Sunday, 25 November 2007

November Local Sightings.

All three of the common Owls have been present throughout November, Tawny Owls can be heard regularly most nights calling from dusk onwards from nearby woodland and on the odd occasion can be seen perched in trees above the country lanes watching for prey and a certain individual has been "hooting" from the cottage roof in the early hours on a number of occasions.

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

October Local Sightings

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

Ferruginous Duck & Scaup - Wigmore Lane GP, Theale, Berks. 18th November 2007.

With Lesser & Greater Scaup, Red-crested Pochard all being present in the Theale area of Berkshire over the last few weeks the news that local birder Ken Moore had found a Ferruginous Duck put the icing on the cake. The female was found at Wigmore Lane gravel pits on the 15th Nov and is a very good record for Berkshire. I was dying to get over and see it and decided that if it was still present Saturday i would go and have a look for it, sadly on Saturday it was seen early morning flying off and couldn't be relocated, i decided to wait till Sunday and have another go. Sunday arrived and although the weather was terrible i made my way over to Theale. On arrival at the Wigmore lane gravel pits webmaster Marek Walford was viewing the Ferruginous Duck which was feeding on the far side of the lake, she was staying close to the reeds on the northern bank often diving for short periods then returning to the surface whilst speedily making her way round behind the island and towards the eastern side of the pit. Marek told me the 1st Winter Scaup was still present on the eastern side and after we said our goodbyes i headed off to look for it. As i walked round the path 5 Egyptian Geese flew overhead shortly followed by 3 Canada Geese. As i approached the eastern side of the lake i found the 1st winter Scaup preening and stopped to watch it, another great find by Ken Moore first seen with the Ferruginous Duck on the 15th. I was busy watching the Scaup as it preened and suddenly saw the Ferruginous go through my scope lens, i watched it swim past until it stopped at the edge of the centre island. Here she remained for at least 5 minutes preening and taking a couple of dives underwater, i got some good views especially of the white undertail-coverts that were hard to see when she was on the far side of the pit. As the light started to fade and the rain become more intense i decided to leave and head for home, back at the car 2 Goldcrests were calling as they flitted through the trees above me.

Added To My Year List.

210. Ferruginous Duck

Merlin - Frieth, Bucks. 17th November 2007.

Saturday afternoon bought an unexpected sighting as i drove towards Frieth along Shogmoor Lane, a female/immature Merlin swooped low over the road in front of me and out across the fields at SU790900. It's typical rapid wing beats were interspersed with a brief glide with wings held tightly into it's body as it shot over the hedge and out of sight. Last year i had a similar sighting near Hambleden as a male flew down the road in front of the car before coming to perch in a roadside tree, very suitable habitat in the Hambleden Valley and certainly worth looking out for at this time of year.

Added To My Year List

209. Merlin