Friday, 18 December 2009

The Sparrowhawk

Hello all,

Firstly I would like to say sorry for my lack of updates. My degree at University is going well, and I'm enjoying it, especially the perks, of meeting some really interesting people, gaining knowledge, and borrowing the camera equipment :)


I've just broke up for my 4 week Christmas holiday, so I will expecting to be down at Holywell most days, for now I will leave you with my first 2000 word Ecology Assignment, which is based on the Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus. Hope you enjoy it, and most likely see you whilst I'm knocking about.


Cheers,
Cain


Ecology
Assignment 1
Essay on the ecology of a chosen species

The Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus


Juvenile Female Sparrowhawk, Accipiter nisus, on Quarry
Copyright, Cain Scrimgeour


In this essay, the ecology of the Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus will be looked at, its distribution, limiting factors, habitat, reproductive strategy, behaviour, the ecosystem it exists in, population ecology, and its current and past threats will be looked at in some detail.

The Sparrowhawk is a small-medium sized bird, it has a great size difference between male and female birds; male birds vary between 27-30cm (from head to tail), weighing at about 150 grams, whereas the females between 35-37cm weighing about 300 grams. This difference is common in most birds of prey and a few other bird species although exaggerated in Sparrowhawks to a great degree. Due to this large size difference each sex has a different ecology in terms of hunting habitats and prey species. The structure of both sexes is similar; the species has a slim body, on long thin legs with long slender toes, short broad wings and a long tail, it is built to negotiate thick woodlands, and catch bird species, mostly songbirds. Their build allows for fast pace flights as well as an amazing degree of manoeuvrability, allowing them to fly through thick areas of woodlands, suburban gardens and other difficult flying habitats. In identifying the species, both sexes are similar although different, apart from the obvious size difference the female can be recognised by a brown/grey upper surface, with a whitish, dark barred under side, in males the upper surface is more of a blue/grey, with a slightly more orange tinge under side, also with dark horizontal barring. The juvenile plumage lasts for the first year and lacks the grey of the adults with a brown upper, and also a buff under side with barring although more like diamonds/hearts marked across the chest to form what appears to be barring. The plumage of all ages can vary significantly from one individual to the next.

The distribution of the Sparrowhawk is vast, as long as there are suitable woodlands the majority of locations are suitable (in the Palearctic region), it can be found throughout Europe, Asia, and into North Africa. In this range certain populations are migratory, mostly in the northern populations, where temperatures drop to extreme lows in the winter, and a food supply cannot survive. The species has not been recorded south of the equator. Throughout this region there are a number of subspecies although similar, ‘What slight variation exists is mostly clinal (gradual) though six subspecies are recognised, including four which are geographically separate in the breeding season’ Newton (1986, p.41) although Sparrowhawks Accipiter nisus, can be found throughout Britain, from cities to the countryside, they are not present in high areas, where nesting habitat is limited.

The only true limiting factors of Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus distribution is the lack of suitable breeding habitat in males; and a good mate for females, the process of nesting habitat is highly selective. Sparrowhawks breed, hunt and roost in woodland (although hunt across a wide range of habitats), preferences for sites have been observed, woodlands which are open so flights paths are clear, but covered to provide security. Therefore there is a period in a wood/forests growth where it is attractive and suitable for Sparrowhawks to nest. They usually prefer large woods, with young tree’s ‘2 to 4 metres apart’ Newton (1987, p.4). Although poorer suitability woods will be used if there is a lack of suitable nesting habitat, through my own observations on the green belt land surrounding Newcastle, it is clear that Sparrowhawks will make use of what woods they can find to provide a nesting habitat. Females are at a greater number to males in any given population, therefore finding a good, reliable mate with an established territory is difficult.

As stated above the Sparrowhawk main habitat is woodland, which is vital for breeding and roosting, although a wide variety of habitats are used for hunting purposes. The Sparrowhawks wing, tail and body structure makes it perfectly adapted to fly through woodland, weaving in between trunks and branches, and allows it to chase down fast flying songbirds within this habitat, but this manoeuvrability also allows to hunt in a variety of other habitats, including town and city gardens, were the agile flight allows the use of fences and houses to gain access to its prey. Sparrowhawks have been observed hunting in many habitats, from reed beds and sand dunes, to farmland and moors where a variety of prey species, almost entirely birds can be hunted.

Sparrowhawks breed when there is a peak in their prey, which occurs due to their breeding cycles, they breed between mid spring and late summer, due to the increase of food which they need to survive e.g. plants and insects, due to the increased amount of light available in the day. This therefore means Sparrowhawks breed between April and August. Sparrowhawks begin building nests between the months of February and April, for the males to keep a female within a territory he has to provide a food supply for her, this will keep her near to the nest site for greater lengths of time, therefore holding the nest site from other females in the area. For the male to provide a substantial food supply his home range and hunting experience must be at a high level, the less time spent hunting the more time which could be donated to the female, continually feeding her at the nest site. At the beginning of the breeding season all the females of an area may overlap a single males territory amongst several others, allowing choice of the best provider, and nesting site within this range. ‘We could thus infer that any inability of the cock to provide food resulted in the hen wandering’ Newton (1986, p. 152). When a female made the choice to stay within a certain male’s territory and nesting site to breed, it then needs to defend the territory, food source, male and nesting site against any other wandering females, which would provide significant competition. Any females coming into contact with the resident female or nesting place are chased out of the area by the female, if the threat comes from above a series of territorial flights will begin. This is normally enough to deter any competition.

Ian Newton has distinguished six phases in behaviour between the pair before eggs are developed. ‘ (1) the attraction of birds to nesting places and potential mates to one another; (2) mutual roosting on the nesting area, mutual calling in the early morning, and aerial displays; (3) the feeding of the hen by the cock; (4) nest site inspections and stick carrying; (5) nest building proper; and (6) copulation’ Newton (1986, p.156). This serious of phases works in a succession with each step being completely necessary before the step after is followed, each individual pair can take varying amounts of time to complete the steps. The food supplied by the male to the female is a vital step, if there is a lack of food then nest building cannot begin or progress, therefore copulation and breeding will not occur. Courtship feeding can be seen in a wide variety of birds, in the Sparrowhawks case the male brings food items, one at a time to the female, either to her perch, or in an aerial pass called a foot pass, which is common amongst birds of prey, the Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus being a prime example. This courtship feeding allows the female to put on sufficient mass for the purpose of egg development, at a point before the eggs are layed the female may become dependant on the male supplying food, this is the beginnings of where a good, experienced mate allows for reproduction, and the fledging of offspring. If the male fails to provide the female may not lay, and breeding attempts may fail for that year.

Nest building begins between January-April, more commonly late March or Early April, as eggs are often laid in May. Both Male and Female birds construct the nest, although main construction and structure is the males job, with the female adding finishing touches, such as the lining, smaller twigs and flakes of bark, but also leaves and needled branches. It is located mid canopy in the woodland, not quite in the canopy but not in the ground, this makes it difficult to be seen, blending in to the leaves above when looking from below, and blending into the ground foliage we looked at from above. The nest may be built on top of old nests from other species such as Woodpigeons Columba palumbus and Carrion Crow Corvus corone corone, or from past Sparrowhawk nests, which haven’t been destroyed by winds. This structure provides a safe place for eggs and young to be incubated and raised. The eggs, once laid, are a brown/red colour with a mottled pattern, which are extremely variable from one pair to the next, ‘ generally consisting of spots and blotches, they may be clustered together at one end in a group or in a solid cap, they may form a zone or they may be scattered more generally over the shell. Quite often one egg in a clutch will be almost unmarked.’ Evans (1972, p. 144). The female will lay between 4-6 eggs, on alternate days with incubation tending to start on the second last egg, allowing for a spread hatch. The female will incubate the eggs for 32-34 days, in this time the male will provide her food, which is eaten on a close to branch, therefore if the male cannot provide, she may have to hunt for herself increasing the chance of predation of the eggs. The male continues to provide once the chicks have hatched, until they are old enough to be left, the prey item will be taken to a plucking post, where the male will remove the feathers, before passing to the female, which will one by one tear small pieces of meat off and feed each individual white downy chick, which have fully developed eyes, and are able to take food from there mother. At this time and throughout the rearing stage the mother will continue to look after the chicks, ‘The young are brooded almost continuously for the first seven or eight days, then progressively less until twelve to fifteen days, thereafter chiefly during rain.’ Newton (1987, p.18), and nest, mostly protecting the chicks from the weather predators, and removing uneaten food/remains. The nest remains clean in terms of faeces due to the innate instinct of the chicks to back up to the edge of the nest, before releasing their waste, this response keeps the nest clean and bacteria free, the mother may still add further lining material to the nest.

Once the female can also provide, the young receive about 8 meals per day, allowing them to grow rapidly. The females gain weight at a greater rate than males, possibly due to their increased size, but the males develop flight feathers earlier, with flight being achieved at 26 days, and females 30 days old. Once young have left the nest completely they stay in the area, and are further fed by the parents for 3-4 weeks, once this period, which will involve flight development has came to an end the young will move out of the area and will have to hunt to prey for themselves.

The Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus, sits near to the top of the ecosystem it exists within, it is a first-degree carnivore preying almost entirely on small-medium sized birds, although small mammals are included within its diet. As an adult, the larger Goshawk Accipiter gentiles, is the only natural predator within Britain, although as eggs, chicks, and fledglings opportunistic predators include, Tawny Owl Strix aluco, Jay Garralus glandarius, Magpie Pica pica, and Pine Marten Martes martes. Humans also persecute the Sparrowhawk, through shooting and the use of pesticides. The use of organochlorine pesticides had a severe effect on Sparrowhawk populations, this effected the Sparrowhawks through there prey, which fed upon contaminated plants, as it is absorb by fat it is passed on from one trophic level to another, with concentrations increasing at each, so carnivorous animals acquire a greater amount of the toxin than that of the primary consumers. Although this pesticide can stay within a ecosystem for a great length of time, causing the thinning of egg shells, it is thought that the Sparrowhawk population has completely recovered.

Ian Newton established an idea of hunting behaviour through observations and radio tracking; the techniques were used in the relevant environment that allowed greatest productivity. ‘Short-stay-perch-hunting’ Newton (1986, p.102) involves the bird flying through a wooded area from one tree to another, scanning the area at each step, this was found to be the commonest method for searching for prey. ‘High soaring’ Newton (1986, p.102) and stooping, this involves a bird soaring to a great height out of site, scanning the area below for suitable prey species, and stooping, closing its wings and dropping down to grasp its prey, this behaviour is usually used on flocking birds, I have witnessed this behaviour many times near my home, mostly at Starlings Sturnus vulagris and Woodpigeon Columba palumbus. ‘Contour-hugging flight’ Newton (1986, p. 102), this behaviour involves the bird making use of the terrain it hunts, mostly seen in housing estates where the bird will make use of hedgerows, fence lines and buildings to catch prey species off guard, the bird may continuously switch sides, these routes can become regular if productive. I also witnessed this hunting behaviour at my home, but also as a falconer I have had the opportunity to fly a female Sparrowhawk at Corvidae, once the bird had seen the quarry and was released it could easily be seen that contour-hugging flights were being established if there was a suitable environment ahead, such as a line of tree’s or a hedge line, this type of flight was very effective whilst flying a captive bird. Other hunting behaviours include, ‘still hunting, low quartering, hunting by sound, and hunting on foot’ Newton (1986, p. 102-103).

Due to the increasing human tolerance of Sparrowhawks Accipiter nisus, its distribution within the UK will increase, due to the large amounts of tree’s which are planted within urban areas, providing more vital nesting areas. Through the decline of farmland birds at present, I believe Sparrowhawks will become more common within urban areas, following their food source, and less in farmland areas, which could effect the overall population, unless conservation efforts are increased to help save farmland birds.


References

Newton, I. (1986) The Sparrowhawk. The Bath Press, Avon.

Evans, G. (1972) The Observer’s book of Birds’ Eggs. Frederick Warne & Co Ltd, London.

Newton, I. (1987) The Sparrowhawk. Shire Publications Ltd, Buckinghamshire



Monday, 5 October 2009

Cliburn Moss

Went down for a wander at a local nature reserve today Cliburn Moss, here's some info : http://www.naturalengland.org.uk/ourwork/conservation/designatedareas/nnr/1006039.aspx


Its one of those places which just grab you instantly, it felt like I was in Scotland, and looks like a perfect place for Red Squirrels although I didn't see any. Walking through the large Scots Pine and Birch brings a sense of silence and create a strange natural atmosphere, as I walked a grabbed a few Bilberry to munch on.


Where I pulled in to park up, the field opposite had been ploughed and held large numbers of Woodpigeon and Pheasant. The conifers above also held Goldcrests. In the reserve Wren, Dunnock, Blackbird, and Jays were present. There was quite a few Bat boxes on site.


As the path left the reserve it opened up to a disused railway line, heavily lined with Hawthorns. A mixed flock of Greenfinch and Linnet were floating about in the maize, as I watched a Juv Sparrowhawk made an attempt at the flock, then carrying on along the space between one row and the next until it reached an old crooked oak in the centre of the field, another was heard calling nearby. A large flock of Tits past through, containing, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Long-Tailed Tit, Robin, and a lone Chiff Chaff.


A Musket flew over the maize and headed for the same crooked Oak landing in it out of sight, as I began to leave I heard the characteristic sound of Carrion Crows mobbing something I turned round to find a Common Buzzard leaving from the same crooked Oak!


1 Great Spotted Woodpecker and 2 Stock Doves were also about.


At the opening of the entrance there was a large amount of these, I think they are Devil's-bit scabious Succisa pratensis. Would like to here what other people think.


Monday, 28 September 2009

Glossy

Not an update from Penrith, but one from home, I was lucky enough to be at home this weekend picking a laptop up, so on Sunday I made two trips to catch up with the Glossy Ibis that had been knocking about on the Saturday.
First trip I arrived at Cresswell at 7:30 to find it Glossy less, although there was 2 Scaup, 2 Greenshank and a nice appearance from the Otter.

I came back up to Cresswell at about half 5 where local Intel said that it was at Bell's Pond. When I arrived SP was just leaving, he said it was on a marshy patch of grass just opposite Bell's Pond and it was very approachable. This was a definite, down to about 3-4m, even a sheep dog walking past at close range, and barking at a rock didn't put this bird off probing into the mud.


Saturday, 19 September 2009

The Adventure Begins ...

Well today was my last visit to Holywell, for who knows how long, hopefully sooner rather than later. Tomorrow I leave for the start of University, I can't wait. Thank You to the readers of this blog, helping me on my way, I hope that you will continue to check my blog for Cumbrian updates, as well as the local updates now and again.

19/09/09 10:30 Sunny with light breeze

Today I took the opportunity to drive my Grandad down to the hide, those of you who have met my Grandad will probably remember him bringing me down to Holywell, mostly on Sunday mornings. The shared passion for wildlife kept us going back week after week, becoming regulars in the process, he gave me a great opportunity to learn more about the natural world. I wouldn't be where I am today without him. Due to illness, my Grandad can no longer drive, but that doesn't stop us, as I can :) My little sister also joined us today.

On the water, 6 Teal, 2 Female/Juvenile Ruddy Duck, 3 Female Shoveler, 19 Canada Geese, 9 Wigeon, 8 Mallard, 8 Pink-Footed Geese flew in, and were later joined by another 8, 16 Little Grebe, 1 Female Pochard, 11 Coot, 4 Moorhen + 1 medium young, Black Headed Gull, Herring Gull and a single Lesser Black Backed Gull. Also about were 3 Stock Doves, 2 Migrant Hawker, 3 Grey Heron, 80+ Lapwing, Female Sparrowhawk, and a Common Buzzard.

As me and my Grandad were catching up with what we'd been doing the past week, I told him about visiting Big Waters with Crammy Birder the other day, in search of the Kingfisher. He told me that someone had sent a picture in to NE Weather and they had showed it, the magnificent blues, oranges with the eye catching oily finish caught his attention and imagination as well as mine.

My sister has began drawing birds in a small notebook (as she's the most artistically gifted of the family), labelling with plumage descriptions, and other notes, the Kingfisher talk sparked her own imagination and she promptly got out her bird book, found Kingfisher and began drawing the bird. Just as she had finished the sketch she shouted out, Kingfisher!. Bins up and there it was sitting on the depth post to the right of the hide, it stayed for about ten minutes, fishing from the posts and occasionally flying off and hovering just off the reeds, locating a fish and then diving, not unlike a Kestrel searching for a vole. Another build up of events leading to some great views, providing a great ending to the day.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Tonight

Out walking the fields tonight I heard a Tawny Owl from the Beehive Flash Area, another Patch Tick for this year.

14/09/09 and 15/09/09

On Monday 14th I fixed my bike, so a check of the patch edges was to follow. I headed for West Holywell and Backworth Pond, which was quiet, my aim for coming to this area was to catch up with the flock of Tree Sparrows which SP had found, not far along the track heading North along the side of Seghill Tip, the distinctive Tree Sparrow call could be heard in an adjacent hedge line, I stopped to find over 12 birds present, the flock must be dispersing because this is a slice of the original 40+ birds present. The flock consisted of mainly Juvenile birds. There was also a male Kestrel hunting in the fields near by.



Next was the Dene, I continued along the path along the edge of the tip, coming out closer to the Seghill Pond end of the dene, and the Canyon (the name given to the bike jumps in this area). It was at the canyon where I picked up a Dragonfly, I think it's a Southern Hawker but I could do with some help.

I watched it hawk around in small area between some jumps, patrolling a small territory, taking all the same turns, and now and again landing on the leaves above. It didn't stay long enough and near enough to get a decent photo.

As I was leaving the Canyon, a Wagtail caught my eye, I moved back to get into a better position and found an adult Male Grey Wagtail, in stunning plumage, this bird was immaculate. Just as it began to move off upstream, a small flock, of what at first I thought was just Blue Tits and Great Tits, pasted through, I knew from past experiences to check these flocks for other species such as Blackcaps, Chiff Chaff, Willow Warbler, and other Warbler species. Although none of these species were present I did pick up a lone Coal Tit, which began to bathe in the burn, some Long- Tailed Tits, and 2 Treecreepers which I had missed this year until now. I think it was at this point when a thought 'nature has a way of coming together', if I hadn't been watching the Dragonfly for 5 minutes, I would have possibly missed the Grey Wagtail, which would have in turn not led me to the flock of Tits/Treecreepers which passed through quite rapidly, I've been through situations like this before and they always make me wonder if a trail has already been left in front of us we just need to understand how to follow it.


Riding along the dene, I picked up a Female Sparrowhawk and a Grey Heron, I moved on, to the Pond. 10 Wigeon, 9 Teal, 2 Female/Juv Ruddy Duck, Pair Mute Swan, 13 Little Grebe + 2 small young, 1 Female Shoveler, 4 Moorhen + 2 medium young, 15 Coot + 1 medium young, 20 Tufted, 1 Female Pochard, 18 Mallard, 1 Grey Heron, Large No. Gulls mainly Black Headed with Herring and 2 Common Gull, due to East field being ploughed, also large no. Jackdaws. A Peacock Butterfly seemed to be beginning to hibernate inside the hide behind the central shutter.

15/09/09 10:30 Sunny with NNE wind

Back on the bike, although the plan was to pass the Beehive, then pond, then head through East fields to pick the dene back up at the sluice, check Rocky Island, then head for St Mary's, Briardene and back home. Well that's exactly what happened.

First crossing the carboot I noticed 8 Common Gulls amongst the regular Herirng Gull and Jackdaws. Beehive flash was quite productive, 34 Curlew, 3 Dunlin, Lapwing made up the waders, with a Grey Heron, 4 Mallard, and 20+ Linnet also present. There was a large number of Corvids throughout my travels today, feeding in the cut and ploughed fields.

At the pond I just stopped off at the public hide, and noted 57 Canada Geese, 10 Greylag and 4 Common Gull. Off towards the sluice, I flushed a single Grey Partridge from the footpath, as I approached the dene there was a large flock of Goldfinch and a single Speckled Wood.

Rocky Island was pretty bare, 1 Juvenile Gannet was diving just off shore, along with Eiders, 4 Sandwich tern joined a large group of Oystercatchers on the rocks. The wind was quite strong at this point, the Herring Gulls used the opportunity to hang in the lift given off by the cliffs. As I was leaving Rocky Island a Shrew ran across the path in front of me, which I was pleased to see, as normally only when they are killed you come across them. Due to the odour they give off when attacked, enough to put the predator off them even in death.

Only bird of note at St Mary's was a single Juvenile Stonechat, the Med Gull was yet again not present at the Briardene when I arrived.

I stayed clear of Holywell today as Natural England were due to perform some survey work regarding the aquatic plants on the reserve, will be interesting to see the results, instead I went to look at a job with dad, at Rothbury.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Red House Farm

Had a walk over to Red House Farm today, just the usual about, Woodpigeon, Robin, Wren, Blackbird, Herring Gull, a Magpie family, Blue Tit, Carrion Crow, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Linnet, a lone Moorhen at the pond, and rabbits.
Quite a lot of sloes are now showing on the Blackthorn, my dads planning on making some sloe gin this year this can't begin until after the first frost so he'll have to wait. The pond has almost been completely choked at the back due to Willow and Greater Reedmace growth, hopefully it will cut back a bit for the arrival of the Kingfisher. I lifted up a bit of old plastic tarpaulin to find a mass of cherry stones which had been chewed open, leaving small circles with serrated edges, most likely from a Wood Mouse.

Blackthorn Prunus spinosa

Cherry stone remains from a Wood Mouse




Saturday, 12 September 2009

09/09/09 and 11/09/09

On Wednesday the 9th I went out with Crammy Birder, I had the Grandma's car so we could run around. We just stayed local be firstly visiting West Hartford, although this produced relatively little but the mud is looking good.

Next we headed down to Rocky Island to check for Roseate Terns, we weren't disappointed, there was quite a large number of terns present on the rocks just by the water, counting up there was 14 Roseate, 5 Artic and 11 Sandwich, regarding waders, 4 Sanderling, 3 Knot, 2 Juv Ringed Plover, Curlew, Oystercatcher, and Redshank were feeding on the shoreline amongst the rocks and weed. Also about Great Black Backed Gull, Herring Gull, Eiders off shore with 3 Juv Gannet and Cormorant, Feral pigeon, Rock pipit, Linnet, a lone Wheatear and 20+ Golden Plover overhead. Quite a few Peacock and Painted Lady butterflies were present on the island.

We moved onto Deleval Ices to give Crammy a taste of the best ice cream in the county, if not country, if not world. Beehive Flash was our next stop, 1 Male Eclipse Shoveler, Pair Mute Swans, Moorhen and Mallard were on the water, with 10 Curlew, Redshank and 2 Stock Dove amongst the grass. The water level is still pretty high at the flash, hopefully this warm weather will dry it up a bit, exposing some mud. In the field East of the flash was a large flock of Lapwing, joined by another Stock Dove and a few Starling.

The Briardene car park was checked although the Med Gull was not present.




11/09/09 Sunny with Light Breeze

I had to a walk to Holywell yesterday saying that the weather was nice. Birds of note on my walk to the pond included, a Pair of Red Legged Partridge at the Beehive Dene, and 2 Curlew in the horse/cow field just further along by the backtrack.


There was quite a few butterflies at the bottom end of the car boot field feeding on the thistles, I noted 4 Small Tortoiseshell, 4 Painted Lady and 1 Red Admiral.


Painted Lady Vanessa cardui

Small Tortoiseshell Aglais urticae

It was 14:00 when I arrived at the hide, on the pond, 17 Coot, 13 Mallard, 4 Shoveler, 7 Teal, 14 Little Grebe, 13 Greylag, 14 Tufted, 2 Female Ruddy Duck, 2 Pochard (male and female), Black Headed Gull, 1 Lesser Black Backed Gull, 1 Great Black Backed Gull, Herring Gull, 1 Common Gull, and 2 Juv Grey Heron. Also present was a small flock of Tits, compromising of Blue Tit, Great Tit, and Long-Tailed Tit, scanning through them didn't produce any further species. A male Kestrel was hunting by the obelisk, the House Sparrow flock by the track has decreased by birds are still present, along with a large number of Hirundines building up on the telephone wires. 2 Red Admiral were also noted.

Walking back via the backtrack I came across a male Bullfinch feeding amongst the Willow Herb, further along a Wall Brown was sunning on the track.



I had the job of walking the dog tonight saying parents are on holiday, I took her out as soon as I got back, and headed straight for the car boot, just as I entered the field a heard a Great Spotted Woodpecker looked up and found it flying overhead into Red House Farm, normally I only find this species at Red House Farm when it begins to get colder, it must move in to make use of the residents feeders. It seemed to have come from Earsdon direction, although I am not familiar with any breeding sites in Earsdon, wouldn't be surprised if there was though.

Today 12/09/09, walking to CW Tents, I past Eccles Hall in Earsdon to find 8 Tree Sparrows on the fence line opposite, possibly some of SP's flock which he found near to the tip.

I'm due to leave for uni a week on Sunday (20th), really really looking forward to it, I will be studying Wildlife and Media for 3 years at the University of Cumbria's Penrith Campus, I will be hoping to get home at weekends although this may not be practical at times, therefore I will keep this blog up and running although the majority will consist of my adventures in Cumbria but will also be updated with sightings from Holywell when I'm home.
I would like to say thank you to everyone who helped keep my passion alight, and have allowed me to gain lots of experiences and develop skills related to the natural world which will no doubt help me in later life and my university course. Thank You, Cain.





Thursday, 20 August 2009

The past few weeks..

On the 31/07/09 I headed down for the Holywell Pond moth trapping event, I left early planning on checking the Public Hide and the dene, at the Public hide I picked up 1 Common Sandpiper, 2 Dunlin and a Wood Sandpiper. I stayed moth trapping til about half 10 so I was prepared for the early morning.

On the 01/08/09 I left Newcastle at 8 heading for Milngnavie, and the start of the West Highland Way. We arrived at lunchtime and began the 95 mile walk. Only birds of interest were a pair of Hooded Crows at Loch Lomond, but there was a large number of Scotch Argus butterflies in most areas along the way, we also had a few sightings and close encounters with Red Deer. The train arrived at Fort William at 11:40 and we got on for the long ride home.

I got home on 07/08/09 at about 7 ish, emptied my bag had a shower and ate a take away and then went to bed. At 10:00 on Saturday the 8th I was travelling up to Scotland again, this time in a car, with the Family heading for the Kyles of Bute. We were staying at Tignabruaich, I kept a list of birds we seen whilst at the chalet and on our travels, it came to a toal of 54 and included, Hooded Crow, Red Breasted Merganser, Shag, Turnstone (summer plumage), Sandwhich Tern, Siskin, Raven, Twite, Manx Shearwater and Rock Dove.

When we arrived a noticed that there was a family of Hooded Crows in the area, at first I seen 1 Adult and 3 Juveniles, but then a noticed the other adult bird was a Carrion Crow. This got me thinking about my A level biology, I knew the birds were known to hybridise, but I didn't know whether if either subspecies had a dominate allele, which allowed the offspring to be either pure corone cornix or frugilegus. After digging around on the Internet the general outline is that the birds prefer breeding with there own subspecies, but they do hybridise in some localities producing hybrid birds.

We got back from Scotland on the 15/08/09, the next time chance I got to visit Holywell was on the Tuesday lunchtime (18/08/09) where I was glad to find that the Black Necked Grebe which was reported earlier was still present adding another species to the list for this year.

Today, 20/08/09, it was results day, I was ecstatic to find that I had managed to get my place to do a degree in Wildlife and Media at Penrith this year :D. After the excitement wore off I checked Bird Guides and headed to Cresswell for the Semipalmated Sandpiper. I arrived at about 11:00 to find a group at the outflow point, although it had just moved. I hung around for about an hour and noted, Curlew Sandpiper, Ruff, Dunlin, Ringed Plover, and Sanderling. Joining other birders I took a walk down to the tide line, where after a quick scan the bird was located, a life tick :D.

On the way back I checked the Beehive Flash, and was rewarded with a Bar-Tailed Godwit.

I'm disappearing for a couple of weeks again, leaving for Switzerland on Saturday with the Explorer's, I return on the 06/09/09 which gives me a few days to get down to Holywell until I leave for University on Sunday the 20th, I can't wait!

Friday, 7 August 2009

I haven't dissapeared...

Just got back from West Highland Way tonight, off to the Isle of Bute tomorrow for a week, updates with come with my return.

Cheers Cain

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Old Park Wood

Yesterday I was watching my little sister, first we were at the cinemas seeing the new Ice Age which was pretty good, but afterwards nothing was planned. As I'm always up for an adventure and seeing new places so I got my Morpeth & Blyth out and found somewhere interesting, which turned out to be Old Park Wood just outside of Netherwitton, I picked a mate up which came prepared as always, due to my tendency to go to remote locations for a good few hours, and off the three of us went.

Didn't take long to get there and we pulled up onto the forest track. Got kitted up with boots and off we went, after my day out with Brian my eyes were opened for more plants and Butterflies. The first Plant of note was Burdock in a small clearing of the forest.

Burdock Artcium minus

Nearby I also spotted this Red Currant.

Red Currant Ribes rubrum

As we walked through the forest a Common Buzzard could be heard along with views of a Willow Warbler, and the crys of a few Jays.

As the forest opened up in areas where the timber had been cut there were areas of established meadow which held a large number of Butterflies and other insects. I noted Small Skipper, Green-veined white, Red Admiral, Ringlet, Small White as well as a single Common Darter and a Common Lizard. There also seemed to be a large number of Yellowhammers calling.

Ringlet Aphantopus huperantus

Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta

Back into the last part of forest there was a huge amount of Wood Sorrel and quite a few Puff-balls.

Wood Sorrell Oxalis acetosella
Puff-balls Lycoperdon perlatum


I really good walk, and a site I will definitely visit again.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Holywell Today

Planned to meet my friend Brian Moorhead at Holywell this morning for a walk down the Dene, I arrived late at about 10:15.


On the pond there was 2 Common Tern, 6 Little Grebe, 2 Mute Swan + 3 Cygnets, 19 Mallard + 2 medium ducklings, 24 Coot, 2 Tufted Duck + 7 ducklings, 4 Moorhen, 5 Grey Heron, 1 Sedge Warbler singing too the right of the hide, Black Headed Gull, House Martain, Swallow, Swift, Sand Martain, Lesser Black Backed Gull.


Also about were Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Blue Tit, Great Tit, and a Flock of Racing Pigeons.

We left the hide and headed for the North Pool, which contained water but was well vegetated around edges preventing a view of the mud, although we did see a Whitethroat at the top of one of the Hawthorns along the way. I was keen to have a walk down the Dene with Brian as his knowledge of other flora and fauna is vast compared to mine, there was a large number of Butterflies about and Brian began showing me the different species. During the day we saw Small Tortoiseshell, Painted Lady, Red Admiral, Comma, Peacock, Speckled Wood, Meadow Brown, Green-veined White, and Small Skipper. My confidence has now significantly increased in the identification of Butterflies thanks to Brian, and am very keen in continuing this newly sparked interest.

Green-veined White Artogeia rapae Meadow Brown Maniola jurtina

Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta


Small Skipper Thymelicus flavus

Speckled Wood Pararge aegeria

During our walk through the Dene and surrounding farmland we also seen Linnet, Yellowhammer, Whiethroat, Skylark, Female Sparrowhawk, 2 Grey Partridge, Woodpigeon, Jackdaw, Rook, Lapwing, and a Harris Hawk on the soar near the obelisk.

At the small dipping pond within the dene 1 Common Darter was seen.

After dropping Brian off I stopped at Backworth flash, well now Backworth lake, for a quick look, and noticed a Juvenile Herring Gull in a bit of a tangle, it had a Morrison's carrier bag attached to its leg which was preventing it from taking off, so I waded in grabbed it and took it back to the gate, where I removed the bag and successfully let it go, it made a bee-line straight back for the tip. Only other bird present was a single Snipe which I flushed during the rescue.

An interesting day, gaining somemore knowledge and experiences.





















Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Back.... for the moment

Been real busy these last few weeks, although I have managed to get down to Holywell.

10/07/09

Me and my sister went down to Holywell later on at about 21:30 in the hope of Bats and Owls. Before it began to become dark, a large number of Swifts were seen feeding above the North Wood, and also a large roost group of Jackdaws and Rooks, performing their flight before they enter cover, this is the first time i've seen this roost at Holywell with over 500+ present above The Avenue. I hope this is a winter roost, although I believe it may only be a post breeding roost which will separate into larger winter roosts. A Grasshopper Warbler was heard reeling West of the pond, as the sun began to set 3 Noctule bats began hunting, with the characteristic high, straight flights with a number of twists and turns. As we made it back to the car 2 Pipestrelle bats were flitting about the tree's near the cut. A good night out, although disappointed by the owls.

16/07/09

On the 16th I was down at Holywell to give a hand to the NWT and their volunteers weeding the meadows of docks, thistles, ragwort and hogweed, ready for it to be cut and bailed, and also to be interview with the other wardens by a journalist from the Chronicle (will be out 11th August, see my claim to fame :P). I got down earlier and went down to the hide birds of note included, 1 Lesser Whiethroat, 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers, 3 Sedge Warbler, 2 Common Tern, Tufted Brood of 6, 24 Coot, 1 Chiffchaff, and a Family party of 3 Oystercatcher. A large House Sparrow flock was also present in the hedge line at the back of the houses, along with Swallows on the wires.

On the meadows species noted included, Large Skipper, Small Skipper, Meadow Brown, Red Admiral, Broad Bellied Chaser, and a large amount of Sorrel.

The 17th was the beginning of a 4 day camp at Kielder with the Scout Troup, although I was working throughout the day at the Otterburn show. The trip up there produced a good sighting of a Female Goshawk as we entered Kielder forest, as well as 2 Ravens. Whilst at Otterburn Common Buzzards, and a Pair of peregrine were seen, and at Stonehaugh a Family of kestrels and other pair of Peregrines were present. On Sunday night I made an attempt to see the Ospreys, which was rewarded with the sight of an adult hunting in the distance, throughout the weekend Siskins were seen and heard as well as Tawny Owls, and a few Giant Wood Wasps.

Today 21/07/09 I took a mate and the left over bread from camp down to the Marden Quarry, with highlights of a brood of 3 Tufted Duck and a brood of 3 Greylags.

My Holywell list now stands at 104 and I've missed quite a few good birds including Little Gull, Little Ringed Plover, Whinchat, Cuckoo, Hobby, Green Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper, Greenshank and today's Crossbills, hoping to get out a bit more with the camera now, until I head off to do the West highland Way on the 1st August.

Sunday, 21 June 2009

Holywell Tonight

Exams are over and I am beginning to have free time again. After kayaking today at the QE11, I went down to Holywell about 19:30 there was not much about tonight but I noted, 4 Male Wigeon, 1 Oystercatcher, 18+ Mallrd + 4 small young, 3 Mute Swan + 5 cygnets, 8 Grey Heron with one juvenille bird hunting on West reeds, after a while to appered flying off with a Little Grebe egg, 4 Little Grebe, 1 Moorhen+ 1 juv, 15 Coot + 2 young, 14 Tufted, 1 Cormorant, 1 Sedge Warbler, 1 Reed Warbler, Lapwing, Sand Martain, Swallow, House Martain,Swift, Woodpigeon, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Magpie, Reed Bunting, Blackbird, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Greenfinch, Chaffinch, Phesant, House Sparrow, Starling, Collared Dove, Goldfinch, 3 Pair of Greylag with 5 goslings, 1 Male Pochard, 1 Pied Wagtail, 1 Black Headed Gull, 1 Female Kestrel, 2 Pair Canada plus at least 1 young.

Also 2 Stock Dove at the Beehive Flash.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Holywell Guided Birdwatching

Wednesday 17th June at 18:00, hosted by Northumberland Wildlife Trust. Volunteer wardens will be on hand throughout the evening to help identify species and give an introduction to the reserve. Places for the event are very limited so please get in touch with Laura Lowther at Northumberland Wildlife Trust on: (0191) 284 6884 to gain a place for the event.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Tyne Zip Line

Thought I'd put the link up for pictures from zip line. Oh and I got 5 species whilst coming down :p, Kittiwake, Herring Gull, Black Headed Gull, Feral Pigeon, and Woodpigeon.

http://xsfotoevents.com/view.php?id=4484

Monday, 8 June 2009

Marsh Warbler, St Mary's Island 14:30

Had half an hour free today so I headed down to St Mary's to see if I could catch up with the Marsh Warbler that was floating about. On the way to the willows a local birder told me that it was still there singing and showing briefly, if time was given. Once I reached the North Willows I went round to the North Facing side and was immediately given views of the Marsh Warbler, feeding on the edge of the willows.

The differences between itself and a Reed Warbler could be seen straight away, the lack of the reddish colour to the lower back and rump, and the different duller olive colour of the overall body, with the light buff breast. I only heard the song briefly, although it alllowed for a positive identification, might have a trip down tomorrow if it's still present to hear its call.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

30/05/09 and 01/06/09

Haven't been getting out much recently due to revision, I'll be very happy when it's all over on the 17th of June. I did manage a visit to Slayley for Nightjars on the 29/05/09 with Crammy Birder and Steve, successful night, with lifer of Nightjars.

I had an evening session at Holywell on Saturday the 30th whilst everyone was watching Britain's Got Talent. First stop was the Beehive Flash, the water levels beginning to drop exposing a nice scrape so I was pleased when I spotted a Ringed Plover, a patch tick, it seemed a while since i've seen this species on the patch. Also about were a pair of Shelduck, 4 Mallard, 2 Redshank, and a lone Moorhen. Next was the Pond.

I arrived at about 20:30, Starling, Collared Dove, House Sparrow and Blackbird were picked up as I locked the car up. Down at the members there was a total of 9 Grey Heron, 6 on the island, I think this is the most Grey Heron I've had at the Pond, with a mixture f adults and imms. 3 Sedge Warbler were singing, along with Reed Bunting, and a Reed Warbler (patch tick) in the NW corner. On the water there was 4 Greylag, both with young, (4+3), 2 Mute Swan, 8 Mallard + 5 ducklings, 4 Tufted, 1 Cormorant, 2 Little Grebe, 1 Lesser Black Backed Gull, Black Headed Gull, Herring Gull, 1 Common Tern and a Pair of Canada plus 5 goslings. Also about were Chiff Chaff, Skylark, Willow Warbler, the usual feeding station crowd, 20+ Swift, House Martain, Swallow, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw and Rook.

North Pool was next, as I was walking along the backtrack to East of the pond, the Gulls began to fly overhead, whilst scanning I picked up a Juv Iceland Gull flying towards the sea. Only a pair of Lapwing and 6 chicks were on the now very dried up North Pool. Walking East a Fox ran from the crop into cover carrying a Rabbit, 2 Grasshopper Warbler were reeling, and there was quite a few large Bats flying overhead, making a high pitched screech, not sure what type there were, but something I plan to find out when I've finished my exams. Finished up at about 22:30.

Yesterday, 01/06/09, after I had my Unit 1 Biology exam I decided to have a revision break and do a bit of birding. I left the house at about 15:30 and headed for the carboot and a nice little patch of reeds in the farmers field towards the Beehive Pub. As it was absolutely scorching hot I had a little sit within the reeds, and was greeted by Reed Bunting, Sedge Warbler, Whitethroat, Blue Tit and Linnet. At some points the Sedge Warbler were coming within half a metre of me, and still belting there song out. I moved on to the Beehive Flash, where again I had a little sit, rather than the brief visits that normally occur. 3 Redshank, 2 Mute Swan, 6 Greylag, a Pair of Shelduck, 2 Lapwing, House Martain, Swallow, Skylark, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Woodpigeon, Swift, and a large number of Damsleflies were made note of.

Instead of walking to the hide I decided to walk along the Southern side of the Dene, there some nice bits of meadow, and stretches of hedgerow. I walked along through to West Holywell, Holywell Grange. There was quite a few pair of Yellowhammer along the hedgerows, at Backworth Pond, Grey Wagtail, Willow Warbler, Chiff Chaff, Whitethroat, Reed Bunting and a Pair of Stonechat (patch tick) were present. Not a bad couple of days.

Here my patch list so far this year, a total of 102 species;
  1. Little Grebe
  2. Great Crested Grebe
  3. Cormorant
  4. Grey Heron
  5. Mute Swan
  6. Whooper Swan
  7. Pink-Footed Goose
  8. Greylag Goose
  9. Canada Goose
  10. Shelduck
  11. Wigeon
  12. Gadwall
  13. Teal
  14. Mallard
  15. Pintail
  16. Garganey
  17. Shoveler
  18. Pochard
  19. Tufted Duck
  20. Scaup
  21. Goldeneye
  22. Goosesander
  23. Ruddy Duck
  24. Marsh Harrier
  25. Sparrowhawk
  26. Common Buzzard
  27. Kestrel
  28. Red- Legged Partridge
  29. Grey Partridge
  30. Pheasant
  31. Water Rail
  32. Moorhen
  33. Coot
  34. Oystercatcher
  35. Ringed Plover
  36. Lapwing
  37. Snipe
  38. Curlew
  39. Redshank
  40. Common Sandpiper
  41. Med Gull
  42. Black Headed Gull
  43. Common Gull
  44. Lesser Black Backed Gull
  45. Herring Gull
  46. Iceland Gull
  47. Great Black Backed Gull
  48. Common Tern
  49. Stock Dove
  50. Woodpiegeon
  51. Collared Dove
  52. Short Eared Owl
  53. Swift
  54. Kingfisher
  55. Great Spotted Woodpecker
  56. Skylark
  57. Sand Martain
  58. House Martain
  59. Swallow
  60. Meadow Pipit
  61. Grey Wagtail
  62. Pied Wagtail
  63. Wren
  64. Dunnock
  65. Robin
  66. Stonechat
  67. Northern Wheatear
  68. Blackbird
  69. Fieldfare
  70. Song Thrush
  71. Redwing
  72. Mistle Thrush
  73. Grasshopper Warbler
  74. Sedge Warbler
  75. Reed Warbler
  76. Lesser Whitethroat
  77. Whitethroat
  78. Blackcap
  79. Chiff Chaff
  80. Willow Warbler
  81. Spotted Flycatcher
  82. Long-Tailed Tit
  83. Willow Tit
  84. Coal Tit
  85. Blue Tit
  86. Great tit
  87. Nuthatch
  88. Magpie
  89. Jackdaw
  90. Rook
  91. Carrion Crow
  92. Starling
  93. House Sparrow
  94. Chaffinch
  95. Bullfinch
  96. Brambling
  97. Greenfinch
  98. Goldfinch
  99. Linnet
  100. Yellowhammer
  101. Reed Bunting
  102. Feral Pigeon

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Friday at Holywell

Been hammering the Revision lately so never been down to the pond for a couple of weeks. Heavy rains and warm weather with migrants dropping in at Holy Island , thought I would take a visit in the gap of the down pours. I'm glad I did.

Got down at about 18:30 first a pair of Common Terns overhead, patch tick for the year. Also there was a Whitethroat singing in hawthorn opposite Houses with the usual crowd of Starlings, Blackbirds and the House Sparrows. I walked down to the Public Hide first on the off chance of waders, the water level was looking good, and the mud scrape almost perfect these combinations allowed me to be greeted by 3 Common Sandpipers, another tick, there was also a pair of Canada with 4 Goslings, Greylags, Mallard, and 1 Sedge Warbler singing.

There were a lot of hirundines about, with over 25 Swift. Back to the Members Hide, where I noted 3 more Sedge Warbler, 7 Mute Swan, 8 Mallard, ( 1 with at least 3 ducklings, another with 8), Pair Pochard, 1 Little Grebe, 6 Tufted, 1 Great Crested Grebe, Moorhen, Coot, Herring Gull, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Female Sparrowhawk, Chiff Chaff, Willow Warbler, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Great Tit, Blackbird, Robin, Magpie, Wren, Dunnock, Redshank, and a Male Great Spotted Woodpecker.

At 19:04 something caught my eye too the right of the hide, it was flitting about, not staying still for long, put my binoculars and was amazed to find an adult Spotted Flycatcher, this was the first time I had seen this species in this area. Only the second time in the county, (first at Tynemouth in the Autumn). It stayed in the area for as long as I was there, as I left at 19:30 a Common Sandpiper dropped in onto the small amount of mud in front of the hide.

Good hour, glad I went out. My patch list is at 99 so far.

Was up at work at Stonehaugh on Saturday, birds of note, Grasshopper Warbler, Sedge Warbler and Cuckoo along Pennine way, as well as Peregrine.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

This Year's Guests

A few years ago now I asked for a Ecowatch nest box camera for my Christmas, possibly 2004. The first year nothing nested to my disappointment, the second year a pair of Blue Tits made it home, the year after they chose another box within in the garden, and this year well...

The camera cables are plugged into my TV so that i can just press AV and there it is, so the time of year comes when you can start to see pairs of birds defending territories in the garden. The whole family from my lil sis who's 12 tomorrow to my Grandma and Grandad, and the occasional relative who comes round are all keen on watching whats happening in the box, always asking if there's anything nesting this year.

This year started as any other with Blue Tits singing in the tree in the back, looking good I had a look in the box, only to find so thin sticks within. I knew that the Blue Tits weren't nesting this year as they don't use twigs, just mosses, hair and a few grasses, but Great Tits didn't regular in the Garden, all we seem to get is Starlings, Woodpigeons, Blackbirds, Blue Tits, Dunnocks, a few House Sparrows and a Wren. After a few days the family started hearing and seeing the male in the Garden, and also pecking the hole of the box. On the 14/04/09 the bird was seen taking material into the box.

I always enjoy watching birds bring up young in the garden and this new species got me excited. So far in our garden we have had, Starlings nesting every year in the nest box, Blue Tits on and off, a failed Woodpigeon nest, and a failed Robin Nest.

The nest was complete by the 23/04/09 and eggs were suspected under the hair lining of the nest. By the 24/04/09 the bird was sitting and sleeping on the nest, and turning eggs with her breast and legs. That night I caught me first glimpse of 5 eggs, so i knew there was still more to come, with the average bird laying roughly from 9-12 eggs. Next day there was 6 eggs and this hasn't increased. Incubation started properly on the 04/05/09 with the male feeding the female regularly, and the female sleeping in the box tonight.

I have a prediction that the eggs will hatch on the 18th of May, we'll see how close I am.
Here a few pictures of the bird in the box and the eggs.

I would highly recommend the Ecowatch Camera's and their service.

Sunday, 26 April 2009

A Weekends Worth of Holywell

Sorry for the lack of updates recently the Outdoors is starting to take a backseat and revision taking over, I need to get three C's to get into the Wildlife and Media degree at Penrith so I'm really starting to hammer the revision.
Friday the 24th April finished school at half 12, so I took the afternoon off for an hour at Holywell. Got down there at about 14:00 and it was warm and sunny. There was another local birder already in the hide, the usual question 'Much about?' and a reply of 'Yes, a Goosesander' sure enough there was a female Goosesander floating around the island, adding another patch tick for the year. I hadn't taken my camera but thankfully I was sent some pictures.
Also on the water was, 1 Great Crested Grebe, Pair of Wigeon, 2 Cormorant, 14 Tufted, 8 Greylag, the Canada X Greylag, 3 Grey Heron, 2 Canada, 2 Little Grebe, and 3 Mute Swan. 2 Stock Dove flew over the pond, a Male Kestrel was hunting to the east, 6 House Martain and 2 Swallow were skimming the surface of the water, 2 Chiff chaffs and 1 Willow Warbler, were heard singing in the North Wood. A group of retired women entered the hide so we fled to the Public Hide, this was a good choice as the first bird picked up was a Drake Garganey just to the right of the hide, again I was kindly sent some photographs.

Also at the Public Hide was a lone Redshank. Biked back to pick my lil sister up at about 15:00.

Saturday 25th April, been to help dad at work in the morning so another lunch time visit, before I left I heard my first Willow Warbler form the house. Got to the Hide at about 13:00, again another regular was in. On the water, 8 Mallard, 15 Tufted, 7 Pochard, 2 Pair of Shoveler, 5 Cormorant, 2 Mute Swan, 4 Grey Heron, 2 Lesser Black Backed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black Backed Gull, Black Headed Gull, Coot, and Moorhen. 2 Willow Warbler, 3 Chiff Chaff and 1 Blackcap (patch tick) were singing in North Wood. 1 Sedge Warbler (tick)was singing to right of members hide, first of the year. A female Kestrel and a Female Sparrowhawk were seen up in the thermals to the NE. Also seen, 2 Long Tailed Tits, Reed Bunting, Feral Pigeon, Pheasant and a male Great Spotted Woodpecker. At the Public Hide another Sedge Warbler was singing, the lone Redshank still, and the Canada X Greylag with 9 Greylag.
From the Public hide I went into the East fields 5 Wheatear (tick) were in the cow field just East of Pond, 1 Whitethroat (tick) in gorse on backtrack, a Lesser Whitethroat (tick) in Scrub land heading towards West Hartley Farm, another Male Wheatear in field by the farm and a pair of Grey Partridge (tick) in the field by Obelisk.
On the way back home I picked up 2 Linnets and a Grey Heron in Red House Farm by the Pond.

Today, 26th, Warm and sunny, got a puncture last night so I walked to Holywell this morning, left at about 10:00, went through the fields to see what I could find. First a Skylark was heard just off the car boot, I continuously heard this species right up to the hide which I was quite pleased about. 1 Whitethroat was heard just before I crossed the Beehive Road, and a Female Sparrowhawk overhead once I got to the other side. There was a couple of small flocks of Linnets, and a single Yellowhammer until I entered the boundary of my Holywell Patch.
Following the hedgerow I picked up 4 Whitethroats, 2 Lesser Whitethroats, Pair of Yellowhammer, 2 Grey Partridge, Reed Bunting, Goldfinch and 1 Meadow Pipit (tick).
I got to the members hide at 11:00 opened the shutters and was welcomed by a female Ruddy Duck (tick), I noted 8 Greylag, 2 Canada, 1 Curlew and then I heard the whirring of a Grasshopper Warbler (tick) to the right of the hide. A pair of Shelduck landed on the pond and then a Female Marsh Harrier appeared to the left of the hide (11:15) in quartered the ground for 21 minutes, occasionally being mobbed by a local Corvid, it landed 3 times for no longer than 3o seconds, and it also began mobbing a cormorant which was fishing around the posts in the water. It landed for the fourth time just out of clear view from the hide at 11:36, it was not seen again. I got some pretty poor photos as it was still a long way off for my 200mm lens.

I really enjoy watching Marsh Harrier's, I enjoy watching that characteristic quartering technique that quite a few Birds of Prey use, but the Marsh Harrier seems to add its own personality to the hunting technique. The boldness of this bird was also interesting, 3 Mallard flew under it and it put a quick stoop in. A couple of years ago I was filling the feeders up and a female Marsh harrier was busy hunting just across the water, it dropped down into the reeds and came back up with a Coot, showing these birds will have a go at anything if they have a fair chance.

Whilst watching the Marsh Harrier, I saw a Common Buzzard being mobbed by a Carrion Crow in the distance, and a female Kestrel hovering to the West.

On the water were, 10 Pochard, 4 Cormorant, 4 Grey Heron, 1 Mute Swan, 1 Great Crested Grebe, 19 Tufted, 2 Black Headed Gull, 1 Lesser Black Backed Gull, 8 Mallard and 3 Little Grebe. Willow Warbler, Chiff Chaff and Blackcap were singing in North Wood. Down at public end a Weasel was running through the rough stuff, 5 Shelduck were sleeping, 2 Stock Dove drinking and a Sedge Warbler singing.

Over the three days I've seen Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, and Small White.

Off the patch to round it up took the dog for a walk along the beach at Cresswell, a Juv Red Throated Diver was just off shore, along with Sandwich Tern and Sanderling on the shoreline.

In all a good weekend with 11 new species seen, bringing my patch list to 95 for the year.