Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Waiting for a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker.

On Monday afternoon, after returning home from a visit to Staines Reservoir (post to follow), I was contacted by friends who informed me that a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker had been regularly visiting a large tree in their garden during the previous 24 hours. "Would I like to visit the following morning and try to get some photographic evidence?" You can, no doubt, guess my response.

So when we met up on Tuesday morning I listened to their delight in recounting the joy in finding and watching the 'sparrow-sized' Woodpecker that they hadn't heard or seen for about 20 years. 

While enjoying a chat over a cup of coffee I noticed the activity at their feeders on the other side of their large double-glazed patio doors and took the opportunity to grab a few shots of its much larger cousin the Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopus major). The hint of red on the back of the head signifies that this was a male.

When we stepped outside into the very chilly sunshine the piping call of the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker  was heard almost immediately from a hidden perch in a line of trees near the bottom of their property. 

It then flew to its regular feeding spot high up on a bare branch and I only had time for a couple of distant shots before it departed.

I waited in the chilly wind for well over an hour but the tiny Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopus minor) didn't return so for the time being I'll have to settle for this cropped record shot.

Still a very pleasing addition to my year list. FAB.

Monday, 27 April 2015

Foggy Birding.

Last Friday I took a break from wielding the paintbrush and paid a very early morning visit to Tices Meadows. During my drive south-westwards across the county the dawn sunshine at home soon changed to patches of fog and on arrival it was obvious that the meadows where almost totally shrouded in a foggy blanket.
Fortunately there was compensation as I walked into this site from the varied bird song including Blackbird, Dunnock, Song Thrush, Wren, Robin, Chiffchaff, Chaffinch, Blackcap, Willow Warbler and Nightingale.

Just above a dense patch of scrub where a hidden Nightingale was singing a male Blackcap (Sylvia atricapilla) perched nearby and repeatedly sang.

With little to see on the water through the fog I strolled slowly along a track between the reed beds and a male Sparrowhawk jinked through the sallows and when I turned around it was perched on a fence post. As you can see the conditions weren't particularly conducive for getting any quality images so just a record shot! 
Nearby I listened to my first Reed Warbler of the year and then spotted the male being joined by a potential partner and the singing abruptly stopped as the pair disappeared deep into the reeds together. A little further on I also heard the scratchy songs of at least two Sedge Warblers. Eventually some of the fog dissipated enabling me to add two Little Ringed Plover and House Martin to my year and county lists.

When I retraced my route back towards the car I watched several Common Whitethroat and a Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita) managed to get within reach of the lens.

Once again I stopped close to the spot where I had earlier heard a Nightingale (Luscinia megarhynchos) and eventually one popped into the open and sang its beautiful verses. Not the sharpest of images but it will do for the time being!

All in all, a very interesting morning despite the foggy conditions. FAB.

Linking to Nature Notes and Wild Bird Wednesday

Monday, 20 April 2015

April Colours.

I've had another busy and varied week; continuing with the internal redecorating projects mixed with a couple of early dawn morning walks to check what migrants may have returned locally; so a few images stored for future posts. I have also been enjoying the changing colours in my small garden helped by the increased daily sunshine and warmer temperatures until a chilly ENE wind picked up over the weekend.

The Narcissus have put on a good show but are now beginning to drop their colourful blooms.

I am not a particular fan of the very tall large trumpet varieties so my small garden plays host to a few of the smaller 'Triandrus' and 'Cyclamineus' forms including Reggae, Thalia and Jetfire. Over the weekend I was delighted to see that the wild N. bulbocodium had opened its tiny trumpet (sorry no pics yet).
The feeders continue to attract the colorful Goldfinch.

Plenty of blue showing everywhere with clumps of Muscari popping up all over the place. In the last few days I have also noticed at several woodland sites that our native Bluebells are starting to come into flower.

The only other blue in the garden recently was a visit from a female Holly Blue.

I carried out the first of my weekly butterfly recording transect walks on Ashtead Common on Sunday but only logged one Peacock and one Speckled Wood. Although there was plenty of sunshine the gusty ENE wind obviously kept the temperature lower than the flutters prefer.

Since taking these images early last week the Erythronium 'Pagoda' in a side border has produced its distinctive flowers and now I'll have to wait another year for them to show again.

Inspection of two of the four nest boxes revealed that nests have been built but I think the prospective tenants, Blue Tits (usual box on the rear of the shed) and probably a Dunnock (in an open box), have been frightened away by regular visit from a local cat!
A single male Dunnock is still around, regularly singing, but I haven't seen evidence of any prospective partnerships whereas on my regular local patch walks I have seen numerous pairs of Dunnock displaying courtship behaviour. 

Some of the other colours around the garden include the fragrant Skimmia 'Rubella', Chaenomeles (flowering quince), an alpine Campanula, the Cowslips (Primula veris) while the Robin (below) continues to add a dash of red to the colour palette on a daily basis.

At best the temperature might reach 16 deg C tomorrow but still with a chilly easterly breeze and then a change in wind direction so more unsettled weather is forecast into next weekend with the chance of rain.FAB.

Linking to Nature Notes

Friday, 17 April 2015

Friday Flutters.

Brimstone (Gonepteryx rhamni)
With the warmer temperatures the butterflies are beginning to show themselves during my regular wildlife wanderings so I thought it was time to resurrect 'Friday Flutters' to highlight what species I have been seeing.

During a patch walk at Epsom Common on 27th March I encountered at least 5 Brimstone on the wing throughout the open woodland. Unfortunately they weren't very cooperative when it came to getting any clear shots.

Just over a week ago at Tices Meadows I saw my first Small Tortoiseshell of the year but was unable to get any shots.

Typically the easily recognised Peacock has been on the wing locally since at least late February having awoken from hibernation. As you can see this individual is already well frayed around the edges!
Peacock (Inachis io)

Two weeks ago a Holly Blue dashed past me at Epsom Common Stew Pond and yesterday one was flying around the garden. Today, possibly the same female with its heavy black wing tips, was spotted by Anita in the garden resting on a rose leaf so I couldn't pass up the opportunity of a few shots and more images will be posted on FABirding.

Holly Blue [female] (Celastrina argiolus)

During an early morning patch walk today I came across at least 15 Bee Flies with their very distinctive hairy body and long proboscis resting at the edge of a dry path.
Bee Fly (Bombylius major)

And my other first sighting was a Specked Wood resting on the leaf litter in the woodland.

Speckled Wood (Pararge aegeria)
Linking to Saturday's Critters hosted by Eileen.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Dawn at Bookham Common.

My day started early on Wednesday morning with my alarm clock ringing at 4.30 a.m. which enabled me to drive and arrive at Bookham Common well before sunrise to listen to the Dawn Chorus.

With a thin slice of the moon suspended just above the dark silhouette of the woodland boundary I was greeted by a cacophony of sounds. Whilst difficult to unravel all the component parts of this orchestral delight the main voices were typically the Blackbirds, Song and Mistle Thrushes, Dunnocks, Wrens and Robins. At this early hour my sound receptors failed to pick out a returning migrant Nightingale so I strode purposefully to the far side of the common. 

With the sun just beginning the shine through the tree tops a thin blanket of mist hovering at ground level obscured part of my view over the field at Banks Common and enabled two Roe Deer to quickly hide from the lens. Behind me a hidden Blackcap sang out and a Common Buzzard called from a nearby wood.

With the lightening sky the bird song diminished drastically so before retracing my steps I took a few shots of the boundary fences. Linking to Good Fences hosted by Theresa.

A male Pheasant stands guard over his partner hidden in the grass in one of the many horse paddocks erected around Chasemore Farm.

After crossing one of the many bridges that span the various streams I finally heard the briefest of songs of a Nightingale while photographing a very obliging Dunnock in full voice. 

I was also pleased to find three Willow Warblers and captured a few images of other songsters which I'll share in a forthcoming post. FAB.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Common Redstart.

Having spent most of the week either gardening or starting on some long outstanding redecorating jobs indoors I felt the need to get out today and see what other migrants might have turned up. A visit to Thursley Common seemed a good choice and produced several singing Willow Warblers, a Tree Pipit and two Swallows passing through to add to my year list.

But the highlight was finding three male [Common] Redstart (Phoenicurus phoenicurus) recently arrived from Africa and I watched one individual stamp his authority on the others as it staked out its new breeding territory.

Resplendent in its breeding plumage; orange-red breast, black throat and white forehead; and constantly vibrating its tail to reveal the rusty-red feathers.

After the other two males vacated the immediate area I had to wait quite a time before this male decided to perch briefly to allow the lens to focus. Once the females arrive nesting will begin in earnest and I'll try to return to get some better images. FAB.

 Linking to Saturday's CrittersI'D-Rather-B-Birdin' and Wild Bird Wednesday.

Saturday, 4 April 2015


One of the earliest migrant warbler songs that I listen for on my local patch walks is that of the [Common] Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita) and over the past few days I have seen and or heard at least a dozen individuals at two different locations. Whilst some birds do overwinter in our southern counties the majority visit the UK from around the Mediterranean from mid-March until October.

Typically this 'LBJ' flits around fairly high up in the trees seeking out insects while continually announcing its presence. Its call is a soft whistled 'hweet' but the song is usually a series of well spaced, clear, monosyllabic notes.

This species is very similar to the Willow Warbler (P. trochilus), which also arrives here in April, but in early Spring the distinctive, repetitive song and dark legs of the Chiffchaff makes identification easy. I'll be listening out for a returning Willow Warbler during the coming weeks.

Wishing everyone wherever you are a glorious wildlife watching Easter weekend.  FAB.
Linking to Saturday's Critters and I'D-Rather-B-Birdin'


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