Friday, 31 May 2013


At 8.48am this morning, near the Watchpoint at Canons Farm, a funny shape caught my eye very high up. It puzzled me for a while, my impression going from small gull to tern then back to small gull. I managed a couple of record shots with the SLR before trying to get it in the scope but I lost it before I managed to lock onto the bird. My gut reaction was Kittiwake based on the views and looking at the over-exposed RAW files on the back of the camera seemed to support this hypothesis through the neat black tips to the otherwise entirely white (from underneath) wings, and the general shape of the bird. Getting home, I put the pictures on the computer, reduced the exposure and blew them up to reveal some convincing images despite the range. Response on Twitter has added further confirmation that today I had my 121st CFBW bird in the form of an adult Kittiwake!

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Another HEN HARRIER! And some recent pics

The weather was miserable today but held some promise so I stuck it out for much of the day. What I clapped eyes on just before 10.00am, though, was certainly not the sort of thing that I was expecting. A male Hen Harrier! The bird afforded good views for a few minutes as it circled the farm, drifted west then took a more southerly leave. It sure was a stunning experience watching this impressive raptor passing over. This is my third bird at the patch, and my remarkably my second this year, following a ringtail earlier this month.

male Hen Harrier

 While I'm at it, here's a few recent images that I've finally got round to getting off the camera...

Red Kite at Banstead Woods on Sunday evening
Common Buzzard with Carrion Crow at Canons Farm on Saturday
Garden Warbler at Banstead Woods on May 13th
Song Thrushes on Reads Rest Lane on May 11th

Getting Savi

Yesterday I shared an enjoyable trip to Lakenheath in the evening with Phil. He was in it for the long-staying male Red-footed Falcon which, despite his recent extensive travels, he hadn't seen anywhere in the world. I came for the Savi's Warbler, a bird that I haven't had the chance to chase yet.

On arrival we heard that the falcon hadn't been reliably reported since mid-morning and that the Savi's hadn't yet starting its evening singing session. Walking towards the area of interest, we passed a large group of people intently peering into a plantation. We took a few guesses as to what the attraction was but they were all incorrect... it turned out to be the most obliging male Cuckoo that either of us had ever seen! It put on a superb show, perching for long periods in good light in between diving into the undergrowth in pursuit of large caterpillars.

There were large numbers of Common Swifts, and a single House Martin, taking advantage of the abundance of emerging insects but we only saw two Hobbies. A Bittern boomed from the reeds while one or two cream-crown Marsh Harriers quartered the fen and a Cetti's Warbler sang from another plantation. I joined the gathering waiting for the warbler while Phil remained further back in case the falcon showed up. I had arrived just on time as the bird had apparently started singing very recently and I didn't have to wait long before it gave a burst of reeling, similar to a Grasshopper Warbler but heavier and more metallic in sound. It was instantly apparent that seeing the bird might be an entirely different challenge as the persistently powerful breeze promised to keep any warbler in the sheltered under-storey of the reedbed, although it didn't put off a particular male Reed Bunting which maintained its proud position atop one of the most exposed perches.

The bursts of singing grew longer and more regular, giving us more of a clue as to where the bird was. Phil rejoined me at this point and a collective penetrating stare into the rustling stems by the assembled crowd reaped the reward when the SAVI'S WARBLER appeared near a close-by bush. This first view was brief, but good enough for the tick. I did want further views though to fully appreciate the bird and its identifying features, and to hopefully get some images so we continued to stake it out. It soon reappeared, perching quite obviously in the said bush and this allowed all of its features to be scrutinised. The bird was a rich, warm, intense brown and had a large, fan-shaped tail - both features reminiscent of Cetti's Warbler. The undertail coverts were extensive, washed light greyish-brown with pale tips just noticeable. The breast and flanks were washed a similar greyish-brown to the vent and undertail coverts and the bill struck me as rather long and spiky. The wind died down and the evening progressed, but the light was still good and so the bird ended up giving prolonged showings on a number of occasions, making me a very happy man indeed. A Kingfisher dashing past was a nice touch. Ta, Phil.

Savi's Warbler

Sunday, 26 May 2013


On Friday I got out of an exam and turned my phone on to see a thankfully recent text from Jason Simpson saying he'd found a Red-rumped Swallow at Beddington! The second there this spring, which is astounding. I called and texted the Beddington birders and they didn't know anything about it but soon I and many other locals were on their way. This was coming up to 11.00am and I had to be back at college at 1.30pm; I got the bus back to Belmont where I collected the car and my gear then drove up to Hackbridge. It didn't take long to see the Red-rumped Swallow which remained faithful to the south-east corner of the main lake, affording brilliant prolonged views as it fed with a small number of Swallows. The weather was abysmal and left my sodden to the bone, a state I had to arrive in back at college. Mind you, the conditions did result in seven Ringed Plovers flying through. I returned later in the day with Phil for another look at the main attraction, which was still present but had moved to the south lake and become more distant.

Red-rumped Swallow at Beddington

Yesterday I was at the patch for most of the day, producing four Red Kites drifting north in the space of a couple of hours. I had the car and was sorely tempted to twitch something but nothing on the pager was quite going to work, apart from perhaps the Savi's Warbler at Lakenheath which I did consider. Late afternoon, a Terek Sandpiper came through from Rye Harbour and I picked up Ian and hot-footed it down there, this being one of my most sought-after waders. At the car park we met Jake Everitt who had just arrived after seeing the Roller in Hampshire and we walked together to the Terney Pool where the TEREK SANDPIPER was viewable, albeit a little distantly, with a small group of Redshanks, its delicately upturned bill and sandy-brown plumage evident. The group then flew, allowing scrutiny of the Terek's unique wing-pattern. This happened two or three more times and it really gave us the run-around, not really giving us any further views but we what we got was enough to satisfy. It was also nice to see Med Gulls, Sandwich Terns, Common Terns, Avocets, Little Ringed Plovers, Ringed Plovers, Knots, Grey Plovers, a pair of Cuckoos etc. Got back late though, and only just got up so I'm about to casually head out to the patch and see if I can get something good, preferably in the form of a scarce raptor!

Terek Sandpiper at Rye

Tuesday, 21 May 2013


On Friday I went to bed early excited at the prospect of getting up early and teaming up with the others to find something good at the farm, after an arrival of scarce migrants on the south and east coast. Despite turning in at about 9.00pm I only started to drift off around 11.00pm. Dreams of Hoopoes and Red-backed Shrikes around Horse Pasture were then interrupted by the pager screaming at me from my desk. Half-asleep, I looked at remarked 'Oh, Dusky Thrush in Kent... that's good', then went back to bed. Hang on....  that said DUSKY THRUSH IN KENT!!!!!!!!!! I texted a couple of people, set my alarm for 3.30am and tried to get some sleep but by the time 1.00am came around and I hadn't so much as sloomed I thought the best thing would be to drive to the site there and then and hopefully feel tired enough to sleep in the car pre-dawn following the drive. Just as I left my flat, Ian replied to my text that I'd sent earlier and I told him that I'd changed my plans and was on my way but could pick him up. He reluctantly agreed, dumbfounded at my plan of action. It turned out we weren't the nuttiest of them all, though, as on arrival at 3.00am there were already some people present! We unsuccessfully tried to catch up on our sleep before the first rays of light diffused through the sky, our signal to start searching.

It was a big cemetery and nobody really knew where to look so the assembled masses systematically filtered through the grounds, looking for the bird or for a gravestone/tree that matched those in the images of the bird online. People seemed to find the right area and we stayed there for a little while before scouting other areas. Of course we soon saw people dashing back to the theorised location, dodging headstones on the way. We joined the stampede and soon were on the female DUSKY THRUSH as it perched atop a small tree. The excitement and relief coming from everybody was more noticeable than perhaps any other twitch I've been on, this really was a grade-A rarity and it didn't give any trouble in terms of viewing. Numbers of people had swelled to hundreds and whenever the bird flew to a different tree there was a bit of a mass movement and this most probably prevented it from feeding as much as it would have liked, but at least people became a little calmer as the morning progressed. Just before 8.00am, having had several good views of the bird, Ian and I headed home.

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Canons Farm's High Flying Birds

An enjoyable session today. A lot of stuff seemed to be moving high up. If you let your eye penetrate the blue for a few minutes you couldn't fail to pick up either gulls, Common Buzzards, other raptors or Swallows. The first good raptor was a Peregrine passing high north over Green Belt/Ruffett Wood, next two Hobbies showed several times over the patch and somewhere around ten Common Buzzards were kicking around. When standing by Piddly Pond, my eye caught a raptor extremely high up above me. The long-tailed and small-headed profile, plus the relatively dainty appearance made it look superficially like a Sparrowhawk through bins. However, something certainly wasn't right, it looked too slim and the wings were too long and thin... plus it did appear rather big! It was almost directly above me so scope views were not practical (I did try), and I concentrated on taking as many pictures as possible in the hope I could get something out of them. After it had gone I had a quick look at the pictures and wondered whether it could be a harrier of some kind but decided to forget about it until I got in. When I got in tonight it was looking convincing for a harrier, not looking at all like a Sparrowhawk from it's profile. Marsh Harrier was ruled out by the just-visible barring on the wings and the paler brown colouration, while Montagu's and Pallid were eliminated by the five fingered primaries. Everybody on Twitter agreed it was a harrier and almost everybody also narrowed it down to Hen, which is what it has to be with the number of fingered primaries. So, looking like I had a ringtail Hen Harrier today! My second record at CFBW, following a stunning male that roosted on site in November 2010.

Also a pair of Whinchats, three Wheatears, my first May Lesser Redpoll and a Cormorant amongst other bits.


Saturday, 4 May 2013


My first year-ticks for a while in the last couple of days. Yesterday a Hobby zipped through the farm and today a Curlew passed over the Watchpoint mid-morning. Also today a Whinchat (also saw one yesterday, possibly the same bird... possibly even the same bird as in the previous post here), a heard-only Lesser Whitethroat - another year-tick (coming from an out-of-bounds area), three Red Kites flying over loosely together quite low, three Wheatears.

Red Kite

Wednesday, 1 May 2013


Found this nice Whinchat at the farm this evening, a very obliging bird.