Friday, 30 August 2013

Another late August day

Still stuff to look at today but nothing particularly mind-blowing. A Spotted Flycatcher showed well for a few minutes at Lunch Wood and three Whinchats together in the Banstead Woods sector of the recording area made for a good record. A single Meadow Pipit overhead, too.

Spotted Flycatcher

By the way, I was in the Spurn area for a few days a couple of weeks back, didn't see much at all, the highlights being two moulting adult Curlew Sandpipers and a juvenile Spotted Redshank (on the same morning). I got a few shots of waders in flight that I'll hopefully get round to putting up here soon.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Flycatchers and a Hairstreak

The patch is continuing to prove productive. Yesterday I was joined by Richard Draper and we found a new Common Redstart along Slangs, quickly followed by a Spotted Flycatcher which was most appreciated by both of us. This is the only Spotted Fly I've seen in Britain this year and it's always great to get them on the patch in the autumn. Also yesterday a couple of Sand Martins in with a small number of hirundines, and a Wheatear at Reads Bottom while a Hobby flew over The Scrub.

Spotted Flycatcher yesterday

Today was pretty much just as busy at the patch although I saw less of what was on offer, missing both of the flycatchers (which were both found by Ians!). Ian Ward found a Spotted Fly by the side of Broadfield and Ian Jones scored with the patch's third ever Pied Flycatcher in Banstead Woods, a species that I have had firmly in mind for finding in recent days. I didn't actually get round to having a proper look for the Spotted but I made a point of looking for the Pied, sadly though it vanished with the tit/warbler flock it was seen with before I arrived at the scene. In the evening, while walking to the pub with Paul Goodman, Peter Taylor and Linda Mount, Peter spotted a Tree Pipit which showed well on the wires for a few seconds before flying off silently. In the morning a Yellow Wagtail called loudly overhead while I was checking the bushes in the farmyard, shortly after the first Meadow Pipit of the autumn finally squeeked away by the lane.

Tree Pipit this evening

A really exciting moment came late morning today when I happened to clap eyes on a beautiful female Brown Hairstreak by the Pages Acre horse paddock. I had just been on the phone to Graham James about maybe coming down soon to see this species at Holmethorpe so the timing was brilliant! This is the first record for the patch and the 33rd species of butterfly recorded there, which is pretty decent if you ask me! An elusive, sedentary species that survives in small colonies, it's likely that the butterfly represented a member of an undiscovered colony that we'll hopefully see more of in the future...

Brown Hairstreak - first patch record

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

More autumn arrivals

A Common Redstart was a nice new arrival today, but proved very elusive. This was the first of the autumn, as was a Golden Plover that flew over. Meanwhile, perhaps one of the last Common Swifts casually made its way overhead (in the wrong direction) and a Cormorant headed south in the morning mist.

Common Redstart
Golden Plover

Monday, 26 August 2013


Not a bad day again today with a Whinchat, a Wheatear and a Yellow Wagtail for me, plus extra singles of the two chats and a Garden Warbler seen by other observers.

Whinchat today
Little Owl at the farm last Monday

Sunday, 25 August 2013

Local autumn movement

Team Canons was represented today by myself, Roy Weller, Paul Goodman, Cliff Allan and Ian Magness. We put in over twelve hours today and our haul wasn't too shabby, with a respectable 57 species recorded (Greenfinch the most glaring omission this time). Birder of the Day was Roy who found, in patch terms, an incredible flock of four Dunlin that called as they headed northeast over the farm - only the second site record. I'd have been more than a bit miffed about missing these if I hadn't seen the first bird in April this year! Roy also had the year's only Grey Wagtail so far fly west, which I missed but hopefully I'll get one later in the year. He also found an unseasonal Red Kite, very low apparently, and a Cormorant (never an easy bird). I am more than consoled for missing the wagtail, though, as being where I was at the time, at The Scrub, meant I instead had a juvenile Marsh Harrier circle low above me for a couple of minutes before it quickly disappeared south into the gloom. I presume this was the bird seen an hour or so earlier at Beddington. An exciting local find and the only CFBW record this year (fourth ever)! I joined Roy at his vigil by the farmhouse from early afternoon and this produced a single Yellow Wagtail north and a Hobby. A small number of common warblers were dotted the patch but no passerines better than the wagtails were found, unfortunately... there's plenty autumn left though...

Marsh Harrier -fourth site record

Friday, 9 August 2013

Autumn approaching...

The inception of the autumn patch birding season has meant that my efforts at the farm and woods have begun to return some kind of profit, not much but enough to keep me content in the thought that there's potentially much interest in the coming days and weeks. Passerines have started to move through, with Willow Warblers being a classic harbinger of the annual return movement. Small numbers of these migrants have been dropping in and I'm sure that some of the other warblers are not local birds either. Black-headed Gulls first started appearing about three weeks ago and are now daily, though I'm still waiting for the Meadow Pipits, which normally first squeek overhead in late July.


A jaunt up and down Slangs this morning was rewarded with a smart and quite vocal Lesser Whitethroat, though, as usual, it was too elusive for a photograph. This is a scarce bird at the patch, with only around seven individuals being found each year. Slangs is somewhere I'll be checking more often now that things are slowly beginning to happen. For those unfamiliar with the farm, it is a narrow bridleway at the bottom of a small valley surrounded on either side by some of the only mature and relatively untamed hedgerows at Canons; it provides a tempting pitstop for migrant passerines and is particularly reliable for Common Redstarts at the times when they are moving through.

One of the young Common Buzzards

The incessant calling of the recently fledged Common Buzzards is hard to escape at the moment. Young from one, possibly two, breeding pairs on the patch have been enjoying feeding and sunbathing in the cut hay meadows, while constantly keeping in touch with their siblings and their parents. The first juvenile Pied Wagtail of the year was on the Legal & General playing field with four adults this morning, numbers will start building up there soon and the odd juvenile Yellow Wagtail can be expected to join the feeding gatherings over the next couple of months.

The first juvenile Pied Wagtail of the year
Jay at the Rambler's Rest on Wednesday; the first actual photographic opportunity I think I've ever had for the species at CFBW
Southern Hawker on Wednesday at Piddly Pond, a recent low-level colonist since the pond's reconstruction

I'm just eagerly awaiting the first few big pushes of autumn movement, I'm away for a week from tomorrow so there's no doubt that by the time I return things will be a bit further on and there might a couple of goodies to be found.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Butterfly tour comes up trumps

Today the CFBW Bird Group had its first butterfly and plant walk, led by Steve Gale and Paul Goodman. I came along to lend a hand and it was a great success, with 24 species of butterfly recorded and a specimen of the very rare Cut-leaved Germander being found. The undoubted highlight was the Clouded Yellow at Hither Field, most unexpected. This is the first known report of this species for the patch recording area and even better because it was of the washed-out form helice. Nearby, a Painted Lady showed well and was only the second record of the year, following one yesterday. Three Silver-washed Fritillaries were seen, including one showing well at Fames Rough. Another star species, although not quite as obliging as the rest was a Purple Hairstreak by the pond while strong numbers of Chalkhill Blues were still on the east slopes.

Steve Gale showing participants how lovely moths can be 

Clouded Yellow of form helice, the first known record for CFBW
Silver-washed Fritillary, a low-level species in the recording area
Painted Lady. Only the second sighting at the patch this year
Chalkhill Blue. I took this photo a week or so ago but there were still plenty during the tour
Brown Argus. It's not been a great year for these, though a couple have been on the patch in recent days
Common Blue. Relatively scarce this year but numbers on the tour were optimistic following a recent new emergence

Birds did get a look in, with a single Crossbill flying over that most people managed to see. Steve also heard one calling on the other side of the road that marks the patch boundary, just before the walk began.

Here's the list of butterflies seen:
  1. Essex Skipper
  2. Small Skipper
  3. Large Skipper
  4. Clouded Yellow
  5. Brimstone
  6. Large White
  7. Small White
  8. Green-veined White
  9. Purple Hairstreak
  10. Brown Argus
  11. Common Blue
  12. Chalkhill Blue
  13. Holly Blue
  14. Red Admiral
  15. Painted Lady
  16. Peacock
  17. Comma
  18. Silver-washed Fritillary
  19. Speckled Wood
  20. Marbled White
  21. Gatekeeper
  22. Meadow Brown
  23. Small Heath
  24. Ringlet

Saturday, 3 August 2013

June and July highlights at CFBW

There was very limited coverage during the traditional doldrums of June and July which are almost never worth the effort in terms of putting in the hours at the patch if finding migrants or scarce patch visitors is what you're after.

There was a good start to June with the 2nd coming up trumps with a Hawfinch in Banstead Woods plus a flock of 14 Crossbills and a single Red Kite over the farm. On the same day one of the Red-legged Partridges was still visible in Broadfield for the last time before the crop made any potential sightings of this species near enough impossible. A single Crossbill flew over on the 7th, the same day as a flock of nine Canada Geese. The Lesser Whitethroat was still singing at the east slopes of Banstead Woods on the 8th but not afterwards. The 9th was interesting for a Common/Arctic Tern flying high north over Outwood Lane. Another Red Kite flew over on the 10th. Mallards and Grey Herons continued to fly over occasionally. A group of seven Rooks were seen in The Nuttery on the 29th.

We should have counted ourselves lucky in June, as July was dire. Black-headed Gulls appeared from the 12th and Common Gulls from the 18th. Notable was a Yellowhammer bathing in Piddly Pond on 13th, a very significant record for the Banstead Woods half of the recording area. A Honey-buzzard flew over the east slopes on the 24th, only the second record for the patch and a superb find by the observer. A Peregrine was reported over Legal & General on the 28th.

Back at patch

I'm back home and after my usual few high-summer weeks of distancing myself slightly from the patch by sleeping in, going on long-distance twitches and avoiding the sun, I am considering myself to be back in patching mode. Started yesterday and this was rewarded by hearing a small flock of Crossbills over Ruffett Wood. Today I heard at least one bird in the same area, possibly from/having just left one of the pine trees there. Viewing the pines in Ruffett Wood is difficult but I wouldn't be surprised if there's a small flock that's been feeding in there. It would be great to get some views and pictures of them in the trees as the best I've managed of Crossbills in the past there is lame record shots of some of the fly-overs.

Also today I was watching one of the resident Common Buzzards when I picked up an interesting bird very high up and very distantly. It took a while for me to work out whether it was a large wader or a tern as it slowly approached head-on but it became clear that it was the former. The bill was long and I eventually discerned this to be slightly down-curved, the wings were unmarked and it had a white wedge up the back and it was flapping quite slowly. I managed to get a couple of very poor record shots which support my strong suspicion of it being a Curlew. The second record this year of this rare species for the patch, there's usually one or two records a year. The other was in May.

Also joined Peter Alfrey at the Bioblitz at the Sutton Ecology Centre and helped him with a bird walk which was very quiet until the last minute when a Red Kite flew over - quite a shocker!

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Norfolk and Cornwall

I've been away for the last few days. First of all I was in Norfolk, on Saturday and Sunday. I didn't really have time to do much birding as such but helped David Darrell-Lambert with a survey, where we found five Stone-curlews, a juvenile female Goshawk and a fair few Crossbills. There with family to see my unce and aunt, we spent Sunday afternoon on their boat on Hickling Broad - picked up a few marshland birds there including a couple of Marsh Harriers and a few Common Terns.

Stone-curlew, just into Suffolk

Early on Monday morning I set off for Cornwall where a couple of days of seawatching were planned with Liam. Arriving at Porthgwarra mid-morning we set up our scopes and began our vigil. It was obvious that things weren't going to kick off and we only managed to pull a couple of Balearics out of the bag. I took this opportunity to catch up on a little sleep and kipped for a while as Liam kept watch. A Chough was a welcome bit of extra interest. Also three Ravens. We checked the Hayle Estuary where there was a selection of common waders including a couple of Whimbrel, decent numbers of Sanderlings and an impressive gathering of 18 Common Sandpipers. Also a couple of Med Gulls.

Tuesday morning the conditions didn't look terribily great but we thought we'd give it a good go and set the alarm for 5.30am. There was slightly more variety with a Storm-petrel and a couple of Puffins alongside Balearic Shearwater, but we only recorded one of this species! I was starting to think this seawatching trip was going to be a disaster when Liam shouted that he had a large shearwater, praying it to be my main quarry I managed to get onto it fairly quickly and indeed it was a Cory's Shearwater! It was quite far, being noticably beyond the Runnelstone but it was enough to see what it was and we had it in view for about five minutes as it headed east; the bird's primaries on one wing were pretty bashed up. Mission accomplished then, Cory's being one of my biggest remaining 'tart's ticks', we packed it in late morning and headed to the Hayle Estuary where we found much of the same as the previous day. That was enough birding for the day for us and we chilled at Liam's flat for the rest of the day, in keen anticipation of what was perhaps to come in the morning, when the weather looked favourable for seabirds.

The alarm was set early once more yesterday morning and as soon as we stepped out of the flat we could tell that we were probably in for a decent watch. We started seawatching from the cove near the car park and Liam, being on fire with large shearwaters, picked up a Great Shearwater heading west - superb! A few minutes later and I located two birds headed past together... things were looking good. About an hour in and we were also into double figures of Balearic Shearwaters and had clocked a couple of Storm-petrels as well as a Bonxie. We moved up to Hella Point where a couple of birders we'd met on Monday had just arrived. It wasn't long before we started picking up the odd Great Shearwater again and the tally steadily increased. Eventually, one bird proved to be a Cory's Shearwater; it was surprising that the ratio of big shears favoured Greats to such an extent. After the other birders left we had another Bonxie, another Cory's and additional Great Shearwaters. The resident pair of Choughs showed well, doing their undulating flight right by us. Martin Elliott and a friend then arrived and after a lull the action resumed, with further Great Shears and another Cory's, this time giving the views that I was after as it lazily toured the waves within Runnelstone distance. This saw me satisfied, I needed to get back home at a reasonable time and Liam wanted to get back to see his friends at his flat to we called it a day shortly before 4.00pm, following a long and productive seawatching shift, perhaps the best seawatch I've ever had. We said goodbye to the other chaps and Liam told them they were bound to get something like a Fea's Petrel now that we were leaving... later that evening I heard less than two hours after we left they picked up nothing other than a bleeding Fea's Petrel... bloody gutting to come that close and I didn't realistically see that coming at the time (though I might have been keen to stay a little longer if I'd known about the three Fea's Petrels in Ireland before we left). That's birding, the high of seeing scarce birds followed by the sinking feeling when you realise what you'd have been treated to if you'd stayed just a little longer......

We finished our birding off with a call in at Hayle on the way back to Liam's flat. Quiet, but six Med Gulls were nice to see. Cheers Liam for the hospitality - most kind!