Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Buzzard with missing primaries

This common Buzzard wandered over Shadoxhurst around mid-day, missing a few primaries it should be easy to pick-up again. You'd have to hope that it hasn't been shot.

Walking from the house to Blind grooms Lane, there were 3 Lesser whitethroats, 1 Whitethroat and 1 Nightingale in scrubby field edges. There are still little parties of Meadow Pipits passing through. Swallows seem abundant around Shadoxhurst this year, but we're still waiting to hear our first Cuckoo. Not a true migrant and notable by absence are Bullfinches, they seem to be getting even scarcer. As the month ends I note that Siskins, Redpolls all seem to have moved northwards now.

Insect wise, with plenty of sunshine now, we have seen the odd Brimestone and Orange tipped butterflies in the garden.

Meadow Pipit, Shadoxhurst playing field

Friday, 26 April 2013

Partial eclipse of the moon over Romney Marsh

April 25th 8.30pm. The moon low in the sky, appears distorted through the atmosphere. the shadow on
the left is the the subtle partial eclipse.

The eclipse in the picture manifests itself in the subtle darker shading on the left hand side of the moon. The dark areas bottom right are cloud.

The most obvious thing about the Moon last night, was the red hues at its rise. Returning back from Romney Marsh, I couldn't help but notice the moon slip up above the horizon and take on a 'Mars' like appearance. That was what led me to taking the picture and it was only later in the evening that I realised this was the time of an uncommon very shallow partial eclipse. 

Monday, 22 April 2013

Nightingale scrub cleared in Orlestone forest

Cleared scrub, Birchett Wood April 22nd
This time last year, I was thrilled to find a new area of scrub in Birchett Wood that had been colonised by Nightingales. Knowing Orlestone Forest well, to my ears this small area held the highest density of Nightingales present summer 2012. The area isn't particularly large just a few acres divided by wide woodland rides. So returning tonight, I'm very disappointed to find half of the scrub has been cleared and no Nightingales present.

On the plus side, tonight the area not coppiced had five Nightingales singing, and close-by in this western end of Birchett wood, 10 birds were singing in total.  More birds will arrive in the coming weeks, so despite last years terrible breeding season, there are still plenty of birds around.

I fully understand the need for coppicing, I know how quickly Nightingales can move on when scrub doesn't suit them, but I wonder how well managed this clearance has been? It could be argued that the cleared area will benefit Woodcock, Nightjar and Tree Pipit, perhaps someone really has thought this through?

Just passing; Brambling, Buzzards and Kestrel

Female Brambling, around for a week now..

..and plenty of Siskins not in a rush to move either.

Two of 10 common Buzzards over the garden during Saturday. The pale bird was very striking.

Female Kestrel, circled over the garden and then drifted on.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Hungry Blackcaps

Most Springs, migrant Blackcaps are busy foraging for insects in and amongst the Blackthorn Blossom at the back of the garden. They can be hard to see as they dissappear into clouds of white blossom, their presence revealed more by the males singing. But this year, it's different. For a start, there's no singing and the Blackthorn trees, the earliest of our common Hedgerow trees to blossom, has yet to flower.

As our cold 2013 spring commences, there must be many hungry migrants arriving, so as a test I decided to put some Apples in the hedge. Within an hour the first Blackcap had arrived. Two males and at least one female were present on the Apples till dusk, often squabbling with Blue Tits who are, equally, finding it hard to find enough insects to eat.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Shadoxhurst Nightingales singing tonight

I was just about to go to bed when I thought I'd take a quick walk down the garden for a late night listen, and it's clear that the strong southerly wind that has prevailed for the last day has ushered in many new spring migrants. 2 Nightingales can clearly be heard singing in the hedgerows towards the village church. Fingers crossed that all the newly arriving migrants can find food to eat.

Tawney Owl and Little Owl could also be heard calling.

First Swallows return

Blue skies, southerly winds 20 degrees and 6 Swallows gracing the garden sky all day long. Our prayers answered! Around Shadoxhurst many more Swallows in the air and resting in groups on telegraph wires.

Down at Dungeness tonight (for 2 hours) a Cuckoo flew over the car park as I arrived. Many Chiffchaffs, Willow warblers, a handful of House Martins and Sand Martins. Also singles of Yellow Wagtail, Great White Egret and 1 Little Egret.  All the regulars by the fishing boats inc one Red throated Diver and  6 Porpoises.

 Little Egret and below Great White Egret both on the Arc Pit at Dungeness

In the late afternoon sunshine, France appeared to be closer today!

Friday, 12 April 2013

House Martin - the first summer migrant

The ghastly weather just runs on and on. Okay it's warmer but it's also very wet and windy. Just by chance I saw a House Martin over the garden, being tossed around in the wind and rain, it didn't look robust enough for our version of climate change.

With so little to see, our flock of Pheasants, who've been devouring our bird seed all winter are now happy and tolerant enough to allow a few portraits. So here's a Pheasant.. the rain.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Passage Bramblings arrive

Hoping for more Bramblings in the coming days, this picture will have to do for now.

The long standing North Easterly wind has gone (at last), and at times even the sun can be observed. As it's April it's a good time for a visiting Brambling, and sure enough the seed feeder had a solitary plucky bird finishing off the last of the sunflower seed this morning. It was joined by a second bird later in the day.

A quick walk down Blindgrooms Lane, Shadoxhurst, and there were still plenty of winter birds around. These included 2 Woodcock and 100+ Redwing, and just a small party of Meadow Pipits overhead. A Skylark was singing over the open fields, a small patch of Ladies Smock is now in flower and a couple of oversized Bumble Bees were on the wing. Sadly, no sign of Lesser Spotted woodpecker and no Chiffchaffs either, but lets see how things change when the weather improves over the weekend. Still many Chaffinches, Siskins and Redpolls are around the garden.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Siskins and the garden Finch fest

Siskin, nearly ready to depart North before the village Swallows arrive.             

The last week or so has seen a bumper number of Chaffinches (35), Greenfinches (10), House Sparrow (32), Yellowhammers (15) and Reed Buntings (3) in the garden.

We're now on our third sack of seed since Christmas, which is also quickly devoured by a group of 8 Pheasants, who have become quite tame and not flying away when I'm scattering seed.

The real stars of the last 2 weeks though, have been Siskins who seem to have invaded every village in Kent (and Lincolnshire). In our garden, they struggle to get on to the feeders and are soon forced aside by larger birds. However they're happy to feed on Sallow Catkins, and it's not unusual to see 20+ Siskins chattering and tweeting away in the trees. They are often in the company of smaller numbers of Redpolls which are also searching for seed in gardens at this time of the year. That was until yesterday, when the strong and wintery North easterly wind eased, allowing birds to continue their migration north.

Often in the company of Siskins, Redpolls have visited the garden Larch tree regularly in the last 2 weeks.

Jackdaw nest building in rare sunshine yesterday
Getting ever tamer, one of up to ten hen Pheasants
King of the garden - and survivor of the shooting season, one of 2 male Pheasants presently squabbling over our garden territory.

Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Late Wood Anemones

Taken on the same day 2 years apart, no surprises that the Wood Anemones are late this year. George is aged 14 in the first pic and 16 in 2013.

This year the Wood anemones are sat ready and waiting for a little more warmth before carpeting the woodland floor
 Our first big day's bike ride through Orlestone forest on Saturday wasn't too bad. It snowed a little, but as it hasn't rained much for the last 3 weeks, the tracks are drying and are now passable.

Winter has still such a big grip on the forest. When we stopped for a breather there was little bird song to hear, just the occasional Siskin and Redpoll plus the call of a Buzzard flying over.  It's hard to believe that in 10 days time the first Nightingales will be returning to this cold and bare woodland.

Snipe in Fags Wood

Once a hunting ground for Nightjars, now an unsightly scrap yard plus chicken sheds operation, the field opposite the Fags Wood car park has seen better days. However, some birds have no taste, and the mud tracks within the field offer temporary refuge for Snipe. I flushed seven of them cycling past the car park entrance on Sunday morning presumably many more were in the field.

Apart from that, there's very little to report from the Orlestone wood complex. Just the occasional Buzzard brightened up our weekend walks.