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.