Thursday, October 07, 2010

... and today!

With migration of many species in full swing, today I picked up on the following moving birds - Chiffchaff (4 ringed), Chaffinch, Goldfinch (1 caught, many seen), Robin (3 new females caught), Goldcrest (2 caught), Greenfinch and Siskin. From my position, I could not keep a look-out for Jay, Reed Bunting, Meadow Pipit or Swallow, although I did hear a "alba" wagtail [but we do have resident Pieds]. Some Redwings are "in", albeit in low numbers, but the main Thrush arrival is expected this weekend /Monday. Eyes and ears peeled!
Anyone for a Yellow-browed?

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Recent birding, etc.

Just to keep tabs on what is happening - or not - down at the park, here goes.
Migration of both outbound and inbound birds is underway. As I write, Swallows continue mainly south-west sometimes as singles but also in small parties of maybe two dozen, more especially mid-morning. House Martins are also visible either high up (binoculars needed) or low down when there is a stiff breeze. Meadow Pipits continue to arrive or pass through in ones and twos. Sky Larks, too, are evident at the moment.
A few thrushes have come and gone. Robin numbers have picked up and they are now solitary and defending territory with their winter song. High flying Song Thrushes can be spotted early doors, or maybe some of these were Redwings just recently? Some Blackbirds have left while others from "up north" or possibly the 'Low Countries' have taken their place.
There are still a few Blackcaps and Reed Warblers skulking around in the bushes, trying to increase their fat load before emigrating. Chiffs are still pottering through; some will be our late youngsters, others from further afield in the UK and some from Scandinavia with their "sweeeoo" call. Brambling have been heard flying over locally and there is a continuing increase in the number of Chaffinches moving south for the winter. The odd Buzzard has been drifting our way lately as well.
On the lakes, the number of Mute Swans has diminished to a couple of dozen, as the weed sinks out of reach. Gadwall numbers have also dropped slightly as the amount of weed decreases. They are still joined by a dozen or so Wigeon. You will notice that the grebes have also gone down but numbers will recover shortly as the winter birds arrive. The Coot still hang on in good numbers - but will they desert for better pastures when the weed is exhausted? I doubt it, as they will dive to the bottom for it instead of having it easy.
The juvenile Marsh Tit continues to excite and can be seen or heard, usually on the western side of the Fingers complex. Blue Tits and Wrens are becoming more noisy and visible, but the incessant "squeaks" of the Long-tailed Tits give their presence away in thicker cover. The Great Spotted 'peckers have also started calling again, making seeing them just that bit easier. Kingfishers have also returned but a harder to pick up. even though they are spotted daily by someone or other.
What will October bring us? This time of year can turn up almost anything, big or small. Eyes to the skies!

Monday, October 04, 2010

Sunday 3rd October: Orchard Management

This month's task was helping to improve the old orchard in the middle of Mowsbury Hill Fort, adjacent to the golf course. Orchards are a nationally important habitat; the orchard at Mowsbury has been somewhat neglected and the task was to begin to clear back scrub from around the orchard to improve the light. Further work to help restore the orchard should take place later in the year.

Despite the dire weather forecast four stalwart volunteers helped to bash scrub back around the orchard, raked off grass from a nearby wildflower glade, which is covered by hundreds of orchids in the spring and began to knock back some of the scrub by the glade too.

The rain mainly held off and all had a very enjoyable day clearing back scrub. As ever Priory Rangers would like to thank Paul N., Paul B, Gordon and Alan for all their hard work, it is much appreciated.

The next task is coppicing at Putnoe Woods on 7th November. The wood is divided into several coppice plots and the hazel is cut on a seven-year cycle. The coppiced hazel is used for stakes and binders for hedgelaying by local conservation groups, by a local morris group for morris sticks, as well as by schools who want natural materials for local craft projects. Cutting a different plot each year gives rise to a variety of habitats of different age and degrees of canopy cover, encouraging a diversity of flora and fauna.

If you would like to help us maintain the biodiversity of these beautiful woodlands please come along and help on the 7th of November.