Sunday, 23 September 2018

Warning! Very poor Spoonbill shot

The North Lake at Beddington SF (above), on a chilly, wet September morning - I'm here out of the kindness of Roger Browne (info) and Steve Thomas (lift) - and the presence of a (as yet) unspecified number of Spoonbills. When Roger first arrived this morning he was amazed to see at least eight Spoonbills at the far side of the lake, partially hidden by the vegetation on an island. When Steve and I arrived he had been joined by Peter Alfrey, and the flock size (still obscured by island vegetation) had now risen to 11. My first scope view suggested 12, possibly 13. And when the rain started to abate, they took off as one, 19 birds in all. They arced round and left the area purposefully southwards. My bridge camera is not the best for birds in flight at the best of times, but I let off a couple of blind shots (no zoom, an exercise in pointing and hoping) and then stopped to watch them fly over us - I was not going to miss the moment hidden behind a viewfinder. The results from the camera were dismal, but enough to record at least 17 of the flock, even being able to make out the odd juvenile amongst them. 19 is most probably the largest ever count in London and Surrey. Beddington strikes again!

I told you it was bad!!

Friday, 21 September 2018

House Martins

The Mole Gap at Mickleham can often throw up a good morning's birding and today was no exception, as at least 800 House Martins were hawking over the river-side fields. The video above captures just a small portion of the flock. I have a feeling that I will be replaying this during the dark, cold, winter months...

Thursday, 20 September 2018

The land of the dinosaurs

The image above was taken from a hill to the west of Charmouth, looking eastwards along the Dorset coast. The highest point is Golden Cap, with the distant cliffs beyond that being east of West Bay. You can walk this stretch of coastline on a footpath that, give and take the odd cliff slump, allows you to tip-toe along the edge of hair-raising precipices and stunning scenery. For the birder it is an overload of senses. On the one hand you marvel at the habitat set before you - miles and miles of hedgerows, cliff top scrub, meadows untouched by fertilisers, small pools and streams - but on the other hand there is so much of it (and it extends way inland) that coverage cannot be anything other than poor. A team of a thousand birders working together would just scratch the surface, so the handful of locals that are present have a hard task of it. My short stay was exhilarating and frustrating in equal measure, there being so much promise which is made hard by a testing landscape. There is, to be frank, too much habitat!

Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Sort of sea-watching

Charmouth could not be any more tucked into Lyme Bay. It's not the sort of place that anybody would pick as a place to sea watch from - you can see Portland Bill to your left and a number of Devon headlands off to your right. Maybe the best time to scan seawards is during stormy weather, when the odd bird may seek shelter. It was debatable as to if today could claim to be 'stormy', more like 'windy', but the optimist in me thought it was worth a go. The result was so-so, with 98 Gannet and 3 Fulmar west. On the beach, a first-winter Common Tern and two Mediterranean Gull (adult and 2nd winter) brightened up what was fast becoming a dreary day. This afternoon I wandered Stonebarrow Hill and the slopes barely seeing a bird. I saw nor heard a warbler all day...

A low moth trap total did include this Clancy's Rustic, named after my old mate Sean.

Monday, 17 September 2018

A wild egret chase

Even in the sleepy backwater that is Charmouth it is still possible to be gripped off. I was watching a Dipper (above) in nearby Lyme Regis when Richard Phillips kindly texted me (while on his way to Tresco) to inform me that there was a Cattle Egret in Charmouth. I may have only been down here for two days but now (ridiculously) think of myself as a local - I was gripped off! I had walked to Lyme so faced a lengthy journey back along the not easy to traverse beach. To cut a long story short I duly arrived at the Egrets last reported site (a field with cattle as to be expected) but of the bird there was no sign, although three Yellow Wagtails dodging the hooves were some compensation

But fear not! My new found local knowledge had me walking up Old Lyme Hill to gain a panoramic view across the surrounding farmland, and BINGO, there it was, strutting its stuff some half-mile further east. I wonder if it will gather some mates?

The garden MV supplied me with a Box Moth (they really are spreading) and two L-album Wainscot (above)

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Getting to know you

Part of the joy of getting to know an unfamiliar patch is stumbling across areas that look promising. This evening I found myself wandering across a farmland footpath that took me up to the top of the under cliff to the east of the golf course. The rough grassy area had it all - isolated trees, low hedgerow, patches of scrub - with the added bonus of elevation and almost 360 degree views. A place to return to. I also found a number of spots to the east of Charmouth, at the top of the under cliff, where hedge lines and streams meet before seeping over the edge. In each place were birds, with a small pool acting as a bathing place. Again, places to return to.

It wasn't heaving today, but persistence payed off to a point, with Sparrowhawk, Hobby, Peregrine, Swallow (50), House Martin (30), Stonechat (5), Whitethroat (2), Blackcap (2), Chiffchaff (13), Raven (3). A grassy cliff top held at least 50 Autumn Lady's Tresses (pictured).

It is hard to complain about the lack of birds when walking amongst such an arresting landscape. The birds are there, it's just a case of looking. For me, it beats following the crowds to the latest rarity or proven hot-spot.

Saturday, 15 September 2018

And now for something completely different

Charmouth, in west Dorset, is most probably best known as a site for geology - cliff slumps, fossils and part of the World Heritage Jurrasic Coast. It is not, however, considered to be a birding hotspot, although local birder's, such as Richard Phillips, have found such goodies as Pallid Harrier, Glossy Ibis, White Stork and Yellow-browed Warbler in the past couple of years. I have been an infrequent visitor here during family holidays, and have always longed after spending a bit of 'proper' birding time on the cliff-tops, river valley and coastal scrub - well now I am.

A brief wander during the middle of the day revealed a few migrants, such as a Spotted Flycatcher, 10 Blackcap and 2 Chiffchaff. A Cetti's Warbler was most probably a resident. A modest start, but why use up all your luck on day one? Mad gamble or inspired choice? The next week (or two) will tell.