Boughton Park and Wierton Hill Farm March 2016

Boughton Park and Wierton Hill Farm 2016

March

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Frontal systems brought unsettled conditions early in the month, interspersed with short, cold, dry spells and occasional rainfall. The dry spells extended as a zone of high pressure approached from the south, though heavy rain fell in a strong southerly wind before the temperatures occasionally felt a little more spring-like around the beginning of the third week, when high pressure was settled over the British Isles, though nocturnal temperatures remained low. Frontal systems brought unsettled weather during the last week of the month.

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After heavy overnight rain eased around 8am, the close to three-hour visit on the 27th remained dry, apart from a short heavy shower.  As I left my car, a pair of Egyptian Geese flew E from the reservoir, where one Greylag Goose flew in but there was no sign of the sitting bird. The Collared Dove nest also appeared abandoned but a total of four Chiffchaffs sang. One Lesser Redpoll was again at Gary’s feeders and at least four Bramblings flew from the rarity hedge. Also, one plant of Early Purple Orchid was seen to be sprouting.

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It remained dry during my early visit on the 26th, which was under an overcast sky, with a moderate to strong southwesterly wind. One of the resident pair of Greylags was visible on the reservoir, to which another pair flew in and later I managed to locate the sitting bird on her island nest. A Chiffchaff was visible at the same time. Also, there were three Coot present. Just one Lesser Redpoll was present at Gary’s feeders and at least two Bramblings flew from the Spindlewood copse, disappearing into the orchard. A Goldcrest was feeding, as frantically as ever, in the spruce copse, where a Treecreeper sang and another was seen in the southwest corner of the Deer Park. A pair of Tufted Duck, the pair of Coot and four Moorhens were present on the lake, with the resident pair of Buzzards enjoying the wind, as they circled, calling overhead but not one winter thrush was seen.

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The overnight rain soon cleared early on the 25th and it felt almost spring-like under a bright blue sky, with a gentle northerly breeze. It was a relatively quiet visit and not one gull was seen. Just four Redwings were noted and only one Chiffchaff sang, but at least four Bramblings flew from the rarity hedge into the Spindlewood orchard. One of the resident Buzzard pair called frequently as it circled over the Deer Park. The traditional badger sett, within the Deer Park, was obviously being occupied, judging by the amount of fresh earth being dug out over recent days.

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It was overcast and still on the 24th, with the sky brightening a little after two hours but light rain fell from mid-afternoon. The resident pair of Greylags was joined by a total of 13 more and four others were seen flying over. Just one Chiffchaff sang by the reservoir and pairs of LT Tits were seen collecting both moss and feathers. No Fieldfares were noted but at least two Redwings were present. A pair of Linnets and a pair of Reed Buntings were seen by the reservoir, a cock Siskin visited the Spindlewood feeders and a Stock Dove performed a display flight.

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The 23rd was still, dull and cloud covered. A Buzzard flew from an oak along Peens Lane into the poplar wood and the rookery had increased further, to 15 nests. A pair of Greylag Geese on the reservoir was exploring the island and a pair of Canada Geese visited later; the pair of Reed Buntings was present again in the reedbed and one Chiffchaff sang. Two pairs of LT Tits were seen, the one near the car park still nest building and a Collared Dove was sitting on its nest in Gary’s shaw, where four Lesser Redpolls were also seen but the only Siskins concerned two in the northern larches. Also a pair of Linnets was present within a usual territory by the reservoir. Later, Bob saw eight Linnets in the Spindlewood orchard, heard three different Chiffchaffs singing and saw three Teal circling the reservoir several times, without alighting.

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The 22nd commenced cloudless and still, with a light frost, and the temperature rose from zero to 10°C during the three-and-a-half-hour visit. Two drake and a duck Tufted Duck had returned to the reservoir, around which a Chiffchaff sang and a pair of Reed Buntings was seen. The presence of two sets of feeders continues to be a bonus, with Gary’s still attracting five Lesser Redpolls and Spindlewood’s a Coal Tit and a Siskin of note. A pair of Collared Doves appeared to be building a nest in Gary’s shaw, few winter thrushes were noted but a pair of LT Tits continued to gather moss for their nest in bramble near the reservoir car park, over which a high flying Buzzard circled before gliding off E;  an addition to the pair in the Deer Park.

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It was again overcast but still and warmer at 7° – 10°C on the 21st. Pairs of Greylag and Canada Geese flew from the reservoir, a pair of the latter visited the lake, where the 2015 nest was inspected. A 1st W male Sparrowhawk flew low over the reservoir, the male Kestrel perched on the power-line pole again and one Buzzard flew around the Deer Park. Three Bramblings and two Lesser Redpolls flew into an ash near Gary’s shaw and the rookery had increased to at least ten nests. Bumble Bees were active and several different flowers were in bloom, including violets and a Lesser Periwinkle.

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It was another mainly overcast visit on the 20th, with just a very light northeasterly. A family party of five Mute Swans, including three 1st year birds, circled over the reservoir and flew on NW. Pairs of Greylag and Canada Geese visited the reservoir, where a Chiffchaff sang from the island and on the return visit a pair of Reed Buntings and also a third Brambling were seen, two having been present near Gary’s feeders again. A mixed flock of winter thrushes was present in the Deer Park but difficult to count as they flew, with probably at least 40 Redwings, including several heard singing, and at least 30 Fieldfares. Also, a pair of Pied Wagtails fed in the sheep pasture.

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The 19th was dull and overcast, with a light northeasterly breeze and the two-and-a-half-hour visit was of interest, as the first Linnet of the year sang and was seen near the reservoir car park, a dozen or so finches included at least two Brambling and a cock bird was seen at Gary’s feeders, with at least five Lesser Redpolls. Also, my first two Pied Wagtails of the year flew SW from the timber stacks, the pair of Kestrels visited their nest box and a lone LBB Gull flew N.

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It was cloudless and still early on the 17th, with a cold northeasterly breeze rising during the three-and-a-half-hour visit. A Chiffchaff sang by the reservoir, onto which a pair of Greylags flew, a pair of Reed Buntings was present at the reedbed and a pair of LT Tits was seen collecting moss. Gary’s feeders attracted seven Lesser Redpolls and two, possibly three Brambling were seen along the southern edge of the Spindlewood orchard. A flock of 70 Starlings was feeding in the Deer Park and 85 were counted feeding in the sheep pasture, with some 20 Fieldfares. As I climbed the stile onto the temporary grass my first Skylark since Jan 1st sang briefly, bringing the monthly patch total to just 61.

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Though the cold northeast wind continued to blow on the 16th, the cloud was broken and when sheltered from the wind it even felt warm, as the temperature rose to 8°C. A pair of Greylag Geese flew from the reservoir island and just one pair of Tufted Ducks remained. There were four drake Mallard, with just two ducks on the reservoir and a lone drake on the lake, which could suggest a few ducks might be on eggs. Buzzards again featured, with the Deer Park pair sailing in the wind, two single birds circling very high over the area and a third circling low near the reservoir, as it moved E. A party of about 12 Chaffinches flew E and a Chiffchaff was photographed near Gary’s. A pair of Siskins fed at the Spindlewood feeders and nearby, Bob saw two Brambling, having earlier seen seven Reed Buntings fly into the reservoir orchard and as he walked over the sheep pasture he saw the first Pied Wagtail of the year. About 20 Redwings also flew E from the apricot orchard and in the Deer Park a widespread flock of 215 Starlings was feeding, among which were some 50 Fieldfares and a few more Redwings. Overhead, a loose flock of about 50 BH Gulls flew N, followed by a lone Common Gull. One species missed during the census, a Coal Tit, was present in the larches along the northern edge, accompanied by a Lesser Redpoll, a Goldcrest and several Blue and Great Tits. Also, a party of five Jays moved E through the trees.

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Similar weather conditions continued for the census on the 15th, with little mist and very few breaks in the cloud. With Coal Tit and Greenfinch the total would have reached 50 but neither was found and 48 was just one below the thirty-one year mean. A total of 503 birds compares with the mean of 639 but relatively few winter thrushes and Starlings were noted. A hoot from a Tawny Owl on the edge of the Deer Park was my first for the month and two Little Owls also called before dawn. A total of seven Tufted Duck eventually visited the reservoir, as did Canada and Greylag Geese. A remarkably high total of 161 Jackdaws represented 33% of the total, 48 Blue Tits being the next highest, followed by 36 each of Blackbirds and Robins. Small parties of Siskins were seen in three different localities, five Lesser Redpolls were also present, a Chiffchaff sang, one Reed Bunting was seen, a male Sparrowhawk flew S mobbed by a Carrion Crow, four Buzzards included two soaring high over the southern end of the patch and the last three species added were two and one LT Tits, one Goldcrest and a Treecreeper.

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The bitterly cold northeast wind continued to blow on the 14th, under a cloudy sky with occasional sunny breaks. Two pairs of Greylag Geese circled over the reservoir, just one visiting and a pair of Canada Geese also circled over. Three Lesser Redpolls were busy at Gary’s feeders, a flock of some 30 Siskins was still feeding in the marsh alders and a Chiffchaff, which sang by the reservoir appeared to be a brighter olive than the wintering birds; the 14th is the thirty-two year mean date. The wing of a Jay was probably the result of a Sparrowhawk kill.

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It was mist free, almost cloudless and still at 7 am on the 13th but a cold, light to moderate northeast wind rose while I was there, bringing variable cloud cover. Some 150 Woodpigeons flew into the Deer Park from the rape field and about 30 Redwings flew into the oaks from the paddock. A drake Mandarin, the first this year, flew from the reservoir as I started my three-hour walk there and a pair of Reed Buntings was feeding along the north bank. A lone hen Siskin visited the Spindlewood feeders. Small parties of Fieldfares were widely scattered, possibly totalling around 100 with rather fewer Redwings but a loose flock of about 70 Starlings was also present in the Deer Park, as were the two resident Buzzards. Two more Buzzards flew N from Bishop’s Wood, two more were still present and as I was about to depart some twenty minutes later, two more circled high over my car, one with exceptionally white underparts. The variation in the underpart patterns suggested that six if not all eight were different birds.

Dense fog again on the 12th made a 9am start sensible, as the fog was thinning and within ninety minutes there were patches of blue and the sun shone a little by the end of the three-hour visit, by which time the temperature had at last risen to 10°C. However there was little sign of a spring-like change. A small flock of at least 12 Siskins again fed on fallen seeds under lake alders, a flock of about 50 Fieldfares, with a few Redwings and Starlings fed in the southeast corner of the Deer Park, where the Little Owl was again visible and a Goldcrest visited one of the three lake pines. Three pairs of Collared Doves were also noted.

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Dense fog restricted viewing during the ninety minute visit on the 11th, when it was still and cold. Of interest was the return of two pairs of Tufted Duck to the reservoir, a pair of LT Tits at the southern end of the marsh again and noisy Rooks repairing or building new nests in Bishop’s Wood. Song from Blackbirds and Woodpigeons had now joined other early spring songsters.

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Early on the 10th it was overcast, dry and dull, without a breath of wind, but during the four-hour visit a cold, very light northeasterly breeze rose. As I arrived four noisy Herring Gulls flew NNE and six Greylag Geese flew from the reservoir onto which 10 and two Canada Geese splashed down, followed later by a lone Greylag. A Reed Bunting sang and a few bursts of song from a Chiffchaff were heard near the pump station, probably one of the wintering birds rather than the first of spring. A male Kestrel had returned to a favoured perch, just fifty metres from the barn nest-box. A Coal Tit fed at the Spindlewood feeders to which a pair of Siskins visited later and a Collared Dove was still nest building. A Treecreeper was present in a northern pine, later a pair chased each other among lake alders, another Coal Tit was seen in the northern larches, along with a LT Tit and a second Goldcrest, an earlier one was glimpsed in the rarity hedge. A gunshot disturbed some 200 winter thrushes and Starlings, later counts suggested at least 40 Starlings, about 120 Fieldfares and relatively few Redwings. The lake and marsh were extremely quiet but a first Grey Heron for the month flew SE, the pair of Buzzards circled low over their nest area and the sheep pasture added another 30 Fieldfares and a second flock of some 30 Starlings. Despite the dull conditions a good total of 44 species had been noted, with just Mistle Thrush, House Sparrow and possibly a third gull species not seen.

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A moderate to strong southerly wind blew, under an overcast sky, and rain continued to fall for much of the two-hour visit on the 9th, when heavy overnight rain altered the roadside ditches into raging torrents, with Peens Lane flooded in parts and the reservoir as full as it has ever been. Very little was seen or heard though 30 species were noted, with nothing special, though a Treecreeper showed well in the marsh alder copse.

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It was still and overcast, with a hard frost early on the 8th, with the cloud breaking towards the end of the three-hour rather uneventful visit. On the negative side the only water birds on the lake were a lone Coot and one Moorhen but it was pleasing to see the Little Owl again perched over its nest site. Also, the reservoir GC Grebe is rapidly changing into its summer plumage.

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The 7th commenced cloudless and still at 0°C rising to just 4°C during the three-and-a-half-hour visit, when a cold northwest wind rose, bringing scattered cumulus. At the reservoir, the first Reed Bunting of the month sang briefly but remained unseen and certainly two probably three Chiffchaffs flew into the reservoir orchard. An internal walk of the poplar wood failed to produce the hoped for Woodcock but the small copse by Gary’s held a peak count of nine Brambling. Initially just two were seen, they flew off E followed by two more and much to my surprise there were still five present, which can just be seen in the photograph. A flock of at least 40 Starlings flew from the orchard and in the Deer Park, the Buzzard pair flew into an oak in the northeast corner, a flock of at least another 100 Starlings was feeding, along with probably 70 Fieldfares and maybe 20 Redwings, more widely scattered. Another gathering comprising in excess of 30 Fieldfares and 15 or more Redwings flew to the sheep pasture. At the lake only one pair of Mallard and two drakes could be seen, with the resident Coot pair but the alders appeared birdless. Back by the reservoir, I heard a Jay call and glimpsed a Sparrowhawk disappearing low into the edge of the poplar wood, which Bob had just seen flying into the wood. While exchanging our news, three Buzzards circled high overhead, slowly disappearing S.

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Much of the visit on the 6th was in bright sunny conditions, with a light but still cold northwest wind. I noted three monthly additions for my list, including a party of four Greylag Geese which circled over the area a few times, a pair of Tufted Duck back on the reservoir and a Little Owl perched above its traditional nest site. Also, one new for year, a Mediterranean Gull which I observed flying S high over my head, as it called. A pair of Canada Geese visited the reservoir briefly, before flying off and one, possibly two Chiffchaffs were seen on the north bank and some 400 metres further west, among the ash dieback saplings, and the flock of some 40 Siskins spent much of its time feeding on the fallen seeds under the lake alders, among which was a Lesser Redpoll, another first for the month, as was a Coal Tit feeding in the lake alders. I’d seen the Buzzard in the Deer Park, when I heard several additional calls and four more Buzzards were circling high overhead, as they slowly drifted N. As I returned home three more Buzzards were circling high, with a Sparrowhawk, as they moved slowly E.

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There were sunny periods early on the 5th but cloud cover increased as it drifted over in a light northwest wind. The temperature rose from 1° – 4°C and light rain fell as I departed. Eighteen Canada Geese were present on the reservoir, sixteen of which flew off NE. Three Herring Gulls flew WNW, two phrases of Chiffchaff song were heard near the point but few passerines were seen until the Spindlewood feeders were observed. There the usual Goldfinch flock was busy feeding with Blue and Great Tits and a hen House Sparrow perched nearby, as a Chaffinch sang and a male Kestrel flew to a perch in a yew. The Deer Park walk was fairly uneventful, though a Cormorant flew N and good numbers of mainly Fieldfares flew into the trees lining the graveyard. Another flock of some 50 Fieldfares were again feeding in the sheep pasture, with some 15 Redwings and a flock of 30 Starlings. A single LT Tit and two pairs were seen, one of which near the reservoir car park appeared to  be nest building.

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After heavy overnight rain, which left pools of water everywhere, as the ground was so saturated, it was still with a cloudless sky on the 4th but cold at 1° C rising to just 3°C in the very short time available for a visit. All of note was seeing one of the Chiffchaffs near the reservoir, finding just one Siskin in a lake alder and a flock of some 50 Fieldfares in the sheep field, with maybe 10 Redwings.

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In dry, sunny conditions on the 3rd, a cold, moderate strength northwest wind blew. Maybe 200 winter thrushes and a tight flock of some 40 Starlings flew between the paddock below the southern oaks in the Deer Park but they’d dispersed before accurate estimates could be made. Later, a flock of maybe 80 Redwings flew through the tree tops towards the same area from the east. A pair of Canada Geese flew from the reservoir to the lake, the former water held just four pairs of Mallard and the lake only three and there were three and two Coots respectively. Virtually nothing was seen flying over, until I was leaving, when three Buzzards circled high over the southern edge of the patch. Both the male and female Brambling were photographed again and a Collared Dove appeared to be nest building on the edge of the Spindlewood garden. At least 30 Siskins fed in the lake alders, where a Treecreeper was also busy feeding. A Nuthatch calling provided another photographic opportunity.

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Though the sky was cloudless early on the 2nd, a southwest wind rose, becoming gusty and strong at times, with a light shower at the end of the three-hour visit.  A cock and later a pair of Bullfinches were the first since 21st March, but of greater interest was seeing three Chiffchaffs together, uttering occasional bursts of song. Two single Goldcrests, two pairs of LT Tits and two Brambling were also present and a cock House Sparrow visited the Spindlewood feeders.

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Only a ninety-minute visit, in miserable conditions, was made on the 1st, as light rain fell almost continually, in a blustery southwest wind at just 6°C. Brief circuits of the reservoir, lake and the Spindlewood orchard produced a reasonable variety of species to start the month. A pair of Canada Geese remained on the reservoir, from which the Tufted Ducks had flown, a LBB Gull flew SE and a BH Gull N. A flock of about 40 Siskins was feeding in the alders on the east bank of the lake, along with a Treecreeper and the Spindlewood area added a Goldcrest, a Greenfinch, several Goldfinches and a pair of House Sparrows.