Saturday, 28 February 2009

28 February 2009

I was expecting delivery of my first mealworm order this year this morning so I decided to go and check my patch early. I left home at about 6:30, before a lot of the birds woke up it seems as it was pretty quiet to start with... Apart from a singing dunnock at the corner of Margravine Cemetery by the West Lodge. The sparrows on Winslow Road were silent on my first pass, but very much aloud on my way back. I was trying to count them when something spooked them, and they all scattered, but 5 on the same roof is the most I have had there at once for a while. The first 2 I saw were mating, spring is definitely in the air! I also saw and heard a few sparrows on Distillery Road and by Crabtree Wharf.

Tide was going down when I got to Hammersmith Bridge, and there did not seem to be many birds. Still, I saw:
  • grey wagtail
  • black-headed gull: 38 at HB, 51+ at the River Cafe. Definitely a feeling that there are less of them than 2 weeks ago. Also a lot more black heads to be seen.
  • mallard: 19
  • teal: 68
  • gadwall: 28
  • common gull: 1
  • lesser black-backed gull:: 4 adults with various degrees of streakiness
  • greater black-backed gull: the usual pair on the pontoon
  • coot: 3, amazing considering I only saw 1 the whole of last year...
  • moorhen: 2
  • pied wagtail
  • cormorant: 1 fishing, and 9 on the pontoon
  • starlings
  • crows
  • parakeets

And as I was leaving the path, 4 mute swans were flying over coming from central London.
No tufted ducks.

I was home in time to receive the mealworms thankfully.

Thursday, 26 February 2009

26 February 2009

I haven't had much opportunity to go out so far this week, except for shopping, and this is on one of those shopping trip that I have seen yet another colour-ringed house sparrow, in the same spot by Sainsbury's. I also saw today the female I first noticed 2 weeks ago.

I haven't yet spotted any other ringed sparrow in the other 2 colonies I check on my patch.

The long tailed tits are still building their nest just outside the cemetery. I watched them picking up lichen/moss from a tree nearby, it looked such a small quantity, no wonder it takes them so long. I think they may be picking up material from what I am offering as I can occasionally hear their chirping at the back of the house, but if the blue tits are here they chase them away from their balcony! The blue tits are still visiting the window feeders for seeds and mealworms regularly, a great tit has started also coming for mealworm.
I have heard or seen wren and dunnock visiting the back gardens, which is a sign that they're improving I hope.

Still no sign of pink on the magnolia, but some of the daffodils are just about to bloom. The squirrels haven't managed to eat all the crocuses, so, at least at a distance, they're making a lovely blue carpet...

Saturday, 21 February 2009

21 February 2009

What a glorious day!
I decided to concentrate on the Margravine Cemetery and Abbey Gardens parts of my patch instead of the Thames this morning.
Just as I was getting to the hospital I saw the female peregrine arrive from the North face and land on one of her favourite perches. She probably had been eating on the North face, and given the feathers laying around it was likely to be a pigeon. On the fence of the car park a robin was singing, occasionally replied to by another one on the other side of the road. I stood for a while listening to them. I then set off towards Abbey Gardens, spotted a wren and robin in the children playground on the way. First birds I saw at AG were the starlings, then the sparrows. Some of them were by the feeders, I counted 7 at once in a tree. There were also 2 magpies and a few blackbirds. I then went to the green patch next to it, and first thing I stumbled upon was a pair of long tailed tits building a nest, and they were quite comfortable with me being quite close, which was nice. They were not too happy with the sparrows getting close to their bush, and there were a lot of sparrows, also busy building their nests, under the roof tiles. Impossible for me to count how many of them there were, between them being so mobile, and hiding in the bushes, but I had at least 7 in a shrub, and 9 on a roof at once.
As I was leaving the green patch, a low flying grey heron passed by towards central London. A crow noticed it and flew after it.
Margravine Cemetery was echoing to the sound of tits, magpies and blackbirds. I stood for a while listening and recording a blackbird that might be the one we called Nokia last year. I didn't quite get its signature mobile phone ring but it got close. I heard a great spotted woodpecker but did not manage to locate it. I located the female a little while later on my way back from the shops, feeding near the chapel. I haven't seen the male for a while now, but then last year I could never see the female. The parakeets were at their hole, another one trying to get in into one of the nestboxes put on a nearby tree, the entrance hole of it having been enlarged. As I was looking at them, I heard a rattle and saw a mistle thrush arrive from a North direction and land in a tree. I couldn't find it in that tree (damn sun in my eyes) but heard another rattle and was going in that direction when I heard a peregrine cry. Trees were obscuring my view of the hospital so I ran to a position where I saw the male, who had been eating on the North face, land, and the female all 'excited'. More rattle, and 3 mistle thrushes flew by...

This afternoon, I was stroking the cat at the window when I noticed a bird in a tree on the other side of the street. I thought at first it was a tit (as they commonly use that tree) but its behaviour was odd (flying into the ivy) so I picked up my binoculars and saw it was a chiffchaff. Possibly the same one I have seen in the area twice already. I quickly grabbed my camera but it was faster than me :(

I went back into Margravine Cemetery again before sunset. The female peregrine was standing on top of the hospital, possibly waiting for the male to bring dinner. He came for 2 minutes and left again. I stood there for a while watching the finches going to roost in the evergreen oak and laurel, mostly goldfinches but also at least 2 chaffinches and 1 greenfinch.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Happy Birthday to me!

My favourite flowers on my birthday, what more could I ask for? ;)

Monday, 16 February 2009

16 February 2009

I think that, unfortunately, the great spotted woodpeckers have lost the battle with the parakeets.
I was in the cemetery early this morning to have a good look at the male peregrine, and I thought I'd pass by the woodpeckers' tree to check: a parakeet was sitting on a branch in front of the hest hole, and another one was at the first hole in the nearby tree. It didn't bode well... Later, in the afternoon, I had another look and immediately spotted the parakeet on the same branch. But, this time, I could also see via my binoculars that there was another one in the nesthole as its tail was poking up. Definitely bad news for the woodpeckers. Now I'll have to find where they relocate.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

15 February 2009

At some point today I heard a familiar chirp but not where I'd heard it before: a long-tailed tit was exploring the chicken wire surrounding the balcony. either it was looking for insects on the passiflora clinging to it, or it was interested in the nesting material. I'll never know as a blue tit quickly arrived on the scene and started chasing it around, the long tailed tit ending up on the balcony floor. After a few minutes of the blue tit harassing it on the other side, the long tailed tit flew off towards some neighbours' bush.
Later, as I was making tea, I spotted a big sparrowhawk on the roof of the 'big house' at the back, which would explain why pigeons were all over the place a few minutes before, since both peregrines were at the time nicely settled on their perches.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

14 February 2009

When I left home at 8, I thought that it didn't feel too cold, but by the time I arrived back home 2 hours later my fingers felt very cold indeed. There was a light cloud cover and no wind.
I am glad to say that Frank Banfield Park is not the disaster zone I thought it would be when I discovered they were landscaping it last year. I guess it helps that they kept most of the mature trees, as this is were I found a pair of goldcrests happily feeding on it. On other trees I also saw crows, robins (one of them singing all fluffed up), tits, magpie, chaffinch (including a pair chasing each other), goldfinch, and blackbird on the ground.
In a tree at the corner of Distillery Road, there was a stand-off between a male sparrow and 2 starlings which the sparrow 'won' as the starlings left. The sparrow then left as well and joined a few others on nearby roofs. Also on those roofs were 2 robins, 2 blackbirds and 2 great tits
At the same time I suddenly noticed a male peregrine hunting a starling, and missing, over the building site. It continued in the direction of the Thames. This explained the crows I'd heard a few seconds before from the park. Interestingly also I thought, a pair of goldfinches were exploring a palm tree type plant.

At the Thames, the tide was going down and it was very busy with:
  • black-headed gulls: with more of them turning to summer plumage
  • teal: 68, still quite numerous and whistling a fair bit
  • mallard: 23 (though I am sure I forgot to write some down)
  • gadwall:37
  • tufted duck: 14
  • common gull: 7
  • herring gull: 1 adult and a 4W by the bridge and a pair by Crabtree Wharf
  • lesser black-backed gull: 3 adults on the pier (2 streaky heads, and the one that looks slightly paler with a white head)
  • great black-backed gull: the pair on the pontoon, resting
  • pied wagtail: 1 flying along the shore
  • cormorant: 3 on the pontoon and 1 flying up river
  • coot: I wonder if this one is going to become resident. It might think it has come to the right spot, as it comes for bread (a rare occurrence for me to have bread now that I bake my own, but I had some today), though in this instance its piece got stolen from its beak by a gull ;)
  • moorhen: the pair by the pontoon

On the way back, the sparrows on W Rd were fairly noisy, I counted up to 8 at once in a tree in front of their nests, while 2 were in a bush on the building site with at least 23 goldfinches.

The male peregrine was eating something with a lot of white feathers; in fact, one was stuck to its tail. My back was turned when I heard a soft e-chup, the female had just arrived with a prey of her own, of which all I saw was a dark grey wing.

Later on, I was coming back from the shops through Margravine Cemetery, I could hear parakeets and spotted one on the great spotted woodpecker tree. At the same time, I could see the pair at the other hole nearby, so that was another pair. Not good. Then I noticed the female woodpecker was also on the tree, and she flew into the parakeet. It flew away but came back, she fought with it again. I'll have to continue monitor this situation.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

12 February 2009

I went to do my weekly supermarket shopping as I usually do on Thursdays, and as usual now I checked the birds on the Thames Path near it, namely the gulls and sparrows usually. As the tide was high, a lot of gulls were on the pontoon and I did a leg check but without result. I don't know if it's spring coming but the sparrows were particularly active and noisy, not just noisy and hiding in the bushes. As I was checking a female picking up twigs as nesting material, I noticed that she had colour rings on her legs, so I quickly grabbed my camera and managed to find her again. she was still picking up twigs and was still accompanied by a male.

(the blurriness comes from the fact that the photo is taken through chicken wire).
After that, I pointed my camera at all the sparrows I could see and got lucky, with a male this time:
Back home, I checked older photos, but I think I would have noticed if I had photographed some before. I have also reported my finding, I hope I'll get an answer some time...

On another note, I have finally put up some photos of the snow on 2nd February here.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

11 February 2009

I had a nice surprise this morning while sitting at my desk. I heard a tweet and, when I looked up, found a chiffchaff on the broom at the back of the garden where the tits eat the worms and seeds they pick up on the balcony. It went from branch to branch, looking resplendent in the sunshine, and wagging its tail a bit. I picked up my camera, but just as I was going to press on the trigger, the neighbours' flue started spewing steam engulfing the bush and my picture ended up all white! It probably also caused the bird to move away, but I relocated in a neighbour's garden. I then took this photo of it on a rose bush.

Later on, on my way to and back from the shops through Margravine Cemetery, I was initially thinking that it was pretty quiet, but as I got close to the grove I could see 9 crows together, they were occasionally rather noisy, but mostly they were busy pecking at the ground, while avoiding the squirrels. The male great spotted woodpecker flew to the ginkgo biloba and started tapping at a branch; I don't think I've seen it in that tree before. Plant-wise, there has been a crocus explosion, the purple carpet is expanding in the north part, and planting has finally started at the roundabout, with some little box shrubs.

Both peregrines were present on the hospital for a good part of the day, eating, digesting and sunbathing, with a bit of preening thrown in...

Monday, 9 February 2009

9 February 2009

On this rainy day, there has been a lot of bird activity at the back, A great tit started taking some of the cat hair, then decided it was too wet, and went to get some seeds in the feeder instead, A dunnock, the first one in years it feels, and a wren visited the back gardens, though not at the same time, and 2 robins appeared to be looking very closely at a neighbour's ivy (this might not be such a good idea, a cat likes using the shed on which it is growing to birdwatch).

Saturday, 7 February 2009

7 February 2009

It was freezing this morning and I hesitated about going out but went to the Thames as usual in the end.
Sparrows were very noisy at their nests near Frank Banfield Park, I counted 8 including 1 which was inside the nest. There were some more on the other side of the park, one even chased away a pair of starlings from a TV aerial. Said starlings were very noisy, lots of clicks and whistles...
When I got to Hammersmith Bridge, one of the 'flags' was a crow but it was dislodged quite quickly by another one and they flew away.
The tide was low but quickly going up, and it had been so cold that the puddles left by the previous tide were frozen. By the time I was walking back the tide had risen enough that pretty much all the teals and gadwalls had flown to the Wetland Centre and the gulls and mallards were starting to congregate on the pier and pontoon. Still, I saw:
  • lesser black backed: 2 adults (1 with streaky head, the other white)
  • black-headed gull: lots, more and more are on their way to getting their summer plumage
  • common gull: 10, including a 1W, the most I have seen for a while
  • mallard: 40
  • gadwall: 21
  • teal: 36
  • tufted duck: 18, pretty much the only birds left on the water when I left
  • cormorant: 4
    coot: 1 (2 in one year, I wonder if this going to be a regular, like the moorhen)
  • moorhen: 2, adult and youngster

Monday, 2 February 2009

2 February 2009

We had some heavy snow today, the like I had not seen in London yet, since apparently it was the 'worst' for 18 years, and I have been here 'only' 16 years. I went for a tour of Margravine Cemetery in the morning, with the excuse that I needed to get some milk (to make pancakes as it is Candlemas, snow or no snow). Some birds were out, but not that many, This robin was still singing in his holly by the car park: A pair of blue tits were chasing each other among snow laden branches:
A group of goldfinches were singing in a tree at the hospital end.
The male peregrine landed briefly with prey (not a pigeon) but must have found it was too exposed as it did not stay to eat it.

12 February update: I have finally put up some more photos here.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

1 February 2009

I usually go and check my patch by the Thames on saturdays, but yesterday I was expecting a delivery (which never arrived) so I did it this morning instead. Sky was grey, and there was a freezing easterly wind. They're predicting snow, you can feel it coming. The tide was coming in, and it was very noisy, due to lots of black headed gulls. I saw also:
  • mallard: 24
  • teal: 76
  • gadwall: 29
  • tufted duck: 14
  • lesser black-backed gull: 4 adults at once on pier, including the slightly paler one
  • common gull: 6
  • Canada goose: 20, including a group of 14 in flight
  • swan: 2 flying over
  • grey heron: 1 arriving to fish
  • moorhen: 2
  • cormorant: 7
  • shelduck: 1
  • herring gull: 2 adults and 1 2W
  • starlings