Monday, 30 March 2009

30 March 2009

I have found another nest of long-tailed tits in Margravine Cemetery. And, once again, it is in an area of high traffic, i.e. near the entrance by Barons Court. I'd heard a pair in the area a few times but thought they might be nesting on the other side.

In the meantime, the great spotted woodpecker continues to drum all over the place, including the aerials (until crows or magpie chase it from them...)

Sunday, 29 March 2009

29 March 2009

You will have seen this photo already if you follow me on twitter. It was taken shortly before the Boat race, at high tide. I assume it is the same one I have seen doing the same thing, i.e. going against the tide going nowhere, if not backwards, on previous occasions. It even had a youngster in tow at Christmas, twice the fun! Must be damn fit!

Saturday, 28 March 2009

28 March 2009

I went and checked the Thames part of my patch this morning. Tide was low and there weren't very many birds:
  • mallard: 24
  • gadwall: 16
  • teal: 12
  • tufted duck: 15
  • moorhen: 3
  • coot: 3 (2 of them fighting it seemed)
  • lesser black-backed gull: 1 adult
  • great crested grebe: 1 adult asleep on the water
  • herring gull: 1 3rd winter(?)
  • black-headed gull: 3 first year
  • pied wagtail
  • cormorant

There was a fairly strong northerly wind, and, at some point, I was treated to a minute or 2 of a female peregrine in stationary flight against it. Awesome!

Sunday, 22 March 2009

22 March 2009

This morning, with my sister, we went and saw the fish outside of Charing Cross Hospital. Most people visiting her are amazed at how big her goldfish (Maurice) is, so I thought I'd show her some really big ones so she can tell her visitors it's not that big really :)
I quite like going to look at them from time to time, I tend to make the slight detour if I am passing nearby, I find it very relaxing.
The two papyrus plants, one of which I successfully cloned a few years back from a broken stem, are not looking very healthy,which is a shame.

In the afternoon, after a big meal, we simply laid on the grass in Margravine Cemetery, taking the sunshine, listening to the birds, watching the squirrels. Protected from the chilly westerly wind, it was lovely.

Friday, 20 March 2009

20 March 2009

With my sister over from France and the weather looking nice, we decided to go and spend the afternoon at the Wetland Centre. It is my first visit this year, probably the first year I wait so long to go there. When we crossed Hammersmith Bridge on the bus, tide was quite low and it was immediately obvious that the black headed gulls are pretty much all gone from there as well.
We spent most of our time in the captive birds part of the reserve, in part as I wanted to see the Demoiselle Cranes which I had not seen yet since they arrived back in November (I think), and take photos of them for my parents who are cranes 'fans'. Not as exciting obviously as when a common crane flew over their house a few weeks ago as they were gardening (they're quite on the outside of their migration route through France, but occasionally one of them strays a bit from the path), but quite nice nevertheless.

It was grooming time, it seems, a constant throughout our visit. This mandarin duck in the same pen was no exception:

I was reminded reading ShySongbird's blog a few weeks ago that, when I was a youngster, I did not seem to have a roll of film without a black swan on it. I'll have to have a look one day to see if my memory is playing tricks with me, but in the meantime, here are some more:

It was grooming time for them as well...

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

18 March 2009

As I will be picking up my sister at the Eurostar at the time I do the weekly shopping, I went today instead. First thing I noticed was the almost total lack of black headed gulls, except for a dead one on the pontoon. Not too many other birds there except for some young big gulls, 3 greylag and 2 Canada Geese, the usual mallards, a grey heron fishing and a singing grey wagtail. I noticed at least 8 sparrows feeding on the catkins, but I don't think they were too impressed with the 2 gardeners leaf-blowing 'their' gardens. I certainly wasn't.
I was trying to photograph a cormorant in flight (practice hopefully making perfect) when my eye caught a commotion slightly higher and further: one, then 2, crow was harassing a peregrine, probably a male given the size difference, chasing it from the Battersea direction further West into Fulham.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

17 March 2009

I spent more than 5 minutes watching this pair mating this morning in Margravine Cemetery. Certainly no quicky :)

Otherwise, there were lots of singing robins, great tits, blackbirds, goldfinch, as well as a pair of chaffinches, a few greenfinches, and the great spotted woodpecker was drumming.

I don't know if it's my memory playing tricks, but there seems to be much more violets this year. Small carpets everywhere.

The magnolia is finally in full bloom.

Saturday, 14 March 2009

14 March 2009

I have been suffering all week of a head cold which manifested itself mostly by 'cant-be-ask-itis' and I almost couldn't be asked to go and check my patch this morning. As it happened, I had a nice walk and forgot my headache for 2 hours. Lots of birds were singing, with a dunnock to start with in my street. I could hear the sparrows by Frank Banfield Park as soon as I had crossed Fulham Palace Road, and they seemed to be making a lot of noise for the 3 I managed to spot.
When I reached Hammersmith Bridge, tide was low, and since there were also far less rowers, there were a lot more birds:
  • starling: a few flocks, some of them bathing
  • mallard: 16
  • teal:74
  • tufted duck: 10
  • gadwall: 25
  • shelduck
  • black-headed gull: lots, very mobile
  • common gull: 2 adults and 1 1stW
  • lesser black-backed gull: 1 pair (no streaking left)
  • great black-backed gull: 2 (I think 1 3rd and 1 1st winter), one of them had a fish head, stolen by a carrion crow
  • another young gull I am not too sure about
  • pied wagtail: 3
  • grey wagtail: 2
  • cormorant: 2 on the foreshore, 4 on the pontoon; there also seemed to be a lot of them high up in the air
  • moorhen: 2
  • coot: 3
  • sparrow: heard in the usual bush

Later on, I noticed that leaves are just starting to unfurl on the pink chestnut tree in Margravine Cemetery, and spotted a mistle thrush right at the top of the black poplar.

Friday, 13 March 2009

13 March 2009

One more for the patchlist competition: kestrel!
I was in Margravine Cemetery trying to locate the drumming woodpecker and looking at a pair of canoodling parakeets when I spotted one to the North in stationary flight. It probably was just outside my patch then. I bent to grab my camera and it was gone, but a commotion above Barons Court told me the crows had spotted it and I watched as one chased it away above the A4. I was still wondering if I should count it or not an hour or so later when, looking at a flock of 8 goldfinches, I spotted in the background, and on patch, a crow chasing a kestrel...

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

11 March 2009

Since I saw one of these, a 16-Spot orange ladybird (Halyzia sedecimguttata), on 1st March, which is when I took the photo above, I have spotted plenty more. I counted at least 36 on the same tree, but I have also seen clusters of them on other trees, on the bottom side of branches mostly. They're apparently to be seen from April, so they are a bit early if that's the case.

Lots of birds singing or busy nest building in the cemetery today. A pair of magpies is building a nest in a holly tree, probably one of the lowest magpie nests I have ever seen. A pair of robins were courting in the hedge by the entrance, I witnessed a food exchange,
The crocuses are pretty much finished, and finally there is an 'explosion' of soft pink on the magnolia!

I have not seen last year's partially leucistic young crow for a while, but, today, as I was getting to Barons Court tube station, I spotted a very similar one flying above the tube lines. I'd say, it's probably the same one, it has just relocated and appeared to have found a mate. Not bad for the 'runt'.

Finally, I love this photo of a chaffinch I took as it was eating prunus/cherry blossom. It has almost a menacing look, with a ciggy in its beak, imo. Or, it looks just stupid!

Saturday, 7 March 2009

7 March 2009

I had forgotten that there were boat races today on the river, plus the tide had already fairly risen when I got to Hammersmith Bridge, so there were few birds there. In particular, probably my lowest duck count ever with 4 mallards, and even they were right at the Bridge so very close to be outside my patch. There were a few black headed gulls, a good half of them now with black heads, I counted 58 by the bridge and 62 on the pontoon, with a few in between. Gull-wise I also spotted 2 adult lesser black backed on the roof of the Riverside Studio and 3 common gulls on the pontoon. A few cormorants were flying over, probably trying to find quieter waters to fish and one was trying to have a nap near the pontoon until a few black-headed gulls decided that its spot was highly desirable and nagged it until it left. Surprisingly there were 3 coots again, one of them going full speed against the tide, as well as the 2 moorhens, and a great crested grebe which was starting to fish as I left.

On the way there, as I was getting near Frank Banfield Park when I noticed a wren singing on a chimney, quickly being chased away by a pair of blue tits, quickly chased themselves by a starling... A pair of sparrows were exploring a possible new nest at the beginning of the street, a starling also being interested in it. Near the usual nests, a female sparrow was interested in a piece of insulation caught in a tree, and a male was in the wood chip picking up twigs, so nest building was very much under way. I was observing this when suddenly a flock of 12 goldfinches and a few starlings flew off from behind the fence of Hammersmith Embankment building site, but I could not find what had spooked them. A little later, on the other side of the Park, I was trying to see the sparrows I could hear in a hedge, when a great tit above me started alarm calling, It was most insistent, I initially thought there was a cat about but could not see one, and finally I spotted this sparrowhawk on a roof on the other side of the street:. Probably what had spooked the birds earlier.

After a minute or so, it spotted something over the building site and went after it. Yet again, goldfinch and starlings flew off, but I don't think it caught any.

Once the commotion was over and I resumed my walk, I heard a chiffchaff on the building site and saw it briefly as it went on a tree for a few seconds. I wonder if it's the one I'd heard and not managed to see on the other side of the street a few weeks ago.
And to get back to sparrowhawk, I was at home a while later when I saw (another) one circling above Margravine Cemetery.

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

4 March 2009

Finally, one bud was showing some pink on the magnolia in the cemetery this morning, which is more than 2 weeks later than last year.
I heard the male great spotted woodpecker drumming and managed to find him after much effort. A lot more difficult to find him in trees! After a few days of not finding the parakeets at the nest, one was in and the other standing guard this morning.
The long-tailed tits are still building their nest. A few times now in that area I have heard a great tit with a very noticeable song,the best way to describe it is extremely metallic. Weird.

Sunday, 1 March 2009

1 March 2009

I had my suspicions last year but I never managed to get him in the act. This time I was in the cemetery with my camera when I heard what sounded like a mixture between woodpecker drumming and door creaking. I followed the noise and found the male great spotted woodpecker drumming on a mobile phone aerial on the council estate building next to the cemetery. I then only managed a very distant photo before it flew away. A little while later I had found the female 'singing' in a tree next to their old nest when I hear him again, so I rushed back and managed some better photos and a few movies (which I have yet to process). At one point it got chased away by a crow who thought that this was the ideal place to eat its monkey nut, and went to another one and started again. All the while, the female was continuing her calls and getting closer.

Near to the female I also saw a pair of greenfinches mating. Spring is definitely in the air. Colours are appearing everywhere: yellow of daffodils, crocus, and the "tits' tree" (box), purple and white of the crocus, pink and purple of prunus. Even one hyacinth was flowering, albeit a well sheltered one, but still it was flowering. There is still no pink on the magnolia, which is much later than the previous 2 years, but the buds are definitely getting bigger. The snowdrops are however on their way out now.

I spotted my first ladybird of the year. Not a 'classic' one, but a 16-Spot orange ladybird (Halyzia sedecimguttata), and not where I have seen them in previous years, which would be difficult at this time since it is on the underneath of the pink chestnut tree leaves. It was on a pine tree, and as I was taking a few photos, I heard a high pitch note, looked up and found a goldcrest happily feeding up in the tree. I tried taking a few photos but it was definitely not as cooperative as the ladybird :)
I spotted my first ladybird of the year. Not a 'classic' one, but a 16-Spot orange ladybird (Halyzia sedecimguttata), and not where I have seen them in previous years, which would be difficult at this time since it is on the underneath of the pink chestnut tree leaves. It was on a pine tree, and as I was taking a few photos, I heard a high pitch note, looked up and found a goldcrest happily feeding up in the tree. I tried taking a few photos but it was definitely not as cooperative as the ladybird :)