths of up to 6mtrs. , he packed the foundations with 25,000 bags of concrete ,115,000 concrete blocks , and 900,000 bricks , thus saving the Cathedral from collapse . I intended to post W.G.Grace's - one of England's most famous cricketer's grave as well , but I couldn't find it and Carol was turning blue .

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Saturday 3rd. January 2009

Well , it had to happen . With very little happening around my area , I strayed once again onto Steve's patch at New Hythe . I parked in Lunsford Lane , and set off on the footpath between Alders lake and the small fishing lake . At the end of the footpath , returning into Lunsford Lane , I noticed a person , carrying a tripod and massive lens in front of me . He started back towards me , having seen a Redpoll in some Alders . As we closed , I recognised him , and he me . It was Steve the resident blogger , and I was caught , banged to rights , trespassing on his patch .
I must admit , he was very kind , and actually welcomed me , without threat of violence .
Thus started a very pleasant day , roaming all over the area . Steve had seen the female Gooseander on the Alders lake , I hadn't . We headed off to see if we could find the Red Crested Pochard on the Tesco lake , but they seem to have left in the last 24 hours . We did find a male Stonechat that showed up very well in the brilliant sunshine .
I had to mention the Bittern , and Steve kindly showed me where it has been seen recently , and although we gave it ample opportunity , it didn't put in an appearance .
Some Siskins were found on the edge of the scrub area , and Goldfinches were in good numbers , mainly feeding on Teasel . Good numbers of 'foreign' Blackbirds were seen , and also several Song Thrushes , but surprisingly , no Winter Thrushes were seen or heard , until a fly over of a few of each species just before sunset .
The river produced a Grey Heron , a single Redshank , a few Teal and a small flock of Black Headed Gulls .
The Sunken Marsh was very quiet , but a Snipe and a few more Teal were in the run-off , into the river .
My aim was for some Winter ducks , but each lake we visited failed to produce any .
Heading down the Millstream , we diverted to check for the Bittern again , and failed again , but a text from 'source unknown' , alerted Steve to a Firecrest , only a couple of minutes from where we were . We headed for the location with speed , and after a few minutes , Steve located two small birds on the other side of a ditch . One was a Goldcrest , and the other was an elusive Firecrest . It was a first for me , and I would post a picture , but I have seen what that massive lens on Steve's camera recorded , and believe me , his shots are much better than mine .
Bouyed up with the Firecrest , we headed back towards the cars , via the lay by alongside Alders lake . Sure enough , the female redhead Goosander was still there , and a quick shot was possible before she flew off towards the middle . Once again , Steve's lens did the biz .
When we got back to the cars , which incidentally were parked one behind the other , we decided on taking the cars , and having one last shot at the Bittern . It would have been incredible if it had worked out , but it didn't , but Steve did spot a Water Rail 'ice skating' in the area that we were searching for the Bittern .
A really enjoyable day , and I'll leave you to see Steve's pictures on his blog 'New Hythe Wildlife Blog'

Friday, 2 January 2009

Friday 2nd. January 2009

I have been reading of some fantastic trips and sightings , but I am afraid things have been very flat around here .
The back gardens are still producing plenty of birds , but nothing out of the ordinary . Amazingly , there are still berries on next door's Cotoneaster , regardless of the unceasing attention of Redwings , Fieldfares , Blackbirds , Woodpigeons and Parakeets . Looking back at past posts , I first saw Redwings on the shrub on the 5th. December , now , almost a month later , the supermarket is still open , admittedly it would be a different storey if a larger flock of Thrushes had found it . All the usual suspects appear whenever food is put out , a couple of examples being ,
and in the other neighbour's Eucalyptus ,

After lunch I had an hour around Hayes Farm , main object being to see if anything interesting had dropped in on the Trout Fishery . As I arrived , so too did 10 Canada Geese , bringing the count up to 12 , and although the 2 Little Greebes were still around , there was no sign of the 3 Wigeon or of the 3 Lesser Spotted Ducks ( many thanks ! for the ID from Steve/Kingsdowner ) . The only new species recorded today was a female Kestrel , and she certainly didn't want her photo taken . The large mixed Finch flock seems to have split into 3 or 4 small ones now and the Redwings seemed to have cleared out all the hedgrows now , and are feeding on the ground . I found them even harder to photograph now as they always kept a good distance , regardless how you approached them . Eventually , I just stayed close to one of the horses in the paddock , and let the odd Redwing come to me .

It sort of worked , but they were still very 'twitchy'.