Tuesday, 20 June 2017

13-19th June 2017

A busy last week or so, most birding ending up a little off-piste. It feels as though I've adopted two new patches, as I've been to both Frensham and Pagham twice more since my last post. The first time, on 16th, was another great success with further excellent views of the Elegant Tern and the Red-footed Falcon but a repeat on 19th resulted in a double-dip. Frensham also produced a flock of 13 Crossbills (on 16th) and 'other wildlife' lifers in the form of a Sand Lizard (on 19th) and Silver-studded Blues. Both visits to the Common produced nice views and sounds from Dartford Warblers, Woodlarks and Tree Pipits, while the same male Redstart showed again nicely on 19th. Pagham was great for the tern and gull colony (including good numbers of Meds), as well as a 2cy Little Gull and a Cuckoo on 19th, and the Whimbrel again on 16th.

A fabulous evening in the Surrey Hills on 13th was rewarded with four Nightjars, a couple of Woodlarks, singing Tree Pipits and several Woodcock passes, as well as a hooting Tawny Owl and a couple of Siskins. I've made a couple of visits to Sutton as a small contribution to keeping an eye on the Peregrines as they fledge, enjoying lovely views of the two juveniles as they become more mobile - there is clearly a pair of Grey Wagtails in the same area, with occasional fly-overs there. A trip to Oare Marshes for some easy birding made for a nice change on 14th and, though nothing unusual was seen, we enjoyed seeing Bearded Reedlings, a couple of Mediterranean Gulls and the usual gathering of Black-tailed Godwits.

The 2cy male Red-footed Falcon spinning some moves over Frensham Common on Friday
Seconds also for the Elegant Tern on Friday
a lucky encounter with a female Sand Lizard at Frensham on Monday
against migration: the Whimbrel at Pagham on Friday
one of my first Silver-studded Blues at Frensham on Friday

a challenge for the title in Sutton on Friday

Perry and Gwen's progeny in Sutton on Friday
A peaceful scene on the East Flood at Oare Marshes on Wednesday

Sedge Warbler at Pagham on Friday

Some additional shots from Monday courtesy of Mark Stanley and Phil Wallace:

2cy Little Gull at Pagham (PW)

♂ Dartford Warbler at Frensham (MS)

adult Mediterranean Gull at Pagham (PW)

Monday, 12 June 2017

10-12th June 2017

Time with Ingrid on Saturday included a gorgeous donder along the undercliff at Saltdean, east of Brighton, featuring a few Fulmars and Rock Pipits. This was rudely interrupted by an unmissable event at Pagham Harbour - I left Ingrid to visit her friends in Brighton and rushed over to Church Norton where I spent a wonderful evening watching the adult ELEGANT TERN stealing fish from and cavorting with Sandwich Terns. It sometimes required patience for it to materialise amid the colony of Mediterranean and Black-headed Gulls, Little, Sandwich and Common Terns but when it did, enthralling flight views were available. Other bits included a Whimbrel, Cuckoo and Lesser Whitethroat. After a mess of a trip which amounted to a dip and run yesterday, I returned to Frensham Common today, successfully latching eyes on the 2cy male Red-footed Falcon, a great Surrey rarity, as it hunted by hovering and diving from dead trees; among a nice selection of other birds were Redstart, Dartford Warbler, Woodlark, Stonechat, Siskin, Garden Warbler, Common Tern, Egyptian Goose and a number of Swifts and Sand Martins.

Fulmar along the cliffs at Saltdean
Elegant Tern at Pagham
2cy male Red-footed Falcon at Frensham
♂ Redstart at Frensham
Dartford Warbler at Frensham
♂ Stonechat at Frensham

Friday, 9 June 2017

Alvecote Pools, 7th June, and Watlington Hill, 8th June 2017

Away for work again, David D-L and I took a couple of chances for some birding. A fleeting visit to Alvecote Pools in a hopeful listen for the recent Corncrake drew a blank on Wednesday but scanning from the gate revealed a Little Egret, a couple of Reed Buntings and a congregation of Swifts and House Martins. A pit stop on the way home yesterday at Watlington Hill in Oxfordshire led to some spectacular views of Red Kites, plus three singing Willow Warblers and some 'other wildlife' highlights, including a Dingy Skippers and a couple of Small Heaths.

Red Kite at Watlington Hill
Small Heath at Watlington Hill

Monday, 5 June 2017

Banstead Woods and Beddington Farmlands, 4th June 2017

I sauntered around the east side of the Banstead Woods recording sector early this afternoon in the hope of catching up with some butterflies, a group which I have shamefully neglected so far this year. I've not seen anything other than the usual common species and figured it was about time I saw at least a Green Hairstreak, a Dingy or a Grizzled Skipper. Alas, the wind was stopping anything from really showing.

In the evening, Kojak and I headed to Hundred Acre to do some maintenance on our ringing sub-site and put just one sheltered net up, catching seven birds in a couple of hours, including three new Reed Warblers. Perhaps 400 Swifts swarmed around the site as we were leaving and other notables included three Egyptian Geese and a Grey Wagtail, not to mention the Kingfisher that shot within inches of my face - my first on the site for a little while!

adult ♂ Kestrel at Banstead Woods

Friday, 2 June 2017

LNHS Surrey, 2nd June 2017

This evening, a few members of the CFBW Bird Group went on an off-patch jaunt to a site within the LNHS area to look for Nightjars... We were successful, enjoying superb views of a pair and trying to listen to the male churring between passing planes. A Woodlark was also a valuable spot and at least three Willow Warblers were singing. (While driving to the site, two Mallards flew over the patch recording area.)

A Nightjar!

Incidentally, I'll note that while sitting in the pub next door to my flat yesterday evening, a Pied Wagtail flew over and 11 of the locally nesting Swifts were on their aerial rampage.

Norfolk and Suffolk, 26-29th May 2017

A long weekend in Norfolk with my good pals Magnus A and Christian C was a fine way to sign May, and effectively the spring, off. Over June and July I'm going to take things a little easier, recharge ahead of the autumn and sort out a few things that have brushed aside over the last few weeks! Highlights of our trip included Marsh Warbler at Lakenheath, Savi's Warbler at Hickling, Wood Warbler at Brandon and a singing Quail of our own finding at Icklingham, along with marshland birds such as Cranes, Spoonbills, Bitterns and Grasshopper Warblers. Titchwell provided goodies such as Little Stint, Little Gull, male Ruff, a late Dark-bellied Brent Goose and a count of six Red-crested Pochards. Several Little Terns were seen and further wader action included two relatively late Greenshanks at Cley. Other moments to savour, and to reflect on, included encounters with Grey Partridge, Turtle Dove and Corn Bunting. On the way back, we finally tracked down Stone-curlews in the Brecks.

a purring Turtle Dove at Titchwell on Saturday
my first in far too long... a Grey Partridge near Stanhoe
loud Marsh Warbler keeping out of the limelight at Lakenheath on Friday
Avocet at Titchwell on Saturday
Red-crested Pochards at Titchwell on Saturday... where do they come from?
an endearing brood of Shoveler at Titchwell on Saturday
121 species were noted on the trip, as follows:

Mute Swan, Greylag Goose, Canada Goose, Brent Goose (Dark-bellied), Egyptian Goose, Shelduck, Wigeon, Gadwall, Teal, Mallard, Shoveler, Red-crested Pochard, Pochard, Tufted Duck, Common Scoter, Quail, Red-legged Partridge, Grey Partridge, Pheasant, Fulmar, Cormorant, Bittern, Little Egret, Grey Heron, Spoonbill, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Marsh Harrier, Sparrowhawk, Buzzard, Moorhen, Coot, Crane, Stone-curlew, Avocet, Oystercatcher, Grey Plover, Lapwing, Little Ringed Plover, Ringed Plover, Black-tailed Godwit, Bar-tailed Godwit, Turnstone, Knot, Ruff, Sanderling, Dunlin, Little Stint, Greenshank, Redshank, Little Tern, Sandwich Tern, Common Tern, Kittiwake, Black-headed Gull, Little Gull, Mediterranean Gull, Common Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Rock Dove (feral), Stock Dove, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Turtle Dove, Cuckoo, Tawny Owl, Swift, Kingfisher, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Kestrel, Hobby, Magpie, Jay, Jackdaw, Rook, Carrion Crow, Goldcrest, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Coal Tit, Bearded Tit, Woodlark, Skylark, Sand Martin, Swallow, House Martin, Cetti's Warbler, Long-tailed Tit, Wood Warbler, Chiffchaff, Willow Warbler, Blackcap, Garden Warbler, Whitethroat, Grasshopper Warbler, Savi's Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Marsh Warbler, Reed Warbler, Wren, Starling, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Robin, Stonechat, Dunnock, House Sparrow, Pied Wagtail, (yarrellii), Meadow Pipit, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Linnet, Goldfinch, Siskin, Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting, Corn Bunting

Thursday, 25 May 2017

22-24th May 2017

Up at some crazy hour on Monday morning, I set up the nets on Hundred Acre, conscious that I'd have few more chances to net this spring. Another reasonable session saw seven Reed Warblers among 14 new birds ringed, this being across three nets.

Reed Warbler
juvenile Robin, my first caught this year (along with juveniles of Blackbird and Dunnock)
Out of the area again, I visited Middleton Lakes with David D-L on Tuesday evening, securing some value in the form of two summer-plumaged Little Stints with four Dunlin and four Ringed Plovers. Other notables included a Hobby, two Peregrines and two Cuckoos.

Little Stints at Middleton Lakes
On the way back home yesterday, I met up with Paul S and reconvened with DDL for some White-winged Black Tern-watching at Staines Reservoirs; the 2cy bird showed rather well on the west side, where it skipped between the basins and repeatedly splashed into the water during a dizzying and energetic flight. Two fine Black-necked Grebes showed distantly on the South Basin and three Ringed Plovers flew over...

2cy White-winged Black Tern at Staines Reservoirs

Sunday, 21 May 2017

Mole Valley Bird Race, 20th May 2017

Yesterday, Christian C, Phil W and I (the Short-larked Toads a.k.a. The Nightingales of Laughter) emarked on campaign to seize the coveted Mole Valley Bird Race trophy on the event's fourth coming. We were out in the field non-stop between 4am and 8pm, finishing on 86 species, enough to put us in second place out of the four teams, not bad considering our local knowledge was a little patchy. Linnet to Win It came out on top with an incredible 92 species - what a total for one day in a single Surrey district!

We started just before dawn with heathland specialties, quickly rattling off heathland essentials with Nightjars churring, Woodcocks roding, Woodlarks fluting, Redstarts chiming, Tawny Owls hooting and Cuckoo... cuckoo-ing. Later on we ticked off Tree Pipit, Marsh Tit and Firecrest there. A visit to Buckland Sand Pit saw us find a Mole Valley mega as an adult Sandwich Tern patrolled the lake, slightly altering the other teams' schedules! Other highlights over the day included Spotted Flycatcher, Raven, Common Sandpiper, Common Tern, Little Egret, Hobby, Nightingale, Lesser Whitethroat, Yellowhammer, Peregrine and unseasonable Black-headed Gull.

Sandwich Tern at Buckland
Common Sandpiper at Buckland

18-19th May 2017

Thursday started at Canons Farm, producing patch interest in the form of Cormorant, Grey Heron, six Mallards and a Lesser Black-backed Gull... For a change, I then headed to the London Wetland Centre where little was going on but it was nice to see Common Tern, Common Sandpiper and Little Ringed Plover.

Friday's forecast was for a rainy morning but yet again it turned out to be mostly dry. I stuck around at Beddington for much of the day anyway, as Christian C and Magnus A were around, along with Koje. The undoubted highlight was the spanking drake Garganey found by Frank P on the South Lake. The (or possibly another?) 2cy Iceland Gull, a Common Sandpiper and a couple of LRPs were also about.

♂ Garganey at Beddington
Swallows at Beddington

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

16-17th May 2017

Loitering around the Harholt Plantation at Banstead Woods yesterday morning proved fruitful, with a Spotted Flycatcher, two Hobbies, a Red Kite, a flock of four Grey Herons and two Lesser Whitethroats providing ample interest. A quick run around Canons Farm in the afternoon added a couple of House Martins. In the evening, I teamed up with Paul S for a recce ahead of the Mole Valley Bird Race on Saturday, calling in at a few sites and producing highlights of Peregrine, Garden Warbler and Lapwing.

Spotted Flycatcher at Banstead Woods

One of two Hobbies snatching bugs out of the air over Banstead Woods' Harholt Plantation

Any flock of Grey Herons over CFBW is a rare sight and indicative of something more significant than short commutes by local birds

2cy Red Kite over Banstead Woods
With rain pouring first thing this morning seemingly confirming the all-day washout forecast, I opted to head to Beddington and was frustrated that the showers soon petered out entirely, meaning I could have stuck to my routine of visiting CFBW in the morning and making it less likely that something would be forced low over Beddington. Finding nothing of any real novelty at the main lake other than a somewhat random and unsettled Great Crested Grebe, where the 2cy Iceland Gull made an in-flight appearance, I trekked around Hundred Acre but little was on offer there either, save for presumably the same GCG looking rather leery!

Great Crested Grebe lurking on Jim's Pit
Lapwing on Hundred Acre
I was due to be away for the next couple of days but things have suddenly changed so there will be more chances for local birding tomorrow and Friday.

Monday, 15 May 2017

Banstead Woods, Beddington Farmlands and Canons Farm, 15th May 2017

Mapping out breeding birds at Banstead Woods early on, a couple of Canada Geese overhead was the only vaguely unusual sighting for the patch but I was happy to be hearing the local Treecreepers, Goldcrests, etc. It started raining, meaning only one thing: a diversion to Beddington. There was little on offer around the main lake, save for a couple of 2cy Caspian Gulls and two Little Ringed Plovers. A few Swallows, Sand Martins and Swifts were brought down by the showers. Back at Canons in the afternoon, House Martin finally fell onto the patch year list when 14 flew through. A Cormorant was also noteworthy.

2cy Caspian Gulls at Beddington

Cormorant at Canons

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Beddington Farmlands and Leith Hill, 14th May 2017

Rocking up at the Beddington hide this morning (too rainy for Canons), it was the same story of a couple of Common Sandpipers and Little Ringed Plovers on the main island. An Egyptian Goose screaming away and the drake Pochard were about the highlights, along with a Sand Martin lingering. Kojak arrived for his WeBS survey and, after the apparent finale of the rain, I headed towards the far side of the mound. After reading the short paper in this month's British Birds on mixed singing Willow Warblers, I was pleased to stumble upon such a bird in voice along 'Parkside', issuing a mainly Willow refrain with a few 'chiffs' and 'chaffs' thrown in.

Walking back across the mound, a Whimbrel flew across my sight and seemed to pitch down before shortly crossing back towards its origin by the side of the south lake. A scarce bird overall at the farm, particularly in the last couple of years or so, this was a day-maker. 


confused (or innovative?) Willow Warbler
riotous Egyptian Goose
the Beddington 'Warden'
Christian C and Koje managed to catch up with it later in the morning before CC and I headed to Leith Hill, enjoying a panoply of heathland birds but the biggest surprise was a pair of Stonechats, a species that hasn't bred there for a few years.

♀ Stonechat at Leith Hill