My Patch – June 2018

So June’s blog is a little late! July’s will probably be a little later still! 

I have to say that I have spent a lot more time in the garden than I have out in the field because 1) the edge of the field was over grown and extremely difficult to walk around 2) the garden needed lots done to it 3) I’ve been working long hours at work and 4) 30 Days Wild happened 🙂

June 6th – I saw a Jay in the garden for the first time, it was a very fleeting visit but it was nice to see.  There are lots of fledgling birds about at the moment.  Starlings, great spotted woodpeckers, rooks and this evening I watched the house sparrows leaving their nest from under the roof tiles.  

June 11th – I heard the cuckoo again so he’s still here at the moment 🙂

June 12th – Seeing the slugs and snails have been making a meal out of the seedlings in the garden I decided they would be moving home, into the field! I found a brown garden snail and what I think is a white-lipped banded snail and a grey field slug – happy to be corrected if I’m wrong as I’ve not identified snails and slugs before! 

June 13th – I put the camera out last night to see how the fox is getting on in the field.  She’s still about and takes full advantage of any food that is put out for her 🙂

June 18th – For 30 Days Wild today I went out into the field to see what flowers were about, I found; Soft-brome grass, Corn Chamomile, Curled dock, Field Forget-me-not and of course Stinging nettles. 

June 25th – there was a Roe deer in the field first thing, a male.  I didn’t get a photo as only his antlers were visible in the rape!

June 26th – The cat showed his colours today – two dead birds, one juvenile robin and a blue tit.  There hasn’t been a ‘kill’ left on the doorstep for a while so not sure why its happened today.  

June 28th – Today I found my first Tiger Cranefly (Nephrotoma flavescens), I was looking at the plants in the raised beds and it caught my eye.  

June 29th – I was stood in the front garden and ‘something’ landed on a nearby tree – a Marmalade Hoverfly (Episyrphus balteatus).  

I do seem to be writing about more insects this month; 30 Days Wild has started me looking for the smaller creatures in my patch and as I mentioned the field was a little difficult to get around so my attention diverted to what I could easily get too 🙂

I hadn’t heard the cuckoo since the 11th so I can only assume he’s left again for another year – safe travels little chap, hope to hear you again (and maybe see you!) next year…

30 Days Wild 2018 – Day 03

After the blue tits fledged yesterday I thought I’d sit in the garden this morning and see who else was about. Unfortunately we believe ‘nest box 1’ fledged early this morning and some if not all were predated by magpies. 4 magpies were seen in the tree chasing something and we can only assume it was the blue tit chicks. There has been no feeding flights to the box and no chirping coming from it. We just have to hope at least some survived. 

I didn’t time my bird count today, though I was watching for over an hour. I saw:

1 robin, 3 great tit, 2 blue tit, 2 woodpigeon, 2 blackbird (1 juvenile) 1 greenfinch, 2 goldfinch, 1 dunnock and 2 white dove

The robin has a pattern to his garden visits.  He lands on the corner of the garden shed, fly’s to the bird bath, and then either on to the feeders or the floor.  He followed this pattern on 4 out of 5 visits.   I haven’t seen any of the fledgling blue tits 🙁 

Blakehill Farm Nature Reserve – February 2018

This afternoon I had a few hours spare so decided to visit Blakehill Farm Nature Reserve.  I have been meaning to visit since last summer but I just haven’t got there! The idea of seeing a short eared owl tempted me.  As soon as I had set foot in the reserve I saw a redwing, my first for this year 🙂  I wandered along the path keeping an eye out for anything that moved.  There was a collection of carrion crows and rooks feeding on the grass but little other activity.  I carried on walking as it was bitterly cold – I had dressed in all my warmest clothes but my fingers were suffering even with gloves on.  A kestrel flew over in the distance.  The sun was starting to set and the temperature was dropping further, I started to head back to the car.  I noticed a stonechat and then a robin in a nearby tree.  The stonechat’s accompanied me on part of my walk back, keeping a few fence posts in front of me.  I stopped to take a few images, on another post behind the stonechat’s a kestrel had perched.  I didn’t see a short eared owl on this occasion but there’s always another day, hopefully a warmer one!    

Wildlife Trusts Lower Moor Farm – New Year’s Day 2018

Happy New Year! Today I decided to make the most of the final day off from work and take a trip out to Wildlife Trusts Lower Moor Farm.  It was raining heavily this morning but the sun was due to appear this afternoon, so I arrived at the site early afternoon as the clouds cleared.  I headed to the hide looking out over Cottage Lake.  The feeders on the left were covered in birds flitting back and forth; 5 long-tailed tit, 2 robin, 5 bullfinch, 6 great tit, 9 blue tit, 3 chaffinch, 1 dunnock, 2 blackbird, 1 starling and 2 reed bunting.  The long-tailed tits were flitting across in front of the hide and back to the feeders, they are such lovely little balls of fluff! some got a little braver and sat on the floor feeding by the hide. The rest of the lake was fairly quiet with just a few sightings; 2 cormorant, 2 carrion crow, 13 woodpigeon, 2 magpie, 4 mallard and 1 great spotted woodpecker.  A few people came in and asked if I had seen the otter?! Sadly not.  The sky clouded over at one point and a very light rainbow could be seen against the clouds.

I did take a walk around to a couple of the other hides, spotting 2 mute swans and a camouflaged grey heron.  It seems the otters were seen this afternoon on Swallow Pool when they crossed from one bank to the other.

My Patch – April 2017

At the beginning of April there was still Swan activity in the field, approximately 40 Mute Swans were feeding on the shoots but by mid April had moved on.  While they were still there they were joined one evening by a heard of 22 Roe Deer. It was a fairly warm evening and they were primarily led down in the middle of the field.  They stayed until dusk, when they got up and started to graze. I believe they moved on when it got dark, but it was too dark for me to see where they had moved to!  I like it when the Deer are in the field, I know it means that they are safe. The land owner has an agreement with the farmer that no wildlife is to be harmed on the land.  This means when the culling season is upon us they can’t be shot in this field.

The middle of April I decided to take a closer look in one of the hedgerows, it didn’t go to plan.  I had company on my walk that isn’t the type of company that goes with looking for birds – a cat! My friend lives in one of the houses adjacent to my patch and has a cat that lives outdoors.  She’s very friendly and decided that coming for a walk with me was the way she would spend her evening.  I didn’t expect her to walk all the way down the track and into a copse with me, then walk all the way back! If I stopped to look at something she stopped and waited for me! All I saw was a Robin at the top of a tree and a Rabbit who was quite a distance away thankfully! 

My attention has been drawn to the birds in the garden, who are nesting in my friends house. As far as we know there are 2 Jackdaw nests and 3 Starling nests all located in the roof, be it the chimneys where the Jackdaws have made home or underneath the roof tiles where the Starlings are. I’m looking forward to seeing their fledglings in the garden 🙂

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2017

Every year the first date that goes in my diary is the RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch. I always notice the birds in the garden, whether its the Woodpigeon’s squabbling over the grain, the Blackbirds digging around in the flower borders or the small charm of Goldfinches that are on the feeders.  But once a year I stop for a whole hour and really pay attention, counting them all.  

I perch myself on the kitchen counter to make sure I can see as much of the garden as possible and get as comfortable as I can! This year I felt more prepared. I invested in some binoculars last year which made identification quicker; its easy enough to complete the count without binoculars but there are loads of shrubs in the garden and the smaller birds hide in them, so with the aid of binoculars this time I could figure out who didn’t want to be counted 😉  In the past I have used a 500mm lens on my camera which gets a little heavy when holding it for an hour! This year I just used it to take some photos 🙂

I like to keep a table of what I have seen including previous years data for my own interest.

  2017 2016 2015
Coal Tit 1 2 1
Blue Tit 2 2 3
Great tit 1   1
Long-tailed Tit     1
Blackbird 7 4 2
Woodpigeon 4 2  
Goldfinch 7 9 2
Blackcap 1 1  
Greenfinch   1  
Robin 1 2 2
Collard Dove 2 3 1
Starling 3 1 1
House Sparrow 3 1  
Dunnock 1   1
Pied Wagtail     1
Siskin 2    
Total no. of species 13 11 11

 I had a surprise visitor today; the Siskin.  I have seen them in the garden before but only on one occasion, I was just lucky they turned up during my count 🙂  15 mins after I had finished counting I spotted a Greenfinch on the feeder! There have been Long-tailed Tits in the last few days but sadly none turned up today. I’m so glad the Sparrowhawk didn’t turn up or it would have really altered my count! When it shows it can be seen sitting on the fence waiting for the Goldfinches, we found a pile of feathers a few weeks ago!

The RSPB also ask what other animals you see in the garden throughout the year, we have: Hedgehog, Fox and Slow-worm.

Below are a few record shots of some of the birds I counted…

RSPB Ham Wall – December 2016

Over the Christmas break I decided to take a trip to RSPB Ham Wall. Although I didn’t leave overly early it was still freezing and misty outside. After an hour and 20min drive to Glastonbury the mist had cleared and the sun bathed the wetlands.

I have only been to Ham Wall once before and that was in June so this time I decided to explore a little more of the site. It was also an excuse to keep warm! 

At one of the screens I was watching 6 Snipe, when the lady next to me asked if I knew what the smaller bird next to them was. She thought it was a Water Pipit, as she had heard one had been seen recently, so having a closer look and comparing it to an image I looked up on my phone we decided it indeed was a Water Pipit. This was the first Water Pipit either of us had knowingly seen. A great start to the day!

On the Loxton’s Marsh Trail there were Black-headed Gulls doing laps of the reeds. They were so predictable it was quite easy to get a nice shot of them. I quite like Black-headed Gulls they seem to have a lot of personality 🙂

I headed to Avalon Hide in the afternoon. On the walk there, there were signs that Deer had been sleeping in the reeds.  The hide is currently being used by a Barn Owl as it’s dining room so there are a lot of Starling feathers about! With the sun creeping just above the tree line the reeds seemed like they were made of gold. A great time for a Bittern to appear at the far side of the reed bed 🙂

I headed back outside at 3pm to get set for watching the Starlings. There were hundreds of people congregated so I stood a little away from the crowd. They first started to appear at 16:08, streams of them coming in from all angles, diving down into the reeds. The sound they make is lovely. Unfortunately there were no murmurations but the sheer number alone was a sight to see. Its definitely worth a visit. 

My full sightings list:
Wren, Robin, Snipe, Water Pipit, Shovler, Great-crested Grebe, Coot, Mallard, Cormorant, Little Grebe, Mute Swan, Grey Heron, Great White Egret, Black Headed Gull, Greylag Geese, Canada Geese, Kingfisher, Wigeon, Stonechat, Reed Bunting

Brownsea Island – September 2016

I’m not overly fond of boats, I rather like my feet being on solid ground! However this boat trip was okay, the sea was calm, thankfully!  I was on my way to Brownsea Island, Dorset. I don’t remember my last trip to Brownsea, I guess I would have been about 10 as we always used to holiday in the area. 

This visit though was about Squirrels, Red Squirrels. After I had paid the landing fee on entrance to the Island I was talking to one of the grounds keepers who told me he had seen Squirrels around the church the day before. Of course I headed straight to the wood behind the church and 5 minutes later I was watching the first Red Squirrel of the day 🙂 If you plan to go and take photographs then I found the light was much better in the morning in this area.  While looking out for the Squirrels I also managed to spot my first Treecreeper 🙂

After spending a few hours waiting and watching the Squirrels I headed off for lunch in the cafe. In the afternoon a took a walk around the Woodland trail, however the only place I spotted Squirrels was around the church. There were also a few very friendly Peacocks.  I think the key to spotting Red Squirrels on Brownsea Island is to stay quietly in the same place. So many people walked past saying they had not seen a single Red Squirrel! 

I was a little happier on the boat on the way back and even kept my camera out to take a few pictures of Poole Harbour. Seeing I was at the coast it was fish and chips for dinner which I ate surrounded by rather cute Black-headed Gulls, who patiently waited at my feet to see if I was going to feed them.  They wanted chips though and not the bird food I went and got for them from the car!

My full list of sightings for the day:
Mammals: Red Squirrel
Birds: Treecreeper, Avocet, Shag, Oystercatcher, Robin, Woodpigeon, Wren, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Great Black-backed Gull, Black-headed Gulls
Dragonflies: Common Darter

Lower Moor Farm – May 2016

05:30 seemed a horrendous time to be getting up on a Bank Holiday Monday but I had heard a while ago that Otters had been seen at Lower Moor Farm and this was the first chance I’d had to get there early.

Lower Moor Farm Nature Reserve - Mute Swan

It was overcast when I got to the site at 07:30. I popped into the first hide to have a quick scan and was greeted by the site of a pair of Mute Swan’s and their 2 Cygnets, the rest of the lake was quiet. I then headed to the hide at Swallow Pool where the Otters had been seen. After a fair few hours of watching, unfortunately I hadn’t seen any.  I did however see Mallard’s fighting (trying to drown each other might be a better description!), Greylag Geese flying over, Blue tits feeding and a Kingfisher that did a few flybys! The Muncjac Deer took me by surprise as it was just to the right of the hide, about 25ft away. It was spooked by a man that came into the hide though unfortunately so I only managed to take a couple of photographs before it ran off.

On my way back to the car park I again popped into the hide on Cottage Lake. I like that the bird table is quite close so you can clearly see the smaller birds that come to feed.  I wasn’t expecting a squirrel to show up though! but it obviously had learnt the bird food is there and was happily eating what it could. On the way out I walked around the pools to see what smaller creatures were about. I’m still learning which insects are which and still get confused, so have to rely on the Internet when I get home to help me out!

My full list of sightings for the day were:
Birds: Mute Swan, Robin, Chaffinch, Mallard, Reed Bunting, Blackbird, Long-tailed tit, Blue tit, Bullfinch, Woodpigeon, Carrion Crow, Kingfisher, Moorheen, Dunnock, Great tit, Canada Geese, Great Crested Grebe, Greylag Goose
Mammals: Muntjac Deer, Grey Squirrel
Insects: Common Blue Damselfly, Green Nettle Weevil

Below are a few record shots of some of my sightings…

Potteric Carr Nature Reserve – April 2016

I didn’t want to drive all the way to East Yorkshire in one go, but wanted to make the most of the time away visiting wildlife.  After a search on Google I discovered Potteric Carr Nature Reserve and made a plan for a route that passed by Doncaster.

Potteric Carr was so easy to find, so easy in fact I had to double check I hadn’t got lost! One of the lovely volunteers gave me an overview of what had been seen recently and I was off on my way around the site.

One of the first birds I encountered was a Moorhen chick trying to follow its parent across a stream.  They soon disappeared into the vegetation though.

I made my way to the Kingfisher Tearooms for a spot of lunch. I can highly recommend the bacon sandwiches and Cream Tea’s 🙂

Opposite the Tearooms is Willow Pool Hide. I thought I’d pop in for a quick look and ended up staying nearly 2 hours; there were adorable Canada Goose goslings with their parents and a rather cute brown rat feeding on the food put out for the birds!

I finally managed to drag myself away and headed towards the Duchess Hide. Half way there it decided to rain which meant a pit stop under a bridge to get the wet weather clothes out! The weather cleared by the time I got to the hide and as the rain clouds moved away they gave a lovely backdrop to Huxter Well Marsh. A Marsh Harrier was making regular flights across the marsh and there were Blackcaps and Wrens in the vegetation just in front of the hide. Out of the corner of my eye I saw something to my right, a Roe Deer had walked out of the bushes. It stood temporarily and then ran across the front of the hide.

It was getting late and I was conscious that the car park was going to be locked at 5pm (if you would like to stay later than 5pm, ask at the front desk when you arrive) and I had another hour drive to my hotel for the night!

I decided to take the Dragonfly Trail back, walking along Mother Drain and although I wasn’t really looking for anything in particular I saw something move on the ground. It took me a while to figure out where it had gone, but a small movement drew me to this little chap. I’m not 100% sure, but I thinks it’s a Field Vole, a lovely end to a very nice day exploring 🙂

My full list of sightings for the day:
Birds: Black-headed Gull, Blackcap, Canada Goose, Carrion crow, Chaffinch, Coot, Gadwall, Great crested grebe, Grey heron, Mallard, Moorhen, Pheasant, Reed bunting, Robin, Swallow
Mammals: Brown Rat, Field Vole, Roe deer