Saturday, 9 December 2017

Morden Hall Park, 9th December 2017

I finally managed to get out of the house, and snuck in a trip to Morden Hall, despite a cricket session and work. 
Although freezing cold, it was quite a nice walk. On the way to the reedbeds, there wasn't much to see, but an unusually high number of gulls were mobile near the reedbeds. 
There has been a lot of maintenance in the reeds area, and the side opposite the viewing platform has been made marshy, with loads of Moorhens hanging about there.
It was nice to see (mostly hear) the Cetti's Warbler again, although it was on the furthest parts from the platform.
While having lunch, a Chiffchaff, 30 Chaffinch, a possible Brambling and a f Kestrel were hanging around along the boardwalk.  
Then finally after lunch there was a bit more action. Large groups of Redwing started coming through, and then I got a Morden tick by way of the winter invaders - 2-4 Hawfinch flew over calling. And just to finish a pair of Kingfishers - the first photographed at Morden - were hanging around an area of river for 10 mins. 
A Goldcrest and Nuthatch might have had a Firecrest in, but were too fast for me to tell.

Redwing (at home)


f Kes

f Kes

 f Kingfisher
Somehow, the camera has become damaged, and I've had to use the screen instead of the viewfinder, as it has completely misted up and is no longer working. If anyone knows somewhere in South London/Croydon area that repair camera please comment, as I need to get it fixed as soon as I can.

Monday, 27 November 2017

Beddington Farmlands, Not Twite! 26th November 2017

When I learnt of the Twite seen in Beddington Farmlands on Wednesday, I had been itching to try and see it. Although the chances of getting in was low with few birders around, Peter Alfrey made it happen, and Steve Wolfenden met me at the gate around lunchtime for a couple of hours' walk. 
With no news of the Twite so far in the day, I was expecting another mission fail. So we headed up to the tips, with about 10 Snipe flying out of the grass onto the main lakes. We reached a few haystacks, where the Twite had hung around for the last 4 days. Reed Buntings were flying out of the thick grass, with around 10 counted by the end of the day. We walked around a bit, with a fair amount of gulls and jackdaws keeping us company, and a couple of Skylark flying around. We started to go towards the South-East side, following a group of Linnet. 
We spent about an hour and a bit watching them, following them around for a bit, trying to pick as many up as possible. We found 2 groups of 30-40 birds strong, and then another 2 groups of 20 or so as well towards the end.
I also had a moment of excitement when two sparrows were seen feeding on the perimeter of a fenceline on a muddy road - but they weren't the Tree Sparrows I initially hoped they were.
So of the 100-150 Linnet seen in the week, we saw about 60-80 of them. This meant there was a good chance that we might have seen the Twite at some point, but didn't pick it up...
Nonetheless, the mini-murmurations of Starlings entertained throughout, as did the thousands of Jackdaws. 
An active Kestrel towards the end was also nice as we headed back through the absolute freezing cold.
So for now the Twite partially evaded me, with a probable/possible sighting, and if it hangs around, I might get another chance to try and get a good view of it!
Nonetheless, it was a nice trip, and thanks to Steve for letting me in.

f Reed Bunting

(a few) Linnet




Over the week, at Wilson's on Tuesday there were up to 1100 gulls on the playground, ranging from hulking GBB and tiny BH gulls. The majority were Herring and LBBs, but there have been a few more Common Gulls as well.

Other than the Twite, a Shorelark at Stained Reservoirs has started to headline, with speculation arising over whether it's an American Horned Lark rather than a Shorelark.
I haven't seen either, so if it hangs around a bit I may find myself pushing for a visit to Stained soon!

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

Friday, 27 October 2017

Autumn Target Bird

Every two seasons (autumn/winter, spring/summer) I like to set myself a target of seeing a new bird, one way or another. The spring/summer's was successful, as I finally got my Wheatear. However, last winter's was unsuccessful. So I will go back to it for this autumn.
Yellow-browed Warbler.
Astonishingly, although so many were seen last autumn, I still didn't see one. Although I have heard one once at Wakehurst Place in the winter of 2016, it came from a distant tit flock. 
One was seen yesterday in a garden very close to where I live, so hopefully, I might get one in the next half an hour before I'm off to Dorset!
And with Dorset being a good place for birding, who knows what might turn up in the next 2 days...

Thursday, 26 October 2017

River Darent, 25th October 2017

Yesterday we visited some friends, and after a nice lunch we went for a walk along the River Darent, between Sutton-at-hone and Horton Kirby. Although a very calm and mostly clean river, the Darent didn't produce as much wildlife, with only a Grey Heron, a possible Kingfisher and possible Water Vole seen in the 2 hours. However, the fields around it were slightly better. 

3 Common Buzzard.
1 Red Kite.
1 Sparrowhawk.
13 Goldcrest.
4 Green Woodpecker.
6 Pied Wagtail.
2 Yellowhammer.
3 Meadow Pipit.
1 Skylark.
6 Nuthatch.
15+ Chaffinch. 
2 (poss) Hawfinch over (well there were 2 over-sized finches flying over the treeline at one point)
20 House Sparrow

It was a very enjoyable walk along the Darent, with the water softly plish-plashing all the way down. The views were also pleasant, with the evening sky a fairly orange colour. To be honest, although the River Wandle seems to have a slightly wider biodiversity, the area around this Kent river was picturesque, and being 20 minutes or so from Rainham and 45 minutes from Oare Marshes - somewhere I'm desperate to visit having not done so yet - I hope to visit more often!


Song Thrush (and a Green Woodpecker on the left) 


Tuesday, 24 October 2017

LWC Barnes, 24th October 2017

For once, I got to Barnes in the morning and by 11 was checking the sightings board in the entrance area. With nothing seen other than Snipe and the like, my expectations were low, more hoping for a miracle to drop in. I was back with my friend Dexter, and we opted for the Wildside route. From the Headley Hide, there was barely anything showing so we moved on to the Wildside hide, which was the same. The Stonechat made a brief appearance as did a few Meadow Pipit, and the Cetti's Warblers continued singing. Other than that, there were a few Great Crested Grebe and Pochards. Nothing interesting.
We soon switched to the South Route, which also was quiet. There were numerous woodpeckers, and so many dabbling ducks, with Teal, Pochard, Shoveler, Gadwall and many Wigeon, with around 100 across the South Route. From the feeders, there was no sign of any Siskin but along with lots of tit species, there was a Redpoll sp. that flew out of one of the trees - probably Lesser. 
The most puzzling moment of the day came while up on my first trip up to the Peacock tower. Admittedly, pipits aren't my strongest point, but I've been familiarizing myself with them recently. At one point, around 1:30pm, a pipit suddenly appeared calling loudly over the wader scrape, sounding nothing like a Meadow, Water or Tree, but more like a Rock Pipit. Having heard them a lot in Cornwall, it didn't ring a bell. Nonetheless, it flew towards the Reservoir Lagoon, and wasn't seen again. 



After getting a run-around by Cetti's Warblers, we did a circuit of the sheltered lagoon and headed back up to the Peacock Tower again, having seen 19 Grey Herons and a monstrous Great Black-backed Gull. I had managed to find the Peregrine on Charing Cross, but without my scope it wasn't possible to tell whether it was male/female. 
Peregrine (barely)
Then finally someone found the Snipe.


Snipe 1

Snipe 2



itchy neck

Soon after, we did another circuit where there was nothing new so we headed back, with just a pair of Sparrowhawk terrorizing the main lake to finish. More quality than quantity today, but a fairly nice visit. 

Monday, 23 October 2017

'Viz-mig' mid October 2017

At the moment every day, from most bird sightings pages, the term 'vis-mig' has been constantly used.
Unsurprisingly, another group of 3 Hawfinch flew over heading W calling at about 8am on Wednesday morning, on another nearby road.
With the mornings mostly being quite cool and sunny, it's been quite nice to be outdoors with plenty of other birds around; c.100 Chaffinch have flown over, and whilst walking at least 3 separate Long-tailed Tit groups have been noted. A few buzzards were coming through and a steady trickle of Redwings in the early mornings. 
As Ophelia swept through Ireland, there was quite a spectacle on Monday but with most other nature blogs already describing it I'm not going to do exactly the same; what I will say though is that it really did look fascinating if not slightly creepy! 
This afternoon 'vis-mig' has continued, with the usual birds over like Chaffinch, and a single Lesser Redpoll making a garden first - unusually the 45th 'garden' species to make the list. 
Although I live in a part of England (and even the UK) which is definitely not spectacular for birds to say the least it's a decent list. With Ed's Thorncombe street blog often explaining why birds seen on his patch are seen there, it had me thinking on how I've had 9 Raptor species over the garden before - and many of them being in early spring or late summer. It now seems quite obvious, as they are mostly seen in fairly good migration/passage time. For example, an Osprey in September 2014 seemed to be slowly heading SW, towards Hampshire/Dorset en route back to Africa. This year, a Goshawk heading SW at a brisk pace in April. 
I assume that Beddington Farmlands has got me a few birds as well, with 2 harrier species seen and a few waders over the years. Either way, it's not the worst place to 'viz-mig.' It just could be better. 
The last week though has mostly been quiet, considering the Hawfinches have started to stop coming through. The next week and half is going to be much busier; hopefully something unexpected pops up...

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Morden Hall again, 14th October 2017

This weekend it felt like summer again, so I went back to Morden Hall yesterday morning. There was visible migration from the start to end, with the usual birds announcing their presence as soon as we arrived. Chiffchaffs, Nuthatches and Goldcrests were notably loud. As I was walking to the reedbeds, there were several Chaffinches in the trees, already more than I had expected. 
With the autumn migration just starting to take full swing, I was eagerly listening out for anything, and frequently looking skywards. This paid off (eventually.) I stood at the boardwalk viewing point for about an hour, and was well-rewarded with some decent birds. A single Lesser Redpoll flew over with a group of 20 Chaffinch. 8 Siskin flew slowly over southbound. I was rewarded with distant views of a f Peregrine being harassed by parakeets, with the same happening to a Kestrel.
However, the highlight was undoubtedly a Brambling which was tagging along with another large Chaffinch group, of around 40. I confess that it was my first life Brambling record - something I feel slightly ashamed to admit. 
Along with all these, up to 100 Herring Gulls came through with stray LBBs and Black-headed Gulls. 
With it being 23C, it wasn't surprising that there were quite a few butterflies around, with 9 Speckled Wood and 13 Red Admiral counted over 2.5 hours, as well as several Small Whites seen. 
Afterwards, I evaded a shopping trip by having a quick walk around a little area, called Kimpton Linear Park, which used to be disused Brownfield land, and is now a small green space - something hopefully local councils continue to do. Whilst there around 70 Starling, a Chiffchaff and also this fast-moving caterpillar were seen. 

caterpillar sp. (looks like either white ermine or ruby tiger motj)
However, the highlight of the week was undoubtedly on Thursday morning. At 08:12, While walking on a nearby road, I was stopped in my tracks by a small bird flying over, calling fairly loudly. Another first for me; although I'd seen them once in Spain last summer, it was my first British Hawfinch.
Over the last week a fair number have been seen throughout Surrey and London, especially in wooded and heath-like areas, so it wasn't a complete shock. 

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Beddington Park - A Winter patch, 8th October 2017

While I adopt Morden Hall as my summer patch from April-September, Beddington is definitely my winter patch. Today I had a nice little late afternoon walk. When we arrived, the light was still good, as proven by the half-decent (for a change) picture of a Grey Heron, which was circling high up. As we were walking along the main lake, the usual 4 Little Grebes and single Little Egret were present. For the first time ever a f Kingfisher darted by on the main lake. Hopefully over the winter I can get to know them better, and figure out the number/ages/sexes of the birds. 3+ Grey Wagtails were sidling around the islands, and the juv Grey Heron was fishing. 

Grey Heron

Grey Wagtail
I have no idea about fungi, and I want to learn more about them as I do find them fascinating, but this huge one was growing from a slightly dead tree. 

I spotted a female Kestrel and male Sparrowhawk seemingly battling over a tree. Surprisingly the female Kestrel got its way, and the Sparrowhawk disappeared while the Kestrel sat sleepily on the tree for about an hour and a half, (for it was in the same place when I returned.)
After mostly walking around the south side of the park, there was nothing but singing Firecrests  Goldcrests to boast. With the light fading, we started heading back. 
fem Kestrel (1530)

female Kestrel 1700

Grey Heron - the deathstare
Most views of Kingfishers are fleeting glimpses, as was the view of it when returning to the car. We followed it, and on the tiny pond on the entrance to the pond, there sat the male Kingfisher. For a good 20 minutes, with the park slowly getting darker, it sat their- like the Kestrel - sleepily. Occasionally giving off its shrill call. Having briefly seen it on the same perch before, hopefully this is where we can expect to find it. 
m Kingfisher

m Kingfisher
Over the past week, the last few hirundines passed through on Monday, and since then a Chiffchaff near Wilson's and only a trickle of migrants are coming through, such as a Meadow Pipit on Tuesday and a surprise Skylark flying over while walking to school at 8am on Friday.