One Big Bright Red Beak

On Saturday, I went on a birding trip to Pagham Harbour and Arundel WWT where I saw many new birds for my life list. Pagham Harbour was quite exciting; there was a really unusual hide in the RSPB reserve which had a main road in between us and the birds!

The view from the hide (Avocets in the distance!)

The view from the hide (Avocets in the distance!)

There were signs of spring at Arundel WWT, I was surprised to see so many ducklings and young Coots!

Coot family

Coot family

 

Mallard Duckling

Mallard Duckling

When we finally got to the Sand Martin Hide, where we hoped to see the Mediterranean Gull, I had already seen 64 species that day! I really wanted to see that Mediterranean Gull because not only would it be one more new species for my life list, but would bring my day total up to 65! Mediterranean Gulls are quite special birds in the UK, because even though one or two pairs breed in the UK each year, their main distribution is around Turkey and the Mediterranean Sea, where their name suggests. The problem is, they look almost identical to Black-Headed Gulls, the only real difference is that a Mediterranean Gull has a brighter beak with a faint black stripe running vertically through the middle. To make matters worse, there were at least 200 Black Headed Gulls that were visible from the hide and only 1 Mediterranean Gull.

A Needle in  a Haystack!

A Needle in a Haystack!

I tried to find the Mediterranean Gull by myself, but I gave up and had to ask the warden on hand to show me it. It seemed like he found it with much ease and I was quite impressed when he showed me. I was amazed at how bright and conspicuous the beak was, it was probably as bright as a perfectly ripe tomato! I was very pleased with the number of species I saw that day, it might just have been one of the best days I’ve ever had!

Saturday Morning Goes Off With A Quack

At about 8 am this morning, I was watching three Common Woodpigeons quarrel over some seed when two medium to large birds flew over. I thought that they were just going to carry on, but to my surprise they landed in our oak tree, about 10 metres high. At that point I was still not sure what they might be, though when they landed in clear view on a thick branch, I almost got the shock of my life: they were Mandarin Ducks, one male and one female!
I have never seen a male Mandarin in the wild before (I have seen a female down by Hedgecourt), so that made it even more exciting. I had been doubting ever seeing a male Mandarin even at Hedgecourt, let alone up a tree in my back garden!
The feedback I have received so far from iSpot didn’t contain much new information, though I am still waiting for other people’s theories. These are 2 of the comments:
1. Wortmaggot said: Maybe just taking a break between ponds. Or just on the look-out for new ones.
2. DD said: They’re hole nesters so looking for a nest site. They do like to be close to water so perhaps it’s an inexperienced pair.
I hope that I get more comments, and when I do I will post them here!

Aix galericulata

Aix galericulata

Ardingly: A Butterfly Haven?

Since Thursday the 13th of March, I have been seeing quite a lot of butterflies at Ardingly. The first butterfly I saw there was a Red Admiral, flying across the Headmaster’s Field towards a tree full of blossoms. The blossoms are why I think the butterflies go to Ardingly, every twig has at least one flower on it. I also saw a Small Tortoiseshell resting and feeding on a branch, one of two Small Tortoiseshells I have seen there. The second one I saw was trapped inside the chapel. The other butterflies I’ve seen at Ardingly have been 2 Clouded Yellows and 1 Brimstone. The reason I think Ardingly is a butterfly haven is because I have only seen 3 butterflies outside of Ardingly this year, a Clouded Yellow in our next door neighbour’s front garden and a Skipper sp and a Clouded Yellow in our back garden.

March Wildlife

The beginning of March has been a very busy one, with some creatures coming out of hibernation and some early wild flowers starting to bloom. One of the most interesting plants that have emerged now are the Dutch Crocuses in our front garden. They are very pretty, with the colours purple, pink, white and one orange one which mysteriously disappeared. They are great for photography and I have taken many photos of them, these are a few of them.

Just today I saw the first blooming daffodil in our garden, one of many that are sure to come!

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Last weekend I had a nice surprise as a male Ring Necked Pheasant strutted into our garden, only the second I’ve seen in our garden! This one was also a very interesting variation, as well as the white neck ring, it had white eyebrows! I’ve never seen a Ring Necked Pheasant with white eyebrows before, so that made it very interesting!

Phasianus colchicus

Phasianus colchicus

The highlight of March so far though has to be the vole that peeped out of the patch of  Hedera near the bird feeder on the first of March, we thought it had just come out of hibernation. From the photo I took of it, we suspected either Bank Vole or Field Vole because of the overall colouration and shape. The one distinguishing feature between the Bank and the Field Voles is the length of their tails, the Bank Vole has a much longer tail than the one of the Field Vole. The thing is, the tail seems to be invisible in the photo!

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One the way back from Ardingly a few days ago when I was driving through the small village, My dad spotted a young Roe Deer on the road. It was trying to jump the fence between the road and the spinney in between two houses, but it was too small. I haven’t seen a Roe Deer in our village for quite a while, the last sighting was probably before Christmas, but that was an injured female with a fawn. This deer was a fawn too and I’m wondering if the female had died, because on the way back from Ardingly today, I saw the leg of a Roe Deer on the road!

The Redpoll action in our back garden has increased for two reasons, one being that I found the place the flock go when they are not on the feeder and two being that there has been numerous visits by the local Goldfinch. I found the place where the Redpolls go when I was lichen hunting (or lichening!) in the back garden. I was checking for lichens on the pile of logs by the bush border when I heard a very unimpressive call coming from the Hedera covered Oak. I looked around and I saw a little brown job hopping from twig to twig. Then I saw another one and another one, until there were a total of seven Redpolls gathering around me! The Goldfinch first visited when I wasn’t at home but at Ardingly, though my dad saw it and told me when I got home. The first time I actually saw it was earlier in February, when it flew to the Nyger feeder briefly, scaring all the Redpolls already there. I have also seen it today, it made a brief occurrence then flew off.

This year I have started to learn about Moss. Yes, Moss. When I found out that there was a key for all the different types of common woodland mosses on iSpot (I will talk more about iSpot later), I immediately went out into the garden to find mosses. These are the different types of mosses I’ve found so far in our garden:

  • Hypnum andoi
  • Rhytidiadelphus squarrosus
  • Pseudoscleropodium purum
  • Polytrichum formosum
  • Polytrichum commune var. commune

Now I would like to advertise iSpot, a brilliant website to share nature or to identify your wildlife observations. iSpot is a great website to post your identifications of wildlife, with photos and descriptions.  When you post an observation other people on iSpot can confirm the identification for you or add a revised identification. Using iSpot has definitely boosted my knowledge of the natural world.

You can also post forum topics on iSpot and there are keys to identifying wildlife there, so I suggest you get on there straight away.