Friday, 26 April 2013

Rocked up just in time

Yesterday, around mid-day, a mega-alert for a Rock Thrush at Spurn came through on the pager. Now that was a bird I HAD to see! I tried a few people but it soon became clear that everyone I'd usually go with was unavailable for some reason or didn't need it. I came close to one lift offer but it didn't work out and I resigned myself to the best/only option of driving there for first light the following day. In the end though, I managed to convince my wonderful dad to let me have the car, though this meant leaving Wallington as late as 2.30pm. I blindly followed the sat-nav, thinking it was taking me onto the A3 then M25 but by the time it ended up leading me through London, on a very busy afternoon, it was too late to change my route. I soon gave up hope of seeing the bird but ploughed on anyway, planning to stay up there overnight and try for it in the morning on the off-chance. Thankfully I did get on the motorways before too long and pelted it as quickly as I could get away with towards Kilnsea, slowly knocking minutes off the ETA on the sat-nav on a pretty clear run. As I began to near my destination an encouraging message came through saying it was still showing at 7.10pm despite the wet and very dull conditions, though it was getting darker by the minute. Grinding to a halt by the Bluebell cafe at 8.00pm I rushed towards a huddle of birders who looked like they might just be on it  - yes, they were - one birder called Leon kindly let me bag the ROCK THRUSH through his scope. I got it in mine for a couple more minutes before it dropped round the back where Leon and I went round and managed two further glimpses before the night truly blanketed the sky. I couldn't believe that I'd actually managed to get there in time just enough to see it. One or two more red lights, or five minutes more time in queues and I'd have missed it. Relief, elation and the shakes after such an intense, close and stressful chase proceeded before I composed myself, fetched some food and arranged digs for the night.

Rock Thrush when I bagged it yesterday (Thursday) evening

This morning I popped in for another look at the bird which had remarkably stayed overnight, getting further views and better pics plus seeing a Hoopoe brilliantly. Also quite a few Wheatears and the odd Yellow Wagtail were in the same field. I set off back home some time between eight and nine this morning, hoping to get to my English lesson at 1.30pm but failed to do so, but never mind - Rock Thrush is on my list!!! I checked in at Canons very quickly this evening, finding a female Whinchat and at least sixteen Wheatears.

Rock Thrush today - more prolonged views this morning

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Whimbrel stays another day

The Whimbrel stayed today, allowing quite a few more people to see it and I enjoyed opportunties for better viewing and photography of the bird. Second prize today went to the Red Kite which Nick Gardner picked up and kindly called me about, and in no time it was flying just over tree-top height quite near me allowing for my clearest shots of the species at the patch so far. Also a male Wheatear, a Swallow and a Fieldfare.

Red Kite

Monday, 22 April 2013

Wader hat trick

In under two weeks I've seen three mega patch waders, all ticks for me, and so far representing all my patch ticks of the year. I got a call from Dave Warren this evening saying 'I think I had a Curlew about half an hour ago in Infront George Field'. This seemed an odd place for a Curlew to be and I wondered how good his views were, and whether it could have been something else... Stone-curlew and Whimbrel crossed my mind. Ian and I rushed over and met Jamie by the farmhouse. There was no sign of the bird in Infront George but walking up the path towards Legal & General we disturbed the bird from a mere thirty yards from us. Whimbrel! It ran a little then flew and landed not much further away in the field, showing well for Roy Weller, Paul Manville and Ian Magness who also managed to bag the bird before dark. I stayed until 8.45pm and the bird was still present. Hopefully it will remain tomorrow. This is the second record for the patch, remarkably exactly a year to the very day since Steve Gale had the first flying high over Slangs. It also represents my 120th CFBW bird.

more at cfbwbirds
I did some filthy twitching earlier in the day with Ian, dipping the Whiskered Terns at Shapwick Heath but there were six Arctic Terns there plus Cetti's Warbler, Sedge Warbler, Reed Warbler, c52 Black-tailed Godwits, a few Redshanks, a Lesser Redpoll, a booming Bittern etc. On the way back a Bonelli's Warbler came through from Pagham so seeing as Ian needed it and I fancied seeing another we went and eventually connected with the bird later confirmed to indeed be a WESTERN BONELLI'S WARBLER. Also at Pagham: Cuckoo, 4 Whimbrels, Bar-tailed Godwit, 18 Turnstones, 7 Ringed Plovers, two Dunlins etc.

Western Bonelli's Warbler

Friday, 19 April 2013

Fall of chats

The Reads Bottom area was chat-central today with another arrival involving a stonking male Common Redstart, my first two Whinchats of the year (both males) and as many as eleven Wheatears present. For more images see the cfbwbirds gallery.

male Common Redstart
male Whinchat

Monday, 15 April 2013

More migrants arrive

Barn Owl
A visit before my first day back at college this morning really paid dividends and continued yesterday's buzz. I got to the farm at 6.00am and the first bird I saw was a male Wheatear on the barns behind the farmhouse, then the Barn Owl hunting over Watchpoint field - it offered perhaps the best views I've ever had of it and was a real surprise seeing as it hasn't been seen hunting or at roost since March 26th. I then started to read on Twitter of falls of Wheatears and other migrants in London and various other sites across the country. I wondered whether there might be things to find but wasn't expecting much as usually good hauls elsewhere are indicative of slow days at Canons rather than bird-filled ones. I made my way down Canons Lane after reading these messages and was stopped in my tracks by two Tree Pipits on the wires by the lane! This is a regular autumn migrant but hard in the spring and they're usually fly-overs; I've only ever had any kind of settled view at the patch on two occasions so this was a real score.

Tree Pipit, bird 1
Tree Pipit, bird 2

Going to the raised south end of Infront George Field and scanning towards Broadfield I picked up three Wheatears, possibly including the bird I saw earlier, and although it didn't compare with counts from Wormwood Scrubs or Wanstead Flats my hopes were raised even further. Slangs, a bit of a migrant funnel, seemed a good plan of action so I walked down there, revealing a Willow Warbler and a couple of Chiffchaffs. I slowly walked back up when some 'different' movement caught my eye to the right, my instincts were pretty strong as to what it was before I'd seen its tail or got my bins on it, and it was indeed a sought-after male Common Redstart - gorgeous. As soon as I'd confirmed it two dog walkers came along, and disturbed it but it soon showed again and allowed photographs to be taken.

Male Redstart, bird 1
Male Redstart, bird 2

Ian came over and saw the Common Redstart along with two other birders. We then walked off together towards Pages Acre, getting brilliant views of the two Tree Pipits on the way - one even sang! Phylloscopus warblers popped out at regular intervals along the hedgerows and wooded sections and were mostly Willow Warblers, with a smaller handful of Chiffchaffs. The first two Common Whitethroats popped up, too, making for my third year-tick of the day! At Pages Acre, I commented that the horse paddock there was a likely Redstart spot, and then a second male Common Redstart flew past and performed well, an even more pristine individual than the first! I had to get to college to left Ian to continue the search and headed back to the car content with an exciting morning's birding. Another birder reported a female Redstart in the same place as the original male.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

No longer Green with envy

One of my most painful misses at the patch last year was Roy's Green Sandpiper - he had it in Bog Field on the deck but by the time I rushed there from college it had flown off. Today I'd already found a gorgeous and unexpected male Cuckoo and three House Martins and seen a Willow Warbler that P-Go had found (all patch year-ticks, the first a valuable one) when Graham Cole, who I'd been walking with, checked the Bog Field rainwater pool once more and said 'Well, there's something interesting on the right hand side' - I didn't know how high to raise my expectations but scoped where he was pointing and blow me there was a Green Sandpiper! The second for the patch and totally unexpected - it was super to see a proper wetland wader actually wading on the patch and quite out of context. Particularly amazing so soon after the Dunlin nearly pitched down the other day. Ian and P-Go managed to twitch it before a Magpie saw it off, no more than twenty minutes after it was first seen! I managed two more year-ticks after this, Blackcap and more importantly Sand Martin which is a regular but not common passage migrant at CFBW. A brilliant end to my Easter break!

Green Sandpiper (!)
Willow Warbler

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Dun me fine

My first new patch bird this year!

Finally found a Ring Ouzel yesterday! After a lot of effort I was beaming when that white crescent shone at me while counting Fieldfares. A few local birders arrived shortly afterwards but the bird had gone missing. Bob Warden, Staines Res stalwart, arrived this morning in the hope of seeing it and after the toured the fields together for a couple of hours he decided to head to Barnes instead. Inevitably, about twenty minutes afterwards, the bird appeared in flight having taken off from Bog Field and dropped down in Tart's Field. Ian just about managed to get there in time to see it but it again vanished, just before Bob got back and wasn't seen again for the rest of the day! While scanning for it, just after Bob returned, a wader flashed through my binoculars! As I've said before 'wader' is the most exciting shout at a dry inland patch like CFBW - my brain tried to get into gear in this unheralded moment, sorting itself out quickly enough, going in the space of about a second from 'LRP!' to 'no - has wingbars and long bill: Common Sand?' and finally 'Dunlin!!!'. It circled, came so close to landing on the remains of the Bog Field casual pool then flew low north-east. This is my ninth wader species here, all of which I've seen in the last twelve months: Oystercatcher, Golden Plover, Lapwing, Dotterel, Curlew, Bar-tailed Godwit, Dunlin, Woodcock and Common Snipe.

Saturday, 6 April 2013


My computer has crashed and consequently I'm struggling to organise things and dealing with photos is impossible at the moment (doing this on my phone) so that's why I haven't put anything on here lately. More for the sake of maintaining a searchable record for myself than anything else though (as I'm too crap with time management to keep a database going so often just search my own blog for my own records), I feel I ought to issue a quick text-only update.

Things have been very slow of late and despite putting in 86 hours since last Friday my haul for the patch in this period has been a single Chiffchaff on April 2nd and two Red Kites on March 30th, which (although the kites were superb) is a paltry return for efforts and reflects the astonishingly delayed migration at the moment. I've been on two other trips, one on March 24th to Farlington Marshes where Jamie, Liam and I enjoyed the RED-BREASTED GOOSE, a Spoonbill, about four Wheatears and a couple of Chiffchaffs, plus Black-tailed Godwits and impressive numbers of Dunlins, Grey Plovers and Bar-tailed Godwits. Other highlights included Black-necked Grebe, Red-breasted Merganser, Marsh Harrier and the number of dark-bellied Brent Geese. The other trip was a dip on April 1st at Papercourt Water Meadows (Pallid Harrier) but we were treated to a long performance by three Barn Owls, often in the same view, plus three Mandarins and a Chiffchaff or two, while Reed Buntings sang and a small flock of Wigeons grazed. Also, Sunday 31st, a quick visit to Holmethorpe was rewarded with the adult Little Gull on Mercers Lake, a Little Ringed Plover on Water Colour Lagoon 2 and a singing Chiffchaff plus Grey Wagtail and the Great Crested and Little Grebes, a Shelduck, a drake Shoveler etc.

I hope the better weather improves local birding soon!