Sunday, January 31, 2010

Coppicing In Stanmer

Well what a treat today - with the South Downs up at Stanmer Woods to continue coppicing in the area we started working on back in September. What a difference. Not only were the leaves no longer on the trees which opened it up but the whole area was unrecognisable. It was almost completely cleared back to ground level with a few standards (mature trees) and some of the larger branches had been added along the edge to create a fence between the coups so it was easier to see where the next coppiced area starts.

Our treat was that Neil - the Brighton Ranger provided us with tea and coffee before we even got started and having eventually got the fire going - had brought along hot cross buns for us to toast on the fire AND biscuits. Now that's how to treat your volunteers. :)

Although the area looked clear - there was still some coppicing to do and plenty to drag over to the fire to burn. Using the previous fire area it took a couple of hours to get the fire roaring which then got knocked back so we could toast our buns and Neil could heat up his tajine. I even attempted to warm up my pasty. Semi works, although you tend to end up with a warm, crispy or burnt outside and still cold in the middle.

Once lunch was over we stoked up the fire and  managed to burn most of the wood that had been previously cut, sawing and loping and keeping the fire fed until we finished around 2.30 to let it burn down, leaving a large pile of ash.

I heard a greater spotted woodpecker several times throughout the day but apart from a few woodland birds there wasn't much around.  Not that I spent a lot of time looking - concentrating more on clearing and burning.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2010 My Results

A good result on a very cold and frosty morning. Breakfast time had the best turnout and tea-time is the next time when there are more flying in for their final feed.

Here's the result: (most of them seem to be going round in pairs)

Goldfinch x2
Chaffinch x2
Robin x2
Dunnock x2
Starling x2
Woodpigeon x2
Blue Tit x2
Great Tit x2
Blackcap x1
Blackbird x1
House sparrow x3
Wren x1
Greenfinch x1

13 species in total which is about half the total number for the garden. All the usual suspects and a couple of bonuses as well as a couple of no shows.

Friday, January 29, 2010

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch 2010

The invitations are out, I've got their favourite snacks and nibbles in, the feeders are full, the bird bath is topped up. Now all I can do is wait ... (and hope that we have six inches of snow overnight to tempt them all back!)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Cat Attack

One of the wood pigeons had a bit of a nasty shock this morning. I was watching five of them guzzling down the seed and debating how long I allowed them to gorge themselves before I shooed them off a large black and white cat appeared from below and launched itself at the wood pigeon. It missed and chased it round the pole before it got clear enough to take off leaving the cat looking round for it's next victim. It didn't even get a chance as I sprang through the door, spray in hand to chase it out of the garden.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Female Sparrowhawk

Just had a lovely view of the female sparrowhawk. She flew low into the garden and up onto the gate at the end where she sat for several minutes with her back to me. She didn't appear to be chasing anything as there hadn't been much around as it's getting dark and certainly hadn't caught anything.

She's looking slightly bedraggled with a few feathers out of place on her head, back and shoulders and then I noticed that her left eye appears to be closed. Perhaps she's damaged it or has been attacked by the crows that I often see chasing her when she's flying through between the buildings. While I don't really want to lose any of my smaller visitors - I'd rather she took them than one of the many neighbourhood cats.

Lovely to see her for so long rather than the usual fleeting glimpse.

... back to work.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


There were six of them on the lawn today. They're real characters as they lumber about and attempt to balance on the feeders or squeeze themselves onto the bird table. There are definitely two pairs that visit every day, occasionally a fifth that often gets chased out and then there were six.

I watched two of them the other day and couldn't work out whether they were sparring or courting (I think it was probably the former). There was a lot of posturing going on, squaring up to each other, hopping from post to post and following each other around fence posts, arches, trellis and nearby roofs. One even mounted the other but it appeared to be dominating the other rather than attempting to mate - unless the female (if indeed it was) just wasn't interested or ready or waiting for a better offer.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Arlington & Cuckmere

First a visit to Arlington Reservoir, arriving mid morning on a cold, slightly hazy day.  The reservoir was pretty quiet with few people around and a large raft of ducks out in the middle of the water.  Several Great Crested Grebe and cormorants were immediately visible and it wasn't until I reached the hide via the very muddy paths that I was able to see who else was out on the water.

Large number of Wigeon and Teal and three Goosander - two female and one male - together out on the far side.  I got a better view of them when I came back round - still together, away from the other duck.  There were also six Tufted duck near the farm and round by the rafts where the cormorant like to dry their wings, three gadwall - two male, one female.

On down the valley to Cuckmere Haven - the concrete road filled with Sunday walkers.  Plenty of Canada Geese feeding out on the loops and I counted 20 Dabchick in all.  Most on the meanders and three on the pools along the river.  Good views of two male Goldeneye feeding with the large group of dabchick.  Several Redshank dotted along the meanders, the river and the pools which have more water in them than I've seen in along while.  Two Meadow Pipit were out on the saltmarsh and I only spotted three Little Egret in the area.  A small flock of ten Shelduck flew over and landed in the fields on the opposite side of the river with a large flock of gulls (black-backed, common and black headed) and about 30 wigeon.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Gold And Green

Nine, not very intelligent greenfinches appeared in the garden (some of the flock of 23 I saw across the park earlier in the week).  Four of them feeding from the pole feeder.  One sat on top of the other seed feeder peering at it but didn't seem to have worked out that it also contained seed and space for six, even though the blue tits are flitting too and fro feeding from it.  The rest are just sitting in the bushes waiting to get their chance on the pole feeder.

Five woodpigeons appeared earlier, who seem to tolerate each other's presence in the garden but one in particular chases off a younger pigeon, who doesn't have the white neck markings and sneaks in when it can.

Five goldfinches also appeared this morning but not long enough to feed.  I haven't seen them in a while, at least not in the garden.

Let's hope everyone decides to put in an appearance for the RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch next weekend.

Monday, January 18, 2010


No more snow on the ground and there are hundreds of snowdrops coming out in the local park.  Not yet in bloom but fresh green spikes about 3-4 inches above the ground and just starting to show the white flower buds.   They'll look wonderful in a few days ... just as the next lot of snow arrives.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Spring Is In The Air

Well now the snow has gone so have a lot of the birds.  I haven't seen the reed bunting for a couple of days since it warmed up and the snow disappeared.  The blackcap is still visiting regularly as are the great and blue tits and finches but in lesser numbers.

My pair of collared doves have decided that now the grass is green again, Spring has sprung and it's time to bill and coo and undergo a little mating - even though it's only the middle of January.  Well, despite the weather and most of us feeling as though it's the middle of winter.  Nature goes on regardless.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Snow Melting Fast

The snow is disappearing fast, as it's now raining.  Only the robin and a solitary blue tit to be seen on the feeders and a blackbird is giving the song thrush a hard time, chasing it around the garden as soon as it lands anywhere.  The blackcap is still around, switching between bird table and below the pole feeder.  I'll miss the cold weather visitors to my garden - they've been great to watch.

The melting snow has revealed masses of seed under the feeders so I'm sure the pigeons will be in soon to gorge themselves.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Biking Birder

Gary Prescott is a man on a mission.  He's set aside 2010 to cycle round the UK visiting all the RSPB and WWT  reserves open to the public to raise money for charity and to see over 250 species of birds.  Not only will he be cycling to all the reserves but he'll also be visiting over 50 Eco Schools on his travels around the UK.

You can view his itinerary here or on his website

Keep in touch with what he's up to via his blog or on Twitter @bikingbirder201

Support his hard work, effort and the charities he's raising money for by sponsoring him -

January: Garden Winter Wildbird Count

Count so far during this cold, snow covered winter:

3 great tits
4 possibly 5 blue tits
2 robins
2 male blackbirds and 1 occasional female
3 male and 1 female chaffinch
2 collared doves
4 wood pigeons
5 starlings
2 dunnocks
2 male, 1 female house sparrow
1 wren
1 song thrush
1 male reed bunting and a brief visit from a female
1 male sparrowhawk
2 redwings
1 male blackcap
1 pied wagtail
1 pipit? (unidentified as yet)
5 greenfinches

Any chance of this lot turning up at the end of this month for the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Male Blackcap

Spotted a male blackcap on the bird table this morning.  It's the first one I've seen in the garden this winter, although they're fleeting visitors so would be easy to miss unless I was constantly looking out the window.  I've certainly spent time at the kitchen sink a lot more over the last few days to see who's coming in and keep an eye out for those rarer visitors.  Not the greatest of photos but you can see it's black cap (get the magnifying glass out).

I've just put some fresh water out for them and within minutes a robin came down for a drink and a bath.  It's thawing slightly now but there's still a good 4-5cms on the ground.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Long Billed Something?

Earlier today I saw small flock of what were possibly oystercatchers flying across the houses.  When they flew back round they looked browner.

A little later another long billed something flew over the house and out over the park where it looked as if it was about to land.

... and there it goes again. Definitely brown, long straight bill, solid looking and about pigeon sized.

Redwings Passing Through

Fleeting visit from a pair of redwings. Another first for my garden tick list.  The flew into the buddlieia, sat for a while and then flew off.  There's a flock of them flying around, so I hope they'll come back.  I've put some tired apples out to attract them.

Friday, January 08, 2010

Back With A Female

He was still there this morning but this time he'd brought his partner along for breakfast.

She disappeared after an hour or so but the male remained in the garden all day and was still there this afternoon as the light faded.

Sparrowhawk Fly-by

A male sparrowhawk flew in for breakfast this morning luckily it didn't catch anything but I got a brilliant view as it sat on the roof of the bird table.  Unfortunately it didn't stay long enough for me to snatch a photo.

A song thrush has been feeding on the remaining berries outside the front window and the usual array of small birds visiting the feeders throughout the day.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Visiting Reed Bunting!

Very excited today when I spotted a male Reed Bunting in the garden.  I wasn't quite sure when I first saw it what it was, as it's not exactly the sort of bird I was expecting to see.  Beautifully coloured with it's chestnut wing stripes, speckled chest and distinct but slightly subdued (at this time of year) black head and beard markings.

I've never seen one in the area, never mind in the garden but it was lovely to watch, as it flitted nervously from branch to branch.  I rushed to grab my camera, half expecting it to have disappeared when I got back and managed to get quite a few shots, although none from that close.

It soon got the hang of the feeder and spent it's time sitting in the quince bush or visiting the feeder mixing in with the other birds that were feeding almost constantly on one feeder or the other.  While they're rare visitors to gardens they will visit feeders when it's cold and their natural food source is in this case probably covered in snow.

It hung around all day and returned quickly after I'd replenished the bird table, so it must be hungry.  Looking forward to seeing it back again tomorrow.

A song thrush also turned up briefly a couple of times but I didn't see it feeding.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Black birds with white feathers.

Are leucistic birds becoming more common?  These days, I often seen blackbirds in particular, with white feathers.  There's one that visits my garden regularly with two matching white wing feathers and I saw one recently in Somerset with two white tail feathers.

Crows too often seem to have white wing and/or tail feathers.  I'm sure I don't remember seeing them quite so regularly in the past.