Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Monday 30th. January 2012 ( Part 2 )

Heading down towards Tower Hide , the small pond low down on the left , which always looks good for a Water Rail or even a Bittern , did produce some movement amongst the dead reed stems , but eventually the movement took off vertically , and revealed a drake Mallard . My initial view out of the Tower Hide revealed very little apart from Coot , Moorhen , a couple of Teal and a Rabbit . Further searching found at least another 5 Common Snipe , but these were in their usual mode of
feeding amongst vegetation , until one moved out to the waters edge for a wash and brush up .Also on the water's edge was a single Lapwing , some distance from all it's mates on the islands . Perhaps
it wanted to 'be alone' . A Green Woodpecker was also seen , fossicking amongst the dead vegetation at the far end of the reedbed , and half a dozen Greylag Geese flew in and made their way into the
little inlet between Tower and Kingfisher Hides , this one looking very full of pomp and circumstance . I had also been keeping an eye on the open water , finding not much more than
GCGrebes , Tufted Ducks and a few Gulls , when I noticed a bough line being formed by something
swimming at a really good pace , heading towards the beach area in front of the hide . As the visibility got better , I could see that it was a drake Goosander . I followed it across the lake and then checked the beach area to see where it was heading , and found that from somewhere , she definitely
wasn't there earlier , was a redhead/female Goosander ., possibly the one I photographed here a couple of visits ago . The drake paddled into the same area , but never got really close , mind you ,
the redhead didn't seem that bothered or impressed by his arrival . After the drake had a wash and brush up , the pair got their heads down and dozed , slowly drifting further down the beach . At one
stage , they were joined by a drake Wigeon , also in doze mode , that's him top left .With lots of Zs in the air , I decided to go and have a look from Slingsby Hide , and as usual was met by someone who
needs no introduction . All was quiet in the reedbed apart from the usual Coots in the area behind the hide , and yet again , no sign of Water Rail from this usually reliable site . A dispute between a Wren
and a Dunnock out front and a Wren fossicking on the ground directly below , was the only shot managed . A quick look out of Tower hide showed no sign of the drake Goosander , although the redhead , who had drifted even further along the beach , was still there . A scan of the lake found the drake right over the other side , just right of the gasometer , and back diving again . The drake
Wigeon was also mobile , just entering the little inlet , now vacated by the Greylag Geese . I headed back to the car and a warm drink and contemplated leaving it there , but once again decided to have one more look at Willow Hide , and it was on the track between Carter and Willow Hide that I found the trespasser , in the form of Ken / Focusing on Wildlife , looking a bit sheepish at being caught red handed . After catching up , Ken said that he had hoped to find the RRParakeets , the Egyptian Geese and the Siskins , but hadn't been lucky with any of the species , so we set off down the down to the bottom of East Lake where I had seen the RRPs earlier . Three birds were still present when we got there and Ken got a couple of shots in the gloom . We then walked out on the spit , hoping to reconnect with the Bullfinches , but no luck , but whilst showing Ken where I had the Goosanders earlier , found the pair right at the left side of the beach , but only just as neither of us had a scope . We stopped at the 5 bar gate to scan through the geese in the field , but again just Canada and Greylag were found . Just about to leave the gate , Ken took a tumble and recieved a blow to his cheek as he hit the ground , having got his foot tangled in Bramble , but he was more worried about his binoculars and camera . Fortunately , neither were damaged , but Ken decided to call it a day rather than taking the long walk around to Tower Hide that we were thinking about . We never did find the Siskins again , nor the Egyptian Geese , I hadn't seen any all day . As soon as we got to the car , I quickly explained to Pam that I hadn't tripped Ken over then punched him in the face , before he got in with that or another story . Ken and Pam left for home and a sit down and tot cuppa . It was good to meet up again Ken , hope you didn't do any lasting damage from the fall . It would be unkind of me to mention that you should take more water with your drink ! Along the track from the car park to the road I managed to get a full house of Thrushes , sighting Fieldfare , Redwing , Song and Mistle
Thrush and Blackbird , in quick succession , all feeding on Ivy berries .
On the way home , I had a quick look around a couple of small lakes almost over the road from the
reserve and found , sorry Ken , you don't want to know this , 5 Egyptian Geese . Just before arriving home and very close to the farm lake , a Cotoneaster bush overhanging the lane had attracted a large , estimated at 40/50 , flock of Fieldfares that lifted off as I passed like a cloud . I stopped a bit further down the lane but there was nowhere safe to stand on the narrow lane , so I left . 53 species on the day , including the Egyptian Geese , was two down on the last visit , but I was well happy .
This morning , just about 8 o'clock , a similar sized flock of Fieldfares turned up on next door's
Cotoneaster bush , and in just 10 minutes stripped a large area of berries . At this rate , I don't think there will be any on it by the weekend . Glad I did Sevenoaks Reserve yesterday , today it's been snowing lightly all morning and it is bitter .

Monday, 30 January 2012

Monday 30th. January 2012 ( Part 1 )

It was cold when I pulled into the car park at Sevenoaks Reserve just before 8 o'clock this morning .
As if to prove the point , the picnic tables behind the car park had the slightest sprinkling of snow on them . Whilst getting my gear together I recorded GSWoodpecker , Redwing , Robin ,Chaffinch and Blue , Great and LTTits .Walking down towards the East Lake , a pair of Bullfinches were in a Hawthorn tree . I took three quick shots , all of which were rubbish , was it going to be one of those days , I thought to myself . As usual , I headed for Willow Hide , hoping for another 'dancing' Bittern or even another Pike-eating Cormorant . Needless to say , neither was seen , but the usual species ,
including the likes of this drake Shoveller were on show as usual . Heading down between East and Long Lake , Jay , Magpie , Carrion Crow , Dunnock , Robin , Song Thush and Woodpigeon all showed well . A Grey Heron on the edge of both lakes and at the end , the Rose-ringed Parakeets were still guarding their nest holes . On the spit that juts out into East Lake , another pair of Bullfinches were found , and again , they evaded the viewfinder . From the end of the spit , I scanned the lake for any sign of the Goosanders that had been seen yesterday , but nothing was found . At one point , a Kingfisher flew through the eyeline and then came to rest just 2 mtrs.away from where I was standing , but it then saw me , and that was the last I saw of it . The fields behind the 5 bar gate contained a large number of Canada Geese and a few Greylag Geese , but alas no sign of a Barnacle or white-fronted . Retracing my steps between the two lakes , a couple of drake Pochard were found 
keeping close to a flotilla of Tufted Ducks . A Song Thrush that was in full song , stopped completely and gave me an old fashioned look as I passed underneath , only to carry on with it's song
once I was some distance further on . On taking the little track around the small pond behind Willow Hide , a good imitation of a Hummingbird caught my attention , low down in the vegetation . Could this be another Firecrest ? Unlike at the car park on the Common , a quick playback confirmed it's
relation , a Goldcrest . Between Willow and Carter Hide , the Alders were invaded by a flock of Siskin , estimated between 100 and 150 . Chattering away constantly to each other , they filled the
 tops of 4 Alder trees , this shot contains about 50 of the birds . A bit further along the track , my first Water Rail sighting of the Winter , albeit very , brief . Almost back at the top of East Lake , a couple of small birds some way further down the track caught my attention . There then followed a tantalising , I take one step , they move two steps further away game , so I had to take my shot of a
Lesser Redpoll further away than I would have liked . A few more of the species were found feeding in the angler's car park . The Public Hide produced the expected Common and Black-headed Gulls ,
lots of Lapwing and for once , the Common Snipe were feeding out in the open and joined today by a Pied Wagtail . Cormorants and Teal and lots more Greylag Geese helped fill the islands . Heading towards Tower Hide , I had a similar experience to that of the Redpolls , with a very mobile flock of
Siskin , feeding in the bushes and a few on the ground . Once again , getting any nearer was impossible .
I'm going to leave it there for tonight , and will finish off the visit tomorrow , which will include the naming of a fellow Blogger caught trespassing , red handed .

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Sunday 29th. January 2012

This morning was grey , misty , dank and any other adjective that could be thrown at it , but it is nearly February , so I suppose we must accept the conditions . We decided to get the monthly shop out of the way whilst conditions were bad , but even before we left , the Fieldfares we around for their breakfast .
Fourteen in the frame this time , but once again the total was nearer 25 . This shot has been lightened to be able to see the birds and that also made the sky lighter . It was nearly lunchtime before we got
back , and about the same number were still around . Again I tried to get out into the garden to get closer , and again I was thwarted , and left with nothing in the viewfinder . After lunch , I concealed myself half way down the garden in the hope that the flock would turn up . They didn't , and as it got very close to things dropping off with the cold , I went on a tour of the berried trees on the estate . To my surprise , I didn't see a single Winter Thrush , and the berries on the trees seem untouched compared to the Cotoneaster next door . On getting back home , I was putting the camera away ,
when a pair of Rose-ringed Parakeets landed in the Laburnum tree next door and started feeding on the seeds . After a good feed on the seeds , the pair flew down to the Cotoneaster , presumably for desert . The pair got stuck into the berries , so I tried again to get closer , and this time managed to
get behind a conifer without being seen . The game plan was obviously to rip off a bunch of berries with the bill , then transfer the bunch to the feet , and then wok through the bunch at leisure . Once
that bunch was finished it was just a matter of ripping off another bunch . The other one of the pair
was more dainty ,  just taking one berry at a time . And the Fieldfares , I never did get another sighting all afternoon .

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Saturday 28th. January 2012

Had to stay in this morning for a delivery , and , what a surprise , it didn't turn up . And so , with the best part of the day over as regards weather , grey clouds once again rolled in . So anything I saw today was to be out of the back bedroom window or the back garden . Early on the 3/4 Fieldfares that have been seen on next door's Cotoneaster berries , which are being devoured quite quickly now ,
 turned up for their breakfast , but as usual , sat for a long time in the trees above the berries to make sure there was no danger , or persons with cameras around . Eventually , these birds gained
confidence and dropped down to gorge on the ripe berries . Some of the Cotoneaser bush is obscured by a conifer , and being further away and out of view of the houses , a popular area for the birds to drop down and feed out of view , so I never really know how many are feeding at any given time . It
wasn't long before more calls could be heard and more birds joined the initial few . I can only think that one of them 'tweeted' , as even more birds arrived . As the earlier arrivals had done the looking bit , these later arrivals flew straight into the Cotoneaster and started eating the berries . I would estimate that there were 25-30 birds at any one time on the bush , but the most I could manage to get
in one frame was 12 . The first shot was the only one I managed from the garden , before being spotted , and all the birds flying off .
Whilst at the window , I also did the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch , and with the Fieldfares , which
flew over our garden to get to the berries , finished up with 17 species .Finches were well represented
with Goldfinch , Chaffinch and a species that has been in decline recently , but four of which turned
up to be counted on the day , Greenfinch . Of course , as is usual with this count , after the hour was up several other species showed themselves , and I'm sure some of them were sniggering .

Thursday, 26 January 2012

Thursday 26th. January 2012

Spent the day working up on the Common burning off Gorse that had been cut over the last few weeks , left to dry , got soaked by the overnight rain , and produced so much smoke that just clung to the ground . Said clinging smoke obviously got someone worried , as we soon had a visit from the local Fire Brigade , who were ordered to the local town , about a mile away , and then followed their noses to find the source . We burned for the rest of the day , thankfully without any further visits .
As I arrived at the car park first thing , a large flock of Redwings were devouring the berries from a Rowan and a Holly standing side by side . I took two steps from the car towards them , and they were gone . During the afternoon , we did get good views of a female Sparrowhawk , but nothing more exciting .
Best weather of the day was when I returned home this afternoon , with a sinking sun and clear blue skies . The local Jackdaws seemed to enjoy the better conditions too , with 80+ arriving in the tops of
the Lime Trees . I couldn't get them all in the frame together , but managed about 60 in this shot .

The light conditions really showing off their plumage , then something spooked them , and they were gone again .
Back to finish off the hedgelaying tomorrow .

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Monday 23rd. January ( Part 2 )

Well , for once the weather forecast was spot on , with the rain arriving just about 8 o'clock , and with it lightly to continue all day , there will be no outing for me today , so getting on with yesterday : Heading for the Tower Hide , good numbers of Chaffinches were found , mostly feeding on the ground , and even though they were all scanned , again , no sight of a Brambling . Just before the hide , a small flock of Redwing flew along the East Lake and shortly afterwards , the 'chak chak' of Fieldfares were heard beyond Slingsby Hide . First look from the hide produced 2 Teal , 2 Mallard a Coot and a Moorhen in the small bay directly below and 2 more Coot and 3 Tufted Ducks in the distance , where the reedbed meets the lake . Not very exciting , until I noticed a bird drift out from behind the reedbed and attempt to take over the occupancy of a floating log from one of the Coots . With vegetation in front , even with binoculars I couldn't make it out . I stayed put , and after a
while , this bird relinquished the log , and moved out into open water to have a wash and brush up , and could be identified as a female/redhead Goosander . After getting the drake a few visits ago , I
had read that up to three redheads had been seen , so it was good to finally catch up with one of them . It soon became apparent why it was keeping tucked away originally , as it seemed to attract
the attention of every gull that was in the air , here repelling another attack . It would have been nice if it had been a bit closer , but beggars can't be choosers . Whilst watching the Goosander , I caught a fleeting glimpse of a bird landing in a tree over by Slingsby hide , but it was too fleeting to get an
ID . I took a very long range shot of the tree , then hot-footed it over to Slingsby Hide , by which time of course , it had moved on . I suspected a Sparrowhawk , being as I had already had two sightings around Willow Hide , but cannot be sure . Thanks to Marianne and Warren for confirming my suspicion . The 'sentry' was on duty at Slingsby Hide , and in the tallest tree around , a Great Spotted Woodpecker was drumming his heart out , against a grey
sky , and being answered by another , somewhere back over by the Public Hide . From the hide , a Kingfisher 'flyby' , one of four today , but I didn't manage a shot from any of them . Heading back towards the car , large numbers of Lords and Ladies / Arum maculatum are already well above
ground level , and other species like Nettles , Ground Ivy and Cow Parsley are pushing through well too . I hadn't taken lunch with me , but I had put a banana and an energy bar in the car before leaving , and made do with that , as something was telling me to have another look at Willow Hide before leaving , encouraged by a couple of birders saying that they had several Kingfisher views from that hide . I gave Carter Hide a quick look , but apart from another Kingfisher sighting as soon as I arrived over the far side of the lake , it was just Coot , Moorhen and Tufted Ducks to show . Having found the Lords and Ladies earlier , I also had a look for a Winter Spring fungus that is found on the site . Although they are still young and small specimens , these Scarlet Elf Cups / Sarcoscpha
coccinea , they certainly brightened up a grey day .Arriving at Willow Hide , no the Bittern wasn't out on display again , but a small window of less grey sky enhanced the colours on two of the more
common species here , in the form of a drake Gadwall and a drake Teal , in a very fetching 'looking
over the shoulder' pose . Another birder made a short visit to the hide , informing me that he had just seen a Water Rail outside , but it had been spooked by a pair of Mallard , so I'm still waiting to see one here this Winter . Back on my own again , I was just about to pack in , when a bit of disturbance
started , just to the left of the island . I could see that a Cormorant was involved and it looked as if it had brought something up from underwater . I couldn't make out exactly what it was , but from distance it looked like a plastic bag or such . There ensued a lot of thrashing about and diving to
retrieve whatever it was , until the Cormorant reared up out of the water , with a very large fish in it's bill . There then followed an amazing period when the Cormorant charged around with the fish , which I could now see was a good sized Pike , that reminded me of the comedy act where a chap
dances with a doll which is attached to his feet , whilst at the same time , trying to swallow the Pike , that's the Cormorant , not the chap with the dancing doll . All this lifting and 'dancing' was obviously taking it out of the Cormorant , as several times it had to drop the Pike , take a breather , then dive down to retrieve it . I was beginning to think that with all the commotion , a Grey Heron or
something was going to enter the story , and probably make off with the Cormorant's intended meal . At one point , the Cormorant had well over half the fish in it's mouth , but the problem was , how was it going to get the other half in , especially as the bird was sinking under the weight of the Pike . When a second Cormorant turned up , the first spat out the Pike and it appeared as if they had a bit of a tussle underwater , with the Pike floating to the surface . When both Cormorants returned to the surface , they both swam away from the area reaching the middle of the lake , before both started diving some distance apart . The Pike seemed to just drift towards the left side of the island , totally ignored by both , so perhaps a Grey Heron did have the last laugh , and a full belly to boot . The moral of the story must be 'the eye is bigger than the belly' or in this case , the mouth . At the second time of trying , I got back to the car and this time headed home , stopping just briefly on the track out
to photograph one of a handful of Redwings high up in an ever gloomier sky .
And finally , whilst I was at Sevenoaks , Carol had 11 Fieldfares , on/around the Cotoneaster bush
next door , and this morning , in even worse light , five came back for breakfast , and I managed a shot of four of them . Later in the morning , the screeching of Rose-ringed Parakeets announced their
arrival above the berries , and I managed the same number of them in the frame .
Hedgelaying again tomorrow and probably Friday , but might manage to get out tomorrow .
And really finally , thank you for your suggestions to solve my Blogger problems .
ShySongbird , I have changed to the pop up comments page , fingers crossed . Thank you .
Mike H and Rob , I do already use Google Chrome as my browser , but thanks for the suggestion .
Warren , I don't really want to swap things over again , mainly because I don't really know what I'm doing when I try that sort of thing , but if needs must I shall remember your suggestion .