Friday, 26 February 2010

Friday 26th.February 2010

The good thing about today was that it didn't rain , but the bad bit was that it was 'blowing a hoolie' for most of the day , and even though the sun was out , the wind had a bitter edge to it . What one of the old chaps I used to go around with would call 'a lazy wind , too lazy to go around you , so it goes through you' . Another bad thing is that my new/second hand lens is playing up , so I have had to go back to the old camera for the time being , hopefully the lens will be sorted quickly .
I had a look around Kelsey Park after lunch , but even with no children and bikes , but still plenty of dogwalkers , there was not much different in what I found . On the end of the island that forms the Heronry , I found this Cormorant that is in almost breeding plumage , with it's white patch on it's leg , and it's head taking on a colourful hue . In the heronry itself , I counted at least 6 birds sitting on nests , several flying to and fro , altogether making a total of about 20 . I had to smile to myself with these birds , standing on the island , under the nests , like fathers waiting outside a maternity unit . One new addition to the scene was an Egyptian Goose on the other smaller island in the lake , the first I have ever seen in the park , and could well be one of the four seen by an angler at Hayes Trout Fishery , as it isn't far between the two sites . At the end of the lake , the water tips over this little waterfall , before reaching the town of Beckenham , where it runs underground and in culverts , before appearing again in a park some miles away . From the other side of the lake , I was able to get another , bad , shot of the Cormorant , but showing the head colouration better . The only half decent shot was that of a snoozing pair of Mallard , right alongside one of the paths .
It would appear that not just the new lens is playing up , as this seems to have taken for ever to put together , so whoever has possession of the noose , pass it on here please .
Hedgelaying tomorrow , finishing off the hedge at Lingfield , might get a few showers , just glad it's not on Sunday !

Monday, 22 February 2010

Monday 22nd.February 2010

Having been trapped indoors for a second day running by continuous rainfall , I'm starting to get a touch of 'cabin fever ' , although , I must admit , that Saturday's hedgelaying down at Lingfield , took place under blue sky and very reasonable temperature , but even then , as we were finishing , the start of this grey weather was starting to creep it's way across the sky .

For a few posts now , I have been meaning to delete some of the older pictures on the blog , to make room for those that will hopefully be posted in the future . I noted that the said shots were taken just about a year ago to the day , so had a quick look through before deleting them .

I was amazed to see what was about at this time last year , as I had already found the first shoots of Early Purple Orchid , Primrose in flower , on a trip to New Hythe , Water Vole feeding in one of the ditches . On the same day , calling in at Fackenden Down , my first Adder sightingof the year , a very earthy looking specimen , just emerged into Spring sunshine , after spending the Winter underground in it's hibernacula . I had even seen my first butterfly on the wing , a Brimstone up on the Common . With what has been thrown at us this Winter , such sightings seem so unreal this year . I know I had a hibernating Peacock a few weeks ago in the garage , incidentally , it is still there , having moved slightly onto some cloth that I put to ward off the draught from the eaves . Nothing exciting in the garden today , apart from a female Blackbirdthat made me take a second look , before deciding it couldn't possibly be a female Ring Ousel . I remember Adam-East Malling , Ditton and Barming saying a while back , that he had seen some similar specimens .

Friday, 19 February 2010

Friday 19th.February 2010

Another dull , grey start to the day , with intermittent sleet showers thrown in for good measure , and all this after the 'weather pundit' quoted yesterday , that today would be a cracker . Good job he doesn't do it for a living .
Anyway , whilst we were having breakfast this morning , where have you heard that before Warren ? , a dark , brown bird ghosted in from the bottom of the garden , very low , and touched down under the feeders . I couldn't see anything from the dining room , so shot upstairs to the back bedroom . Unfortunately , the blind was still down and the window shut . I carefully tried to see through the blind slats and could make out a shape , but couldn't identify it . I carefully opened the fanlight without scaring the bird , then reached for my old camera , being smaller than the new one and lens . The first shot I got included the blind and window frame , but I could see that it was a bird of prey . A bit more blind moving and window opening , with the bird looking directly at the house , enabled a second shot that revealed that it was a female Sparrowhawk . At this point I think she realised that I was there , and the third shot was a blurred one of her lifting off and flying back down the garden . Carol saw her go from the dining room and shortly afterwards , went out to put more food down for the Finches . I was still upstairs and Carol's presence started to attract the usual species . Then from half way down the garden , the Sparrowhawk lifted again from where it had perched and settled in a big Willow in the garden behind . I grabbed my new camera , but halfway down the garden , she spotted me , lifted off again , and that was the last we saw of her .
After helping Carol with some shopping , the weather started to clear after lunch , and I headed out to get some fuel , via Sevenoaks Wildlife Reserve . On arrival I headed for the large hide , and found plenty of Lapwing , Gulls of several species , along with the expected Coots , Moorhens , Tufted Duck , Teal , Gadwall , Shoveler and Cormorant . A movement off one of the islands turned out to be a Common Snipe , feeding in the now sunshine . I watched it for some time , then had a second flash through the binoculars . I saw the second one land on a muddy area , then took my eye off it . When I searched the area , I found it , hidden behind a branch , the only cover in the area . I thought at first it might have been nesting , but too early for that I think . My solitude of the hide was then interupted by another birder , who informed me that he had seen 2 Bittern last Sunday from the Tower Hide , and also described where to look . I stayed for a while after he left , but the chance of Bittern had me heading to the Tower Hide at pace , in fact , I almost caught him up , entering a couple of minutes after him . We scanned the far bank reedbed for quite some time , but found no sign of a Bittern . From the hide , I did see Great Crested Grebe , Greylag and Canada Goose and a possible Reed Bunting . The cloud was starting to win again the battle for the sky , but before heading back to the car park , I went to have a quick look at the hide by the river that runs through the site . As I approached the hide , a flash of iridescent blue passed me and landed in s bush overhanging a small pond . I set up the camera and was almost ready to press the shutter , when a lady appeared out of nowhere on my left and asked what I had seen . I said Kingfisher over there , to which she turned and walked straight towards the bird , which in turn shot out of view at a rate of knots . This Gadwall shot shows how quickly the light was fading . When I got to the car , as I loaded my gear , I was serenaded by a Robin , and for that , felt he should be included in this post . This shot was taken with the 100mm lens .

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Thursday 18th.February 2010

After yesterday's blue skies and sunshine , today was absolutely abysmal , with fog , drizzle and long periods of steady rain . Now , I'm not one for pointing the finger , but such a dramatic change must be down to someone putting the mockers on the weather , and he knows who he is .
So I spent most of the day sorting photographs , and every now and again , having a look out of the window , but most of the time , there were only Woodpigeons either hoovering up everything on the ground , or sitting waiting on the neighbour's fence to get a look in . The other often viewed species was the Grey Squirrel , this one being one of at least 3 frequenting the feeders all day . I think even the Rose Ringed Parakeets got fed up with the rain , keeping well under cover whilst they fed . Didn't see any Goldfinches today , unusually , but there were good numbers of Greenfinches , some arriving in pairs to feed . Most numerous Finch , as usual , was the Chaffinch , and even in the terrible light today , the male coming into breeding colours is certainly a striking bird . The best sighting , and the worst shot of the day , was a brief visit from the female Blackcap . She sat nice and still whilst I got the camera ready , then got spooked by 3/4 Jackdaws , swooping down from the roof . As the shutter went so did she as you can see from her tail .
As I post this , it is still tipping down , so I hope there won't be anyone putting the mockers on tomorrow's weather , it can be bad enough on it's own .

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Wednesday 17th.February 2010

The forecast this morning was for cloud with a few sunny intervals . As the day developed , it became wall to wall sunshine and not a cloud in sight . I had thought about a trip to Rye Harbour and Dungeness , but the forecast changed my mind , a long way to go to be in cloud or fog , but , that's life .
I decided on another look at the Heronry at Kelsey Park in Beckenham . Apart from the dog walkers , it was reasonably quiet , but the clouds hadn't dispersed yet . Nothing unexpected on the stream into the lake , with just 5/6 Mandarin now , plenty of Tufted Duck and of course lots of Black Headed Gulls , ready to do battle for the next loaf to appear . Under the bridge , where the stream enters the lake , were three generations of Mute Swan . The 2009 brood still in their browny/beige juvenile feathers , the 2008 brood , having lost those feathers , but still sporting the dark bill , and two pairs of adults , sporting the orange bill with the black knob . I think , from it's size , this one was a female , but as always , I stand to be corrected . Of interest , Mute Swans were brought back from Cyprus by Richard the Lionheart , after his third crusade . The Heronry on the island was very busy , with several nests occupied . The one I posted last time still had a bird sitting , and when I got talking to a lady who is a 'Friend' of the Park , and who visits the every day , young birds were heard calling at the weekend . Whilst I was talking to her , the Heron in the middle of this shot flew in , and changed places with it's partner , settling down immediately on the nest . The original sitter , moving to the right , before flying off , probably to feed , the replacement sitter already tucked well down , almost out of sight . The usual Canada and Greylag Geese attempted to 'mug' all passers by , especially children with loaves in their hands . On the far side of the lake in a more wooded area , I heard then sighted just 2 Redwing , and they soon flew off . In the same area was this Mistle Thrush , looking very colourful in the sunshine , against the blue sky . All over the Park , Rose Ringed Parakeets were screaching , and several pairs were working on proposed nest holes . This is probably the male , working hard , whilst the female tells him how to do it . Sorry ShySongbird , I couldn't help myself with that one ! Not a lot else of interest , but as I was returning to the car , 4 Jays flew to the top of one of the large trees at the entrance . Three flew of almost immediately , but one remained for a short while , enough to try for another shot . Once again , the branches managed to mask the bird , I'll get a clear shot one day , perhaps . The main reason for leaving was that the sunshine had attracted even more dogwalkers and loads of children and their bikes and scooters .
On the way home I had a quick visit to Hayes Farm/Trout Fishery , which was very quiet . In one of the unused horse paddocks , were 11 Greylag Geese , proper ones , not the farmyard mixed types that I usually see here . Only other interest were 2 male Egyptian Geese on the field next to the lake , this one definately not wanting his photograph taken , but I took it anyway .
I headed home for lunch , kicking myself with the decision I made earlier .

Monday, 15 February 2010

Monday 15th.February 2010

Had lots of jobs to do this morning , so didn't get out till after lunch . As today is my old Mum's 10th. anniversary , I headed off to Beckenham Cemetery to say hallo . Not the nicest of days , very grey and overcast , with sleety showers every now and again . After visiting the grave , I left the car nearby and headed off , camera and binoculars in hand , for a look around the Cemetery and the adjacent South Norwood Country Park . There were a couple of large cremations going on whilst I was there , and the sightings were fewer than normal with all the comings and goings . One , most unexpected , very confiding bird , was this Carrion Crow , which perched and posed on one of the headstones in the older part of the Cemetery . Following the tramway into the Country Park , I found the first of at least 5 Kestrels , a female sitting in a low bush . I also found at least 4 Great Spotted Woodpeckers , probably more , all very vocal and most of them unusually feeding on the ground . The male Kestrels that I came across were not as happy to pose as the female , and most shots I got of them were 'back-end' , as this one was , flying off as soon as I got the camera out . The expected species turned up , but only a handful of Winter Thrushes , all Redwings , feeding on the ground in an area that had been cleared recently . One Grey Heron lifted from the middle of the Park , and was immediately mobbed by the gang of Carrion Crows that were sitting in a low Elder . Needless to say , there were plenty of RRParakeets flying , noisily about , but still no sign of Siskin or Redpoll .
Getting to the lake , which is once again mainly frozen over , the species count shot up , with Black Headed Gull , I think this is a first winter individual , but , as I think Simon mentioned the other day , many are well on their way to Summer plumage , Common Gull , Cormorant , Mute Swan ( a single juvenile ) , Moorhen , Coot , Canada Goose , and a good number of Shoveler , but well below their previous maximum , Tufted Duck , and , tagging on with them , the female Pochard . On my way back to the car , A Song Thrush was singing his heart out in the middle of another sleet flurry , and I disturbed two Green Woodpeckers , who were feeding on the ground , and flew off 'yaffling' .
In all , 37 species were recorded in under two hours , most unexpected given how quiet things have been recently .

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Sunday 14th.February 2010

Another dreary , miserable day today , but fortunately , yesterday's hedgelaying , in the heart of the Cotswolds , was dry and at times sunny , but also a biting wind . It was an invitation event , where 56 layers from several parts of the country , layed 560 metres of hedge , in their own different styles . Us members of the Surrey Hedgelaying Group layed in South of England style , on what I would call a very variable section , right at the furthest distance from the the car park . Closest to the car park were the Midland style layers , where they clean off the face side of everything layed and leave all the brash on the field side of the hedge , and also have a rope binding across the top of the layed hedge , as opposed to our plait type binding .
But my favourite style on show there , was the Welsh Borders , with a very solid looking hedge , containing a lot of 'dead' , discarded branches , in it's construction , that isn't allowed in either of the other two styles , but it does mean that even a small lamb would not be able to get through it . And , where was all this going on ? At the property of a very well known landowner who lives in the area . Surprisingly , as I had gone down with a filthy cold and sore throat the night before , I managed a 3rd. place in my Class , and was presented with my certificate by the landowner . After leaving the competition , large flocks of Fieldfares were seen on the fields as we headed for the M4 , and along the motorway , 4/5 Common Buzzards and one Red Kite were spotted .
I did that quick post on Friday before travelling down to stay in Cirencester over night . Since getting back , I have had a good look at all the shots taken at Mote Park , and am posting two more of the two target species . The first is of the Water Rail , feeding just behind a Moorhen , and surprised me how much difference there is in size between the two . And another of the Jack Snipe , still dozing , in amongst the vegetation on the bank . It would have been great to get a few shots of it out in the open , but I feel privileged to have seen it at all .
And finally , a shot of the only other thing that was moving on the old pond last Friday morning , a Wren that was constantly on the move , searching for anything edible .

Friday, 12 February 2010

Friday 12th.February 2010

Just a quick post before heading off to do some hedgelaying in the West Country tomorrow , stopping overnight in Cirencester .
This morning had a real feeling of 'deja vous' about it , as following Simon's postng last night that the Jack Snipe had been seen again in Mote Park , Maidstone . Mind you , I was having second thoughts as I neared the M25 , to find a swirling blizzard and fog . Hoping I would run out of the weather as I headed East , I continued , knowing that I only had till midday to try again for the two species that I missed out on last week .
Luckily , the weather did indeed improve from Wrotham Hill onwards , and by the time I reached the park , it was dry underfoot . More importantly , the water level in the old pond behind the waterfall was as normal , compared to the raised level last week .
Getting there at about 8.30 , I managed to get variable views of Water Rail for about 15/20 minutes , before it disappeared up the gully . Searched the vegetation , without luck for the Jack Snipe , till along came Simon , heading to meet a group for a guided tour of the park , and within seconds , he had found it . I must admit , that if I had searched all day , I wouldn't have spotted it , oh for sharp young eyes again . I'm glad to say , the Snipe was still in situ when Simon and his group arrived , and they too were very pleased to see the rarity . I stayed till midday , but apart from moving it's head position , it stayed well tucked up in the dead vegetation .
Many thanks to Simon ( Mote Park - A Wildlife Patchwork ) again for his information and 'young eyes' .

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Wednesday 10th.February 2010

After two very cold days up on the Greensand Ridge , I finally finished the hedgelaying , just in time if tonight's forecast of a few inches of snow is correct . Part of the Ridge forms one of the highest points in Kent , so if it's coming , the Ridge is sure to get it . The job has been protracted by the weather and injuries to the Warden and the other volunteer , so I am well pleased that it is behind us now . The 330 metres here , plus another 90 metres just after returning from New Zealand , adds up to almost 1/4 mile of hedgelaying , without taking into account the outings with the Surrey Hedgelaying Group .
Both yesterday and today , large numbers of Winter Thrushes were feeding in the fields directly behind the hedge , and unlike Warren's flock , they were mainly Fieldfares , with a few Redwings , and a large number of Starlings interspersed amongst them . A shot of the three species , taken with the old camera , as the new one will not be coming out with me whilst I am working , just in case . In the sunshine , between the snow showers , the Fieldfare made a striking subject , as it searched the grassland for worms and other tasty morsels .
A bewildered Mistle Thrush could only look on , and hope that the foreigners didn't eat absolutely everything in sight .
Tomorrow is meant to be a work day up on the Common , but that too , will be decided by the overnight weather .