Saturday, November 17, 2007

Quick question

A quick question for you, which occured to me as I was looking at a tree with Starling, Woodpigeon, Blue tit, Jackdaw, Goldfinch, Blackbird in it.

What's the highest number of species you've seen in a single tree?

Stonechats at SLRS

Went round the Moors south of Sawbridgeworth at midday today in search of Steve’s pair of Stonechats. They eventually gave themselves up on the new fence east of the Railway opposite the scrape. I couldn’t see any rings on the legs, however, but I didn’t get that good a view. (A pair were ringed a mile north at Sawbridgeworth Marsh a couple of weeks ago, and there is in all probability a separate pair up round Stortford).

The scrape was frozen, so smaller numbers here. Meanwhile the fields south of the “Chaff dump” field were freshly ploughed and had large flocks of pigeons and finches.
Highlights of the list below:

Cormorant 1 over, Lapwing 2 on the ice, 5 Snipe flushed from the field south of the scrape. Stock Dove 14 with c30 Wood Pidgeons (the Stock Dovers a record for me in a single group I think). Jay 2, GSW 1, Green Woodpecker 1, Meadow Pipit 5, Yellowhammer 2, Chaffinch c100, Goldfinch c30, Blackbird 10, Song Thrush 3, Mistle Thrush 1, Redwing c20, Fieldfare 1, Starling c20.

Do Stonechats always winter in pairs? Round Weymouth I either see none or several, or don’t count the sexes, but here, where there are fewer, it’s always a pair. So are these the adults from a local breeding pair? Or do first winters pair up in autumn? Questions, questions; perhaps the ringing will give us the answers.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

A new bird for the tetrad

Did the second of my tetrads to day. With the wind keeping the birds down, and myself unfamiliar with much of the tetrad, I only managed about half of it. Nevertheless I found myself in some out of the way corners of rural Hertfordshire with some surprising bits of woodland, orchards, and ponds.

Highlights were: at the golf club, Nuthatch, Linnet, Goldcrest, Skylark, GSW, Kestrel, Bullfinch, Song Thrush. A farm in the middle of the tetrad; GSW, Heron, Bullfinch, Jay, some sparkling Fieldfares and Redwings, Siskin, and then a Common Buzzard heading north along a hedgerow.

Finally back along the road from Gilston to High Wych two more (and different) Common Buzzards. That’s three in an area where the last time this area was surveyed, there were none.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Hatfield Forest & SLRS

First up this morning I did my family duty and took D#3 and D#4 to Hatfield Forest for a constitutional walk. I got my reward in a spooky kind of way that makes you think there might be a God and “Most Haunted” might not be complete nonsense. I saw a couple of Goldcrests in bushes at the bottom of the lake (Shell House end) and was thinking thought what would be really nice now is a Firecrest, when I got onto a Goldcrest with a white supercilium. Hang on! white super, black stripe above it, Bronze sheen on the wings, IT’S A FIRECREST! IT’S A FIRECREST! It flitted around for thirty second or so and then went off. Fantastic.

Nothing could match up to that, but Siskins, Kingfisher in the middle of the lake, Nuthatch over and various finches and peckers and plenty of Redwings made for a terrific day, particularly as the Forest is now looking fabulous in its vivid Autumn colours.

Then in the afternoon back to SLRS with a camera for some more autumn colours. Just 70 Lapwing, 16 Snipe, 2 Common Gull, 16 BHG, 6 Long-tailed Tits. Standing on the opposite bank seems to mean the birds aren’t bothered and are happy to come out in the open. The views are too distant for photography, but still excellent through the scope. Okay it isn’t Minsmere, but I cannot think of a better way of spending time than watching SLRS, with the odd narrow boat drifting by, and some chat with the local dog walkers.

BTO Survey - Sat 2nd

Did my first ever BTO survey west of Allen’s Green. Main sightings were masses of Fieldfares – estimate c180 in total, the most numerous bird. Otherwise 5 Jays, a few Siskins and Yellowhammers; 29 species in total. There were 2 hares as well. It felt great to be doing something that will, even in just a small way, contribute to what will be a significant piece of scientific work.

Allen’s Green Wood is a Pheasant-rearing base, and there was a shoot going on in the fields outside. Having observed the shoot, I now realise that the bin plonked in the middle of the field in which SLRS sits is not for dog-waste but for spent shotgun cartidges.

In the late afternoon went to SLRS. Highlight was a Water Rail. The Water Rail is a speciality of the Stort valley due to the many boggy places down its length. I know just one is poor compared to the 9+ north of Sawbridgeworth, but this was out in the open for ages on the SE corner. Otherwise some Siskins in the birches by the marina and some Chaffinches, Goldfinches, Green Woodpecker, GSW, c30 Starlings.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Lovely Bones

My place of work is large offices in the middle of London near St Paul’s. During the building several years ago the site was thoroughly excavated, and today some of the findings were exhibited.

Amongst the many bones were remains of Raven, Red Kite, Goshawk, Sparrowhawk, Quail, and Common Crane, all from between 1300ish and 1666 (all except the Crane the earlier part of this period).

One of the archaeologists explained that Crane remains are often found at sites of banquets or other ceremonial meals. So I got wondering if Cranes were kept, probably pinioned, for such occasions, and possibly transported live from the continent. Maybe the same for some of the other birds. Can we be sure these birds were genuinely wild in the UK, and not transported and farmed?

The Yanks are coming

According to Piers Corbyn and his Weather Action organisation, Storms are due on Nov 8-13 and Nov 24-28. No doubt westerlies which will deliver gulls and other raries to western coasts.

Remember you read it here first. Unless, like me, you read it here first

Commonly Spotted Orchids

We are fortunate in the UK in that the commonest orchids are also amongst the most beautiful. I spent a morning photographing some on the lo...