Boughton Park and Wierton Hill Farm
The month commenced with variable conditions, as frontal systems moved east, with temperatures below average. However, comparatively little rain fell across the southeast, as a zone of high pressure kept the low pressure systems at bay. Low pressure systems brought more showers, heavy at times, during the second week, with the high over the continent having less influence. An Atlantic high brought settled conditions at the start of the third week. Temperatures climbed into the mid-twenties on several dates but it became unsettled at the end of the month, with rain forecast.
By the end of the month just 62 species had been recorded, ten below the thirty-two year mean and the annual total had risen to only 96, eight below the mean. A total of 39 species were known to have bred successfully, with three more probably fledging young, compared with the mean of 47.
It was fine and dry on the 26th for my last visit for a while, when a flock of 12 Lapwings flew SW and the first juvenile BH Gull this summer visited the reservoir. Several large gulls flew over, including an adult and a juvenile LBB Gull E. A Coal Tit was again seen in the lake pines and a Treecreeper sang from the alder copse. The juvenile and one adult Buzzard were present in the Deer Park and four more circled over the reservoir area for a while.
A brief visit on the 26th concerned just a circuit of the reservoir and as I arrived I could hear a Common Tern calling and had brief views of it flying around the water before rapidly disappearing – the first since 2012, quite a rarity here in recent years. A party of at least 16 Swallows fed low over the recently mown reservoir paddock and a party of nine LT Tits was present within the southern Nightingale territory, where just one call of Nightingale was heard. Also, two fledgling Robins were seen along Peens Lane. The photo shows the remarkably slow growth of phragmites, a possible reason for the departure of the Reed Warbler pair.
The temperature was marginally lower on the 24th but it remained dry, with variable cloud, as I completed circuits of the reservoir and lake. The southern territory produced Nightingale calls from both sides of the clearing and an adult briefly perched in view. A Goldcrest was glimpsed as it fed high in an oak, 12 Swallows perched over the reservoir and the first Hairy Dragonfly perched conveniently. Also, the juvenile Buzzard perched conveniently.
The hot, dry weather continued on the 23rd, when the first sighting of a Treecreeper for the month was the most noteworthy event. Among sightings of several species of butterflies and dragonflies was the first Ruddy Darter, a female, which was photographed. The temperature rose from 15° – 23°C during the four-hour visit.
It was again still and warm on the 22nd, with high broken cloud. Several photographs of Stock Doves confirmed at last that at least one juvenile was present, the twenty-eight year mean date being 14th July. The first Rook for over a week was also seen and it was possible to photograph a distant, perched juvenile Buzzard.
The weather was mainly cloudy, dry and warm on the 21st, when a call from a Nightingale in the east territory again sounded more juvenile-like but wasn’t repeated. At the reservoir, fishermen were throwing boilies out to attract the fish and Moorhens were taking them to feed their chicks. There was no sign of the juvenile Coot. Five Swallows perched by Peens Lane may or may not have been seen earlier, with the feeding party over the nearby oak wood. Very few finches were apparent and not one Chaffinch has been seen or heard for a week.
The sky was again almost cloudless on the 20th but a southwesterly wind rose and not a patch of blue was visible for a while, but it cleared again later. A somewhat subdued call from a Nightingale, suggested the possibility of a fledgling but none was seen. A Herring Gull visited the reservoir but a brood of four recently fledged young Moorhens kept well out of sight. It was interesting to see a second Coot present , as it was a juvenile, which had presumably fledged elsewhere. However, a juvenile Collared Dove, seen by Gary’s shaw, had fledged on the patch – four days later than the 20-year mean. Another Banded Demoiselle was seen and photographed.
During a ninety minute visit on the 19th, the sky was almost cloudless, a very light southeasterly rose but little of note was seen or heard during circuits of the reservoir and lake. The temperature rose to 33°C during the afternoon.
After a cloudless night, high cloud slowly drifted over but it became hot during the three-and-a-half-hour visit on the 18th. Moorhen broods at the reservoir were difficult to see clearly, as they generally fed close to the bank vegetation, but broods of four, three, two and one were seen, the last from a much earlier brood. At the lake just one recently fledged young was visible. An adult and two juvenile LBB Gulls flew NW and three adult BH Gulls visited the reservoir. Nuthatches were heard calling at two localities, both away from the known territories suggesting that young may fledged. The warm weather encouraged butterflies and dragonflies to perform; more Brown Hawkers, male Black-tipped Skimmers and an Emperor Dragonfly were seen.
It was mainly overcast on the 17th, with not a breath of wind and little of note was seen or heard in the shorter two-hour visit, though a Little Owl perched by the rotten-trunk nest site, a Grey Heron flew from the lake again and a Coal Tit visited the lake pines.
It was mainly cloudy, with only a few sunny breaks during the four-hour visit on the 16th, which became hot and sunny during the afternoon. At the reservoir, only five Canada Geese juveniles were seen and the family party flew off S. Mallard numbers had increased to 19, plus the two Aylesbury, with another pair on the lake, where the Moorhens had hatched a brood of four, two still in the nest and two venturing boldly across the water. Just one fledgling Kestrel was seen, a Pheasant called and three Herring Gulls flew S but passerines were poorly represented.
It was dry and warm for much of the visit on the 15th, under broken cloud with lengthy sunny spells. It was surprising to add four possibly five species that weren’t noted during the census. The calls from a large gull, which remained behind trees sounded more like a Lesser Black-backed but I couldn’t be sure. This was followed by an adult Mute Swan flying W over the reservoir and walking on from my usually circuit, a glimpse of movement high in an oak proved to be my first Goldcrest of the month and. a while later four Herring Gulls, two adults and two juveniles, flew SW. The family of five Swallows visited the reservoir, over which the three fledgling Kestrels were heard calling and seen circling overhead, before disappearing behind the poplar wood. As I approached the lake, a Grey Heron flew off – the fourth addition, and nearby in the pines three Coal Tits were feeding. Several common species didn’t make their presence known, including Wren, Robin and Chaffinch on this occasion.
With fine weather forecast, a ten-hour census was completed on the 14th, starting before dawn, when a rather feeble Tawny Owl hoot probably came from a juvenile bird. A second bird uttered a ‘kwik’ call from a different area and two different Little Owls called. Just before 7 am 33 species had been noted but thereafter adding new species became slower and slower eventually reaching 42 just before 1 pm. There was a surprising lack of Jackdaws, with just 13 noted and the birds total of just 289 was the lowest ever, compared with the mean of 543. The species total was also the lowest of the thirty-one years, with the mean being 51. It is interesting to compare the means for the first ten years with those of the last ten:
1986 – 1995: 54 & 726 2007 – 2016: 47 & 449
It was disappointing not to hear a Nightingale call and not to see at least one of the larger gulls, a LT Tit, a Treecreeper or a Goldcrest; of the last two just the Treecreeper has been seen once so far this month. The peak species counts were 27 Woodpigeons, followed by 24 Blue Tits and 22 Blackbirds. I was pleased to get a photograph of one adult and three fledgling Kestrels perched close together on a branch. I also saw my first Marbled White of the summer.
Another dry visit was just possible after the overnight rain ceased early on the 13th, as high pressure began to dominate the weather, though it was cool at 12°C, rising to just 16°C. It appeared to be generally uneventful, with species like Robin, Dunnock and Great Tit missing but when studying distant photos of a dove confirmed that it was the first Turtle Dove of the year. With just 49 species for July so far, it is time for a few autumn migrants to appear. Gatekeepers were slowly increasing in number.
After heavy rain, the three-hour visit on the 12th was in sunny conditions but again didn’t produce any new fledgling species. The Canada Goose family had moved to the reservoir, where two duck Tufted were also present and just one call from the southern territory Nightingale was heard. In the Deer Park, one adult Buzzard circled overhead and called as usual and one juvenile invariably flew, just as I located where it was perched, always disappearing among oaks. Single juvenile Little Owls were present in both territories.
There were occasional sunny periods on the 11th, when a moderate to strong westerly wind blew. A Hobby flew S by the reservoir, where a second brood of five fledgling Moorhens was present. There was no sign of the fledgling Kestrels but a juvenile Buzzard was present in the Deer Park from which the Canada Goose family had somehow escaped and couldn’t find a way back. Also, a Grey Heron flew W from the nearby dead oak.
It was dull and overcast on the 10th, with a light to moderate southwest wind and virtually nothing of interest was noted, apart from another Banded Demoiselle. However, it became an opportunity to clear the various footpaths of trailing brambles.
The visit on the 9th was under broken cloud, with little wind and the temperature rose from 14°C – 21°C in just less than four-hours. At the reservoir, the duck Tufted was alone, with no sign of her ducklings. Later a drake flew in. At least two Swallows visited the reservoir and three juvenile and an adult male Kestrel were present and two Mistle Thrushes were present by the Spindlewood orchard, over which at least four Swifts flew and where a Little Owl was perched on a power line for over twenty minutes. Another adult was ‘at home’ at the tree stump nest site. At the lake, one Moorhen had two newly hatched fledglings and the nest with at least three eggs was unattended. As I prepared to leave, a Nightingale, in the eastern territory close to the road called.
It continued dry on the 8th, under an overcast sky, in a light southwesterly breeze. Interest centred around the reservoir, with the sight a Kingfisher and a duck Tufted Duck with a family of six ducklings on the mean fledging date. Three fledgling Kestrels could be seen and a party of at least six Swifts was seen. Bob also noted a fledgling Whitethroat in the southern reservoir bank territory.
It remained overcast and still during the four-our visit on the 7th, when a well-grown fledgling Little Owl was present in the second territory nearer Boughton Place.
There was an opportunity early on the 6th to see that three fledgling Kestrels were present, initially perched on the nest-box barn but seen perched in trees and in flight later. No Tufted Ducks were present on the reservoir and the local passerines were particularly quiet, though a Lesser Whitethroat and four LT Tits suddenly appeared, extending the monthly list. Calls from a Coal Tit in the spruce copse added that species too. Also an anticipated first Gatekeeper was seen by the reservoir.
Much of the three-hour visit on the 5th was under cloud, with a light to moderate westerly wind, only becoming warmer, under patches of blue towards the end. Virtually the only worthy feature of the morning was the fledging of the Kestrels, two days earlier than the thirty-one-year mean date. Five Swallows, possibly a family party flew around the reservoir oak copse and disappeared.
It was still and dry on the 4th, commencing with a dense fog and nearly three passed before the sun broke through scattered clouds. The first fledgling Whitethroats were at last seen by the north bank of the reservoir, considerably later than the mean date of 14th June as were the first fledgling Little Owls, with a mean date of 19th June. A solitary Swift flew over, a Grey Heron visited the lake, a juvenile Coal Tit fed in the lake pines and a Treecreeper called from the marsh alders, all helping to increase the monthly total to 44. Insects featured, as it warmed up and Bob saw two Marbled Whites and a Darter to add to my first adult male Black-tailed Skimmer and another Emperor Dragonfly.
It was sunny and dry on the 3rd, with variable cloud cover and little wind. A Nightingale called from the southern territory, one Rook flew towards Bishops Wood, from which another called and a Mistle Thrush called – all three additions for the month, as was a Little Owl later. A nestling Kestrel showed in the nest box and the adult male perched nearby. Among several insect species a Red-eyed Damselfly was my first, as was an adult male White-legged Damselfly.
It was sunny early on the 2nd, with scattered cumulus clouds scudding eastwards in a moderate to strong wind. At the reservoir it was interesting to hear then see two very young Moorhens in the overflow pipe again, with a concerned adult nearby, and three pairs and one drake Tufted Duck were present. Later, a lone Swallow flew N and S along Peens Lane between Bishop’s Farm and Gravitt’s Cottage but little else was noted, apart from my first Blue-tailed Damselfly. A thunderstorm brought heavy rain in the afternoon.
Light drizzle fell early on during the first visit of the month on the 1st but most of the four hours was in dry, dull overcast conditions, with the rustle of leaves in the moderate strength southwesterly wind limiting hearing. Two birds in the Kestrel nest box were considered to be nestlings, looking ready to fledge. A fledgling Dunnock was at last seen near Spindlewood nearly three weeks later than the mean. Nuthatches called from two territories, at the one by the lake a young bird was thought to call too. Of the Buzzard pair one called and circled overhead, the second sat in the nest and the Canada Goose family was still present on the lake. The only insect species noted were Meadow Browns and Red-eyed Damselflies.