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.

Saturday, 30 September 2017

Morden Hall Park - A Crake Ache, 30th September 2017

After waking up early-ish for a change, Morden Hall seemed appealing, and I was there at bang on 09:00. As soon as I opened the car door, the pleasant but somewhat surprising song of a Chiffchaff filled the air; not something to expect in late September. Either way, while walking on the air was alive with bird calls, with Goldcrests, Long-tailed tits, Wrens, Robins, Nuthatches and Chiffchaffs seemingly everywhere. I did my normal circuit, along the path towards the reedbed, down a path along the river, through the reedbeds, round the meadows and back towards Phipps Bridge. I started my second circuit, with several gulls (mostly Common and Herring) catching my attention while on the way back to the reedbeds. 
At 0945, I stopped to admire a Small Copper butterfly at the entrance to the boardwalk, when I heard several bursts of song, from one of the last things I expected. And again. 
In verses of 5, 4 times, over 5 minutes. 'hwit, hwit, hwit, hwit, hwit,' around 10 metres directly in front of the viewing platform. 
At the time, I had no idea, but after 5 minutes, a Spotted Crake suddenly came to mind, with the 'whiplash' call ringing a bell. With one seen at Beddington last week, and one in Essex for several weeks, I realised what it (probably) was. Unfortunately it called only once more in the next hour, and the only recording I got were of small birds. 
Frustratingly, I had to leave soon after, with only a Little Egret showing itself, but the reedbeds at Morden Hall once again providing me with frustration an interesting bird specie.

My route
Back home, a Vapourer moth caterpillar is still hanging around. 

Vapourer moth cat.

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Beddington Park, 24th September 2017

This evening I had my first walk in Beddington Park for what seems like ages. I was surprised to see a good scrape-like area on the main lake. Hopefully this will attract a few bits and pieces from the Farmlands, even a stray sandpiper. While walking, there were plenty of Grey Wagtails and Little Grebes, as well as all the commoner species. 
Then, just as I was trying to get a better picture of a Grey Wagtail with the light fading, I spotted 2 Little Egrets hiding behind some bushes. I started to make my way across when they flew right in front of me - they both realised this wrong decision and flew off a bit. While watching these two another one came over from further up the lake, and came and sat on a dead tree. 
New habitat and Little Egrets
A few egret pics. 
Little Egret 1
Little Egret 2

Little Egret 2
After walking around, I spotted a small bird at the top of a tree on the distance. Although I couldn't get a picture, I could identify it to be a late, surprise Flycatcher sp - I assumed it as a Spotted . While trying to approach it, it took flight at a dog and flew off towards the cricket club. A bit frustrating but a nice bird to see. 
Also found near the car park was our Kingfisher. Hopefully she will be reappear over the winter. To end the day another Little Egret, flying up from the Wilderness Island area, had a dispute with a Grey Heron. 

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Migration watch, 17th September 2017

I forgot about this one too.
Last Saturday, having been feeling a bit horrible all morning, I went outside for an hour or so to see what might be coming over. It started off well - 3 Meadow Pipits flew over, calling to help confirm their ID. Fortunately, it fits my criteria for a 'garden record.' (If directly above our house, or half way over our neighbours on the left.) Over the next 45 minutes, with the skies continuing to clear, a falcon was very high up, constantly disappearing over little clouds. Looks like a Peregrine to me. 
A Sparrowhawk was chasing pigeons a fair distance away for a good while. The first Blackcaps have returned, with a pair (and finally a male!) hanging around. 
3 Common Buzzards came over, 2 together, and a Red Kite also came over, heading south at a fair pace. Another great record came over too - a large juv/type Yellow-legged Gull; I could make out the dark smudge behind its eye, as it came reasonably low. This one didn't count a 'garden record' unfortunately, as it came over the road. 


Over the week, 2 Chiffchaff were calling at Wilson's School, and the Blackcaps have continued to entertain me. On the 21st, I didn't quite get the spectacle experienced at Canon's Farm and Banstead Woods by several birders, but had 50 House martins, and 20 Swallows flying around for 5 minutes at 8am. 

Monday, 11 September 2017

The last week, 5th - 11th September 2017

The last week has been a bit more entertaining to say the least. On Thursday, after spending a boring time in Sutton for most of the morning, I had an hour to do whatever I wanted to. I opted for a quick trip to see what Priest Hill Nature Reserve was like, with this small site often being visited by one of my favourite bloggers, Steve Gale, who has an excellent blog called North Downs and Beyond
When we arrived, for the 1st 100m, nothing was seen bar a single late Whitethroat which was beside the Glyn Playing Fields. Further on, having seen nothing else bar 30 odd Crows, a small bird flew out of a bush into the field, where it showed for 5 seconds, being a female Redstart. A half-decent bird to see here, and something of interest! It promptly flew off, over the playing fields.
After this, not a single bird was seen afterwards except a pair of Meadow Pipits which flew overhead. When heading back, an odd white-winged Crow landed on a tree a far way off. Other than that, it was fairly quiet. 

Yesterday I had a nice surprise. Whilst wicketkeeping at my home cricket ground Cheam Sports Club, I turned around and a small starling-sized bird landed on the pitch about 20m away. I turned back for the next ball, where I noticed it fly across the pitch, with the tell-tale white rump on the back showing clearly. Once the game ended, and the drizzle ceased briefly, I went outside (camera-less) to see my Wheatear; it was a male, which pleased me even more! I got a few poor pictures of it with my phone and a quick video proving what it the drizzle and wind picked up again.

Wheatear at Cheam Cricket Club - I declare the worst video on Blogging history!

Today, 2 Meadow Pipits flew over Wilson's School, towards Roundshaw Downs and a Buzzard flew high over. Not a bad week, considering I've not been birdwatching!

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Morden Hall Park frustration 5th September 2017

Though more in hope of a miracle, and without a camera, I had 15 minutes in Morden Hall in between the showers. With nothing seen except a Robin and parakeets up till a stream, I was about to go back when I spotted a woodpecker-like bird fly from the ground under some trees up to an angled tree, which made me look twice. It then went round the tree, then flew off South. The most frustrating thing is that on first glance it looked like a Wryneck - something which I have never seen before, but was such a brief sight that I couldn't get a detailed look. 
A few metres on, a small warbler was leaping around in a bush. It looked like a Chiffchaff, but quite pale and an odd long bill. When I approached it, expecting to see it dart off, it stared at me for 10 seconds from 3 metres away.  Another problem - no camera, so the only picture I got was an awful phone picture. It then flew off into a hedge not to be seen again. My impression was almost of a Dusky Warbler, but that was just excitement and I know that it was a youngish Chiffchaff. 
On the way out, a Kingfisher flew by and a Little Egret was wading in the distance. 
Very frustrating. 
This morning I found this butterfly in the garden, but I can't tell what it is I have never seen an outerwing like this before. If you know please comment below.

butterfly sp.

Monday, 4 September 2017

The problem with being a nature-enthusiast

It really has been very boring after being back in Surrey. My poor life bird list only stands in the 170s, and since I can barely get out of the house, let alone the county, at the moment I can't see it budging for a good while! Liking nature does have its downfall - sometimes very little happens for what feels like a long time.
Last week, we went up to the Peak District and Knutsford for a couple of days - we saw the Manchester United-Leicester match then came back home overnight. During those few days, we had a night with cousins in Earl Sterndale, where a morning walk produced several Nuthatch and Chiffchaff, a Wheatear which my mum saw but I didn't, a ton of Buzzards and a probable Osprey which was heading SE. We also went for a walk in Tatton Park, Knutsford. Along with loads of deer, there was, of course, a Stonechat, Great Crested Grebes, a Whinchat and a Water Rail. I was without the camera or telescope, and just had my binoculars. I got very bored, and even tried a phone x bino scoping, which somehow, just about, pulled off.

Red Deer
I finally got some good news, having been asked to a junior volunteering camp at Arne in October. This should be something different and sounds exciting, and I am sure to meet some new people and see and help some good wildlife. With holidays ending, and the chance of getting out to a (good) nature reserve out of the question, it's slightly frustrating.
Last week, a quick walk to Wandsworth Common had [no Night Heron,] a Hobby, 2 Sparrowhawk, a few GSWs and a few Chiffchaff. In the garden we found a Vapourer moth caterpillar - a rather sinister looking creature which is still moving around the same place.
Tomorrow I might sneak a little visit to Morden Hall, where I might be lucky to see something unusual. 

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Ham Wall RSPB - 16th August 2017

To be honest, with school creeping up on me, I completely forgot about this. Two weeks ago, on our way back from Cornwall, we stopped off at this reserve.
On the way there, I spotted a few Buzzard, Hobby etc and another bird which I'm about 80% sure was a Honey-Buzzard, somewhere between Okehampton and Taunton. From a moving car I'm not saying anything confidently though. 
When we pulled into the car park at Ham Wall, I saw a new mammal for me. A Stoat darted across the car park, towards the longer grass. As we reached the first viewing platform, a single Reed Warbler darted around and a few twitchers said that a Great White Egret was skulking around, as was a Bittern. Though we saw neither at this point, a Kingfisher flew by and several Little Egret were fishing. As we walked on, I got an incredible 1 second view of the Glossy Ibis flying off into a channel about 200m away. There was also a pair of Marsh Harriers circling over that area, possibly the cause of the Ibis' departure. However, another Great White Egret flew in from the East. 

Great White Egret
Marsh Harriers

Great White Egret
Stonehenge with a Starling
The light was so poor I couldn't get any more decent pictures. We left soon after, after seeing a bittern fly into the reeds. On the way back to London, we drove past Stonehenge where a few common birds were seen. 

The day after, while filling a feeder up in the garden a few alarm calls alerted to me to a Sparrowhawk. The Sparrowhawk alerted me to another raptor much higher up, slowly drifting North East. With only a pair of binoculars, I could make out the orange cap and broad wings of a Marsh Harrier, a nice surprise. Since then, barely anything has been seen bar a few final Swifts and Swallows heading south. On the 27th, while playing a cricket match at Cheam cricket club, another first for me flew over calling - a single Yellow Wagtail. 

Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Cornwall - Day 7, Rame Head Peninsula, 15th August 2017

The last day in Cornwall was spent in the village of Kingsand and the Rame peninsula. With a 5 hour journey back the day after, we settled for staying closer rather than going to St Ives. We reached Kingsand for about 11, where we hung around for a bit. I spotted a few Tern a fair distance off the coast, and also a small pack of Dolphins. 

juv House Martins
When we arrived at Rame, a Willow Warbler popped out and a few Linnets flew off. After talking to a few Coastguards, we walked on and saw 3 Raven, 9 Gannet, 2 Fulmar, 2 Shag, 3 Cormorant and 4 Swallow. A possible Dartford Warbler avoided being a first for me, and a pair of Goldfinches fed on thistle. A family fishing party of Gannet dived distantly. 

When we started to walk off, a Lesser Whitethroat flew along a hedge and obviously another Stonechat appeared. 

Meadow Brown

juv Stonechat
There were plenty of Linnet, and butterflies with 5 Wall Brown, common species and a single fritillary which flew by rapidly. As we reached a clearing, I heard a bird singing and spotted it from the top of a hedge. A nice surprise with a nice voice was a Cirl Bunting, also a life tick. I saw several in Spain last year (an incredible week in Aracena - north of Sevilla- was very rewarding with 99 species seen.) After a few seconds it flew over us, towards dense scrubland. 

Cirl Bunting
Fortunately, 3 Swift flew overhead - some of the last of the year. At one point this little beetle scampered across the path. 

Bloody nosed beetle?
As we crossed a field, another Whitethroat evaded the camera. On the church this caterpillar was climbing up the wall. 
White ermine moth caterpillar?

When we left, a Kestrel was hovering very nearby and dived and hate something - it was hardto tell what, but looks like a cricket?


Kestrel and ex-cricket?
A nice last day in Cornwall. With a 5 hour journey back, there was bound to still be something to see!

Monday, 21 August 2017

Cornwall - Day 6 +7, Padstowe and Looe

With it being a cold, damp day, we hung around for a bit then went to Padstowe for a little while. Nothing spectacular; a few Turnstone were knocking around and a whole pile of gulls were on the islands. I've always found gull ID tricky, and there was a gull which looked small in comparison to the rest of them, which I've left in. I'd appreciate any help with the ID.

friendly Robin



gulls etc.
The day after was pretty dull, and we only went back to Looe for a bit where the local birds were around. 
Little Egret

Little Egret
However, 2 surprises happened afterwards. Firstly, when we left the town about 3 km on I spotted 3 Egrets fly low over the road into the fields, then up and North. My initial thought were Cattle Egret,and 2 were seen near Bodmin the following day. Nonetheless, they could have been Little Egrets flying towards the river so I'll have to wait to add that record - the first for Beddington Farmlands only hung around while I was here! Secondly, in an evening journey a Tawny Owl flew very low across the road and a possible Nightjar also flew above the car in front of us. 
The last day, before our journey back was to Rame Head Peninsula, where I hoped to see some good birds. 

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Cornwall - Day 4, Marazion and Penzance Pelagic, 12th July 2017

Although we hadn't been able to book one of the Mermaid II boat trips along the coast, we managed to book their pelagic out to sea in the hunt for sealife and birds - this was a day I had been waiting for ever since the seabird arrival a month or two ago. We set off mid-morning, and took a diverted route towards Truro then along the coast to Marazion. After walking to St Michael's Mount, and seeing a Shelduck flying off, we were walking back when a large group of waders flying towards the beach caught my attention. I walked towards them and was still 50m away until some tourists (typically) spooked them, only allowing me a few decent pictures. 
Among the group of 60 strong were c.40 Ringed Plover, 8 Sanderling, 10-15 Dunlin and also a single Black-tailed Godwit. 
There is one bird slightly confusing me - it looked similar to a Curlew Sandpiper type bird, but also similar to Dunlin. I would appreciate any help with ID. (Picture 6+8)  

Black-tailed Godwit etc.


Sanderling, Dunlin and Ringed Plover

Ringed plover (ad + juv)


Dunlin (back) and Sanderling?

Dunlin and Sanderling

Dunlin (front) and Sanderling/Dunlin?
Later on, after a horrible Cornish pasty, I came back and a few of them were feeding not too far away. Then I spotted another new bird which was a Rock Pipit. Not one but around 10. The last picture was an incredible bird - it is an uncropped picture, as the bird came and sat within 3 metres off me, with an inquiring look!

Rock Pipit

Rock Pipit

Rock Pipit

Rock Pipit

Rock Pipit
We wandered into Marazion Marsh for about 20 minutes, where there seemed to be Stonechats everywhere, as well as Linnets, Sedge Warbler, Buzzard, Kingfisher, Kestrel, a few Beautiful Demoiselle and a caterpillar. 

Sedge Warbler

Cinnabar moth caterpillar?
At 4:30pm, we were ready at the quay to start the 3 hour voyage towards the ocean in the hunt for some good birds. We left at precisely 5pm. En route, I was easily able to add to my awful seabird list with Gannets flying past and diving in numbers, while Fulmars followed the boat. With the boat frantically bobbing out it was very difficult to get any good pictures throughout the trip unfortunately, so I mostly stuck to observing the birds. 
Eventually, I spotted the first Manx Shearwaters of the trip too; unfortunately there were only 2 Common Dolphins seen. 2 Sooty Shearwater flew past, along with a Cory's which I missed.

Manx Shearwaters (heavily edited!)

Manx Shearwater
When we were out and off to sea further, the first Storm Petrel made an appearance and a Great Skua began swooping in and out of the waves. 

Great Skua

Great Skua
As the journey progresses, 2 Great Shearwaters came through, and 40+ Storm petrel danced on the water as well. A surprise Black Tern came fishing as well. 

juv Black Tern
An hour went by, and more Storm petrels continually came in. The skua entertained us further, while eyes searched through the birds looking for the Wilson's Petrel. Eventually a 'bigger petrel' was sighted. We finally got our bird. 2 Wilson's Petrel flew around 20-30m from the boat for 5 minutes, while all the other seabirds continually dashed in and out. A great experience with 8 species I'd never seen before added. Sadly I barely got a picture worthy of being posted of a Petrel, let alone the Wilson's Petrel, so I can't really tell from my pictures which bird it is. 

Wilson's Petrel

Fulmar, Storm Petrel and Wilson's petrel (higher on the image, on the right)


Gannet (nearly got all of it!)

Sooty Shearwater (barely)
An excellent day birdwatching. On the way back 2 Whimbrel flew past, while the Fulmars and Gannets followed us back. 
On the journey back, I was shattered and fell asleep. A mistake - my dad spotted a Barn owl sitting on a '40mph' sign. That was the only Barn Owl seen on the trip.