Tuesday 18 December 2012

Winter Mothing

I took a punt and ran the moth trap in my Romsey garden on the night of Saturday 22nd December, with temperatures remaining at around 8c I was hoping to catch a late flying moth or two. I only caught two moths of two species but both cracking - a December Moth and a Feathered Thorn. The December Moth is a widespread species of eggar frequently recorded at light traps between October and January. The Feathered Thorn is a similarly widespread species flying from mid-September to early December.

Feathered Thorn - Simon Colenutt, Romsey, The Deskbound Birder 
December Moth (top) and Feathered Thorn, Romsey

Sunday 9 December 2012

Foot It

The 'Foot It' craze seems to be spreading through the birding community and what a great idea it is. The  Foot It blog http://birdingbyfoot.blogspot.co.uk goes into more detail so I won't do that here but basically the aim is to see as many birds as possible on foot from your home in January - no buses, no bikes and no cars - just on foot - got it! So inspired by the challenge I have set up my own Foot It area, and here it is:

My area is a 2.5km radius (well its a square radius) roughly centred on my house (red dot), the orange areas being those that I am most likely to bird. My Foot It patch takes in my local patch (orange shaded area to west of Romsey) which I have posted sightings from on this blog. This area includes the flood plain and grazing marshes of the River Test as well as Squabb Wood an area of mixed woodland. In addition it includes Fishlake Meadows, an area of floodland to the north of Romsey, this area attracts good numbers of gulls and wildfowl. The area to the south-west of Romsey is a mystery, I have never been there even though it is readily accessible so this should be an interesting element of Foot It - from an aerial photograph it looks to be mainly arable and pasture with water courses.

I think my area gives me a good range of bird species although I will struggle with some classic arable species such as yellowhammer and grey partridge and waders are pretty thin on the ground. I did a trial birding visit on Saturday 8th December walking through the area to the north-west of Romsey, crossing the railway track at Greatbridge and then back to the town through Fishlake Meadow during these three hours I recorded 62 species and missed a few obvious birds such as sparrowhawk, snipe, treecreeper and lesser redpoll - birds that are usually pretty reliable here. So I think that my target for January should be 85 having flicked through the Collins guide to see what else may be available on my patch. Looking forward to January and the challenge.......

Monday 3 December 2012

Romsey Birding 1st December

On a beautiful clear and frosty morning I took a break from the DIY and helping with pre-Christmas dinner party organisation to wander the local patch from Sadler's Mill to Squabb Wood on the outskirts of Romsey. The morning was truly stunning with a hoar frost encrusting the trees and the River Test steaming as though I had been transported to the winter geysers of Yellowstone Park. 

Sadler's Mill, Romsey - Simon Colenutt - The Deskbound BirderSadler's Mill, Romsey - Simon Colenutt - The Deskbound BirderSadler's Mill, Romsey - Simon Colenutt - The Deskbound BirderSadler's Mill, Romsey - Simon Colenutt - The Deskbound Birder
River Test Between Sadler's Mill and Squabb Wood, Romsey 
(all pictures taken on my iPhone) 

Although my birding here is in its infancy it was nice to get four patch-ticks in a couple of hours with snipe and treecreeper not providing any great surprises as they snuck onto the list. Goosander on the other hand was a nice bird to add with an adult male and an immature male on the River Test and, finally, a woodcock being flushed from the edges of Squabb Wood. Woodcock are stunning birds when seen close at hand with their cryptic, bracken toned plumage and large dark eye set at the top of the head for near 360 degree vision.

Woodcock - The How Hill Trust (The Deskbound Birder)

(photo from How Hill Trust http://howhilltrust.org.uk

The woodcock breeds throughout much of the UK at low density but it is in autumn, when our resident (and largely sedentary) birds are supplemented by a large influx of migrants from Fennoscandia and Russia, that many birders connect with this species. Most woodcock are encountered as they are flushed from damp woodland floors but also regularly from more unusual habitats shortly after they arrive on our east coasts - for example, birds can be encountered in sand dunes, on shingle beaches and even urban parks and gardens. It has been estimated that around 800,000 woodcock migrate to the UK in the autumn and winter months. Migrants usually start arriving during the second week of October with large falls often said to occur around the time of the full moon in late October and particularly in November, the latter being regarded as 'the woodcock moon'.

Finally, mammals were much in evidence with roe and fallow deer in Squabb Wood, a water vole showing well in one of the ditches that cross my regular birding route and, best of all, an otter seen all to briefly as it splashed after fish on the margins of the River Test then a view of its head followed by its tail held erect as it dived and swam, unseen, to safety.