Thursday, 31 January 2013

One down, eleven to go...

I must be getting old, it’s the end of January already and the first month of the Patchwork Challenge is over!!!

So how has it been going…? Well to be honest it has been a bit of a mixed bag. A dodgy foot and more recently a bout or ‘manflu’ has kept appearances out on the patch limited although when I have managed to get out is has been pretty good. The fact that the garden is in the patch has saved many a day and delivered some decent birds. The recent bad weather has been excellent with 23 brambling, 40 goldfinch, 3 lesser redpoll and 7 fieldfare and being recorded within the garden boundaries while fly-over greylag goose and mallard all count.

Out on the ‘wider’ patch the undoubted highlight has been the woodcock. 28 birds in one trip around the common probably won’t be beaten. I have been surprised by the number of wintering goldcrests in the area, at times they have been all over the place and regular marsh tit sightings have been a bonus.

I had no real expectation on how many species I would see but I am really happy with the 55 species seen.

Wednesday, 23 January 2013

Cornish highlights

I was looking through some photos the other day when I came across these photos of the buff-breasted sandpiper on Davidstow airfield last October and thought I would post them.
It was one of many highlights from a weeks birding in the far south that included both Cory's, great (2), several hundred sooty and Balearic shearwaters, yellow browed warbler, 4-5 firecrest and the 7 red-rumped swallows at Marazion.

Although they are not the best shots in the world, I was happy with the results considering they were digiscoped out of the car window only using a beanbag for support.

Leave is already booked for this October and I will be finding the 'big one'....

Monday, 21 January 2013


With snow on the ground for the last is has been interesting to see how the birds have reacted
The snow first arrived on Monday afternoon making an interesting journey home. Further snow and very cold temperatures (-10.8) made travelling to Strumpshaw no fun at all. A journey that normally takes 90mins took 3hrs!!

So how has it affected the patch...?
The most obvious signs have been in the garden. Large numbers of finches have arrived and have been emptying the feeders almost daily. It has been difficult to accurately count them but at least 20 greenfinch, 25+ chaffinch and 13 bramblings have been present. A supply of apples has kept the thrushes coming in. The blackbirds numbers have been high all winter (20 daily) but since it has been cold the scarcer species have been in. Over the weekend, upto 7 fieldfares, 2 redwing and a 1st winter mistle thrush have been regularly seen. 3 siskin, 2 pied wagtail, common and black headed gulls have been unusual sightings.
Saturday afternoon out and about for a full patch walk and it was very quiet for people with the wintery conditions. The first species of note was the first red legged partridges of the year which was surprising considering the large numbers that are released in the area. The area was pretty quiet for small birds, probably on garden feeding stations, but 13 blackbirds, a woodcock and great spotted woodpecker feeding along a shelterbelt where there was no snow was unusual.
Another woodcock flushed from the side of the road encouraged me to check further and soon another 8 were recorded. I decided then to search the fringing birch woodland around the edge of the common and flushed a further 19 birds!!

Driving through the patch on Sunday morning produced another 4 woodcock feeding by the side of the road.

Patch list now stands at 54 species, 55 points

Pics of a snowy patch

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Wintery WeBS

An early start this morning for this months WeBS count saw me heading into work with light snow falling!! Thankfully it didn't last long and by the time is had got light (slight mis-calculation with the time) the sun was coming up and despite the easterly wind, it was very pleasant. With two of the counters away this month it was up to me and Phil to split up an area that 4 people normally do. Phil had the lagoons and reedbed and I did the beach and saltmarsh.

Things got off to a good start with two adult whooper swans on the fresh marsh but by the time I got down to the beach the tide had already started to drop. The first thing was to see where the biggest number of birds were roosting and start there, Brancaster creek it was. There was a good number of gulls and over 300 oystercatcher but not a great deal else so it was up to Thornham Point. Although not massive numbers of birds on the face of it, by the time I had got to the point I had counted just over 1000 sanderling, a good count for us. The counting process wasn't helped by a fine male peregrine flying along the beach and flushing everything!!
Apart from a few pintail, the saltmarsh was very quiet but I did catch up with 31 twite flying along the dunes as I walked back.

25 lapwing over the village on the way hope to the patch list to 52 spp, 53 points.

A couple of 'arty' black and white photos of the beach and saltmarsh from this morning. I'm not sure how I set the camera to B&W but they looked better than in colour!!


Thursday, 10 January 2013

Freakin Fog!

An early morning visit to the doctor has given me the all clear with the foot so its now full speed ahead with the patch.

With calm, cold conditions early on I decided that it there should be a few more finches around the garden so I opened up my nets. It wasn't long before the fog started to form but I kept them open. I was surprised that there wasn't very many birds about but along with the 3 blackbirds, I caught a fine 1st yr male brambling, the first ringed in the garden. Loads of pinkies were flying around the area in the fog and another record of greylag goose (several birds calling) was added!

Happy with that, it was out onto the patch. By now the fog was getting pretty thick and not wanting to stress my foot too much, I decided to give the damp woodland a go for woodcock.

The visibility was pretty crappy to be honest and it was very quiet for small birds with the damp cold conditions. A calling marsh tit and male siskin in the trees by the marsh were the highlights until I flushed a woodcock (51) from the roadside, quickly followed by another. The only other thing of note from my walk was that the heath does seem to be good for goldcrests at the moment. I am sure that they are breeders from the plantations in the area but 10 birds was pretty good.

One day I hope to see the area in sunlight....

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Finally managed to get out

After a rocky start to the year, I have finally managed to get a couple of visits onto the patch this weekend.

To help with my recording I have played around with the boundaries and divided the patch up into 4 sections making the most of the different habitats. The great thing about including the garden is that if the weather is rubbish, I can sit at the window and watch what is going on. That certainly paid off this morning as while I was ringing I added a flyover greylag goose, pair of mallard, 200 pink footed geese and a merlin. 3 bullfinches (1st yr male, adult and 1st yr females) were an unexpected bonus.

Sadly thick fog put pay to my moochings today but not after I had managed to take my total to 50 species which I think is a pretty good start.  I think that it is probably most of the things that are about at the moment but I am hoping there will be a few surprises....
Most of my time was spent kicking around the common  in the search of woodcocks. The common is fringed with damp scrubby birch woodland with lots of bracken, ideal for roosting birds but sadly today I couldn't find any. I did managed to find a roosting barn owl, a nice flock of redwing and a mixed flock of siskin and redpolls feeding by the marsh. Is was too foggy to give them a good check, something for another day. The common is a great area for marsh tit and I had another 4 birds today.

A combination of the thick fog and my bloody foot put pay to a complete walk but not before I added another merlin to the daylist

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Bloody foot!

I have know idea what I have done to my right foot (not a NYE injury) but my first opportunity to start my patchwork challenge was scuppered by barely able to walk more than a few metres.

I did however open my nets in the garden for a couple of hours before the rain arrived and had an excellent morning. 15 new, 10 re-traps and a control was a decent return. Best birds were 2 goldfinch, 4 coal tit (7 in garden), 3 blackbirds inc a control. Two female bramblings had been about in the morning but sadly waited until the nets were closed before dropping into the feeders.

Thankfully the patch is centred around the garden so sat at the patio doors gave a good opportunity to add species without having to walk far. Obviously, most of the 27 species added were garden birds but several nice things were added. Flyover golden plover, fieldfare, yellowhammer and fieldfare were nice while 2 jay and a magpie in the garden were good.

Hopefully the foot will improve by the weekend, fingers crossed!!

Barn owl on the way home, a regular sighting at the moment.

Tuesday, 1 January 2013

And we're off

It was quite nice to wake up this morning not having to worry too much as my yearlisting doesn't start until tomorrow with the first visit to the patch. Probably a good job really as the New Year cocktails had left their mark...!

First bird of the year was a marsh tit on the feeders outside the window but even better was a red deer hind that was feeding on buddleia only 3ft from the window.

Its was a cracking day so we headed to the Minsmere beach with the boys. The sea was pretty quiet with only a couple of close red throated divers.

The big boys were then allowed to go off and do some birding on their own. The South Levels were very flooded and as a result had loads of wildfowl on them. Most were teal, wigeon and pintail but there was 5 Tundra bean geese, 2 brent geese and an adult yellow-legged gull to add interest. 3 redhead smew were on  the Scrape on the way back.

Final species on the morning was this cave spider in a shed by the visitor centre!!

Geese were the order of the day with a trip out to North Warren. Although it was an impressive sight it is a shame that all the barnacle geese are all feral and can't be counted which can also be said for the 4 red breasted geese that were present. 3 of the birds were adults and have been in the area for a few years but the third, a 1st winter, has only turned up recently and is being mooted as wild, don't think it will be going on the list yet....
The rest of the 'wild' geese were showing really well from the path with 100+ white fronts, single 1st winter pink foot and an adult Tundra bean.

Final birds of the day were 7 (4 adult) Bewick's swans just on the edge of the reserve. A pretty good start to the year but bring on the patch!