Sunday, 29 November 2015

Wild Winkworth, November 2015

As always, lots to talk about these past few weeks. It's been a largely mild, grey and drizzly kind of November with just a very short-lived cold snap during the third week, producing a couple of frosty nights and even the odd snow flurry. The autumn colour ended pretty abruptly this year, thanks to the cold combined with some high winds, but it was by all accounts one of the best colour displays in recent years. Visiting Winkworth towards the end of the month though you could be forgiven for thinking you'd missed winter and we'd jumped straight to spring as there are already Daffodils, Witch Hazels and Cherry trees all flowering around the arboretum!

November is a great time to get out and see some of the bird species that migrate to our shores for the winter, and Winkworth is as good a place as any in Surrey to see some of them. The many berry-bearing trees and shrubs around the arboretum have been teeming with thrushes recently, particularly the yellow-berried Sorbus 'Joseph Rock' near the main car park, which was covered in Redwings, Blackbirds, Song Thrushes and Fieldfares every day last week. 
Song Thrush

I've been seeing and hearing plenty of Bramblings about the place recently, peaking at sixteen on the 18th when I photographed these two in Furze Field.
Crossbills were recorded several times during the month, the highest number being five which flew over the Bowl on the 10th. On the 19th a Little Egret flew low south-west over Rowe's Flashe Meadow, seemingly coming down towards the southern end of the lake but as I was in the middle of doing post-storm tree inspections at the time I wasn't able to check. I only noted Firecrest twice this month, on the 7th and the 24th, on both occasions in the vicinity of the boathouse. Unfortunately I wasn't able to get a photo but John Rowland did capture this nice image of the more common Goldcrest the other day. 
On the 17th a Woodcock flew south-east over Rowe's Flashe Meadow at dusk while on the 24th one flew up in my car headlights as I drove home along the road by Phillimore Wetland.
The frosty start on the 23rd had an air of northern promise about it and I was half expecting something a bit unusual to appear when half a dozen 'Grey Geese' flew in from the north-west over the top arboretum. I only got the briefest of views and only heard a couple of calls but it was enough to tell me they were not Greylags. Beyond that I wouldn't want to say for sure!
Other species of note this month have included Water Rail (two calling together in Phillimore on the 27th), Marsh Tit (popping up all over the place recently), Reed Bunting (either in the reedbed by Rowe's Flashe or in Phillimore), occasional Kingfishers at Rowe's Flashe Lake and a Winkworth first for me in the form of a Yellowhammer which flew north on the 8th. There have also been some characteristically massive movements of Woodpigeons, such as on the 9th when at least two thousand flew south first thing. 

As ever there have been a few Roe Deer around the arboretum recently, and in quieter moments they will allow you to approach very close, like these two I photographed in the Bowl on the 18th. 
Keeping on the mammal theme, on the 27th I somewhat belatedly saw my first Winkworth Stoat, albeit very briefly, as it scuttled across the path in front of me near Rowe's Flashe Meadow. 

Another thing to look for at this time of year is of course fungi, and there's a wide array of weird and wonderful specimens to be seen around the arboretum at the moment. I don't confess to be the greatest mycologist but volunteer Ann Jacobs thankfully is and has been taking some wonderful photographs here recently, like this Common Eyelash (Scutellinia scutellata) she found on a dung heap near the overflow car park. 
Although butterflies are now fast becoming a distant memory - aside from the Small Tortoiseshell I saw on the 18th - there is still some lepidopteran interest to be had in the form of some of the autumn moth species, some of which are more colourful than others. Several moths even found their way into the temporary public toilets earlier in the month which I took photos of as I extricated them each morning.
Sprawler (Asteroscopus sphinx)
November Moth agg. (Epirrita sp.)
Mottled Umber (Erannis defoliaria)

That's all for this time. To finish, how about this for a gorgeous sunrise? Who says the autumn colour is all gone!


Friday, 6 November 2015

Birds at Winkworth, 3rd-4th November 2015

A very short week at Winkworth for me as I was up at our sister property, Claremont Landscape Garden, on Monday providing gardener cover and carrying out a bird survey.

I returned to Winkworth on Tuesday to find a female Pochard on Rowe's Flashe Lake - my first one here of this second winter period. 
There were also 23 Canada Geese on the lake, the highest number I have seen here to date. 

Later in the morning I was called over to the tearoom to deal with a bird that was sat on the floor and not moving. Expecting a Blackbird or Robin or something similarly familiar, I was surprised to walk through the door and see it was a Nuthatch! It was clearly stunned from either flying into a window or had had a lucky escape from a cat perhaps, and let me pick it up with no struggle.
It looked in good physical condition so I gently introduced it to the trunk of a nearby oak tree which it clung on to of its own accord and, in time, began to climb up out of reach as it regained its senses.

Never a dull moment in this job!

On Monday afternoon I heard the loud and unmistakeable call of Crossbill and just caught sight of two flying low over the trees near the kiosk. Judging by the calls though there were quite a few more that I didn't see.

On Wednesday morning there was a Firecrest calling by the boathouse, while at least two Brambling were flying around/over the lower arboretum, calling. 
Just before dusk on Wednesday there was a Kingfisher down at Rowe's Flashe Lake and a single Reed Bunting flew west.

November is the month when Woodpigeons form into huge flocks and roam in search of suitable feeding areas. I filmed this short clip on Tuesday morning in Rowe's Flashe Meadow and it shows part of a movement of over a thousand Woodpigeons that flew south first thing. Sadly my phone didn't really pick it up but I can tell you that the sound of that many wings is quite something!

Note the Siskins calling in the background - there were at least forty flying around in a tight flock while I was filming this. 
Other flyover bits of note included a Red Kite north, mobbed by Rooks, and over a hundred Fieldfares south in small groups on Tuesday.


Sunday, 1 November 2015

Wild Winkworth, October snippets

'The summer-flower has run to seed,
And yellow is the woodland bough;
And every leaf of bush and weed
Is tipt with autumn’s pencil now.'

The opening lines of John Clare's 'Autumn', and now very apt as the season is well and truly upon us. The trees are turning some wonderful shades around the arboretum and some of the early ornamentals have already lost many of their leaves, smattering the ground with dots of red and gold.
The misty hazy mornings this month have already brought with them the odd touch of grass frost and ripe berries are fast disappearing from the hedgerows and trees, gobbled up by hungry creatures. Jays become more conspicuous at this time of year, flitting from Oak to Oak, collecting acorns to store away for the cold winter months to come - did you know that a single Jay can gather five thousand acorns in one autumn?
It's not just the landscape that is changing though, as the autumn migration season is now in full flow and birds are sweeping across Britain in their hundreds of thousands and there has been much evidence of this at Winkworth recently.
The early Redwings I mentioned in my last blog post have now been joined by many more - on the 20th I noted over a hundred over the arboretum in the first hour of the day alone, mostly heading south and west, some very high so presumably had just arrived from Scandinavia overnight. Check out the Sorbus and other berry-bearing trees in the Bowl to get a closer look at these handsome thrushes. The first Fieldfares, meanwhile, were a flock of thirty or so which flew west on the 17th.
Skylarks too have been moving in numbers. Up until this month it had been weeks since I'd seen or heard one here, but I've recorded over a dozen over in the past couple of weeks alone.
There have also been noticeably more Reed Buntings around lately and it would appear they are using the small reedbed next to Rowe's Flashe Lake as a roost site as I noted three flying from there early on the 20th followed by six doing the same on the 22nd.
On the morning of the 27th it was a very nice surprise to find two Pintail (a female and a young drake) and two first-year drake Wigeon on Rowe's Flashe Lake - both new species for me here. One of the Wigeon flew off early in the day while the Pintail and remaining Wigeon stuck around for the rest of the day. All had gone, however, by the time I returned to Winkworth on the 30th after two days' training at Polesden Lacey. Both of these species breed in Northern Europe, Iceland, Scandinavia and Russia so these individuals were presumably tired first-time migrants stopping off for a rest en route to their wintering grounds, perhaps somewhere on the south coast.

In keeping with the Siskin invasion going on all over Britain and indeed Europe at the moment, there have been loads here in the past few weeks; many seemingly just passing through but others lingering. The Alder trees on the eastern side of Rowe's Flashe Lake are a reliable spot for them, while on 8th October John Rowland got some nice shots of some of a flock of at least forty which were frequenting the Western Hemlock trees along the edge of the overflow car park.

Butterflies are getting very scarce now, but the warmer days towards the end of the month have seen the odd Red Admiral on the wing in the arboretum, while on the 13th visitor Graham Dash reported seeing a Small Copper

There are some lovely moths to be seen around this time of year and I've been finding a few around the place recently, like this Angle Shades I found on my car door handle when I was leaving work the other evening...
...and this Feathered Thorn which had decided to take refuge in the public toilets!
I've been finding a lot of Common Frogs around the arboretum recently, particularly in The Bowl, so keep an eye out if you're kicking through the fallen leaves! 
While the autumn leaf colour is (rightly!) taking centre stage in the arboretum at present, there are still a few splashes of flower colour around - this Nettle-leaved Bellflower is putting on an unusually late show near the top of the Fiona Adam Steps.
As ever Roe Deer are a common sight around the arboretum in small numbers, particularly the Badger's Bowl lately where these two were hanging out early on the 6th.
And to finish this blog post, how about this for a cool-looking bug? It's a Hawthorn Shieldbug (Acanthosoma haemorrhoidale) which I luckily spotted before I sat on it as it had taken a shine to the seat of our off-road buggy!