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Thursday, 30 March 2017

Ravelston Woods, 29th March 2017

I arrived in Edinburgh late in the afternoon only to be told to rush to the local primary school sharpish as Ingrid had found a Tawny Owlet while helping out with its weekly wildlife club (a fantastic and popular outing, I wish I had this when I was little!). Sure enough, there was a little ball of fluff perched quite contently by the path! We couldn't spot any siblings or parents but they were probably nearby. Ravelston Woods is a charming little place and we also logged Bullfinches, Treecreepers and a Nuthatch.

Tawny Owlet

27-28 March 2017

A couple of outings locally before heading to Edinburgh for a few days. On Monday, I started at Canons, where the groundhog day cycle still felt as though it were in effect. A Siskin, a Canada Goose, a Lesser Black-backed Gull, a Chiffchaff, eight Meadow Pipits... A cuppa with Steve G before joining him on a tour of Priest Hill, a lovely little site, was a nice way to spend the afternoon. The birding potential of Priest Hill is stark but only another Siskin and a few Meadow Pipits were on offer for us that afternoon.

The wind having prevented me from getting the nets up at Beddington for what feels like ages, I took the chance to fit in a ringing session there on Tuesday morning before heading to Canons to lead a walk for Legal & General staff. It was an improved haul on recent sessions, with three Reed Buntings and a Chiffchaff being caught. I expect the 'volume' will come for this site when the Reed and Sedge Warblers arrive. On the way back to the car, a cracking male Wheatear flicked across my path. My first of the spring, although I wasn't really fit to fully appreciate it, carrying two boxes of kit and sweating like a pig while racing back to the car, smelling of sewage. The L&G walk paid off with a Red Kite drifting west being my first for a little while plus views of one of Little Owl pairs.

male Wheatear
male Reed Bunting

Saturday, 25 March 2017

Dungeness RSPB, 25th March 2017

The sun came out for once but it was still hella windy. Nonetheless, Josh B and I had a quick trip to Dungeness RSPB, with good views of the flirtatious drake Ring-necked Duck, two distant Black-necked Grebes in their summer finery and, best of all, a drake Garganey, picked out on Cook's Pool by JB. It feels as though I haven't seen a drake for absolutely ages. Burrowes Pit also held singles of Black-tailed Godwit, Dunlin and Pintail, along with three Goldeneyes and the aerial antics of a couple of Marsh Harriers over Dengemarsh also kept us entertained. We stopped by at the obs to say hi to Dave W and Gill H then called it a day, the wind unrelenting.

♂ Ring-necked Duck
♂ Garganey

Friday, 24 March 2017

Canons Farm and Banstead Woods, 23-24th March 2017

Still painfully quiet locally, I teamed up with Paul M yesterday and Duncan J today. Yesterday, a flock of 20 Lesser Redpolls, three Canada Geese and a Grey Heron were the highlights at the farm while today's offerings were two Siskins and two redpolls in Banstead Woods, plus two grounded Canada Geese at the farm. There were still 35 Redwings around yesterday but no winter thrushes were noted this morning.

Hardly the most riveting of things but Canada Geese are uncommon at the patch and seldom touch down

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Canons Farm, 22nd March 2017

Heading out this morning to continue mapping territories was an utterly dismal affair, the forecast of rain and wind holding true for once. Before I had enough and headed home, I did record a Grey Heron, a couple of Pied Wagtails and four Meadow Pipits. Taking the chance to polish off 'The Birds of Canons Farm & Banstead Woods 2012-16' and send it to the printers, I celebrated by heading out again once the outdoors looked an appealing place to be once more. This was rewarded with two distant Red-legged Partridges and wonderful views of a 2cy female Sparrowhawk, as well as hearing a Little Owl singing. The Sparrowhawk is the species that got me hooked on birding and every close up encounter remains such a thrilling experience!
2cy ♀ Sparrowhawk
Red-legged Partridge

Monday, 20 March 2017

19-20th March 2017

The weekend was spent with Ingrid up in Wigan for the Catfish Study Group Convention 2017 and the only birding we managed to do was a quick lunchtime jaunt around the adjacent Worthington Lakes, which held only four Great Crested Grebes of any note.

Back at base today, I headed out to Beddington Farmlands as the start of food recycling in the next couple of weeks will bring the site's 'Age of the Gulls' to a rather abrupt end. There were disappointingly few gulls to savour and none of any note. Small gulls were noticeable by their near-absence, with only one Common Gull and around 20 Black-headed Gulls seen. Highlights included my first Little Egret at the site since November 2015 (I was at Dungeness for much of last year but not over the winter months), as well as a pair of Wigeon, five Shelducks, a Green Sandpiper, two Snipes, the Tufted Duck x Pochard hybrid, the Black Swan, a Blackcap, three Chiffchaffs, a Cetti's Warbler and a light trickle of Pied Wagtails and Meadow Pipits seemingly moving overhead.

Black Swan
drake Tufted Duck x Pochard with drake Tufted Duck
Shelducks
Wigeon

Thursday, 16 March 2017

Canons Farm and Banstead Woods, 16th March 2017

It was a gorgeous morning to be out on the patch and my circuit of the farm was rewarded with a Red-legged Partridge, a species I've had in mind over the last few days, as it zipped across one of the stubble fields. A valuable patch year tick under the belt! A Grey Heron, a Cormorant, six Chiffchaffs, eight redpolls, three Siskins, 110 Redwings, 24 Fieldfares and nine Meadow Pipits were among a decent backup.

Chiffchaff
Grey Heron

Tuesday, 14 March 2017

Dungeness, 14th March 2017

A rare venture out of Surrey saw Magnus A and I head to Dungeness for a day's birding. Highlights included two 2cy Iceland Gulls at The Patch, where there were two 2cy Caspian Gulls. A Black Redstart and a Chiffchaff were around the Old Lighthouse. Later on, we had one of the Icelands and another 2cy Caspian on the RSPB reserve. We spied one of the Long-eared Owls hiding away behind the dipping pool near the RSPB visitor centre and the New Diggings held two Slavonian Grebes and a Black-necked Grebe, which was moulting through to summer nick. Other highlights on the reserve included a Great White Egret, a Raven and a spectacular show as two Marsh Harriers seemed to perform a series of mock food-passes. A flock of 130 Stock Doves was at Dengemarsh and a Ruff was showing on Burrowes Pit. A quick late afternoon seawatch produced four Red-throated Divers, a surprise Great Northern Diver and a handful of Guillemots.

Black Redstart
2cy Iceland Gull
Slavonian Grebe
Ring-necked Duck
Long-eared Owl
Raven
Three of seven Turnstones on the beach
Red-throated Diver

Monday, 13 March 2017

Canons Farm and Banstead Woods, 13th March 2017

I started the morning with a walk around Banstead Woods, beginning to plot breeding territories over there. The sound of five freshly-arrived chiffing Chiffchaffs lifted the spirits while two Siskins and nine redpolls lent a bit of overall 'value'. Other notables included Tawny Owl, Canada Goose and Pied/White Wagtail.

The light north-westerly and blue skies seemed to hold promise so I headed over to the farm for a skywatch. I find it very difficult to just stay in one place but I was reminded of the sense in occasionally doing so when I heard a call I'm more familiar with from the coast, a Mediterranean Gull! Last year, one Dungeness birder put it quite aptly as 'like an old spinster finding a handsome young man in her bed'. It sounded high up and after quickly swivelling around I got onto a high-flying flock of Black-headed Gulls. Sure enough, there were two lovely adult Meds with them as they cruised north! The third record for the site, I was elated to have finally bagged a patch rarity for my recent efforts. I opted to stick with watching them, after a panicked reach for the camera led to confirmation of a local rarity being painfully thwarted the other day.

There were quite a few other gulls on the move, too, including five Lesser Black-backeds, while quite a few Common Buzzards, at least 14, took the chance to stretch their wings. A small number of Fieldfares and Redwings were around, but a flock of 120 Linnets was nice to see, and six migrant Meadow Pipits flew around. Two Yellowhammers in song included a newly vocal male. 

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Leith Hill, 11th March 2017

The second Towerwatch of the spring saw me join Matt P, Robin S, Paul S, Phil W, David S and Stuart C for another frustratingly fog-laiden morning. We all stuck it out and gassed away till the skies eventually opened up around midday, by which time we had only managed to log a single Crossbill, two redpolls and a handful of Meadow Pipits trickling through of any note. The raptors did start to get up, with around 20 Common Buzzards tallied but the ship had already sailed for anything of 'higher calibre'. Mind you, we did get a Red Kite as descended back to the cars. The first returning Firecrest of the spring was singing lower down, in the distance a Woodlark danced in the sky and a Marsh Tit was calling by the tower and a count of four Tufted Ducks on Broomhall Lake (in the foothills) was notable. I finished on 15 Meadow Pipits by the time we clocked off. I was rather pleased to have seen a Barn Owl near Dorking en-route, at dawn.

The loftiest birders in south-east England
Red Kite

Friday, 10 March 2017

Canons Farm and Banstead Woods, 9-10th March 2017

I've spent a bit of time on the patch over the last two days but there is little change and my patch year list remains stalled. A Grey Wagtail overhead yesterday was pretty good value locally, though, and a Cormorant today was of note. It's nice to hear two singing male Yellowhammers taking up territory, while a little gathering of 12 was still in one of the stubble fields yesterday. Finches continue to move, with a redpoll and two Siskins in Banstead Woods on yesterday and active overhead movement of 16 Chaffinches and four Linnets this morning. I struggled to locate any winter thrushes yesterday, with only singles of Redwing and Fieldfare, but had 40 and 50 respectively today.

♂ Yellowhammer
Cormorant
Starling

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Beddington Farmlands, 7th March 2017

A session with four nets open on Hundred Acre this morning, accompanied by Magnus A, was pretty disappointing, with a Great Tit and a Dunnock being the only new birds caught, however it was interesting to re-catch all three Long-tailed Tits I ringed in early February. A fly-over Siskin was good value for Beddington and singles of Water Pipit and Cetti's Warbler were also noted.

Monday, 6 March 2017

Banstead Woods and Beddington Farmlands, 6th March 2017

Looking set to be a fine, calm day I thought I'd start with a mooch around Banstead Woods in the hope of locating a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker. I failed on that front but did spend a few minutes admiring a flock of 25 Lesser Redpolls, albeit sans a Mealy once again. I also had a terrific encounter with a ♀ Sparrowhawk at Piddly Pond as it flew from perch to perch; at first I thought it was part of a hunting behaviour but soon realised that, unless it was a particularly guileless predator, it was probably actually wanting to come in to bathe so left it in peace.

♀ Sparrowhawk
Lesser Redpoll

I spent most of the rest of the day at Beddington, at first with Peter A, Josh J and Dave S then with Paul M and John B later on. Two Tree Sparrows were my here first in ages, I heard my first Lapwing display calls of the year and other bits included two Shelducks, a Common Buzzard, two Cetti's Warblers, Water Rail, Stonechat. The regular dodgy wildfowl were present and correct, with the Tufted Duck x Pochard and the Black Swan seen. The Blackcap was still singing by the Mile Road bridge and 87 Tufted Ducks represented one of my higher site counts for the species. An obligatory portion of time was spent sifting through the gulls, producing the usual brutish juvenile Glaucous Gull, four Caspian Gulls (a 3cy and three 2cys) and a 5cy Yellow-legged Gull.

Tree Sparrow
2cy ♂ Kestrel
3cy Caspian Gull
3cy Caspian Gull
2cy Caspian Gull
2cy Glaucous Gull
Black Swan

Sunday, 5 March 2017

London Wetland Centre, 5th March 2017

On a rainy Sunday it makes sense to go to the London Wetland Centre so Josh B and I headed up there for a quick look. I'm glad I signed up for membership again last time, it's a nice reserve to add a bit of extra variety to my routine birding. Some guys were on a juvenile Iceland Gull when we arrived in the Peacock Tower, looking like the regular Beddington bird but not sticking for long at all, and I picked out a second-winter Caspian Gull and a first-winter Yellow-legged Gull (one of the birds from Beddington the other day, I'm sure). I was even happier to see a distant Jack Snipe bobbing around and there seemed to be an increase in Wigeon since my last visit, at 54 birds. A pair of Pintail was also showing, as was the hybrid Aythya.

second-winter Caspian Gull
first-winter Yellow-legged Gull
juvenile Iceland Gull
very smart first-winter Lesser Black-backed Gull
adult ♂ Pintail
adult ♂ Wigeon
Great Crested Grebe
Jack Snipe!

Friday, 3 March 2017

Beddington Farmlands, Crawley, etc, 3rd March 2017

Yesterday at Canons was pretty quiet, with nothing of consequence to mention here. This morning was spent looking through the gulls at Beddington from the hide with Christian C, Magnus A, Josh J, Dave S and Peter A. This produced both the juvenile Iceland Gull and the juvenile Glaucous Gull, a first-winter Caspian Gull and at least five Yellow-legged Gulls. In the afternoon, Mag and I headed to Broadfield, Crawley, to check out the 2cy Rose-coloured Starling, which we located after half-an-hour or so of looking dodgy as we roamed the streets. It even burst into a bit of song. We called in at another Sussex site where we stumbled upon a singing Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, as well as three Marsh Tits. We were both delighted with the woodpecker, I was beginning to wonder whether I'd see one this year! Hopefully I'll come across one on the patch before the early spring is out.

juvenile Glaucous Gull
juvenile Iceland Gull
adult Yellow-legged Gull
first-winter Yellow-legged Gull
a rather odd/extreme first-winter Yellow-legged Gull which took us aback for a little while
first-winter Caspian Gull
2cy male Rose-coloured Starling
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker record shot
Marsh Tit