Friday, 30 December 2016

Beddington Farmlands, 30th December 2016

Today saw the return of the hanging fog but a memorable few hours were spent in the company of Peter A, Christian C, Magnus A, Glenn J and Tomos B. The unquestionable highlight was an utter beast of a juvenile Glaucous Gull which I picked out on one of the remaining enclosed lagoons among a throng of Black-headed Gulls and a few Herring Gulls, the latter it even dwarfed. Other highlights included two Water Pipits, two Green Sandpipers, around 20 Common Snipe, a Kingfisher, two Cetti's Warblers, two Chiffchaffs, two Stonechats, a handful of Reed Buntings and a couple of first-winter Caspian-type gulls. Touring the Farmlands with this lovely and mult-talented contingent of local birders was a fabulous way to finish the year.

In the evening, I had a Tawny Owl hooting at Banstead Woods by the Rambler's Rest.

juvenile Glaucous Gull

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Banstead Woods and Canons Farm, 27th December 2016

I started the day with a quick circuit around Banstead Woods, really hoping to relocate the flock of redpolls, but I had only two fly-overs (as well as a Siskin). It was a beautiful, crisp morning and the car thermometer read -4°C as I drove through a hoary Chipstead Valley.

Later on, I teamed up with Ian J for some owling. Strangely, it was a no show for the Barn Owls but we heard two calls at the end of the visit, while returning to the cars well after dark. Two Tawny Owls and a Little Owl were also heard, and I glimpsed a Woodcock.

Monday, 26 December 2016

Canons Farm, 26th December 2016

After finishing work, I dithered as to whether to stay in and read or head out to look for owls. I'm glad that I opted for the latter option as I spent a magical 25 minutes observing the two Barn Owls hunting. I don't think anybody has searched for them since just before I went to Thailand so it was pleasing to find that they are still in residence. I considered doing a bit of a circuit to listen for other owls but decided to save that for another night.

Sunday, 25 December 2016

Canons Farm, 25th December 2016

A quick walk around the farm before heading back to be with the family for Christmas was rewarded with another adult Great Black-backed Gull among 730 Herring Gulls. Merry Christmas all!

Saturday, 24 December 2016

Canons Farm and Belmont, 24th December 2016

It was a pleasant surprise to hear a calling Blackcap outside as I got into the car this morning. The farm made for a pleasant walk despite the slightly dreary conditions, the best birds being a single adult Great Black-backed Gull and a Red Kite overhead, the latter perhaps being the same bird as has been seen on a number of occasions of late.

Red Kite

Thursday, 22 December 2016

Canons Farm and Banstead Woods, 22nd December 2016

There was little unusual on today's walk with Duncan J and Linda M, but the winter thrushes made the day worthwhile as usual. I kept half an eye on the trees around the residential fringes, in case a group of stray Waxwings drops in, with the odd small group being seen down south recently!


Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Canons Farm and Banstead Woods, 20th December 2016

It was a surprisingly productive session at the local patch today, with singles of Mute Swan and Red Kite flying over, along with two Ravens. The first and last are rather rare in the recording area. A few Woodpigeons were moving generally northeast, too, though I was disappointed to find only a small number of skittish redpolls in place of the flock seen on Sunday.

1cy Mute Swan - a barely annual species at 'CFBW'

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Banstead Woods, 18th December 2016

Still feeling like boiled death but averse to the idea of staying in all day, I went for a quick circuit around the outer footpaths of Banstead Woods this morning. I'm glad that I did as a flock of 45-50 redpolls was chattering away in a stand of birch trees near the Harholt Plantation. Perhaps my favourite finches, having gatherings of these characterful little birds makes local birding in winter much more enjoyable and good numbers haven't really been experienced since 2011 as far as I recall. Hopefully more will come, or at least numbers will remain around this level and so will a decent possibility of a rarer form among them. With thick fog again and no telescope, it was impossible to pick out any Mealies today.

Lesser Redpolls

Saturday, 17 December 2016

London Wetland Centre, 17th December 2016

Harry, George, Mike, Dan and I made landfall back from Thailand last night after a mind-, bum- and nose-numbing 12-hour flight. Over the coming days and weeks I'll post occasional pictures and accounts from this unforgettable trip which was made by the fantastic and lively company just as much as the c.380 species that we collectively gathered up.

Despite feeling thoroughly grotty and jetlagged with my ears still ringing from hours of watching trashy films about men stuck in cat bodies over the hum of the airbus engine, I dragged myself out and went birding today. It looked like a right pea-souper outside, rubbish for the patch, so I stayed in for a while and caught up on the final episode of The Missing. Once the convoluted drama surrounding the Webster family had drawn to a close, I peered out to the window to see that it still hadn't cleared so opted to go to the London Wetland Centre instead as I hadn't visited the reserve for years and figured it really ought to be clearer there.

Distracted by an unusual amount of activity in my car park, it took a while before I fired the car up. The single fruit-bearing tree had attracted hordes, by its standards, with many birds feasting including two Fieldfares, 15 Redwings and a similar number of Rose-ringed Parakeets.

The clouds were still on the ground when I got to the WWT but I shuffled around a few of the hides and allowed myself to be diverted by some displays, the captive wildfowl collection and the LEGO birds. It was truly nice to be reminded of the positive influence a place such as the London Wetland Centre has on a great many people and on conservation as I shared hides with groups on outings and parents with kids enjoyed the trails and the green space on offer. Some birders may find the noisy families an unbearable hindrance but I find it greatly warming to see such a variety and number of people benefiting from, valuing and supporting such a refuge. Through the mist I managed to pick out the wintering Water Pipit and a single Bittern, while three Cetti's Warblers and a Water Rail were heard and three Pintail were also on the main lake.

Water Pipit

Great Crested Grebes

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Cuckmere Haven, 29th November 2016

Ingrid and her mum came down to visit so little birding was done, but we called in to Cuckmere Haven briefly. Ingrid and Tina wanted to catch a glimpse of the sunset so rushed down to the beach while I had a look across the floodplain. A Peregrine, a Rock Pipit, two Kingfishers, a couple of Little Egrets, a few Wigeon and Redshanks were the highlights. I'm off to Thailand tomorrow evening, so over and out for now!

Little Egret

Monday, 28 November 2016

Canons Farm and Sutton, 28th November 2016

Another bright sunshiny day at the local patch. This time I was joined by Duncan J and Geoff B in the hope of finding that elusive hundredth species for the collective recording area year list but we had a fairly 'average' day with small groups of both Siskin and redpoll being the highlights. 'Buzz' the tame juvenile Common Buzzard was as obliging as ever... I made a trip into Sutton, where one of the Peregrines was showing on the western face of Quadrant House and then returned for a brief evening visit to the farm where Phil W and I enjoyed twilight views of both of the resident Barn Owls.

♂ Yellowhammer
juvenile Common Buzzard

Peregrine, Sutton

Sunday, 27 November 2016

Canons Farm and Frensham Great Pond, 27th November 2016

Doing the rounds at the farm resulted in a couple of surprises, namely a Chiffchaff on the edge of the horse paddock by Pages Acre and a fly-over Grey Wagtail. A Lesser Redpoll seen in the treetops in Pages Acre also goes in my logbook as a noteworthy sighting as they remain frustratingly thin on the ground locally this autumn. I was disappointed that the Forster's Tern had not reappeared in Kent, but news from Frensham Great Pond had Paul S and I heading over there in the afternoon to track down a Surrey lifer. We teamed up with Paul M and John B to scan the main section of the lake, initially finding nothing more curious than the outdoor swimmers, but we soon locked onto a strange, superficially black-and-white form floating near the far shore. It was no rare duck, but had it been on the sea I would have had no hesitation in calling it a (ex-)Guillemot and after staring at it for 10 minutes or so I could see no reason to doubt this identification, however bizarre it seemed; it did not seem the right size nor shape for a Razorbill and was not quite black enough on the upperparts. An adult drake hybrid Aythya was snoozing among 62 Pochards but once it became clear that our quarry was not in this part of the lake, we moved towards the Frensham Pond Hotel, which the last report referred to, where Paul quickly locked onto the juvenile Long-tailed Duck. A frequent diver and remaining under the surface for perhaps 45 seconds on each dive, it did not allow prolonged viewing or convenient photography but was an entertaining bird. Eventually, it flew off towards the main section of the lake with four Tufted Ducks.
juvenile Long-tailed Duck, Frensham Great Pond
Fieldfare, Canons Farm

Saturday, 26 November 2016

Canons Farm and Banstead Woods, 26th November 2016

An early start at Canons Farm was greeted with more fog than birds. I teamed up with Darragh C and once more we found that the most interest was in Banstead Woods; six Siskins was as unusual as things got but it was a pleasure, as always, to see a good number and variety of common woodland birds (though no large mixed flocks seem to have formed yet). My plan was to head off to Folkestone for the Forster's Tern once I got back to the car but once I'd sorted myself out it looked as though I'd have half an hour of light to work with, at best, so perhaps I'll go tomorrow.

Mistle Thrush

Friday, 25 November 2016

Canons Farm and Banstead Woods, 25th November 2016

A catch-up with Duncan J led us around the patch, which was productive in Banstead Woods for a female Brambling, three Siskins (entertaining to watch as they drank from a hollow in a tree!) a Lesser Redpoll and two Stonechats. After not really seeing the sun for the last few days, a completely cloudless sky by the early afternoon made for a welcome change.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Canons Farm and Banstead Woods, 24th November 2016

A whizz around with Geoff B produced some interest with a Siskin feeding in the trees at Banstead Woods and a redpoll overhead. Linnets seemed to have increased to around 500 birds and the celebrity Common Buzzard provided a close encounter as we walked back to our cars.

Common Buzzard

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Canons Farm and Beddington Farmlands, 23rd November 2016

I started fairly early on at Canons Farm, which yielded little of note, before heading to Beddington Farmlands to do the rounds there with Christian C. The highlights of an enjoyable three hours or so were at least four Water Pipits, a first-winter Caspian Gull, a calling Cetti's Warbler, a few Common Snipe and a couple of Stonechats. A vocal Bullfinch, an uncommon bird there, was a bonus. I was amazed by how much the water level had risen since my last visit a couple of weeks ago, submerging much of the islands (surely a decent duck is due here soon?) and the incinerator seemed to have come along in its brutal gestation. Returning to Canons in the evening, I was joined by Jack B in a vain attempt to see the Barn Owls but a couple of the local Little Owls were yelping away.

Common Snipe

First-winter Caspian Gull

Monday, 21 November 2016

Canons Farm, 21st November 2016

Another walk around on a rather grotty day produced relatively little, though one of the wintering Meadow Pipits was calling and a total of 14 Rooks was a surprise.

Adult ♂ Yellowhammer - there seem to be no more than seven birds currently wintering, though previous seasons have demonstrated that numbers may swell the other side of New Year

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Canons Farm, Sunday 20th November 2016

I didn't fancy heading out for Storm Angus's final proceedings so waited till the afternoon to head to the patch. One of the first birds to greet me was a Red Kite drifting over and later on a redpoll rattled overhead. The whole afternoon felt like a perpetual dusk but I joined Paul G for an evening vigil which was rewarded by a wonderful performance from not one but two Barn Owls!

Red Kite

Barn Owl

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Canons Farm, Saturday 19th November 2016

I spent the morning with IGM, trying to track down the Firecrests as he still needed it for his CFBW list, and we succeeded in briefly locating one in Pages Acre before it skipped over to Ruffett Wood. Two Siskins flying over was an added bonus, as was a grounded Lesser Black-backed Gull seen later on as I walked back to the car with Qasim S.

Adult Lesser Black-backed Gull

Friday, 18 November 2016

Canons Farm and Banstead Woods, Friday 18th November 2016

A pleasant walk around the patch with Geoff B was quite productive, with two Firecrests (male and female) performing well along the edge of Pages Acre, a redpoll and two Mallards overhead and a heard-only Brambling in Banstead Woods. The Firecrests make for the first multiple-bird record of this seemingly increasingly regular patch scarcity.


Sutton, Thursday 17th November 2016

A non-birding day, though while in Sutton I did catch sight of one of the local Peregrines on Quadrant House.

Sandwich Bay, Wednesday 16th November 2016

An explore around the Sandwich Bay estate made for a relaxing afternoon mainly spent admiring the gathering of Teal on Restharrow Scrape, where I counted at least 700. Two Green Sandpipers and four Common Snipe were also on view there.

Green Sandpipers and Teal


Monday, 14 November 2016

Canons Farm, Monday 14th November 2016

Once again, with my shift wrapped up I rushed out to stretch my legs and catch up with the Barn Owl, which eventually put in a ghostly appearance 20 minutes later than it did yesterday, despite the cloud cover. Four Little Owls were heard calling.

Sunday, 13 November 2016

Canons Farm, Sunday 13th November 2016

Once I finished work this afternoon I picked up Phil W and headed out to the farm for another owl session. At 16:55, the Barn Owl emerged and hunted over the grassland at Horse Pasture before vanishing into the twilight. At least six Little Owls were heard calling and a small number of Fieldfares and Redwings excitedly flew around the farm.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Back in Surrey

I've said it before and failed but once again I'm going to give online logkeeping a go and try to keep it up this time! I've spent the last eight months as Assistant Warden at Dungeness, which was a valuable experience, and I'm now enjoying reacquainting with my local patches back in Surrey.

On Wednesday, I joined Christian C, Roger B and Kevin G on a gloomy morning in the hide at Beddington Farmlands. This winter will be the last that the landfill operates so an eye was kept on the larids, producing two first-winter Caspian Gulls, one of which was particularly striking. Once the rain gave in mid-morning, Christian and I headed off for a walk around the mound, where a soft grating call alerted us to the presence of a Dartford Warbler, which we soon tracked down.

Dartford Warbler, Beddington

Thursday saw me eagerly return to Canons Farm, where I convened with Paul G and Ian J and also covered parts of Banstead Woods. A heard-only Reed Bunting overhead was quite a surprise and other decent patch birds included two Stonechats, a Cormorant and a Grey Heron. I went out again at dusk, and was glad I did as I heard six Little Owls, a Tawny Owl and a Barn Owl.

Common Buzzard, Canons Farm

A bitter wind did not stop a trip to north Kent with Josh B today being a good laugh. We started at Leysdown-on-Sea, where a single adult Mediterranean Gull was the only bird of any note before moving on to Shell Ness, failing to locate anything unusual but enjoying a panoply of typical waders and wildfowl. After a pit stop, we called by at Oare Marshes, where we only had time for a fleeting check of the East Flood but managed to see a Little Stint and 14 Ruff, but best of all was a close encounter with a ringtail Hen Harrier as it quartered the marsh.

Adult Mediterranean Gull with Black-headed Gulls, Leysdown-on-Sea
Turnstones and and Grey Plover, Shell Ness
Common Seal, Shell Ness
Hen Harrier, Oare Marshes

Ruff and Little Stint with Teal and Shoveler, Oare Marshes