Sunday, 29 May 2016

29th May

It was a distinctly insecty weekend. Pick of the sightings for me was this newly emerged Four-spotted Chaser. The first record for the parish.

Close up those wings look like stained glass….

John Edwards also ran the first moth traps of the year in the Magic Garden. He said it had been a very disappointing year so far but last night saw a reasonable catch with around 90 moths of 21 species.
John had set three traps but most were concentrated in the first two. The third had little in it but I did notice that this trap was surrounded by Canada Goose droppings. Had the geese used the trap for midnight feasts?!
The catch included three new species for the parish: Yellow-barred Brindle, Herald… 

And Pale Prominent, looking like a piece of dried twig…

It was also only the second record of Muslin, and the first male…

But the commonest insect recorded was Cockchafer...

With more than 20 of them in the moth traps (although tellingly none in trap 3). Definitely living up to their name of Maybug!

But the birds didn’t entirely let me down with a Little Egret flying over the village yesterday evening, (the first sighting since the late winter) and a superb Hobby over the Swale near Morton railway bridge on Tuesday. The latter bird has pushed my parish year list up to 104  species. 

Thursday, 26 May 2016

26th May

A walk this evening in another vain attempt to find waders on the Greenhills pools. No luck but did turn up this young Tawny Owl…

I could hear at least two birds calling in a large sycamore but they were surprisingly difficult to spot. The fact they are breeding here might explain the absence of Little Owl from their usual nest site in the neighbouring ruined barns.
On the main wader pool there were two pairs of Yellow Wagtails and eight cracking little Shelducklings (along with a stressed mum)….

Although the odd pair of Shelduck have summered before this is the first confirmed breeding in the parish. However, with a rapidly diminishing area of water I am concerned about their chances of survival.
The falling water levels have also exposed a growing area of mud and amongst the human, dog and bird footprints there were signs of other animals passing through including Hare, Fox, Roe Deer…

and Badger...

Monday, 23 May 2016

23rd May

A walk early this morning confirmed that spring movement is over. Highlights were a pair of Red-legged Partridge, two Goosander, at least five Yellow Wagtails and Kingfisher, my first on the Swale since late winter. This is in marked contrast to last year when I saw them every time I walked along the river.
Along Potter’s Lane a little muddy pool in an arable field attracted hirundines after nesting material...

as did a tiny puddle on the new building site in Morton but the House Martins were almost impossible to photograph and this feeble effort was the best I managed!

Last year I didn’t add any new birds to the year list between mid-May and late August so thoughts inevitably drift to other wildlife to fill the gap…
This lovely little plant is Lady’s Smock (also known as Cuckoo flower or Milkmaids)…

…and it seems to be present in much higher numbers than last spring. I assume this might reflect the wetter conditions and therefore more extensive areas of the damp grassland it favours? You can eat the leaves  of this plant but picking the flowers is meant to bring on thunderstorms or to lead to the picker being bitten by an Adder before the year is out. You have been warned!  
Flag iris is another nice May flowerer. Appropriate habitat is scarce in the parish but the bog area in the Magic Garden always has the odd plant…

The little beck here had hundreds of tadpoles in yesterday. They were tumbling uncontrollably until they reached a small area of slack water which allowed them to turn and face back into the flow.

Elsewhere, these remnant flood pools, which I optimistically (but wrongly) thought would be wader magnets, nonetheless are important little foci for wildlife. Each pool having Shelduck on (up to four pairs now in the parish) as well as Yellow Wagtails and Lapwing.

The pool in the photo has three pairs of Lapwing nesting around its margins and there were at least half a dozen recently  fledged young running around the field yesterday. When the parent gives a particular warning note the young immediately flatten themselves and can be beautifully camouflaged. I remember once in Worcestershire stumbling upon a group of young Lapwings, the parent called and they immediately lay flat and I couldn’t relocate them despite only being a matter of feet from them.

Finally, ‘Caught by the River’ is an interesting, eclectic site highlighting new nature writing, music and other assortments loosely linked to the countryside. One section is their Nature Book Reader where they invite nature writers and others to highlight their favourite natural history books. I have contributed a small piece and the relevant section can be found HERE    

Sunday, 15 May 2016

15th May

This morning Chris Knight texted to say he had heard a Reed Warbler near the river at Morton. I joined him by the small, but dense, area of scrub  where the bird was singing. The bird was in full voice but steadfastly refused to show itself (even when a Sparrowhawk shot through).
This is the third Reed Warbler record in as many years (after a sixty year absence). I assume this reflects the upsurge in local numbers as reed beds have been developed at the local nature reserves. It’s surely only a matter of time before they breed in the reeds in the magic garden?
Talking of which there was a fine Spotted Flycatcher in there this evening

Along with my first Green-veined White of the year …

…And three Buzzards in a tumbling aerial display. A villager reported another seven Buzzards in the air together over the Christmas tree plantation.
But on the whole it was a very unbirdy weekend as we played host to the wonderful Jeni & Billy from Nashville who performed a concert in the church.

A fantastic evening and videos of some of the performance from last night can be found HERE

Monday, 9 May 2016

9th May

We seem to have moved in a single weekend from late winter to the torpor of high summer! A longish walk today saw no sign of migrants on the move but plenty more territorial birds with singing Blackcaps particularly numerous.
My youngest son had stuck a stick into the mud near the ‘wader’ pool the other evening. It has very quickly been taken over as a Yellow Wagtail song post…

I inadvertently flushed a total of six hares on the walk although this one stayed long enough to allow one quick photo…

This might be the last walk along this route for a while as both the decidedly dodgy wooden bridge...

and metal one are being repaired/replaced.

In the Magic Garden the Canada’s have hatched five goslings…

The year’s first Brimstone butterfly was also in the garden along with this Toad…

Sunday, 8 May 2016

8th May

I joined John & Beryl for a ringing session in the Magic Garden this morning. It started misty and cool only warming up from late morning. We ringed a slightly disappointing total of 40 birds of a dozen species, commonest being Blackbird and Blackcap. Pick of the birds was a Garden Warbler,  my first of the year and the first record for the Garden.

A pair of Treecreepers was also nice….

As the day rapidly warmed I saw six species of butterfly including a dozen Orange Tips and a couple of Speckled Wood together with the first odonata of the year (Large Red Damselfly)…

Yesterday in the walled paddock in the heart of the village I had Spotted Flycatcher….

…and earlier in the week there were two Sedge Warblers singing in the Magic Garden. To show how rapidly things move through at this time of year I had been down there a couple of hours earlier and there had been no sign. Similarly I came back early the next morning and they had apparently already moved on.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

3rd May

It’s become a bit of a tradition for me to take the day after the May bank holiday as leave and to walk the southern fringe of the parish. Starting from Morton Bridge I walked downstream and then crossed over to the How Beck. I followed it south to the footbridge, and then round back to Greenhills Lane and (after a diversion to the Magic Garden) back home.
I clocked up a total of 61 species. These included my first Swift of the year over the Swale. Another pair of Common Sandpiper were on here....

Other sightings along the river included a pair of Shelduck, Goosander, Mute Swan, two Buzzard, Kingfisher and two Yellow Wagtails. The year of the Wheatear continues with two birds on the Swale bank and three more around the ‘Shelduck Pool’. 
Near Tweddle’s spinney I had a small group of Lesser Redpoll.

This is the first May sighting for many years. Is it possible the odd pair may settle to breed?

I kept a log of singing birds today with an encouraging 22 Skylarks, six Corn Bunting but only three Whitethroat.

I assume this is because the latter haven’t arrived en masse yet as they are absent from a number of places I usually see them.
I also tallied two Lesser Whitethroat, nine singing Willow Warblers (of which four were in the Magic Garden), only five Chiffchaffs and four Blackcaps (all but one of which were in the garden). The habitat along the beck looks really good but had very few summer migrants in.

I assume the early arrivers occupy the prime spots and then these other areas will get colonised as numbers increase.
On the wader pool there were five Oystercatchers  but on Sunday here I had a Greenshank, the first spring record for the parish.
The warmer conditions also brought out a few butterflies with half a dozen Small Tortoiseshells , a Peacock and my first Small White of the year.

Year List to end of April – 97 species.