Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Further adventures in micro-patching

Having always been a keen patch-watcher, I must admit to quite enjoying this spell of medically-enforced micro-patching - i.e. my garden and its immediate surroundings. On the eve of leaving Chilworth and the Surrey Hills behind, I feel like it's making me take time to appreciate my surroundings and look harder for things I may have missed. Indeed, since returning from hospital on Saturday afternoon I've notched up 56 bird species in, around or over the garden, although still yet to achieve the hoped-for 50 in a single day.
Yesterday's highlights included singles of Sand Martin and Swallow over, one Skylark east (the first garden record for a while), an adult Great Black-backed Gull east and ten Redpoll high north-west. It was also entertaining watching four Great Spotted Woodpeckers chasing each other from tree to tree on and off all morning. Butterfly numbers were lower than Sunday, as to be expected as the day was rather cooler and breezier, with just Comma and Holly Blue making an appearance. It's worth mentioning here that our back garden is a very open space and backs directly onto farmland. It can often be very breezy here when other places locally are calm - I've often equated it to being rather more like being by the coast than the Surrey Hills! Anyway, I've no doubt a dweller of a more sheltered garden would have done rather better for butterflies but, as it stands, my garden butterfly year list now stands at seven species.
Carder Bee
This morning started drizzly but mild and with relatively light winds. Normally the kind of morning I'd be scurrying off to the patch but not today. I'd barely finished my breakfast before I heard the sweetly drunken notes of a Willow Warbler singing through the open window; the first one from the garden this year. Not a bad start.
Willow Warbler - too mobile for a good photo!
I got my bins and camera out and before setting up for some more sedentary garden birding headed out for a gentle stroll up our road. I had half thought I might make it up to Blackheath but didn't get that far in the end. Anyway I hadn't walked far before I caught up with the Willow Warbler again, working its way through the roadside hedgerow, occasionally darting to the top of a taller tree when a car passed by. It was nice to spend some time watching it. Maybe I'm usually in too much of a rush to find something else.

A little further on I stumbled across a pair of Buzzards mating in a tree right on the edge of Blackheath, and my first Red Kite of the day drifted over. Down at ground level it was nice to see my first flowering Cow Parsley and Garlic Mustard of the year; some of the Hawthorns don't look like they'll be much longer either.
Garlic Mustard
Cow Parsley
Forget-me-not species - probably garden escape
 Back home and into my sky watching position from where I could still hear occasional bursts of song from the Willow Warbler, plus at least one each of Chiffchaff and Blackcap behind the farm. A pair of Jackdaws foraged about nearby gathering nest material. Looking up I caught sight of three Ravens powering north together, sadly disappearing over the tree line before I could get a photo. Later on two Skylarks flew north-east. The hoped for low cloud and occasional drizzle sadly didn't bring down a Little Gull or any terns but single Lesser Black-backed Gulls flew south and south-west. As the day brightened a little mid-afternoon, raptors really got going with at least four Red Kites and nine Buzzards in the sky together at one point, seven of the latter kettling together and drifting north-east. Despite my best efforts I've not yet found any grounded passerines in the fields that back onto our garden but I'm certainly enjoying trying! The garden list remains on 88.


Cormorant - lots of these over the garden this week

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