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Willowbog Farm

I plan to post information regarding the wildlife seen on the 12.5 hectares that is Willowbog Farm. It will include images and records of past sightings as well as on going, hopefully, daily observations and images.



Just a Quick One…

Just borrowing Ian’s post ! by all the comments that I have heard so far it was the best BSA show so far!! so pleased that we went out on a high !!

Bonsai Eejit

Just a quick post from the BSA Exhibition at Willowbog Bonsai. An excellent display of trees to an even better standard from I was last here.   Here’s a few sample photos to get you going.





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Five Corvids

Remiss of me not to have posted here for quite some time ! I am moved to do so today following the notable and rare occurrence of recording five British members of the crow family on our about the farm today.

First up the big daddy of the family the Raven. Once only a very rare sighting here they are now very regular visitors if not quite every day birds. A magnificent species to have around !

Next up a species that really is recorded just about each and every day at Willowbog , the Carrion crow. Not everyone’s favourite but having its own place in the overall scheme of things despite probably playing a part in the notable absence now of ground nesters like Lapwing and Curlew !!

We only seem to record Jackdaws on their spring and autumn movements which is a shame as they are a personal favourite in the family .  It is that wonderful call that typically draws ones attention to them as they pass over , often quite high up, in small parties . Always reminds me of a childhood bird haunt in Surrey, the ruins of Waverley Abbey, where the Jackdaws nested in a colony as they often do.

The familiar black and white of the Magpie has only quite recently become a regular sight for us at Willowbog. Once just about never seen they are everyday records for our bird list and almost certainly nested on our land this year for the first time . I love to see them !!

Falling into the same category as the previous are the Jays that also probably nested with us this year . Another bird that was only rarely seen here they are also on the daily list in the diary most time. Arguably the most beautiful of the family and like the magpie are a delight to have around !

The day as a whole has been good for early September with about 25 different birds for the day , weather has been good as well !

Best day of the year so far

In terms of the total number of species seen in a single day , today has been the best of the year so far. Thirty four different birds, about ten short of our best ever single day total but still a decent number.

We also recorded four species for the first time since they returned after the winter away , House and Sand martin , our breeding Sedge warblers are back and we heard the first Cuckoo.

Also notable was recording seven species of the finch family in a day , Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, Bullfinch, Siskin, Linnet and Redpoll.

Our female Canada goose is sitting tight on a nest of eggs with her mate patrolling the pond and surrounding area. There is a pair of Little Grebe, seemingly breeding again as well as at least a couple of pairs of Moorhen.

Whilst it is nice to be able to see Otters, we are hoping not to get a visit to the pond as we did at this time last year which resulted in the decimation of all the water birds nests !!!

Of course the lovely sunny weather has helped, please may it continue a while yet !!

A little out of the ordinary

You do, of course, get huge variations in the plumage of pheasants, though it always seems more commonly seen in the males, this female is an attractive alternative to the norm.

Here she was this afternoon happily sat atop the cotoneaster tucking into the berries. Much darker than the ones that usually frequent the garden.

Interesting day

Apart from the lovely Waxings yesterday, seen on a couple of occaisons , another , slightly interesting observation, was recording five members of the Corvid family on the one day. A small flock of Jackdaws flew over in the morning, quite high up and calling otherwise I would never have noticed them. A couple of Ravens were about on and off through the day and we had Magpies and Jays scavenging for food in the garden all day. The Jays actually cling on the peanut feeders and eat the nuts. And the fifth, the ever present Carrion crows.

Beautiful winter visitors

A small flock of waxwings briefly in the garden five minutes ago, striking birds !

Infrequent summer visitor

We see Redstarts several times during the course of most years, usually spring and autumn.

We had what looked like a juvenile male in the garden this morning, nice birds to have about though and I have made a mental note to myself to make time during the winter to get more next boxes, of all shapes and sizes made, and put up before next years breeding season. No reason why we should not get Redstarts nesting on the farm, particularly now that our trees planting schemes are starting to mature.

Not my photo above.

Pond activity

After what seems a long ” summer ” period with the main pond deserted, or almost deserted , it is nice to have a few birds swimming about !

The two Mute swans that I mentioned a few days ago that my wife’s photo here shows, as well as our solitary juvenile Moorhen, still puzzled as to why it’s parents left ? and we have also had a hand full of Mallards visiting of and on. So something at least to watch !!

Vital Statistics

Being a wee bit incapacitated by having tweaked my back the other day 😦 I sat down to catch up with some of the very basic statistical analysis that I do of the daily bird sightings that we record. It is so basic that all it amounts to is collating the daily average for each month as it is completed ! We began to do this in 1992 which, if my mental arithmetic serves amounts to exactly 20 years of records ! which might be of not much practical use to anyone but is at least interesting to us to look back on. The monthly averages are recorded on a year by year basis and it is this monthly average comparison that I have just had a quick look at and it IS interesting .

The January average for this year was, at 15.03 species per day , the equal best ever for this month, a direct consequence of a more intensive feeding regime maybe, but, at least also in part due to the maturing of various tree and  shrub planting which provides both more cover and food.

It was our best February ever over these 20 years with a daily average of 17.35 which compared to the previous best February average of 15.46. Nearly an extra 2 species a day is quite a jump. Reasons as mentioned above I imagine.

March , April and May averages were pretty much typical for these months over the years, though there have been peaks and troughs as you would imagine.

We had the third worst ever June with a figure of 16.43. Compare this to the fact that the two best ever monthly averages over the two decades were both June months with figures of 30.13 in 1996 and 28.50 in 1997. The difference is huge and can only in part be put down to the poor weather through this so-called summer ! The water birds normally associated with a successful breeding season on the main pond were seriously affected by the visit of Otters during the critical period. There are definitely other factors that impinge on this dramatic difference in averages which I would like to discuss here at a different time.

As in June the July figure was the third worst ever, same factors apply !

We have just had a fairly normal August for bird numbers.

As I said at the start it may be that these figures are of interest to only ourselves as long-term occupiers of the land. The records relate to bird species that are recorded either by sight or by sound as being anywhere on or above the Willowbog Farm area.

Rare visitors

Every year on just a few occasions a few of these birds visit the peanut feeders in our garden.

Although these two rudely have their backs to the camera, you can just make out that they are House sparrows !!

Though , of course, not really rare [ though not as common as they once were I think ] for some reason we do not see them very often. At the village of Stonehaugh, only about half a mile away as the sparrow flies, there always seems to be plenty about , when we see them, this species always merits a comment between my good lady and me .