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Thursday, 5 October 2017

Catch-up, 23rd September-1st October 2017

Well, it's been a busy couple of weeks but considering that this has been largely due to a fabulous and quite insane trip to Spurn in the unique company of David D-L and Magnus A, that can't be a bad thing. David and I formed the advance line, stopping en-route on 23rd to mop up the juvenile Red-necked Grebe at Roding Valley Meadows, the juvenile Long-billed Dowitcher at Saltfleet Haven and point-blank views of quality waders at Covenham Reservoir, a tight and showy flock of juveniles including a Red-necked Phalarope, a Curlew Sandpiper, nine Little Stints and two Ruff; a second-winter Little Gull also put in an appearance. The next day, we picked up Mag from the station in Hull...

juvenile Red-necked Grebe at Roding Valley Meadows
torn emotions among Great Crested Grebes at Roding Valley Meadows
juvenile Red-necked Phalarope, just my second, at Covenham Reservoir
juvenile Little Stint at Covenham Reservoir
juvenile Curlew Sandpiper at Covenham Reservoir
juvenile Ruff at Covenham Reservoir
We stayed at Spurn till 30th, the only 'standout bird' for me being the stonking adult male Red-breasted Flycatcher which turned up at The Warren on 27th but I will fondly remember the week for the panoply of common migrants including Yellow-browed Warblers, Redstarts, Whinchats, Spotted and Pied Flycatchers, Wheatears, Whinchats, Bramblings, redpolls, Siskins, Lesser Whitethroats (including a potential blythi at Chalk Bank on 25th), Garden Warblers, hirundines, Tree, Rock and Meadow Pipits, etc. Just one Yellow Wagtail for me, on 25th, which might end up being my last of the year, as might a Hobby on 28th. A Bittern was a nice Spurn tick on 26th. Brent Geese had started to arrive, along with a noticeable arrival of Wigeon and Teal; the common waders are always good value, which strong numbers of Bar-tailed Godwits, Knots, Golden and Grey Plovers, etc, along with the odd Greenshank and Ruff. Spotted Redshank, Little Stint, Whimbrel and Common Sandpiper also made it onto the roll-call. Seeing tonnes of Tree Sparrows was also something of a treat. A very enjoyable and wine-enhanced seawatch on 25th produced a Sooty Shearwater, 15 Arctic Skuas, three Great Skuas, two Manx Shearwaters, 52 Little Gulls and a Black Tern, along with nine Red-throated Divers and a trickle of Common Scoters.

adult ♂ Red-breasted Flycatcher at Spurn
Garden Warbler at Spurn
Spotted Flycatcher at Spurn
Whinchat at Spurn
a no-shits-given Roe Deer at Spurn
We did make a little diversion on 27th upon the incredible news that a SCOPS OWL had been seen at Ryhope, Co Durham; as a big owl fan, and this being a species I've forever longed to see in Britain, I was delighted to be able to soak up views of this bark-plumaged beast roosting in an elder before we heading to the Pennines to sort of Black and Red Grouse successfully, both being birthday lifers for Mag.

dream come true... Scops Owl at Ryhope
♀ Black Grouse in the Pennines
♂ Black Grouse in the Pennines
♂ Red Grouse in the Pennines
The return leg featured a pit-stop at Landguard (my first visit to the reserve since the Short-toed Treecreeper there in 2011) for the Red-throated Pipit which was on the fourth day of its unusually long stay. Also there was a Redstart and a couple of Wheatears.


Red-throated Pipit at Landguard, my second
I was back on patch duty on 1st, a visit which featured the Barn Owl, a couple of migrant Mistle Thrushes, a Stonechat and two Red-legged Partridges... it was a pleasure to bump into Steve G. A call from Christian prompted an unplanned but worthwhile trip to the London Wetland Centre, where we had a quick look from the Peacock Tower, counting Snipe, Wigeon and the like.

Friday, 22 September 2017

Canons Farm, 22nd September 2017

A decent morning at Canons partly spend in the pleasant company of Geoff B, with my first Reed Bunting of the autumn for the patch and other highlights in the form of a Yellow Wagtail overhead and a southbound flock of six migrant Cormorants. Among a subdued passage of Meadow Pipits were five moving Pied Wagtails. It was nice to see Skylarks flying around the farm again after their usual late summer/early autumn absence, although only three birds were counted. Another bird that has been very thin on the ground is Common Gull, in fact they've been virtually non-existent and it's only in the past few days that I've started to see the odd one; today two were in Broadfield. Two Canada Geese and a Mallard made it onto today's list of patch mentionables and a Little Owl was calling. Migrant warblers were still around, with six Chiffchaffs and a Blackcap noted.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Beddington Farmlands, 21st September 2017

My good birding friend Christian C tends to have Thursdays off so I joined him for a morning's jaunt at Beddington. It seemed I was missing a hirundine spectacular at Canons but, after dropping Christian back home, I figured there was little point in me heading there to pick up the dregs and opted instead to just return to Beddington to sift through the gulls and keep an eye and an ear open for fly-overs.

A few grounded passerines included singles of Wheatear, Whinchat, Reed Warbler and Lesser Whitethroat, as well as at least four Stonechats and around 20 Chiffchaffs. A few Meadow Pipits were milling around, a late Swift flew through and all three common hirundines were passing through at a very low ebb. One Yellow Wagtail called overhead and at least three Grey Wagtails were knocking around. In the south-east corner, we located the juvenile Wood Sandpiper feeding along with two of the four Green Sandpipers logged. Aside from around 15 Lapwings, the only other wader record was Snipe, with a flock of four disturbed.

Grilling the gulls produced two Caspian Gulls, representives in their first and second calendar years, and an adult Yellow-legged Gull, I think the same bird as I had on 8th September. That's not to mention a rather striking leucistic juvenile Herring Gull! I imagine this bird could cause confusion later in life if it wanders around the country... The roll call of ducks included two Wigeon, 70 Teal, 73 Shoveler and 31 Gadwall, while two Egyptian Geese made a ruckus. A Water Rail hurled itself across the North Lake by the hide and onto one of the islands.

juvenile Wood Sandpiper
second-winter Caspian Gull
first-winter Caspian Gull
adult Yellow-legged Gull
leucistic juvenile Herring Gull

Canons Farm and Hastings, 18th September 2017

A morning walk at the farm produced a Yellow Wagtail, 80 Meadow Pipits, a couple of Common Gulls, a Hobby and two Stonechats. Later, in Hastings we saw a Peregrine over the cliffs.

Sunday, 17 September 2017

Canons Farm, 17th September 2017

After work, I popped out to the farm in the hope of tracking down a Sedge Warbler, the fourth patch record, located earlier by Darragh C. I had no luck but did find a Barn Owl and a couple of Stonechats of note, so all was not lost!

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Canons Farm and Carshalton Ponds, 16th September 2017

A morning at Canons Farm was dominated by Meadow Pipits, with 118 counted by midday but I was most pleased to encounter two patch year ticks, the first being a Firecrest calling by the compost heap at Legal & General which eventually showed itself, followed a couple of hours later by Golden Plover calls from high over Broadfield, although I just couldn't get on the bird (or possibly birds) involved, despite hearing its progress across the sky. A few Swallows and House Martins were also trickling through and a couple of Canada Geese honked over. Three Little Owls announced themselves from different spots.

Later on, I joined Christian C for an evening jaunt around my original birding spot at Carshalton Ponds, highlights including a Kingfisher and two Grey Wagtails.

Friday, 15 September 2017

Beddington Farmlands and Staines Reservoirs, 15th Sepptember 2017

I spent the morning at Beddington with Christian and Magnus. I was pleased to pick out my first Caspian Gull of the season, a smart 1cy which had mostly moulted its mantle/scapulars. A juvenile Wood Sandpiper was the first decent bird I had seen on the enclosed lagoons for longer than I care to remember, nicely picked out by Christian. Other bits included two Wigeons, 19 Gadwall, 57 Teal, five Cormorants, 56 Shovelers, two Little Egrets, two Buzzards, 24 Lapwings, two Green Sandpipers, three Snipe, a late Swift, a Sand Martin, 46 House Martins, 15 Swallows, three Cetti's Warblers, two Yellow Wagtails, two Grey Wagtails and a movement of 120 Meadow Pipits.

1cy Caspian Gull at Beddington
 Mag and I continued to Staines Reservoirs where we joined Franko M, Lee E and others to pick through the offerings... A Grey Phalarope showing on the North Basin was easily the highlight, with most of the birds on the South Basin being frustratingly distant. These, however, included at least four Curlew Sandpipers and three Knot, a Golden Plover, two Greenshanks, three Ruff, a Green Sandpiper and good numbers of Dunlin and Ringed Plovers. A Red Kite was circling in the distance and a few Sand Martins flew through.

Canons Farm, Lodmoor RSPB and Portland, 14th September 2017

A quick visit to Canons while waiting on news from Dorset was rewarded by a couple of Yellow Wagtails and a continuing trickle of Meadow Pipits, plus the regular Peregrine dealing with an intruder. A Collared Dove was an increasingly rare sighting.

Ian J picked me up and we made tracks for Lodmoor, successfully connecting with my first LEAST SANDPIPER and my second STILT SANDPIPER, both juveniles. Other sightings there included a Great Egret, 11 Mediterranean Gulls, a Green Sandpiper, a Yellow Wagtail, a Kingfisher and a few Sand Martins, House Martins and Swallows. A jaunt onwards to Portland bolstered the day's haul with the showy Buff-breasted Sandpiper there (my third) and a Wryneck which sunbathed on a rock in the observatory quarry for a good 30 minutes before slinking into the grass.

Least Sandpiper
Stilt Sandpiper

Canons Farm, 12th September 2017

Having got back in the early hours from the Barra twitch, I was late to get going in the morning but joined Geoff B at Canons just before midday for a couple of hours. A Hobby and the regular adult male Peregrine were the best features of our walk, plus a few Meadow Pipits. Around 200 Swallows were feeding over Broadfield.

I went down to the Sussex coast to see Ingrid later on but sneaked in a quick exploratory visit to the area between Goring and Ferring. Three Mediterranean Gulls were in the fields and fly-pasts at sea included a Common Tern, 11 Sandwich Terns and two Gannets. A congregation of waders on the beach included 46 Sanderlings, 78 Turnstones and 80 Ringed Plovers. There were two Wheatears on the wooden groynes.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Barra-Oban, 11th September 2017

A miserable morning post-twitch on Barra featured only a couple of Rock Pipits but the sailing back to Oban produced personal totals of 35 Eiders, 94 Fulmars, a Sooty Shearwater, 31 Manx Shearwaters, five Storm-petrels, 85 Gannets, 20 Shags, an Arctic Skua, eight Bonxies, 30 Razorbills, a Guillemot and 85 Kittiwakes. Several Ravens were also seen as we passed land.