Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Walk On The E-piece

Having dropped my car off on the outskirts of Peacehaven for it's MOT, I took the opportunity to walk back via the Tye E-piece. So called because this part of the Tye, separate from the main Tye resembles an E, reversed. There are two areas that were cleared a couple of years ago on the south-west and south-east, north facing slopes that are both overgrown. The steep slope we cleared near the water trough on the south-east side, is now covered with nettles, bramble, sycamore seedlings, elder and fireweed (rosebay willow herb). Most of the trees along that slope are sycamore with a couple of ash , hawthorn and elder. Didn't spot the bird boxes this time but I dare say some of them are being used ... well, I hope they are.

There's another patch just off the top footpath that has been cleared at some point and although overgrown again, is a good place to see what's in the tree-tops. I didn't go over onto the 'spine' - there's more scrub there and it's more open ... next time.

Birds spotted:

A dozen or more house-martins flying over the sycamore in the bottom of the valley.
At least 15-20 wood-pigeons either sitting in the trees in one large group or flying from one side to the other.
7 swifts flying above the clearing.
Numerous blue-tits - cheeping of several youngsters from the bushes but I didn't spot any of them, just the parents picking off insects from the bushes.
Wren - scolding from the undergrowth somewhere.
Blackbird - a few pairs
Robin - singing loudly from the treetops
Whitethroat - heard it's alarm call first then spotted it as I walked back along the top track.
Chiff-chaff - heard singing.
Willow Warbler - heard singing and think I spotted one flitting
Chaffinch - also heard singing and I think a couple flew across as I walked down onto the E.
Magpies - several flying around and squwaking from the trees.
Carrion Crow - there's always one of these somewhere.
Dunnock - singing at the top of the track back on The Lookout road.

Total count = 14

Not bad given the damp, overcast day and I wasn't there that long.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Parents Feeding, Sparrowhawk Circling

Sitting out in the garden this afternoon watching very bedraggled blue tits visiting the feeders in a steady stream throughout the day, usually one or two at a time. It's important to keep the feeders topped up over the summer, so that parent birds can at least get a good feed while feeding hungry mouths. The most I've seen are three blue tits at one time - wondering if any of them are the first fledglings of the year, they certainly didn't look young - full tails and no visible gapes.

Looking up , I spotted the female sparrowhawk circling overhead. I always think of them as being ambush predators - swopping low over fences, hedges and through trees to pounce on birds but this one was flapping and circling, slowly gaining height until I saw it dive with great speed but then came back up again and carried on circling and climbing until I lost sight of it over the roofs. Unless of course it isn't a sparrowhawk at all but something else. However, the rounded wings and long tail seemed very distinctive and there's obviously definitely one around but I didn't want to dash inside and grab the binoculars unless I lost it.

Note to self ... take binoculars out into the garden with you at all times.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Path Clearance and House Building

It was meant to be wet today (being a Bank Holiday weekend) but after some welcome overnight rain, today started out dry if slightly overcast, as I headed over the Tye for some path clearance with the FoTT. Strimmers to the fore two of us headed up the west side to clear the path on the inside edge of the fencing. Most of it is heavily overgrown and obviously not much used, except by a few of the houses with gates from their garden ... and dogs. In a couple of places the sheep fencing has been cut (so that their dogs can get through) but of course it also means that livestock can get through the other way. Not a problem when the cattle are on the Tye but no deterrent to the sheep who will get through any form of fencing if it shows the slightest resistance. Both cattle and sheep are on the Tye - the sheep up at the very top and shawn, the cattle currently down nearer the bottom end.

We started up at the top gate and worked slowly through the nettles and long grass until finally clearing as far as the next gate, which was about a hundred yards and had taken us about two hours. Peter was strimming - being a qualified strimming/brush-cutting operative and I was following behind and raking, leaving a couple of piles of grass cuttings to the side which could act as a nice warm heap for slow worms. At one point we cut through some mint which left a wonderful smell wafting up the path and reminded me of Moroccan mint tea. The whole path is very overgrown, obviously not used very often and really needs more than a strim twice a year to keep it clear. Plenty of young starlings around - the first fledglings of the year that I've seen, with their dull brown plumage compared to their glossy parents.

Taking the scenic route back up the funeral track looking at the difference in the bunding. Most of it now overgrown with grass, brambles and nettles but a few of the newer patches still white and bare. It's due to be removed in June. I wonder what impact their removal will have on the fly-tipping, vehicles on the Tye and the wildlife. A Dad and his daughter were 'prospecting' with a metal detector - I stopped for a brief chat just to see what they might have found - a bullet, a horseshoe (the Tye was ploughed years ago) and a necklace - modern one, which someone had dropped. I don't expect they'll find much of value

Up at the dewpond, three swallows this time and a pair of linnets flew in for a drink while I was leaning on the rails, peering into the murky water to see if there were any sign of the snails that were plentiful a year or so ago. There's still a small puddle of water hanging in there, topped up by last night's rain. Slightly further up the track, at the top of the Tye near the cattle grid, there were about a dozen house-martins and a couple of swallows round the edge of a puddle, collecting mud for their nests. Plenty of mud at the dewpond for them but they weren't picking up from there - perhaps it's the wrong sort of mud.

Heard the whitethroat again although didn't manage to spot it this time. Blackbirds and a song thrush singing away around the playing fields. Walking back through the small copse at the bottom of the road - plenty of undergrowth, ivy covered trees, a dunnock and several wood pigeons. It would be an ideal site for a few bird boxes which I'm sure the numerous local tits would appreciate.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Robin's Nest Update

The female is out in the garden again and it seems as if she's chosen the site right outside the back door - she flew out as I opened the door this morning and when I'd gone back inside a few minutes later and was at the kitchen window, she was sitting on the arch watching me before flying back onto the nest via the shrubs along the border.

I had to pop out a few minutes later to rescue a ball that came flying over the fence and didn't hear or see her fly out this time.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Robins Feeding

Now we have feeding activity - the male feeding the female who was sitting on the top of the arch. She then headed into the ivy near the back door, having now apparently chosen that nest rather than the other one they started building over the weekend.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Summer Visitors

Haven't run for a couple of weeks recently but got out late this afternoon for my usual run up on the Tye. The hawthorn blossom is out in full now and birds singing from every bush and tree top (or chirping noisily in the case of the sparrows). Heard the tuneful bird by the playing fields car park again which I haven't quite pinned down. It sounds too 'warbly' to be a dunnock but I'll need to listen to the CD again to try and work out what it might be - bird song recognition not being my strongest skill.

A few finches (greenfinch and chaffinch) and sparrows about and of course several starlings and wood pigeons in the fields. The dewpond is very low again with very little water left in it and one solitary swallow flying back and forth. Perhaps it's still too early for more of them to be around, at least there's good nest building material at the pond for them. Wouldn't it be great if the dewpond was properly fixed, so that it actually retained water and attracted more wildlife - I don't know if the newts are still there.

I spotted a female wheatear which flew up onto the bunding on the funeral track as I ran down, scattering rabbits back into the undergrowth. It's the first one this year and as I ran back onto the bridleway heard and then saw a whitethroat by the cattle grid, as it flew across the track and sat in the hawthorn.

Good to see the summer visitors back and I'll keep an eye out for their increasing numbers - not just the rabbits which have definitely increased over the last few months since almost disappearing over the earlier part of the year. Both the cattle (dairy) and sheep (shorn) were up on the main Tye today with a few young beef cattle - didn't notice if they were bullocks or heifers - in the small enclosed field at the side - together with a lone sheep who looked as if it might have 'escaped' from the main Tye.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Nest Building - Site 2

Well, the female robin is back out again but this time heading into the ivy at the bottom of the garden. Not quite as much activity as last week and not interested in the moss I'd raked up for her on the lawn, insisting on pulling out her own bits. There isn't quite the depth of cover there, it's south-facing and right by the veg patch.

I only saw her heading there a couple of times, so will see if they decide on this nest site rather than the other one.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Sparrowhawk Being Mobbed

Popped outside this morning to pick up some pots that had blown over and heard a screeching and squawking coming from across the park. Two crows were chasing the female sparrowhawk who had caught a wood pigeon and was being mobbed as she flew between the houses and out of sight around the corner. I knew it was the female because she was brown rather than grey and quite large.

The squawking stopped and a few minutes later one crow returned and then the sparrowhawk (now pigeonless) and flying much higher above the trees, followed and chased briefly, by the other crow before they all flew out of sight towards the top end of the park.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Nest Building - Day 2

She's still out there building and I've been creeping quietly in and out of the back-door to the garden a few times over the course of the day. I even managed to mow the lawn this morning and she continued to fly back and forth after that. She's going to have to get used to that as I'm not about to shut up the house - especially over the summer but she doesn't seem too worried. I did try to time my movements in and out of the house for when she'd flown off rather than when she was actually at the nest.

Today she's going slightly further afield having picked up all the moss I'd scrapped up yesterday and coming back with what looks like a mouthful of leaves. Still taking several steps to get to the nest rather than flying straight in.

Didn't see the male at all today.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Nest Building Robins

Out in the garden today - needless to say - it was a lovely sunny day, when I heard a pair of robins tzeep, tzeeping to each other, although I couldn't spot where they were calling from, just somewhere in the undergrowth. It's the call young birds make when they're hiding but I thought it more likely to be a pair and wondered if they were nesting in the ivy in the bottom corner.

Later this afternoon, as I'm out planting up my salad seeds on the patio, a robin appears on the lawn. Not too surprised as I'd been digging up some of the weeds so thought it had a mouthful of insects but when I glanced up again it had gone and I heard a movement in the ivy by the back door, then spotted the robin back on the lawn but this time with a beak-full of moss. I watched it quietly and it flew into the ribes and then into the ivy. I thought I'd give it a helping hand and scrapped up some of the moss with a small hand rake. Not wanting to disturb it too much, I crept quietly inside and closed the door but then decided to go back out with my camera and watch it from the bench. Sure enough it flitted back and forth several times, quite happy for me to sit and watch and snap away. Heading for a place about three feet up and right by the back door, sometimes with a mouthful so big that it could hardly see and had to take two attempts to get into the ivy.

Why it had chosen the ivy closest to the house and ignored the purpose made bird box sitting on the fence jut a few feet away. Actually, it had probably ignored it because it was too high up and too exposed and I'd been thinking about moving it earlier in the day - perhaps into the honeysuckle or the vibernum at the end of the garden, although that's a bit of a thorough fare for the cats. The male, well, I'm guessing it's the female doing the nest building, appeared and proceeded to give a scolding call as it hopped about on the pergola and peered over into next doors garden. Presuming the cat was out, as I don't think it was too bothered by me, the female stopped her collection and I could hear her tzeeping, perched in the ribes until the male started to sing and she carried on with her moss collection. As it's May, I wonder if this is the second brood of the year, if they're just late or if the first brood failed.

I just hope that using the back door won't disturb them too much and that they'll complete the nest building, lay eggs and raise a brood. I'll need to make sure it's kept closed and not hooked back against the fence and also get the cat alarm out to keep them off the patio.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Another One Bites The Dust II

The sparrowhawk has been active in the garden again - judging by the heap of feathers I found scattered around the garden, mainly by the back gate and a pile in one corner by the feeders where it had plucked the feathers out before flying off with it.

A woodpigeon this time but as there are plenty of those around I'm not as upset by this as I was about the robin. At least it provides a half decent meal rather than a snack.

I wonder if and where it's nesting. I see it quite often around the park where there are plenty of mature trees and a ready source of birds around the neighbouring gardens.