Monday, 30 November 2015

2015 review: April and May; Success in the rain

Hard work. Those two words more than adequately summed up the local natural history scene - at least as far as this recorder was concerned. I spent a lot of time trudging between home and Mogador, via Canons Farm and Epsom and Walton Heaths. I also embarked on a breeding bird survey for the Surrey Wildlife Trust at their new Priest Hill reserve, with one bizarre record being a displaying Red-legged Partridge for over a week, in this largely suburban setting. The saving grace was a modest, but colourful, passage of chats, with double counts of Wheatears and a sprinkling of Whinchats - and who doesn't like a good spring Whinchat (left)? I also came across a couple of Black Redstarts (Canons Farm and Langley Vale Farm)  and Common Redstarts (Canons Farm). I recorded at least 5 Red Kites but remained empty handed when it came to such desirable raptors as Osprey and Marsh Harrier that others recorded locally.  It remained poor for moth and butterfly numbers, with the garden MV stubbornly refusing to entice much of note, mainly due to there being little on the wing, as confirmed elsewhere around the country. I needed to escape to Dungeness to get a fix...

And a week there in mid-May duly delivered. Migrant numbers were not anything other than below average, although towards the end of the week Swifts and Swallows built up to form spectacular feeding flocks over the pits in the increasingly unsettled weather. The rain also encouraged two adult White-winged Black Terns (above) to settle on Burrowes for a two-day stay. Much time was spent watching them, often at close quarters. Better still was a self-found adult Bonaparte's Gull that only stayed on Burrowes for a few minutes on the evening of May 16th. Poor photo opportunity follows:

At quite a distance, the bridge camera proved its worth in managing to obtain a record shot, enough to prove that I was not hallucinating! Before I could do anything about getting other observers onto the bird it disappeared, and was not seen again (unless this was the same bird that then turned up at Oare Marshes shortly afterwards). A build up in Hobby numbers culminated in a loose feeding flock of 22 over the Boulderwall/Water Tower Pits area on the early afternoon of the 17th. Some sight.

There was a hint that a few migrant moths were on the move, as a Ni Moth (above, my first ever) was recorded at the observatory MV. The month ended back in Surrey, with birding entering the doldrums and moth numbers still depressed. But something was starting to stir and blossom forth. Unknowingly I was just a short time away from an unforgettable event...


  1. Whaaaaa?!??! You can't just leave us hanging like that!

    1. Don't get too excited Seth, although I won't forget the said 'event' in a hurry.

  2. As far as Dungie is concerned, I guess you're classed as a "long stay migrant"