Boughton Park and Wierton Hill Farm
The weather was far from spring-like early in the month, as showers fell from an overcast sky, in a light to moderate to strong northerly wind, though it eased and there were periods of sunshine at the end of the first week, as a ridge of high pressure arrived from the continent. The second week saw frontal systems travelling northeast but comparatively little rain fell in the southeast, apart from one local thunderstorm. There were further showery conditions during the third week, which remained comparatively mild.
A two-hour visit mid-morning on the 22nd was accompanied by a light shower from an overcast sky. Of note was seeing the first fledgling Jay, a well-grown individual on an early date compared with the mean of July 7th. Yet another search for Goldcrests in the spruce copse drew another blank, suggesting that a pair might not be breeding there this year, although one was present on the 3rd. At least 80 noisy Jackdaws were still present.
The 21st was dry, with warm, sunny periods. There was no sign of the GC Grebe on the reservoir, where it had been present virtually daily since early March 2015, but one Coot had reappeared. A Lesser Whitethroat sang from a Peens Lane hedgerow and I added Sparrowhawk to my monthly list, as it circled over near the lake. A variety of Dragonflies and Damselflies were noted, including another female Broad-bodied Chaser.
It rained overnight and showers continued to fall early on the 20th, when circuits of the reservoir and lake were sufficient for a ninety-minute visit. A little surprisingly, I saw two species which I didn’t record during the census. An adult Herring Gull visited the reservoir, just as a LBB Gull had done on the 19th and a Grey Heron appeared to be alighting by the lake, but seeing me flew on. A first juvenile Goldfinch was present by the reservoir, an early date compared with the mean of July 7th. The numerous juvenile Jackdaws were as noisy as ever and some 50 or more were still present.
The 19th proved a good choice, regarding the weather, for the monthly census, remaining dry, with variable cloud cover and a southwest wind, which increased from light to moderate. With the decline in species numbers this spring, just 45 species were noted, compared to the mean of 52, but that included my first sighting of a Peregrine this year, as it flew S over my head in the Deer Park and disappeared southeast. Commencing at 3.30 am was not early enough to hear any owls calling but I saw a Little Owl later. Not surprisingly Jackdaws were the most numerous, with a total of 117, followed by Blackbird, Woodpigeon and Wren in the low twenties. The total of 388 birds compares with the mean of 535. It was interesting to hear Lesser Whitethroats singing briefly from both territories and to see how rapidly the nestling Buzzards are growing. The first fledgling Goldfinch was also seen on a relatively early date, compared with the mean of July 1st. A good number of Meadow Browns were seen, as well as an early Small Skipper, three days later than the earliest.
It was dry and overcast, with a light northwesterly breeze on the 18th, when a fledgling family of Chaffinches was seen in the rarity hedge, six days later than the mean. A Lesser Whitethroat sang briefly from just north of the car park and four Common Whitethroats sang from within their respective territories, another newly fledged Jackdaw was photographed but otherwise it was relatively quiet.
A light shower fell just after the overcast visit on the 17th ended, with seeing my first Meadow Brown of the year, within the mean week, probably the high point. Another newly fledged Magpie was seen, there were a few short bursts of song from the southern Nightingale territory and Whitethroats again sang from four territories. Three Stock Doves alighted high in a Deer Park oak but disappointingly a photograph suggests that they were all adults.
It remained dry during the visit on the 16th, when cloud cover slowly increased in a light southerly wind. As is the pattern at present, very few birds sang or even called so finding new fledgling species continued to be a challenge, particularly when the numerous fledgling Jackdaws call continuously, making it virtually impossible to hear anything else, particularly in the area around the lake. However, the Buzzard pair soared high in the sky above the Deer Park, with three Swifts sharing the air space, followed by another ten or so along the southern border. But it was an attractive flower that really caught my attention, Sainfoin, which in his “Atlas of the Kent flora” the late Eric Philp includes this patch as one of the 85 one-kilometre squares in which he located it.
Following my final Great Cheveney Farm survey, I only spent just over an hour walking around the reservoir and the lake on the 15th, seeing few birds, apart from a Buzzard, which circled high over the reservoir before disappearing SE. Of greater interest were my first Large Skipper and Small White, the former a day earlier than the mean date and the latter considerably later than the mean of 7th May.
It was more like April showers on the 14th, though a little warmer in the sunny breaks. It was a late date for my first fawn, a dark brown one and I didn’t manage to find any fledglings of new species. I didn’t see the Greylag family but did note how rapidly the Canada Geese young were maturing. The southern territory Nightingale sang briefly but there was no sign of Reed Warbler activity.
Only a ninety-minute visit was made on the 12th, when a light shower fell from 8.45 am. The reservoir Greylag pair had four rather than five goslings, two male Kestrels were present in their respective territories and a family party of at least seven LT Tits was also seen but little else, apart from close views of a Red-eyed Damselfly.
A late morning visit on the 11th, under an overcast sky, but warm conditions was considered a good opportunity to see a good variety of butterflies and dragonflies. Not one butterfly was seen five dragonflies were, including the three damselflies already noted plus the first Emperor Dragonfly and Black-tailed Skimmer.
It was overcast and still on the 10th, when Bob’s reservoir ‘sky-watch’ produced a total of at least 35 Herring and one LBB Gull flying NE, with five Swallows visiting the reservoir. A family party of Mistle Thrushes comprised one adult and three well grown juveniles, which probably hatched around the mean fledging date of May 15th, with a thirty-two year date range of April 15th – June 17th. Two pairs and two drake Tufted Duck were also present and the Reed Bunting sang again, with further song from the Reed Warbler, two Nightingales and the Lesser Whitethroat, which still failed to reveal the presence of probable juveniles.
The 9th was dry and sunless, with a light northeasterly. The Lesser Whitethroat sang again and one pair of Common Whitethroats was busy collecting food but no fledglings could be seen. A Reed Bunting sang from a willow beside the reservoir, to which a pair of Tufted Duck and a lone drake dropped in. Otherwise the visit was uneventful.
With mixed weather conditions on the 8th, just a circuit of the reservoir in the rain was initially possible but both Reed Warbler and the southern territory Nightingale appeared to like the conditions for singing. A dry visit was made later, when a circuit of the lake produced a Treecreeper singing from one the lake alders, but little else.
The weather changed a little during the 7th, starting almost cloudless and still, with high cloud slowly drifting over to obscure the sun. Later, in the afternoon, light showers fell. Driving along Peens Lane, as I arrived, a juvenile Jackdaw appeared in the road, five days earlier than the mean date. Parking as usual, opposite the fisherman’s car park, the Lesser Whitethroat again sang a few phrases but there was still no further evidence of breeding. The western territory Nightingale sang lustily again, the first for nearly ten days, a Swift dropped down for a drink and a Garden Warbler was glimpsed in the small clump of trees by Gary’s. One of the local Collared Doves called clearly and took off, as I viewed it through my camera lens:
The nestling Buzzard was more visible in a photograph and ten days had now passed since the second Coot on the lake, with the two fledglings, disappeared and just the one bird remained. By the reservoir oak copse, I eventually obtained sufficiently good views to confirm that a pair of Carrion Crows had fledged young successfully, two days later than the mean date, though a fledgling was probably seen on June 2nd. Just 53 species had so far been recorded, 20 of which were known to have fledged young.
The 6th was still and cloudless, with a northeasterly breeze rising during the five-hour sunny visit. A Reed Warbler was glimpsed in the reedbed, two pairs of Tufted Duck and one drake were present, with a lone drake on the lake. Another Mediterranean Gull called as it flew high S and a loose party of 13 Herring Gulls flew E. Having heard at least two GS Woodpeckers calling near the nest site, I spent some while trying to see them and eventually, having watched one feeding another, I managed to take a distant photo, which proved to be of a juvenile, still some ten days earlier than the mean date. In the same area a Bullfinch sang. Along the north bank of the reservoir, four newly fledged Wrens were seen flying from tree to tree. Just before I departed the Lesser Whitethroat uttered a few bursts of song again. Bob also saw a Cormorant, a Swift and a Swallow.
At last, the 5th commenced with an almost cloudless sky but a light to moderate northeast wind brought variable amounts of cloud during the seven-hour, profitable, breeding bird survey visit. With the warmth from the sun damselflies and a few butterflies were on the wing, including Azure and Red-eyed Damselflies, Small Blue, Painted Lady and Green-veined White butterflies. It was a fishing club competition day and the first of some thirty cars had pulled in by 7 am, when a Lesser Whitethroat sang a couple of phrases and I thought I was hearing calls of young but the disturbance made it difficult to confirm. It was pleasing to hear a couple of brief snatches of song from the Reed Warbler, a flock of 20 Greylags circled over a couple of times and two cock Tufted Duck were joined by a pair. By Gary’s Shaw I heard at least two Mediterranean Gulls calling from high in the sky to the east, in the sun, but by scanning I did manage to find two circling extremely high. The alpaca orchard produced my first fledgling Great Tits, a day later than the mean and just to the north a fledgling Blackcap called consistently, at least two weeks earlier than the mean date. Along the northern boundary there was a forest of thistles, some growing in excess of two metres. The hen Pied Wagtail was feeding on the Boughton Place lawn again but there had been no sign of any fledged young. At the same time a Treecreeper sang but didn’t show itself. The Buzzard’s nest appeared to contain a nestling and south of the marsh, on the edge of the poplar wood, there were consistent alarm calls from a Chiffchaff and eventually a well-grown juvenile appeared, nine days earlier than the mean date.
The 4th was overcast, dull and misty but the wind had dropped and much of the three-hour visit was spent attempting to see fledglings, among which was a possible Carrion Crow, which failed to show itself clearly, but a family party of at least three Coal Tits was seen feeding in one of the lake pines, before flying into the eucalyptus and disappearing. The Nightingales have shown no sign of their presence for five days, the Reed Warblers have not been heard or seen for nearly ten days but cock Whitethroats continued to sing, while a hen bird collected food.
The wind was less strong on the 3rd, but it remained overcast and cool, commencing at 9°C. Eight Canada Geese flew low SW. Rory had reported seeing fledgling Robins in the Boughton Park gardens and one was seen by Bishops Wood, with three fledgling Starlings and one adult resting on the power line over the reservoir paddock, both on later dates than the thirty-two year means. A Goldcrest was seen in the spruce copse, another brood of nestling Blue Tits was present in the marsh alders and a Linnet was seen carrying food by the reservoir car park, one of the three possible territories. As I was in the reservoir oak copse, at least two Mediterranean Gulls called while flying S and I was unable to see them.
It remained dry for the visit on the 2nd but still overcast, with a chilly, moderate strength, northerly wind. As a result, little of note was seen but eventually it was possible to confirm that Blue Tits had fledged young, a day later than the thirty-two year mean. All eight Blackbirds noted were males, a hen Blackcap was seen carrying food and the pair of Buzzards continued to enjoy the wind, as their flights rose and fell over the Deer Park oaks.
Steady rain fell early on the 1st, when the temperature was only 12°C. A two-hour mid-morning visit was possible but somewhat uneventful, with just 31 species, though a cock Reed Bunting visited the north bank of the reservoir and was heard singing. At the lake, just one Coot had been seen during the last four visits; the disappearance of the second bird and the two fledglings remains a mystery.