12 December 2014

Woodcock back on the patch: 12 December

Met up with fellow patcher Keith Kerr for a few hours this evening to look for wintering Eurasian Woodcock. After searching for about an hour we found a very obliging bird by the Iris Channels in the NW corner of Staines Moor that showed extremely well. A look around the NE corner found at least another 2 birds running around the anthills.

Also noted on Staines Moor were a roosting Redwing in a tiny clump of sedge, a roosting Meadow Pipit in one of the Iris Channels, a Common Snipe (H) and 1 Red Fox. No sign of the Tawny Owl heard by Rob Innes on 29 November along Bonehead Ditch. On Stanwell Moor a couple of male Winter Moth Operophtera brumata were noted along the Colne Valley Way along with 9 other moths possible this species or Northern Winter Moth Operophtera fagata.

One of three Eurasian Woodcock seen this evening at Staines Moor

7 December 2014

Mining for moths: 6th - 7th December

Spent the last week visiting friends Kevin and Donna Cox at their place on the edge of Dartmoor in Devon - part holiday and part helping out planting a yew hedge in their newly built walled garden - part of much larger wildlife garden (or rather, grounds).

Yesterday and this morning, we explored one of the old copper mines on the Brook Estate looking for cave-dwelling animals. Copper was mined here from 1845 to 1885 and the main shaft at this particular mine, Pixton’s Shaft, drops vertically to an incredible 305 m! We looked at a short (c15 m) horizontal adit in the woods here.

Found quite a few Herald moths (counted 23 yesterday) as well as lots (c40 yesterday) of European Cave Spiders Meta menardi, including one guarding an egg cocoon suspended from the mine ceiling.

Two of the 23 Herald Scoliopteryx libatrix moths found hibernating in the mine, 6 December

Herald Scoliopteryx libatrix, 7 December

Spot the Heralds, 6 December

European Cave Spider Meta menardi, 6 December

Egg cocoon of European Cave Spider Meta menardi, 7 December

The only other noteworthy sighting from the week is a superb adult Goshawk low over the garden at Brook Manor being mobbed by 2 Common Raven on 3rd December.

30 November 2014

Pond clearance at Staines Moor: 30 November

Rachel and I spent a few hours today volunteering with Spelthorne Natural History Society and Egham and Staines Conservation Volunteers, clearing bulrush and other spreading plants from Butts Pond and surrounding pools. Butts Pond supports a nationally scarce diving beetle, as well as other aquatic invertebrates and amphibians, therefore it is important to keep the ponds open.

During the work a Cetti's Warbler remained hidden around Butts Pond calling occasionally and a Linnet flew over south. A quick look around Staines Moor early afternoon produced 8 Stonechat, 40+ Fieldfare at the north end, a few Redwing, 1 Common Buzzard, 2+ Common Kestrel, and a Pied Wagtail. No sign of any Water Pipits in a brief search and we missed a Short-eared Owl by a few minutes. Didn't try for the Dartford Warbler.

It was great to get my hands dirty helping to manage the habitat on Staines Moor, as well as meet Nick Orson, Peter Routley, Adrian Griffee and Shaun Ferguson. Will definitely be getting more involved with the habitat management on the Moor in the future.

Removing bulrush from one of the ponds on Staines Moor today (Photo by Shaun Ferguson)

28 November 2014

The patch: 28 November

A good early winter's day at the patch. After the recent rain the water table and the Colne are both very high and it's good to see the vernal pools so full. On Staines Moor, at least 6 (probably 8 and possibly 11) Water Pipits were noted, with 6 around the swamp and 2+ along the banks of the Colne. Also around the swamp, the female Dartford Warbler was still present and following a female Stonechat, and 8+ Pied Wagtail, and 9 Common Snipe.

Also logged on Staines Moor: 14 Stonechat (7m, 7f), 70+ Fieldfare, a few Redwing, 2+ Song Thrush, 1 Mistle Thrush, 1+ Grey Wagtail, 26 Stock Dove (including a flock 23 along Bonehead Ditch in the evening), 1m Reed Bunting, 4 Skylark, 13+ Meadow Pipit, 1 Little Egret, 3 Little Grebe, 2 Common Buzzard (1 ad. and the pale 1st yr), 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker high S, 2 Egyptian Goose over (NW then back E), 3+ Common Kestrel, just 13 Goldfinch, 1m Common Pheasant, and 1 Red Fox.

Stanwell Moor added 1H Cetti's Warbler, 4 Common Teal, 1 Fieldfare and 16 Redwing.

"I wish that darn Dartford Warbler would stop stalking me!"

15 November 2014

Dartford Warbler at Staines Moor: 15 November

A really good late autumn day at the patch. The highlight was a female Dartford Warbler following 2 male and 2 female Stonechats around in the south-east corner of Staines Moor, and showing well on occasion. This is the sixth record for Staines Moor - the first was an immature from 14-19 October 2002 and the last was 1 present from 9-12 October and on 18 October 2009. Interestingly, three of the five previous records have involved birds associating with Stonechats, a curious relationship between the two species, and well documented here.

A large influx of winter thrushes was evident today, including 109+ Fieldfare (with at least 100 stripping the hawthorn berries in the NW corner), 48 Redwing, 10 Song Thrush, 1 Mistle Thrush and 9(2H) Blackbird.

Also noted on Staines Moor: 13 Stonechat still (6m, 7f), 3-4 Water Pipit (including 2 around the iris channels), 1H Cetti's Warbler along Bonehead Ditch near the south end (unusual here), 2(1H) Common Chiffchaff, 119 Goldfinch (including 84 along Bonehead Ditch), 1 Grey Wagtail (Colne), 1 Little Egret, the 1st yr pale Common Buzzard again (a locally bred bird?), 2 Little Grebe, 3 Stock Dove, 2+ Kestrel, 17+ Meadow Pipit, 7 Skylark, 3 Pied Wagtail, 2 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 2 Common Teal, 1m Common Pheasant and a Red Fox. Overhead, 2 alba wagtail flew south.

Female Dartford Warbler today - the sixth record for Staines Moor

Stanwell Moor added a female Eurasian Sparrowhawk with Red-legged Partridge kill, 2 Red-legged Partridge, another Common Buzzard, 1 Common Kestrel, 9 Common Teal, 11 Northern Shoveler, 4 Common Pheasant, and 1H Water Rail.

9 November 2014

South-east Devon: 8th - 9th November

Back from a very enjoyable weekend birding around Budleigh Salterton and Exmouth with my other half the RAW Baker and good friends the Cream Tea Birder and the Cream Tea Bird.

Strong southerlies and rain Saturday morning (8th) promised some good seawatching but unfortunately I missed out due to very painful headache. A look at the sea in much calmer conditions in the afternoon logged just 4+ Kittiwake W, several Northern Gannet, several Shag, a Common Gull and 3 Oystercatcher. A pleasant but equally quiet walk around the Otter Estuary late afternoon produced 1m Stonechat, 3 Black-tailed Godwit (scrape), several Curlew, 1m Shoveler, 134 Eurasian Wigeon, 3 Shelduck, lots of Eurasian Teal, 1 Little Egret and a Cetti's Warbler (H). A mumeration of 2,894 Starling gave a fantastic display over the reedbed north of the scrape at dusk, along with an immature Peregrine (that made a kill) and a Sparrowhawk (that didn't).

Very light south-westerlies, largely clear skies (4 oktas) and some sea mist this morning (9th) looked good for some late autumn vis mig, and dawn found us in our chosen east-facing position along the South West Coast Path on the west side of Budleigh Salterton. A two hour session produced 856 Woodpigeon W, 1 Stock Dove W, 1f Bullfinch W, 96 Chaffinch W, 42 Goldfinch W, 15 Meadow Pipit W, 6+ (4H) Skylark SW and 4 Linnet E. Robins were seemingly everywhere and 1+ Peregrine, a Eurasian Sparrowhawk and a Goldcrest were also noted. Nearby at Jubilee Park 2 Firecrest and 1 Goldcrest showed very well but proved too quick for photos, and a late Painted Lady shot past.

An afternoon walk along the Ex Estuary from Exmouth to Mudbank produced 1 Greenshank, several Little Egret, numerous Curlew, several Brent Geese, and a superb 1st winter male Black Redstart flycatching from a roof at Harbour Court, Exmouth (many thanks to Matt Knott).

A look at the Otter Estuary late evening added 1 Kingfisher and a single Northern Lapwing on the scrape, along with 1 Redshank, 3 Little Grebe, 3 Little Egret, 2 Eurasian Sparrowhawk, and 3 Rock Pipit and c40 Pied Wagtail on the beach. Curiously, no Starlings came in to roost at the reedbed this evening.

1st winter male Black Redstart at Harbour Court in Exmouth, 9 November 2014

European Robin, South West Coast Path, Budleigh Salterton, 9 November 2014 - almost trod on this chap

Common Starling, Otter Estuary, 8 November 2014

Common Starling, Otter Estuary, 8 November 2014

30 October 2014

Distant brents: 30 October

Spent a few hours at the patch this morning. Vis mig at Staines Moor produced 6 Brent Goose SW early morning (very distant - probably over Staines Reservoirs), 1 Shelduck E, 1 very pale Common Buzzard SW, 1 Red Kite NE, 17 Linnet S, 2 Chaffinch SW, 1 Reed Bunting SW, 4 Greenfinch S, 6 Pied Wagtail (3S, 1E, 1W) and 3 Stock Dove (NW, SW, W).

Also on Staines Moor, 1 Short-eared Owl flushed on the east side, 2 Water Pipit along the Colne, 10 Stonechat (7m, 3f), 1 1st winter Common Gull on the Colne (unusual here) with 50+ Black-headed Gull (also hawking over the moor), 3 Little Egret, 1 Common Snipe (east side), 1 Collared Dove in the NE corner along Bonehead Ditch (scarce here), 1+ Grey Wagtail, 2+ Pied Wagtail, 29+ Meadow Pipit, 2 Reed Bunting, 2 Little Grebe, 1+ Kingfisher, 2 Common Buzzard (perched up along Bonehead Ditch), 11 Goldfinch on the east side, 3 Kestrel (including a female eating a vole), 3-5 Mallard, 1+ Grey Heron and 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Stanwell Moor added 1 Water Pipit S, 9 Northern Shoveler E and 1m Northern Shoveler on the lake, 2f Common Teal, and 3 Redwing SW at Stanwell Moor Village. Also, over King George VI Reservoir 5 Lapwing S.

Today's Brent Geese (honest they are!)

Short-eared Owl on the east side of Staines Moor today

Two very vocal Water Pipits showed well today along the Colne and flying around overhead

Weather: Cloudy (7 oktas) and slightly misty early morning, becoming brighter late morning, light SW wind, mild.