Tuesday, 27 April 2010

A good spring for the birds so far

I like the way our Wren closes its eyes when trying hard to hit the high notes!

Song Thrush - largely secretive in the garden to avoid the bully' garden Blackbirds

Walking along the village footpaths this afternoon, revealed plenty of summer migrants in song . Cuckoo, Lesser Whitethroat, Whitethroat, Nightingale, Swallow and House Martin are all present and correct for the time of year. Just waiting for the first summer Hobby and Swifts now! We noted our local Buzzards are firmly holding territory over there favourite wood - but will they nest?

In the garden, Robin and Blackbird are feeding hidden young in the borders and Wren and Song Thrush were very vocal with there intentions this morning to. Goldfinch, Chaffinch and Greenfinch are nest building and Blue Tits and Great Tits are brooding in the boxes. Its all lovely - but, we are wary of a pair of Carrion Crows who have taken residence of an old Magpies nest in the big spruce in the front garden.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Blue tits feeding on Sallow Catkins

Our garden has been dominated our Sallow trees whoose catkins are now in full flower. As an early nectar food source for Bumble Bees and other insects, our three large Sallows are vitally important to much of our fauna in early spring.

Chiffchaff lining nest with feathers

Again at Singleton Lake, I watched this Chifchaff for about half an hour, repeatedly fly down to its ground hidden nest, just feet from the lake footpath, with white feathers. The feathers would be for lining the nest and will be near completed. The bird seem to have little fear of anyone walking past - I think it was simply to busy to be troubled.

Singleton Lake Ashford

Just a five minute drive from Shadoxhurst, Singleton lake primarily a fishing lake, is a magnet for summer migrants especially warblers. From the car park path to the emerging reeds on the lakeside, Willow, Sedge and Reed warblers accompanied by Nightingale, Blackcap and Chiffchaff can be heard and seen. Its a great way to catch up with summer birds and introduce any one to birdwatching. Its so easy and fun! With just a little reed coverage around the edge, Reed warblers are quick to spot especially as there isn't to much new reed growth yet. This first bird has a prominent ring on its lake.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Fulmars at Capel-le-Ferne, Folkestone

The great Sea bird colonies in Britain are far to the North and West of our Isles. There you can see tens of thousands of Gannets, Guillimots, Puffins and Kittiwakes. But they're so far away, that visiting them from Kent is really something you can do only once or twice a year as part of a holiday. Down in Kent, we have some good Tern colonies but nothing to match the grand cliff colonies of RSPB reserves such as Bempton in Yorkshire. However there is one magnificent seabird that can be found breeding on the chalk cliffs of Kent,-the Fulmar! A smaller cousin of the Albatrosses and has dramatically spread from Iceland and other near Arctic coasts. In the space of 100 years Fulmars began to colonise the Scottish islands and then down the Yorkshire coast to eventually meet the English Channel. What is remarkable about Fulmars is their expansion is hard to explain not least by the fact that they lay just one egg a year and take perhaps ten years to mature as a breeding adult.

You can see breeding Fulmars quite easily from any of the cliff top walks at Capel-le-Ferne, near Folkestone. There, birds can be seen this month dramatically soaring over the Folkestone Warren and engaged in some complex courtship display at their chosen nest sites usually a hollow or sheltered ledge crevice on the chalk cliff face. Some birds are particularly easy to watch (all be it they're high -up!) and with binoculars you can watch bonded pairs, display with much noise, head rocking and beak-clapping. Its as memorable as anything you'll see on an exotic David Attenborough programme - a great birding site to see this spring and into the summer too.

Fulmar about to land at nest site. The Dover/London railway runs at the base of the cliffs below the Fulmar colony.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

'Pot Hole Ted' the Shadoxhurst plumber

Special thanks must be given to 'Pot Hole Ted' for repairing our watermains leak. In the last week Ted has gone from being the most famous person in Shadoxhurst to a national hero for a day.

'Pot Hole Ted', as he's now called, made national news when he made and displayed a triangular warning sign saying 'Pot holes.' Ted made the sign in an attempt to warn motorists and cyclists of the post-winter pot holes that lie in their dozens on the Shadoxhurst roads. Sadly, despite his apparent goodwill, a neighbour reported him to the community police officer, who then went on to 'advise' Ted to take his sign down on the grounds that it was distracting motorists. Anyone who has attempted to drive through Shadoxhurst throughout the winter will have understood the craziness of this request.

Ted's story, first featured in the local Ashford press, but was quickly followed with interviews with the BBC and the national newspapers.

It's interesting to consider how many other countries would ask one of its citizens to remove a home-made sign that simply warned of an impending and potentially lethal danger ?

Burst water-mains spoils our front garden

Digger on the lawn, picture taken before complete lawn destruction!

Just when our front garden was at its best with Lilly of the Valley, Blue Bells and Giant Snow Drops in flower, our old iron water-mains pipe burst leaving the lawn flooded. The pipe was over a metre down and the subsequent excavation and replacement of pipe has destroyed the lawn and the flower beds for this year. The exposed earth has attracted many Bees and Flies, and Blackbirds and Robins have had no problem collecting worms for their growing broods.

Bee-fly - a common April / May visitor.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Our local Sparrowhawk

Barely an hour passes without this large and beautiful female Sparrowhawk visiting the garden. Occasionally she tries a low sweep through the garden other times its a lethargic glide and search with an accompanying mob of  Swallows, Greenfinches and Crows trying to divert the bird away. Only occasionally does she stop at the bottom of the garden and I'm there with my camera ready for a quick snap.