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.