Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Banstead Woods, 31st October 2017

I was alone this time for another Hither Field skywatch. The main feature for much of the morning was a quite impressive push of Redwings, coming through in flocks of up to 100 birds, allowing for comfortably paced and accurate counting leading to a total of 2,500 in three hours and 45 minutes. It felt as though it might turn out to be a blank morning for Hawfinches but three birds did fly over between 09:00 and 09:30. There were some other nice totals for the day's entry, with 560 Fieldfares, 410 Starlings, nine redpolls, 13 Siskins, five Pied Wagtails, two Grey Herons, the Red Kite and five Mallards being some of the highlights. Two Blackbirds seemed to be migrants and a few Song Thrushes around my watchpoint behaved as though they were in transit.

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Banstead Woods, 29th October 2017

Finding the vismig business at Hither Field rather addictive, I met up with Darragh C and Christian C for another morning vigil. Our first highlight came when a pair of Ravens announced themselves by means of a single cronk from one bird as they headed north up the Chipstead Valley. News came through from Simon S who was birding nearby that a Hawfinch was in The Nuttery so we scanned the treetops but saw nothing. A few minutes later, however, a flock of seven flew from the little wood there, followed by a singleton perched up nicely and affording nice scope views. We had a further six of these mighty finches over the rest of the morning - this invasion truly is a remarkable event; what a turn-around from eight years of patching without a sniff of one!

The Redwing count for the morning reached a respectable 800, while Fieldfares numbered 90 and the Red Kite put in another appearance. Siskins and redpolls numbered eight and 15 respectively, while other bits included eight Skylarks, five Pied Wagtails and 170 Starlings, all migrants. A male Tawny Owl was heard hooting upon our arrival at dawn.


Saturday, 28 October 2017

Canons Farm and Belmont, 28th October 2017

Working for most of the day, I only managed to escape to the patch for a short while late in the afternoon before going to the Royal Albert Hall with my dad to see Carmina Burana. The highlights that Canons offered were a flock of 10 Mistle Thrushes and a fly-over redpoll.

A Grey Heron and a Common Gull flew over at home.

Friday, 27 October 2017

Banstead Woods, 27th October 2017

I switched tactics slightly during the morning and chose slightly lower ground to vismig from, a compromise for the much wider view of the Chipstead Valley that the top of Hither Field provides. Joined by Geoff B and Ian M, by the end of the morning, some 14 Hawfinches had flown over and a Ring Ouzel made a brief appearance. Other bits included 12 Siskins, seven redpolls, 210 Fieldfares and singles of Peregrine, Red Kite, Grey Heron and Cormorant. There was an obvious push of migrant Lesser Black-backed Gulls, with 19 counted. Two high-flying Yellowhammers were clearly migrants and 75 Meadow Pipits, 130 Chaffinches, three Pied Wagtails and 375 migrant Starlings were also tallied as they passed over.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Banstead Woods, 26th October 2017

My nose drew me to the Harholt Plantation for a vismig session this morning which produced the goods with another Hawfinch, two Bramblings, 145 Chaffinches, 40 Meadow Pipits, four Skylarks, a Mistle Thrush, 40 Redwings and 17 Song Thrushes. 22 Lesser Redpolls and a late Chiffchaff were also present. Very satisfying!

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Canons Farm, 25th October 2017

A late afternoon session at Canons, briefly joined by Ian M, produced my first four Fieldfares of the autumn, the two resident Red-legged Partridges and a couple of calling Little Owls. I took to counting Black-headed Gulls and Rose-ringed Parakeets on their roost flights, reaching 395 and 58 respectively.

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Banstead Woods and Canons Farm, 24th October 2017

Another Hawfinch search in Banstead Woods drew a blank with this species but did lead to me discovering a Ring Ouzel in the yews at Fames Rough, at first calling unseen before it broke cover and headed towards the farm. Other decent bits included eight Siskins and 27 redpolls, three Skylarks (decent over the woods). I had six Mistle Thrushes across the patch.

Monday, 23 October 2017

Banstead Woods, 23rd October 2017

A stroll around Banstead Woods before heading to the south coast for various errands resulted in me cashing in on the recent Hawfinch invasion as a party of three birds passed over the Short Route. My first patch tick since March last year, I was delighted but I hope to find more Hawfinches on the patch over the next few days, preferably settled. It was nice to get my first two Siskins, six redpolls and 15 Redwings for the patch this autumn, too, as well as a Grey Wagtail, two Meadow Pipits and a Grey Heron of note. I counted 21 Goldcrests and seven Treecreepers.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Canons Farm, 22nd October 2017

I got back this morning from a phenomenal trip to Ethiopia with Harry R, George K, Dan B, Chris G and Adam B. I was ever so grateful for a McDonald's at Cobham services on the way home, where a Red Kite was sailing by the motorway. I teamed up with Phil W for a quick walk at the farm in the afternoon, producing the Barn Owl, two male Stonechats and an interesting passage of some 20 Lesser Black-backed Gulls.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Canons Farm, 6th October 2017

I teamed up with Linda M for a jaunt around the farm before heading to Ethiopia this evening, some patch quality coming by way of fly-over Snipe and Reed Bunting, as well as the return of the regular male Peregrine. A Stonechat and a Little Owl were along the east side of Horse Pasture.

Sunday, 1 October 2017

23rd September-1st October 2017

Well, it's been a busy couple of weeks but considering that this has been largely due to a fabulous and quite insane trip to Spurn in the unique company of David D-L and Magnus A, that can't be a bad thing. David and I formed the advance line, stopping en-route on 23rd to mop up the juvenile Red-necked Grebe at Roding Valley Meadows, the juvenile Long-billed Dowitcher at Saltfleet Haven and point-blank views of quality waders at Covenham Reservoir, a tight and showy flock of juveniles including a Red-necked Phalarope, a Curlew Sandpiper, nine Little Stints and two Ruff; a second-winter Little Gull also put in an appearance. The next day, we picked up Mag from the station in Hull...

juvenile Red-necked Grebe at Roding Valley Meadows
torn emotions among Great Crested Grebes at Roding Valley Meadows
juvenile Red-necked Phalarope, just my second, at Covenham Reservoir
juvenile Little Stint at Covenham Reservoir
juvenile Curlew Sandpiper at Covenham Reservoir
juvenile Ruff at Covenham Reservoir
We stayed at Spurn till 30th, the only 'standout bird' for me being the stonking adult male Red-breasted Flycatcher which turned up at The Warren on 27th but I will fondly remember the week for the panoply of common migrants including Yellow-browed Warblers, Redstarts, Whinchats, Spotted and Pied Flycatchers, Wheatears, Whinchats, Bramblings, redpolls, Siskins, Lesser Whitethroats (including a potential blythi at Chalk Bank on 25th), Garden Warblers, hirundines, Tree, Rock and Meadow Pipits, etc. Just one Yellow Wagtail for me, on 25th, which might end up being my last of the year, as might a Hobby on 28th. A Bittern was a nice Spurn tick on 26th. Brent Geese had started to arrive, along with a noticeable arrival of Wigeon and Teal; the common waders are always good value, which strong numbers of Bar-tailed Godwits, Knots, Golden and Grey Plovers, etc, along with the odd Greenshank and Ruff. Spotted Redshank, Little Stint, Whimbrel and Common Sandpiper also made it onto the roll-call. Seeing tonnes of Tree Sparrows was also something of a treat. A very enjoyable and wine-enhanced seawatch on 25th produced a Sooty Shearwater, 15 Arctic Skuas, three Great Skuas, two Manx Shearwaters, 52 Little Gulls and a Black Tern, along with nine Red-throated Divers and a trickle of Common Scoters.

adult ♂ Red-breasted Flycatcher at Spurn
Garden Warbler at Spurn
Spotted Flycatcher at Spurn
Whinchat at Spurn
a no-shits-given Roe Deer at Spurn
We did make a little diversion on 27th upon the incredible news that a SCOPS OWL had been seen at Ryhope, Co Durham; as a big owl fan, and this being a species I've forever longed to see in Britain, I was delighted to be able to soak up views of this bark-plumaged beast roosting in an elder before we heading to the Pennines, near Langthwaite, to sort of Black and Red Grouse successfully, both being birthday lifers for Mag.

dream come true... Scops Owl at Ryhope
♀ Black Grouse near Langthwaite
♂ Black Grouse near Langthwaite
♂ Red Grouse near Langthwaite
The return leg featured a pit-stop at Landguard (my first visit to the reserve since the Short-toed Treecreeper there in 2011) for the Red-throated Pipit which was on the fourth day of its unusually long stay. Also there was a Redstart and a couple of Wheatears.

Red-throated Pipit at Landguard, my second
I was back on patch duty on 1st, a visit which featured the Barn Owl, a couple of migrant Mistle Thrushes, a Stonechat and two Red-legged Partridges... it was a pleasure to bump into Steve G. A call from Christian prompted an unplanned but worthwhile trip to the London Wetland Centre, where we had a quick look from the Peacock Tower, counting Snipe, Wigeon and the like.