Sunday, 19 November 2017

Last 2 weeks, November 2017

The last 2 weeks have gone by quickly, and with work catching up on me I haven't been out much. As Beddington Park is being managed/redone it hasn't been worth going there.
Walking in the morning has been fairly productive - 20 Fieldfare over Wilson's school on the 13th November was one thing of note, while other common species have also been seen/heard coming over. Redwings have just started to build in numbers, while the Hawfinches are still coming through.
Last week there were more gulls at Wilson's, with a 1cy Great-Black Backed Gull being the 5th gull species to be seen there. 
In the evenings, I've frequently been able to hear Redwing calling as they fly over as well.

Having had a cold this weekend, I only managed to reach the garden; it wasn't a bad thing, as I was rewarded with a Hawfinch garden tick - quite ridiculous - as 2 individuals flew over calling SW. 3 Lesser Redpoll also whistled over, and as Beddington Farmlands is so close I get the added bonus of gull species over the house on a daily basis, with about 100 over in the half an hour I was outside this morning.

However, I'm hoping to get something good over the next month or two. The Short-eared Owl passage is in full flow, with one snoozing in a field at Canon's Farm on Friday, and others flying over various London sites. Staines Reservoirs have been quieter than about a month ago, until today when a Shorelark was seen on the causeway, and 10 Whooper Swans appeared on the lakes.  

On that note, there are 4 areas I would like to spend a bit more time at.
1) Richmond Park - the habitat here is great for meadow birds, and it's probably the best place for me to get that Dartford warbler.
2) Canons Farm/Banstead Woods - over the last year I've got to know this place better, and have seen some good stuff here already. It's only about 15 mins drive away, making it a good candidate for a new 'patch' in the future if Beddington Farmlands is never helped.
3) Headley Heath/Box Hill - I used to go to Box Hill a lot when I was a little younger, while Headley Heath - where most of the Hawfinches have been seen recently - is also looking quite good for birds.
4) Woodcote fields area - this is a place so close to home, and having spoken to Peter Alfrey, who recommended it as a place worth watching, I think it would be good to keep an eye on it.

This is a petition to save Beddington Farmlands from being destroyed, and it's doing quite well - but in order to get the attention it needs the number of signatures needed still needs to be more. It would be great if anyone reading this post signs it (if you haven't already done so!)

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Up and down the country, 31st October to 1st November 2017

After a bit of rest on Sunday and Monday, my dad and I drive up to Knutsford again then Manchester to watch the Champions league match between Manchester United and Benfica. On the way there, through Oxfordshire etc there was a ridiculous amount of Red Kites with 41 counted in Oxfordshire alone on the way up. Also seen was a group of 60 Lapwing or so that got spooked by a juvenile peregrine near Knutsford.
On the way back, I was hoping to stop off at Otmoor RSPB but that didn't happen. Nonetheless, having listened to a Steve Backshall podcast in the car about his life, and walking along the river near Marlow in Buckinghamshire, we stopped off around there for a walk along the River Thames. With Red Kites flying through constantly, even with limited camera ability it was a good chance to practise some flight shots. While walking along the river towards Marlow, I suddenly heard a pipit sp. calling and then flying NW towards the Little Marlowe Gravel Pits, and I could say fairly confidently that it sounded more like a Water Pipit. With it being regarded as a 'rarity' in Bucks I couldn't be bothered to submit the sighting in, as the hassle that has occurred in the past, like the Spotted Crake, frustrated me and made me give up the thought. 
Anyhow, for the next hour several Great Crested Grebes showed well, and lots of other birds flew around, making it a very nice walk. Towards the end I started finding a little bit more, with a few Lesser Redpolls feeding in a tree across the river and a possible Brambling flew off the path ahead of me. 
Although fairly quiet besides the Kites and Pipit, it was a nice walk!

Red Kite
Red Kite 

Red Kite

Red Kite (nearly got it)

Thursday, 2 November 2017

RSPB Phoenix Conservation Weekend 27th-29th October 2017, Day 3

It was the last day of the short trip. 
After having breakfast at 8am, we got ourselves packed, and headed downstairs where we stored our bags away, and got ready to go on a walk around the local area. Unfortunately, as the YHA Swanage was being refurbished, we weren't staying there meaning we couldn't go back to Arne, which was frustrating. Anyhow, we had a walk around the local heaths, hoping to get something unusual. 
We walked down a small road, keeping an eye and an ear out for anything. When we came across a small pond, we stopped and had a look around - nothing but Goldcrests, LTTs and Chaffinch were found. We headed on, and up onto a heath trail running parallel with the road. I found a Meadow pipit, calling but barely saw it. Then a pair of Skylark were found, but promptly disappeared. 
We then had a competition; in groups of 8, who could find the most birds in 12 minutes. As at least 2 people had to see it, there were a few we missed. Annoyingly, one group found a Marsh Tit, another common-ish bird I am yet to see, getting them to 12. We also got 12, as we got a Lesser Redpoll flying over. However, we didn't see the Skylark so we lost, and missed out on the opportunity to get more cake. 
We had a bit of normal birding time, and a group of Herring Gull came over, while Buzzards and small birds - no Hawfinches - passed overhead. We then started walking back, through the woodland, where a group of Redwing were feasting on berries, and a few Bullfinches were seen. The Bullfinch is a bird you rarely see in the northern part of Surrey, so it was nice to see one after 4 years. Incredibly that was my first in 4 years!
With time running short, we started going back through town, where a Treecreeper, Redwings, woodpeckers, Buzzards, Sparrowhawks and also redpoll and possibly some other birds were seen. We soon arrived back at the hostel, where we had a bit of food and enjoyed each others company for the first time. 
Soon afterwards our parents arrived, and we all left the hostel at just after midday. 
It was a fantastic weekend, and although it would've been nice to spend more time at Arne, we all enjoyed it - a big thanks to all those who made it so enjoyable. I definitely hope to go on one again.


m Bullfinch

final speech

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

RSPB Phoenix Conservation Weekend 27th-29th October 2017, Day 2

After waking up bright and early, I realised I should've gone to sleep earlier than midnight...

However, by 6 I was being awoken by Buzzards and Owls (Tawny and Barn) calling outside very loudly. 
We were all downstairs for breakfast by 8am. Then we got ourselves ready, with sturdy boots and thick clothing, ready for some tough work. We left the hostel at 9:15am, where we got on a coach nearby. On the journey there, while I sat half-asleep, most people were already spotting things, with Little Egrets and the occasional Meadow Pipit being seen.
However, by the time we'd arrived at Arne, adrenaline (and Lewis) had finally woken me up and I was ready to get stuck in and see some good-quality wildlife. When dropped off at the car park, we all started looking for things, and of the 6 Firecrest seen that morning in the car park, we saw  
a respectable 0. However, there were many Chaffinches and Goldcrests keeping us company by the feeders. After a few minutes, we trudged off to meet our leader, and then to a meadow near the Shipstal beach (map here.) 
On the way there, we saw a couple of Kestrel additional to other small birds. 

To start with, we were split up into two. My half started by using saws and large shears/cutting things to chop as many pine trees down as possible - the small trees spread so much in the boggy meadows it was starting to destroy some of the habitat, so we had to cut as many down as possible. 
Over an hour, we must have cut just over 100, making the field completely different to before. Once all the trees had been gathered into piles across the field, we made a fire using old sticks from trees, and then stuck them all on, causing smoke to go everywhere (including my mouth.) 

The group at work (with the most entertaining guy Elliot clearly enjoying it!) 

The fire
While all that was going on, there was lots to see or hear. (In fact I may as well admit now, none of us saw nor heard the Dartford Warblers, which we were all desperate to see!) There were loads of Curlew calling, and Redpolls and Goldfinches were sometimes flying over. Woodpeckers and thrushes were seen flying around, and also a few buzzards were circling. 

After having a lunch, where there were a few Redwing and Fieldfare knocking around, and typically, a few of us heard a Firecrest, but didn't see it, we went back down to the field for another hours work. Except now my group were doing some more horrible, disgusting yet fascinating stuff; clearing out the small boggy ponds of the goo which had gathered at the bottom. Not only did it stink, it was quite dense and hard to remove from the ponds. We were told it was important to clear it out, as the ponds are a vital habitat for a variety of species, with amphibians as well as birds living around them.

Red Admiral (in late October!)
All that area is BOG

We had a fairly good hour, finding a few Raft Spiders, getting rid of as much muck as possible, and a few near falls into the ponds - and one fall for good measure! With as much done as possible, and Elliot remarkably finding a Sika deer antler, we went back to our bags and got ready to go for a walk back to the coach, while passing the harbour en route. 
When we got to a viewing platform, immediately everyone was looking out to see whatever possible. There were: 60 Oystercatcher, 4 Little Egret, 40 Cormorant, c.30 Blackwits and a Redshank, a Curlew, a Whimbrel and 7 Brent Geese in the middle of the harbour- this is full zoom with 260x zoom! 


Brent Geese

Blackwits + Redshank (in middle cove)

We walked around a bit, and saw some more thrushes and smaller birds. A few more mipits were found miles away, and then we were nearly back. There was almost a reluctant feeling from everyone as we boarded the coach, having to leave a wildlife haven behind. 

Meadow Pipit (another one for the 260x!)

When we got back, we were all quite tired, and the idea of a quiz after dinner wasn't appealing to everyone. However it ended up being quite enjoyable, with some questions really testing people - it's a damn good thing I watched Deadly 60 a few years ago!
After the quiz, with it being the last night there, we stayed up a little too late, enjoying each others company, looking forward to going birding in the morning. 

Monday, 30 October 2017

RSPB Phoenix Conservation Weekend 27th-29th October 2017, Day 1

On Friday, we left home at around 1pm, prepared - if not a little over-prepared - for the RSPB Phoenix conservation weekend in Dorset, for those who are 13-18 year old members of the RSPB and receive the 'Phoenix' magazine. 
After a longish journey, with a couple of stops including one at Lyndhurst in the New Forest where I saw a single Hawfinch, I was dropped off at the YHA New Forest. Although extremely excited, I had no idea what to expect and knew absolutely nobody. When I had registered, I went into my room and met my first companion - a chilled, happy guy from Notts, with an unusual but nice farmers' hat, who loved his horses and birds. After getting to know him a bit, the next person came in, a comical but friendly guy from France, called Luke. Soon afterwards, the final person that I would share a room with came in; Olly was slightly closer to the New Forest, from Berkshire. After getting to know each other, we had dinner and then afterwards we had a bit more time to talk to each other. 

In order to prepare us for the conservation work at Arne on Saturday, we were given a talk in the evening, with everyone squeezed into the small dining room. It was a very good talk, explaining the importance of all the work that is undertaken not just Arne but all RSPB reserves in the South of the country, and how it's beneficial to the wildlife there. With many of us very keen to see many of the species there, such as the Dartford Warbler and Spoonbill, it was interesting to hear about all the things that are done to help them. Also, we were told about all conservation work across the variety of habitats, with sites such as Radipole Lakes and Lodmoor often discussed as well as Arne. Also covered was the history of the site, and how it has developed into the great reserve that it is.   

Presentation, done by ...
(The names will come to me eventually)
Afterwards, we were given free-time to settle in, and to talk to other people. As most people were playing games, within our room I found out that my new friends were really friends when they were happy to play cricket in the corridor. 
Saturday was the day where we would go to Arne for the day to work in the field, to learn a number of things. 

(Note to all friends met on the trip; 
Please stay in contact as it was great to meet all of you. Here is a way to contact me. Please leave your email on the form, and I'll get in touch.) 

Day 1
Day 2