Tuesday, 11 December 2018

Summary of October - Quiet success.

As exam revision began to dominate my October, it was largely spent revising and some spare time was mostly from the garden, doing some more vismigging. It was frustrating, as the first time I could've been getting out in arguably the best time of year for birds was prevented. Anyhow, here are some highlights from the month, that I can limit to one blog post. 
1.   7th October   - The year's fun palaces event at Morden Hall Park saw me volunteering with the event, helping with the nature walks and activities, as well as taking photos, from 9am to 5:30pm. With such a long day on patch there was always going to be some success, and I had a pleasurable half an hour in a break with around 9 Chiffchaff, that were following a mixed flock and taking turns at having a drink in a natural pool between logs on the river. During the nature walks, we didn't see anything exotic but introduced some visitors to common species of wildlife. The 2nd walk of the day was successful as I picked up 2 of the resident Kingfishers, that were seen briefly. Throughout the day Grey Wagtails continued to move SW, and 4 other than 2 locals had gone high over by the evening. The highlight however was undoubtedly the first wader I've had at Morden, and an unexpected one. A double call from a Golden Plover that flew over was pleasing to finish the successful day.
2.   10th October   - School one day had a Chiffchaff calling at the entrance, while the first Common Gulls of the season had returned, and there was a nice 1st-winter among them. More frustratingly was a Brambling, that had gone over about 100m from my house on the way to school. A garden tick that stayed away - for a short time only.
3.   13th October   - After a crap few days at school, my brain was in a bad place and needed either cricket or quality birding. I got neither, but I did get some other quality. I went into our conservatory at around 22:15 to collect something from the printer when I heard an odd sound from outside. I don't know what came over me but I went back to the kitchen, before going back to check. I had my phone, and recorded the call on it as a 30sec sound recording, and it was clearly the call of a Tawny Owl - a bird I'd been thinking of getting as a garden bird for a long, long time. Though I thought it was a 'kee-wicking' female, it could possibly be a juvenile. Either way, very pleasing!
4.   20th October   - A short vismig had obvious highlights. 2 Rook went over very high S, and I got a dodgy picture to prove my bird. 3 Redwing, 7 Linnet and 2 Sparrowhawk also came over. But I was pleased to get my garden Brambling that circled then just disappeared into the sun. Looks as if it will be a good winter for them. 
5.   21st October   - As the weather slowly became colder, the rain stayed away and every morning was clear yet cold. I got up early one Sunday to go to Morden Hall, and soon after arriving and talking to a friendly South African family a stunning male Reed Bunting hopped up onto a tree and began calling. It flew near me, and with great light I managed some half-decent pictures for a change. Golden hour is definitely in the early morning! Also at Morden that day was a patch tick Skylark N, 3 Siskin, 2 Water Rail, Kingfisher, Redwing and a possible Crossbill(s) that flew over. One call wasn't enough for me to get an ID.
6.   24th October   - When I saw a notification at the start of my half term that Nick Rutter had found MHP's first Yellow-browed Warbler, revision continued until about 2pm, where I set off to have a search for it. In short I failed, with a possible call near a mixed flock likely to be the same bird, though a 2.5hr search was unsuccessful. However, a large group of around 180 thrushes (largely Fieldfare) was pleasing, as was a Brambling briefly on the North Meadow.
7.   29th October   - The first week of half term revision finished with another vismig, where 74 Redwing NW, 12 Siskin, C Buzzard, Sprawk and multiple gulls were all to note.

Common Chiffchaff

Common Darter

Fun Palaces

Morden Hall Park 

Reed Bunting 
Reed Bunting

Reed Bunting

Reed Bunting

Reed Bunting

Linnet - recordshot


Brambling record shot 
Great Spotted Woodpecker

f Blackcap

no idea - seen at dusk from my garden window

Chiffchaff drinking

Wednesday, 5 December 2018

Canon's Farm with Calum Mckellar, 29th September 2018

When Calum told me that he was going to be in Banstead and wanted to go birding, my dad dropped us off at Canon's Farm. 
We had a good few hours to wander around and have a look for some migrants. One of the first birds, other than a few Chiffchaff at the farmhouse, was a Yellow Wagtail that Calum picked up in Harrier Field. 
Map from their website here 
Walking down the road past the cottages produced our first Stonechat, with a minimum of 5-6 along the Slangs. One had a striking supercilium, but was still a Stonechat - I haven't seen a Whinchat for a long time so that was a shame to miss out on, as they'd been seen earlier in the week.
We went through lunch wood, where Skylark could be heard before being chased by a Kestrel. Just as we mentioned Hairstreaks a butterfly leapt off of a branch in front of us, and we'd both seen it well enough to identify it as a Brown Hairstreak. 

At Perrots Farm there was little to be seen, although we had a look for roosting owls in vain. Large groups of Linnet were loitering among groups of Meadow Pipit (they seemed to be pretty much everywhere.)
After an encounter with a farmer with a gun, who kindly warned us to not go near his fields, we started to walk back towards the farmhouse so we could do a skywatch. Raptors were about, though there was nothing special. However, it was pleasing to meet birder Roy Weller, who I'd heard a lot about from our local area; it was nice to talk to him.
Our vismig started slowly, with Meadow Pipit the main birds with a continuous flow of them. A few Yellowhammer were knocking about and flying over as were the odd Chaffinch, while I saw a f Bullfinch briefly. The highlight came just after Calum had yelled an exasperated 'NO!' due to a YBW at his patch (which he subsequently dipped) in the form of a Hawfinch. It came in and went into a nearby bush, and after a Yellowhammer frustrated it it flew out calling its 'sip' call, before heading SW over Heathside Field. A decent bird for Canon's Farm, so not a vismig fail. 
We spent a couple of hours there until deciding to have a walk about, where a few Stonechat put on a show as did an unidentified warbler that promptly disappeared.
A nice way to spend a weekend day, at a local site. I did get some nice pics of the Stonechat but I've managed to lose all those pics. 

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Richard's Pipit... 25th September 2018

I've been a bit nervous about doing this blog and probably should've left it but here we are...
So September had been a success in county birding, and with exams creeping up on me I wasn't really getting out much. I was getting a bit bored and grumpy, not being able to go to a nature reserve or see anything more exciting further away. However, it wasn't worrying me too much as I knew it would be better, for both my birding and cricket, after the exams. 
Walking to school, at just before 8am, is normally pretty productive and I'd had a few Yellow & Grey Wagtail, and Meadow Pipit, on the way to school, as well as finding a m Sparrowhawk's roosting tree. It was decent.

I was dropping my sister off at her friends house on the way to school on a windy yet clear morning on the 25th September and something caught my attention - (birders who know me well will know how awful my eyesight is so I rely on sound at times.) 
The call that caught my ear was a call I'd never heard in Britain before, yet I had heard it in the past.  I picked it up flying towards me from the North with several Meadow Pipit; as it got closer and called once more, it was evidently larger than the Meadows, with a call that was like 'treeup.' The first thought was 'that's a big meadow pipit,' as it went over the houses heading south-west about 20m away from me. I didn't have binoculars on me or anything, and instead of trying to get my phone out in the 7 seconds or so of it being in sight or sound I watched it all the way. 
There was a split second where I thought it could've been a Hawfinch - but after last winter if there's any bird I know pretty well now that is a Hawfinch, with it's gentle 'sip' call only after the dip in the bounding flight. The call sounded more like a Sparrow than anything I could think of but it clearly wasn't - it's size and shape suggested more like a lark at times than a pipit.
At that moment my trip to Malaysia in 2015 came back to me, where I'd encountered several Richard's Pipit near the airport. Everything seemed to match perfectly even if it was a brief encounter, with the call and size seeming pretty good. Yet the only problem being that, as a 15 year old birder, submitting a record without any evidence and little experience - even if I have seen and heard them before - was never going to work out, and I think it would've caused more stress at an already stressful time.

At the time I was certain, and nothing would convince me otherwise. The people I did tell immediately were Calum M and David C. Calum was telling me to submit it but after speaking to the more experienced and knowledgeable David I decided that it was already getting too late to submit something so rare in Surrey. I was just too nervous, especially after getting grief for previous sightings. It was a tough decision but I think it was best to try and forget about it, and leave it as a probable, as 'one that got away.' Personally I saw it as a Richard's Pipit, but I'm very happy to receive criticism and disbelief. 
Of course (ironically,) a month later Peter Alfrey produced some beddington magic and found a Richard's Pipit there, which I dipped. Despite this, it showed well for all those at beddington, and if I'm honest I doubt that the one I'm sure I had was this same bird (although where I saw it was under 2miles from the mound in Beddington!)

Sorry to bore those who might not believe me on this one, nor enjoy all this writing and no pictures. I probably should forget about it altogether but I had to get this out of my system!

Saturday, 1 December 2018

The People's Walk for Wildlife - Hope! 22nd September 2018

     As August went by I started to read and hear more about an event that was to be held in order to protest against the lack of support towards the wildlife and nature in the UK. It was to be at Hyde Park in London, led by Chris Packham and other naturalists from around Britain, on the 22nd September. The ‘Peoples Walk for Wildlife’ looked to be a huge event, and after infotainment at the park a march to 10 Downing Street was to follow, to hand ‘A Peoples Manifesto for Wildlife,’ with a number of proposals.

My mum said I wouldn’t be able to go as it was busy at home but when members from Morden Hall Park were going to go, I got permission to go, though I had to leave just before the walk started at 1pm. It was an unwilling compromise, which I nearly managed to avoid!
Some younger naturalists- thanks to Alex W for the pic
On the day, I turned up at Morden at 08:30am, and found nobody there. So after some quick planning, my dad gave me routes to reach Hyde Park Corner.  

I arrived at just before 10am, where 3 Meadow Pipit flew over the park, and numbers of people were already starting to pick up. I walked around for a bit, talking to some people and looking at the stalls, until Kabir and his brother Aryan arrived. We continued to stroll around, and it was great to talk to some people – the London National Park City map is great. As it got closer to 11am Lucy Cooke began to interview young naturalists, and while I convinced Kabir to go and talk his previously non-birding brother Aryan decided to become a birder, which helped Kabir follow and they both talked about conservation for a good while, doing well to talk on the stage.

Dara speaking at the walk - thanks to him for the picture as well!
With 30 mins until the speeches began, it was nice to meet some young people in real life having only seen them online, such as Alex W, Mya B and James M. After Alex L found us in the crowd, we got a quick picture with Bill Oddie, birding legend, and spoke to numerous others before gathering in front of the screen.
Chris Packham started the speeches, introducing all those talking; all the talks were great, and all speakers spoke about their topics with passion and knowledge. Young naturalists included Bella Lack, Mya Rose, Georgia Locock and Dara McAnulty were terrific - meanwhile speakers like Ruth Tingay and Dominic Dyer also spoke, with Dominic Dyer’s speech one of my favourite. It was pleasing that diversity was discussed, as from within the crowd only a tiny minority were of a varied ethnicity. Kabir, Aryan and I felt like rarities there!
After over an hour of the speeches, despite missing birders that I’d hoped to speak to, everyone prepared to start walking towards Downing Street. As we walked, birdsong was played by many, while others held up banners to represent various, suffering British species. It was a fantastic start, and over 10,000 people marched for wildlife in the streets of London. 10,000 people, a small proportion of those who could come to protest from around the UK, turned up to show why wildlife is so important. It was hope.
Though I had to leave while we were walking I tried to get updates, and I was delighted to hear how successful it was all the way. It was great to hear that Alex L had been invited to go to Downing Street with the other young conservationists and Chris Packham to present the manifesto.

Hopefully, these protests for wildlife can continue until a real change can be seen, and birdsong of some species such as Skylark can be heard more again. Thanks to Chris for making this event a success, and with luck it will make a difference. 

Meeting Bill Oddie
Kabir watching his brother Aryan take to the stage

Snippet Dominic Dyer's speech

A small number of the 10,000
Thanks for reading :)