Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Lesser Redpoll at last

I was provided a (perhaps final, for this month) patch year tick at The Scrub this afternoon in the form of a fly-over Lesser Redpoll. Normally this isn't anything unusual at the patch but this winter has been the poorest I've known for them. Last winter wasn't great for redpolls either but there were some around. The winter before that was a pretty good year with large flocks wintering (with a small number of Mealies mixed in). Today's is the first patch record since December 17th. As I started to make my way along the footpath through The Scrub and back to the farm to get picked up I inadvertantly spooked a Woodcock which had been resting five feet or so from the path (my second sighting this year of this low-level and elusive, but not uncommon, wintering species at CFBW). Red-leg showed today too.

Monday, 28 January 2013


You wouldn't know that Banstead was covered in snow just a couple of days ago. The patch has transformed from an open, white and largely birdless expanse into a slightly warmer and very wet farm, with a few more birds. Thrush numbers started to increase again as soon as the snow started to expose the fields again and today I found a single Golden Plover in Skylark Field (I also had a brief arse-end of a flock of six probables flying over on Saturday). In my first three years of patching, on-the-deck records of Golden Plover numbered two (both concerning singles), so this year has been quite remarkable with a flock of eleven which apparently turned into twenty, and two singles - and all these birds have been in Skylark Field (which also happens to be where most Lapwings have been landing recently). I'm yearning for spring to come; the extra few degrees and the introduction of the songs of Chaffinches, Song Thrushes and Great Tits to the airwaves are reminding me of the warm bird-filled days which are fewer weeks away than the number of fingers on my hands. One of the first earlier signs of spring at the patch is the way that Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers suddenly become noticeable, normally from mid-February. I'm looking forward to hopefully seeing them soon.

Golden Plover today

Fieldfare on Saturday

Monday, 21 January 2013


I was getting frustrated again this morning when I arrived at Canons and the sky seemed once again dead but then Fieldfares started to move. Around 305 Fieldfares passed west over the farm over the day. While counting Fieldfares, I noticed the Starlings, feral Rock Doves and Black-headed Gulls on the west side suddenly get up and go high - this would be an odd reaction to a Sparrowhawk and I wondered if there might be a 'Peg' about - sure enough a magnificent adult female Peregrine zoomed past before landing in Lunch Wood, where I got distant scope views of it for a couple of minutes before it once again flew and ended up closely passing me as it departed south west. Woohoo! Peregrine is a scarce bird at Canons and a good year tick to get in January. Two Little Owls showed well at Lambert's Shaw, a Grey Heron flew over and one of the wintering Common Buzzards showed at Death Pit.

Peregrine over Quail Field

Peregrine at Lunch Wood

Little Owls at Lambert's Shaw - first two photos are one bird and the bottom pic is its mate

Common Buzzard at Death Pit

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Berk-ing mad

My parents told me I was nuts to go to Berkshire today, what with the snow and everything - I sort of agreed but I also fancied seeing the Pallas's Warbler at Moor Green Lakes. I gave Canons a forty-minute skywatch first thing (producing a Meadow Pipit and a Grey Heron) then picked up Josh and headed to Bracknell where we collected Liam from the station. So far so good, no jams or skidding on the ice. It wasn't far to Moor Green Lakes and, after a bit of figuring out, we found the car park. A bit of a walk by the river and we found the right area and the tit flock then bam! there was the Pallas's Warbler - beauty! I've seen one very well before, in The Parsonage on St Agnes, but it was just as exciting seeing one again (and in the unique snow-covered landscape!). It was quite mobile and was constantly feeding, often hovering and allowing the yellowish rump to be seen. Here Liam and I met our friend Pete who we know from our trips to Scilly - it was great to catch up. Also at Moor Green were three Goosanders (one drake), a Golden Plover, four Common Snipes, a Red Kite and a Grey Wagtail. Bizarre was a Meadow Pipit feeding on the muddy banks of the small, tree-fringed river.

Pallas's Warbler - had ISO too high and didn't realise (using spare camera)
Red Kite

After a bit of pondering as to what to do next, we went to McDonald's. Refreshed, we then went to Staines Reservoir. This was cold and uncomfortable but was enjoyable. A Black-necked Grebe showing on the South Basin fairly close to the causeway was the first I'd seen in a while and there was a pleasant surprise when Liam called 'large waders!' and I got on them to see a pair of Bar-tailed Godwits which only my second London area sighting and a good one this far inland in the winter. There was quite a number of Goldeneyes as well plus two Redshanks and the odd Wigeon etc.

Black-necked Grebe

Got home without a problem too. The only slight issue was the roads approaching Moor Green which got a little slippery at a couple of points but overall the trip went smoothly and was a success!

Saturday, 19 January 2013

sNOw birds

There was a lot of snow today left over from yesterday. Yesterday was pretty poor for birds but at least the farm had six Lapwings, today it had absolutely ziltch. There were more birders than birds today and one Grey Heron was the best for my eight-and-a-half hours of skywatching while Beddington was a raptor and plover wonderland. I can't say 'it was nice being out anyway' because it wasn't - it was very cold and very boring (apart from catching up with Steve, the two Ians, Jamie and P-Go). Canons doesn't seem to ever get the number of dispersing Lapwings and Golden Plovers that Beddington does in cold weather, but then again neither does virtually anywhere else in Surrey and London. I guess it's because Beddington appears even from a distance as what it is - a large wetland area which is going to draw in curious and desperate birds from far and wide in such conditions while the snow-covered fields of Canons Farm, in these circumstances, just blend in with the rest of the surrounding barren countryside and urban spawl which offer no hope of feeding opportunities (and probably look similar to the very areas that the plovers have abandoned). The farm does get some kind of movement of these birds before and after the snowfall, though, as was evident this week, probably because in these preceding days the open, invertebrate-full fields look rather appealing. It's just a little frustrating not seeing anything at all while such spectacular escape movements are going on just five miles away!

Another plover

On Thursday afternoon this single Golden Plover was in Skylark Field for a while before it flew high south.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

Red Kite

Another enjoyable winter day's birding at the patch today. A Red Kite flying over was a big surprise - the earliest I've had before was February 18th last year. Even though it was only circling and slowly drifting I suddenly lost it when I briefly checked the shots on my camera to check they were coming out okay! Never mind, it had already made my day. Fourteen Lapwings in Broadfield was another highlight and I particularly enjoyed watching a showy Little Owl sitting on a stump at Lambert's Shaw.

Red Kite
Little Owl

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Goldies stay an extra day

 Click the cog and select 1080p and switch to full screen mode for best viewing

The eleven Golden Plovers were still present this morning to my surprise and giving good views in a sort of post-roost loose huddle. Yesterday I could get no more than two in one picture was I was pleased to get all pictures of quite a few together and a wide shot with the SLR showing all eleven birds. James McKenzie and Kojak caught up with them today, and James noted their continued presence up to late in the morning. However, when I took Josh to see them in the last hour of light there was no sign although visibility was dropping rapidly.

Monday, 14 January 2013

Golden year tick

Click the cog and select 1080p and switch to full screen mode for best viewing - think I got all eleven birds in this clip!

I on my way out of the farm early this afternoon when a final check of the fields produced a surprise in the form of a flock of eleven Golden Plovers in Skylark Field. Quite a remarkable sight really as I don't think I've seen a flock of more than five birds at the patch before, and the only grounded birds in recent years have been singles in 2011 and 2012 so this flock was obviously more than noteworthy. I guess the recent drop in temperature combined with the heavy rain and snow today caused these birds to move then come down. In the same field as the Lapwings yesterday, there must be some appeal there. Unfortunately the light was crap, I was sodden and snow and rain was falling from the sky so the pictures aren't the best I could have got in better conditions. They stayed until at least 4.05pm and were twitched by Roy, Neil and Cliff.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Bashing ash

Today the CFBW Bird Group and the Downlands Trust teamed up to clear ash saplings from The Scrub. This work has been in the pipeline for a while; there are many hundreds of ash saplings growing at The Scrub which is otherwise a healthy mix of hawthorn, bramble, scattered birch etc making for what currently is a very healthy area for breeding birds. Leaving the ash to grow would create an undesirable dominating higher layer that would render the area of little ornithological value and also lessen its butterfly and plant interest. Of course recently ash dieback has been in the news and we had to pause for a moment to reconsider our action but we were reassured that the ash saplings needed to go because of the value of the area and also because cutting back saplings may help to hinder the spread of the disease.

We had a working party today of a dozen or so people adding to some clearance that had been started on Saturday. About five hours' work saw a significant number of saplings removed, buying The Scrub more time if nothing else, which was quite gratifying. I managed to do some actual birding at the patch today as well, the morning producing good views of George the Red-legged Partridge and a fly-over adult Great Black-backed Gull at the farm, plus a flock of ten Meadow Pipits in Hither Field (Banstead Woods sector). A brief look at the farm again in the afternoon yielded a welcome surprise in the form of seven Lapwings in Skylark Field - a nice year tick (52).
George the Red-leg

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Firecrest and patch

More rubbish pictures! Spent an enjoyable day birding locally today with Josh, Richard and Peter. We started at Banstead Downs Golf Course where one of the Firecrests showed well - there was probably another calling too. Banstead Woods was the next venue, where we successfully flushed a Woodcock from an area of bracken, this being a patch year tick for me. A Lesser Black-backed Gull flying over was the first of the year on the patch and the Red-legged Partridge showed well in Broadfield before flying to Stoney Nob. Not too bad.

Firecrest at Banstead Downs Golf Course
Lonesome George the Red-legged Partridge in Broadfield

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Some photos

From the last week.

Common Buzzard today in Lambert's Shaw, by Buzzard Field (Canons Farm) - one of two birds, the other individual is a darker bird with almost uniform brown underparts
redhead Smew yesterday at dusk at Holmethorpe Sand Pits
Red-legged Partridge on Thursday in Broadfield (Canons Farm)
Goosanders on New Year's Day at Pennington Flash
First-winter Spoonbill on New Year's Eve at Marshside
Long-eared Owl at Marton Mere on New Year's Eve

Friday, 4 January 2013

End of 2012 - Start of 2013

2012 ended okay with a trip up to Manchester. At least, the birding was okay, the rest of it was pretty uncomfortable. I had to stay in the only available room with my parents, sleeping on an inflatable bed that was half a foot too short, and both the heating and the television volume were always on extremely high for my gran. The best day was that spend with Liam, on New Year's Eve. The two Long-eared Owls at Marton Mere were the highlight. Marshside was also enjoyable with a first-winter Spoonbill, a female Merlin, two Ruffs and numbers of wildfowl and waders including Black-tailed Godwits, Golden Plovers and Pink-footed Geese. A pair of Pintail there was also nice. Seventy-odd Twites nearby was a real treat even though we didn't see them perched, their energetic call as they circled around us was magical though.

New Year's Day was spent at my favourite Manchester birding site, Pennington Flash. A Willow Tit and three Goosanders were the highlights, plus I heard a flock of Pink-feet.

I've been home since the evening of the 2nd. Been at the patch yesterday and today, yesterday producing George the Red-legged Partridge very easily. He clearly wanted to be added to the 2013 yearlist - I hadn't seen him since December 11th, despite looking, and he was the twenty-ninth bird I saw, proudly parading around Broadfield.

I also visited Holmethorpe Sand Pits today, where Gordon Hay kindly put me onto the drake Smew - I later located the two redheads and saw the six Shelducks before they headed towards Mercers West Pit - all on Mercers Lake.

I haven't got any brilliant photos to put up but once I have some time I'll put a record shot or two of the Long-eared Owls up, and maybe one of George or a Goosander.

Happy New Year

I've posted a new page on this blog containing my 2013 patch yearlist in chronological order, as I try to get as near to 110 for the patch this year as I can.