Sunday, 28 March 2010

Red letter day at Canon's

It was a fairly quiet day today at Canons Farm until I checked a field that I hardly ever watch and found a female Black Redstart on the adjacent farm buildings.

I ran back to where Kevin was calmly drinking his coffee, shouting 'Black Redstart!', he shot up, dropping everything, and we legged it back to the buildings. It was still there, atop the roof of a barn, we watched it for a little while before Kevin said he was sure there were two birds. Sure enough, two female Black Redstarts were showing for us at the same time!

We enjoyed views of the birds that got better by the minute, rang Mark Stanley and Steve Gale who both arrived on the scene quickly and put it out on the pager which resulted in at least five other local birders coming and enjoying the birds.This is the first record of the species for Canons Farm and Banstead Woods and a Surrey tick for a couple of the others.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

A rare bird at last

After an anxious wait of a week, Phil Wallace kindly took me down to The Fleet near Langton Herring to see the drake Bufflehead.

We left at 7.00am at arrived on-site at something around 10.00am. We joined the gathering of people and after a bit of scanning I picked up the glorious adult drake BUFFLEHEAD amongst a group of Red-breasted Mergansers. My first BB rarity of the year, and the species still constitutes a mega, this being the 14th British record, and the first for nearly 3 years.The bird was tiny in comparison to the nearby Mergansers and dived very frequently, making it difficult to photograph. A Common Buzzard flew over and it stayed up, keeping an eye on it, this was the main opportunity for photography. Other birds in the area included a Chiffchaff, a male Pheasant and a couple of Skylarks.
Such a smart little duck - all handheld digiscoped

The Fleet - a lagoon sheltered by an impressive shingle bar

After watching this cracking bird for half about an hour we moved on to Burley, New Forest, where a wintering Great Grey Shrike had set up territory. The directions on the pager as 'behind the car park' were a bit vague, as this could be taken to mean the suitable habitat in just about any direction and, although implying its fairly close to the car park, it could mean it was a slightly greater distance away than thought. Alas, we failed to find the Shrike after a good go, but we did see 2 Peregrines harassing one of the pair of Common Buzzards that was in the area (we'd seen quite a few of the latter between sites, from the car). The only other raptor was a Sparrowhawk that came in low and fast. A Redpoll flew over, a Bullfinch or two was knocking around and a Meadow Pipit was displaying. A male Stonechat was present on some gourse south west of the car park.

Next on the iternary was Acres Down, a wonderful viewpoint with stunning views over the New Forest. We were hoping for Goshawk but it was getting late in the day and it was starting to cloud over a bit. I got onto a distant Common Crossbill atop a conifer and soon afterwards, another flew over. Siskins were all over the place and a Meadow Pipit and a pair of Stonechats were present. We failed to see any Goshawks, or any other raptors for that matter with the exception of 5 Common Buzzards, 2 of which were displaying.
On the way back to the car, a Chiffchaff called. We decided to head over to Blackwater Arboretum for Hawfinches. On arrival, under the huge pines and deciduous trees, we both bought a much needed flake 99 before walking through the gate to where the finches get. I was onto a Hawfinch before we were even through the gate, giving its familiar clicking and rasping noises before revealing itself as it flew off.

Hawfinch (phone-scoped)

We stayed for about an hour enjoying, at times, excellent views of at least 5 Hawfinches. They were pretty mobile, but stayed put long enough to get photos and show other people through the scope. The place was absolutely brimming with Siskins and there were also some Redpolls around, as well as a handful of Greenfinches. A female Sparrowhawk dashed through, disturbing everything for a short time.

We were about to leave when the Great Grey Shrike came through on the pager again. We couldn't not have another go before dark, so popped back to Burley. We had a thorough look all around the car park again as dusk grew nearer but the Shrike could not be found.

We left happy, Phil had got better photos of the Bufflehead than on his Monday trip and some good shots of the Hawfinches (which he only saw very briefly on Monday) as well as getting Bullfinch out of the way for the year. I was very happy with a good British tick, and a couple of enjoyable year ticks- Crossbill and Hawfinch - (though I'm not really year listing this year). Thanks Phil for the great day out!

Wednesday, 10 March 2010


Slavonian Grebe

I popped down to Dungeness on Sunday, when, for the first time I was getting feelings that I'd rather be spending my time at my local patch rather than enjoying a guaranteed selection of nice winter wildfowl and grebes! Canon's Farm has really got its grip on me, I can't let it get any tighter or I'm done for.
Highlights included a showy Slavonian Grebe and 3 redhead Smew (including a very showy individual which was frustratingly obscured much of the time by reeds) on the New Diggings and a Black-necked Grebe on Denge Marsh, the former two year ticks. Marsh Harrier was an easy year tick with 2 birds seen in addition to 1 near Lydd.

Black-necked Grebe

Smew (redhead)

As I was leaving to have a bit of a late afternoon seawatch, one of the members of staff informed me he had found 14 White-fronted Geese on the fields around Denge Marsh; change of plan for an easy year tick.
Got to Denge Marsh road and soon got onto some large gathering of Greylags and Canada Geese, after a few minutes of scanning in the bitter wind, I got onto at least 3 White-fronts. I didn't bother even trying to get a photo, they were too distant and the wind was too strong.

A seawatch followed which got me nothing more than Gannet for the year and a frustrating diver which I'm pretty sure was Black-throated; couldn't have been the commoner one which I need for the year could it? Not a bad day overall.