Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Inbetween the showers.

The weather has not let up this week but I have managed a few brief forays to stretch the legs inbetween the showers. A week ago the pond on Bookham Common was alive with Toads and a few Frogs. I previously posted a few more images on my FABirding blog.
This week the only inhabitants were Moorhen, Coot and two male Mallard keeping very close company.
Chiffchaffs were announcing their recent arrival everywhere and the repetitive song of a Song Thrush drifted through the woodland on the breeze.
I headed into one of the woods to check on progress. Lots of young green shoots emerging but I guess it will be at least another 3 to 4 weeks before the bells will erupt and turn this into a carpet of blue but there were plenty of wild primroses (Primula vulgaris) dotted about the floor. Its name comes from the latin for 'First Rose' and the five petals represent birth, initiation, consummation, repose and death. 
Heading out of the wood I disturbed a Pheasant who promptly strutted away!
A detour along a path between open fields where there was recent evidence of the art of hedge-laying. The effect of thinning out, cutting and then layering will rejuvenate growth and provide a very effective stock-proof barrier plus, in time, fresh habitat for nesting species.
A domesticated Guineafowl feeding in one of the fields.
A view through the railway bridge where I decided to retrace my steps as another band of of rain clouds were moving in. High over the wood I heard the call of a Common Buzzard and then had a distant view of two individuals as the effortlessly drifted away following the treeline.
A male Chaffinch turned his back on me as it dived into deep cover.
There are hundreds of old Oaks throughout the various woods; many pollared long ago; and in order to give them breathing space vast areas are being thinned out.  Large areas of scrub has also been cleared to rejuvenate the natural grassland that supports a wide range of insect life that provides food for both resident
and the returning migrant bird species, such as the Nightingale. Breeding territories of this evocative songster have fallen over recent years and it is hoped that the current management plan will help to provide better conditions for the future. I always look forward to making early morning visits to listen for the Nightingales arrival and  this year will be no exception.  FAB.

Some Yellow at Last.

At last we have some yellows shining in the garden, all we need now is plenty of proper sunshine.  FAB.

Friday, 26 March 2010

Building Continues....

Despite my reasonably close presence yesterday the Robin contined to collect necessary building materials and I think the construction is now complete.  FAB.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Treetop Warbler.

During a number of brief forrays out locally this week I have heard newly arrived Chiffchaffs calling but locating them high on their song posts within woodland was not easy, nor was getting really decent shots with grey overcast skies. (Please note that all these shots are heavily cropped).
However, one of three individuals singing at Epsom Common gave me one opportunity as I stretched my neck and pointed the lens upwards.
A few moments later it decided to go fly catching and dive bombed its prey!

It eventually resettled on the same perch and began singing again for a short while and then there was absolute silence throughout the woodland and I realised that the Chiffchaff and everything else had suddenly disappeared. Searching the sky above I eventually spotted a female Sparrowhawk very high above and moving away. It always amazes me how observant these small birds are to sense the presence of a predator so far above them.  FAB.

Building Begins.

This morning the Robin has been collecting moss from the lawn and other materials from the garden and is busily building a nest in the ivy behind the 'blue' nest box. These shots were quickly taken through the window but hopefully I'll be able to get some more 'outdoor' shots very soon.  FAB.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Not Quite all Blue and White.

Whilst doing some work in the garden my eyes where drawn towards the two main colours, blue and white, that seem to predominate at the moment.
Muscari and Scilla's.
The whites are predominately from various tall and expanding clumps of Leucojum aestivum, which began life as just three bulbs some years ago, (the flowers open outwards and have green nibs on each petal); the much rarer and shorter Leucojum vernum 'Podpolozje' (the flowers hang downwards like lanterns and have distinctive yellow nibs) and of course the Snowdrops.
The Narcissus are only just thinking about showing some colour but ther is still others to enjoy including the Hellebores with a few darker forms now adding to the palette plus the striped Tulip leaves and the gently fading long catkins on the Corylus contorta.  
Some of my readers will remember the pair of special pots that were a surprise gift from my dear friends at Whichford Pottery and at long last I have planted these up with two different Phormiums underpanted with some Heucheras.
One main task was to tidy up an old Clematis that constantly outgrows it's support. I have therefore used some old metal tubing from the defunct fruit cage to extend its height and spent ages untangling the old stems, pruning and then retying into the support. I just hope the display is as good as in previous years, but only time will tell.  FAB.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Territorial Dunnock.

During the past few days one male Dunnock (Prunella modularis) has been announcing his territorial ownership by singing from the highest perch he could find in a conifer situated in a neighbours garden.
Similar in size to our Robin with a warbler-like bill he loudly projected his even pitch, shuttling song, (sometimes said to be like a squeaking gate or trolley wheels) and was constantly answered by another male calling from a much taller conifer 100 yards away.
A flutter of his wings as he repositioned himself.
He then took up a stationery pose once his opponent stopped singing. Generally a quiet, unobtrusive bird that is often overlooked as it skulks through the undergrowth and belies its spicy sex life which I won't recount here but you can check out a piece I posted a year ago for more detail, if you are interested.  FAB.

Saturday, 20 March 2010

Scenes from a damp and lonely walk.

Well I honoured my part of the bargain by driving to the coast and arrived at the meeting point in good time to be greeted by a grey overcast sky, a strong westerly wind with the promise of fleeting showers moving through followed by heavier rain! While I waited I watched a few birds around the feeders outside the Information Centre.
This Great Tit decided not to take the seed through the wire but to dive straight into the hole. 
I waited and waited but as nobody appeared to join me for the SBC walk (can only presume that the weather put everyone off!) I decided that I would go it alone despite the weather conditions. (I will apologise now for the poor quality of the photos but trying to capture something while attempting to keep myself and all the gear dry was not easy.)
A few Shelduck on the Ferry Pool.
A sleeping, one legged Avocet.
The head of the estuary with the usual Redshanks calling as they feed on the muddy margins.
The harbour at low tide - looking south-east.
I heard Cetti's Warbler again today and added Reed Bunting to the list. In a month or so this area will be full of the chattering sounds of Reed and Sedge Warblers with Swifts, Swallows and Martins flying around.
I could hear the constant ringing whistle of Teal hidden amoungst the reeds and then a pair floated past just as the first rain shower commenced. The walk to Church Norton was fairly quiet apart from the song of Skylarks and a few Meadow Pipits zipped past in the wind. 
No sign of any Firecrests in the churchyard (probably moved on) but a Mistle Thrush dashed past me.
As another rain shower reduced visibility I dived into the hide and this was the view through the window. Still a lot of exposed mud with the usual mixture of waders. Today I was pleased to find a few Black-tailed Godwits with some already starting to come into their striking rufous breeding plumage. 
Leaving the hide I headed for the beach. The sea looked pretty angry so I spent very little time searching the waves. However I did eventually catch up with a pair of newly arrived Northern Wheatear as they moved up and down the shingle beach but always one step ahead of me.  
I did manage one shot of a confiding Common Ringed Plover before it was time to pack the camera away from the next damp shower.
High tide at Church Norton with a flock of waders in the air way in the distance. The return walk was made in constant rain with little to see but empty water.
High tide at the head of the estuary where my damp, lonely walk ended. I added 10 species to my list for the two visits to Pagham this week making a grand total of 64. Hopefully next time the weather will be kinder and far more migrants will have arrived.  FAB. 

Thursday, 18 March 2010

Coastal Reconnaissance.

As the weather forecast suggests that the weekend could be unsettled with more rain expected I headed to Pagham Harbour for a reconnoitre in advance of a planned walk this coming Saturday. Throughout my wanderings I logged a total of 54 species including 3 new sightings for this year. Starting at the Ferry Pool there were at least a dozen Common Snipe clearly visible on the grassy margins plus one sleeping Avocet and plenty of Shelduck.  A short walk at the head of the harbour produced  a Kestrel and the first of a number of Cetti's Warblers calling loudly from its hideaway in thick undergrowth.
A Little Egret carefully watching for any movement in the muddy water below.

I then drove to Church Norton and scoped the usual waders collecting on the exposed ridges in the harbour on the fast rising tide; Dunlin, Knot, Redshank, Oystercatcher, Grey Plover, Lapwing, Curlew and Redshanks. I then managed a few shots of a pair of Common Ringed Plover who were investigating a possible nesting site on the shingle close to my location.
Common Ringed Plover
Black-headed Gulls taking a rest.
Heading east towards The Severals a Stonechat appeared very briefly and 3 Mute Swans flew past with the upper pair trying hard not to bump into each other!
Another new tick for 2010 was a single Spotted Redshank busily feeding on one of the small pools. With the sky looking a bit dark I headed into a small patch of woodland after watching two Common Buzzards soaring overhead and found a likely spot to consume my packed lunch. I had just got settled when I spotted the flitting movement high in the leafless canopy that suggested Goldcrest but when I honed in with the bins I was amazed to locate, not one, but two Firecrests frantically feeding. My efforts to capture them with the camera were thwarted by their failure to keep still for more than a second but nevertheless I enjoyed their 'out of reach' company for over 10 minutes before they moved off to a denser thickett.  
On my return walk back towards Church Norton this Linnet posed and sang from an open perch. Back at the churchyard I located a Chiffchaff (possibly newly arrived) and would you believe it another Firecrest! So all in all a good omen for the weekend providing it doesn't rain continually and the chance that some other migrants may arrive in the next few days.   FAB.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Riverside Park Walk.

Some images from a walk last week, at Riverside Park, starting as usual alongside the Wey Navigation from the iron bridge.
A Grey Wagtail appeared briefly on the path behind us but as soon as we turned around it promptly flew away into a nearby garden. We scanned the water meadows and located over 30 Pied Wagtails busily feeding plus distant movements amoungst the grass of Meadow Pipits and probable Water Pipits through the bins. (A scope would have made the task easier if I had bothered to take it!) 
Still plenty of seeds on the riverside reeds gently swaying in the chilly breeze. We searched the trees alongside the Wey Navigation and found Blue, Great and Long-tailed Tits, Chaffinch, Blackbird and Goldfinch. I also heard Siskins but couldn't locate them high in the top of the Alders. A lonesome Redwing was seen searching through the very damp undergrowth and a number of Wrens flitting  alongside the path.
Close to the lock a Canada Goose popped its head up to check on the nearby intruders to its patch!
We stopped at the lake for a rest and spotted a single Great Crested Grebe, Tufted Ducks, Mallards and various Canada Geese all paired up. It was peacefully quiet until the 'honking' begun and two geese took a disliking to one another. I wasn't ready for the action on the water but just managed to capture them as the chase to took to the air. They soon returned to their respective partners on the water non the worse for their brief encounter! 
Two Cormorants posed on the Tern raft, totally oblivious to anything around them. 
Hopefully we will have the opportunity to watch the Common Terns nesting when they return.   FAB.


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