Showing posts from September, 2017

Shetland, Day One

Arrived on What'ssay at 12.00 with the top crew - Big Dick, Pipit Shagger and Captain Wank. We immediately scored with a selfie that got 14 likes - top posting! Within an hour we had found our digs and had a top result with 25 Twitter messages of congratulations! Top liking all round. After checking our feeds we got changed into combat gear and staked out a phone box, where in 1982 Dick Trilby famously took the call that resulted in a major Little Egret twitch. No incoming calls to grill today, but our crew selfie taken in the phone box resulted in 12 likes - top posting!! It was turning into a rare day!!! Mid afternoon saw a birder yelling at us that he had a PG Tips. Seeing that Captain Wank had just made us all a brew we ignored him, especially as the yelling birder was in an iris bed at the time. Never heard of a cafe in such a place. Moron... undetered we took a selfie, top gurning from the crew, but we only got two likes. Poor. It started to smell 'rare', but that c

Black box

The Box-tree Moth ( Cydalima perspectalis ) comes in two colour forms, 'light' and 'dark', with the former being much the commoner. One of the latter turned up in the garden MV this morning (above), until now all five of my records have been of the former (below). This pest of box is starting to get a worrying toe-hold in parts of SW London and northern Surrey, with one observer recording it in three figure numbers! In a vain attempt to protect the population of wild Box that exists only a few miles from me, I killed the first one that I trapped - it's too late for that now I fear...

400 (no, not birds) and some chats

Chats... you just can't get enough of them, can you - at least I can't. I spent a good hour standing by a field edge at Canons Farm watching a party of 4 Stonechat and a Whinchat as they flitted and sallied around the hedgerows, fences and vegetation in the field. A couple of them came close enough for a few decent images to be obtained. Back at home, the garden MV came up trumps with a Delicate, a migrant moth that has been turning up on the south coast in good numbers. It also happens to be the 400th species of macro that I've recorded here.

Green on a grey morning

The cloud was low this morning, the light suppressed and the whole vibe was one of birding under a heavy blanket of dirty cotton wool. An early visit to Canons Farm was worthwhile, with a Barn Owl, Spotted Flycatcher, Grey Wagtail (scarce here), two Whinchats and four Stonechats being most notable. Afterwards an underwhelming brief sortie around Priest Hill was rescued by a solitary Whinchat. The garden MV was fairly lively, with Centre-barred Sallow, Orange Sallow and Large Ranunculus being typical of late September. I also trapped the greenest Red-green Carpet that I have ever seen (below).

Autumnal moths

The contents of a moth trap by late September is a wonderful collection of autumnal colours - russets and chestnuts, browns and blacks, oranges and yellows - with subtlety taking over from the garishness of summer. A few moths from this morning included (clockwise from top left) Black Rustic, Autumnal Rustic, Beaded Chestnut and Lunar Underwing. Normally by now I would have recorded a good cross-section of the 'sallow' moths, but they have been strangely missing.

Hirundine swarm!

Arriving at Canons Farm at 07.15hrs, practically the first birds that I saw were a small group of Swallows heading south - my hope that yesterday's movement would continue looked good! I settled down at a vantage point that gave me far-reaching all-round views and waited. It was soon obvious that it was all systems go... After half-an-hour 1200 Swallows and 70 House Martins had moved through, at a modest elevation and seemingly taking two well defined routes. It was then that House Martins came to the fore, as in the next 30 minutes they numbered a further 730 birds with Swallows mustering 600. The passage then abruptly stopped. I was more than happy with what I had seen, and took myself on a wander around the farm, with one eye on the sky in case the hirundines started up again, which they did at 11.00hrs. There then followed an incredible couple of hours. House Martins started to barrel in, in wide open flocks, up to 700 in 15 minutes then a massive pulse of 1800 in just 10 min

Arrows of desire

They were arriving high above me, too high to be seen with the naked eye, and had I not been scanning with binoculars I would have missed them. They were spaced out and came in pulses, the largest group being 50 strong. A few of the birds dropped lower and resolved themselves to be mostly House Martins with a few Swallows as company. Being at elevation, standing on the mound that overlooks The Watercolours pits at Holmethorpe, I had a good 360 degree view. The hirundines continued to arrive and head off east, but they still mostly kept high. Had I not known they were up there they would have carried on with their remarkable journeys unobserved by human eye. A journey that many of them would be making for the first time, born of instinct and need. After only 45 minutes the procession dried up, leaving me wanting more, but my notebook told me that 700 House Martins and 300 Swallow had moved through. I stepped out into the garden at 18.05hrs to have three Swallows zip inches over my hea

About to crack

There's only so much worthiness you can feel and servitude you can bestow towards a dry inland birding patch. Bloody-mindedness, obstinacy and a big dollop of wishful thinking are prerequisites to be able to maintain a regular presence, but, believe me, they can all come to a shuddering halt, and the way things are that might just happen soon. A dawn start at Priest Hill in a murky calm smelt of birds, and on entering the reserve there were plenty of calling Robins and the odd 'cheeping' Chiffchaff, but three hours later that was about it - 35+ Robins and 10 Chiffchaffs. The autumn here so far has been a hard slog for little reward. An early lunch and a check on what was going on elsewhere (the best being Yellow-browed Warbler at Elephant and Castle and a Blyth's Reed Warbler at Sandwich Bay) set me up for an afternoon at Canons Farm. Better than this morning, but it was still hard work. As is often the way with this site, just as I was about to give up there was a pu

Fallen Jay

The autumn is really starting to feel like autumn now - chillier temperatures, the leaves starting to fall (particularly the Horse Chestnuts) and rapidly darkening evenings. Priest Hill this morning added to the season's hold, with the first large arrival/movement of Woodpigeons - at least 800 were present, including a single flock of 750. Although Meadow Pipits were not actively passing overhead, a flock of 60 had gathered on the meadows. Single Goldcrest, Lesser Whitethroat and Willow Warbler were other highlights. One sad event was the demise of this Jay (above), found on the roadside adjacent to the reserve entrance. This species holds a special place in my birding world, which you can read about here if you so wish.

News on the Polish Med Gull

Last week I mentioned an adult Mediterranean Gull that I saw on Charmouth beach, sporting a red plastic ring (PER3). Through the excellent Colour Ring Birding website, I reported the details and received the following information from the Polish scheme behind the ringing of this particular bird: Ringed on 13/05/2007 as a 3rd calendar year female, nesting at Polder Bukow, Krzyzanowice, Slaskie, POLAND, by Jakub Szymczak So the bird was two years old when ringed, which makes it 12 years old. This colour ring reading can become addictive!

A question

Another morning spent at Priest Hill, leaning up against a gate and counting migrating Meadow Pipits. I didn't arrive until 09.45hrs and they were already dribbling over, but by 12.00hrs the trickle had dried up, resulting in a total of 186 S/SW. Just like two days ago, little else was moving with them. A question I find asking myself is why overhead passerine diurnal migration seems to stop (or run out of steam) by lunchtime. I've seen hirundines carry on well into the afternoon, but as for pipits, wagtails, buntings and finches (which normally make up the bulk of such movements) they seem to find afternoon movement not to their liking. Do they actually land and stop? Do they fly higher so that they are out of sight and sound? Meadow Pipit one : "I'm getting a bit of wing-strain here, how long we been flying? Meadow Pipit two: "Must be six hours by now" Meadow Pipit one: "Well sod this for a lark, let's pitch down in that nice looking meadow&q

Simple pleasures

My first visit to Priest Hill in almost a fortnight. Grounded migrants were largely absent, but from just after 10.00hrs a steady trickle of Meadow Pipits started up, all heading S to SW. I stood rooted to the spot for almost two hours and ended up with a total of 122 - mostly small groups of one to three but including flocks of 19, 11 and 10. I can honestly say it was some of the purest, most enjoyable birding that I've had this year. To watch actively migrating birds is always a privilege and a pleasure. The fact that these modest looking birds are possibly on their way to the Iberian peninsula adds so much to the experience. Not much else was moving with them, with no wagtails and very few hirundines, but that didn't matter.

A Pole in Dorset and a moan

Just back from a short break in Dorset, and although the optics and camera came along, they played second fiddle to everything else... highlights were up to three Mediterranean Gulls on Charmouth beach, including this adult (above) sporting a red plastic ring (PER3) which suggests that it was ringed as part of a Polish study. Also seen were at least two Dippers (at Lyme Regis (below) and Charmouth). There has been a bit on social media recently about some people's dislike of the shortening of bird's names into an attempt at creating a 'cool birding patois'. I couldn't agree more - you can stick your Spot Shank, Pink Stink, Grot Finch, Yank Start and Spot Flit up your... People also still seem to be congratulating each other on having the ability to spend lots of money, drive hundreds of miles and look at other birder's finds; they still refer to seeing said bird as 'scoring', 'bagging' and 'nailing'; also continue to take selfie

Seven go mad in Suffolk

Part 14 - August 1976   The sun had not just put his hat on, but also his sunglasses and slapped on plenty of ‘factor 20’ for good measure, as the ‘heat-wave’ that had started in June and rolled on through July was showing no signs of breaking up by August. Grass crisped to a caramel brown, rivers and ponds dried up, any exposed ground cracked and ice cream salesmen were running out of stock. It was against this backdrop that I arrived at a small campsite, hidden behind a garage, at Theberton in Suffolk. My companions were Mark and Neil Greenway, Paul Butler, Ian and Barry Reed and Tim Andrews. We had chosen the site due to its close proximity to the Suffolk coast, in particular the RSPB’s flagship reserve at Minsmere. We had been lured by scarce breeding birds such as Bittern, Bearded Tit and Marsh Harrier, the latter species teetering on the edge of extinction in the UK. Once we had hurriedly pitched our tents we hot-footed it along country lanes to East Bridge and then took a dyke-s

Whinchats (and a Pied Flycatcher) in the rain

An afternoon visit to Canons Farm was accompanied by a steady heavy drizzle. There seemed to have been a clear out of the migrants that have been on show over the past couple of days, but these had been replaced by a flock of five Whinchats, which popped up in the Reeds Rest Cottage barns area, and, even better, a vocal Pied Flycatcher that flitted around the Ash and Oak canopy in Lunch Wood. After just a minute the bird stopped calling, faded into the vegetation and was not seen again.

And another...

It was a clear and chilly night here in Banstead, but the MV still went out and although this mornings catch was suppressed, it did include the fourth Scarce Bordered Straw of the 'autumn', following on from singles on August 21st, 23rd and 29th. Considering that these were the first in the garden since 2006, it's a crime that I'm starting to get a little bit complacent about them...

The magical fallen tree

Another brief foray to Canons Farm, mainly to visit a fallen tree in Owl Meadow that was acting as an ornithological magnet - my first scan with the binoculars revealed single Common Redstart, Whinchat (below) and Spotted Flycatcher (above) - good going for a dry inland site. There was a smattering of migrants nearby, including 3 Wheatear, 2 Willow Warbler and a Lesser Whitethroat. After several days of feeling under the weather I seem to have turned a corner - maybe, with my powers restored, that lurking rarity is about to be unearthed...