Sunday, 22 February 2015

Wild Winkworth, 14th-20th February 2015

There has been lots of lovely sunshine at Winkworth this week, making it feel more than a little like Spring. Certainly the birds are really starting to feel it, with lots of singing going on around the arboretum now, particularly in the morning. A Grey Wagtail pair were a regular sight down in the Phillimore and Furze Field area, the male often heard singing. Stock Doves, too, are becoming very vocal in Bluebell Wood and can be seen performing their sailing display flight above the trees in the lower arboretum. Buzzards and Sparrowhawks are now displaying regularly overhead - there were at least four of the former around on Tuesday, when a Red Kite also drifted over, heading east.

Down at Rowe's Flashe Lake the highlights this week included a Kingfisher at the southern end on Monday, a drake Teal on Thursday morning (a first record for me here) and three very vocal Little Grebes on Friday. There are still a few Mandarin Ducks around although I haven't been seeing as many as previous weeks. Canada Goose numbers, on the other hand, have been increasing this week with at least fifteen around on Sunday (eleven of them pictured below).
While I was putting in willow edging along a path near the Fox Memorial on Sunday a great deal of alarm calling drew my gaze upwards just in time to catch sight of a male Peregrine gliding southeast overhead. Indeed, the appearance of such a feared predator was enough to set off a Firecrest frantically calling in bushes nearby, the presence of which I was unaware of until that moment.
Another nice find around the same time was this Green Crab Spider (Diaea dorsata).
A few other bird highlights this week have included regular Marsh Tit encounters along the path through Phillimore - there were at least two on Thursday morning - and a notable increase in Redpolls about the place, with at least ten along the Spring Walk on Saturday. There are still good numbers of Siskin and Bullfinch around, although perhaps slightly less than recent weeks. Phillimore remains the best place to catch up with a Water Rail; there was one squealing away at the northern end on Tuesday while on Thursday morning I noted one flying to cover along the stream towards the meadow end of the Phillimore path.

One of the first moths of the year - a Dotted Border (pictured below) - was on the door of the tearoom on Sunday morning, while on Tuesday the first airborne butterfly I've seen this year - a Peacock - flew past us down in Furze Field.
There's still lots of great-looking fungi to be found around the arboretum, like this Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor) along the Phillimore path just around the corner from the bridge over the bog.
If you're visiting Winkworth soon, keep an eye out for my recent bird and wildlife sightings posters on the kiosk and in the boathouse, and let us know of anything else you see!


Thursday, 12 February 2015

Birds at Winkworth, 9th-11th February 2015

A rather quiet few days on the bird front but still a few goodies to report...

A Sparrowhawk was again displaying over Magnolia Wood on Wednesday morning - it will be interesting to see if they breed here.

A Skylark flew west-northwest while I was out on Sorbus Hill first thing on Tuesday morning  - my first record of one this year. Also a first record were the four Greylag Geese which flew south over the meadow on Wednesday afternoon (I don't count the two farmyard geese which are on the lake every day!). 

Down at Rowe's Flashe Lake there was a drake Pochard again on Monday and Tuesday, while fourteen Mandarin Ducks late on Wednesday afternoon was the highest count for me so far here - interesting also to see the drakes displaying. As I was counting the Mandarins I noted Water Rail calling in the Gunnera swamp across the dam from the lake, and Firecrest and Marsh Tit in the Hollies and Laurels just north of the boathouse.

Mandarins on Rowe's Flashe Lake


Tracks in the snow

One of the good things about last week's snow was the unique opportunity it provided me and the other gardeners to play detective and try and work out what had been out and about in the arboretum before we did our morning checks...

Grey Heron - long legs means big strides, hence these tracks were at least eighteen inches apart!



Pheasant - the line between the footprints is from its long tail dragging in the snow

Roe Deer

Monday, 9 February 2015

Birds at Winkworth, 2nd-8th February 2015

I can't think of many better ways to start a grey, cold Monday morning than a close encounter with a Firecrest. So to have such an encounter twice while carrying out my morning site check on Monday last (2nd) was a real treat! The first was foraging in the vegetation along the stream through Phillimore, affording wonderful views just a few metres from me. The second bird was in a Camelia on the corner of the Winter Garden near the public toilets, the bright greens and oranges of its plumage contrasting rather beautifully with the pink of the flowers. Unfortunately I didn't have a camera with me to capture said beautiful moment, so instead here is a picture of one I took in the woods near my house at the weekend!
Firecrests were again noted in the Hollies at the northeastern and northwestern corners of Rowe's Flashe on Wednesday morning and Friday afternoon, respectively.

The other big excitement last week, of course, was the snow! A whole inch of it fell on Monday night into Tuesday morning, and Winkworth was looking really rather Narnia-esque, at least until lunchtime...

There was certainly evidence of some cold weather movements before and after the snow, with a Reed Bunting present in the reeds on the eastern shore of Rowe's Flash Lake on Monday, and several Canada Geese about (not all that common a sight at Winkworth, believe it or not) either on the lake or flying over. Despite being out on patrol in the upper arboretum on Tuesday morning I sadly wasn't able to pick up the three Brent Geese that Ed Stubbs had just seen flying south over Thorncombe Park. Thanks for the heads-up anyway, Ed! Talking of geese, Thursday saw the first record this year of Egyptian Goose, when I noted three flying south off Rowe's Flashe.

Bullfinch and Siskin numbers were high even by Winkworth standards last week, with at least a dozen of the former about the place on Monday, and over a hundred of the latter in Alders around the Rowe's Flashe on Thursday.

On Wednesday there was a pair of Grey Wagtails in the spillway towards the meadow end of the dam. On Thursday there was a Kingfisher at Rowe's Flashe, near the boathouse, and I also heard a Water Rail calling in Phillimore - the first I've heard for a little while, although I then heard it again during my monthly WeBS count for the BTO on Sunday (8th), when I also recorded Kingfisher again and ten Mandarin Ducks on Rowe's Flashe.

As the snow gave way to sunnier weather later in the week, so the birds and wildlife responded in spring-like fashion: on Friday there were at least three Buzzards and two Sparrowhawks displaying over Magnolia Wood, while on the ground the Primroses were beginning to flower and more Cherry blossom buds were looking to do the same. Spring is in the air!


Sunday, 1 February 2015

Birds at Winkworth, 26th-30th January 2015

A changeable week, beginning damp and mild then growing increasingly colder with snow by the later stages. The increasing daylight and spells of surprisingly warm sunshine have seen the first signs of displaying raptors this year though. On Monday morning there were two Sparrowhawks displaying over the upper arboretum and on Thursday a Red Kite and at least half a dozen Buzzards were thermalling over the slopes of the arboretum and the wider valley to the east.
Sunshine in the Winter Garden

Holly Wood continues to be the best place to find a Firecrest in the arboretum, with at least one there on Monday and two on Wednesday. The Phillimore/Furze Field area is still the most reliable spot for Marsh Tit with at least one seen or heard down there most days. Bullfinches and Siskins have been in fine voice all week, the former calling and singing all around the arboretum, the latter particularly to be found near Rowe's Flashe and the boathouse.

On Wednesday there was a Kingfisher down at Rowe's Flashe Lake; my first at Winkworth this year. Ten Canada Geese on the lake on Thursday morning represented my highest count of this species here to date. The four drake Pochard from last weekend had reduced to two by Monday, and then alternated between one and two for the rest of the week. On Thursday there were four pairs of Mandarin Duck present and I noted some displaying and scrapping amongst the drakes.
On Monday evening I was informed by visiting birder Ian Exton of a Little Egret near the boathouse earlier in the day - a first record for the arboretum, as far as I can tell. Well done, Ian!

On Thursday afternoon while I was clearing some brambles from an area of Snowdrops near the viewing platform a Raven flew north over Badger's Bowl uttering some very odd calls, unlike any I'd heard from this species before - but not dissimilar to some of the sounds in this recording.
Snowdrops on the western slopes of the Badger's Bowl

The Snowdrops aren't the only signs of Spring in the arboretum at the moment though, as there is new growth popping up all over the place. I noticed these well-developed Arum maculatum along the Thorncombe Street boundary on Tuesday.