Sunday, 23 September 2012


We expected something to fly over in easterlies and showers today so myself, Ian Jones, Roy Weller, Josh Burch, Cliff Allan and Ian Magness, amongst others, staked it out. The best part of the morning had passed and the highlight had been two Yellow Wagtails heading south so it was looking like it might turn out to be a duff one then Ian J suddenly shouted 'Curlews!' and a magnificent flock of seven flew over, circled round and dropped down in Quail Field! They showed there for a few minutes before being flushed by a dog walker. They then moved to Heathside Field but didn't stay long, as a helicopter flew low and loudly overhead. This was enough for them and they made tracks south. There were also impressive numbers of hirundines today, in particular Swallows, and a Hobby flew over later in the day.

This brought my patch year list to the momentous figure of 100 for the second time. My record (last year) is 103 and I'm roughly level timing wise in terms of last year, however I still need Brambling, Short-eared Owl and Reed Bunting, which are all annual CFBW birds which I've not been lucky enough to get yet.

Also, my article finally got in October's Bird Watching magazine, see below:

Monday, 17 September 2012

Local Gannet!!!

Completely unexpected! This bird was found by Derek Coleman, who was counting Grey Herons, late this afternoon... just a few hours after I'd been by the lake and even sooner after Johnny had been there. Had it been sitting quietly in the vegetation all day or only just come in? An absolutely superb local bird, whatever.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Back to the Baillon's

I was lucky enough to see the BAILLON'S CRAKE as soon as I arrived in the hide early yesterday morning but I was left wanting more of this exceptional bird after getting only misty binocular views early yesterday morning. I gave it another go with Alex Bowes yesterday evening for further views but the bird was not game.

As the Banstead Countryside Day today drew to a close, Phil and I decided to give it a shot once we'd packed everything away. Phil hadn't yet been and still needed it even for his world list, despite being well-travelled recently. The journey went smoothly and we were soon on site. The hide was busy again, there were even people there that had arrived the previous day ten minutes too late in the morning and had been there till the hide shut in the evening when I returned. This certainly is a bird that requires patience.

The crake gave prolonged scope views this evening as darkness fell, while it perched in the reeds

Shortly before 7.00pm people started calling the bird from the right hand end of the hide, and some at that end were managing to get on it but the birders were not being at all helpful with directions for everybody else and it took ten minutes before everyone was clear on where it had been seen, by which point it was too late. It got to 7.20pm and the bird hadn't appeared again; the hide was closing in ten minutes' time and I was getting rather miffed. It was a relief, then, when it was shouted again... it was a bit of a struggle getting on it but thankfully the bird was sitting in one position for long enough for everybody to get their scopes on it and get good views before closing time. I'd got my desired scope views and record shots so was very happy to go home and not have to worry about it again!

Saturday, 8 September 2012


One of the most astonishing items of birding news this year was the possible breeding of a small number of Baillon's Crakes scattered across the country. No details were released and it didn't seem like there were going to be any chances to connect with any of the birds. So, when Johnny texted me last night about a Baillon's Crake at Rainham, I jumped at the opportunity to leave early this morning with him and Ian.

Just as we parked up, Dominic Mitchell tweeted that the bird was currently showing. A fast walk towards the Tower Butts hide and we were there in ten minutes, Dominic putting us straight on the juvenile BAILLON'S CRAKE! Superb! It fed for a few minutes along the edge, disappeared and appeared a couple of times then mooched away into the vegetation. That was the last I saw of it and that was some time around 6.20am. It was seen in flight briefly a couple of times by others, within the next half hour or so but after a while it became clear that it wasn't going to be game for the time being, maybe dusk would be a good bet.

So that's what I plan to do, I'm just having a break at home at the moment then heading out for a stroll around the patch and giving it a late afternoon/evening go for further views and perhaps a few record shots.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Arctic Tern

Found this juvenile bird at Beddington today. My first visit in a fair while. Also an adult Yellow-legged Gull, a juvenile Peregrine, the usual Tree Sparrows, and a Common Buzzard.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

To cut a Long story (relatively) Short

The last couple of days have really summed up twitching for me; most of the ordeal has been extremely stressful and left me very ratty but the end result reminded me what I was doing it for.

It started on Tuesday when, at Canons Farm with Richard and Peter (seeing Common Redstart, Whinchat etc), a message came on the pager hinting that the reported 'Long-billed' Dowitcher at Lodmoor might be something to keep an eye on. This wasn't solid enough to be worth dashing off for straight away but I awaited further developments.

I got up very early on Wednesday, planning a dawn start at the patch, and saw that I'd missed a mega alert from just before midnight saying that instincts were correct. Gah! I had to go, but how? I poked dad and he murmured something that sounded like I had car rights until three in the afternoon. If I were to drive there myself I had to go there and then, little time for faffing around. However, a couple of things ended up faffing me around so I ended up leaving around seven and arrived at ten-thirty. Only to find I had no change for parking so had to drive into Weymouth and break up a tenner for a Diet Coke. I wish I was more organised.

Anyway, I basically arrived to find the bird hadn't shown since about eight and I had to leave just after midday to get the car back to dad. Predictably, half way home the bird came on the pager. Having spent £50 on fuel for a short and frustrating dip-and-run, only for one of my regular lifts (Secret Squirrel) to grip-text me while I was driving to Sutton, I wasn't happy (I could and should have given him a call but was in a such a hurry I just dashed off, and he tried to call me while I was over half way there). What a waste of a day.

Yesterday evening, Liam and I arranged to meet at Waterloo this morning and catch the train to Weymouth. I got to the station just in time to buy a ticket and board but found that my debit card was missing from my wallet and I didn't have enough cash to cover the journey. Shiiiiitttttt..... I ran home and dad kindly gave me enough money to get there and back and took me to Sutton station. The train I needed to catch to get to Waterloo in time was leaving very shortly so I headed for the ticket machines that take cash. After going through the rigmarole of sorting out the ticket details, I tried to pay but it said I could only use a card. Unbelieveable. Thank goodness the queue for the traditional manned desks was short despite being rush hour, as I managed to get the ticket and rush to the platform with a couple of minutes before the train arrived. Phew.

Liam and I teamed up as planned at Waterloo and arrived at Weymouth two and a half hours later. Pager messages throughout the morning had been encouraging so we walked fairly confidently to the reserve. We were greeted by a reasonable gathering of birders including occasional twitch-buddies Micheal and Dan from Sussex who put us on the SHORT-BILLED DOWITCHER. It was tucked behind some vegetation but came out into the open and showed its notched tertials and generally well-marked coverts etc for about a minute before it scampered behind the clump again and hardly moved for two hours. We were debating when we should call it a day when it finally woke up and fed out in the open, not too distantly, for about fifteen minutes before for flying out of sight. A beautifully intricately marked bird, and a performer in the end. Stunner! The stress and hassle of connecting was instantly forgotten and we set off home happy.

What it's all about

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Patch blitz

The other day Steve Gale texted me about the idea of trying to beat the record day count for CFBW. Steve is always dangerous on the patch, especially when in blitz mode so I thought I'd put in a special effort too, and asked a small handful of other locals if they were up for it. So, today Steve, Ian Jones, Paul Goodman, Phil Wallace and Roy Weller, amongst others, hit the patch hard.

It started well with the first of the day's two Yellow Wagtails flying over the car almost as soon as Phil and I parked up. Not too long afterwards, a Grey Wagtail, a far scarcer bird at CFBW, flew fairly high south east. Phil and I decided to walk around the fields south of Canons Farmhouse while Steve and Ian headed in the direction of Banstead Woods - we were walking around Heathside Field when a loud and unfamiliar call belted down at us from above. I looked up and saw a large-ish wader!!! My first thought, upon seeing the general size and shape, was Whimbrel but the bill was slightly upturned if anything... plain wings and a white 'v' up the back - a freakin' Bar-tailed Godwit!!! I scrambled for the camera and was lucky enough to get a small number of record shots as it bulleted away. I couldn't recall ever hearing a Barwit call before, so checked my apps to see if the call we heard was a typical Barwit noise and it was an exact match to the recording of the call on the BirdGuides app. Barwit was amongst the birds I have had at the back of my mind at the patch lately... I was looking for them in April and May but long since forgotten about them and assumed that if we were lucky enough to get a godwit at this time of year it would be Black-tailed. There have been no or very reports/movements of Bar-taileds locally in the last few weeks - completely out of the blue! It always seems you come across stuff once you've forgotten about looking for it and are very least anticipating it.

Bar-tailed Godwit

The day didn't end there and over the remaining hours of the stake out we enjoyed two Common Redstarts, two Tree Pipits, a Whinchat, seven Canada Geese, a flock of about a dozen Sand Martins and a few other bits. Ian and Steve saw the Red-legged Partridge and Roy snatched a Cormorant. As a group we finished on a total of 59 species (I logged 53), a new record by a margin of two, but, frustratingly, just one off the magic target of 60.

female Common Redstart