Thursday, 31 December 2015

Out with the old

A morning walk across White Dyke to Rickney and then Lookers in bright sunshine and a brisk breeze for my last outing of the year. A pair of Pintail were a welcome surprise by the caravan park at the end of White Dyke given the paucity of duck around at the moment. A couple of Little Egret were on Down Level and a singleton on Horse-eye and one of the Peregrines was also seen on Horse-eye. The Brown Hare pictured above was in the field to the east of New Bridge road and was a very welcome winter surprise.
Although not seen today the ringtail Hen Harrier was seen on the 20th and 27th along with various of the winter residents, perhaps surprising given the ridiculously mild conditions. Indeed it has been so mild that I put the moth trap on for a couple of nights - no macros but 2 Light brown Apple moths on the 18th and singles of Light brown Apple moth, Common Plume, and Rush Veneer on the 27th were the first moths I have trapped in December! Stay safe.

Sunday, 13 December 2015

Great White Egret and the levels perfect ten

Today saw me leaving the house pre-dawn for the monthly WEBS with Hazel, my labrador, for company. The levels rarely disappoint and as soon as we hit White Dyke with the first fingers of sunlight breaking through the heavy cloud a Water Rail was heard squealing while a female Marsh Harrier was watched quartering Down level. Whilst following the harrier a Peregrine burst through my field of view and took out a slow moving Lapwing, a good start for me, alas not for the struck wader.
Unfortunately Henry is unwell at the moment so for todays WEBS I had to take in Horse-eye as well. Two more squealers were in the reed bed and as we headed over to the orchid fields a ringtail Hen Harrier was watched quartering Mappins, more quality! The levels are a tad soft underfoot at the moment so as we headed back towards Down I fully expected Hazel to flush a few Snipe, unfortunately none obliged, along with a distinct lack of duck the only downer of the morning. Walking across Down yielded 2 Buzzard, the resident pair of Peregrine pictured below perched side by side on gateposts mid-levels, and a Kestrel hovering in the distance.

On reaching the small rise mid level I always stop and scan in an attempt to gain maximum advantage from my elevated position. First up, large White Heron on Mappins with carrot for a bill, neither stop press nor frontiers of bird identification I know, but GWE are still thin enough on the ground to make them a good find on the patch. This bird is the fourth GWE I have seen on Horse-eye and Down over the years and my third self found there so all in all the morning was going along swimmingly. Whilst watching the egret a Merlin was picked up flying along White Dyke, another top winter raptor not seen every visit.
Moving back to White Dyke a single adult White-fronted Goose was seen and the GWE was watched feeding on Mappins with a Little Egret for company. Our walk continued along New Bridge road picking up Chiff-chaff and a slightly showy Cettis (our 5th in total including the calling ones) before we ultimately reached Chilley farm for one of the countys' best breakfasts and a mug of black coffee.
Following on from the mornings good birding I headed over to Lookers late afternoon. The Little Owl was on show and a couple of Shorties were intermittently hunting between bouts of sitting in the fields, another squealer was in the reeds here as well. As I headed home via Horse-eye farm one of the Shorties perched up on a fencepost right by the car giving me a proper stare with its glaring yellow eyes. What better to round off a perfect day of winter patch birding than a Barn Owl, and sure enough there was one hunting at the back of Down near Downash in the gloaming. While watching the owl the days final raptor appearred in the form of a female Sparrowhawk scooting low over the fields towards Rickney so completing my levels perfect winter ten birds of prey - seven raptors and three owls, plus the Great White, and not another birder in sight!