Sunday, 25 January 2015

Wild Winkworth, 24th-25th January 2015

Well, this weekend got off to a glorious start with scenes like the ones pictured above and below replicated all around Winkworth on Saturday, as the arboretum was bathed in beautiful warming winter sunshine all day.

The birds were evidently feeling it too, as there was a great deal of singing going on, including Treecreepers and Stock Doves in Bluebell Wood, Goldcrests in Holly Wood and Bullfinch in Magnolia Wood. There were again good numbers of Great Spotted Woodpeckers drumming across the site.

Talking of Bullfinches, I was pleased to get a half-decent shot of this handsome male on the edge of the Winter Garden while I was having my lunch on Sunday. After over three months at Winkworth I still can't quite believe how numerous this species is here given their increasingly scarce status in Surrey as a whole. Always a treat to see them.

Down on Rowe's Flashe there were three drake Pochards back on the water on Saturday, the first record here for a couple of weeks. On Sunday the lake was partially frozen and the Pochard count had increased to four - the highest number I've seen here yet.

Pochards doing what they do best...sleeping!

...and just to prove they do wake up sometimes...
(male Tufted Duck in the background. Fourth Pochard out of shot)

Also of note on the lake this weekend were seven Mandarins (six drakes, one female), two Little Grebes and a Water Rail calling at the southern end on Saturday.

A pair of Grey Wagtails were hanging around in the spillway north of the dam on Sunday afternoon, the male singing occasionally. The light was pretty poor by this point, so this was unfortunately the best picture I could get of the female, despite being very close.

Down in the Phillimore area of the arboretum I noted at least two Marsh Tits, and on Sunday morning there was a male House Sparrow singing from a bramble thicket in the Furze Field - a new bird for Winkworth for me! Also on Sunday a female Kestrel was keeping watch on me from atop a tree just to the east of Thorncombe Street as I did my morning checks in this area, while on Saturday a Sparrowhawk made a typically dashing flypast through Bluebell Wood. Buzzards are beginning to get territorial and I'm increasingly seeing them soaring and calling overhead.

The Alders around Rowe's Flashe and the Phillimore area continue to be excellent for Siskin, and two Redpoll flew over the upper arboretum on Saturday lunchtime.
First thing on Sunday I was treated to good views of at least two Firecrests on the eastern edge of the Holly Wood, although sadly I didn't have a camera to hand!

While walking the slope paths on Sunday morning I stumbled across these three Roe Deer, who were clearly in no hurry to run away! On Sunday afternoon there was a Fox lurking on the eastern shore of Rowe's Flashe, worrying the assembled Mallards.


Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Birds at Winkworth, 18th-21st January 2015

A cold and at times frosty few days at Winkworth, although Sunday (18th) morning got off to a soggy start, with a WeBS count in the arboretum producing disappointing numbers of water birds, aside from eight Mandarin Ducks and a Little Grebe on Rowe's Flashe Lake. A flock of at least forty Siskins chattering away in the Alders on the east side of the lake made up for it though.

By Monday (19th) the Mandarin numbers had risen to ten, and there was also a Grey Heron lurking near the boathouse first thing.

On Tuesday (20th) I was finally able to confirm my suspicions that there is more than one Water Rail on site, as there was one squealing at the northern end of Phillimore late afternoon, followed by another just a few minutes later on the western shore of Rowe's Flashe Lake. Working with a volunteer group in Furze Field for most of the day, I also noted a Kestrel and a Buzzard lingering on the power lines and fence in the field to the east, while a Raven flew east late morning. There were also two Grey Wagtails calling in Phillimore, occasionally flying about over our heads as we struggled to get a bonfire going!

This week also saw the finches beginning to join in the ever-increasing chorus of birdsong around the arboretum, with a Chaffinch singing near the car park on Monday morning followed by a Greenfinch down in Furze Field on Tuesday. The latter was particularly of note as Greenfinches have been rather scarce locally of late.

On Wednesday (21st) morning a Red Kite flew low west over the top of the arboretum, followed by at least four Common Gulls. There were at least five Redpolls along the Spring Walk and a Buzzard flew very low through the Foliage Glade.

Bullfinch and Redwing numbers have been typically good, the former a common sight and sound all over the site as usual, while the latter are currently best looked for in the Holly Wood, feasting on the berries!


Saturday, 17 January 2015

Winkworth wildlife, 2015 so far...

As is so often the case, January is flying by, so apologies it's been a while since my last blog post. It's been a rather mild start to the year thus far, with the thermometer climbing to an unseasonal high of 15c on the 10th - clearly some flowers have been tricked into thinking Spring is already here, like this Common Daisy (Bellis perennis) on the verge near the front gate...
The longer days and spells of warm sunshine have been having a noticeable effect on the birdlife in the arboretum too, with Mistle Thrush, Song Thrush, Great Tit, Coal Tit and Stock Dove amongst several species now heard singing most days. Great Spotted Woodpeckers, too, are getting territorial and have been drumming regularly, particularly in the trees around Badgers Bowl and in Bluebell Wood. On the 13th while I and a volunteer were protecting the emerging Snowdrops (picture below) on the front lawns a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker called in the trees near the Winter Garden before flying north through the trees in front of the tearoom, where I lost sight of it. 
Also on the 13th I added Raven and Kestrel to the Winkworth year list, the former flying south over the fields east of Phillimore and the latter low through the car park just after closing time. The only other raptors recorded so far this year have been fairly regular Buzzard, and a couple of Sparrowhawks, most notably the male I flushed from the top of Azalea Steps on the 15th, which flew off with a male Blackbird in its talons!
 The squealing of a Water Rail continues to be a regular sound in Phillimore, usually north of the boardwalk, or at Rowe's Flashe Lake, where I witnessed the incongruous sight of one flying between two patches of reeds on the 13th. On the lake itself there are still regular Mandarin Ducks, with numbers fluctuating between 2 and 8 - wildfowl numbers have generally dropped away since the cold spell at the end of December, although there was one drake Pochard present on the 7th.
7-Spot Ladybird (Coccinella septempunctata) found in a log pile in Phillimore

The best area for Firecrest continues to be the footpath that runs from the southeast corner of the main car park all the way down to the Hascombe Road, with one calling at the car park end on the 7th, and one at the other end on the 14th. Interestingly, a friend of mine who lived and worked at Winkworth during the 80s said that area was always a reliable spot for them back then too.
On the 12th I recorded my first Marsh Tit of the year, in the trees near the goblin houses along the footpath through Phillimore.

On the 14th I noticed this Peacock butterfly caught in a cobweb in our workshop. Knowing that they often seek shelter for the winter in sheds and outbuildings I carefully removed it from the cobweb and put it somewhere safe - hopefully it'll be out and about in the arboretum come the Spring!