Wednesday, 1 April 2015

April Diary

30th April - As April draws to a close, migrant birds Common Whitethroat, Blackcap and Chiffchaff have increased in numbers,at least seven whitethroats seen today on my walk, still no Hirundines yet, Cuckoo not heard yet, and no warblers around the ponds. A few large raptors have been seen  passing through in the form of a Red Kite & Buzzard, the Kestrels have been seen occasionally,  Woodpecker drumming has all but disappeared now, even the Nuthatch calls are very intermittant, good numbers of Robin and Blackbirds all around the woods. The Little Owl has been seen  nearly every day this month, no sign of a mate though unfortunately.
Butterfly sightings have been confined to a few Peacock, the odd Brimstone and a Comma.
As for Bee's, Buff -Tailed Bumblebee, Carder Bee, Garden Bumblebee and Red-Tail Bumblebee seem to be the most abundant at the moment, a few Bee Flies have been seen around the glades.
Good news for Ashenbank pond which continues to slowly refill, a Moorhen seen once on the pond.
Lots of trees are now in flower and coming into leaf, making identification for me easier.
 Bracken has started to unfurl.

29th April - Early morning walk in  some nice sunshine before the rain arrived, all the recent migrant arrivals heard and seen around the woods, Chiffchaff, Common Whitethroat, Blackcap, and the resident birds holding there own, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Wren, Robin, Great Tit, Blue Tit.
A surprise down at Ashenbank Pond, a Moorhen was checking the pond over, not sure if it will be to its liking, but nice to see some life on the pond again.

Life returns to Ashenbank Pond - Moorhen
28th April - The sun was shining, but that was quite deceptive as the temperature was very low today.The first part of the walk today was eerily quiet for a change, not many birds singing, just a few calls from a Song Thrush, a few Robin were disturb as I walked the trails, flying up  on a convenient perches to watch me walk on by. The Little Owl was sunning itself  in its usual position, and a Blackcap could be heard singing but not seen.
 The Archangel is beginning to flower now, one of those indicators of ancient woodland.


The walk around the glades was a little more interesting, a few Goldfinch were feeding in the hedgerows, along with  the now regular Linnits

Two new Common Whitethroat territories were found, the first was seen doing its parachuting display flight followed by a bout of singing from the top of a tree.

Common Whitethroat
The second Common Whitethroat was seen midway down the path through the cattle field.

Common Whitethroat
High in the sky, I caught sight of a large bird of prey being mobbed by a carrion crow over Jeskyns country park,  it was always moving away from me, I think it was a Common Buzzard.

As I walked past Ashenbank pond, the water level has now reached 500mm, but there is still no sign of any wildlife as yet.

 The Oak trees around the wood are beginning to flower at the moment, this is a new sight for me, one which I have not noticed before. The long catkin type flowers are the male flowers the female flowers are described as smaller stalked spikes. I will have to take a closer look for these.

25th April - A later than usual walk today, the woods were very busy with dog walkers, usual birds seen, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Robin, Great Tit, Blue Tit, ChiffChaff  and Blackcap heard singing but not seen, two new wild flowers seen today, Red Campion and Herb Robert, the Ramsons are flowering  nicely now, although the aroma from there garlic scented leaves is still very faint.

Herb Robert.
Red Campion.
Ramsons ( Wild Garlic)
The walk around the glades did not really produce anything exciting, a few Jackdaw digging around in the discarded hay from the cattle feeding troughs. Still no visible wildlife around Ashenbank pond, the water level continues to rise, now at 450mm.

Another Red-Tailed Bumblebee seen crawling around in the grass long enough for a photograph before it was on its way.

Red-Tailed Bumblebee

24th April - Another good day for walking, sun shining, birds singing, a few Song Thrush competing from their song posts high in the tree tops, very vocal this morning. The usual Blackbirds and Robins scurrying about in the undergrowth, Great Tits all seem paired up now, Blue Tits everywhere. A few Wren singing from the bramble thickets. A Treecreeper high pitch call caught my attention, the first for a few weeks now, Great Spotted Woodpecker heard drumming  today, Nuthatch again seen at its nesting site. The Little Owl was at its usual position after an absence of a few days.

Little Owl
Still plenty of Blackcaps singing and moving through the trees , not always easy to catch sight of them, A few Chiffchaff still calling.
The Ramsons or Wild Garlic is beginning to flower here, but still not at its best.
The water level continues to rise in Ashenbank Pond, there must be an underground water source because we have had no significant rain to produce the water there, the water level is now just over 400mm, thats over 80mm in two days,  No wildlife sightings there yet. No sign of the Whitethroats either.
The walk through the glades produced three Ring Necked Parakeets flying over,  Linnits still very visible around the plantations, no Yellowhammers today but Skylark in the cattle field.
The last few days have brought out the Sheet web spiders, there webs are very visible each morning covered in morning dew, no sign of any spiders though.

Web of a Sheet Web Spider species?
Two Bee's seen today a Queen Buff Tailed Bumblebee, and a very nice Carder Bee.the only species of Butterfly seen was the Peacock Butterfly.

Queen Buff Tailed Bumblebee
Carder Bee
Wood Pigeon
This Fine looking Wood Pigeon posed nicely, there seem to be good numbers around , especially around the horse paddocks for some reason, a couple of Collared Doves were very vocal around the converted Oast house at the top of the glades

22nd April - Dry bright day but the cold wind is back again, good selection of birds seen today, the usual Blackbird, Robin and Wren in the undergrowth, a Song Thrush singing from high up in the tree tops somewhere, the Nuthatch was seen around its nesting hole, entering for a short while, the Little Owl has not been seen for the last few days.
Theres a small area of bramble and elder trees on the outskirts of the wood next to the glades , I have been seeing Common Whitethroats here for the last few years, always in the same area, making it easy to record their arrival dates, the first one being seen on the 15th April this year, I have only had glimpses of them up until today, when one of the birds posed nicely at the top of an old elder tree, even singing at one point.

Common Whitethroat
Common Whitethroat
Common Whitethroat
The circular trail through the glades and back to the woods produced, four Meadow Pipit, Linnit,Skylark and the Yellowhammer, the cattle fields held a few Carrion Crows, A Magpie flew over, and a Kestrel was seen hovering over some rough ground.

As I approached Ashenbank Pond I thought I would check it out, the water level is still rising, and the habitat around the pond is picking up.

No sign of any Moorhen, Coots,  Reed or Sedge Warblers,not even
a Reed Bunting, but you never know something might turn up.

The woods produced a good view of a Blackcap for a change, still good numbers singing all around the woods, a few Chiffchaff still calling. still no sign of any Swallows or Martins.

The Bluebells are increasing each day and should soon produce some classic woodland scenes.
No insects or Bee's seen today.

20th April - Another bright sunny day, the cold wind has dropped today making for a pleasant walk. Bird sightings today included Nuthatch,Robin, Blackbird, Blackcap very vocal all around the woodland trails, the path down to the glades produced a few Meadow Pipits in the trees where the Yellowhammers usually sing from.

Back in the woods the Red tail Bumblebee Bombus lapidarius was seen in the same area as yesterday, spent a lot of time crawling around in the leaf and grass litter.

Red-Tailed Bumblebee  Bombus lapidarius

Red-Tailed Bumblebee
19th April - That cold fresh wind is still blowing, and has brought on the return of the fleece. but still an enjoyable walk. Since starting this blog on my local patch covering these woods, my observation and general knowledge on the local fauna is certainly improving. New things to see are appearing all the time, certainly things that I haven't really noticed before, which is the whole point of this blog for me.

This is one of my favourite views within the open area at the centre of the wood,  Hornbeam, Oak and wild cherry trees fill the view, and birdsong surrounds you.

Today on my walk I noticed for the first time these flowers appearing on the Ash trees.
 Ash tree are described as 'dioecious' which means that  male and female flowers typically grow on different trees, confusingly to me, a single tree can have both male and female flowers on the same tree, but different branches, which seems slightly contradictory.
 Both male and female flowers are purple, and appear before the leaves, as you can see in the photograph they grow in spiked cluster at the tips of the branches.

Flowers of the Ash Tree

Another tree in flower at the moment is the Hornbeam, the flowers look like catkins as you can see in the photograph below.
This tree is known as 'monoecious' meaning that both male and female flowers appear on the same tree, The male catkins are yellowish in colour and are about two inches long, the female catkins are green and less than an inch in length, its these female catkins which after pollination by the wind form green winged fruits which increase in size up to five inches in length, these are known as 'samaras'.

Hornbeam Flowers or catkins
Two types of Bumblebee seen today a nice Red Tail Bumblebee Bombus lapidarius which was too fast for a photograph, and this Bumblebee which I believe is a Buff Tailed Bumblebee, either a 'worker' or a 'male', the deep yellow bands and  tail which appears white with a slight buff border.
White tail bumblebee has a clean white tail, the yellow bands are a brighter yellow sometimes described as lemon yellow. not totally convinced either way on this one.

Buff Tail Bumblebee 

18th April - Another fine start to the day, dry and bright but with a cold fresh wind blowing, not  so many bird sightings today, Nuthatch, Chiffchaff and Blackcap could all be heard singing, but none seen, Blackbird & Robin very prominent, Jackdaws around their nesting tree, the Little Owl taking in the early morning warmth from its resident tree, a few Wood Pigeon around the glades, Great Tits and Blue Tits everywhere.

The Cold wind I suspect was keeping the insects down today. Bluebells are starting to bloom now although another few weeks should see them at their best.
 Ramsoms or Wild Garlic still not quite ready to flower, Lesser Celandine  are past their best, still plenty of Dog Violets, Primroses, Cuckoo flowers and Wood Spurge showing well.
Two new wild flowers showing now "Comfrey" and "Greater Stitchwort".

Greater Stitchwort

The poor showing of the Cowslip is about to change, the grazing fields at the top of the glades are showing many emerging Cowslip flower heads although no fully open flowers to be seen yet

16th April -  Fine weather remains, around the Two pond area I noticed that the 'Lords and Ladies' are producing the spathe within which the red berries will form on the spandix. the Wild Garlic looks like it will be flowering in the next few days.

Lords & Ladies
All the usual birds still being seen well, the Little Owl still in residence, no sign recently of the Nuthatches at the site previously found, maybe they have moved on to another site. The Blackcaps are still very vocal but seem to be staying high up in the trees out of camera range,The Whitethroats have returned to the area where I have seen them before in previous years, hopefully I can get a record photograph of them.
Chiffchaff showing well again in an open area of the woods, I am sure it has a nest site nearby because it seems very reluctant to leave the area as I pass through.


Butterfly sightings have been confined to the Peacock, Comma.

A bumblebee feeding on some ground ivy which I originally thought was a White Tailed Bumblebee turns out on closer inspection to be the Garden Bumblebee Bombus Hortorum one of the smaller Bumblebees and the first seen this year. you can just make out the yellow band at the bottom of the thorax and the upper end of the abdomen.

Garden Bumblebee

Garden Bumblebee
Bumblebee sightings so far this year have now included the Tree Bumblebee, Buff Tailed Bumblebee, Carder Bee,and the Garden Bumblebee.

The only other bee seen today was this Carder Bee feeding on the early bluebells that are just beginning to flower.

Carder bee

15th April - The weather is still exceptionally warm for April, but the woods are looking good, there seems to be something of interest on every walk, with new bird arrivals complimenting our resident birds, plants flourishing and blooming, insects emerging.
The latest being the arrival of the Whitethroats.

These are the dates so far of migrant birds reaching Ashenbank woods :-

Chiffchaff                           -  March 23rd.
Blackcap                             -  April 14th
Common Whitethroat         - April 15th
Cuckoo                               -
Swallow                             -  May 6th
Sand Martin                       -
House Martin                     -
Swift                                  -  July 13th !

All the woodland birds still being seen regularly, not so much Woodpecker drumming now, but Nuthatches still very vocal, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Wren, Robin, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Stock Doves,
The circular route through the glades has seen the flock of Linnet increasing and becoming very approachable for a change.

Female Linnet
male Linnet
Green Woodpecker sightings are becoming very frequent now, but they are always so wary and unapproachable.

Green Woodpecker on Alder tree

This Meadow Pipit seen in the cattle field chasing flies of some sought, usually frequented by the Skylarks. not a rare bird but I have not seen many in this location.

Meadow Pipit

14th April - There's a whole new feel to the morning walk now, the warm sunshine of the last few days has brought out the Cherry blossom on the Wild Cherry trees scattered around the wood, there's a new sound to the woodland chorus with the recent  arrival of the Blackcaps, there bubbly song seemed to be everywhere this morning, I watched three male Blackcaps chasing each other around the tops of the trees, not settling long enough for a photograph.
There seemed to be more  ChiffChaff  today, perhaps more have arrived from the continent.

Wild Cherry Tree

Wild Cherry Blossom
At Two Ponds, a few Jackdaw flew from their nesting tree, and a Jay posed nicely long enough  for a photograph.

Butterfly sightings are becoming more frequent now, This lovely Comma settled briefly before moving on.
The Little Owl was again in its favoured tree, posing nicely as long as you do not approach too closely.
Little Owl
As I left the woods and walked up into the glades I noticed that Ashenbank Pond was again starting to look like a pond, its as if someone has reinserted a plug, not sure where the water has come from though, as we have had very little rain.

Ashenbank Pond
A Green Woodpecker was flushed from the fields, it landed on  a fence post again but still very distant. A distant Kestrel flew  towards Jeskyns meadows.
This male Linet posed at the top of a tree in the sunshine before flying off with a small flock of linet.

The Blackthorn blossom is attracting lots of small bee's, the other day produced a Bee Fly, today a lovely Peacock Butterfly.


Finally got a decent view of this ChiffChaff back in the woods.

12th April - Lovely walk today in some warm spring sunshine, as we walked up into the woods we watched a pair of Blue Tit coming and going from its nest site in this crevice.

Blue  Tit at nesting site

The Song Thrush could be heard singing still, along with Robin, Wren and Nuthatch, I noticed a few more Sporadic Bluebells coming into flower,  and there seemed to be more Cuckoo flowers on show today, these flower at the same time allegedly as the return of the Cuckoo, but none heard here yet.

Cuckoo flower
The warm sunshine has encouraged more and more spring flowers to bloom, I liked this grouping of Lesser Celandine, Common Dog Violet and a few Wood Anemones.

The Wood Spurge has started to flower, sometimes hard to notice with their leaf green flowers,

Wood Spurge
The Little Owl was on show for about thirty seconds before scurrying back into its favoured hole.

The walk up around the glades produced another dead Common Shrew, that once again died in the middle of the path, thats three now.

Cowslips have been late flowering here this year at the top of the glades, today I counted two coming into flower.

The walk ended on a high with the first sighting for me this year of my favourite Bee mimic, the 'Bee fly' Bombylius major feeding on the Blackthorn blossom.

Bee fly   Bombylius major

10th April - Bright start to the morning, no mist but the air was heavy with the forecast pollution.The Song Thrushes song accompanied us around the Two Ponds area of the wood, always a nice way to start the walk, other birds noted here were Blackbird, Robin, Great Tit, Blue Tit and a single Mistle Thrush. Great Spotted Woodpecker drumming somewhere in the distance, a single
ChiffChaff heard calling. Still no sign of the Nuthatches.

Song Thrush
Walking up around the glades produced three geese flying over, two Canada Geese and a single Greylag. two new birds for the Ashenbank bird list number 67 & 68.

The usual Magpies, Carrion Crows and Jackdaw around the cattle fields.
A pair of Chaffinch were seen gathering nesting material, looked like the hair from the cattle.

Female Chaffinch
Still not much insect activity at the moment, could be because most of our walks are early morning before it really warms up.
The deceased body of a Common Shrew seen in the middle of one of the footpaths,still wondering why is it always the middle of the footpath.

9th April - The wood was shrouded with an early morning mist today giving a totally different feel to the usual walk, Great Spotted Woodpeckers could be heard drumming, the dominant bird call seem to be the call of the Nuthatch but none actually seen today, not even at the nesting site found earlier this week. just one Chiffchaff heard faintly calling through the mist. other birds seen included Song Thrush, Blackbird, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Jackdaw, and Jay.
No butterflies, Bumblebee or any other type of insect.
I did notice that there were still some Scarlet Elf Cups on show, another Cuckoo flower seen, lesser Celandine, Wood Anemones , Common dog Violets and Primroses all blooming at the moment.

8th April - A fresh start to what was promising to be a warm dry day. The Song Thrush was on its song perch where its been for the last few days near Two Ponds, a good view of a Treecreeper was had under the Song Thrush tree, quickly followed by Robin and Blackbird,  no sign of the Little Owls today, but as we approached the Glades area we disturbed a Green Woodpecker which flew down to  the fence around Ashenbank Pond, a distant photograph was taken, I just can't get close enough to these birds.

Green Woodpecker

As we walked up through the glades a large bird circling overhead turned out to be a very nice Red Kite, before drifting off over Jeskyns country park. A new bird for my Ashenbank bird list, no 66, although I do recall one being seen here last year or there abouts, another  distant photograph for the records.

Red Kite

Otherbirds noted were Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Magpie, Wood Pigeon and two Collared Dove.
Back into the woods to the sound of a very loud drumming Great Spotted Woodpecker, a singing Wren, no activity around the Nuthatch site.

A Buff tailed Bumblebee seen, but no Butterflies. This tiny spider caught my eye, not a very good photograph, but I believe it to be a female Wolf Spider carrying her babies on her back.

Wolf Spider

6th April - An earlier start in some warm sunshine found myself and my dog with the woods to ourselves, as we walked down to the Two Ponds area a Song Thrush treated us to  its full repertoire of tunes, Robin, Great Tit, Blue Tit and Blackbird quickly revealed themselves, Grey Squirrels were surprised at every change of path, scurrying up the nearest tree to the safety of the uppermost branches. Surprise of the day was a good looking Red Fox, I saw him running along the footpath on the edge of the woods, he stopped briefly to check me out, before disappearing into the undergrowth,

Red Fox
No sign of the Little Owl sunning himself this morning although I did catch sight of one of the Little Owls just inside its day roosting hole.

Little Owl
Other birds noted were Stock Doves, Carrion Crow, Jackdaw, Wood Pigeon, Jay, Wren. Around the glades two Yellowhammer were seen indulging in an aerial dogfight, which ended with both birds unharmed and sitting briefly on the fence. No sign of the Nuthatches this morning.



Entrance hole to Buff Tailed Bumblebee nest.
While watching  a pair of Jays in the wood a  Bumblebee  flew in front of me and landed on the ground for a few seconds before disappearing down a unnoticed entrance hole, the Bumblebee in question was a Buff Tailed Bumblebee, I decided to wait a few minutes and try and get a photograph as it came out of the hole, after what seemed a long time to wait for a Bumblebee, I was distracted for a second, it came out a lot faster than it went in. I might try again another day.

5th April - Easter Sunday, a warm still day for our walk today, the woods were alive with 'day trippers',  at Two ponds the Willow goat tree is still covered in catkins and still attracting plenty of Buff Tailed Bumblebee's, a ChiffChaff calling in the tree made it difficult for me to get a photograph, always behind a twig or two, which was a shame because it would have made a nice composition amongst the catkins.


The warm sunshine has finally encouraged the Wood Anemones to bloom,
 a lovely spring flower of  this ancient woodland.

Wood Anemone
No sign of the Little Owl today or the Kestrels, at the Nuthatch site just one short visit by one of the birds was seen, although the Nuthatch calls could be heard all around the wood.

Two Butterflies were seen today in the open areas of the wood, A Peacock Butterfly and a Brimstone, both of which were very restless and would not settle long enough for a photograph.

On the Wild flower front, Lesser Celandine, Wood Anemones, Common Dog violets and one Cuckoo flower together with this Coltsfoot  on show today.


3rd April -  A much later walk than normal probably reflected by the lack of bird sightings, a pair of Kestrels gave some good views around the top of an old Sweet Chestnut tree, but no camera today and typically something interesting always turns up, hopefully they will be around tomorrow. Great Spotted Woodpeckers still drumming throughout the wood and Nuthatchs very vocal.
No sign of the Little Owl today.

Around the Glades a pair of Skylarks were displaying, and back at the Nuthatch nesting site, plenty of activity around the hole, still preparing the nesting burrow as the birds still gathering bark flakes.

Still some fungi breaking out, this looks like another example of Daldinia concentrica or King Alfred's Cake, cramp balls or coal fungus which ever you prefer, not the most attractive fungi.

2nd April - Another bright day, although early morning temperatures are quite low, birds seen today include Song Thrush, Blackbird, Robin, Great Tit, Blue Tit,  Great spotted Woodpecker heard again drumming unseen in the woods, Nuthatch calling all around the wood today, the Little Owl was seen flying from its favourite tree today, which is a relief, I was beginning to think he was a permanent fixture on the tree. A quick look on the Goat Willow goat catkins did not reveal any Bumblebees today.

Willow, goat (Salix caprea) at Two ponds
The Wood Anemones have still not opened fully as you can see in the photograph below, the first Bluebell was seen today, which was surprising, but nice to see.

Wood Anemones
First Bluebell 2015
At the Nuthatch nesting site, the pair were busy gathering nesting material, I have done some research on their nesting habits, apparently they line the bottom of  their nesting hole with flakes of  bark, this has been confirmed, one of the photographs shows the bird with a bark flake in its beak, it was seen a few times taking nesting material into the hole.

Nuthatch with Nesting material

1st April - A bright sunny start to the day with a cold breeze, the woodland was alive with bird song, Song Thrush, Great Tit, Blue Tit, Robin and Wren were all clearly heard and that was just the walk up from the car park into the woods, a Grey Squirrel sat on a close by branch  unperturbed by  my presence although my dog was clearly under close scrutiny.

Grey Squirrel
The walk down to Two ponds was interrupted by the display flight of a Wood Pigeon, they rise above the tree line, clap their wings and glide slowly down with their tail spread wide, a Kestrel was disturbed from its lookout above the ponds, the Jackdaws checked me out as usual as I passed under their nesting tree, poking their heads out from various holes around the tree. A Ring Necked Parakeet flew in noisily and landed on a close by tree, the first one I have seen here this year.

At the ponds their is a nice   Goat Willow tree with catkins in full bloom, I always forget to check these out but today I thought I would have a closer look, at least four to five Buff Tailed Bumblebee's around the catkins, success at last.
Buff Tailed Bumblebee
Buff Tailed Bumblebee
As I walked down past the Little Owl tree, there he was in the exact same position he has been for the last few days, must be taking in the early morning warmth as the sun shines on that side of the tree.

Ashenbank pond in looking in a sorry state at the moment, it looks like its being drained for some serious vegetation clearance, last year a pair of Coots and a Moorhen nested, not this year I fear.

Ashenbank Pond

Above the glades I could hear a Skylark singing but I could not see it, a Yellowhammer perched briefly before it flew off with two other birds.


Another Bumblebee on a much smaller Goat Willow catkin caught my attention, not properly warmed up this one as it clung desperately to the catkin, a smart looking Tree Bumblebee, the first of two seen this morning.

Tree Bumblebee
Back into the woods, a quick look at the Wood Anemones did not reveal any further movement, still mainly closed white buds. A Great Spotted Woodpecker could be heard drumming distantly, three Stock Dove were flushed from a Sweet chestnut as I passed under.

A Long Tail Tit gave some good views as it fed around some Silver Birch in the sunshine.

Long Tailed Tit

A Treecreeper gave me the briefest of views before flying off to the base of another tree, where  it started another trek up the trunk exploring  for food, its quite easy to understand how it got its old english name of "tree mouse" when you see the bird  crawling over the bark of the tree, always a nice bird to encounter and watch, however briefly.

As I neared the end of todays walk a Nuthatch  caught my attention, calling loudly, as I watched,
 it seem to investigate a close by hole, which it entered a few times, hopefully I have stumbled across an active nesting hole, I can keep an eye on this each day and get some more interesting photographs, the tree is next to the woodland trail, the hole is at least ten metres high off the ground so I shouldn't disturb them if I keep my distance and keep the visit short.


A good start to the month, hopefully more wild flowers will be on show, insect activity will increase and some more summer migrants should arrive with a bit of luck.

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