Sunday, April 13, 2008

Patch It Up

First up, news of another year tick. It came on Friday night at 11:05pm when a Barn Owl [year tick 144!] flew past the house. There was another good spot from the house this afternoon, when another Raven turned up in the field opposite. This time I was armed and ready with my camera and the scope, so I was able to get some better pictures.

Mr Raven enjoys his lunch

What a handsome chap!

This morning I put a bit of time and effort in at two of my local patches, Bittell and Earlswood Lakes. My Dad had seen a Tawny Owl at Bittell yesterday morning and although I suspected my chances of latching onto one were remote, I thought I'd give it a go and see what else I could find whilst I was there.

Things kicked off with a couple of Pheasants poking around in the verges, whilst I took shelter from the torrential rain in my car. Fortunately, the rain stopped after 10 minutes or so and I was able to make my way up the path through the woods. Here I had a Chiffchaff, a Blackcap and a male Bullfinch in quick succession. I couldn't find any Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers today and, needless to say, the owl didn't show.

At the upper reservoir there were many Sand Martins, perhaps a few hundred , though I didn't count them all! A reasonable number of Swallows were also present. Then I picked up a Common Sandpiper [year tick 145!] on the water's edge along the causeway.

Upper Bittell Reservoir

Making my way across the field at the back of the reservoir, I heard my first Willow Warbler of the year, but was unable to locate it. However, as I made my way back to the car I had another in a tree right by the side of the road [year tick 146!]. Other birds of note at Bittell were a Treecreeper, several Stock Doves, a Great Spotted Woodpecker and a pair of Green Woodpeckers.

Willow Warbler at Bittell

On to Earlswood Lakes. I spent about three hours here, taking in both pools, New Fallings Coppice and Clowes Wood. Many Chiffchaffs and Great Crested Grebes were noted, a few more Willow Warblers and two or three Blackcaps, plus a female Reed Bunting. Great Spotted Woodpecker was seen again on a couple of occasions, along with Nuthatch, another Treecreeper, several rowdy Jays and more Sand Martins and Swallows. The highlight was the second Common Sandpiper of the day, back at the entrance to the car park.

Great Crested Grebes at Earlswood Lakes

Willow Warbler at Earlswood Lakes

The Mistle Epistle

Time to catch up with my nesting Mistle Thrushes. I finally managed to get a snap of the empty nest on Saturday morning. To my delight, when I took a peek at it on Saturday evening, there was a single egg in there! I'm not sure whether the female has laid any more, but I will try to have another look later today or tomorrow.

My books tell me that they normally lay between 3 to 5 eggs. Mind you, they also say that the nest is a big, loose cup of roots, leaves, twigs and grass, often quite exposed on a tree branch. This nest doesn't really seem to fit that description.

The nest

The heavy rain on Friday night doesn't seem to have caused them a problem. I'll keep a close eye on their progress over the next few days, but then I will be away for a week or so. At least my cat, Barney, will be at the cattery, so that's one less thing for them to worry about!

As I was writing this, I noticed that both birds were in the branches of the tree, so I was able to sneak another look in the nest. Good news! There are now two eggs in there.

I plan to do a bit more birding tomorrow morning, so I will post details of that on my return.

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