Today saw the return of the hanging fog but a memorable few hours were spent in the company of Peter A, Christian C, Magnus A, Glenn J and Tomos B. The unquestionable highlight was an utter beast of a juvenile Glaucous Gull which I picked out on one of the remaining enclosed lagoons among a throng of Black-headed Gulls and a few Herring Gulls, the latter it even dwarfed. Other highlights included two Water Pipits, two Green Sandpipers, around 20 Common Snipe, a Kingfisher, two Cetti's Warblers, two Chiffchaffs, two Stonechats, a handful of Reed Buntings and a couple of first-winter Caspian-type gulls. Touring the Farmlands with this lovely and mult-talented contingent of local birders was a fabulous way to finish the year.
In the evening, I had a Tawny Owl hooting at Banstead Woods by the Rambler's Rest.
I started the day with a quick circuit around Banstead Woods, really hoping to relocate the flock of redpolls, but I had only two fly-overs (as well as a Siskin). It was a beautiful, crisp morning and the car thermometer read -4°C as I drove through a hoary Chipstead Valley.
Later on, I teamed up with Ian J for some owling. Strangely, it was a no show for the Barn Owls but we heard two calls at the end of the visit, while returning to the cars well after dark. Two Tawny Owls and a Little Owl were also heard, and I glimpsed a Woodcock.
After finishing work, I dithered as to whether to stay in and read or head out to look for owls. I'm glad that I opted for the latter option as I spent a magical 25 minutes observing the two Barn Owls hunting. I don't think anybody has searched for them since just before I went to Thailand so it was pleasing to find that they are still in residence. I considered doing a bit of a circuit to listen for other owls but decided to save that for another night.
It was a pleasant surprise to hear a calling Blackcap outside as I got into the car this morning. The farm made for a pleasant walk despite the slightly dreary conditions, the best birds being a single adult Great Black-backed Gull and a Red Kite overhead, the latter perhaps being the same bird as has been seen on a number of occasions of late.
There was little unusual on today's walk with Duncan J and Linda M, but the winter thrushes made the day worthwhile as usual. I kept half an eye on the trees around the residential fringes, in case a group of stray Waxwings drops in, with the odd small group being seen down south recently!
It was a surprisingly productive session at the local patch today, with singles of Mute Swan and Red Kite flying over, along with two Ravens. The first and last are rather rare in the recording area. A few Woodpigeons were moving generally northeast, too, though I was disappointed to find only a small number of skittish redpolls in place of the flock seen on Sunday.
Still feeling like boiled death but averse to the idea of staying in all day, I went for a quick circuit around the outer footpaths of Banstead Woods this morning. I'm glad that I did as a flock of 45-50 redpolls was chattering away in a stand of birch trees near the Harholt Plantation. Perhaps my favourite finches, having gatherings of these characterful little birds makes local birding in winter much more enjoyable and good numbers haven't really been experienced since 2011 as far as I recall. Hopefully more will come, or at least numbers will remain around this level and so will a decent possibility of a rarer form among them. With thick fog again and no telescope, it was impossible to pick out any Mealies today.
Harry, George, Mike, Dan and I made landfall back from Thailand last night
after a mind-, bum- and nose-numbing 12-hour flight. Over the coming days and
weeks I'll post occasional pictures and accounts from this unforgettable trip
which was made by the fantastic and lively company just as much as the c.380
species that we collectively gathered up.
Despite feeling thoroughly grotty and jetlagged with my ears still ringing
from hours of watching trashy films about men stuck in cat bodies over the hum of the airbus engine, I
dragged myself out and went birding today. It looked like a right pea-souper
outside, rubbish for the patch, so I stayed in for a while and caught up on the
final episode of The Missing. Once the convoluted drama surrounding the Webster family had drawn to a close, I peered out to the window to see that it still hadn't cleared so opted to
go to the London Wetland Centre instead as I hadn't visited the reserve for
years and figured it really ought to be clearer there.
Distracted by an unusual amount of activity in my car park, it took a while
before I fired the car up. The single fruit-bearing tree had attractedhordes,
by its standards, with many birds feasting including two Fieldfares, 15 Redwings
and a similar number of Rose-ringed Parakeets.
The clouds were still on the ground when I got to the WWT but I shuffled
around a few of the hides and allowed myself to be diverted by some displays,
the captive wildfowl collection and the LEGO birds. It was truly nice to be reminded
of the positive influence a place such as the London Wetland Centre has on a
great many people and on conservation as I shared hides with groups on outings
and parents with kids enjoyed the trails and the green space on offer. Some
birders may find the noisy families an unbearable hindrance but I find it
greatly warming to see such a variety and number of people benefiting from,
valuing and supporting such a refuge. Through the mist I managed to pick out
the wintering Water Pipit and a single Bittern, while three Cetti's
Warblers and a Water Rail were heard and three Pintail were
also on the main lake.