Friday, 25 May 2012

Summer ice

A rather casual and relaxed day. I made a change this morning by starting at Banstead Woods. There wasn't much around but it was a nice walk, with a handful of interesting moments to make it worthwhile. Birdwise, a male Sparrowhawk perching nearby in a pine for a couple of minutes allowed a relatively uncommon photo opportunity. In terms of butterflies, I was pleased to see my first Grizzled Skipper, Small Copper (one of my favourites) and Common Blue of the year, plus Holly Blue, Speckled Wood, Brimstone etc.

Grizzled Skipper
Small Copper

Later in the day, I paid a brief late afternoon visit to Beddington, where the second calendar-year Iceland Gull showed well. A bit strange seeing it in the heat with flowers, butterflies and young birds all around. The Cetti's Warbler and a Reed Warbler sang close to the hide but didn't show.

Second calendar year Iceland Gull (possibly the Kumlien's that's worn over the last couple of months)

Tuesday, 22 May 2012


pics phone-scoped

I was holding out on the Cream-coloured Courser still being present today, not being able to get there yesterday due to the inconsiderate timing of an AS-level Biology exam. I'm known (particularly by my family) for having scewed priorities but a proper exam is one of the few things that I can't really justify missing in order to see a bird.

The plan was to leave on news. I started the day early at Canons Farm where the Red-legged Partridge was showing, allowing Paul Goodman to finally get it - his 93rd CFBW bird. Ian rang me to say that someone had posted the continued presence of our quarry on Birdforum, so I called our chaffeur for the day who I am restricted to naming 'The Invisible Man of Northern Surrey' and we left within the hour, along with Paul Manville. The journey was a real pain in the arse (...literally) but we got there in the end. Thankfully the ascent to the summit wasn't as long as I expected and after crossing an assault course of moody golfers on Ladies' Day, we reached the gathering and there it was, a bird I almost thought I'd never see, the absolutely blinding CREAM-COLOURED COURSER. Weird, wonderful and rare this is one bird which all the typical birding adjectives truly apply to. It was feeding away happily along the edge of the bracken-lined fairway and came reasonably close at times but regular passing golfers made sure it never completed a full approach. After watching the bird for a couple of hours, eyes glued to our lenses, we had to leave. On the way back home we payed a quick visit to Jubilee River to try to see the Red-footed Falcon (which Ian and Paul needed for their British lists) but it didn't look like it was going to happen but nobody really cared - the buzz from that courser will last me out a long time!

News of a Spotted Flycatcher at Canons Farm was teasing me on the journey back - I gave it a quick go in the evening but, as expected, dipped.

I truly cannot think of another rarity/scarcity in Britain I've twitched (hence ruling out the flock of Dotterels at Canons Farm) that I've enjoyed seeing as much as this bird, little comes close. I guess Northern Waterthrush and White-tailed Lapwing are the nearest contenders but not a touch on this thing!

Superb bird, superb weather and superb company! Nice

Bonaparte's Gull - first solid London record

Bonaparte's Gull is most distinctive in flight, so I was pleased that it gave such a great aerial performance

On Saturday I went to see the first-winter BONAPARTE'S GULL on the Thames at Barking Bay with Phil Wallace. After searching several points along the Thames following it going AWOL, we gave up and headed back. We'd only just got passed the toll at the QEII bridge when it came through that it had returned - an about turn and we were back and after a little bit of difficulty were enjoying clear but fairly distant views of the bird (mainly in flight as it was being harassed by Black-headed Gulls and occasionally getting its own back by giving them a bit of grief). Was a bugger paying the toll twice though.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Whatcha lookin' at?...

... was the question asked every five minutes by bemused passers-by when I was watching a Melodious Warbler on an urban street in Leyton with a gathering of other on-lookers. A very bizarre place for a bird of such local magnitude to turn up but stuff like that happens in birding. Picked up on song this morning by Stuart Fisher, this is only the eighth record for the LNHS recording area and the first since one in 2000 in Regent's Park which didn't give itself up to the London birding community. Melodious was, until today, on the short list of birds that I've seen abroad but not in Britain - remaining on that list are Crag Martin, Short-toed Eagle, Alpine Chough, Black Stork, Honey-buzzard, Black Kite and Whiskered Tern.

Friday, 11 May 2012


Tawny Owl
Tawny Owlet
I've only ever seen Tawny Owl in the daytime once, and that was at Hyde Park a few years ago. Ever since I started watching CFBW, one of my aims has been to find one in the daytime there, preferably finding a regular roost. I've seen them at night there several times, perched and flying but views are always silhouettes. I've heard them singing and calling in the daytime and pinned them down sometimes to only a couple of possible trees but still not managed to see them. I was doing my check of the Legal & General area early this morning when I heard a rather heavy 'tsip... tsip'. Didn't really know what it was but I looked to my side and saw a funny-shaped lump quite high up in a young tree. I didn't think it was going to be a bird or birds because the shape was very strange... I lifted my bins and found myself gazing at an adult and a juvenile Tawny Owl! I'd finally got a daylight view, when I was least expecting it!

The adult sussed that I'd clocked them and flew a couple of trees back but the owlet continued to show well. I changed angle and when I looked back and saw that the adult had returned while I'd been looking away (allowing me to get the attached shot). It flew again a little later on just because of me moving my head a little too suddenly - this bird was very skittish! Again, the owlet didn't really care. A handful of observers went over to see them throughout the day.

Red-legged Partridge
The Red-legged Partridge continues it's stay, favouring Infront George Field.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Terned up just in time

The Roseate Tern is actually a very striking bird, even these crap shots show the general paleness of the plumage; the shortness of the wings; the length of the streamers; the lack of trailing edge on the primaries, and the thin dark strip in the outer primaries

The message came through this morning that there was a Roseate Tern at the Walton-on-Thames reservoir complex. Roseate Terns are some of the most elegant British birds going but I still couldn't muster up the enthusiasm to go out of my way and bunk into a private site just so I could have it on my London and Surrey lists (as I've said before these are the lists I have the least concern for). I concluded that, as it's such a good bird, I'd go after college if it stuck around. Roy connected less than an hour before I arrived. After making my way through the scrupulous security at QE2, I scanned towards Knight & Bessborough Reservoirs and found a small group of Common Terns but there was no rosey. Paul and Colin Manville arrived and a larger group of terns soon came in, the Roseate Tern amongst them - as they do, it shone like a light in the flock. They flew across QE2 and seemd to go south west-ish. We thought they returned but this flock was bigger and contained no Roseate so was probably a new flock coming in. Low and behold, the Roseate was later picked up at Staines so had indeed left as we suspected.

A very good find by Dave Harris.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Keeps on coming

A truly superb spring at Canons Farm with several patch megas since the beginning of April, most notably Dotterel (first record), Black Tern (first record [I missed], Whimbrel (first record [I missed]), Pied Flycatcher (second record) and today two Shelducks (first record). The latter were picked up early this morning by Harry Boorman (of London bird race fame) and dismissed as 'just Mallards' - I looked and when I realised what they really were I was jumping for joy! I've always thought that Shelducks would fly over one day but it's been in the back of my mind lately so was completely unexpected. A very welcome patch tick!

 It was a good day otherwise (although very sadly the Dotterels didn't hang on...) with a female Common Redstart, two male Whinchats, about eight Yellow Wagtails and at least ten Wheatears sharing the same field at one point! Lots of good human company again today too.

female Yellow Wagtail

male Yellow Wagtail

male Whinchat

Friday, 4 May 2012

Unplanned trip

Absolutely mind blowing

For the first time since I started college last September, today I visited Canons Farm in the middle of the day on a Friday. With Yellow Wagtails on the deck and Wheatears around it seemed there might be something else of interest lurking about. I spent a bit of time scanning with Nigel Sluman then Roy arrived and within fifteen to twenty minutes he gave the shout 'Waders! They look like snipe! No they're Golden Plovers! Yes, Golden Plovers'. I got the camera on them and fired off a series of shots (see above), completely oblivious to what they really were. After a while I thought I'd have a look with the bins and as soon as I did I realsed these were no Golden Plovers, they were Dotterel!!!!!!!!!!! Almost immediately afterwards, they seemed to drop down in Heathside Field and we anxiously headed over there... yes there were fifteen Dotterel on the deck - OH MY GOD!!! A bird of pure fantasy at the patch that had come true, fifteen times at once and with superb style.

News was quickly let out and probably fifty observers connected throughout the afternoon and evening. It was great to see lots of familar faces again plus several new ones and the rarity of having some very well known London/Surrey birders on the patch. We've had several good London/Surrey birds at Canons Farm over the last couple of years but this is the first true MEGA and certainly the all time highlight so far. The last Surrey record was in 1884 and the last in the London area since 1994. This is also the largest flock ever seen in Surrey and is a very difficult bird in the south east in general. I'm still shell shocked! Days like these make all the hours and hours of waiting and scanning worthwhile.

Certainly overshadowed the singing male Lesser Whitethroat I had in the morning; a scarce bird at CFBW with about half a dozen records last year (less than Grasshopper Warbler!)

Roy very happy

Some of the crowd

I've been up to a few other bits over the last week, too, which I'll post about soon

See Johnny's blog for a good write up and pics and cfbwbirds for more pics