Saturday 30 December 2017

A Review of 2017

Overall I think the last year has been quite good. I still, annoyingly, haven't even got near my 200 bird goal, something which has frustrated me for a while. Then again considering I've really only been 'birding' for a few years I guess it's alright. 
This year I've added 20 birds to my life list, which isn't a bad effort. It does show how poor it was by the end of 2016. I'm still a tiny bit tempted to add that Twite to it...
It's also been good that I've found 4/6 of my >2016 bogey birds. So I've made a new top 6 of them.
  1. Little Owl
  2. Dartford Warbler
  3. Golden Plover
  4. Marsh Tit
  5. Puffin
  6. Woodcock
All 5 are relatively common British species for different habitats, and somehow I haven't managed any of them. The most frustrating ones are by far the first 2, with attempt after attempt being unsuccessful. 
I reckon that list could be about 20 birds longer, with Guillemot, Cattle Egret, Black Redstart, Caspian Gull and Short-eared Owl not making the cut. 
I've set myself a garden target too; although quite a few raptors and passerines have been seen overhead, I've never seen any type of wading bird passing over. So that's my 2018 target; whether it's a 2 second fly-through of a Snipe I don't care.

My highlights of 2017 were: 
1) The conservation weekend down in Dorset/Hampshire where I met many more geeks young birders and took part in some interesting conservation week, as well as see some wildlife. 
2) Going on a pelagic off Penzance and seeing so many different seabirds that I'd never seen before. Seeing a Wilson's Petrel really tipped it off. The whole Cornwall trip was great overall but this was undoubtedly the standout.
3) Getting into Beddington Farmlands. Being finally allowed into this fantastic local private site was great, and I hope to be allowed in again at some point this winter to try and see a Caspian Gull. 

I also like to reflect on one missed chance that I experienced over the year.
That also happened in Cornwall. I didn't even mention it on the Rame Head post, as I was too disappointed about it. I had just come out from one of these fields and a warbler was flitting around a small bush near the church. Having heard of Rame's rarity record before I went stock still. At that moment a car decided to rush past, honk at a stationary car, and cause the bird to disappear. What was it? No clue. But a week later a Greenish Warbler was found there. It could've been that and might not have been it. Chance missed.

I've been able to take advantage of the developed natural areas within the Wandle, and Morden Hall Park has been pretty good this year. 
I have a lot to look forward to in 2018 as well - a trip to Greece in April the main thing, as well as birding locally.

So, who knows what 2018 will bring me...

Friday 29 December 2017

Little Woodcote & Telegraph Track, 28th December 2017

After spending a few days at home, I set the scope up from my window on the 27th to practise a bit of digiscoping.
So yesterday in the early afternoon, while casually looking through it again to watch the Redwings and a group of pigeons getting terrorized by a Sparrowhawk, the Sparrowhawk suddenly abandoned its chase and flew upwards, kindly bringing me onto a Red Kite. After it gave me some nice views from about half a km away, another one swooped down to help its mate out.

Before dusk, I went for a walk with my mum along Telegraph Track - it runs behind the 'Little Woodcote' fields, and was recommended to me by Peter. 
There are Redwings pretty much everywhere now, and about 50 were seen by the time I'd got home. 4 Yellowhammer flew over the track and began feeding in a field, a pair of Redpoll (some interesting info about them on Steve's blog) flew over the track, and in the carpark of the Woodcote Garden Centre a Siskin was feeding with some goldfinches. A Kestrel was snoozing, and a single Skylark flew over the main road on the way back. Since it's quite close to home, it will probably be somewhere I target in the spring/autumn where migrants like Wheatear and Ring Ouzel are likely to be seen. 



Thursday 28 December 2017

Wimbledon Common, Boxing Day 2017 and an apology

Before watching the new Star Wars movie in Wimbledon on Boxing Day, we fitted in an hours walk in Wimbledon Common. It was oddly quiet, with very little heard and even fewer things seen. The entrance field to the windmill car park held 2 Skylark and 3 Meadow Pipits. While walking into the woodland area (it was nearly sunset) a Tawny Owl hooted for about a minute, then went quiet. 
There was no sign of any Goldcrests or Firecrests as usual, but there were plenty of finches, tits and thrushes, with Redwings and a few Fieldfare moving through the trees and feeding on berries.
I didn't get a single worthy, publishable picture. 

For Christmas I got this small camera lens which is attachable to my phone - although I was hoping it was for digiscoping, it's useful as when walking to and from places sometimes I do see the odd interesting thing and now I can get a better picture of them.
Although I was hoping to get to Richmond and Richmond Park this Christmas, I won't be able to, as exams in a few weeks are taking priority (unfortunately.) The positive is that the rest of the winter and spring will be free allowing me more chances to get outdoors.

All other birders have been writing up on their blogs the highlights of their year, and what they have seen/achieved, and also what they are aiming for next year. Though I haven't done it yet, I might decide to do it over the next few days. 

I just realised, stupidly, that I forgot to publish a post from back in November - partly because I'm an idiot and partly because I thought I'd lost the pictures. So I may as well do it now. On the 5th November - yes that long ago - Peter Alfrey kindly let me into Beddington Farmlands quickly for the morning with his nephew. We did a quick gull ID session, though there were few gulls on the lakes with the incinerator off. Then we had a look around for Jack Snipes and another (unsuccessful) search for a Dartford Warbler, which remains as one of my 5 bogey birds. We saw 5 species of gull, with no Meds, Caspians, Icelands etc seen. A couple of Water Pipit, Snipe and a Kingfisher were the main highlights, as well as a Buzzard which got mobbed by loads of crows after it put most of the birds on the main lakes up. After meeting Thomas - the owl expert - we soon left, as Peter had to go up to Rainham. Either way thanks for taking me Peter - sorry I forgot to post. Either way, on the way back, a Kingfisher and 2 Little Egrets were along the Wandle. Here are a few pics from the 5th November. 

Snipe flew away

Mostly Herring, LBBs and a few GBBs

LBBs and Herring

Mostly Black-headed

Wednesday 20 December 2017

Morden Hall Park Rails, 20th December 2017

I managed to get back to Morden again today for a couple of hours. After (unexpectedly) seeing two school-friends fishing, I headed towards the reedbeds, with my main aim to find the Firecrest(s.) 

The first circuit held nothing of interest other than 2 Cormorants, 30 Redwing and 3 Greenfinch. On the second circuit I was stopped first by the Cetti's Warbler [Area 8], then by a pair of Kestrel [Area 4] diving next to the reedbeds - I knew I'd seen a mouse there somewhere - and then by a calling Water Rail [Area 6]. I managed a 5 second sighting of the rail preening before it disappeared back into the reedbeds. Also seen were another 40 Redwing, the odd Fieldfare and a couple of GSWs mostly in [Area 12]. On my final loop of the boardwalks, a few more birds put in an appearance. 3 more Water Rails [Areas 3, 8 and 10] made it 4 (different ones) for the day, all in different areas, and were all heard (and 2 of 4 briefly seen.) 
I managed a video of the first one calling. A Peregrine [Area 9] flew over, and some gulls also flew over. A Grey Heron was causing a racket on the river, and the dozens of Wrens made the boardwalk deafening.
To finish, 30 more Redwing, 2 Song Thrush, a group of 6 GSWs and also finally a Siskin [Area 11] saw me out.

Today had one thing missing though; let alone the Firecrest I didn't hear nor see any Goldcrests which was a surprise as normally there everyone. Not sure why that might have been.

I have attached a map of the reedbeds - it's split into areas so it's easier to name where I've seen everything and to give directions to find something. The birds above with the 'Area X' label code to this. 


The only picture I got of the Water Rails - it's woeful


1w Black-headed Gull


Song Thrush - one of my favourite birds

Song Thrush

The camera is still taking pictures through the main Display/screen, despite the fact that the viewfinder has misted up - I really hope that it doesn't mean I have to get a new camera again. I need to get it fixed over the Christmas before the main gull movement begins (Icelands are back at Beddington already) so as 2 posts ago if you know any good places near Croydon please do comment below - thanks. 

Saturday 16 December 2017

Morden Hall Park, 16th December 2017

The past week has been a bit dull; with the temperatures being cold I've not spent much time outdoors and when I have I've barely seen anything. Even the gulls have been staying away from school.
This morning I spent a little time looking out the window watching the gulls coming over at around lunchtime, as well as the smaller birds like Redwings.
I had a 'white-winged gull' of sort come over at 1ish - it might have been a nice Iceland Gull as one was seen at Beddington this morning - but it was too brief to be able to tell. 

In the afternoon I got about 40 minutes at Morden Hall before it became too dark - barely time to see anything let alone something good.
Other than the countless Wrens and Goldcrests it was quiet, although the reedbeds were ridiculously loud with roosts of Jackdaw and Parakeets forming nearby. 
While heading back I was stopped by a tiny riverside bush moving, and a rodent came out and hurriedly darted towards the river. At first glance it looked like a Wood Mouse, but when it turned around I was pleased to see a flat nose, proving it to be a Water Shrew. If it was that it would be nice, as I've never seen one before, but with the fading light it was too hard to tell from a view lasting 2 seconds.
As Christmas is starting on Wednesday for me, my main target is to have a trip to Richmond Park to try and finally get my Dartford Warbler at some point soon.

I've done some work on the blog itself, with guides to birding at Morden Hall and Beddington Park - (though I must warn you that Beddington is said to be dangerous when it starts getting dark.)
I have also included links to good birding sites/resources, as well 'Feedjit,' telling me where views are coming from - most seem to be from the local area!

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.