Sunday, 31 July 2011

Woodthat Shrike stick around?

I've dipped a couple of these in the past. Just this year, Ian and I were half way to Essex for one when it came through that it had been gobbled by a troublesome Sprawk - after I went on about it being in the bag and practically ticked already.

I was saying the same thing to Ian today, thinking I could not be wrong this time, but news from departing birders as we arrived that the Shrike had been driven into hiding by some twit photographer made me think I perhaps ought to stop tempting fate.

It wasn't feeling good for the first five minutes - but then the Woodchat Shrike showed. Yay I was right! All twitch attendees were happy from then on. I was very happy as it was a pretty bird and a new tick on my list. Also, it means that I no longer have to feel silly having Brown and Isabelline Shrikes on my list while only having two of the three 'common' Lanius visitors to Britain.

Britain List List 311

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Chat hedge

Whinchat (left) with juvenile Stonechat

CFBW pulled its fifth (or possibly sixth) Whinchat of the year, and first of the autumn, today. It was in the same hedge in which three of the others stopped off this spring. The very same hedge has been fruitful in terms of other chats, too, with Black Redstart, Common Redstart and multiple Wheatears using it this year. Today's bird was accompanied by a juvenile Stonechat, which was nice.

Purple Hairstreak

Dingy Skipper

On Tuesday I spent a day butterflying (with nets and pots) at CFBW with Ian Magness which proved a success. Our most unusual find was probably a Dingy Skipper; a species which 'sometimes' has a smaller second brood around now and is generally pretty scarce anyway. I particularly enjoyed seeing a male Purple Hairstreak and a Small Copper, both butterfly year ticks (if I kept a butterfly year list) for me. We got a quick look at something which I'm almost certain was a male Chalkhill Blue - it certainly wasn't one of those bright female Common Blues - but it was too quick for the nets and was never seen again. Another highlight was even more of a surprise, and also not a butterfly: a Hummingbird Hawkmoth appeared out of nowhere and started feeding but vanished as hastily as it materialised.

Small Copper

Monday, 25 July 2011

Stilt Sand bagged

record shot of the Stilt Sandpiper

Peter 'Polo' Grady picked me up from the farm shortly after 11.00am and we started the trek down to Weymouth. Originally, this trip was pencilled in for tomorrow but Peter became unexpectedly relieved of his arrangements so this was something of a spontaneous decision.

After an average journey (holiday traffic around the New Forest and coastal towns) we parked up and eventually found our way to the gathering of people fixed on a small muddy pool. Our desired tick had shown but had just recently gone out of view. It didn't take much waiting to see the splendid adult STILT SANDPIPER which showed well, albeit a tad distant, on and off for the next couple of hours. It was a really neat and smart bird; a wader that I've always been keen to see. After acquiring a sketch, photographs and prolonged clear views we decided to head home, both satisfied.

showing the combination of a clean white rump and plain wings

Britain Life List 310

Friday, 22 July 2011

In which I finally find something half decent

Pectoral Sandpiper

I was at Canons this morning when Phil called to ask whether I fancied a trip to Dunge. I thought I may as well accept seeing as I'd done the key areas of the farm and there's usually something to look at down there.

We called in at the RSPB centre and we were reminded of reports of a Little Stint at ARC so crossed to the other side in the hope of finding it. There were fifteen Golden Plovers; a few Dunlin and Common Sandpipers; ten Black-tailed Godwits, a Green Sandpiper and, by my reckoning around two thousand Lapwings present.

After an hour or so from the hide there we thought the stint may be at the other end so we pulled up by the side of the road at the south end of the pit. Scanning didn't reveal anything resembling our quarry and I was about to stop searching when an adult Pectoral Sandpiper waddled into my view. Oh . . . cool! I put the news out and proceeded to sketch and photograph the bird which was always on show albeit a little out of range for a top shot most of the time. A little twitch materialised within half an hour. Other birds at this end included two Little Gulls and a couple of Turnstones.

Little Stint

Next we went to Rye where we sat in the garden of Edward and Mandy Mayer, a couple whom Phil befriended in Poland before joining them on a walk around the Harbour. Here I found a Wood Sandpiper and two Whimbrel. A redhead Goosander was a pleasant surprise and six Little Terns flew up. A convenient pager message resulted in us seeing our initial quarry as it wasn't long before we were getting smashing views of a moutling adult Little Stint.

Wood Sandpiper

pair of Whimbrel

A bit of a result really - good day, cheers Phil & team.

Sunday, 17 July 2011

To middle England

Common Rosefinch

Yesterday, Ian 'Eagle' picked me up at 5.30am, we collected Peter 'Polo' Grady and headed north. The journey wasn't too bad, arriving at Melbourn, Cambridgeshire, in good time. We could hear our target singing as we parked up. It took us a while to work out where the sound was coming from, though it was close, but once we did it wasn't difficult to get onto the Common Rosefinch (I do hate the fact that it's no longer referred to as Scarlet Rosefinch - a much better name!). I am considering this a lifer; I was happy with the Tottenham bird last year where I saw a small bird fly between the bushes (without bins), the half dozen people there all got onto it (with bins) and were very confident the bird was the Rosefinch - however after witnessing and hearing about various cock-ups in birding (e.g. watching a guy tick Pacific Diver after a Shag being pointed out to him as the rarity) I like to identify the bird for myself nowadays. Hence I removed last year's bird some time ago. Anyway, this bird showed well as it sang and was highly satisfactory.

Spotted Sandpiper

Our next venue was the Lyndon Reserve at Rutland Water. We got caught out in the rain on the way to the hide and even in the hide we got soaked as a leak resulted in an interior waterfall. The hide was pretty busy and for some time the only sandpipers that anyone was seeing were Commons and Greens. After half an hour or so I got onto a distant Common-type but as I looked harder I saw that it was the SPOTTED SANDPIPER. Everyone else got on it and the bird gave prolonged but distant views. It was a lifer for Eagle and Polo but the third I've seen (my first summer plumaged individual). Five Ospreys were also on show along with a Goldeneye and a couple of Black-tailed Godwits.


The M25 was a bit slow on the way back but otherwise not too many problems. We delivered Polo at his car and a short walk of Canons Farm followed. A productive day in good company.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Not every day has a Silver-wash

Silver-washed Fritillary

Over the summer I have been looking for Crossbills at the patch, this has now been achieved. Meanwhile, I have been pursuing a butterfly there: Silver-washed Fritillary. I have been looking for these almost as hard as I have been for Crossbills and today it paid off.

I seldom visit Fames Rough seeing as visiting it involves negotiating a very steep decent; I've lost my footing there a couple of times. That's something you don't want to do when there's a large quantity of big and jagged flint specimens lying around. Also, I don't find climbing back up notable gradients particularly easy. I did it today, though, in the hope of a frit. A Brown Argus raised my hopes but the sun subsequently went in, to my disgruntlement. However, after pausing at the west end for just a couple of minutes I noticed a large orange thing land a few few away - it was indeed a Silver-washed Fritillary! I actually ticked this species off a couple of weeks ago when one circled close around me for ages, but never settled. However, this is the first time that I've acquired satisfactory views of a settled example. Photo attached. Purple Emperor next . . .

Brown Argus

The bird highlight today was very unexpected: just as I was heading home I caught sight of a juvenile Peregrine flushing Woodpigeons from the north end of Broadfield. I also heard a female Tawny Owl calling near Piddly Pond (they're often heard there in the daytime). I pinpointed which tree the sound was coming from and grilled it. Nothing. I give up.

all things Canons Farm: cfbwbirds.blogspot.comLink

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Things are beginning to warm up a bit . . .


A quick catch up. On Sunday, Alex Bowes and I spent an afternoon in the Kent. At Stodmarsh, the pair of juvenile Night-herons was the highlight along with a Wood Sandpiper that I found from the Marsh Hide - both were lifers for Alex. We moved on to another site elsewhere in Kent where we searched for a couple of Schedule 1 breeders but luck was not on our side.

That morning I caught the first bus to the patch, in order to give it a bit of coverage before the Kent outing. A couple of Sand Martins were a very pleasant surprise - due to the lack of water this is only an uncommon passage migrant at the patch. Not long after this a flock of nine calling Crossbills passed over, heading south - very satisfying after all the hours I've been putting in over the summer, primarily in search of this species.

Yesterday I was on the phone to Roy Weller discussing how autumn migration should be slowly starting around now. Literally one minute after I put the phone away, three Meadow Pipits flew in and landed on the 'Barn Owl Barn' by the derelict one! I was watching these when I heard what sounded like a Yellow Wagtail for the second time that morning (I considered it a mis-hearing when I caught a single call an hour or so previously) - the culprit then flew over me and towards Broadfield, calling several times as it went and it was indeed a Yellow Wagtail, the first at the patch (and, I believe, London and Surrey) this autumn. This bird was again present this morning, as were the three Meadow Pipits - only they were joined by another Sand Martin! Things really are staring to move; I'm hoping to catch a new patch wader over the coming month, perhaps a few evening visits will produce the goods?

enquiry: have you noticed Swallows with white patches on the upperparts similar to this? As far as I can remember, I have only seen birds like this at Canons Farm this year.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Caught Red-rumped

Red-rumped Swallow is a species that I've never had any particular luck with. I've gone for and dipped them a couple of times and been at sites when they have been present but for one reason or another didn't see them (mainly because news wasn't let out until dark). A text from Johnny Allan around 6.00pm sent me into panic as I tried to find someone to give me a lift down to Unstead for a bird that had just been found there. It turned out that Eagle was available so off we went. Badgeman and Factor were on the scene already with a handful of others and it wasn't long until Red-rumped Swallow was firmly on my list as it hawked amongst the swarm of House Martins, Swallows and Swifts. At times the bird flew right over our heads and gave very obliging views - the right way to get one in the end!!!

Monday, 4 July 2011

Rye Harbour and Ashdown Forest outings

Grasshopper Warbler at Rye Harbour

On Saturday evening I went to Old Lodge with Polo, Lord Holmesdale and their friend Colin. Our primary aim was to see Nightjars. We went walkabouts while we waited for dusk, this producing five calling Crossbills, a Spotted Flycatcher, several calling Common Redstarts (including two that showed themselves) and a couple of Stonechats. The light slipped away and the first Nightjar started churring in the distance, in an area impossible to view. This was closely followed by a fly-by Woodcock. At least one further Nightjar was heard (at very close range at one point) but, disappointingly and rather surprisingly, none were seen. I don't remember hearing Nightjars before and failing to see them.

Willow Warbler

Yesterday, Canons provided a bit of surprise in the form of an adult Willow Warbler feeding three flesh fledglings a good kilometre, at least, from the nearest breeding site. A Hobby and a Kestrel were seen hunting around Lunch Wood. Eagle picked me up just after 2.00pm and we made tracks for Rye Harbour. He was after Wood Sandpiper and Roseate Tern.

The highlight at Rye was a showy Grasshopper Warbler that even allowed itself to be photographed. At least ten Little Terns put on a good show for us amongst the hundreds of Sandwich Terns and Common Terns. Waders included a single Greenshank, a Common Sandpiper, three or so Green Sandpipers, two Dunlin, around five Ringed Plovers, two Little Ringed Plovers and many Redshanks (including juveniles), Oystercatchers and
Lapwings. The only raptors seen were a female Kestrel and a male Marsh Harrier.

Alas, no Roseate Tern or Wood Sand for Ian but he did get a compensation lifer - the Grasshopper Warbler. Castle Water (where the Sandpiper was meant to be) was a lot further off than we thought it was, plus we got lost on the way so we only actually ended up leaving the site at 10.00pm!!! Our presence at this time of day did have its perks as we found when we were enjoying good views of a couple of Badgers!