Badger and more chiffs

I saw my first badger in ages last night – I got back from the pub around 11.15, and saw one ambling around the front of the house and scaring the bejesus out of a cat that was out for the night. It’s good to see they’re still around.

Three singing chiffchaffs on Loxley Road on the way to work this morning, but still no other migrants! Hopefully that will all change very soon.

Patch update 30/03/08

Another walk round my patch this morning, on a much nicer day than yesterday. Highlights were:

  • Chiffchaffs – all the same locations as yesterday, plus one singing near the end of the path that runs from Low Matlock Lane to near the Post Office on Loxley Road. One singing at the fisheries.
  • A sparrowhawk being mobbed by a carrion crow near Old Wheel Farm.
  • A brown hare galloping across fields and across the road at Rowell Lane.

Patch update 29/03/08

A horrible rainy day! Still saw quite a lot, though, including:

  • Chiffchaffs – 1 heard singing on path near house. 2 seen well (but not singing) at Loxley Fisheries. Another heard singing near end of Black Lane. 
  • 2 x dippers at Loxley Fisheries. One was ringed female seen previously, the other took flight before I could check for rings.
  • 2 x grey wagtails at bridge near marquee place at end of Black Lane, and another at Loxley Fisheries.
  • 2 x treecreeper among long-tailed tits and coal tits near the fisheries.

Today’s full list (despite the rain!)… Continue reading Patch update 29/03/08

Big Garden Birdwatch results

The RSPB’s Big Garden Birdwatch results are in. It’s been well publicised in the press that finches have done very well indeed, with goldfinches making the top ten species for the first time, and siskins making it to the top 20. Even bramblings have done well, moving from 57 to 36 in the rankings.

Overall, however, the results are slightly bleaker, with the number of birds seen overall declining by a fifth since 2004. I have to wonder how this was affected by weather though – it was a very windy weekend, and this will have meant more birds sheltering out of sight. I, for example, saw far fewer birds than I would normally have expected at that time in a morning.

The national top 10 is as follows:

1. House Sparrow
2. Starling
3. Blackbird
4. Blue Tit
5. Chaffinch
6. Woodpigeon
7. Collared Dove
8. Robin
9. Great Tit
10. Goldfinch

I also wonder if some of the less visible, skulkier birds such as dunnocks (which do make the top 15) and wrens are under-recorded in the survey.

It’s interesting to compare the national list with South Yorkshire’s top 10, which can be found in the RSPB’s county by county guide:

1. House Sparrow
2. Starling
3. Blackbird
4. Goldfinch
5. Blue Tit
6. Collared Dove
7. Long-tailed Tit
8. Woodpigeon
9. Robin
10. Greenfinch

I’m not surprised at all that goldfinch and long-tailed tit are higher than the national average, as they seem to be very numerous birds in most places I visit. I’m perhaps slightly surprised that house sparrow and starling are still the top two, although the numbers are significantly smaller than the national averages (House Sparrow 3.6 per garden national average, 2.43 in S. Yorks; Starling 3.44 national, 2.19 S. Yorks).

And a final note, it’s good to see tree sparrows still make the top ten in some counties – Aberdeenshire and East Yorkshire.

Prague, pests and patch

If anyone wondered why I’d been quiet for the last week or so, it’s because I had a week away in Prague. It’s a beautiful city, but it would be off-topic to talk too much about it. Needless to say I kept my eyes open for birds while I was there, though. I missed out on middle spotted woodpeckers and hawfinches, which I’d heard weren’t impossible to see in the centre or Prague, but I did see a few things of interest.

Birds or prey were quite common – kestrels especially, flying overhead or yickering away from the tops of buildings, but I also saw a peregrine and sparrowhawk in the city centre, and a buzzard soaring high over Letna park. Woodpeckers were also very common, with a few great spotteds seen and heard around Letna and Prague Castle, and greens seen or heard at nearly every bit of green space I visited, even busy parks bordering the centre of the city. Jays were common, and at Vysehrad were as fearless and cheeky as magpies are here, hopping around the gravestones of the cemetery there no further than a foot away from me. Other notables included the white-headed, Eastern European race of long-tailed tit, which were quite common and look very different from the ones here.

On arriving home, I discovered the harlequin ladybirds are emerging in good numbers now, with no fewer than five wandering about on the bedroom window. One was of the black ‘spectabilis’ form, and the other four the spotty ‘succinea’ type. I really hope it’s not the start of an infestation…

And today I went for the first look at my patch since I got back, with a walk up to Low Bradfield. No early migrants yet, I’m sorry to report, but I did see:

  • A tree sparrow on Loxley Road, near Stacey Lane.
  • A redwing by the side of Loxley Road near Damflask.
  • Two curlew flying over Damflask, near Bradfield. Two also seen later feeding in a field on Loxley Road, near Storrs Bridge Lane – the same ones?
  • A GSW calling by the cafe at Bradfield.
  • A flock of around 10 meadow pipits in a field near Loxley Road.

Patch update 09/03/08

Not much to report today.

  • The usual at Old Wheel Dam – 1 greylag goose, 3 tufted duck and the usual 2 goldeneye. The immature male goldeneye looks a lot different to it did when I first saw it in January – it’s now not mistakable for a female, and looks more like an adult male on every visit.
  • A few grey wagtails on the river at various points.
  • A dipper at Loxley Fisheries. It was in flight, so I didn’t get chance to see any rings.
  • A couple of treecreepers on Stacey Lane.
  • 1 female bullfinch.