Sunday, 1 March 2015

March Diary !

31st March - Yellow warning for gale force winds from the Met Office always makes for an exhilarating mornings walk, there was still some good birds to view, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Long Tailed Tit, Wren and Robin were a good start, Nuthatch calling unseen in the wood, as was the evocative drumming of the Great Spotted Woodpecker somewhere deep in the wood , 
Chiffchaff calling faintly in the wind somewhere close , Song Thrush very vocal on top of the Sweet chestnut tree.but not seen.
 The Little Owl seen again in its new position on the other side of its chosen  tree, its cryptic plumage blending in perfectly with the dead old tree, I suspect this is where it has been roosting unnoticed by me on the occasions I have reported it as unseen.

Little Owl
 A Treecreeper showed well today another one of my favourite birds.
Around the glades, 3 Goldfinch, Carrion Crows , Jackdaw, Magpie struggled against the blustery winds.

The white buds of the Wood Anemones are showing well but need some warm sunshine to show of the delicate flowers.
Another Buff Tailed Bumblebee seen around some Goat Willow, not sure how it was managing to fly  in the strong winds but it seemed to manage it ok.
These Goat Willow catkins seem to be the place at the moment to stake out for Bee sightings.

Song Thrush
28th - 30th March - As we draw near to the end of March, the woodland is beginning to change, Daffodils, Common Dog-Violets and  Lesser Celandine are all blooming, the growth of Bluebells are well underway, before long the whole wood should take on a new look.
 A few Wood anemones are beginning to show. Insect sightings have been non-existent up to now, apart from one positive sighting of a Buff Tailed Bumblebee within the wood.

Not one single sighting of a Butterfly.

Most trees are all showing new buds, Goat Willow catkins are prominent as is Blackthorn blossom.
Throughout the month Blackbird and Song Thrush  have been common with an occasional sighting of a Mistle thrush, Great Spotted Woodpeckers have been drumming all month, Nuthatch have been calling and the occasional sighting of the Common Tree creeper have been made,
Great Tit, Blue Tit and Long Tailed Tit have all been seen regularly with just one sighting of a Marsh Tit, but at least I know they are still around. Wrens and Robins have been very vocal all month.

Blue Tit
Corvids have been well represented by the Jackdaws nesting  near Two ponds, Carrion Crow and Rooks seen  around the cattle fields, with Magpie and Jays all quite common.
Green Woodpeckers have been seen mainly around the open areas known as Jeskyns Glades although one pair were seen within the wood.

Wood Pigeon and Stock Doves have been seen most days.

The Little Owl still being seen on its favoured tree, the two Owls have only been seen once together.
A pair of Kestrels are now a regular sighting over the wood.

Finches have been represented mainly by a few Goldfinch, two Greenfinch seen once only.
Yellowhammer are seen most days near footpath within the glades.
A few Skylark are nesting in the Cattle fields and seen regularly.

The occasional sighting of Linnets have been made with a few gull sightings ( Common & Black Headed), Stonechat seen on one day only , a few sightings of Pied Wagtail around the cattle fields.
The only Migrant noticed at the Moment has been the Chiffchaff, their numbers increasing now as they seem to be calling all around the wood.

My quest for the veteran trees of the wood continues, the multi stem Sweet Chestnut no 12042 and Sweet Chestnut 12048 in the same vicinity have been seen and photographed.
The Common Hornbeam no 12044 shown in my blog title confirmed.

My latest find has been another Sweet Chestnut no 12049 on the edge of the wood  bordering the glades recorded as a girth of 5.70 m and can be seen in the photograph below.
Four from eleven.

 The only mammal sightings have been the Grey Squirrel very common in this wood, two sightings of  some Rabbits strangely not so common. some Badger tracks.

27th March - Nice bright morning lots of birds back in full song today, Robin, Song Thrush, Nuthatch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Great Tit, Blue Tit and Wren all adding their voice to the woodland chorus.

This Wren was singing its heart out, love to get a closer shot.

As I walked past the Little Owl site he was not in his usual spot, but I caught sight of him around the other side of the tree doing a spot of sunbathing. always looking cross though.

Little Owl
Around the glades two Black Headed Gulls were calling loudly as they circled the cattle field, Rook, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Skylark all seen. I disturbed two Greenfinch drinking at the cattle trough.
I noticed some Ground Ivy in flower, lots of Common Dog violets and a few more Lesser Celandine in flower.

Ground Ivy
Nice view of the Jackdaws around their favoured tree.

26th March - The weather seems very changeable at the moment, one day we have blue skies and sunshine closely followed by a grey, wet and coldness, today was one of those.
On the birding front, plenty of Song Thrush and Blackbirds around the woods, joined today by a couple of Mistle Thrush, Robin, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Long Tailed Tit, Stock Dove all seen, Great Spotted Woodpecker heard drumming, one Little Owl seen today in its usual tree, around the glades, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Rook, Magpie and Wood Pigeon, no skylarks seen today, but three Common Gulls flying over. Green Woodpecker on the Oast House lawns at the top of the glades.

25th March - Following a cold night with low temperatures, I walked the trails of Ashenbank with my dog under blue skies and some warm sunshine. almost the first birds seen were the four Jays from yesterday, although this time one Jay appeared to be fleeing and chased by the other three, a Kestrel flew from one of the Sweet Chestnuts, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Robin, Great Tit, Blue Tit were all prominent,  Chiffchaff could be heard calling, one being seen briefly, A distant Nuthatch was calling from somewhere deep in the wood, Great Spotted Woodpeckers still drumming. No sign of the Little Owls these last few days.

Around the Glades, Linnet, Goldfinch,  Long Tailed Tit (2) and Skylark were all seen, in the cattle fields, Jackdaw, Rook and Carrion Crow all kept their distance from each other, a few Wood Pigeon flew over.

A Carrion Crow was engrossed in some serious head bobbing in the field and calling raucously in some sort of courtship display.
Carrion Crow
Some Woodland Flowers are beginning to show now, Lesser Celandine a member of the buttercup family, Common dog-Violets, the first Cuckoo flower of the year was showing. I also noticed some Red Dead Nettle in flower.

Common Dog Violet 

Lesser Celandine

Cuckoo Flower
Red Dead Nettle
As we walked down through the glades back towards the wood, there was an almighty loud explosion, scared my dog witless, he took a dive to the ground and then bolted off into the distance.
apparently the second world war unexploded bomb, a 1000lb bomb found at Southwark had been brought to Kent, for a controlled detonation at the nearby Cliffe Marshes. I must admit he was not the only one startled, and Cliffe Marshes must be at least five miles away.

Some unidentified Fungi found. could be the Tawny Grisette but really not sure.

and a more familiar one, these have been on show nearly all month.

Scarlet Elf cup

24th March - What a difference a day makes, cold, damp and grey today, fleece back on.
 Courtship seemed the order of the day though, with some interesting sightings, it began with the raucous calls of a number of unseen Jays high up in the tree's, they sounded very agitated, then it quietened down and the Jays could be seen flying around the woods, three or four times our paths crossed ending with two of the Jays appearing to fly slowly into the uppermost branches of an old sweet chestnut tree, one of the Jays appeared to have raised its head feathers almost crest like, and with head bobbing emitted a strange call that I was unfamiliar with, a series of single notes almost  sounding like a Golden Oriole, quite loud and penetrating. very unusual.

On the edge of the wood next to the glades a pair of Kestrels on an old dead tree, copulating.
High up  in another Sweet Chestnut the drumming from the Great Spotted Woodpecker could be heard, strangely again there must have been at least three Woodpeckers in the tree competing for the attention of a female, each drumming session came from a different branch sometimes simultaneously, all sounding at a slightly different pitch from the other.

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Other birds noted around the glades included a small charm of Goldfinch (5), four Linit, Carrion Crow, Rook,  Jackdaw, Magpie, at least four Green Woodpeckers seen today, Wood Pigeon.
a Yellowhammer could be heard singing but remained unseen. At least five or six Skylark seen in the cattle field, one of which was displaying the threat posture to a unfamiliar neighbouring bird.
Back in the woods, two Song Thrush, Blackbirds, Robin, Great tit, blue Tit, a ChiffChaff could be heard calling but remained unseen. a few Stock Doves around Two Ponds. lots of Common Violets in bloom now and a few Lesser Celandine in select areas. Still some Scarlet Elf cups on show in good condition. Twenty species of bird seen today.

Skylark displaying Threat Posture
23rd March - After a busy week-end it was nice to get back out into the woods for a walk in some beautiful spring sunshine, the wood seemed alive with birdsong today, the song of the Robin and Wren could be heard all around the wood as was the "teacher teacher " calls of the Great Tits, Great Spotted Woodpeckers drumming with a new vigour, as we approached the old Hazel tree a small bird flitting about among the Hazel catkins caught my eye, and then that familiar call of the
  Chiff Chaff  that I have been waiting for, spring has definitely arrived for me now.
A couple of record shots, I just could not get a clear view to photograph before it moved further into the wood and out of sight.


As we left the woods and walked up around Jeskyns glades we came across another new arrival
looking very pleased with himself.

Hereford Cattle
20th March - Not sure whether it was the European pollution or the impending solar eclipse, but the outlook was dull, grey and cold. The cloud level was low, no sign of the sun let alone a solar eclipse, and I believe the next one is not visible from this country until 2026, might just make it to see that one. Things carried on as normal in the woods, Great Spotted Woodpeckers drumming and visible high up in the trees, a large flock of Chaffinch ( 20+ ) were disturbed feeding on the ground within the wood, two Long tailed Tits were associating with them. Skylarks could be heard singing around the glades but out of sight.  lots of Great Tits paired up, no sign of the Little Owl today. the usual Blackbirds, Song thrush, Wrens and Robins common throughout the wood.
A Kestrel took umbrage of me when I attempted to check out a an old tree that I suspect is one of the Veteran trees on the Tree register of the British isles, it circled around the tree calling incessantly.

Sweet Chestnut Tree 12048 ?
This Sweet Chestnut tree, looking slightly battle worn now, I strongly suspect is the veteran tree number 12048 on the tree register, it's one of the larger Sweet Chestnut trees in the vicinity of the multi stem Sweet Chestnut tree shown on the map,  the girth is just over 5.3 metres so that fits as well.    That's three from eleven veteran trees found now.......... the search continues.

19th March - Spring appears to be pushing on despite the  cooler temperatures of the last few days, Daffodils have finally bloomed, still no migrant birds yet, and the low temperatures are keeping insect activity to a minimum, just the occasional Bumblebee seen.

Ashenbank woods - Mid March
Bird activity is increasing with a number of birds Robin and Blackbird seen flying with nesting materials,   Long tailed Tit has also been seen carrying feathers, with which they line their nests.

  Great Spotted Woodpeckers are being seen daily, a pair of Green Woodpeckers seen in the woods today, Nuthatch  heard calling from high up the trees, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Chaffinch,Wren, Song Thrush seen regularly unlike the Treecreeper which has only been seen occasionally. The Little Owl continues to be seen at its favourite tree, which reminds me of a photograph taken last week, I did not realise that I had managed to capture both birds in the same photograph, not a brilliant image but there they are, one in the top left hand corner the other bottom right corner, if only they had been closer.

Little Owls
Around the glades the Yellowhammer continues to be seen on its song post at the top of a tree, Skylarks seen occasionally around the cattle field, Carrion Crows and Jackdaw feeding amongst the cattle.
  Pheasant heard today calling from the set aside area opposite cattle.
Last years Knapweed seed heads are providing a welcome food source to a small charm of Goldfinch. no sign of the Stonechat though.
 Pied Wagtail, Starling, Collared Dove seen near the Oast House, a Kestrel hovering over field next to the wood was unexpected.
Blackthorn Blossom.
Blackthorn blossom  just started to appear, also noticed some Lesser Celandine buds nearly ready to flower,along with some Common Violets.

Willow catkins in the early morning mist.

14th March - Great spotted woodpecker drumming high up in the sweet chestnut trees, Nuthatch gave some good views, Great tits are by far the most numerous Tit species within the wood,  Robin, Wren seen in the understorey, still no migrants birds  as yet, no Butterflies to be seen either, two unidentified  distant bumblebee's seen.


13th March - Temperatures dropped overnight, but a pleasant walk around the woods revealed, Great Spotted Woodpecker, good views of Treecreeper, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Wren, Robin, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Jackdaw, around the glades a few Skylark in the fields, heard the distinctive "rattle" as two Mistle Thrush flew over, Carrion Crows in  grazing field, no sign of yellowhammers or Little owls today.

12th March -  The warm weather the last few days has encouraged the primroses to bloom around Two Ponds, the Mallard Drake and duck have been back, I'm sure they're looking for somewhere to nest, Grey Squirrel and unusually a Rabbit seen near the ponds. Still some Scarlet Elf Cup on some of the mossy deadwood.

Two Ponds - Ashenbank Wood
Other birds noted around the woods and glades, Carrion Crow & Jackdaws in the cow field in  Jeskyns Glades,with at least ten Rooks and Starlings feeding in a separate grazing field .
don't seem to be mixing. Wood Pigeon, Blackbird , Song Thrush, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Nuthatch, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Long Tailed Tit, Chaffinch, Robin, no sign of any Owls, but  2 Yellowhammer near path between Glades and Meadows, Pied Wagtail feeding around  the cows feet, Magpie, Jay, Collared Dove, Goldfinch. ( 21 Species ) 

Pied Wagtail
10th March - Another beautiful morning with some warm sunshine to start the day, a walk through the woods and glades of Ashenbank revealed, Drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker, good view of Nuthatch until I raised the camera in its direction, Jackdaws in their tree, Carrion Crows around cattle, Blue Tit, Long Tailed Tit (2) and Great Tit, Robin, Dunnock, Magpie, Black Headed Gull flew over the glades, Green Woodpecker by Oast House, Starlings, Wood Pigeon,  Stock Dove, Song Thrush, Yellowhammer on trees near sculptures but a bit flighty today, no sign of any Little Owls, but as I walked down through the glades towards Ashenbank pond, a bird initially moving along the fence posts revealed itself to be a fine male Stonechat. which eventually posed nicely before moving out of sight. (18 species )

Stonechat in Jeskyns Glades
9th March - Temperatures have dropped again with a cold wind blowing, one Little Owl was on view in the usual tree, Jay(1) there numbers seem to be reducing now, Song Thrush, Mistle thrush (2)  not much else to report  except for two Pied Wagtails feeding around the cattle trough in the glades,  which is also a new addition to my running bird list which now stands at 65 species.

Song Thrush
8th March - I have given myself the quest to search out the eleven veteran trees on the tree register, not as easy as it sounds, but here is the Sweet Chestnut notable for being multi stemmed, this tree is best viewed from the Darnley trail that runs down Halfpence Lane and skirts the edge of the wood.
Tree number 12042 and thats two from eleven located

Sweet Chestnut 12042

6th March -  Some subtle changes in the woodland now, the understorey is greening up and leaf buds are beginning to burst open on some of the tree's.
At least three Great Spotted Woodpeckers heard drumming, Nuthatch heard unseen in the treetops, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Stock dove in the Jackdaw tree causing a disturbance, a Marsh Tit flew up from the brambles as I passed along the trail and quickly disappeared before I could get a record photograph,  but nice to see at last, its been along time since one was last seen here, some good  news at the Little Owl site, a second Little Owl has appeared, lets hope she stays, and I am guessing its a female.

Resident Little Owl ( Possibly Male)
New Little Owl ( hopefully female) 6/3/15

Hopefully with the two Little Owls, next to each other you can see the subtle differences in plumage, they are notoriously difficult to sex unless seen together when the female may appear a little larger than the male. The new arrival on the left was taken in bright sunshine, where the one on the right was in shadow. A photograph of the two Owls together would be a bit special.

Walking around the glades revealed the Yellowhammer on its song post singing its heart out.

Small charm of Goldfinches, two Green Woodpeckers ( no riders), Flock of Starling, Rook. and Wood Pigeon.
A very nice walk today, 17 species seen,  most notable bird for me today was the Marsh Tit.

5th March -  Ashenbank wood is a relatively small wood in the great scheme of things, covering no more than seventy five acres, but it is classified as 'ancient' meaning that it's at least four hundred years old, maybe more, and that's the attraction for me I think.
There are a number of trees classed as 'Veteran' here, meaning that they are in their second or mature stage of their life, veteran trees get their name from premature aging, sounds ominous.
An Ancient tree is in its final stage of life.
A quick look at the National tree register revealed at least eleven Veteran trees, six Hornbeam, one Common Ash, and three Sweet Chestnut, and one Sycamore
I have managed to find the Hornbeams, still looking for the Ash and the Sweet Chestnut and Sycamore.

The Common Hornbeam which I have only just learned to identify since starting this blog, is one of those spectacular trees full of character which gives the wood that ancient feel, this one in particular, tree no 12044 Common Hornbeam  is one of my favourites, it will be a sad day when this tree comes to the end of its life.

The distinctive fluted trunk formation of the older trees makes the Hornbeam  easy to identify.

As you walk around the woods it's hard not to notice the windblown tree's, most from the hurricane of 1987, most of these are on the edge of the wood near the glades section of Jeskyns park, not much protection from the hurricane winds that blew in that night, the shallow root system of the European Hornbeam was probably a factor in their downfall as well. Now just the skeletal remains of  a once majestic tree make their contribution to the deadwood habitat that this wood is renowned for.

4th March - Beautiful walk in the sunshine, although temperatures still quite low, bird species seen today include, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Jay, Magpie, Common Gull ( flyover) Great Tit, Blue Tit, Long Tailed Tit, Chaffinch, Starling, Wren,Robin, Skylark, Stock Dove, Wood Pigeon. no sign of Yellowhammers or Little Owl today.

3rd March -  After an early morning shower, the sun was out and there was a very springlike feel to the woods,the snowdrops are beginning to fade now, but I did notice the first Daffodil in bloom.
Bird sightings were quite high today, at least 4-5 Song Thrushes on the path to Two Ponds, the Mallards have moved on, in the dense wooded area I caught sight of another Thrush which turned out to be a late Redwing, there have been quite large flocks feeding within the wood, always quite flighty but most have moved on now. Lots of Blackbirds skulking around the undergrowth.

Great Spotted Woodpeckers could be heard high up in the trees drumming, and at least two Nuthatch heard calling, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Chaffinch, Robin were in in small flock feeding around a Silver Birch together with a fine Treecreeper.

The Little Owl was outside its Roosting tree, no sign of a female yet.  Two Mallard were flushed from Ashenbank pond by some dogs, possibly the two from yesterday.
Up through Jeskyns Glades revealed small flock of Meadow Pipits ( 4), lots of Skylarks in the Cow fields, with at least one high in the sky singing. Carrion Crows , Jackdaws around the water troughs My first sighting this year of a Yellowhammer high in the trees, I hope to try and get some better photographs of these as the year goes on.
Thats seventeen species today, still can't break that 20 species barrier. On checking my local patch bird list I noted that I have not recorded Meadow Pipit before, so  another new bird for the list, bringing the total to 64.

2nd March - Another cold but bright day, birds seen today included Song Thrush, Blackbird, Great Tit, Robin, Chaffinch, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, two new arrivals in the form of a Drake and Duck Mallard on the larger of Two Ponds.

1st March - Beautiful early spring weather, bright sunshine with a crisp cold wind blowing, Great Spotted Woodpeckers calling from high up in the trees , Two Nuthatch calling, probably trying to attract a mate. Several Great Tit, Blue Tit, Robin, Dunnock, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Magpie. The Little Owl was in its favourite tree although it was unhappy with me watching, it flew to another tree with a courtege of smaller birds escorting it.The photograph shows it looking around at the birds scolding it from a safe distance.

Little Owl
Grey squirrels very common in this wood like elsewhere, although they are very wary, probably because they are continually harassed by terriers and spaniels, quite safe high up in the trees though, still plenty of sweet chestnuts around for them.

Grey Squirrel

As I walked  down the path towards the glades, this animal track caught my eye, this looks like the footprint of a Badger. A perfect badger print reveals five toes running across the front of the print almost in a straight line, and distinctive deep claw marks in front of each toe.

Badger footprint

Dunnocks or Hedge Sparrows seen quite prominent around the wood.