Saturday, 12 October 2019

LWC Barnes, 28th June 2019

   Following a modest start to my summer holidays on the birding front, with cricket as usual taking over my time, I decided to head off to Barnes by train on Friday 28th June. I'd caught a cold and was right in the middle of it, so I wasn't quite there mentally but it was nice to get out for a few hours...
Unfortunately, well more like typically, I'd managed to leave my memory card at home, and didn't take a scope, so happily made do with my trusty pair of Barr and Stroud 10x42 binoculars. 

I don't have too much to write about really, as it was stupidly hot and there was very little around. From the Peacock Tower, a Snipe appeared out of the long grass - speaking to the guide, who I'd met last year when I went with Kabir, he said another volunteer had apparently heard what they thought was a drumming Snipe earlier on in the year, which was interesting to hear about. There was a brief sighting of a Common Tern or two, while 2 Little Ringed Plover were seen from a few different hides. The highlight of the day was finding a Black-tailed Godwit on the main lake while scanning through the gulls. Having initially seen it, to be safe, I said I had a wader 'probably just a Redshank' so I could get someone's scope on to it. And surprisingly it was my first BTG in Surrey - a nice red, summer-plumaged bird at that. 

A quick walk around the Wildside was quiet, with barely a bird seen, although a Painted Lady was struggling on the path. If anything had been there, other than Reed Bunts and Warblers, they were definitely scared off by a group of students who went around the place shouting and slamming windows which didn't help...

Black-tailed Godwit record shot. Surprisingly my first Surrey bird...

I decided to cut my day short as it got hotter and I felt more ill, but a Green Sandpiper calling made me leave on a positive note! 



WWT Barnes from the WWF hide

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Richmond Park - Terns, Raptors and a Hairstreak, 24th May 2019

   Having completed 12 of my 27 GCSE exams, it was time for a short break at the start of my half term holiday, and with my dad working near Kingston, I opted to have a walk around Richmond Park.


f Kestrel

Autofocus failed me but I think it's still fairly cool!

f Kestrel

f Kestrel

f Kestrel

f Kestrel flexing muscle

ah that's nice

Blue tit food



lunch




  Although typically quiet, I thought it would be nice to start the holiday in a good mood and try and get outside. My walk to Pen Ponds, at the centre of the park, included Whitethroats and Greenfinches, while I kept an eye to the skies in the hope of raptors. It was extremely quiet, with Whitethroat numbers in the first 2-3km barely reach 5 individuals, showing just how slow and dull the Spring passage was. A few Small Heaths and Small Coppers were also seen along the way, while Reed Buntings were pretty abundant. 
   When I eventually reached Pen Ponds I caught up with the Friday Bird Group, where I met Paula Redmond, who had showed me around the park once before, and I'd also met her at Beddington Farmlands last autumn as well. Having missed a couple of Little Owls seemingly by seconds I was typically disappointed - still not seen one of the blasted birds - but I was delighted when one of these flew into view right by the edge of Upper Pen Pond, landing briefly but well enough to get a few record shots. My first hairstreak...


Small Heath

Small Copper

Green Hairstreak (first ever!)

Green Hairstreak


  As we walked past the Pen Ponds, a distant shape on the opposite side of the lake appeared to be a Common Sandpiper, while Sand Martins were busy collecting mud off the path for their nest holes. The obvious highlight of the day was when one of the pairs of Common Terns landed on a raft metres off the centre of the ponds. The male then proceeded to dart around showing his prize to his mate, who was unimpressed for a long while, before eventually taking the fish, showing superbly for the small crowd, allowing views I'd never had before of a tern. I even managed a few decent pictures for once...

   Once the terns retreated back to the middle of the lake, mostly due to a dog that had been sent into the Ponds, I continued on, missing a Hobby that circled the park with a few Kestrel. I barely saw a bird for the next hour, but managed to get a few Common Buzzard and a Red Kite over in a mini-skywatch while having lunch. 


Common Tern

Common Tern

Common Tern

Common Tern

Common Tern

Common Tern

Common Tern

Common Tern
Common Tern

Common Tern

Common Terns food pass

Common Terns food pass

Common Terns food pass

Common Terns

Common Terns 

Common Terns

Common Tern

Common Tern preening

Common Tern preening

Common Tern

Common Terns

Common Tern
   With the temperatures reaching 27C and more, I decided to cut my time short as I could barely spot a bird. I didn't even see a Skylark or a Stonechat on the day...
On the way back, I stopped to admire a pair of Kestrels that were nesting in a tree practically on a footpath. This has unsurprisingly brought about a lot of frustration from some. While a few people, like myself, realised how close we were to the pair and so kept our distance a little bit - my pictures are terrible compared to some pictures taken by others of the pair - others have been standing at the base of the tree, or extremely close, trying to get amazing pictures. Although the pair don't seem to mind people being close, I don't see why it's necessary to get as close as some people have been getting...
That aside, it was brilliant to watch the pair interacting, and I was fortunate to watch the male bring in a young blue tit for its mate, causing a slight squabble!


m Reed Bunting 
m Reed Bunting



m Reed Bunting

m Reed Bunting

And some Swifts because they're the best birds...

Swift

Spotted(?) Deer

Rabbit
   I then headed back, seeing very little else on the way back to where my dad was working, ending a largely disappointing day's birding. Thanks again to Paula for giving me some camera tips and showing me around. One day, I might even see a Little Owl... 

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Silver DofE: Final Expedition, South Downs; 21st-23rd June 2019

   If you're a regular reader of this blog you may know that I enjoy taking part in outdoor things as a whole not just walking, and this year I completed my Silver Duke of Edinburgh award.
It started in April, where I had an awesome time walking around the Ashdown Forest in migration season, seeing some pretty decent birds. See here for that post.
From the 21st-23rd June, I had a final expedition that would be taking place in the South Downs, starting agonisingly close to Pulborough Brooks. So on Friday 21st I headed down to Pulborough station with a few friends, ready for an exciting if not tiring 3 days of walking.

my birding logbook

my birding logbook

   We began our first day at around 09:15am, with Chiffchaff, Song Thrush and Whitethroats plentiful in the area, while Marbled White butterflies were also on the wing. Heading on, and briefly getting lost, I had an all too brief encounter with what seemed to be a Nightingale, while the next few kilometres were very quiet. We soon reached an area along the River Arun called Waltham Brooks, where a number of Cetti's Warblers sang their explosive song alongside a hidden path. Reaching the nature reserve at the brooks was quiet, but a Green Sandpiper that flew in calling was my first of the autumn season...
Pushing on we soon got lost again in a eery, confusing woodland, but Siskins and Chaffinch helped me keep some sort of focus while there (as usual I ended up doing all the map work so I was a bit out of form!!) A singing Willow Warbler was the first of the trip however. The next part of the walking was largely quiet for most of the morning, with fewer breaks due the lost hour when getting lost in the woodland! We quickly caught up on time, and stopped for lunch at a nice-looking heathland area where Yellowhammers were seemingly everywhere, as were a few Stonechat. It all was going well here until I told my group that the path we were on was called the 'Serpent trail' at which point everything that moved was a snake, making my life much more fun even if I was blamed for everything! The start of our afternoon was quiet, even with good numbers of Marsh Tit and House Martins in areas. Eventually we reached a place called Chingford Pond, where damselflies were everywhere. Heading on was quiet for a period, but hearing a few Skylarks - so, so few... - wasn't bad. After another 7km of walking, we eventually reached our destination for the night at 17:15, with the evening going pretty quickly.

Lapwing (Waltham Brooks NR)

Whitethroat (Waltham Brooks NR)

Not sure - anyone good with plants?

m Stonechat with food

f Banded Demoiselle damselfly


Common blue damselfly stare-off with a fly. The fly won...



Painted Lady

Painted Lady


   Our second day began with us leaving at around 8am, heading South across the apparently tick-infested hills. Overall, I enjoyed it much more than the first day, with the scenery much more exciting and navigating slightly easier. However, the wildlife was taking a day off, unsurprisingly due to the fairly warm weather. Fortunately, the route was also much shorter, and so we reached our second campsite at around 2:45pm, where we had a very chilled evening, playing games and barely moving. The only notable bird, even if there'd been loads already, was a Firecrest that sang non-stop in a dense tree above us. 

River Arun

River Arun

Waltham Brooks NR

Some interesting marshland at Chingford

Chingford Pond

Forest near camp

Skylark field

Skylark field 2

South Downs

South Downs

South Downs

South Downs

South Downs


   On the third day, slightly eager to get through the longest and hardest day, we set off at 07:45am, before promptly getting a little lost. The first 3km were dull, with barely anything to see. From here, things improved significantly. Whilst listening to a few Skylark, I watched another bird pop up onto a post and call, letting me get my best ever Corn Bunting views yet. After a few minutes watching it, the bird flew straight over my head, joining 2 further birds and landing in a field, probably to attend to young. This was pretty uplifting, making the upcoming hill feel much smaller than it was. 
We continued onwards for a further few kilometres, eventually reaching our first checkpoint to meet our assessor, where a few Lesser Whitethroat and Skylark were observed.
The next part - perhaps 6km - of the journey were comfortably my favourite of the weekend. As we walked along a long path, near the 'Slindon estate,' the fields were completely full of Skylarks, which sang continuously for the duration of the journey. An amazing sight and sound that many fear we may not have in many places ever again, as they continue to drastically decline. In some areas they were joined by warblers and Yellowhammers, making it all the more enjoyable. We continued onwards towards Amberley, and along this route Reed and Sedge warblers were seen, along with a number of other species including Water Rail. When we reached the village, after a long, tiring few hours of walking, we stopped for a break, before carrying along through Amberley Brooks back towards Pulborough. And what a way it was to finish my birding for the few days. It started with a nice family party of Willow Warblers, and then a fly-by Kingfisher. Then I caught sight of a distant singing Corn Bunting, that decided to fly right towards us, landing metres away from another group ahead of us. Obviously they were clueless, but after some patience (not from my group unfortunately) the bunting started singing on a bush and then a post ahead of me, allowing me some awesome views of the species, even if it has a slightly uninspiring song... 
I then ran to catch up with my group, nearly putting my camera away as well. As I caught up with them, a sound caught my ear and it was a sound I'd been pretty desperate to hear for a long, long time. Being a birder who loves bird sounds more than anything else, I was thrilled to hear my first reeling Grasshopper Warbler. Despite being fairly distant, it was reeling very loudly, and when it stopped for a few seconds another bird was audible even further off. Sadly I couldn't stay longer as my group had disappeared ahead, but I was delighted to finally add a bogey species, and my target species of the year, to my ever-growing life birding list.

Corn Bunting 1

Corn Bunting 1

Corn Bunting 1
Corn Bunting 2

Corn Bunting 3


Yellowhammer

Skylark

Corn Bunting 3

Corn Bunting 3

Corn Bunting 3


   I then decided to put my kit away so we could get back to the train station fairly quickly, which brought to a close a brilliant final day walking through the South Downs!
Thanks for reading :)