Thursday, 26 February 2009
As I grew up in the area I know it very well and searched all of the known berry bushes including the train station, supermarket car parks and the old Woolworth's car park where I first spotted the invasion flock in February 2005, despite checking many locations I had no luck in relocating them. I returned to Damer Gardens in the hope they had returned but there wasn't any sign of them. Most of the berry trees in the area are now bare so I'm not sure if there likely to hang around long.
Tuesday, 24 February 2009
On a number of occasions I had heard a sound that I just couldn't figure out what it was or what was making them, only heard late at night I was sure it was an Owl. With all three common Owls being present in the area it had to be either Barn, Little or Tawny Owl that was making this strange quiet warbling noise but despite researching and trying to track the culprit down I still had no answers. I finally managed to record it out of our bedroom window late one night and heard a Tawny Owl which seemed to be replying? in the background whilst the warbling/trill continued. After searching many websites I found the God's Own Clay website which has a large selection of recordings including the "Xylophone Trill" which finally told me that is was a Tawny Owl. The Tawny Owl calls and vocalizations can be found on their website here
Collins Bird Guides(Mullarney/Svensson/Zettertrom/Grant) describes the following - During courtship either sex utters a low-pitched,shivering tremolo(the so called 'xylophone trill'), o'o'o'o'o'o'o'o'o'o'o'o....., audible only to c.50m.
It's quiet so you'll need to turn the sound up and perhaps your speakers to hear it.
Tawny Owl's "Xylophone Trill".
Monday, 23 February 2009
Our resident Little Owls have also become very vocal calling during both day and night, I was watched sternly by one individual which was sat in a tree overlooking my car in the week and we've also had a few brief sightings of single birds sat on the paddock fence posts overlooking the adjacent fields.
I returned home on Friday evening and was immediately halted in my tracks as I approached the front door, hearing the eerie drawn-out screech of a barn owl nearby I stopped and listened patiently. Within 30 seconds I heard it again but this time it seemed closer but due to the light it was impossible to track it down, being miles from civilisation there are no street lights here and no ambient light so it's dark to say the least, our 500watt security light does light up the area around the cottage but not in to the fields. I tracked it by it's calls to the field next to the cottage and listened next to the fence, it continued calling on and of for about 5 minutes but by this time was moving further away. Barn Owls aren't uncommon in the area and I've seen them in at least 4 nearby locations including a incredible experience I had in our orchard where I managed to film the individual in the films below.
Monday, 16 February 2009
DO NOT STAND AT MY GRAVE AND WEEP
Sunday, 15 February 2009
With the heaviest snowfall for 18 years covering most of the south east of England the Chilterns were no exception. Even with weather reports informing the whole of the UK that severe weather was on it's way I wasn't totally sure what to expect, On Sunday evening I was still trying to track down a Woodcock that had been seen briefly near the cottage and as dusk approached the temperature dropped and the first snow started to fall leaving me in no doubt that something was on it's way. The first snow showers were quite aggressive with an inch or two laying very quickly before 6:30pm when as quickly as it had started the snow ceased to fall, nothing much happened for the rest of the evening and it wasn't until the early hours of Monday did things really get going. By 3am there was already a good covering of snow and it wasn't stopping, I couldn't believe the amount of snow and the speed at which it was falling. By morning the valley was covered by a layer of snow that stretched as far as the eye could see and the distant windmill at Turville Heath famed for it's starring role in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was now partly obscured during occasional bouts of snowfall.
I had filled the feeders the night before ready for any early morning arrivals in search of food and after surveying the surrounding countryside I watched to see what the garden had in store. Great, Blue and Coal Tit were already in situ along with Robin, Dunnock and Chaffinch, 3 male and 1 female Blackbird were surprisingly well behaved amongst each other with the female again taking charge of any unruly behaviour. I decided it was time to put out a few treats for the ground feeders and after finding a selection of wholemeal bread, fruit and the remainder of a rather expensive panettone cake I braved the elements outside. After scattering the food across the lawn and refilling the bird bath I scanned the orchard and fields next to the cottage. Our now regular pair of Red Kites were sat in the top of an old Apple tree viewing the fields, they looked rather cold and I did wonder how well these beautiful birds of prey would adapt to this weather that would certainly hamper their feeding, despite the area having an abundance of Rabbit and Pheasant the snow would have soon covered anything that hadn't made it through the night and the fields were now baron wastelands devoid of any life. Of course after getting my scope and attempting to get a photo of them they flew off, I thought it best to leave them rather than pursue them for the perfect snow shot as they would certainly need all the fat reserves they had to get them trough the severe weather.
I wandered back to the cottage hearing a Meadow Pipit calling as it flew overhead, it dropped down into a nearby field and I headed off to investigate. Although Meadow Pipit is quite a common species of bird I have never heard or seen one near the cottage before, I was lucky to see one perched on wires about a quarter of a mile away from the cottage earlier this year. After negotiating a number of hidden Rabbit burrows I set my scope up to view the field, the glare from the snow made it difficult to find anything and I was about to give up when I saw a flock of about 50 or more birds take to the air from the centre of the field which included both Skylark and Meadow Pipit. I watch ed as they swirled round the centre of the field coming down almost the same place they had taken of from. It does seem that there are good size flocks of both Skylark and Meadow Pipits in the area at the moment.
unsurprisingly the Black headed and Common Gulls that are present most days around the nearby fields were nowhere to be seen, a mixed flock of Carrion Crow, Rook, Jackdaw and Magpie were doing there best to forage in the downtrodden snow that the local sheep had carved across the snow covered fields.
We are pretty remote at the best of times and with the heavy snowfall the area seemed very cut-off to say the least, fields and woodland were covered with a blanket of snow as far as the eye could see and they were beckoning to be explored. Finding as many layers as we could get on we headed out in to what felt like Narnia and after traversing the fields we headed north east towards Adam's Wood stopping a the entrance of the wood to grab a few photos. The wood itself was eerily quiet, no sight or sound of any bird life and the silence was strange to say the least, it was almost like every living creature in the wood had be exiled leaving an incredible silence.
As we continued through the wood the first signs of bird life became obvious, a Red Kite perched in the tree tops took flight sending a cascade of snow from the branches to the woodland floor, a Nuthatch called from nearby and after tracking it's call we found it with a small flock of Blue and Great Tits as they searched the woodland for food. A Common Buzzard called as it drifted over and shortly after the delicate contact calls of a number of Goldcrests could be heard from the woodland interior.
After following the footpath through Adam's Wood we arrived at Little Frieth and soon encountered 4 Red Kites circling the fields, Blackbird, Robin, Blue and Great Tit were in good numbers along the gardens and hedgerows. Leaving Little Frieth along Shogmoor Lane a number of birds were scattered along the hedgerows, Dunnock, Blackbird, Blue & Great Tit and a possible male Blackcap, I say possible as the view was so brief I just didn't get a good enough view. The pond at the top of Shogmoor Lane was almost all frozen over with a number of Mallards keeping the remaining water unfrozen by swimming in it, 2 Moorhens were also present searching round the pound fringes for food. A good size flock of Greenfinches has been present in this area recently and along with Chaffinch and a few Goldfinches must have numbered somewhere in the region of 60 birds, feeding in 2 separate groups either side of the road they soon took flight as we walked the road between them. They sat nervously in the trees along the field edges and the noise of all these Finches calling together was incredibly loud.
At the top of shogmoor lane we could see a distant group of Red Kites circling over Fingest Wood, it was difficult to count exactly how many there were due to the snow showers and mist that was caused by the wind blowing surface snow across the fields. They seemed to be circling one particular area with some intent and on occasions would drop suddenly out of the sky and out of view behind the trees, I estimated that there were roughly 16 Kites but it could have been more.
We made our way along the footpath and in to Hill's Wood which like Adam's Wood was silent at first, a number of Blackbirds both male and female were encountered on the footpaths before they hastily flew deeper in to the woods and now and again the contact calls of Goldcrest could be heard. Finally a Robin appeared next to the footpath as if to see if we had anything to offer before it too disappeared in to the wood. 2 Common Buzzards passed over calling as they went and shortly after a Red Kite followed them but there was still little to be seen in the woodland itself. As we approached Hatchet Wood a Nuthatch was heard calling and at least 4 Goldcrest were calling to each other at the tops of nearby Conifer trees. We came to a clearing and watched as a Brown Hare suddenly shot out from the woodland in front of us, we obviously startled it from it's daytime resting place and it raced across the clearing with the speed and agility of a Olympic sprinter, it's long legs pushing it at great speed through the wood with it's long black-tipped ears held tightly against it's shoulders. Within 30 seconds it was gone and the only signs that it was ever there were the far spaced footprints that it left in the snow.
We continued along the footpath through Hatchet Wood walking on previously un-trodden snow, an almost fairytale landscape greeted us with snow covering the countryside and adorning almost every bow and branch throughout the wood. 2 Red Kites drifted over calling as they went and the odd cackling flock of Fieldfare passed across the tree tops overhead. Suddenly we noticed a bird take flight from the undergrowth just in front if us, we stood and watched as a dumpy looking bird with a long bill flew along the edge of the wood before dropping down again. We approached slowly only for the bird to take flight and fly further into the woods but this time it was clear to see that is was a Woodcock. I know they often can be found in open areas in times of severe weather and perhaps this was the reason why one turned up in the garden on the previous day, I was delighted to see this species so near to our home and will certainly be on the look out for Roding males in spring.
By the time we reached home we had added Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush and Redwing to our sightings for the day and our regular male Pheasant was tucking in to the leftovers in the garden
Wednesday, 4 February 2009
The garden has been busy especially in times of very cold weather, Still no sign of Brambling and Siskin in the garden as we have seen in previous years but with temperatures dropping and snow covering the fields and surrounding countryside there's always the possibility of something turning up.
Regular sightings of Blue, Great, Coal, Marsh & Long-tailed Tit. Wood Pigeon, Robin, Wren, Dunnock, Chaffinch and the odd Greenfinch,(a large flock of 40+ Greenfinch has been seen on numerous occasions at the top of Shogmoor Lane), a Treecreeper returned to the garden and was seen briefly climbing tree trunks before it flew off towards the trees in the orchard. Both Red Kite and Buzzard are daily sightings as are large flocks of corvids, Carrion Crow, Rook, Jackdaw and Magpie all present in large numbers feeding with Black-headed and Common Gulls in the surrounding fields. A Raven was seen and heard in early February flying south-east over Hatchet Wood and perhaps one of the birds that has been seen at nearby Marlow Common. A Collared Dove that stopped in the garden in late January was a first, occasionally seen flying over they are not a common sighting around the garden but just 600 yrds down the road in Skirmett village can be seen sat on the overhead wires. Perhaps they just don't like what we have on offer, anyway the Dove stayed minutes before it flew off, brief visit to say the least!.
We still have a good number of Blackbirds in the area and numbers probably reach the mid twenty's , 3 or 4 visit the garden to see what's on offer with a particularly dominate female keeping the males in order. Both Mistle and Song Thrush are present in and around the surrounding fields and a small number of Redwing remain, only a few small groups of Fieldfare are in the area and are often heard but not seen. Our regular visiting male Pheasant has spent the last couple of nights roosting on the garden wall, i found him sat on the wall with his head tucked under his wing at 6:45am on the 3rd Feb looking rather cold.
The resident Little Owls are staying out of sight at the moment and are only seldom heard unlike the Tawny Owl which seems to have started calling from the top of the cottage chimney again. It obviously favours this spot as it has done for the past couple of years, as we have an open fire which is in use most nights through the winter I'm wondering if it uses the chimney as it knows it's going to be nice and warm.
The most exciting news came on the 1st February when my girlfriend told me she had just flushed a unusual bird from the orchard, she was walking through the orchard when a bird took flight in front of her and zig-zaged its way past the garden. Louise got a good view of the bird and after she told me this I sat her down and the Spanish inquisition began. what did it look like I asked?, to which she replied it was a dumpy wader looking bird with a long bill. I was intrigued and requiring more information I continued the questioning, where exactly did you see it? it was in the overgrown area at the side of the filed and it looked like a Woodcock as the bill was too long for a Snipe, I was taken back by her observations even though she has accompanied me on many of my birding adventures. Every year we go to Padworth, Berks on the TABCG Nightjar walk and often see this species a number of times as they rode overhead, we have also seen this species up close at Titchwell, Norfolk when on a Focus on Birds weekend trip with Tom McJannet we were gifted extremely close views of a single bird sat in the undergrowth next to the car park. I was disappointed at missing this very unusual sighting in the garden but have no doubt that Louise saw was a Woodcock and this would be proved the following day...
Tuesday, 3 February 2009
Ring-necked Parakeet (6)
Red Kite (26)* Largest number ever recorded at this site
Marsh Tit (1)
Song Thrush (1)
Grey Wagtail (2)
Egyptian Goose (2)
Red-legged Partridge (19)
Stock Dove (2)
Monday, 2 February 2009
After parking the car my girlfriend and I headed along the Thames Path towards Cleeve Lock, a gathering of Black-headed and Common gull were congregating on a large flooded area of the fields and on the opposite bank of the River Thames a large flock of Canada Geese were grazing on a large riverside lawn. Arriving at Cleeve Lock we met a departing Adam Basset and his daughter, after having a quick chat we said our goodbyes and wandered off another 400yrds towards the Pink-foot.
The Pink-footed Goose was with 2 Egyptian Geese by the ditch on the Berkshire side of the Thames path and roughly 400 yrds north of Cleve Lock, the unringed Pink-foot did seem wary to me and often sat looking around, even when it was grazing it stopped to look around before carrying on eating. At about 3.15pm 2 more Egyptian Geese flew in from the boathouse on the Oxon side of the Thames. These 2 Egyptian Geese were very territorial, very vocal and plenty of outstretched wings with heads pointed to the sky, perhaps a pair and early signs of breeding display?. They proceeded to chase firstly the original 2 Egyptian Geese and then the Pink-foot, this went on for at least 30 minutes before the Pink-foot took flight and circled round the field and then landed 100yards south of it's take off point.