Tuesday, 13 October 2009

MEGA: BROWN SHRIKE Staines Moor, Middlesex

woo hoo! A couple of hours ago I got back from a successful after-school twitch for the Staines Moor Brown Shrike.

I zoomed out of school at 15:05 and got the 15:27 train to Clapham Junction, then getting the 16:08 from here to Ashford, 'Surrey'. Here I phoned a cab up and they picked me up promptly; dropping me at Hithermoor Road, Stanwell Moor for a relatively cheap £8. From here I walked down the concrete path by KGVI, passed through the metal kissing gate, over the boardwalk, a little bit further after that and then connected with the *BROWN SHRIKE*, this is a MEGA bird for Britain, but especially so for London! What a bird to have on your London list eh!?

I enjoyed good views on and off for a little while, around 17:00 until it seemed to go to roost. I waited for Phil Wallace to arrive to try to help him but I wasn't expecting him to get it. We tried another angle, here we saw that some other birders were on something, almost certainly the Shrike. Over we went. Oh no it had just flown into a bush. Phil ducked down to get his camera ready. It flew past with perfect timing deep into another bush. An angry Phil got his scope onto the bush and spotted it slowly emerging at the right hand side of the bush, I called it out and most people got onto it. It flew again to another bush where it gave better, more prolonged views and everybody present connected before it flew to another bush presumably never to again be seen, for that day at least.

Also seen: c.80 Wigeon, 1 Snipe, 1 Kestrel, several Meadow Pipits and a possible Rock Pipit overhead, calling.

Birding in Kent Sunday 11th October 2009

I had a very good day out with Phil Wallace in Kent on Sunday with a fantastic and long-awaited British tick and a very nice year tick.

The internary was carefully chosen; Bockhill Farm. We arrived at something like 0945 and already we could tell migration was in action with shed loads of Siskins and Goldfinches passing over head (the latter feeding on thistle etc in large flocks) and an overhead movement of Skylarks and Meadow Pipits. I attempted a seawatch but this didn't come up with any seabirds of note.

Then the news came through on the pager of a Wryneck at Hope Point, St.Margaret's at Cliffe. I had no idea how to get there but knew it couldn't be too far. After asking the tea-room staff we were soon directed to where to go and headed down there; after a cup of tea and a snack. It was a fairly short walk, interrupted by the Wryneck finder giving us directions to the bird and better still a Barred Warbler that he had found! 'Great!' we thought, in the least sarcastic way possible.

We joined a couple of well-known Kent birders and proceeded with checking the areas he described but before too long, we were rather comically being followed by between 10 and 20 birders and had got into a terrible state of confusion as to where each bird was meant to be! Despite perhaps 5 different stories, the two Kent birders walked through a huge clump of bushes and flushed something and I got onto it as the bird sat atop a small bush and called 'WRYNECK-there's the Wryneck!'- most people got onto it before it flew over to the footpath a few hundred metres ahead and we eventually got good views of it alongside 2 Meadow Pipits and a mole as it fed along the path! What a smashing bird!- following, to be frank, crap views of an elusive bird in France, I have since been very keen to get GOOD views in BRITIAN. British tick 251.

I spent the rest of the time coming up to 1:25pm trying without any luck to relocate the Barred Warbler (though I think I may have heard it call at one point). Phil and I headed back to the car; he wanted to look for Ring Ouzels at Samphire Hoe (I wanted to have a look at the Lydd Cattle Egret and maybe look for his Ring Ouzels in the trapping area . . .). On the way to the car we relocated the Dartford Warbler which the patch watchers were getting very excited about.

Samphire Hoe was a complete failure and waste of time, we quickly sussed it out and headed to Lydd.

At Lydd, we enjoyed good views of the adult CATTLE EGRET as it fed amongst a very noisy heard of cattle. Nice year tick and my first good views of one in this country. Also 1 Yellow Wagtail here.
A very quick stop at the trapping area, which considering the conditions, we also concluded was a waste of time and we headed home, happy.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Cetti's dip

I got a bit of a surprise today at school when I took a sneaky look at my phone and found a text from Johnny Allan stating that there was a Cetti's Warbler at Beddington by the feeder!!! This is a mega patch bird (2nd record- 1st in 2002)! I counted up my money and changed my after-school plans so that I could twitch the bird. This bird follows a lot of talk amongst patch birders that we are due for one; it seems that if we talk about a bird, it turns up! Another example is Spotted Flycatcher; there was discussion that we should get one this year following no records last year and 3 turned up this year (one of which I found).

I was there at 15:40 and not in a hopeful state of mind, for an hour or two I had been hearing negative news and didn't expect much. There was so much vegetation that the bird could have been in and these birds are hard to catch when at their breeding grounds and where they are vocal, let alone at Beddington Farm! I half halfheartedly walked the public footpath (here I met Roy Weller who reported a probable Raven) before forgetting the idea of trying to pin the bird down and made my way up to the Irrigation Bridge, just after I'd checked the lake which literally looked like a tsunami had just hit it because of the destruction which is apparently in line with the landowner's conservation management plan . . . 3 sides of the lake which were once lined with willows were as flat as a pancake and the main island and main spit looked like a squelchy piece of mud that someone had just stepped in and were now joined together. There were few other birds than Herons, Gulls and Crows to be seen- what a depressing sight (not forgetting the ex-scrape just south of the lake which is completely unrecognisable state; you could be forgiven for mistaking it for a football pitch which has had all it's grass pulled up). Enough ranting.

I managed to get myself into the gully just north of the slope leading up to the Irrigation Bridge in the hope of flushing a Wryneck but this produced nothing and I came out covered with seeds, thorns, cuts and grazes. I crossed the bridge and entered the Shrike Field which links on to the Biker's Field. The only notable birds were one or two Stonechats showing well in the latter field.

From here, I made my way over the 100 Acre bridge (I hate crossing this bridge, it always feels like one of the wooden planks is going to come loose and you will fall onto the railway track below) and gave Jim's Pit a quick check. Here there were 3 or 4 Snipe and perhaps 50 or so Teal with a couple of Lapwings and little else.

Time to go home so I made my way back to Hackbridge train station then walked home from Sutton, a dip, but it was expected really.

Birding in London Sunday 4th October 2009

On the above date I decided to do a bit of birding in London to get a couple of county ticks (more importantly, one was a lifer).

First off was the London Wetland Centre for the Spotted Crake, which, perhaps surprisingly compared to the bird I went for next, was not the lifer, just a London tick. I made my way to the Dulverton Hide, was informed as to the general area that the bird had been seen in (I had just missed it) and proceeded with scanning the bank again and again. An RSPB Wildlife Explorers group came in, and although it was very nice to see the kids were actually very keen on the birds, helping point out commoner birds like Snipe to them and putting up with the constant noise was a bit distracting. I recognised the group leader as someone related to surveys and things at Beddington.

The persistent scanning payed off with an all to brief glimpse of the Spotted Crake as it scurried along the bank, appearing from behind an island and dashing into a clump of reeds. I shouted the news out to everyone in the hide, but I knew there was no chance that all the kids and birders would connect; this would simply be too quick and elusive for so many people to connect with.

It showed briefly one or two more times, but again it was only me who glimpsed the bird. About 5 minutes after the group left, the bird appeared out of the vegetation and gave good, prolonged views at the water's edge, murphy's law for you! I'd have loved the kids to have seen the bird. Anyway, it showed well for everyone who was in the hide at the time and they enjoyed good views. It disappeared again. It showed once more before I left, this time for a very prolonged period of time and with more people to enjoy the bird. I managed a handful of awful photos and video footage but someone with a proper compact and digiscoping adapter seemed to get better results.

I texted dad to ask if we could pop over to Staines for the Red-necked Grebe as soon as he arrived back at the Wetland Centre from his little excursion and he agreed. I duly hurried over and checked the WWF and Peacock Hides, there was little of note except a handful of Wigeon, 3
Snipe showed very well from the latter hide.

Staines was good. With ease, I connected with the juvenile Red-necked Grebe which was associating with the adult Great Crested Grebes towards the west side of the north basin. This was a very overdue lifer (250 for Britain and something like 267 for West Pal, I don't really keep track of that- of course a London tick as well). In addition, an adult winter Black-necked Grebe gave untold views as it hugged the south edge of the causeway, I managed some pretty good pictures, but as I've said before I can't post these here at the moment because of the lack of software on this laptop. Also seen was a Northern Wheatear, a Grey Wagtail and a couple of Meadow Pipits.

Red-necked Grebe (juvenile)

Today's hit rate: 100% !!!