Saturday, 30 April 2011

Beddington Bird Race

Tree Sparrow

After checking Canons this morning (which, as expected, produced very little), I made my way to Beddington to take part in their annual bird race. Highlights included a Wood Sandpiper, a Curlew, four Greenshanks, a Ringed Plover and a pair of Little Ringed Plovers. I put in six and a half hours (mainly in one spot) but only got 47 species, with many notable omissions such as Wren, all tits etc. My plan for tomorrow is to do Canons again until mid-morning then pay Wisley a visit. Congratulations to Tank on finding the Wood Sands!

Ringed Plover (left) with LRP


Next week I intend to spend a day mapping out, to the best of my ability, all breeding bird territories at Canons Farm and another doing the same for Banstead Woods as I recognise that breeding information is something that is lacking in the soon-to-be-published CFBW Bird Report 2010, and want this very important area to be much clearer in the 2011 Report.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Ten countdown

On Sunday I got my 90th CFBW tick for 2011 - Hobby. The only expected birds left are Tree Pipit (which we seem to have missed this spring, but will surely get in the autumn) and Swift; other than these the numbers can only be made up my heart-pounders - I'm looking forward to them.

Last Wednesday provided a couple of year ticks:


Garden Warbler (taken today)

Canons Farm & Banstead Woods Year List 2011: 90 (78 at this point last year)

Saturday, 23 April 2011

A Sheppey spring

A nice day out with Phil Wallace and Pete Denyer . . .

Friday, 22 April 2011

Nightmare come true

I have wondered what I would do if a white-winged gull were to fly over my patch. Panic and try to get a photo has always been my conclusion - I only managed to do the former when the scenario came to life this morning. The bird was with Herring Gulls, appeared to be an immature-type and was heading towards Holmethorpe. The light was not brilliant and it was flying away from me but the white primaries showed up brilliantly even with the naked eye! It could well have been, and most likely was, a leucistic or aberrant Herring Gull but the possibility of something better remained extant, so the best I could do was to alert locals that there might just be a Glauc/Iceland knocking about. There often seems to be a passage of these species at this time of year but equally there are at least a couple of known pale jobs causing problems, too. If I had spotted the flock as they were coming on I'd have had time for a photo. Very annoying!

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Harrier, Waxwings and another Gropper

Marsh Harrier

On Saturday, Canons was graced by another Grasshopper Warbler and early that morning Eagle and I enjoyed a flock of about twenty five Waxwings that stopped off briefly in Canons Wood. Sunday saw Roy finally connect with the latter, his most wanted patch tick, when what was presumably the same flocked had swelled to about sixty five showy birds.

Waxwings on Sunday

Monday was pretty dull and today (which was spent in the company of Polo, Lord Holmesdale, Eagle and Drax) looked like it was going to turn out to be another duffer - save a Lesser Whitethroat, not an easy bird at CFBW - until, when walking up the lane, Eagle pointed out a raptor drifting across. I got onto it and gave the eloquent verdict 'That's a f***ing Marsh Harrier!' Marsh Harrier has been at or near the top of my list of expected patch ticks for a long time and it felt so good to bag one - the first record for CFBW. Woohoo! Hen and Marsh ticked for the patch, just Monty's and Pallid to go. MH is also a Surrey tick for me.

Canons Farm & Banstead Woods Life List: 104
Canons Farm & Banstead Woods Year List 2011: 87
(73 at this point last year)

Friday, 15 April 2011

Shrike twitch diverts, and another Canons Gropper


Yesterday was a bit of a duff day at Canons and Eagle and I had an eye on the Woodchat Shrike in Essex - but so did a Sparrowhawk it seems; shortly after leaving late in the morning it came through that the bird had been taken - unbelievable!!! I have never had any luck with Woodchats in the past and I thought this would be the one . . . Eagle needed Night-heron so we tapped Two Tree Island into the sat-nav. The bird was very easy to locate and showed well; the first juvenile that I've seen in these shores (I saw the adult at West Hythe a couple of years ago). We bumped into Richard 'Lord Holmesdale' Draper and Peter 'Polo' Grady. We returned to Canons for an evening check, to find that Loony Field had been ploughed and was being enjoyed by a Common Buzzard and three Wheatears. I wonder what else might get on the plough???

Eagle picked me up at 6.15am this morning and within five minutes of leaving the car we could hear a Grasshopper Warbler reeling! Another good bird! I had to hear it a couple more times to make sure I wasn't still in bed dreaming before sending out the text. Badgeman, Phantom, Factor, Slasher and Shaft gave it a go - the former three hearing the bird by 9.00am. It took a long time before the bird showed, Badgeman and I getting a clear but brief view of it near the edge of the hedge, creeping up towards the top. A male Yellow Wagtail provided a nice year tick for me and Eagle's 80th CFBW bird.

I do have a recording of the bird but am trying to figure out how to put it on here . . .

Canons Farm & Banstead Woods Year List 2011: 85 (67 at this point last year)

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

I knew it Wood happen

Wood Warbler

Many people have told me, and I have thought myself, that I am in with a good chance of one of those nice-looking Phylloscopus warbles with a coin-dropping song - they even bred at the patch until the 70s. Usual story: I nearly didn't check Pages Acre this morning but something diverted me that way. I was just about to move on when I heard a strange song from the vegetation 'ha . . . sounded like a Wood Warbler' I joked with myself. It sang again 'mmm . . . it does sound like a Wood Warbler'. I wanted to hear it one more time before I let the news out - it sang again and so out came the phone and I ran round the other side, dropping my scope in the process. I located the bird along the west edge and my very shaky hands managed to take a recognisable record shot (1st photo).

Wood Warbler

Badgeman and Eagle soon arrived on the scene - the bird gave a few brief bursts of song but remained unseen. Eagle had to leave for work and about half an hour later Badge and I were enjoying good views of the bird silently feeding in a birch tree - I managed a few slightly better photos.

Badge and I then walked most of the farm and some of the Woods. The highlights being a displaying Lapwing and seven Wheatears. Nick & Russell Gardner arrived and showed us their very gripping shots from Scotland but had no luck with the bird. Other people who tried for it included P-Go, Factor and David 'Farthing' Hayes. When I was skywatching from the Watchpoint I picked up CFBW's first House Martin of the year flying north.

Another good day - I wonder how long this run of birds will last?

Canons Farm & Banstead Woods Life List: 103
Canons Farm & Banstead Woods Year List 2011: 83
(67 at this point last year)

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Little trouble at all

Little Crake

I expected falling off the boardwalk and into the water to be an inevitable part of the Arundel trip today, but this thankfully wasn't the case. By the time I arrived with Colin & Paul Manville, late morning, there were hardly hordes of people pushing and shoving and I had LITTLE CRAKE on my list within ten minutes, seeing it clearly - although reasonably briefly - about four times. A nice bird. I also bumped into a few familiar faces including Pete & Jamie, whom I met and spent a lot of time with on Scilly last year; and Michael & Dan, with whom I have gone on a couple of twitches.

I had already done an early morning stint at Canons before the twitch, getting little other than a couple of Wheatears. Paul and I returned and met up with Paul Cox, Ian Magness, Roy and a couple of others for a skywatch. The odd Swallow flew through and there were a few Common Buzzards about. I picked out two raptors over one of the barns, calling them as Buzzards. I scoped them just in case and saw that one of them was in fact a Red Kite! It proceeded to drift south east. A very long awaited patch year tick and a great relief, finishing off a worthwhile and pleasant day.

Britain Life List: 302 (weird how it always seems to be 200 above my CFBW list at the moment)

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Eagle strikes

Red-legged Partridge

Ian 'Eagle' Jones saved what I had passed off as a duff day (bar the reasonably early Common Whitethroat at The Scrub today, a patch year tick) this evening. I intended to leave at 7.00pm with Johnny Allan in the hope that last night's Short-eared Owl had stuck around. A call from Ian at 6.30pm informing me of a Red-legged Partridge and a Common Redstart got me on the line to John asking if he minded leaving a little earlier.

We parked up and ended up in the wrong place as Ian and I hadn't cleared up exactly where he was. We sorted the directions out and rushed over to find him with Paul Manville, who had also just arrived. The partridge had just gone round the corner. We walked along the hedge, shortly after John connected with the Common Redstart (that I didn't see) for his year list, and soon the Red-legged Partridge ran out in front of us. In the bag!!!

We all settled down to stake out the Short-eared. We stuck it out until 8.45pm but there was no sign of the target or a Barn Owl, though three Little Owls were calling. A shame, I really wanted John, Paul and Ian to see it. It must have been a migrant bird that roosted in Harrier Field for one day and headed off last night.

Cheers Ian!!!

Canons Farm & Banstead Woods Life List: 102

Canons Farm & Banstead Woods Year List 2011: 80 (67 at this point last year)

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Shortie surprise

As I said in my post earlier today, I went out to look for the Barn Owl this evening with Roy Weller. We positioned ourselves by Harrier Field and waited, joined by Chris Northwood. As darkness began to cover the kingdom I picked up an owl flying perhaps twenty feet up and shouted 'there it is!', Roy and Chris got onto it but it soon became apparent that this bird wasn't right.

It came directly overhead, quite low and we got brilliant views of what was then obviously a Short-eared Owl!!! It continued to make its way casually north east towards Ruffett Wood. No Barn Owl . . . but I think that just about made up for it.

Canons Farm & Banstead Woods Year List 2011: 78 (66 at this point last year)

Canons fall

Just before I entered the Legal & General playing field this morning to check whether or not the gorgious male Ring Ouzel was still present (which it was, after a half hour or so of waiting), I scanned Broad Field from the high ground. I picked up a Wheatear, then another . . . another . . . another . . . until there were nine! A guy came up and saw the Ouzel and told me he'd had a Wheatear at the other end of the farm, making an amazing ten birds!

I then went on to walk the farm for anything else that may have been present until Alex Bowes arrived. I escorted him up to the playing field but not ten minutes later I got a text from Colin Manville 'male Redstart' ring ring 'WHERE IS IT!?!?!' - upon hearing his instructions I pegged it down there, leaving poor wheezy Mr Bowes way behind. Colin told me there were two males but they weren't showing and he had to go, we settled down but he rang again a couple of minutes later saying he'd got onto one on the way back, short run and after an anxious wait the male Common Redstart flew out and into another tree. Bagged.

Alex returned to L&G where he eventually connected with the Ouzel. I staked out the path in hope of better views or perhaps even photos of the elusive Redstarts. Colin's brother, Paul, arrived and we located one of the males and found a female before too long and a small number of others also saw the birds. See record shot.

As well as the Wheatears and Redstarts, a fair few Willow Warblers had arrived overnight at Canons (I also had one singing early in the morning at Banstead High Street!).

I'm returning later in the day with Roy in hope of seeing this Barn Owl again (Paul had it the other night).

Canons Farm & Banstead Woods Year List 2011: 77 (as well as the Common Redstart I noticed that I missed out Grey Wagtail)

Monday, 4 April 2011

Double act continues

Ring Ouzel

The male Ring Ouzel put on a great performance for the couple more twitchers that made it to Canons Farm before 10.00am (when L&G started mowing their pitch) but was not seen again by a steady flow of potential admirers later on; it's possible that it was completely pushed off. Walking along the west side of Broad Field I noticed a bird fly across and land on a fence post at Harrier Field, it was the Black Redstart, a pleasant surprise as I thought it had gone. Only one of a good number of would-be Ouzel/Redstart admirers connected with this bird today. Still no Red Kite!!! Perhaps I'm just being greedy . . .

Mistle Thrush

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Oodles of Ouzels (and more!)

1st summer male(?) Ring Ouzel (the new bird)

Co-patcher Ian "Eagle" was utterly gutted yesterday when he couldn't make it for the Ring Ouzels until too late in the day, and we held out little hope for connection this morning. We did stake out Legal & General, though. Ian was going to give up but I got him to stay on. It was a wise choice as not too much longer he was in tears of delight (no, really, he was) when the male Ring Ouzel showed where it did yesterday (I was relieved too, I didn't want to be going around with a misery guts all day). The male was seen several times by several observers throughout the day but the female was not seen, surprisingly. It seems it may have moved on, alone.

female/immature Black Redstart

Ian was still waxing lyrical about the Ouzel when I picked up a female/immature Black Redstart at Reads Bottom. I heard a collection of noises from right next to me that sounded like someone might have been just a bit happy, I'm not sure though (Ian was just about the only person who didn't catch up with any last year). This was twitched by about ten people including Johnny "Badgeman" Allan and Dave "Dakky" Dak. A pair of displaying Lapwings over Broad Field provided an overdue patch year tick.

Kojak, Ian, Paul Manville and I teamed up for a little while before Kojak departed. The rest of us continued into Banstead Woods where it was a delight to finally get the first CFBW Willow Warbler of the year, singing away at The Scrub. Paul crashed away into the undergrowth to answer the call of nature and came back with a line I won't forget in a while 'In there I've 'ad a Woodcock . . . and a Treecreeper . . . 'n' I ain't even 'ad a slash yet!'.

Later on, back at the farm, Roy rang me and got us all onto a Peregrine flying north east. Amazingly, a new Ring Ouzel flew in and fed in Broad Field for a while, I'm not an expert on accurate Rouzel ageing/sexing but I think it's either a well marked female or a 1st summer male? I stuck it out for another hour or two then headed home.

It was a very, very enjoyable day spent in great company (both human and avian). I look forward to many more similar days!

Canons Farm & Banstead Woods Year List 2011: 75


Saturday, 2 April 2011

Ouzeling satisfaction

more pics here

Well . . . today was rather good! It started off with a male Wheatear, a Cormorant and a Canada Goose at the farm then watching over the Chipstead Valley from Banstead Woods produced two Greylags and a Peregrine. It was at this point that Ian "Eagle" had to leave for a football match. I walked around the eastern edge of Banstead Woods then back to the farm, checking Legal & General for a second time. As I approached, I flushed two dark thrushes but thought little of it. Hang on . . . they had silvery wings! No, they couldn't have been. I kept on going and a male Ring Ouzel called and sat in a bush right in front of me, before flying towards the playing field!!! I texted out the news and, after an anxious five minute wait, the birds showed on the field. P-Go was first on the scene, closely followed by Badgeman, Phantom, Gripper, Pyro and Shaft. A steady stream of twitchers came and went (about twenty five in total) including a couple of unexpected faces like Dave Dak and Steve Spooner. Gripper picked up three Sand Martins going over, a patch year tick for me, and the odd Swallow dashed over, too.

I felt very sorry for Eagle when he rushed over about half an hour after the birds had flown a short(ish) distance and were lost to view. The dark quickly swept over the land and we couldn't find them again. I hope they're around for you tomorrow!

Canons Farm & Banstead Woods Life List: 101
Canons Farm & Banstead Woods Year List 2011: 72

Friday, 1 April 2011

I hate April Fools day . . .

Keep watching, it flutters around after a little while!

I was reminded of my gullibility several times today. Someone texted me to say they had found something somewhere (I won't say who, what or where) and nearly got me heading for the train, my mum convinced me that two thousand people dressed as smurfs were going to be doing a charity walk through Burgh Heath and an article on the Birdwatch website had me believing the Druridge Bay Curlew was an Eskimo. It was at this point that I slapped myself round the face and became sceptical of everything from then on. While at Canons, a message came through on the pager of a Leach's Petrel at Theale GPs. Again, I fell for it and believed it. It was not until I got in the car with Phil that I realised I must have been done over again. Far too early for a Leach's, they haven't even been seen on the coast and even then they're usually only driven inland by autumn storms. We were almost going to turn around but thought we may as well continue.

On arrival we were greeted by a birder who told us it wasn't a prank and the bird was still there, I remained incredulous - that was until we got onto a little black dot on the other side of the pit, it was indeed a Leach's Petrel! We drove round to the other side where brilliant settled and flight views were obtained, it was a great bird! I will never know what to believe on April Fools days in the future, it would be better if the tradition didn't exist.

Britain Life List 301