Boughton Park and Wierton Hill Farm 2016
The month commenced with strong winds particularly across Scotland, as ‘Henry’ passed northeast, but there was relatively little rain locally, with the influence of high pressure to the south resulting in some dry, sunny spells. Another deep Atlantic low, ‘Imogen’, followed, bringing more rain and strong winds. A narrow ridge of high pressure brought settled conditions on the 16th and 17th before a deep low brought more rain and strong winds, which barely reached the southeast. High pressure then brought dry, cold conditions again, with hard frosts from the 23rd.
The 29th was bright and sunny, with a light frost and scattered cumulus drifting southwest. There was little of special note, apart from Bob’s sighting of a Peregrine initially perched in the Deer Park before flying off N, a Chiffchaff by the reservoir again, which sang a few phrases, and a Coal Tit at the Spindlewood feeders.
For most of the visit on the 28th the sky was cloud covered, with the cold northeasterly persisting but it was sunny during the afternoon. A pair of Canada Geese alighted on the reservoir, to which five Greylags also dropped in. Small passerines were hard to come by, though I did see a Goldcrest near Gary’s and three LT Tits in the northeast corner of the Deer Park, over which the presumed pair of Buzzards flew, with another flying low NE over Wierton Hill. Three and one Herring Gulls flew NE and no more than 20-30 each of Fieldfares and Redwings were seen, with more of the latter. A flock of about 40 Starlings flew into the adjacent paddock from the Deer Park, a larger flock of about 80 flew N and three cock and a hen House Sparrow visited the Spindlewood damson hedge.
With the temperature around 3° – 4°, the light northeasterly breeze felt cold on the 27th, under an overcast sky. Bob noted several Black-headed, Herring and LBB Gulls flying over, while I walked within the poplar wood unsuccessfully hoping to disturb a Woodcock, though a small mixed feeding party included two LT Tits and a Treecreeper, which was some reward. Small numbers of Redwings and Fieldfares were widely scattered but the relatively few finches, apart from a flock of about 30 Chaffinches which Bob noted, did include a Lesser Redpoll at the Spindlewood feeders. A pair of Kestrels called frequently, as they displayed high over the Spindlewood orchard and a short while later two Buzzards circled over from the Deer Park and another two to the east, plus a fifth, the latter three being just off the patch.
The temperature hovered around zero during a short early morning visit on the 26th, when it was frosty and still, with broken high cloud cover. Three pairs of Tufted Duck were present on the reservoir, from which a pair of Canada Geese flew to the lake, before later flying off E. By the lake, it was interesting to see a dozen or more Siskins feeding on fallen seed on the bank underneath the alders, where maybe at least 30 were present. Woodpigeon numbers were generally low this month but a flock of 200 was feeding on the rape field immediately to the southwest of the patch.
Following a Great Cheveney Farm survey, only a brief late morning visit was possible on the 25th. It was dry, with sunny periods, after another hard frost. Little of note was seen, apart from a small flock of Siskins in the lake alders, two Lesser Redpolls in the top of a marsh alder and an increase in the number of Bluebells in flower.
It was cloudless, still and cold at 0°C, with a hard frost early on the 24th, when a pair of Canada Geese was present at the reservoir, but not for long and a pair of Tufted Duck remained. The first Grey Heron for the month flew high S and it was a pleasure to see two Buzzards perched close to their nest site. In the Spindlewood area there were three Collared Doves, a cock House Sparrow, with two hen birds, and later Bob saw a Chiffchaff in the adjacent copse. He also disturbed the first Woodcock of the year from the poplar wood, as he walked along the edge of the sheep pasture. A cock Brambling was again present near Gary’s and just two Siskins were seen in the marsh alders.
The cloud slowly cleared southeast early on the 23rd and it became bright and sunny but cold at 2° – 6°C. Five Greylag Geese flew from the reservoir and four Canada from the lake but there were very few Mallard on either water. Three Goldcrests included one in the rarity hedge and two in the spruce copse but few winter thrushes and finches were noted and of most interest were my first sighting of a Little Owl this year, in the Deer Park and my first sighting of a Kestrel for nearly three weeks, a male along the east bank of the Deer Park.
It was miserably overcast and dull on the 22nd, with light intermittent drizzle. A brief, early look at the Spindlewood copse and feeders, as steady rain ceased, revealed the presence of a cock Brambling, a Greenfinch and a hen House Sparrow. Two separate Chiffchaffs were present by the reservoir, one of which was observed fly-catching, like Chaffinches do, with short vertical flights. I’d previously noted this on the 16th but a few insects were also visible today. A Goldcrest was also present in the southwest corner. Two and three LT Tits were seen, a flock of about 50 Fieldfares flew from the grass in the Deer Park, two Coal Tits visited the lake pines and a Treecreeper was again present in the marsh alders. Though the conditions were miserable, a total of 40 species was rewarding.
Another brief ninety-minute visit on the 21st was in milder conditions at 10°C but again dull and overcast with a blustery southwest wind. Five Canada and two pairs of Greylag Geese visited the reservoir, with three Canada Geese at the lake later. The Tufted Duck numbers had increased to four drakes and the one duck and a Chiffchaff flew from the reservoir island to the north bank. One BH Gull visited the reservoir, seven and two flew S and a little later seven LBB Gulls, which circled high as they flew N, showed characteristics of Larus f. intermedius. A Treecreeper was heard singing but there was little else of note.
The weather on the 20th was dull and overcast but dry, with a variable southwesterly breeze. Two LBB Gulls flew SW, as I walked along Peens Lane. Two Chiffchaffs moved along the north bank of the reservoir, where three drake and a duck Tufted Duck were present and from which a Canada Goose flew. A pair of Egyptian Geese circled over and appeared to drop down towards the lake but there was no sign of them ninety minutes later. A male and a female Brambling were seen in the rarity hedge and just two LT Tits were present in the marsh alders with a lone Treecreeper.
Only a brief early visit was possible on the 19th, under a cloudless sky and a hard frost at – 3°C. A pair of Egyptian Geese, which flew SW over the Spindlewood orchard, was a first for the year and a Herring Gull NW was my first for two weeks. A party of seven LT Tits fed in the marsh alders, where it was unusual to see just one Siskin.
Overnight rain eased early on the 18th, when a light but cold northwest wind blew, under an overcast sky and it remained cold at 3° – 4°C. Along the north bank of the reservoir a Chiffchaff uttered a few notes of song and was seen briefly, along with two Lesser Redpolls in the willowherb. Five Canada Geese visited the reservoir, where a higher total of 17 Mallard was present, with a Coot and a pair of Tufted Duck. A flock of 40 Rooks visited Bishop’s Wood and the Spindlewood orchard area was quite productive, with at least 30 Redwings, rather fewer Fieldfares, a Goldcrest, two cock Bramblings and four Greenfinches. In the marsh alders one Treecreeper sang, two more were seen, with at least six LT Tits and another Goldcrest but only four pairs of Mallard were seen on the lake.
It was dry and cold again on the 17th, with cloud clearing as a southeasterly breeze strengthened. In contrast to the finch bonanza during the census only some 15 Goldfinches and two Chaffinches were noted, with very little else of consequence, apart from another Coal Tit, in the lake pines on this occasion.
The 16th was an obvious choice for the monthly census, though misty conditions did provide some limitations and no flyover species were noted. However, it proved to be an encouragingly successful visit, recording all the likely species, apart from Sparrowhawk, Kestrel and Herring Gull. Reaching a total of 47 species – one more than the thirty-one year mean – was extremely rewarding, partly the result of the long time spent on the patch, from 5.30am – 2.15pm. Two Tawny Owls were heard hooting, Buzzards were again present in Bishop’s Wood and the Deer Park and the peak totals were 81 of both Fieldfares and Jackdaws. A Reed Bunting was present by the reservoir again and totals of three Chiffchaffs, four Goldcrests and three Coal Tits were noted and there was an impressive variety of seven finch species, including three Bramblings, just eight Siskins, among which a Lesser Redpoll was feeding – my first this month. While scanning through this mixed party at around 1pm, a Treecreeper appeared then two different Little Owls called – a real bonus. Finally, a return to Spindlewood, before calling it a day, produced a pair of House Sparrows at 1.45pm.
A bitterly cold northwest wind blew on the 15th, under a mainly cloudy sky but with the occasional sunny break. It proved to be an interesting and slightly frustrating visit. A pair of Mute Swans on the reservoir was my first sighting for the year, five Canada Geese flew N and another six also visited the reservoir, besides which a Chiffchaff showed characteristics of the Siberian race P.c.tristis. Unfortunately none of the four photos I took was particularly sharp, as the bird was feeding among numerous small branches of wild rose. A hen Reed Bunting alighted nearby and later the hen Brambling was present again in the Spindlewood copse. Only six Mallard were seen on the lake, with two Coot and a Treecreeper was present in the marsh alders.
A short visit on the 14th was in overcast, damp conditions, with a light but cold northeasterly wind. Getting wet as I walked round the reservoir, I decided to just visit the Spindlewood orchard and make a circuit of the lake. This proved profitable, as my first Coal Tit for the month visited the Spindlewood feeders, along with numerous Blue and a few Great Tits, nine Goldfinches, a single Greenfinch and Chaffinch and a cock House Sparrow.
The lake had attracted a pair of Tufted Duck and two drake Mallard battled for the favour of a duck. Also, a flock of at least 30 Siskins was still present.
It was dull and overcast on the 13th, feeling colder in an easterly breeze and light rain fell. Three Greylag Geese circled over the reservoir before disappearing S and a lone Canada Goose visited the lake, where two Coot were again present. A mixed flock of up to 200 winter thrushes, with a few Woodpigeons and finches had obviously been disturbed, as they flew over the reservoir orchard. The culprit, a hen Sparrowhawk, soon appeared. There were maybe 150 Fieldfares and some 30 Redwings. Otherwise passerines were few and far between, apart from two Goldcrests in the rarity hedge and a flock of at least 50 Siskins in the marsh alders.
Only a ninety minute visit was possible on the 12th, under a dull, overcast sky, still and cold at 3° – 4°C. A Coot visited the reservoir, small parties of four and two LT Tits and a Goldcrest were seen and I located two cock House Sparrows in the damson hedge near Spindlewood, my first for the month. In the marsh alders a Treecreeper sang again and the party of at least 40 Siskins had returned. Of floral interest was the Wierton Hill shaw, with primroses, lesser celandine and more surprising a bluebell in flower.
It was still, misty, with high cloud and a frost at 0°C at dawn on the 11th. The mist slowly lifted but not before a Goldcrest was seen in the spruce copse and two pairs of Tufted Duck and a drake were present on the reservoir, with mist also enshrouding a flock of Starlings in the orchard. In the later sunshine, at least 12 Chaffinches flew from the rarity hedge, leaving a lone hen Brambling in view.
The wind had dropped but it was miserably dull, with light showers on the 9th, when little was seen, apart from 34 Rooks in Bishop’s Wood, until the marsh alders were visited, where at least five LT Tits and 20 or more Siskins were feeding.
The almost gale force gusty wind on the 8th produced variably cloud cover but it remained dry, after further overnight rain. I was surprised to hear the wintering Chiffchaff uttering a few bursts of song from the northern bank of the reservoir. I saw it a little later some 100 metres further west, out of the wind and in bright sunshine. Nearby was a Goldcrest and the cock Brambling, both of which had been seen in this sheltered spot on earlier dates. Virtually nothing was noted flying over and the only other noteworthy record was hearing a Treecreeper in song again.
Rain eased early on the 6th but it remained dull and overcast, with an increasing southwest wind reaching force 3 – 4. The reservoir held just three pairs of Mallard, the GC Grebe and only four Moorhens were seen but a Chiffchaff fed along the north bank. A Cormorant flew high SE, four BH Gulls flew S and just three Herring Gulls SW. Some 30 Chaffinches flew from the rarity hedge, with a dozen or more elsewhere, 15 Goldfinches were attracted to the Spindlewood feeders and two Greenfinches were seen nearby. I managed to see my first Treecreeper for the month in the southwest corner of the Deer Park.
Only a ninety minute early visit was possible on the 5th under a mainly cloudy sky, with a light southwesterly breeze. A pair of Coot had returned to the reservoir, with a drake Tufted Duck and a male and two female Reed Buntings were also present. Later, four Canada Geese – the first for the year – flew over from the east headed towards the lake and then the reservoir but were not seen to alight, though there was time for them to have done on both waters.
It remained dry on the 4th, after overnight rain but mainly overcast, with the temperature rising from 7° – 12°C. Very few Mallard were present, with six pairs on the reservoir and just three pairs on the lake. Two single Goldcrests were seen before relocating the male Brambling by Spindlewood and a flock of some 40 Siskins flew from the lake alders to those along the marsh.
It was cloudless and still before dawn on the 3rd, with a hard frost at 0°C rising to 6°C and a light southwesterly breeze rose slowly bringing extensive cloud cover. A Little Owl called from its traditional territory in the Deer Park, a Goldcrest and a LT Tit fed in the small copse by Gary’s, the wintering Chiffchaff appeared in the rarity hedge again and Bob saw a Kingfisher fly by Gary’s pond.
After a survey on Great Cheveney Farm on the 2nd, where there were showers and my first overwintering Chiffchaff there, just an hour-long visit was made to the patch. Showers continued before the clouds cleared northeast to produce an almost cloudless sky, under which the flock of some 20 Siskins had returned to the lake alders. Earlier, a female Sparrowhawk flew high over the eastern boundary shaw, disturbing a few Fieldfares, four LT Tits were seen, a Dunnock obliged with a song, a Buzzard flew into Bishop’s Wood and another was present in the Deer Park.
The visit on the 1st was in mild – 10°-11° C – dry conditions, with dark clouds being blown northeast in a moderate to strong wind. A Little Owl called from the Deer Park, followed by a Tawny Owl and a short while later a Mistle Thrush sang. The light was still dull when a goose species flew SW over the reservoir making a call I didn’t recognise. It appeared to be pale bellied and dark necked, more compact than a Canada Goose. Sound recordings suggest that Barnacle Goose was the closest but I wasn’t convinced. A drake Tufted Duck was back on the reservoir, but there was no sign of the Lesser Redpolls. A Woodpigeon flock of close to 60 birds flew into Bishop’s Wood, four Cormorants flew SE, a Buzzard called as it flew over the oak copse and another probable raptor disturbed the wintering thrush flock and some 40 Starlings, but it wasn’t seen. A party of four LT Tits was feeding just west of the reservoir orchard and towards the end of the visit, in the reservoir oak copse a party of eight was seen, as well as a Goldcrest and calls of a Bullfinch were also heard. Four Greenfinches were again present in the Spindlewood copse, with three Goldfinches and in excess of 30 Chaffinches were noted in small parties but the Brambling wasn’t relocated and there was no sign of the Siskin flock. A total of 11 Herring Gulls flew over, mainly in a southerly direction and just three BH Gulls flew S. It was a reasonable start to the month with 38 species noted.