Monday, 5 October 2015

Wild Winkworth, early Autumn

First off, apologies for the extended break between blog posts. I was away in South Africa for the first three weeks of September and have come back to find autumn is well and truly with us at Winkworth! The trees are beginning to turn some wonderful shades around the arboretum now, particularly the Katsuras (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) dotted about the place giving their glorious burnt sugar scent, and the Maples (Acers) in The Bowl and Badger's Bowl (pictured below).
It’s clearly been all go on the bird front while I’ve been away and this has continued as September has given way to October. The Swallows are largely gone – the five I saw flying south-west on 3rd October may prove to be amongst the last of the year here – while House Martins too are gathering to depart. Over two hundred and fifty hirundines passed over on 24th September, mostly House Martins, and mostly heading east/south-east. First thing on the 25th a Hobby flew strongly south-west over Rowe’s Flashe Lake; another of our summer visitors which won’t be with us very much longer. Other raptors seen recently have been occasional Sparrowhawk and Kestrel, and more regular sightings of Buzzard, including this one perched conspicuously atop a Larch in the Bowl. 
 On the warbler side of things, there are still a fair few Chiffchaffs around, some of them singing from time to time to defend feeding territories as they fuel up for their long southward migrations. Towards the end of September there were still a couple of Blackcaps hanging around in the Elder bushes in Furze Field, although these too will soon be on their way. As the summer migrants prepare to leave though, so the winter visitors are already streaming in. There have been lots of Meadow Pipits moving through in the past couple of weeks, and the first Redwings of autumn were three flying south-east on the morning of the 28th followed by another seven on the 30th. Siskin numbers are increasing, with a flock of at least thirty in the Alders around Rowe’s Flashe Lake on 3rd October and lots more moving around overhead. On the 28th I noted the first Redpoll flying around with the Siskin flock by the lake. Firecrests and Marsh Tits have been a bit more conspicuous just recently, the Firecrest in the photo below showing well with a roving Tit flock by Rowe’s Flashe last week although sadly the light wasn't in my favour.
 On the morning of the 29th there were three Water Rails calling simultaneously in Phillimore Wetland – the highest count of this species here to date – while later in the day a 1st winter Common Gull flew south; the first one of autumn here. Other bird bits of note have been regular Grey Wagtails down at Rowe’s Flashe Lake plus occasional visits from a Kingfisher. On the 30th three Egyptian Geese flying south-east represented my first record of this species here for a while. Talking of geese, a Bar-headed Goose on Rowe’s Flashe on the 29th was a bit unexpected. Although in the wild this species holds the record for the highest bird migration, having been recorded flying at altitudes of over 7km, this individual had very likely escaped from a private collection. 
Butterfly numbers have dropped away sharply while I’ve been away and despite the warm sunshine in the past week or so I have only noted the odd Speckled Wood, Red Admiral or Large or Small White around the arboretum, although today I did stumble across a Peacock while tidying out one of our wood stores - clearly it had chosen it as a good place to spend the winter. Dragonflies too are becoming scarcer but I’m still seeing the odd Migrant Hawker and Common Darter around.
Roe Deer remain a common sight around the arboretum, particularly in the mornings. I spotted these three having a rest in the field below Sorbus Hill the other day. 
To finish this blog post, a few more autumnal images from the past couple of weeks. I love this time of year!
Garden Spider (Araneus diadematus)
Elderberries (Sambucus nigra)
Orange Peel Fungus (Aleuria aurantia)
Common Toad (Bufo bufo)
Sugar Maple (Acer saccharum)