Monday, February 25, 2008

Local birding

A couple of local trips on Sunday; - really just whiling away the time until migration kicks off. I did my second walk round my second tetrad; its mainly farm land, but there’s a golf course and hotel, and a few shooting woods and brooks, so its hard work getting a representative number.

Highlight was a Woodcock which clattered away from near my feet from some rough ground behind the hotel; I assume this had been previously flushed from a local wood by the shooting that was going on. Otherwise a few Yellowhammers were singing across the area, and sizeable flocks of Crows and Rooks.

Then the afternoon at SLRS with Steve. We saw 11 Bullfinches in a bush – yes 11. An excellent number for this time of year, and an indicator that the species is in good health round here. Otherwise more Yellowhammers, 5 Lapwing on the scrape, 5 Meadow Pipits flew round as dusk fell then dropped into some rough ground to roost, and all the while a constant flow of WoodPigeons and Jackdaws into the Osier bed in Pishiobury park. By the time we left the trees were laden; a most impressive sight.

here's the OS map of the tetrad.

Monday, February 18, 2008


From the house in central Sawbo it's about a quarter of a mile to our nearest countryside, so a Green Woodpecker in the garden this morning was an unexpected addition to the garden list.

Sunday, February 17, 2008


Wasn't sure whether I was birding or not this pm. Had to go to the local kids' play barn to book the youngest's 5th birthday party. Carried on to Allen's Green and looked over some empty fields from the car. Went to Stortford to try for Graeme's Merlin, but got lost as hadn't taken the directions (but did see a Fox in someone's garden). Went to Spellbrook, and couldn't make up my mind whether I was going to Walbury for the LSW or Tednambury for the roost, and ended up doing neither. Finally snatched some kind of result when a Treecreeper appeared in a bush. A while since I've seen one although they are present in the valley, and the first for me this year.

Half-Term Part II

We stopped off Stourhead, the National Trust House internationally famous for its farm shop. Once we had raided the shelves for Carrot Cake, Ginger Beer, and a generous slice of The wife of Bath, we went round the lake. Highlights were smashing Marsh Tit plus the four other expected tits, and calling Nuthatch.

Weymouth was freezing. I managed an evening walk round Radipole, and added Ruddy Duck, and a calling Cetti's Warbler to the year list. Otherwise was dull - not even any Med Gulls.

Everything else was just a waste of time. Lodmoor or Portland Harbour? I chose the harbour, and in the freezing cold wind saw nothing, just 6 Brent Goose, a few GCG's and Red-Breasted Mergansers. Clearly the wrong decision - surely Lodmoor would have been warmer if nothing else. Then the Nothe with the family, and down to Newton's Cove. Not even a Black Redstart.

It seems that we are in that period when all the wintering birds have gone, and the summer birds are still a month away. Just as well I'm back to work this week.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

12 Feb Hatfield Forest

Took a morning walk through West Wood and up the W side of Hatfield Forest. The bright sun and the fact that many birds are claiming territories made it ideal for photography, but I’d taken my telescope instead for scanning distant tree lines. I didn’t use it and the strap broke. Oh well.

Birds were disappointing in variety. In West wood Chaffinch numbered 50+ in West wood, but I could get nothing else with them. Redwings were making a loud noise too, and then Mistle Thrush – two fighting – masses of Blue Tits, Great Tits, some Long-Tailed Tits, a vocal pair of GSW, a Wren, a Nuthatch calling, and outside the wood masses of Jackdaws and Wood Pigeons.

The highlights were a couple of small groups of Fallow Deer. Outside the woods they run when they see you, but here they stop and stare. There were a couple of bucks with fine antlers, a spotted doe, and various others whose age and sex I cannot identify. Also, masses of Grey Squirrel.

Back in Hatfield Forest more of the same. Two pairs of GSW, one drumming, another Nuthatch. A Jay, a Marsh Tit and Goldfinchs around. So some nice views, but hard work for not much of a list.

Monday, February 11, 2008

8th-11th Feb Half-Term Break pt I

Cycling through pines, Coal Tits, Goldcrests, Robins calling and the odd flock of Siskins, yes its another visit to Centre Parcs Elveden Forest at Thetford.

Previous visits have had Crossbills round the Village centre, but no such luck this time. There were Goosanders (2m4f), c30 Barnacle Geese (freely flying, but I assume Feral), Pochard, Tufted Duck, Marsh Tit, calling Tawny Owl, and on Sat 9th my first Brimstone Butterfly of the year.

Oh and an Eagle Owl so close I could touch it. In fact I did touch it. And a Peregrine/Lanner hybrid and a Harris Hawk on my arm. All expertly demonstrated by this man who I assume is not responsible for the captions.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

A proper Weymouth and Portland day-list

Here is what a proper birder can see in a day in weymouth and Portland.

Tetrad Count Allen's Green

After a rare night out – a friend’s Stag evening in central London - I felt the need to blow away the cobwebs this morning, so I took the opportunity to do the Feb count for one of my tetrads. I took the same route as last time but in reverse. In the (slightly over) two hours I clocked up 29 species (same number as before), in generally greater numbers as many species are now singing or disputing territory. There was no sign of the Golden Plover seen here last weekend.

The birds are listed below in order of quantity. Species seen this time but not last time in bold.

Wood Pigeon c 300
Fieldfare c 100
Redwing c40 i in a completely separate flock to the Fieldfares
Rook c30 - at the rookery in Allen's Green
Chaffinch 25
Blackbird 24
Great Tit 16
House Sparrow 15
Skylark 15
Starling 10
Goldfinch 9
Carrion Crow 9
Blue Tit 9
Dunnock 7
Long-Tailed Tit 7
Greenfinch 7
Robin 6
Yellowhammer 6
Collared Dove 5
Magpie 5
Stock Dove 4
Song Thrush 3
Kestrel 2
Great-Spotted Woodpecker 2
Moorhen 2
Jay 2
Mistle Thrush 2
Goldcrest 1
Common Buzzard 1

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

After The Lord Mayor’s Show

Just a couple of trips out following the Sheppey extravaganza. Saturday I went round Allen’s Green in the freezing cold. A couple of flocks of Thrushes totalling over 200, with about 20 Redwings and the rest Fieldfares. Two flocks of Golden Plover totalling about 170 birds. Then, in one of those spooky moments, just as I was thinking this was ideal conditions for Merlin, a Merlin turned up. A few miles away. Seen by Graeme.

Then Monday back to SLRS in the late afternoon. Generally very quiet now, trying to put a decent list together was hard work. A Little Grebe on the river was a first for me at this site. A pair of Stonechats now approaching pristine spring plumage at the top end of the scrape field. A flock of 10 Magpies. 7 Moorhens. Green woodpecker and a distant GSW. Then a few Rooks over on their way to roost. Rooks are scarce in this immediate area, and were new for my site list for this year, which now stands at 44.

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...