Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Birds at Winkworth, 26th-31st December 2014

You may remember I ended my last blog post talking about Great Spotted Woodpeckers drumming. Well, it proved to be rather prophetic as there were at least two doing just that in the warm sunshine in Bluebell Wood on the morning of the 27th, and again on the 28th.

A notable omission from the Winkworth historic bird list was Common Gull, however this was rectified on Boxing Day when seven of them flew west-southwest over the site. On the 27th at least twenty Herring Gulls flew north, while Sunday saw large numbers of gulls of various species moving mostly south.

The lone drake Pochard remained on Rowe's Flashe Lake, joined by a second one on the 28th and a third on the 31st. A pair of Gadwall turned up on the 30th - signs of some cold weather movement, as there have been some particularly harsh frosts these past few mornings and the lake has been partially frozen.

A frosty Phillimore, looking rather more like a scene from Narnia!

A partially frozen Rowe's Flashe

The Water Rail is still around, predominantly in Phillimore, north of the footbridge, although at dusk on the 30th there was one squealing in the reeds on the eastern side of Rowe's Flashe, adding further weight to my suspicion that there may actually be more than one bird on site - on the 28th I heard what sounded very much like two calling together in Phillimore.

Other highlights from the past few days have included two Egyptian Geese east early on the 28th followed closely by a Brambling calling in or over Phillimore (heard but not seen). On the 29th a Buzzard flew low over the boathouse first thing then was later seen soaring over Rowe's Flashe Meadow. On the same day there were nine Canada Geese on Rowe's Flashe Lake - actually something of a scarcity here - and later a female Tawny Owl calling in Bluebell Wood. Just before closing time on the 30th a Raven flew east-northeast so low over the upper arboretum I could hear its wingbeats! The year, and my working week, ended on a high on the 31st with a Firecrest in a group of Hollies along the public footpath just southeast of the main car park.

If you've visited the arboretum recently you may have seen our bird-friendly Christmas tree by the kiosk, decorated with fat balls and pine cones stuffed with fat and seed (picture below). I made some more decorations at the weekend and had plenty to spare so hung a few around our work yard, much to the delight of the Tits and Blackbirds!

Anyway, that's all for now...Happy New Year, everyone - see you in 2015!

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Bits and bobs from this week

The mild winter continues and with it the unseasonal colour in the arboretum. Look out for the late flowerers, like this Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum) below...
and the early flowerers like this Witch Hazel (Hamamelis) already beginning to bloom in the Winter Garden

Bird highlights this week have included a Red Kite low over the Foliage Glade on Monday morning, followed by at least two Buzzards circling and calling low over the Phillimore area. They seem to be quite frequent in this part of the arboretum so worth keeping your eyes peeled and ears alert for their mewing call. Siskins continue to be a regular sight and sound and I noted several singing on Tuesday this week. Rowe's Flashe Lake is still hosting the long staying drake Pochard and at least two Little Grebes. At dusk on Tuesday seven Mandarin Ducks flew northwest from the lake to roost, while there was a Water Rail calling towards Phillimore. I heard the Water Rail again in Phillimore on Wednesday morning, along with a Grey Wagtail and a singing Stock Dove. I've not seen or heard any further sign of last week's Lesser Spotted, but have seen both Green and Great Spotted Woodpeckers regularly lately - it won't be long before the latter are starting to drum as Spring draws ever nearer. Now there's a nice thought...

Happy Christmas all!

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Birds at Winkworth, 13th-14th December

A chilly weekend with two sharp frosts, particularly Saturday when shadier spots in the arboretum remained frozen throughout the day. It was a great weekend for birds though, with 49 species recorded in all, two of them new for my Winkworth list (highlighted in red).

Saturday got off to a good start with a Raven flying northeast low over Rowe's Flashe Lake as I opened up the boathouse first thing. On the water there was the usual drake Pochard, a Little Grebe and a couple of Cormorants amongst the Mallards and Tufted Ducks. Moving on to check out the Bluebell Wood and Phillimore Wetland I heard a Water Rail calling north of the boardwalk across the bog.

There were lots of birds around the property yard and nursery areas too, including the Pheasant, Mistle Thrush and Bullfinch pictured below, as well as plenty of Redwings and a few flyover Redpolls.

While checking the site on Sunday morning I noted a Roe Deer in-between the Spring Walk and Fiona Adams Steps, a Stock Dove singing in Bluebell Wood and the Water Rail squealing again in Phillimore. Rowe's Flashe held Pochard, Little Grebe and 4 Mandarin Duck. Stopping briefly on the southern edge of Bluebell Wood I heard the distinctive call of a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker towards the other side of Phillimore. I unfortunately wasn't able to locate the bird but the habitat is just right so perhaps it will be a regular visitor through the winter at least. Whilst in Phillimore I saw two Egyptian Geese flying west above the trees. There were noticeably more Gulls flying over on Sunday morning also - mostly Lesser Black-backed and heading west/southwest - the icy weather evidently impelling them to move. At the end of the working day I paid a flying visit to the northeastern corner of the site in the hope of hearing a Tawny Owl. No such luck, unfortunately, but a Woodcock flying out of Phillimore at dusk was an excellent consolation.

Pheasant foraging for chestnuts in the leaves

Mistle Thrush

Male Bullfinch feeding on Sorbus berries

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Birds at Winkworth, 9th December 2014

Another chilly day with a frost to start. Much of the day was spent working near Rowe's Flashe Lake with our regular Tuesday volunteer group.

On the way down to the lake I noted two Buzzards flying low through the trees between Azalea Steps and Badger's Bowl, with one continuing on into Bluebell Wood.

On the lake itself, the drake Pochard was still present along with two Little Grebes. A Chiffchaff was calling in the reeds on the eastern shore, where I heard the Water Rail on Sunday.

Whilst working in the wetland just north of the dam we flushed a Grey Wagtail. There were again typically good numbers of Siskin, Bullfinch and Redwing around the whole arboretum.

As we were packing up at the end of the day, a male Kestrel was lurking near our workyard, presumably keeping an eye on the bird feeders in the nurseries.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Bird sightings, 8th December 2014

A beautiful, crisp winter's day at Winkworth with almost unbroken sunshine throughout and a maximum temperate of 7 degrees celsius.

The day started well with a Kingfisher giving a flypast across Rowe's Flashe Lake as I opened and cleaned the boathouse, and a rather dark Buzzard allowing very close views in the trees on the northwestern corner of the lake, where it stayed for most of the day.

The drake Pochard was still present on the lake, and there were again good numbers of Siskin and Redpoll flying about. A male and two female Bullfinches flew east over the boathouse first thing, and there were at least that many again in the upper arboretum towards the kiosk, tearoom and car park area, where there was also a Green Woodpecker calling in the afternoon.

Beech nut cases (above) and a probable Porcelain Fungus on the same tree (below)

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Bird sightings, 7th December 2014

Although I wasn't working today I was in the arboretum at dawn to carry out a WeBS count on Rowe's Flashe Lake. After several days of cold and mostly dry weather with some beautiful winter sunshine, it was surprisingly mild, rather grey and murky this morning.

All the usual suspects were present on the lake - 48 Mallards, 16 Tufted Ducks and the resident trio of domestic Greylag Geese - but there was also a nice selection of somewhat less common birds, namely 1 Kingfisher, 8 Mandarins, 3 Little Grebe and the drake Pochard which has now been around for a couple of weeks. Just as I was about to leave, a Water Rail called in the patch of reeds on the eastern shore of the lake.

The Alders towards the south-eastern corner of the lake held at least 30 Siskin and 10 Lesser Redpoll. Redwings were also present in good numbers, with at least 20 around the lower arboretum and another dozen west over the meadow. Bullfinches were heard near the kiosk and in Badger's Bowl, and three flew over the meadow towards The Bowl. A Buzzard drifted north over Perrydean and Busbridge Copse, mobbed by a Carrion Crow.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Signs of Spring?

A visitor to Winkworth this week might be forgiven for wondering if they'd inadvertently slept through Winter and woken up in early Spring as there are, incredibly, Daffodils already beginning to flower around the upper arboretum. The daffs here are an early variety, but not usually this early! Similarly unseasonal is the cherry just in front of the owl bench viewpoint - Prunus 'Accolade' - which usually flowers in April!

Bird sightings, 3rd December 2014

Another chilly day in the brisk east-northeasterly wind, with the occasional bursts of sunshine not enough to lift the temperature into double figures.

Again a relatively quiet day for birds, with the usual scattering of Redwings, Siskins and Bullfinches in the upper arboretum.

There was a Lesser Redpoll in the Holly Wood early afternoon, while later in the day two Buzzards were soaring over the same area.

A male Sparrowhawk flew low through Magnolia Wood mid-afternoon.

The usual pair of Mandarin Duck were still present on Rowe's Flashe Lake.

Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Bird sightings, 2nd December 2014

A grey and often rainy day with a maximum temperature of 8 degrees celsius.

Aside from the odd Siskin and Redwing the only other birds of note were the lone drake Pochard on Rowe's Flashe Lake, now present for its tenth day, plus Little Grebe, Grey Heron and a pair of Mandarin Duck.

Monday, 1 December 2014

Bird sightings, 1st December 2014

Of note today...

3 Mandarin Duck and Little Grebe on Rowe's Flashe Lake first thing.

At least 60 Siskin, mostly in Alder trees around the lake.

Marsh Tit near the viewing platform at the top of Spring Walk.

At least 30 Redwing scattered around the upper arboretum.