Monday, 24 December 2007
I arrived at the car park and made my way along the Ridgeway towards Bury Down where two figures in the distance soon showed themselves as Berks birds webmaster Marek Walford and my now good friend Roy Rose, both were watching the Female Hen Harrier which was sat just inside the Oxon border. Although distant we watched the Harrier before it took to the air and flew along the Oxon/Berks border, it flew low and leisurely across the fields scattering finch and thrush flocks from nearby bushes as it went and then disappeared from sight over the brow of a field. Roy then managed to pick up on a couple of Brambling that where sat in bush along with Corn Bunting, Yellowhammer and various other finches. Skylarks could be heard singing and although we searched the fields the Lapland Bunting that was reported the previous day couldn't be found, a few Fieldfare and Redwing were seen in flight and a few singles were seen feeding on berry bushes as I walked towards Bury Down.
We then made our way towards Cow Down in the hope of spotting a Short-eared Owl, we waited patiently scanning the bushes but to no avail but had the luck of spotting the Hen Harrier crossing back across the fields this time inside Berks airspace, it hung in the air as it slowly quartered the fields heading eastward before again losing sight of it as it disappeared behind the contours of the field. As expected Red Kite, Kestrel and at least 4 Stonechats were found across the downs and even the odd Partridge call could be heard in the distance.
Finally we managed to see the Short-eared Owls on Cow Down with at least 5 birds being present maybe even 6, one of which was a extremely pale individual which came under some close attention from another Short-eared Owl after it caught a mouse/vole. One of my favourite birds to see and watch and I never really tire of watching them as they glide across the downs in search of food.
Added To My Year List.
211. Hen Harrier (Bury Down, Berks)
212. Short-eared Owl (Cow Down, Berks)
Saturday came and I was greeted by a damp and grey day, by the time I picked Berks bird race team mate Roy Rose up a small hint of sunshine popped out from the clouds only to disappear again behind the now gloomy skies.
We arrived at the viewing area and by now it was cold,grey and damp, 20 or so people were at the viewing site, the usual questions flowed between arriving birder's "any sign of it" too which the replies were " it was seen earlier this morning but no sign since". Roy and I waited patiently observing Raven, Buzzard, Peregrine, Sparrowhawk and a possible Merlin flying low across the fields in the distance during our wait. We were joined by a birder from Herts. and continued to chat about the Eagle when a number of pagers started going off, the chorus of pagers ringing across the waiting watchers only added to my tension and finally a voice piped up and announced the Eagle had been seen over Shipton Bellinger. I mulled over the options, do we go and search at the last sighted location or do we wait for the Eagle to return to one of it's favoured haunts, we conversed and decided to wait and before long more birders arrived with the surprising news that they were at Shipton and hadn't seen anything!.
The rain then started, first a small shower then the skies opened and a cool breeze blew across the Hampshire landscape, we decided to have a drive to see if we could spot anything and make it back to the viewing area in case it came in to roost. Off to Quarley we headed soon meeting birders dotted around the quiet country lanes, "any luck" we inquired but luck wasn't on our side and we returned to the viewing area 30 minutes later without sight or sound.
As the light started to fade an old land rover came chugging in to the field, it could be no other than the farmer. We chatted and he told us of the first sighting he had in one of his fields, he pointed out that at first it looked like a large Turkey at long distance as it walked over the ground, he soon realised it was no turkey when it took to the air being harried by Crows and Jackdaws, his next sighting a few days later was above his house as the bird circled on the thermals before drifting off. He seemed very happy that the bird was visiting his land and hoped that the Eagle would hang around, his enthusiasm for the Eagle was extremely pleasing. After chatting with the farmer for sometime we finally made our way back to the car and headed off home with the hope that it will hang around long enough to get another chance to see it.
Sunday, 25 November 2007
Little Owls have been sighted on a regular basis at their favourite haunts, two perched together in the afternoon sun near Frieth and although our resident pair seem to be less active at the moment they are often heard calling to each other. A single bird has also been heard calling from the fields near Skirmett.
Barn Owls are still being heard in the fields adjacent to the cottage after dusk, two individuals again have been heard with one being extremely close to the cottage, a single bird flew in front of the car as I drove along the A4155 early evening at the beginning of November, it headed towards the Henley Management College and could well be one of the pair that I often watched hunting along the towpath near Hambleden Lock during 2003/04.
Redwing have stripped the hedgerows of most of the berries and a flock of about 20-25 birds seem to be found most days in and around the neighbouring fields and hedgerows. Fieldfare on the other hand have been small in numbers with most sightings being seen migrating overhead, a flock of 12+ was seen feeding in a adjacent field in the last week of November. Blackbird Numbers have risen to at least 5 males & 3 females, often being found along the hedgerows and country lanes and a pair that are regularly seen in and around the garden. Sightings of Mistle Thrushes have also increased with two birds being seen quite regularly.
Three Great-spotted Woodpeckers have been visiting the garden feeders as have Blue & Great Tit, Long-tailed Tit and Coal Tit have returned to the feeders along with a few appearances from a single Nuthatch. Still no sightings of the local Marsh Tits although they often don't appear until December onwards. Two Goldcrests have returned to feed in the trees next to the garden and can be heard and seen most days. 2 Jays were seen on and off in the orchard and the rest of the garden regulars started turning up to make the most of what's on offer, Robin, Dunnock, Wren, Magpie, Chaffinch, Greenfinch & Goldfinch all busily feeding in the garden as the weather turned colder. Not forgetting the single male Pheasant that has now given up feeding from below the feeders and prefers to stand on the squirrel guard and use the feeders. Red Kite & Buzzard are still daily sightings around the cottage with at least 6 Red Kites and 3 Buzzards being present in the area most days.
Carrion Crow, Rook and Jackdaw have all been feeding in the surrounding fields in large flocks, They seem to be favouring the fields with grazing Sheep presumably with the chance of a better selection of grubs and insects. The last week of November brought the unexpected sighting of 5 Jackdaws flying over the cottage at 9.30pm, a few calls as they headed over and they soon disappeared into the darkness as they flew west.The Gulls have returned to feed in the fields as they do most Winters, both Common & Black-headed Gull numbers seem to be increasing slowly and presumably return to Little Marlow Gravel Pits to roost.
Deer movement is still ongoing with small herds of Fallows Deer still passing through the garden and also near Frieth, all herds include a good number of this years fawns. A large herd of 50+ can often be seen in the fields near Luxters Farm, Hambleden. A couple of Fox sightings and a unusual sighting of a small Bat flying/feeding from 2-4pm in the third week of November finished off a busy month.
Saturday, 24 November 2007
Finally a bit of activity on the feeders again as large finch flocks made their way in to the garden, Greenfinch 20+, Goldfinch 15+, Chaffinch 15+ all feeding busily on Sunflower Hearts and blended Peanuts. Blue & Great Tits seem to be low on numbers at the moment and well down on last year although it's still early and I'm expecting numbers to rise. Robin, Wren and Dunnock are occasional visitors and our regular visiting male Pheasant is using the squirrel guard to stand on so he can get to the hanging bird feeders, he does empty them pretty quickly but i can't knock him for ingenuity. A Pied Wagtail is an occasional fly over and my first garden sighting this year of Starling as 3 flew low over heading East. Blackbird numbers are slowly rising with at least 3 Males feeding through the hedgerows nearby. Redwing migration was underway by the time i returned from Turkey and almost every night their contact calls ( 'seep' ) could be heard overhead as they passed over. Corvid numbers have continued to rise with Carrion Crow, Rook and Jackdaw all busy feeding in the surrounding fields. The last week of October saw at least 9 Red Kites and 4 Buzzards circling over the cottage.
Both Tawny and Little Owls have been seen and heard regularly throughout October. Little Owl sightings both at home and Frieth have been regular with a pair sat together in a farm shed at the top of Shogmoor Lane, Frieth. Tawny Owls have also been seen on a regular basis with sightings at home, Shogmoor Lane and also Bovingdon Green, a Tawny was also heard calling at 2pm at Kingwood, Stoke Row. A Barn Owl was heard hissing from a nearby field early evening through the second week of October and again towards the end of the month, on one occasion two were heard but still not seen.
October saw the start of frequent Deer sightings around the cottage with small groups of 5/6 moving through the gardens and out in to the fields, this culminated with a magnificent Fallow Stag outside the living room window. I managed to film this individual as he slowly walked passed the window and hopefully will have the film on here soon. The third week of October saw a female Fallow deer and her fawn sleeping in the paddock next to the cottage, under the cover of the treeline the pair settled down to sleep returning three nights running. More movement from Fallow Deer herds continued through the month with large herds crossing the main Hambleden Road near Luxters Farm and smaller herds at the top of Shogmoor Lane near Frieth. All herds contained good numbers of young Deer.
Sunday, 18 November 2007
Added To My Year List.
210. Ferruginous Duck
Added To My Year List
Saturday, 20 October 2007
207. Pomarine Skua (Church Norton, West Sussex)*
208. Common Scoter
Thursday, 11 October 2007
On my return from Turkey I sifted through the hundreds of email I'd received and was amazed to see a Buff-bellied Pipit had been found at Farmoor reservoir, Oxon, this is an extremely rare visitor to this country and to have one turn up in Oxfordshire is a fantastic county record.I had never seen one before and decided that a visit to Farmoor was a must. Well I got a shock when I woke up, the weather was terrible and then rain just didn't look like it was going to ease up, It's one thing waking up to Eagles soaring outside your Villa in the hot dry Autumn weather of Southwest Turkey and another waking up to a cold wet English Autumn day!. I decided to brave the weather as the Buff-bellied is an unmissable species to see, who knows when another would turn up.
The M40 was a nightmare and visibility was terrible but I made it all the same despite a number of numbskulls driving along the motorway with no lights on, but that's another story. At Farmoor I made my way into the Thames Water gatehouse and was told that for a small donation that all birders could drive round to the far side of the reservoir were the Pipit was, I duly obliged and coughed up a quid, anything to save me getting wet on the walk across the causeway was a bonus.
The Buff-bellied Pipit was still present along with 50 or so excited birdwatchers, it was on the causeway at the Pinkhill side of the reservoir along with a couple of Rock Pipits. It was still raining but that certainly wasn't going to put anybody off watching this rare American species. It continued feeding along the waters edge on the F1 reservoir before flying up on to the causeway, this caused a quick shuffle of places and soon everybody was back on it again before it dropped down from the causeway and out of sight on the F2 side. This behaviour carried on and off for 10 minutes or so with a least one Rock Pipit in close attendance. As the rain started to ease off the Buff-bellied Pipit took flight and flew out across F1 before turning back towards the causeway and settling down behind us, another quick shuffle around and we watched as it stood by the waters edge. It showed extremely well with views of around 20ft and most of us got fantastic views, it continued up and down the waters edge for 3 or 4 minutes before taking flight and heading northwards over the F1 reservoir, it continued out across the water and then turned West and finally landed on the west side of F1 by the number 3 marker. I decided to leave as I was rather wet now and felt that the bird was going to get a lot more onlookers and probably needed a bit of privacy. At 8am on the 10th October the Buff-bellied Pipit flew off Northwest with 3 Rock Pipits and was not located again.
Photos can bee seen in the log book page on Nic Hallams excellent website http://www.farmoor-birding.com/LOG-BOOK
Added To My Year List.
203. Buff-bellied Pipit
204. Rock Pipit
Added To My Life List.
295. Buff-bellied Pipit
Tuesday, 9 October 2007
Kalkan in Southwest Turkey is situated on the Mediterranean sea so when the offer of a weeks family holiday came along I jumped at the chance.
The first morning I made my way to the rooftop to scan the surrounding area, we were situated just outside Kalkan at kisla(pronounced kishla) with mountains on most sides and the harbour and sea on the other.It didn't take long for me to hear a bird calling from nearby, the song was very reminiscent of the last few notes of the Wood Warbler, I could hear the spinning coin call trailing off at the end of the song and I searched frantically to find who's it was. I finally found a Eastern Rock Nuthatch perched on the villa roof across the road, this was a first for me and I was delighted to see something so quick, little did I know that at least 3 Eastern Rock Nuthatches would be present around our villa all week and on one afternoon all 3 were perched above me on a telephone wire calling. As I was watching a small group of Swallows flying over the mountains towards me I heard another bird calling, I continued to watch the Swallows to see if a Red-rumped Swallow was amongst them when a Thrush sized bird flew past me and caught my attention, I quickly watched where it went and then returned to view the Swallows. As they flew past I scanned each one to see what species they were, they were all Barn Swallows and they continued down towards the edge of the sea and over the next hill. I then began looking for the bird that flew past me and it took a few moments before the bird started calling from a nearby rooftop, I grabbed my scope and zoomed in to find a male Blue Rock Thrush singing, another first for me and I was delighted after finding this very pretty member of the Thrush family. Again this was a species that was seen everyday around Kisla. From my rooftop observatory I could see all around the local countryside and out across the sea and towards Kalkan and whilst trying to locate the calling Rock Nuthatches again I came across a Shrike perched in the top of a Olive bush, closer inspection showed that it was a juvenile Red-backed Shrike and again this was a bird that could often be seen nearby and was often located through it's alarm call when one of the many local cats wandered through the Olive trees. As I watched the Red-backed Shrike I noticed a slightly larger juvenile Shrike in the bushes behind and after it joined in with it's alarm call I realised that this was a Woodchat Shrike, a quick check through my Collins bird guide to make sure and everything checked out confirming my sighting. So in the space of about an hour I had seen 3 new species for my life list. Mid-morning I noticed a flock of birds flying along the mountains above Kisla and watching them I soon realised that they were Crag Martins, they continued to fly along the mountainside before passing over the mountain and out of sight. Early afternoon I was scanning the masses of Olive trees that surround the area when I noticed a Warbler flitting through a bush at a nearby villa, it disappeared from view and I waited in the hope it would show itself and it's identity. It didn't take long for it to work it's way back up the bush and in to sight again, it perched at the top of the bush and flicked it's tail downwards repeatedly as it dropped back down the bush, it showed a olive/grey plumage with short primary projection and a long narrow bill, a short pale supercilium finishing at the rear of the eye and a pale eye ring, all major features of the Olivaceous Warbler.This was another first for me and I watched it for sometime before a passing motorbike flushed it and it disappeared towards another villa along the seafront. I continued to look for it but with no luck so I started scanning back at the beginning of the Olive trees and soon found another Warbler, this Warbler was much larger than the Olivaceuos and soon showed to be an Olive Tree Warbler. The day continued with a fall of Warblers and a few Swallows passing through. Late afternoon and the mountains above Kisla came alive, first came a single Short-toed Eagle followed by 2 Booted Eagles, a Common Buzzard and 2 Long-legged Buzzards, they continued circling for well over 10 minutes before they were joined by a pair of Lanner Falcons and a single Saker Falcon, the raptor display continued and each minute seemed to draw more birds in, 2 Sparrowhawks joined the melee followed by a Common Kestrel, 2 Peregrine Falcons and another Buzzard species. Above them 3 large Eagles circled but were too high too identify and remained so throughout the time I watched, below another Peregrine had joined the circling raptors along with a pair of Elenora's Falcons and another Lanner.This continued for over an hour and I counted at least 30 birds of prey circling over the mountains, they slowly dispersed dropping down behind the mountains and out of view except for 2 Elenora's falcons that slowly passed over the villa and eastwards towards the mountains followed by a Lanner and a Peregrine.I wondered if one of the many mountain goats had perished drawing the raptors in.
Wednesday started out with a mist forming over the mountain tops, it was still very hot but as the day continued a strong breeze began to blow across the mountains and towards Kalkan and by lunchtime the tops of the mountains were disappearing under blankets of mist. Late morning brought another small flock of Swallows this time including 3 Red-rumped Swallows, they circled above Kisla and then headed off in a south-west direction, moments later a single Alpine Swift paddled it's way across the sky and headed off over Kalkan. As the day continued the sky turned greyer and greyer and I was sure a storm was on it's way. Mid-afternoon brought the first sighting of a Little Gull as it flew around the harbour at Kalkan and was soon followed by 3 Larger Gulls that remained on the waters surface on the far side of the bay. They remained out of viewable sight until later in the afternoon when they then flew closer into the bay and were identified as Audouin's Gulls, minutes later they were joined by 2 Yellow-legged Gulls.A few more small groups of Swallows passed over and it seemed as if they were on the run from something that was perhaps soon to hit this part of Turkey. A walk round Kisla late afternoon brought good views of a Blue Rock Thrush as it sang from a rooftop, a Blackbird called, Common Kestrel flew over and a dead Willow Warbler was found. Walking back from the seafront my girlfriend Louise noticed a strange looking bird sat next to a swimming pool in the garden of a villa, of course by the time I looked it had flown off. We continued back towards our villa when we got to a villa called the secret garden, it was here that the strange bird revealed itself as it sat on a telephone wire in front of us, it was joined by 2 others and they began to chatter noisily and again I noticed a cat nearby which was probably making them very uneasy. I got a good look at these birds as they continued their noisy conversation and noted that under a long tail was a yellow vent, as one turned I noticed a near black head with a white eye ring, it didn't take long to work out that they were Spectacled/Yellow-vented Bulbuls, another species that was seen on most days around the Kisla area. We carried on along the track and I spotted a small greyish Shrike perched in a tree, it showed a small white patch in the wings and a long narrow tail, it didn't hang around long a flew into another tree further up the hillside, another quick check of my Collins Bird Guide later revealed it was a juvenile Masked Shrike. A large Warbler that could only be a Great Reed Warbler was found preening by the side of the track, it had a long primary projection with a reddish/brown plumage and a long thick bill, as it preened through it's tail feathers it was clear to see that it had a large and slightly rounded tail. Plenty of House Sparrows about and they seem to be doing quite well there, they were seen and heard every day in most areas, at night large flocks roosted in the centre of Kalkan in a number of trees and could often be heard chirping whilst we ate in the rooftop restaurants.
Thursday and the storm I was expecting was finally on us, the wind was blowing fiercely from an eastwards direction and soon bought a downpour with it. The Audoiuns and yellow-legged Gulls were still in the bay and I spotted 3 Rock Doves perched on the side of a mountain near Kalkan, a dead warbler was found on the main road and I'm still unsure of it's species, Sedge or Moustached Warbler. The rain continued throughout the day and a huge lightning storm soon brought power cuts throughout the region, we then were informed that it hadn't rained in Kalkan since the end of April. Grey Wagtail, Rock Nuthatch, Blue Rock Thrush, House Sparrow, Goldfinch, Barn Swallow, Collared Dove were all seen early morning around Kisla.
By Friday the storm had passed and the skies were blue again, the Gulls had left the bay and the local Rock Nuthatches were close-by feeding amongst the Olive trees on the hillside next to the villa, one seemed to favour the villa rooftop opposite and again gave good views. A Blue Rock Thrush perched at the top of a villa roof down the road from us and called for over 10 minutes before flying off to another of it's favoured perching points by the seafront. A Yellow Vented Bulbul could be heard calling from nearby and briefly showed as it flew passed the villa. Early afternoon a Golden Eagle appeared above the eastern mountainside and was soon joined by another, they began soaring above the mountains gaining height as they did so and continued this for 35 minutes or so before being lost to sight. A Northern Goshawk passed over the hillside and glided over the Olive trees heading north-east and an hour later a juvenile Spotted Eagle drifted over the mountains and carried on west, with the sun shinning on the bird the prominent rows of white spots along the upperwing were very clear. Late afternoon a small Kestrel believed to be a Lesser Kestrel flew from the mountains on the south side of the bay and headed north towards the Kalkan region and a group of 40+ Crag Martins flew along the mountainside near Kisla. 3 Eagles were seen but were too high to identify.
A road trip to Kas brought sightings of a White Wagtail at the harbour, my first trip sighting of a Great Tit on a restaurant roof, good numbers of House Sparrow and Collared Dove, an eastern race Jay sat in a tree near the centre of Kas.2 Gulls were seen flying over the sea on the road back to Kalkan and were presumed Yellow-legged Gulls and a small group of Rock Sparrows were seen on the hillside next to the road.
On the final day a 2 hour drive back to Dalaman produced a number of birds that weren't seen in the Kalkan area.Before we left Kisla a Hummingbird Hawk-Moth was seen feeding from flowers near the villa, they seem to be quite common here as a number of them were seen most days. As we approached Xanthos a Crested Lark flew in of front of the bus and landed on the side of the road raising it's crest as it came to rest and further down the road the first Hooded Crows were seen flying across local farmland and again later near Dalaman.
175. Blue Rock Thrush
176. Red-backed Shrike
178. Crag Martin
179. Olivaceous Warbler
180. Olive-tree Warbler
181. Short-toed Eagle
182. Booted Eagle
183. Long-legged buzzard
184. Lanner Falcon
186. Peregrine Falcon
189. Alpine Swift
190. Little Gull
191. Audouin's Gull
192. Yellow-vented Bulbul
194. Rock Dove
195. Masked Shrike
196. Golden Eagle
197. Northern Goshawk
198. Spotted Eagle
199. Lesser Kestrel
200. Rock Sparrow
201. Crested Lark
202. Hooded Crow
273. Blue Rock Thrush
281. Lanner Falcon
288. Rock Dove
291. Lesser Kestrel
Saturday, 29 September 2007
Wednesday, 12 September 2007
I cleaned all the feeders out and gave them a good scrub-up in anticipation of an Autumn rush, boy was I wrong, over the last month they have been extremely quiet with the only sightings being a single male Greenfinch, single Female Chaffinch and the odd Great Tit. It remained quiet until the 26th when 5 Goldfinches came to the feeders and have been visiting daily since, a number of Jackdaws are using the peanut feeders. I know there can be a lull in activity when birds are going through moult and are often hidden away in the hedgerows, there is also a wide range of food amongst the hedgerows at the moment.
A number of Badgers were seen over the first week of September around the cottage, presumably visiting nearby gardens for worms etc late at night. 10pm On the 9th we almost ran one over as he ran out in front of the car and along the driveway, we followed slowly behind it as it trotted along the drive in front of us and then crossed over towards the nearby field. Since then not one has been seen.
The Little Owls are still present perched in a number of their favorite spots but with a lack of sun they are often only heard. A number of Tawny Owls have been calling near to our cottage and from the nearby woods, they seem to have had a good breeding year. On the 5th 2 Tawny Owls were perched on telephone poles at the top of Shogmoor lane, Frieth and on the 6th of September a single Tawny Owl was perched on the same post, this continued on and off for most of September at 7.45 - 8pm. Another was heard calling at mid-day on the 12th at Kingwood,Stoke Row.
A Chiffchaff was heard calling from the orchard at around 1pm on the 12th, no doubt a bird on return passage. October usually sees a number of Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler passing through the garden.
Red Kite numbers seem to be averaging 4 to 6 birds throughout the month along with 4 Common Buzzards. A male Sparrowhawk was circling over the cottage on the 21st, and a dead female sparrowhawk was found next to the cottage in the paddock, on closer inspection the head had been removed but the rest of the bird was intact.
4 Red-legged Partridge passed through the garden on the 23rd and plenty of Pheasants about, a single juvenile Green Woodpecker is still feeding on the lawns. A single Wood Pigeon is in most evenings to drink from the bird bath and have a quick wash and a Wren is roosting inside an air brick on the outside of the cottage. Rook, Crow and Jackdaw numbers all seem to be increasing slowly and can be found in most of the fields next to the cottage, maybe due to sheep grazing in them.The Jackdaws have again started hanging off the peanut feeders.
On my way home on the 25th a Stag had been hit by a lorry on the Skirmett to Hambleden road, they often cross the road with no warning from the fields near the Luxters farm turning from where they usually graze. A number of people were helping but it didn't look too good.
Wednesday, 5 September 2007
The Badgers have finally returned and have been seen late at night searching for food around the gardens, they haven't been seen for nearly a year and I was worried that something had happened to them. We had 6 visiting the garden on a regular basis during the winter of 2005 and I managed to film them through the living room window, it was truly an incredible experience to be able to watch them so close, sadly most sightings these days are of dead Badgers on the roadside.
A few deer have passed through with very young fawns, stopping to feed on the grass in the paddock outside our house, a common sighting throughout the year sometimes in numbers of 40+ but seldom seen with their young.
On the feeders have been Nuthatch, regular visits from 2 Marsh Tits, Long-tailed Tits have been passing through in family groups, no sign of the usual Goldcrest's that are often in the conifers. Both male and female Bullfinches have been seen regularly along the hedgerows nearby although not it the garden. Red-legged Partridge can often be seen and heard crossing the gardens and out in to the surrounding fields, no sign of any young or family parties.
Great-spotted Woodpeckers have raised 2 young and are occasionally on the feeders and bird bath during the day, the Green Woodpeckers on the other hand have raised 3 young and are regularly feeding on Ants on the lawns and paddocks around the cottage, they seem to favour the freshly cut lawns to feed on. A single juvenile Green Woodpecker is often found in our garden searching for food on our lawn which gave me the opportunity to film it while it fed.
Juvenile Green Woodpecker
One of the highlights of the month is certainly the regular sightings of both Little and Tawny Owls, the resident Little Owls have raised 2 young and can often been seen together in their favored perching places.They have often been sat out sunning themselves when the weathers been good, I watched all 4 or them sat in the orchard in the afternoon sun,the young were perched quietly whilst the adults searched for worms and beetles to feed them. They seem to be in and around the garden most nights often sat on the bird bath calling to each other.
Tawny Owls have been heard and seen over the last month on a regularly basis with calling birds being heard most nights in the area, one seems to favour the top of our cottage and is often "hooting" in the early hours. Mid-August brought a great view of a Tawny Owl hunting outside our cottage window late one evening, my girlfriend and I both watched as an adult Tawny perched quietly on the paddock fence searching for prey, it made 5 attempts to catch food from the long grass beneath it and was successful at least 3 times, the prey swallowed whole in one go leads me to believe they were probably voles rather than mice although both seem to be present in good numbers. It flew to each post in turn and remained transfixed searching the ground below, I continued watching it for at least 10 minutes with the aid of the outside light before it disappeared into the darkness. An hour later it could be heard calling from the trees nearby. Views like that are truly priceless and I was extremely lucky to film it from the front door without disturbing it.
A small Bat keeps doing flybys over the garden, At the beginning of August it was often flying while it was still light, I tried to film it but it's much too quick for me.
A Stoat was seen "dancing" around one of the gardens in mid-August but remains very elusive, I had a very brief view as one darted across the garden in October 2005 but didn't hold out much hope of seeing it again. That soon changed when I walked out to my car on Friday 24th and came face to face with a Stoat, it took both of us by surprise and we both froze checking each other out, it soon turned and headed off towards the orchard and I watched as he headed off into the long grass. My closest view previously being at Hambleden Lock when one ran out of the undergrowth next to the backwater and continued towards me, it stopped 10ft away sniffed the air then disappeared in to the undergrowth.
Monday, 27 August 2007
Walking by the lock a Little Egret flew towards the river bank before turning and flying off over the fields and out of sight.A good number of waders were present today feeding around the scrape including 3 Ruff which were my first of the year, a Ringed Plover, 2 Dunlin, Black-tailed Godwit, a juvenile Spotted Redshank, 2 Juvenile Wood Sandpipers and a Common Sandpiper.Good numbers of Yellow Wagtail were also present.
Added To My Year List.
Sunday, 26 August 2007
I arrived at the wooden bridge overlooking the Thames and met up with Berks birder Brian Bennett who was searching for the Sandpipers, as always I was worried that I'd missed them and hurriedly put up my scope in the hope that they were still present. Brian pointed out that a large flock of Lapwing had just flushed from the main marsh in front of us and across to the adjacent field so I took his directions and scanned the field, as I looked along the farm machinery parked along the field a small wader passed through my line of vision and I remained glued to it with my binoculars before it dropped down next to a pool of water, the first thing I noticed was the clean white wings bars and a white rump before I lost sight of it. Brian and I then set about trying to locate them which wouldn't be easy at such a distance and with high vegetation surrounding the pools of water, we did mange to spot both adult and juvenile Curlew Sandpipers as they fed along the waters edge amongst a small flock of Lapwings but they were often lost to view as they continued along the pool.
A rare visitor to Berkshire with the last recorded sighting being at Burnthouse Lane, Theale, Berks on 17/09/05, the majority of sightings have been of single birds other than 5 that were seen on 08/09/01 at Slough sewage farm.The adult and Juvenile at Borough Marsh is an extremely good county sighting.
Added To My Year List.
170. Curlew Sandpiper
Eager to see my first Wood Sandpiper of the year i decided to head off to Days Lock near Dorchester on Thames.
After parking up i headed off towards the river, crossing over the river i made my way passed the lock and along the path until i met up with a birder watching the scrape, a Black-tailed Godwit was feeding along with 5 Ringed Plovers and a Dunlin, 3 Egyptian Geese were sat amongst the large numbers of Black-headed Gulls and the sky was filled with busy Swallows and House Martins feeding on the mass of insects over the fields.A Willow Warbler could be heard in brief song from the trees along the edge of the scrape.The juvenile Wood Sandpiper was alongside a Common Sandpiper which was feeding in the middle of the scrape, it remained in the centre of the scrape busily searching for food until i lost sight of it behind some of the overgrown vegetation.
Added To My Year List.
169. Wood Sandpiper
Sunday, 19 August 2007
On a rather wet and miserable day I decided to head over to Moor Green Lakes in Berkshire to find the juvenile Little Stint.
I headed off towards the gravel workings, it was still raining and the visibility wasn't very good but it wasn't long before I spotted a Common Sandpiper walking along the edge of one of the workings. After walking along the river path and crossing the works entrance I came to an ideal spot overlooking the pools of water that hosted a variety of birds, plenty of Pied Wagtails, Swallow, House & Sand Martins were in large numbers and busy feeding over the pits, a single Ringed Plover sat quietly on the spit and a single Greenshank was preening, nearby a Common Sandpiper was busy probing the mud along with a Green Sandpiper and a small flock of Black-headed Gulls.
The juvenile Little Stint was finally found on the end of the spit, with it's back to me it clearly showed the 2 whites lines down it's back that determines that it's a juvenile bird but it didn't stay still for long, it was soon lost to view as it continued feeding around the spit.It then appeared again at the front of the spit and stayed in view for sometime continuing to feed along the waters edge.The rain then started again and i made my way off.
Added To My Year List.
168. Little Stint
After failing to see my first Purple Heron in Little Chalfont back in November 2006 I was desperate to try and see the Juvenile that was first reported at Farmoor reservoir on the 11th August, It is thought that it may have been in the area at least 6 days earlier than this.
Arriving at Farmoor reservoir I was given the news that the bird was still about but very elusive often disappearing for hours at a time so we headed off over the causeway. My girlfriend and I then met up with a local birder who was heading towards the Pinkhill nature reserve where the bird had been seen from on a number of occasions. I had remembered my key to the Pinkhill hide so we unlocked the door and headed inside, a scan round the reserve didn't show anything exciting and sadly no Purple Heron so we left the hide and went our separate ways. I decided to walk along the river path that backs on to Shrike meadow and hoped that any hiding Heron could be viewed through the back of the reeds, a large flock of Canada and Greylag Geese were on the far bank of the Thames and a single Grey Heron was stalking the shallows. Further along the path 2 Kingfishers could be heard calling to each other from the back of the reserve but little else was visible, we stopped at each of the hides to scan Shrike meadow but very little was about so we headed off to the top of the reserve to look down on the meadow. I asked a birder in the top hide at Shrike meadow if he'd had any luck, he told me that it had just flown in to the reeds at the back of the meadow and disappeared from sight, a gentle stream of birders were joining us as we stood overlooking the meadow, we scanned the reeds for nearly an hour until somebody spotted it in front of the reeds, within seconds it was gone again. We had now been joined by 2 birdwatchers from Birmingham and were busy having a conversation with them when i heard a Heron call, i stopped to listen and waited with baited breath, was it a Grey or Purple Heron?, again it called and suddenly a Juvenile Purple Heron appeared in the sky in front of us, we watched it as it flew up towards the trees before it circled round over the tree tops and then headed off towards the Pinkhill reserve.
2 Black Terns were also feeding over the F2 reservoir late afternoon with large numbers of Sand Martins also present.
Added To My Year List.
167. Purple Heron.
Added To My Life List.
269. Purple Heron.
Thursday, 16 August 2007
A Juvenile Marsh Sandpiper that was found near Abingdon sewage works on the 4th was found at Farmoor reservoir the following morning along the west bank on the F2 reservoir, it flew from Farmoor reservoir and was relocated on nearby flooded fields by the Pinkhill nature reserve where it remained for most of the day.
Having never seen a Marsh Sandpiper before I was eager to catch up with it and get a glimpse of this rare wader.On arrival to Farmoor I was given directions by a group of leaving birders and headed off towards the causeway which leads towards the Pinkhill reserve, Common Tern were busy feeding over both reservoirs and a good numbers of Swallows and Martins were flying overhead.
Walking along the footpath that follows the River Thames we finally caught up with the Juvenile Marsh Sandpiper which was on the flooded fields behind the Pinkhill reserve, it was hidden behind a flock of Canada Geese and tucked down behind the long grass and weeds.After waiting for at least an hour it slowly made its way out in to the open and began to feed, it made a couple of successful probes of the mud with it's thin needle-like bill and pulled out what looked to be large worms, a number of Black-headed Gulls soon showed an interest and followed it as it continued to search for food.Viewing it was difficult as it continued to return to the grassy area which made the bird barely visible at times.
On our way back across the causeway towards the sailing club my girlfriend and I spotted a large butterfly by the wooden huts, we waited for it to settle and walked over to find a superb female Purple Emperor sunning itself of the causeway kerb, a couple of birders that we were watching the Sandpiper with had turned up and were very excited by what we had found.It soon took to the air and headed off along the causeway towards the sailing club, I was amazed at how powerful and quick in flight it was as it left us standing in the middle of the causeway.We caught up with her again as she sheltered on the ground underneath the causeway and managed to get a few photos before she took flight again and headed off towards the water treatment works.I had never seen this rare Butterfly before this year and have now seen 2 in a month.
Added To My Year & Life List.
164. Marsh Sandpiper
Saturday, 11 August 2007
An early visit to the Berkshire Downs today with my close friend Jonnie Lyford, rather chilly first thing but as soon as the clouds disappeared it turned very hot.
As we started to walk from the car the unmistakable "wet my lips" call of a Quail could be heard close-by but due to the length of the crops in the field was impossible to see. It's the first Quail I've heard for many years so I was pleased to finally hear one after such a long time. Later in the day another bird could be heard calling from the crop fields on the Oxfordshire side of the county boundary.
Both Buzzard and Red Kite were circling the downs with at least 5 Kestrels dotted around the area, the Yellowhammers "a little bit of bread and no cheese" call could be heard all around the downs and near to the Oxfordshire border a Wheatear flew up from the ground and perched on a post in front of us. A few Whitethroat present as well.
Looking across the county boundary and in to Oxfordshire a covey of Partridges caught our attention and close inspection showed that there were at least 8 Grey Partridges with a couple of Red-legged Partridges nearby.
Added To My Year List.
Friday, 20 July 2007
The Albatross - roaming the oceans without a pause.
Albatrosses are among the largest flying birds, weighing up to 25 lbs. The largest species, the wandering albatross, has a wingspan of 11 feet, and can live for 50 years or more.
They feed on fish and squid, which they find in the open ocean and can fly thousands of miles without pause. Their only need to touch land is to nest and raise young.
Albatrosses are unusual in that they lay only one egg. This can take 70 days to incubate, and another 10 months for the young bird to fledge.
For over a year each parent in turn makes frequent trips of up to five thousand miles, for days on end, to bring food back for the hungry chick. This breeding cycle is so energy demanding that a pair of wandering Albatrosses, for instance, can only produce, at best, one chick every two years.
Once fledged, young Albatrosses take many more years to mature to the point when it can mate and produce chicks of its own. These years are spent cruising the southern oceans.
Albatrosses have evolved this long-haul lifestyle, thriving on the wealth of the southern oceans, over millions of years.
But now there is a problem. With so many thousands of birds being killed so quickly by longline fishing, these species cannot reproduce fast enough to make up the numbers lost.
Parent birds are killed, and their orphaned chicks die of starvation. Young birds are killed before they can breed. Populations are crashing, and the spectre of extinction is gathering over these astonishing ocean wanderers.
Is this eleventh hour too late for human beings to stop the tragedy?
Why are Albatrosses so vulnerable?
Albatrosses are exceptionally susceptible to longlining. They can't breed fast enough to cope with the rate at which they are being killed. Other species, with different life cycles, might be able to survive. Why is this so?
Naturally, Albatrosses are long-lived birds, some living up to 60 years.
They only breed once they are fully mature - this can take as long as 12 years.
They only produce one chick at a time, and several Albatross species only breed every second year.
What can be done?
There are ways to stop seabird deaths on longlines, which many fishermen, once they understand what's involved, are keen to adopt. After all, for a fisherman, bait lost to birds is a lost catch of fish. With our partners in BirdLife International, the RSPB is urging fisheries to take practical steps to protect endangered seabirds.
These preventative measures include:
using bird scaring devices to scare birds away from baited lines
weighting lines to make baited hooks sink more quickly
using thawed, not frozen bait (as it sinks more quickly)
dying bait blue, making it harder for birds to see in the water
setting lines only at night, because most albatrosses feed by day
using special tubes to release the fishing lines deep under water
Steps have already been taken. The RSPB and BirdLife partners have campaigned for more countries to sign the treaty, Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels.
This agreement, legally binding on the signatories, requires them to take specific measures to reduce the number of albatrosses and petrels killed by longline fishing. It was finally signed by the UK in April 2004.
Albatross Task Force (formerly Operation Ocean Task Force)
The RSPB and BirdLife are creating an international team of people to work directly with fishermen on shore and at sea.
Fishermen are often unaware of the techniques that can - if used - rapidly reduce albatross deaths. We know that dramatic results can be achieved by people working with fishermen, showing them how to use simple cost-efficient ways of fishing without catching albatrosses and telling them about how albatross numbers are declining.
Although observers are already working on boats to record seabird deaths from fishing, there is a real shortage of qualified at-sea instructors to train fishermen and get something practical done.
There is no coordinated team of such practical people. Albatross Task Force will be that much needed team.
More Facts & Figures.
THE WANDERING ALBATROSS FLIES UP TO 10,000 KILOMETRES (6,250 MILES) TO FIND FOOD FOR ITS CHICK.
ALBATROSSES CHOOSE A MATE AND THEN THEY STICK TOGETHER FOR LIFE. IF THEIR PARTNER IS KILLED, THEY MAY TAKE YEARS TO FIND ANOTHER – INDEED THEY MAY NEVER FIND A REPLACEMENT.
HAVING FLEDGED AND FLOWN FOR THE FIRST TIME, ALBATROSS CHICKS WILL NOT RETURN TO LAND FOR MANY YEARS. IN THE CASE OF ROYAL ALBATROSSES, THIS MAY BE UP TO FIVE YEARS.
19 OUT OF THE 21 ALBATROSS SPECIES ARE THREATENED WITH EXTINCTION.
MOST AT RISK IS THE AMSTERDAM ALBATROSS(CRITICALLY ENDANGERED) WITH LESS THAN 100 BREEDING PAIRS LEFT IN THE WORLD.
Black-browed Albatross.©David Tipling.
You can donate money online to support this urgent work to stop albatross deaths. You can also sign up for a regular e-newsletter with updates on the campaign.
Go to the Save the albatross website to give a donation and find out the latest news from the campaign.
You can help raise even more by sending your used stamps from your post, which the RSPB can sell.
The RSPB can raise money from ALL types of stamps – whether they are used or un-used, UK, foreign or even first day covers. For example, we raise £1.50 per kg for UK stamps and £12.50 per kg for foreign stamps.
Post your stamps to RSPB Stamps, PO Box 6198, Leighton Buzzard, Bedfordshire LU7 9XT. Please do not include any other correspondence to this address.
PLEASE ASK FRIENDS,FAMILY AND BUSINESS COLEAGUES TO DO THE SAME BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE.
THE RACE TO SAVE THE ALBATROSS IS ON AND TOGETHER WE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE.
Thursday, 19 July 2007
2 Juvenile Great-spotted Woodpeckers have been in and out of the garden with both Adults feeding them from the peanut feeders although one of the young has learnt to feed from the seed feeders as well.
Tawny Owls have been quiet over the last few months with few sightings and not many calling either, although one appeared outside in the conifer trees late one windy night which i managed to film for a few minutes before it disappeared in to the darkness.Little Owl sightings on the other hand have been numerous, 2 Adults near Frieth are usually perched sunning themselves most evenings and our resident Little Owls seemed to have been busy, often heard calling during the day and found sunning themselves early evening on nearby fence posts. One of the adults has been calling non stop from our garden late at night and it took me awhile to cotton on why,I'd seen it perched on the bird bath a number of times and presumed it was taking a quick drink and calling to it's mate, it continued for a number of nights and it wasn't until i turned the outside light on late one evening that i realised what was going on, A young Little Owl was sat staring in at me from the garden and one of it's parents were calling to it from the other side of the garden.Over the next few days i had a few brief views but tonight(20th) i tracked down the calls of 2 young Little Owls perched in an Oak tree with a parent close-by.
The male Sparrowhawk is still making sorties through the garden and a both Red Kite and Buzzards are busy searching the fields for prey.
The Jackdaws also seem to have had a good year with at least 12 juveniles being seen in and around the garden, a pair nested at the bottom of a trunk in an Apple tree and early morning counts have totalled 42 Jackdaws feeding in the garden.The adult birds have taken to using our nut feeders to feed their young and after moving on the Woodpeckers and Tits bash the feeders with their strong beaks until they get something out.I've had to remove the nut feeders due to them breaking through the metal.The flock seems to be increasing with somewhere in the region of 75 birds.
Mistle Thrush is another species that looks like it's doing well here with a family party of 7 birds feeding in the fields next to our cottage, their rattling calls can often be heard across the nearby countryside .
The first Fox sighting in the garden came 2 weeks ago as an adult passed along the fence line no doubt looking for one of the many Rabbits that feed through the fields.Deer have been passing through the garden and out across the fields including a Doe and her very young Fawn.
Wednesday, 18 July 2007
A Chiffchaff was calling from the trees next to the path along the rifle range and a Buzzard could be heard calling from the distance.Further around the reserve Goldcrests could be heard calling to each other and at least 2 Marsh Tits could be heard calling from 2 separate locations.
At the pond hide along the main track a patient wait rewards us with close views of Chiffchaff, Female Blackcap and a Female Bullfinch all coming down to drink or wash, Blue & Great Tit, Goldfinch, Chaffinch and Wood Pigeon were also around the pond.
At the hide adjacent to the information centre 2 Marsh Tits were using the Niger feeders only a foot or so away from the hide window, a small Lizard ran across the window sill of the hide and a Wood Mouse scurried through the undergrowth in front of the hide.A Great-spotted Woodpecker scattered the family party of Great Tits that were busy feeding on the nut feeder.
2 Red Kites were circling across the fields at the reserve entrance and another 2 further towards Bix.
Wednesday, 27 June 2007
We made our way to another location near the Hambleden Valley in the hope that we might catch a glimpse of a pair of Ravens that have turned up on previous years. A single Willow Warbler was singing at one end of the copse with a Chiffchaff singing at the other but their was little else about, arriving at the site it didn't take long to pick up on the usual Red Kites as they searched for food across the nearby fields but sadly there were no sign of any Ravens this year.
As the group walked towards the Nightjar site I picked up on a Willow Warbler calling from the distance, as we stopped to listen it obviously decided to stop singing and remained silent while we waited. A roding Woodcock then passed across the sky in front of us as we looked across the heathland followed shortly by another heading in a different direction. We decided to continue on and as we did the Willow Warbler called again giving most of us the chance to hear it. As we continued along the path the "churring" of at least 2 Nightjars could be heard faintly from the conifer plantations alongside us, we made our way quietly towards them and before long could hear the churring coming from next to us. It was still very light and we stood quietly on the path, all of a sudden two wing claps and a Male Nightjar appeared in the air right in front of us, he flew around our heads wing clapping as he went and then returned to the conifers next to the path, we were so busy discussing the views we got that we didn't notice that he had returned, during this time another Nightjar was still churring nearby. Finally the other churring Nightjar flew in to view and for a short time both birds were flying around us before again they disappeared in to the plantation. Another Woodcock approached overhead and could be heard long before it passed over, the "twissick" calls giving everybody the chance to see it as it continued it's roding display, by the end of the evening we had at least a dozen sightings. We made our way further along the path to another viewing spot and waited patiently, the light was now starting to fade but we still managed another few more Nightjar sightings with another individual flying extremely close. By now the night was well upon us and it was time to go, well worth the visit and undoubtedly my best views of Nightjar to date.