22 April 2015

Thursley NNR: 22 April

A really pleasant day at Thursley Common in Surrey today (I couldn't face the prospect of seeing bugger all at the patch). My main aim was to look for reptiles and early dragonflies, but a cold fresh NE from mid-morning wind was far from ideal and I only managed one species of each - lots of Common Lizards Zootoca vivipara on the wooden boardwalks (both adults and young), and just a single female Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula.

Common Lizard Zootoca vivipara - the boardwalks at Thursley Common are a great place to see them

Common Lizard Zootoca vivipara - note how this one has flattened its body to maximise surface area facing the sun

Today's female Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula. The black legs help separate from Small Red Damselfly Ceriagrion
. Note the pterostigma is yellowish and not blackish - perhaps because newly emerged?

Some good birds seen today. Summer visitors noted were 2+ Hobby (hunting insects overhead), 2 Eurasian Curlew (presumably a pair on the peat bog), 1(H) Common Whitethroat (bog), 1m Common Redstart (singing around the Moat), 1 Tree Pipit (singing) and 1m Common Cuckoo. 5 Barn Swallow (mainly NW) constituted the only vis mig overhead.

Other species logged were 2 Woodlark (pair, with a male watched singing, in display flight and feeding on the fire breaks), 1m Yellowhammer (bog), 4(3m) Stonechat, Red Kite E, 2 Common Buzzard, several Linnet (a couple seen but mainly heard), 2 Tufted Duck (pair on the bog), 2+ Kestrel, 1(H) Dartford Warbler, 1(H) Siskin, Coal Tit (H), 2 Greylag Goose N, 1 Grey Heron (Moat) and a Canada/Barnacle Goose hybrid with a Canada Goose on the Moat pond.

Also, lots of Devil's Matchstick Cladonia floerkeana lichen growing on the sandy soil amongst the heather.

Devil's Matchstick Cladonia floerkeana

21 April 2015

Catching up with spring at the patch: 21 April

A few underwhelming hours at the patch today - my first visit in over month after being chained to a computer and missing out on some good local spring migration. Unlike last week when I was away on a course, the weather conditions today were shite for migration or any falls, with a cool NE wind and clear sky.

Vis mig over Staines Moor amounted to, wait for it, 2 Sand Martin N (my first of the year - THAT'S how much I've managed to get out birding this spring) and 2 Barn Swallow N. Staines Moor also produced 1 Hobby (hunting), 1+ Common Tern (fishing along the Colne), 1 Common Whitethroat, 2(2H) Sedge Warbler (mainly NE corner), 1m Blackcap, 4(3H) Chiffchaff, 2 Redshank (Colne) and 2 Northern Lapwing.

Also noted were 10+ Linnet, 3 Red Kite (presumably local wanderers), 1+ Common Buzzard (local bird), 1 Little Egret (Colne), 5(2m) Reed Bunting, 2 Pied Wagtail (Colne), 1 Eurasian Sparrowhawk, 2+ Kestrel, 9+ Meadow Pipit (several displaying) and 2 Egyptian Goose E.

One of the Long-tailed Tits nests found last month now has chicks, given away by the adults regularly bringing in flying insects and caterpillars and removing faecal sacks. One bird, presumably the female, would also occasionally spend a few minutes incubating between foraging.

Incubating Long-tailed Tit today

Lots of Cuckoo Flower Cardamine pratensis and some Marsh Marigold Caltha palustris are now in flower, and butterflies were out in force with many Holly Blue, Orange-tip, Green-veined White, Peacock, and a couple of Brimstone and Small Tortoiseshell seen.

Stanwell Moor produced 1H Cuckoo, 6(3m, 1f, 2H) Blackcap, 1H Sedge Warbler and 6(2H) Chiffchaff, 2(1m) Reed Bunting, 2(H) Cetti's Warbler, and at Stanwell Moor Village 4+ House Martin, 1 Barn Swallow and 1-2 Red Kite were noted.

18 April 2015

A beaver on the Otter: 16 April

In Devon this week staying with good friends Jaffa and Helen in Budleigh Salterton while on a ecological consultancy course run by Acorn Ecology. The course has been excellent - I've learn't loads and met some really nice people.

After three failed attempts earlier in the week, this evening Jaffa and I finally connected with one of the Eurasian Beavers Castor fiber that have been introduced on the River Otter in Devon at his local patch. There are apparently nine animals - two pairs and five immatures. Defra agency APHA caught five of them to test for diseases such at bovine TB and Tularaemia and to ascertain the species, and after huge public pressure, re-released them back on the Otter once they we found to be disease free.

Jaffa has become obsessed with the beavers, visiting most evenings and observing their behaviour (check out his blog). In fact, he has become so obsessed with them that he has even named the pair on his patch - Gordon (a male with green ear tags) and Patricia (a female with pink ear tags). Helen and I are more than a little concerned about the amount of time he is spending with them, and wouldn't be at all surprised if he started swimming around and eating willow himself soon.

Female Eurasian Beaver Castor fiber on the River Otter this evening, doing what beavers do - swim about and eat willow

Pat, complete with huge pink earrings

Also notable during the week were a Slow Worm Anguis fragilis and a Grass Snake Natrix natrix at the Westpoint Centre near Clyst St Mary on 14 April (with the Grass Snake again on 15th).

Slow Worm Anguis fragilis, Westpoint Centre, Devon, 14 April - the dark sides suggest this one is probably a female

20 March 2015

Solar eclipse birding: 20 March

Frustratingly, thick cloud this morning completely obscured the 85% solar eclipse, with a small drop in light and a much more noticeable drop in temperature being the only clues to the spectacle unfolding above. Of course, in the early afternoon the cloud cleared for a beautiful early spring day.

Spring passage has begun in style at the patch with a fantastic summer plumage littoralis Rock Pipit beside the Colne - only the third record of Rock Pipit for Staines Moor (my second) following the first on 20 October 1999 and a partial summer littoralis bird beside the Colne on 15 Mar 2003. With littoralis seen at several London sites over the last few days I was really hoping for one today. Unfortunately I only managed a record shot. 2 Water Pipits along the Colne, included one in almost full summer plumage, made an excellent comparison.

Scandinavian Rock Pipit (Anthus petrosus littoralis) - only the third record for Staines Moor! Note the diffuse broad streaking on the
underparts, grey mantle merging into the grey head, white supercilium becoming broader behind the eye and you can just make out
the dark malar patch (thanks to Mark Pearson for his view on the identification).

Water Pipit along the Colne today moulting into summer plumage

The same Water Pipit - note the paler (and pink washed) and largely unstreaked underparts, very fine malar stripe and lack of dark
malar patch compared to the littoralis Rock Pipit above

2 Redshank along the Colne are probably returning breeders, and 9 Northern Lapwing (also seen on Stanwell Moor) included at least one displaying on the east side. 7+(4+H) Common Chiffchaff were my first wave of migrants, and 6 Reed Bunting, c28 Meadow Pipit, c 7 Skylark (included several singing) and 5+(3m) Linnet were along the Colne.

Other notables at Staines Moor were 1m Eurasian Wigeon feeding on mud along the Colne in the evening (very unusual here nowadays with all the disturbance), 1f Goosander over SE, 26 Fieldfare (NE corner), 1 Redwing (old railway), 2 Red Kite (with another distant NW over King George VI Reservoir), 2 Common Buzzard (including 1 pale bird), 1 Little Egret (Colne), 2+ Pied Wagtail, 2 Goldcrest, 1m+ Kingfisher (Colne), 2 Egyptian Goose (Colne briefly), 2 Greylag Goose SE, 1 Canada Goose NE, and 6+ Mallard paired up.

Also found two pairs of nesting Long-tailed Tits - one nest is almost complete that the birds were lining with feathers, and the other has not long been started.

Two Long-tailed Tit nests found today, at very different stages of being built

An hour or so night-birding after dark produced 1 Eurasian Woodcock (seen very poorly), 1 Jack Snipe (seen equally poorly) and 10+(7H) Common Snipe, 3 Roe Deer in the NE corner (a site record count and my second record) and a Red Fox. Redshank and Northern Lapwing calling at night was a nice bonus.

Stanwell Moor added 6(3H) Chiffchaff, 3 Chaffinch N, 1 Little Owl in the usual horse paddock, 2(H) Cetti's Warbler, 2 Canada Goose and 1m Common Pheasant. In Stanwell Moor Village a Little Egret gave ridiculously close views as I was parking the car, fishing in the stream along Hithermoor Road and occasionally walking around on the pathment and flying up onto the house roofs.

Little Egret in Stanwell Moor Village this morning

Little Egret on the pathment - not something you see everyday!

Nor on a roof!

Taken for granted nowadays, but imagine this bird showing like this back the in 80s!

7 March 2015

Nest boxes at the patch

Built eight nest boxes for the patch a couple of weeks back and spent a few hours yesterday and today (7 March) putting them up in Bonehead woodland along the east boundary of Staines Moor. Surprisingly, it was more difficult to find suitable spots for the boxes than I thought it would be - north to east facing and out of sight from the public, and I only managed to put up six - three hole-fronted boxes and three open fronted, as I spilt one and gave one to my dad. Looking forward to seeing what species move in.

Lots of birds singing at Staines Moor today including 3 Cetti's Warbler (H) along Bonehead Ditch (1 NE corner, 2 east stretch) and 1 Chiffchaff (H) in Bonehead woodland (and another heard on Stanwell Moor). Also noted today were 3 Red Kite together over S at midday, 1 Eurasian Sparrowhawk in Bonehead woodland and a Kestrel. Yesterday in Bonehead woodland I had my first Brimstone Gonepteryx rhamni of the year and a fly-catching Goldcrest.

Four of six nest boxes put up in Bonehead woodland

One of three Willow Bracket Phellinus igniarius fruitbodies in Bonehead woodland today - apparently uncommon in Britain

Southern end of the woodland along Bonehead Ditch on Staines Moor. I really should bird this woodland more often.

14 February 2015

Jack Snipe encounters and patch ticks: 14 February

The highlight of an afternoon and evening session at the patch today was 7 Jack Snipe on Staines Moor, one bird in particular giving incredibly close views! Fascinating to watch their behaviour and take in the detail.

1 of at least 7 Jack Snipe seen today - I watched this bird for 45 minutes at a range of about a metre

Typical crouching behaviour

Views were ridiculous today - I even managed to photobomb this pic (check out the reflection in the eye - click to enlarge)

Also noted on Staines Moor: 2 (1m, 1f) Goosander over NW before dropping onto Wraysbury Reservoir, 2(1H) Water Pipit along the Colne, 3(1+m, 2f) Stonechat, 1 Cetti's Warbler (seen very poorly along Bonehead Ditch), 1 Little Egret, 5 Fieldfare, 3 Little Grebe, 7 Meadow Pipit, 1 Sparrowhawk, 11 Linnet, 10 Pied Wagtail over N at dusk going to roost, and 2 Common Teal.

A few hours night-birding finally produced 1-2 very vocal Tawny Owl along Bonehead Ditch (sadly heard only) - a patch tick and just the 4th record for Staines Moor, 3+ Eurasian Woodcock (NE corner and east side), 1 Little Owl around the anthills in the NE corner, 11(9H) Common Snipe, 1 Jack Snipe (probably one the same birds as earlier), and a surprise Roe Deer Capreolus capreolus in the NE corner (patch tick).

Stanwell Moor added another Tawny Owl (heard) at night and a Water Rail heard from Bonehead Ditch.

12 February 2015

A3 sightings

A couple of barely worthy notebook entries from the week, both from the car to and from work - a (quite possibly plastic) Barnacle Goose (or perhaps Barnaclexsomething hydrid?) flying south over the A3 just north of the Esher junction at 0835 on 10 February, and a Tawny Owl west over the A3 also around Esher this evening (12 February) at 1720.