My Patch – July 2018

I have been trying to catch up on writing some of my blog posts, which is why I am posting July in January!! After summer I have been rather rubbish at posting anything; partly because I have lots of images where I need to identify the insects or flowers and its taken longer than anticipated.  I end up with a list of ‘blogs to write’ and then feel like events occurred too long ago to write about them. I do however feel that they are all part of a story I’ve been telling on here so have been doing my best to start catching up….

My first trip out into the patch in July was the 9th – I wasn’t out there very long; I got bitten by a horsefly on the inside of my wrist.  I saw it and tried to flick it off but it didn’t move, I had to try and brush it off again, finally it went.  Now I had a few bites the other week that turned into great big red patches so I thought it best to go and put some bite lotion on it.  I have to say it didn’t help, this bite came up in blisters and half my forearm swelled up!  I was wearing Boots sun cream that has insect repellent in it, either I hadn’t covered that spot or it doesn’t work too well with horseflies!  I asked on Twitter for some suggestions to keep them away and two options that came back were, Avon Skin so soft and Jungle formula.  I’ll have to give each a try to see which one works the best for me.

While I was out in the field I heard roe deer in the copse; well that was until a walker spooked them with their yappy dog that didn’t seem to follow commands!  All I could hear after that was a high pitched dog whistle that wasn’t going to help me see anything!  Why do people have to be so noisy?!  There were numerous butterflies on the what I believe to be bristly oxtongue and also ox-eye daisies.  I am rubbish at identifying the ‘white’ butterflies, once I have seen them all in the flesh and I ‘know’ which is which I will be more confident but at the moment I’m still not sure.  They were quite difficult to photograph as they were continually flitting around not sitting still for a second.  There was a very small dark butterfly that I couldn’t identify, its what I was trying to follow when I got bitten!  I still have no idea what it was, I hope I can get back out there one evening to have another look for it. 

I was tending the 12 tomato plants and noticed a leaf cutter bee buzzing around my head, I moved away and watched from the other side of the garden as I was unsure of where it was going.  It carried a piece of leaf into a tray of soil and went into a burrow.  I managed to get a very bad picture of it.   The tray now has a label on it saying it shouldn’t be disturbed as there is a potential nest in there 🙂 

July 16th – tonight there were 6 swallows feeding over the field. 

July 18th – I was surprised by all the corvids that flew over the field tonight to roost – there must have been about 70 of them.  I couldn’t clearly identify them as I was looking into the setting sun but I would make a guess at mainly rooks and carrion crows.

July 19th – I was pottering in the garden tonight when I spotted the starlings were collecting on the telephone line. I like to think it’s a family photo of all the starlings that have fledged in the garden this year! 

July 20th – The farmer has made the first test cut of the oil-seed rape in the field.  Its great because there is now a clear path to walk around the field, not so great at the loss of all the field chamomile and bristly oxtongue that were in flower 🙁

July  23rd – the crop was cut today. 

July 24th – I didn’t know there was a wren nest in the Jasmine but today a fledgling wren was perched on the archway while I was watering. I took a quick photo and moved to the other side of the garden to stay out of its way. There was a parent nearby shouting at me!

July 25th – approx 30 swallows flew over and I discovered 104 large white caterpillars on one of the plants in the garden – I think it’s a false London rocket but I’m not 100% sure. I left them all where they were, happy that they had come to feast in the garden. The garden is after all being created for the wildlife 🙂 

July 26th – today I managed to go for a walk in the field.  It is really dry, there are cracks in the ground.  All of the bristly oxtongue where the butterflies were has all been cut down.  It feels a very different place with all the vegetation/crop removed.  The copse is starting to look brown underneath the trees.  The next field over hasn’t been harvested yet and still has some greenery around the margins.  All that is really left in the field now is mainly stinging nettles and a few patches of grass on top edge.  I know these are important but its sad that the chamomile etc has all been cut down when it would still have been useful to the insects buzzing around the field.  When the farmers all cut at the same time this sudden vanishing food source must have a real impact on our wildlife.   

July 27th – this morning there was a buzzard sat on one of the straw bales. 

Over the month I have also been looking at who else has started to visit the garden area next to the field, some I can identify easily but there are so many new creatures I have never seen before! which I have been trying my best to identify (if I have any wrong, please let me know):

RSPB Ham Wall – December 2018

Last year I didn’t see a starling murmuration so I headed to RSPB Ham Wall on Thursday hoping to see one.  10mins after leaving home I hit the first bank of fog, it cleared a little and at some points I saw the sun but as I got closer to Glastonbury, again the fog appeared.  The weather said it would clear around midday.  I headed out on the reserve and made a bee line for Tor View hide, to say it was foggy would be an understatement!  As I headed along the footpath, a little bird flitted into the hedgerow; a blue tit.  There were a number of people in the hide but as people moved on a seat became available.  The fog was thick but it gave a different perspective to the reserve; although you generally listen to the birds, their calls in the fog were more prominent.  I liked that the lapwing were swirling around in front of the hide and the occasional duck would slowly appear out of the gloom.  

Every now and then someone would call marsh harrier and everyone would start looking for it, it would be visible and then vanish, then appear again.  Trying to take photographs in the fog was interesting, it was a case of forgetting the ‘normal’ shots you would want to take and make them more abstract or ‘arty’.  Focusing was the biggest problem, there was just no contrast.   

As the fog lifted a little, the other birds that had been using it as a cloak slowly began to appear… kingfisher, mallard, moorhen, coot, teal, tufted duck, and gadwall were distinguishable and didn’t need to just be called a ‘duck’ anymore.   

I was heading back towards the car park for lunch when a man let me know a pair of bearded tits had been seen in the Mini marshes.  I wasn’t lucky enough to see them, they had vanished when I got there and then shortly after a sparrowhawk flew from a nearby tree, I didn’t think they would be seen anytime soon!  

The fog had thickened again so after a walk along a few of the trails I headed back to Tor View hide in the hope of seeing a murmuration.  A great white egret landed over to the left of the hide and a tufted duck swam closer to keep us entertained as the light levels slowly began to drop.  After a while of waiting a small woosh of starlings flew over head, then a little later another, as the numbers increased they would suddenly appear from nowhere the only clue they were there was the sound; like a wave breaking on a pebble shore. They dove down into the reeds in front of the hide chattering as they went. 

My Patch – February 2018

February has been a much more successful month in the field, with Spring finally on its way I have seen many more goings on…  

February 12th – I noticed this morning a Jackdaw looking in the chimney. They nested in it last year so hopefully it is a good sign that they will nest there again. 

February 13th – there were 32 mute swans in the field this morning. It’s nice to see they are still visiting in good numbers. 

February 15th – 10 starlings were sat on the roof chattering.  I noticed one sitting on the guttering near one of last years nest sites, it then popped in under the roof tile – looks like they are revisiting last years nests 🙂 The crows were also up on the chimney again.

February 20th – this morning there were 30 mute swans and a pheasant in the field. I know pheasants are around the field but this was the first time I had seen one at the top end of it. I had a quick visit to the garden tonight, I discovered fox scat in the flowerbed!

February 22nd – this morning there were two male pheasants in the field. They were closer to the garden and I am starting to wonder if they are picking up bird food that might have been dropped over the fence. Also 21 mute swans 🙂 

February 23rd – I put the trailcam out in the garden over night to see if the foxy visitor returned. Unfortunately nothing but plants swaying in the wind.

February 24th – the trailcam was put out over night in the field, the plan was to try and find out what was using the holes in the field as home (I assume rabbits).  Nothing came out of them, there were however a few visitors that passed by – fox, roe deer and possibly 2 badgers… or one that walked the same route a couple of times!  

February 25th – I decided seeing it was a sunny afternoon to head out in the field to look around.  Now I don’t normally see any other humans at all, however it being a Sunday afternoon I saw three!! Which might explain why I saw less than the normal amount of wildlife! Note to self – only go on the weekend if its really early! Along the north hedge I saw more than normal (no other humans there!) 5 starlings, 2 house sparrow and a blue tit, there were other small birds flitting around but they were hard to see darting into the hedge so I can only assume they are more of the same.  I know that there are tree sparrows in the area but I am yet to see any here.  

Walking passed the copse I again spooked the roe deer, 6 of them ran out the other side and settled in the next field over, through the trees I could also see where all of the mute swans have slowly disappeared to 🙂  Along the edge of the trees as I was walking down to the river I saw a bird running along the hedgerow, 99% sure it was a red-legged partridge.  I’ve not seen one in the field before.

Walking along the river I saw 2 of the humans, 2 mute swans and I heard both a moorhen and robin.  I still haven’t been able to have help to go and collect the litter, good news is its still there and hasn’t washed away! I’m still unsure if the ‘land’ its on is actually stable to stand on! 

On my walk back up I’m sure I saw a tawny owl sat on a tree branch on the edge of the copse, it flew off as soon as I saw it so I didn’t have a good view, but it looked owl like in flight, it flew back into the copse.  

February 26th – 5 mute swans and 11 roe deer near the copse this morning 🙂

February 27th – 1 pheasant and 2 mute swans in the field with 5 long-tailed tits on the feeder and a robin pottering around in the flowerbed. The mute swans have reduced in number over the month, but at least I know they are just in the next field over 🙂

My Patch – January 2018

January at the field has not been overly successful.  I have only spent one day in the field and not had many encounters in the evenings and mornings because of the lack of light at the moment – though it is improving 🙂

January 10th – the mute swans are still in the field this morning there were 16 🙂

January 26th – I took the day off of work to spend some time at the field. I was lucky it was a sunny as the days either side were wet and gloomy.  I don’t ever see a lot walking along the top edge of the field, I think part of that fact is I have to look down a lot!   There are lots of holes/burrows in the ground, though the ones I have mentioned before seem to have collapsed as the ground has sunk though new holes have appeared! I’m sure they belong to rabbits, but I am yet to see a rabbit in the field!  I did have a quick glimpse of a robin and a blue tit that were in the hedgerow.  There are a lot of paw prints along the track I was walking, though I am 100% sure they belong to the cat!

Walking down the side of the copse was again the most productive part of my walk. The squirrel drey is still securely in the tree and as I was looking up a heard a nose and looking at the base of the tree a saw the whites of two large back paws bounding away, I had disturbed a hare that I think was sunbathing in the cover of the part of the hedgerow.  I hadn’t seen it, if I had it would have made a lovely photograph.  I was looking out across the field and saw a couple of lumps, I had a look through the binoculars thinking they would be clumps of mud, nope TWO HARES!!!! They were a fair way off in the field and didn’t seem at all bothered by me watching, they were grazing, cleaning etc  I was having problems photographing them, I was looking into the sun and there was a heat haze across the field – typical! I have never seen two hares together before and I was so surprised to see them. My attention was drawn away to the birds in the hedgerow, two robins that were hoping about having a slight territorial dispute and then to long-tailed tits in the top of the trees.  Walking down the lower part of the copse towards the river I again spooked the roe deer.  I hear them moving then normally see white bottoms bouncing off through the trees.  I need to locate myself in the copse at some point to photograph them.  My guess is there is normally two or three that run off. 

The river was full.  It had obviously burst its banks recently as a patch of the field was a large puddle.  I have never seen it that full before.  It did look pretty with the sun shining and the neutral tones of the fields behind. Two swans flew over and later a cormorant.  I heard a wren and a moorhen but didn’t see them.  The holes that I have seen in the bank previously were fully submerged so if they were homes to any creature they were 100% flooded out.  I was stood watching three goldfinch flitting between the trees, I turned round to find a hare metres from me.  I slowly lifted the camera to take a photo but it was gone as soon as I moved a muscle, I hadn’t expected to see one right behind me!  I estimate there were 3 to 4 hares in the field! As the river receded from its original flooded level it has dropped lots of plastic bottles along the rivers edge, I did think about trying to get them out, however, I was on my own and didn’t know how sturdy the bank was! I will take backup and fish them out next time I go.  If the water level doesn’t rise again they look like they will remain wedged in the tree line.

Rather than walking round the field I walked back up the copse. Two wren were in the hedgerow and a blackbird was keeping a few meters ahead of me all the way along, I’d get close it would fly a little further along and the continued.  I heard a bee, a queen buff-tailed bumble bee, it was buzzing along the side of the hedgerow.

As I reached the top of the field I heard a buzzard calling, when I turned I realised there were three circling over the copse riding the thermals.  Looking over the slight ridge to the left I could see the mute swans, 24 of them 🙂

As I wouldn’t be able to visit the patch over the Big Garden Birdwatch weekend I decided to do a count in the garden for my own records.

Great spotted woodpecker 1
Blue tit 7
Great tit 3
Goldfinch 10
Robin 2
Collard dove 3
Starling 14
House sparrow 6
Dunnock 1
Carrion crow 1
Chaffinch 2
Total no. of species 11
Total no. of birds 50
Weather Light cloud

January 29th – It is now noticeable that the evening are very slowly getting lighter.  I am looking forward to February as I’ve scanned the sunset calendar and by the time February 20th rolls round the sun will be setting at 5:31pm which means I will be able to get about half an hour of light to have a quick look around or start work on the garden at my patch – the land owner hasn’t done anything with the garden for a while due to personal reasons and I have been granted permission to ‘improve its wildlife friendliness! 🙂

January 30th – 31 mute swans were just on the other side of the fence, I didn’t have my camera so I took a quick photograph on my phone.  I haven’t seen them that far up the field before.  Hopefully they will be staying around for a little longer, I think they will still be there for as long as the crop is still sprouting.  

My Patch – August 2017

August 4th – The starlings are growing, and becoming noisier by the day. They are becoming rather bossy!

There have been bananas put in the garden area and today there was a speckled wood feeding on them and 6 red admirals on the buddleia. 

August 7th – Tonight I saw ‘Strike’. A starling that was born last year, it has two white tail feathers so is fairly identifiable. Its good to know that he/she is still around. 50 swallows feeding over the field was a great sight. They have suddenly appeared but I think that is due to the rapeseed crops being harvested so they are now feeding over the remaining crop fields. 

August 13th – this afternoon / evening the farmer began to harvest the Wheat crop. 

August 15th – they have finished harvesting the 126 acres and are now bailing. Tomorrow I will be able to walk freely across the field. A buzzard flew up from a pile of straw into the copse; the first one I have seen since April. 

August 31st – Tonight I took my first walk to the river at bottom of field. Some of the path is a little over grown so I had to walk part of the way in the next field. I’m glad I did; as I came out from the trees a brown hare ran from the field back into the trees, it took me by surprise. The river is looking quite over grown and it is difficult to see into it. I might need to do a little tidying of the banks over winter just so there are some small paths to the river so it’s easier to see. At the moment it’s actually difficult to tell where the edge of the bank was so I had to be a little cautious. I did however see 2 mute swan, a moorhen and most surprising of all a kingfisher flew by 🙂 I accidentally discovered a rabbit hole when I nearly lost my foot down it! There are lots of tunnels through the vegetation that surround the field, I would guess most are rabbit, mice / rats. There are also some tyres and rubbish that needs collecting!

On my walk back 42 canada geese flew over 🙂

 

My Patch – May 2017

An early start for work on May 6th meant I heard my first Cuckoo! I drive past my patch to get to work and often stop for a few minutes if I have time.  I have now heard the Cuckoo a few times and it appears to have got closer but I’m not convinced its actually in my patch yet!

I have concentrated more on the residential (my friends house and garden) part of my patch this month, the crop has now got quite tall and I am unable to walk amongst it.

May 9th I spotted a Collard Dove that looked a little odd, on closer inspection I discovered that it has a broken beak.  It seemed to be feeding but took longer to pick up food than the other birds.  I’ll be be keeping an eye on it to see how it does as I’m not sure there is anything I can do for it.

On May 10th I wanted to get some images of the Starlings taking food into the roof space.  They were visiting fairly frequently and also removing faecal sacs.  Then their behaviour changed, at first I wondered if it was my presence but I had stood and watched them before with no effect.  One of the adults was taking food to the nest entrance, calling and then flying to the top of the roof calling again, this pattern continued for the next 20mins I continued to watch.  Once it was getting dark I left but apparently the calling continued, I believe they were trying to call their young out of the nest.

May 15th I believed the Starlings to have fledged, although I hadn’t seen any! The adults seemed to be collecting nesting material again so I am guessing they are aiming for a second brood 🙂

I have also now noticed that there’s a Blue Tit nest under one of the tiles of the porch.  The parents perch on the telephone wire before darting in to feed the chicks 🙂 While watching the Blue Tits I heard a lot of bees. Looking up I noticed a slightly broken fascia board and realised the bees were going inside – Tree bumblebee’s.  I did mention it to my friend, he doesn’t mind bees so is letting them stay as long as they don’t cause any trouble! 

The end of May and the Starlings have definitely fledged – 14 in total!

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 Big Garden Birdwatch 2016

January 30th was again time for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch so I settled in the kitchen with my camera and notebook to mark down what I saw.  I have included the figures here against last years as a comparison.  This time, as last year, I saw 11 species of bird though not exactly the same as 2015.

2016 2015
Coal Tit 2 1
Blue Tit 2 3
Great tit 1
Long-tailed Tit 1
Blackbird 4 2
Woodpigeon 2
Goldfinch 9 2
Blackcap 1
Greenfinch 1
Robin 2 2
Collard Dove 3 1
Starling 1 1
House Sparrow 1
Dunnock 1
Pied Wagtail 1

I have, since completing the count, seen a Long-tailed tit and a Dunnock in the garden. I have not seen the Pied Wagtail for some time now.

Below are a few record shots of the birds that took part in the count…

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2015

On Saturday January 24th I settled on a stool at the kitchen window and counted our garden visitors for an hour for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. We have been getting quite a range of birds visiting and thankfully the majority decided to turn up for breakfast while I was counting…

Blue tit – 3
Great tit – 1
Coal tit – 1
Long-tailed tit – 1
Robin – 2
Starling – 1
Dunnock – 1
Goldfinch – 2
Collared Dove – 1
Pied Wagtail – 1
Blackbird – 2

We normally get Woodpigeon’s, a Magpie and a Jay who visit too.

I took the below images of our feathered friends through the kitchen window so not to disturb them.