Wednesday, 29 April 2015

My date with nature

The RSPB have started a project called 'A date with nature', the idea to encourage more people to get outdoors, specifically to their fantastic Nature Reserves. Many of these dates are free to attend and are a great way to encourage children to get outside and appreciate wildlife. For me, looking closer to home can be just as rewarding, if not even more so as you stumble across something that perhaps no one has found before...

On a brief dog walk in one of the many local woods a couple of days ago, I was delighted to hear my first Nightingale of the year. The next morning I went back with my camera, daughter and dog to discover it in exactly the same place, singing again at the top of his voice from deep within the coppice. Add in the sound of many Song Thrushes, Wrens and Nuthatches, a Chiffchaff, Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Goldcrest and a mewing Buzzard circling low overhead, I was in my element and pleased to be able to show my 3 year old such a selection, even if she didn't really feel the same elation I felt (and really just wanted to splash in the stream).

That evening I went back alone, my very own date with nature and a very memorable one it turned out to be. A Buzzard sitting on a fence post in the adjacent field was being harassed by Mistle Thrushes and Blackbirds which drew my attention towards it. Having never taken a decent picture of a perched Buzzard, I was off to a great start. Back on the path, a fox strolled across down at the bottom of the hill, either unaware or not bothered by my presence. Nuthatches, Goldcrests and a calling Great Spotted Woodpecker were around on the way to the coppice, where again I was graced by the birdsong of the Nightingale along with many others. A fly by Hobby, another first for the year, darted by overhead, disturbing the melodic evening chorus and causing a stir.

A few years ago I was shown a Tawny Owl nest box in use at the bottom of the woods, but having entered a different way I was unsure as to its whereabouts. My unsuccessful search for the box was not a waste of time, however, as I spotted a badger near its sett. Though it at first spotted me and went back down, I decided to wait as the light dimmed for it to emerge once more. The next half an hour was spent being entertained by 3 badgers snuffling around in the bluebells, one making its way up their track towards the very path I was squatted down on. It briefly stopped about 50 yards away, before spotting me and darting across to the other side. Though my photos are nothing to be proud of, my date with nature was completely enchanting and I'm sure we'll be seeing each other again!

Common Buzzard



Friday, 17 April 2015

First Spring Sighting Dates 2015

2015 Spring Migrant first arrival dates at Feathers, Salehurst, East Sussex

Swallow: 7th April
House Martin: 16th April
Swift: 8th May
Chiffchaff: 10th April
Blackcap: 12th April
Whitethroat: 23rd April
Cuckoo: 23rd April
Spotted Flycatcher: 27th May

Male Blackcap - 15th April 2015


Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Birding in Happisburgh, Norfolk

My second time up to visit Grandparents-in-law in Happisburgh, this time I had the best part of 4 days rather than the 1 day in Autumn last year! Between Tim (my wife's Grandad) and I, we managed 86 species, which we were pleased with. Most came from dog walks along Happisburgh beach, adding a few more on a quick trip out in the car down the country lanes (finding Grey Partridge), a couple of hours at Cley Marshes Nature Reserve to add waders, ducks and geese etc, plus a trip to Norwich and Whitlingham Country Park. Here are a selection of photos from the trip:

Female Black Redstart at Happisburgh

Meadow Pipit

Small Tortoiseshell

Sandwich Tern, Common and Herring Gulls

Turnstones and Ringed Plover

Sanderling and Turnstone



Grey Partridge at Happisburgh


Pair of Grey Partridge at Happisburgh

Skylarks (never seen so many in my life!)

Three Hares behind Cley Visitor Centre


Black-tailed Godwit

Curlew and Lapwing

Male Marsh Harrier


Wood Pigeon and Wigeon

Shelduck, Avocets and Gadwall

Mute Swan

Marsh Harriers (male left, female right)

Avocet and Ruff


Brent Geese

Redshank and Lapwing

Peregrine at Norwich Cathedral

Egyptian Gosling

Egyptian Goose and Gosling

Great Crested Grebe at Whitlingham Country Park

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

First Swallow of the year

One of the main reasons for starting this blog was to record first dates of Summer/Winter migrants so we can look back at our records in years to come.

This morning (7th April) we recorded our first Swallow, the first of any summer migrants this year for us. I have heard Chiffchaffs in numerous local woodlands while out walking the dog but none heard/seen at Feathers yet. Hopefully over the coming weeks we will see our first House Martins & Blackcaps and hear the distant call of the Cuckoo.

We have had some interest in a few nest boxes from Blue Tits, though we're not sure for sure whether any will be used. The Kestrels seem set in the Church which is great news, the House Sparrows and Starlings are using the multiple barns and buildings to nest, particularly the old Oast House next to our Nature Area, and there are a pair of Dunnocks nesting somewhere nearby the hide too!

Male Kestrel with prey
Male House Sparrow on the Oast House
Nest building Dunnock
The weather was fairly fine throughout March and has warmed up in to April, with temperatures set to reach as high as 17° on Friday, up from 14° today (which still feels warm!). A few butterflies have been about, mostly Small Tortoiseshells here emerging from their winter hibernation. The Bees are buzzing too, joined on the "viburnum bodnantense" by a Large Bee-Fly last week.

Large Bee-Fly

Large Bee-Fly
Finally a few Goldcrest pictures from lunch time today: