Friday, February 29, 2008


A pair of goldfinches are sitting out on the niger seed feeder as I type. At least I assume they're a pair. I'd been watching a pair of blue-tits on the feeders and the occasional great tit and chaffinch earlier in the day but no sign of the goldfinches. One of the blue-tits was even having a go at the niger seed, so they'd worked out what they were, not just a stopping post on the way to the other feeder.

I'd just finished putting out the compost, sorting through my veg box and chasing one of the cats out of the garden. I opened up the kitchen window, while making a cup of tea and there they were. One was actually on the seed feeder to start with but the other one had discovered the niger seeds and now they've both now moved to the niger seeds, happily getting tucked in. Looking very smart in their chestnut brown, black, white, red and gold plumage.

So that's six days from when I first put the feeders out on Saturday, to today's first sighting. Of course, they may have visited earlier and I just didn't happen to be around to spot them. Let's hope word gets round to the goldfinch population and I see a few more on a regular basis in the garden. There's enough space for six of them on the feeder but I've never seen more than two at once in the garden on those rare occasions when they do visit.

Will keep you posted.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Niger Update

No flocks of goldfinches seen yet. There were a pair of blue tits in the garden who just used the niger feeder as a hopping post to the other feeders but didn't stop to investigate. A chaffinch appeared - who, being a finch, I thought might investigate but nope. A pair of robins appeared too and of course the usual starlings who were more interested in the fat balls.

Keep watching ...

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Wild Park, Brighton

Well I had blisters on my feet before today and now I have even more blisters, as well as the usual scratches on hands and legs - despite gloves and trousers, aches and the odd bruise.

A day out in Wild Park LNR doing more scrub clearance. This time with Robin who moved from SDJC to become an Urban Ranger with BHCC. The Wild Park area is a surprisingly large patch of woodland and on the edge of the urban sprawl of Brighton. It's a steep valley curving away from the road with woodland and chalk grassland. Bounded by the A270 to Lewes, Hollingbury golf course and Coldean. I've driven past it regularly but never actually gone into it, so I was surprised at how large an area it is and how quiet away from the road. Apart from the swearing coming from the football pitch - directed at us and our smoke, as well as each other.

A cold and misty day, especially at the start and a little light drizzle around lunchtime. There were six of us working on the steep south facing slopes at the top of the football fields. Clearing the scrub back to ground level so that it can revert to chalk grassland. Although there was a lot of bramble, there were also thicker patches of hawthorn, cotoneaster and elder, so it was a slow fiddly job with saws and loppers. A slasher would have been good but wasn't practical for most of it, with the mix of thicker shrubs we had to deal with, which the slasher just bounces off. If we'd had more time and there hadn't been so many stumps from the previous clearance, we would have raked to remove the soil and leaf litter, making it less nutrient rich and more suitable for chalk grassland plants rather than the inevitable brambles, nettles and ground elder.

Being an urban area we also had to make sure the fire wasn't built up too much and had burnt down before we left.

Niger Seed Feeder

Occasionally I get goldfinches visiting my garden but they're certainly not regular visitors, although they're often seen or heard flying overhead and I often see flocks of them up on the Tye.

I've decided to see if I can entice them in on a more regular basis and have bought a niger seed feeder and some seed. This small dark seed is known as the goldfinch magnet, so we'll see. Just put it out today, so will see how long it takes to get them appearing in the garden and who else also takes a liking to it - I daresay the chaffinches and greenfinches may appear more regularly.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Slimbridge Wetland Centre

After all the mild winter days, when we've had plenty of sunshine and it's been very springlike, I chose almost the coldest day of the year to go to Slimbridge. I haven't been there for years and it's certainly changed quite a bit. There's a brand new Visitor's Centre and plenty of pens and enclosures for birds, both resident and exotic. In fact you can't get more exotic than the flocks of flamingoes that are scattered around the reserve. There are at least four small flocks of these bright pink birds and they were sheltering in their sheds when I first went out. Can't blame them - there was ice on the ponds and a cold wind blowing off the Severn.

Like Arundel - it's become a place for families and a good place for a day out to feed the birds. Those more interested in the wild birds and the winter visitors, ignore all the more exotic species in the enclosures around the centre and head out to the Tack Piece (as it's apparently called) and the Holden Tower at the end overlooking the estuary.

The first hide proved to be the most fruitful with good views of Bewick swan, Shelduck, Lapwing, Canada geese, Wigeon, Shoveler, Teal and the lovely Pintails. Just outside the hide is a small pond which was frozen over. I spotted a Water Rail on the far side, just before it disappeared behind the reeds. A lucky spot. There was one appearing regularly around the feeders which are on the other side of the walkway but it didn't appear when I was there. I also spotted a Black-tailed Godwit feeding in with Dunlin.

Down in the Tower, which was stacked with birders and their scopes, I spotted a lovely buzzard sitting at the top of a tree to the left. It was there for several minutes before flapping off across the field. There were several Barnacle Geese and a few Brambling, White-fronted and Pink-footed Geese.

I had to take a break and go and warm up with a cup of tea and cake, as it was very chilly in the hides. Opening the windows doesn't help, as the cold wind comes straight in. The restaurant was packed, it being the half-term holiday weekend and I ended up sharing a table with a lovely couple who live near Gloucester and regularly visit with their grandchildren. A potted history of the centre and the fact that it's rented from the Barclay Estate.

The South lake was full of Pochard and a few Tufted duck, as well as Shelduck and Wigeon and I spotted a couple of pairs of Gadwall. Back at the Holden hides a flock of Golden Plover had appeared or perhaps I just didn't see them before and there were also a few Redshank poking about in the mud and on the grass. Even more Dunlin but no sign of the water rail this time. I even managed to impart my knowledge about the difference between the dunlin and the plovers and no, they weren't knots to a group of bemused bird watchers in the hide. Well, I always ask when I'm not sure, so it's nice to help out.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Extending The Kissing Gate

Today's task was to extend one of the kissing gates on the Tye to allow disabled access. However as this particular gate is at the top end of the Tye and in order to get that far they would have to negotiate either the kissing gates at the bottom of the Tye or the traditional gates and cattle grids at the top of the Tye.

Several of us turned up on a Sunday morning, in fact more than enough of us to do the work on the gate and do some MOT work on the other gates on the Tye. MOT being a type of surfacing not the vehicle test! A group of us got on with it, while the others went off down to the access gates at the south end.

We dug two new post holes to extend the gate and replaced the existing rails with new ones. With all the right equipment and enough bodies, it didn't take us long to do the work by and luckily we had a reasonable depth of earth rather than hitting solid chalk, which makes it much harder work. Just as we finished, the others had returned and both tasks were complete ... and very smart it looks too.

While working we spotted a stoat up along the fence line. It came out on to the path a couple of times before disappearing back in to the undergrowth. There were also winchats sitting on the fence just up from where we were working and at one point a flock of finches flew over - possibly bramblings. It was also good to see a kestrel hunting up on the Tye.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Early Spring

Spring is already starting emerge. I've noticed that a rose has come out already - that really is early, considering it's only February. My rosemary is flowering, the daffodils are popping up, a few crocuses (croci) have already come up and the rhubarb is coming through too.

Most plants will respond to lengthening daylight rather than just warmer weather but it's the mix of warm, mild days and cold, windy days that's going to 'confuse' and damage them.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Robin's Dawn Chorus

Now that spring is in the air - or so the daffodils and crocuses seem to think - the robin has taken to singing loudly from the bushes across the way, just outside my bedroom window. The only problem is that this tends to be about 5.30 in the morning - well before dawn. It then moves round to the back garden later in the morning.

I don't mind - it's a lovely sound but why couldn't it be a little later in the day or start at the back and then move to the front.

At least we know that spring isn't far away.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Roadside Casualties

Three badgers and two foxes killed along the road between Brighton and Guildford - the more scenic route of the Horsham Road rather than the motorways.

Sadly these creatures use the same boundaries and paths so where one badger is killed is likely to be the site of further casualties.