Thursday, 30 November 2017

Goring, 30th November 2017

A hasty afternoon count of the low-tide waders at Goring revealed three Redshanks, 61 Sanderlings, 31 Grey Plovers, 15 Ringed Plovers, 80 Dunlin, 50 Oystercatchers and 48 Turnstones, as well as a Little Egret. A Kittiwake flew west.

Wednesday, 29 November 2017

Staines Reservoir, 29th November 2017

It was bloody gutting to dip the American Horned Lark for the second time (although the first time I was twitching it as a Shorelark for a London tick). A flock of five Pintail was the best thing on offer but it was nice to catch up with Mike S, Surrey expat now residing in Cornwall, and Robin S.

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Norfolk, 27-28th November 2017

A fun couple of days away with Mag and Christian started productively with two Parrot Crossbills at Santon Warren, an adult Black Brant at Cley and four Lapland Buntings at Weybourne our haul on the first day. Cley also provided a first-winter Caspian Gull, a Great Skua and a few Golden Plovers, while Brents numbered around 500. The Tuesday didn't go quite so smoothly, much time being wasted looking in vain for a Shorelark at Holme, but we did get a few Snow Buntings there and a nice flock of 20 Twite at Thornham Harbour and a seawatch at Sheringham produced a couple of Great Skuas and a few Red-throated Divers.

♂ Parrot Crossbill at Santon Warren
adult Black Brant at Cley - my first of this taxa; interesting bird with an incomplete collar (and I think I'm looking too hard for grey tones on the upperparts?)
first-winter Caspian Gull at Cley

Twite at Thornham Harbour

Saturday, 25 November 2017

Goring, 25th November 2017

It was a glorious morning but quite a rushed visit as I had to head back late morning to Surrey for a few days. Feeding on the low tide was a Redshank, a Curlew, a Little Egret, 43 Ringed Plovers, 29 Grey Plovers, 91 Dunlin, 27 Turnstones, 11 Sanderlings and 39 Oystercatchers. The sea was quiet but three Wigeon and three Gadwall headed west together, as did 19 very distant auks in the haze, two Gannets and a Red-throated Diver. An adult Mediterranean Gull floated around, three Skylarks were in the fields and the woods held the Treecreeper, a Coal Tit, two Green Woodpeckers, a Great Spotted Woodpecker, two Stock Doves and six Goldcrests.

Friday, 24 November 2017

Goring, 24th November 2017

Cycling to the patch this morning, it was a relatively quieter session and I am beginning to realise the regular frustration that I am bound to experience at the sheer level of disturbance burdoned upon this precious relic of green space. The waders feeding on the low tide must contend with endless dog-walkers and it seems that operators of both model aircraft and drones either feel their machines take priority over these birds seeking vital refuge in the fields at high tide or, more likely, play with their toys in ignorance. It truly seems that the only spaces not already razed by humans and free from their blundering indifference to nature are indeed nature reserves.

At low tide, I counted 29 Grey Plovers, 33 Ringed Plovers, 67 Turnstones, four Sanderlings and 27 Oystercatchers foraging, as well as a Little Egret. I postponed counting Dunlin till high tide but this was probably a mistake as only 93 appeared and very few other waders braved the roost site. Gulls included five Mediterranean, 110 Common and 35 Great Black-backed. Little was moving over or feeding on the calm sea, with seven Common Scoters, a Red-throated Diver, 10 Red-breasted Mergansers, a Razorbill, 13 Great Crested Grebes and 22 Cormorants noted.

A Treecreeper, a Fieldfare, two Great Spotted Woodpeckers, a Green Woodpecker and a Stock Dove provided patch ticks, the two Stonechats lingered and other bits included a Chiffchaff, seven Skylarks, three Meadow Pipits, 13 Goldcrests, two Linnets, three Song Thrushes, nine Jays, 25 Blackbirds and 11 Pied Wagtails.

♀ Stonechat

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Beddington Farmlands, 22nd November 2017

This morning's walk around Beddington with Magnus A turned into a bit of an epic when we simultaneously clocked a colour-ringed Twite among a flock of 30 Linnets by the landfill site!!! The first Surrey record since 2004 and with the only previous Beddington record being in 1991, this is a local blocker and several of Beddington's finest were with us and connecting with the bird in no time! From the combination, Jamie Dunning was able to tell us that the bird was ringed as a juvenile in Derbyshire in 2016 and spent the following winter at the more typical location of Titchwell RSPB in Norfolk.

Other highlights over the morning included our old friend Caspian Gull X319, now in second-winter plumage, as well as a second-winter Yellow-legged Gull, Water Pipit, two Tree Sparrows, Water Rail, Chiffchaff, Little Egret, 40 Great Black-backed Gulls, five Reed Buntings, 29 Lapwings, 146 Teal, 30 Gadwall, 74 Shovelers, a handful of Snipe, three Skylarks, two redpolls, two Redwings and nine Meadow Pipits.

Surrey's first Twite since 2004
2nd-winter Caspian Gull
2nd-winter Yellow-legged Gull
Tree Sparrow by Mag

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Goring, 21st November 2017

Back in Sussex, I headed out to Goring for the morning where I saw the beach at low tide for first time. I hadn't realised the extent of the potential feeding area on offer for waders here at low tide and scanning along the beach revealed new patch species for me in the form of a Knot and a couple of Redshanks. Apparently Knot isn't particularly common here. While Sanderling and Ringed Plover numbered remained low, at 23 and eight respectively, other species provided reasonable totals: 69 Grey Plovers roosted along with 203 Dunlin and feeding along the shore were 90 Turnstones and 57 Oystercatchers.

A Kingfisher calling along the beach was soon spotted surveying its hunting ground from one of the groynes. I counted 11 Mediterranean Gulls and other bits included four Dark-bellied Brent Geese, a Common Scoter, a Guillemot and the low totals of 14 Red-breasted Mergansers and three Great Crested Grebes. Three Kittiwakes and 28 Gannets moved west. The two Stonechats were still in the rough field and a Chiffchaff was in the woods on the east side while the fields held six Skylarks and 15 Pied Wagtails. Seven Goldcrests were dotted about and a Rook flew over.

Part of today's high tide roost
the Knot roosting later in the morning
the beach at Goring Gap at low tide
Grey Plovers
adult Mediterranean Gull
Common Gulls, with Mediterranean and Black-headed thrown in

Monday, 20 November 2017

Canons Farm, 20th November 2017

Another quick morning visit to the farm before heading back to the south coast produced a Rook, two Meadow Pipits, a Pied Wagtail, three Common Gulls, 12 Skylarks, 80 Redwings, 50 Fieldfares and a Mistle Thrush.

Sunday, 19 November 2017

Lee Valley and Staines Reservoir, 19th November 2017

A morning survey returning to Seventy Acres Lake produced two Egyptian Geese, two Little Egrets, three Water Rails, a Kingfisher, a Peregrine, two Cetti's Warblers, a Chiffchaff, three redpolls, seven Siskins and 20 Reed Buntings.

On the way to my parents' home in the afternoon I stopped off at Staines Reservoir in the hope of seeing either the Shorelark or the Whooper Swan flock reported in the morning. Unfortunately, both species had shifted off but a Black-necked Grebe was seen and there seemed to be a decent number of Pochard about, although I didn't have the time to do any meaningful counts of anything.

Saturday, 18 November 2017

Lee Valley, 18th November 2017

A survey visit in the afternoon to Seventy Acres Lake produced interesting sightings in three Egyptian Geese, two Little Egrets, four Water Rails, two Kingfishers, two Cetti's Warblers, two Chiffchaffs, a Grey Wagtail, a Siskin and several Reed Buntings.

Canons Farm, 18th November 2017

A quick visit to the farm in the morning produced two Bramblings, a Grey Heron, 240 Fieldfares, 126 Redwings and a Meadow Pipit of particular note.

Friday, 17 November 2017

Canons Farm, 17th November 2017

Back in Surrey for a little while, I parked up by the farmhouse and had a quick scan of the stubble fields by the lane - that's about as far as I got all day as I quickly spotted a Short-eared Owl roosting right out in the centre of Infront George West and the rest of the day was spent watching the bird with good friends as they came and went to see this locally rare treat, overshadowing the adult Great Black-backed Gull which had flown over a few minutes beforehand (a decent enough patch bird in itself). I returned late in the day to see the owl take off and heard a Tawny and at least three Little Owls too. Other bits of note at the farm during the day included 34 Fieldfares, seven Redwings, two Meadow Pipits, a Rook, a Grey Heron and a Mistle Thrush

Short-eared Owl

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Goring, 16th November 2017

Highlights this morning included a juvenile Red-throated Diver on the sea, 11 Common Scoters, two Kittiwakes, five Mediterranean Gulls, a Little Egret, a Chiffchaff, a redpoll, two Stonechats, 39 Red-breasted Mergansers, nine Razorbills, five Guillemots, 45 Great Crested Grebes, 12 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, 15 Gannets, an Oystercatcher, 48 Ringed Plovers, 82 Dunlins, nine Sanderlings, nine Turnstones, 13 Great Black-backed Gulls, two Goldcrests and five Skylarks.

The scoters involved a flock of nine which headed west and a pair on the sea, where for the first time I saw for myself scoters living up to their name, the male displaying my scooting a couple of feet across the surface of the sea then cocking his head. It was nice to meet local birder Nick B and I appreciated his lift back home!

wader slumber party: Sanderling, Ringed Plover and Dunlin
the lonely Dark-bellied Brent remains...
Great Black-backed Gulls joined the loafing squad today
the male of a Stonechat pair - hopefully a Dartford will join them soon

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Goring, 15th November 2017

Today saw a brief inaugural visit to Goring as my new patch (see the previous post) and, despite being shrouded in fog, it turned out to be quite a productive visit and I left very excited about the patching prospects ahead. Within the first couple of minutes of scanning from the Worthing Sailing Club, near the east end of my boundary, I picked up a Red-necked Grebe on the sea a couple of hundred metres out. I can count how many Red-neckeds I've ever seen on one hand so was delighted to find my own. Later on, at the Gap itself, a Black-throated Diver was feeding about the same distance offshore and local birder Clive arrived just in time to see it.

The wader roost comprised of 59 Grey Plovers, 51 Ringed Plovers and 79 Dunlins but only eight Sanderlings and 11 Turnstones; a slightly weary looking adult Dark-bellied Brent Goose and nine Mediterranean Gulls shared the same field. A further 14 Brents tracked west offshore, where other highlights (when visibility improved!) included 46 Red-breasted Mergansers, five Red-throated Divers, 26 Great Crested Grebes, four Razorbills, five Guillemots and two Gannets. Two Skylarks, a Linnet, a couple of Meadow Pipits and two Goldcrests were also noted during the brief visit.

Red-necked Grebe
Mediterranean, Common and Black-headed Gulls
adult Dark-bellied Brent Goose

Sunday, 12 November 2017

Bowling Green Marsh RSPB, 12th November 2017

Back at Bowling Green for the second day running, I had a little more time to spare and ventured over to the estuary viewing platform as well as The Lookout. A flock of 12 Greenshanks was on the estuary, along with a lone Knot, 25 Bar-tailed Godwits, 300 Redshanks and 25 Dark-bellied Brent Geese, and the Marsh Harrier cruised the reedbed again while two Ravens were harrassed by the more regular corvids. A Cetti's Warbler gave one burst of song but was probably put off by the sharp showers and 45 Black-tailed Godwits were seen.

Saturday, 11 November 2017

Bowling Green Marsh RSPB, 11th November 2017

My mum, dad and I found ourselves in Devon for a weekend visiting family friends that we haven't seen for a couple of years. It was a pretty miserable morning but, with a couple of hours to spare and the Exe Estuary being surprisingly accessible from the middle of nowhere (if you're staying by the M5), my dad kindly took me to Bowling Green Marsh where I saw the scruffy Ross's Gull in 2014 for a bit of a birding interlude. I chose to sit out the constant drizzle in 'The Lookout' which as its name might suggest gives a pretty good general view over the relatively humble but bird-filled freshwater scrape. Highlights included a quartering Marsh Harrier, a flock of 250 Avocets and some 41 Pintail.

part of the Avocet flock

Friday, 10 November 2017

Canons Farm and Reading Services, 10th November 2017

A pleasant stroll around the patch this morning, joined for the latter half by Linda M, didn't turn up very much other than four redpolls, small numbers of Fieldfares and Redwings, the resident pair of Red-legged Partridges and a Meadow Pipit but the autumn colours and bright skies ensured it was worthwhile.

Later on, en-route to Devon I saw 18 Pied Wagtails by the M4 at Reading Services.

Thursday, 9 November 2017

Canons Farm, 9th November 2017

It's now that time of year when after-work visits to the patch become centred on owling and this evening was quite rewarding with a Tawny and four Littles calling. A Meadow Pipit flew over and, under the blanket of darkness, a few Redwings could be heard passing overhead.

Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Worthing/Sompting, 8th November 2017

While getting some jobs done in Worthing, a Linnet flew over and on the way home I clocked a Raven sail across the A27 at Sompting.

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Canons Farm, 7th November 2017

A brief visit to the farm saw my first five Lapwings for the site since January, and just my second record there this year (!), as well as a Brambling calling. Close views of one of the local Little Owls made the visit all the more profitable.

Little Owl

Monday, 6 November 2017

Leith Hill, 6th November 2017

A fabulous morning was spent ringing on Leith Hill with Paul S - we didn't catch a huge amount of birds but it was nice to get out ringing for the first time in months! There was plenty to look at in between net rounds, with highlights including eight Hawfinches overhead, a Dartford Warbler (a site tick for me), a Woodcock and five Bramblings, while a Skylark and, particularly, a Reed Bunting were notable site birds. At least four Tawny Owls were vocal as we set up just before dawn.

1cy female Goldcrest

Saturday, 4 November 2017

Beddington Farmlands, 4th November 2017

A rainy Saturday morning, where else would I be than the hide at Beddington? It felt like the good old days, with a packed hide filled by Peter A, Ed S, Steve T, Glenn J, Dave S and Nick G. With little flying over, most the attention was afforded to the gulls loafing on the North Lake, a spanking first-winter Caspian Gull and an adult Mediterranean Gull representing our main prizes. Med Gulls were once an expected prize for diligent sifting of the Black-headed Gull flocks but they have regained 'scarce' status in the local area, if not the Surrey and London recording areas entirely! Two each of Chiffchaff, Cetti's Warbler and Water Rail were around, along with a Little Egret and eight Pochards. It was interesting to see a number of the Shovelers on the North Lake diving for food. A Siskin flew over, along with six Snipe, three redpolls and 150 Redwings.

first-winter Caspian Gull
adult Mediterranean Gull

Friday, 3 November 2017

Banstead Woods, 3rd November 2017

Hither Field came good again this morning with three more Hawfinches flying over, along with a Firecrest working the hedgerow and a surprise flock of 19 Greylags! Quite a few Skylarks were moving, with 18 counted, and it was nice to see three migrant Yellowhammers pop their way overhead, as well as nine high-flying and quite likely migrant Bullfinches. Fieldfares and Redwings trickled through, along with the odd redpoll and Siskin, and a Grey Heron put in an appearance.


Thursday, 2 November 2017

Beddington Farmlands, 2nd November 2017

I set aside today for catching up with neglected errands since my Ethiopian trip and caught up with most of what needed doing in the afternoon but I made sure that I didn't waste some potential birding time, in the morning paying my first visit to Beddington for what has been too long. Unfortunately, it was a total pea-souper for the first half of the morning, forcing me to hold off from my planned walk and wait it out at the hide which had the benefit of catching up with Dave S and Steve T. Anyway, my highlights over the course of the morning included three Yellow-legged Gulls (an adult and two first-winters), a fly-over Brambling, two Water Rails, a Chiffchaff, two Fieldfares, a Pochard, two redpolls, a Reed Bunting and five Skylarks.

first-winter Yellow-legged Gull (bird 1)
first-winter Yellow-legged Gull (bird 2)
adult Yellow-legged Gull