2 December 2014

November - Patching, Ringing and Rarities

As you have probably noticed this is my first ever blog post on my brand new blog! So I thought, what better way to start off my blog with a round up of what has been an absolutely brilliant month of Bird related activities.

November started on a Saturday and we went for a walk up Beacon Hill. It's about a 40 minute drive from us, but well worth it because it has some excellent woodland habitat and a great view. We walked to the top and explored some of the deciduous woodland, it was a fairly sunny day and so the trees all looked amazing with their autumn leaves still on. Some of the bird highlights included: Peregrine, Nuthatch, several Bullfinch and a pair of Jays. But birds weren't the only things around; Fly Agarics were dotted about and because I had recently brought my first ever phone I decided to test its camera:

Fly Agaric Panorama

Fly Agaric

Fly Agaric Panorama

On sunday it was, as usual, a day of mostly homework. But a nice excuse for a break from homework entered the garden around midday; 2 Goldcrest. Which is the highest number we've ever had in our garden at any one time, unfortunately they didn't hang around long.
After a week at school it was Saturday 9th and I had got up early to go out into my garden and sit in a little portable wildlife hide I have, It was good weather with some nice autumnal light and so I was hoping to get good pictures of some of our garden birds. Here are some of the results:

Collared Dove
Great Tit
House Sparrow

After about an hour and a half of photography. My dad woke to find a text on his phone saying that ringing was on, so I rushed about, collected what I needed and got to the site at about 9am. It was a good session with a modest 25 birds caught and a ringing lifer for me, a Coal Tit.

The next morning I was up early again, this time for my monthly WeBS count. For those who don't know my WeBS site, it is quite a small set of fishing lakes, so you can imagine my incredible buzz of excitement when I found a group of four Bearded Tits! Especially as they are quite a rarity in the county.
A record shot of the Bearded Tits
However the birds had unfortunately moved on within half an hour, but the Patch ticks didn't stop there! A Water Rail was heard calling from within the reeds and one, possibly two, Cetti's Warblers were heard singing! 

I then walked over to another part of my patch called Priory Water, this is a much bigger set of lakes which attracts fairly good numbers of wildfowl throughout the winter. Some birds present included 3 Kingfishers, Little Egret, 2 Sparrowhawks and a large flock of c150 Lapwing. Also Fieldfare and Redwing numbers were on the up with several small flocks about and a pair of Mistle Thrush.

After another week of school, it was Saturday and time for another Ringing session, which turned out to be a fantastic morning with great weather for ringing. It totalled 37 birds with five more ringing lifers for me: Song Thrush, Fieldfare, Redwing, Chaffinch (slightly overdue!) and an amazing Great Spotted Woodpecker. Two male Great Spots were caught but one was a re-trap from the 16th February 2011. They were both in the bottom shelf of the same net, less than a meter from each other!
Great Spotted Woodpeckers
On the Sunday I had a lot of homework to do but I did manage to get out for a couple of hours and go over to my granddad's house. My granddad is lucky enough to live in a small farmhouse in the middle of nowhere surrounded by an acre of land he owns. He gets daily visits from a wide variety of farmland birds and has masses of Rabbits which have recently attracted the odd stoat. But the main reason I go to my granddads is because of one Robin, this Robin has got so used to seeing my granddad gardening that it will fly down and feed directly out of my hand! So I had a good catchup with my Robin and then went on a bit of a walk about to see what I could find. Birds of interest included: 6 flyover Siskins, a flock of about 30 Chaffinches, 9 Reed Buntings and four Tree Sparrows. 

Saturday came around again and a trip down to my Patch was due. I set off at 8am and didn't get back until dark and what a day it was with birds everywhere I looked. During the walk to Priory Water I saw my second Treecreeper on my patch this year, several of my favorite birds - Bullfinches and flyover Meadow Pipits and a Skylark. When I finally got to Priory Water I got out my scope and started counting the wildfowl, the highest count was 65 Gadwall. But before I could count the Gulls some dog walkers had spooked everything into the air including a pair of Little Egrets. I watched one through my scope for a couple of minutes before it settled down again. Then as I lifted my head from my scope I immediately noticed an Egret flying over my patch, it was much bigger than the Little Egret I had just been watching! I instinctively grabbed by binoculars and had a quick look at the Egrets beak which was yellow and its feet which were black. This was a Great White Egret!!! On my Patch! I quickly lifted my camera to my face and tried to take a picture. Nothing happened! I had my camera turned off. Ahhhhh! I turned it on but by that point it was two late, it had flown out of view being pursued by a group of Gulls. I went after it and ended up doing a 5 mile walk looking for it but I couldn't relocate it. However it turned out I saw 61 species that day! Other highlights included: Chiffchaff, 6 Mistle Thrush, 4 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Green Woodpecker, 2 Grey Wagtails, 5 Little Egrets, a group of 8 Magpies (unusual?) and another Patch tick in the form of a Stonechat.
Digiscoped Stonechat 

Digiscoped female Great Spotted Woodpecker
After a lie in and a day of homework on Sunday. It was back to school for another week, but it felt like it had ended before it had begun and it was up early on Saturday for another ringing session. It turned out to be a very quiet morning with a total of only 15 birds, with the best bird being a ringing tick for me; a Wren. Another ringing tick that morning was a female House Sparrow which gave me a quite a pecking whilst I was extracting it! That afternoon I walked down to my patch for a couple of hours, highlights included: a massive group of Gulls flying over with about 250 birds, several unusually tame Fieldfares, 3+ Kingfishers and my 100th species for my patch this year, a small flock of 9 Pochard!

And that was my November! 75 species overall, 1 County tick, 2 Self-found county rarities, 8 Ringing Ticks and 6 Species and 13 points added to my Patch 2014 list. What a Month!

I know its quite a long read, so if you've read this far then Well Done and Thanks for reading :)


  1. Great first blog and really well done on the bearded tits.

  2. Agree with Findlay , great first post and cool photos Sam

  3. Excellent blog post, stunning birds & great pictures. I saw your post on Robs timeline on twitter, I know Fin as well. Futures in safe hands!

  4. Thank you very much :)

  5. Great first blog, Bearded Tits are fantastic, you are very local with your patch it sounds!