5 March 2017

Staines Moor: 5 March

A few quiet hours at the patch. Staines Moor 'highlights': 1 Water Pipit (Colne) with a metal ring on right leg, 6 Stonechat (4m, 2f), 3 Red Kite, 1 Common Buzzard, c. 30 Fieldfare (swamp) and a few Skylark (now singing). Also, photographed a few fruiting fungi that I will try and identify. On Stanwell Moor 3 Canada Geese were just about noteworthy.

4 February 2017

Staines Moor: 4 February

A rather tedious day at the patch with 1+ Water Pipit (Colne), 3 Water Rail (all along the Colne - 1 at willow clump, 1 on mud by southern footbridge, and 1 in reeds at south end), 11 (5m, 1 1st-w m, 5f) Stonechat, 3 Little Grebe (Colne), 4 Red Kite, 1 Common Buzzard S, 4+ Linnet, 4+ Skylark, 5+ Meadow Pipit, 1m Kestrel and 1f Common Pheasant (swamp).

Weather: Hazy sun, very light W wind, wet (rain previous night and in morning).

14 January 2017

Staines Moor: 14 January

My first visit to the patch of 2017, and with the added bonus of meeting Jess on site for an hour or so. A European Golden Plover beside the Colne (just north of the southern footbridge) most of the day was very approachable and seemed to have a parasite or deformity preventing it from closing its bill fully. Also noted were 2 Jack Snipe, 2 Water Pipit (Colne), 3 Water Rail all along the Colne (1 at willow clump, 1 in reeds by southern footbridge, 1 in reeds at south end), 1f Eurasian Wigeon (Colne near dusk), 8 Little Grebe (Colne), 4 Stonechat (2m, 1 1st-w m, 1f), 7+ Skylark, 1 Grey Wagtail (Colne), 1 Pied Wagtail (Colne), 1 Red Kite W, 1f Kestrel, 7+ Fieldfare, 6 Moorhen (4 ad, 2 1st-w) and 1 Grey Heron.

European Golden Plover Pluvialis apricaria, Staines Moor, 14 January 2017. A rather poorly looking individual with a deformity of the bill
or maybe a parasite in the mouth. It seemed unable to close its bill but was feeding okay.



Weather: Mainly cloudy (7 oktas) with some sunny periods later, showers mid afternoon, light cold WNW wind.

1 January 2017

Patch highlights of 2016

To say that 2016 on the patch was tough going is an understatement. It was a particularly poor year for birds - migrants and breeders alike - with one Red List species failing to return to breed for the first time. Despite this, two warbler species occurred that are potential additions to the Staines Moor list. It was also a poor year for fungi, probably as a result of a very dry last quarter. However, butterflies put on a great show, with the best autumn Red Admiral migration ever recorded at the patch.

All reports below refer to Staines Moor unless otherwise stated, and include unauthenticated records pending acceptance by the London Bird Club recorders (records that are not my own are credited in brackets).

The mild conditions the first half of winter 2015/16 continued into the January and February. End of winter highlights include 2 Eurasian Treecreeper along Bonehead Ditch on 1st January9, a high site count of 18 Stonechat on 5th January3, 7 Water Pipits on 16th January, a singing Eurasian Treecreeper by Slips Pond on 11th February, single Jack Snipes on 11th February and 25th February, 1 male House Sparrow on the Moor Lane unit of the Staines Moor SSSI on 19th February (a very rare bird for Staines Moor), and 2 Water Rail along the Colne, with one bird showing extremely well under the willow clump from 12th to 17th March. 6-8 Water Pipit on 17th March is another good site count.

Water Rail, River Colne, Staines Moor, 17 March 2016. Water Rail occasionally winter in the willow clump along the Colne just south
of the northern footbridge.

Spring migration was very slow. Another singing Eurasian Treecreeper along the old railway on 2nd April was presumably the bird seen here throughout the winter, and a Grasshopper Warbler and 3 Common Redstart were all present on 12th April.

Migrant Grasshopper Warbler, Staines Moor, 12 April

The highlight of the spring was a pair of Bar-tailed Godwits feeding beside the Colne all day on 12th May. The female was ringed as an adult on 11 May 2006 in the Netherlands at Polder bij Lies on the island of Terschelling in the western Wadden Sea. A single Grasshopper Warbler returned to breed (seen on 5th and 7th May and heard on 12th May), but depressingly, there was no sign of any Common Cuckoos at either Staines Moor or Stanwell Moor this year - the first year of absence for the patch that I can remember.

Bar-tailed Godwits, Staines Moor, 12 May

Redshank returned to Staines Moor in mid March, with 2 on 17th increasing to 5 on 20th5. 2, presumably a pair, were still present on 22nd May but breeding was not proved. Sadly, although 4 displaying Northern Lapwing were seen on 22nd March, not a single pair bred successfully.

First arrival dates of common summer migrants at Staines Moor or Stanwell Moor for 2016:

Species Arrival date Location Observer
Barn Swallow 20 Mar Staines Moor Iain, John & Kath Darbyshire
Northern Wheatear 26 Mar Staines Moor Lee Dingain
Sand Martin 26 Mar Staines Moor Lee Dingain
House Martin 3 Apr Staines Moor Tim Rymer
Common Redstart 12 Apr Staines Moor Lee Dingain
Grasshopper Warbler 12 Apr Staines Moor Lee Dingain
Willow Warbler 12 Apr Staines Moor Lee Dingain
Lesser Whitethroat 12 Apr Staines Moor Lee Dingain
Sedge Warbler 17 Apr Staines Moor Jim Sweetland
Eurasian Hobby 20 Apr Staines Moor Sue Middens
Common Tern 20 Apr Staines Moor Sue Middens, Thomas Gibson
Common Swift 20 Apr Staines Moor Thomas Gibson
Ring Ouzel 21 Apr Staines Moor Lee Dingain
Whinchat 21 Apr Staines Moor Lee Dingain
Reed Warbler 21 Apr Staines Moor Lee Dingain
Common Whitethroat 21 Apr Staines Moor Lee Dingain
Yellow Wagtail 21 Apr Staines Moor Lee Dingain
Garden Warbler 5 May Staines Moor Lee Dingain
Spotted Flycatcher 7 May Staines Moor Lee Dingain

Coverage over the summer months was almost non-existent. After a very poor spring I really needed a long break away from the patch and so didn't make a single visit, but neither, seemingly, did many others. A Barn Owl at the south end of Staines Moor on 13th June is an unusual summer record5, and an intriguing report of a Marsh Warbler on the 27th August2 will be a site first if accepted.

Autumn passage began with a huge influx of migrant Red Admirals butterflies provided a fantastic spectacle as their feed on blackberries in their hundreds, peaking with at least 554 counted on Staines Moor and Stanwell Moor on 8th September.

Red Admirals Vanessa atalanta feeding on blackberries, Staines Moor, 8 September 2016

Early October provided the autumn passage highlights. A tame Red Knot feeding beside the Colne on Staines Moor for an hour on 7th October must have been a fantastic sight and is only the third site record4. The next day the national Yellow-browed Warbler influx reached the patch with Staines Moor's first seen in a tit flock in the north-west corner6.

The first Short-eared Owl of the autumn appeared on 8th October8, with 2 together on 16th October5 and 20th October5, and the first returning Water Pipit and Jack Snipe were both noted on 22nd October. A Mediterranean Gull on 27th October is, surprisingly, only the third record for Staines Moor and a Dartford Warbler that showed up in the south-east corner of Staines Moor on 11th November is the seventh site record. 2 Jack Snipe were along the Colne on 15th November7 and a juvenile Marsh Harrier south-west over Staines Moor on 4th December1 was the last notable record of the year1.

Personally, 2016 on the patch will be remembered as a highly frustrating and infuriating year, with a huge number of hours spent in the field during spring and autumn migration in particular producing absolutely naff all. This is the nature of inland patch birding of course, but I really hope 2017 is a little better.

Acknowledgements

Many thanks to the following observers for reporting their records: 1Nick B, 2Ed Bates, 3John Edwards, 4Hugh Evans, 5Thomas Gibson, 6Rob Innes, 7Steve Portugal, 8Jim Sweetland and 9Jim and Tony Sweetland.

31 December 2016

Putative Eastern Stonechat at Richmond Park: 31 December

Rachel and I twitched the putative Eastern Stonechat at Richmond Park today. The bird was feeding and preening in bracken and grass near 'Hawthorn Valley' just east of Cambrian Gate (at approximately TQ 19133 74102). Some observers think this could be the eastern race of Eastern Stonechat, stejnegeri (Stejneger's Stonechat), rather than the western maura (Siberian Stonechat) and yesterday droppings were obtained for DNA analysis, so we might yet find out. I know very little about the sub-specific identification of stonechats and so this was a very educational few hours.

Presumably a female (whitish throat), the frosty pale grey colour was very striking in the overcast and dull conditions and only on the whitish unstreaked underparts was there a very slight hint of buff. Pale edges to the greater coverts form a whitish wing-bar, and whitish edges to the secondaries a pale wing panel. I managed a very poor flight shot that appears to show dark axillaries/underwing coverts, but the photo is very blurred and I cannot be certain. The pale grey rump appears to be very faintly spotted and the uppertail coverts are more obviously spotted (see right hand photo below). The supercilium is indistinct, and looking at the photos, the primaries do not look particularly long to me - about 1/3 of the length of the tertials (difficult to judge I know).

Other than being pale (and possibly having dark axillaries/underwing coverts), to my eyes this bird looks nothing like Eastern Stonechat of either race (but neither, for that matter, does the pale stonechat currently at Dungeness and recently confirmed as Stejneger's Stonechat by DNA analysis) and so perhaps this is an aberrant Common Stonechat or a colour phase? However, I have no experience of Eastern Stonechat and I haven't read much about their identification either.

Why is this bird so grey and lacking in any warm buff tones? The closest matches I've found on the Oriental Bird Images database in terms of general colouration are here, here and here (all three pics taken in India and so could be maura or stejnegeri), but most photos of females that I have seen show a pale buff ground colour and are a warmer tone all over, like here. Also, shouldn't the rump be unspotted with at least some orange or buff for either race of Eastern, like here? More reading required for me and I hope to try for better pics over the next few days.

Putative Eastern Stonechat, Richmond Park, 31 December 2016 (click to enlarge)

Putative Eastern Stonechat, Richmond Park, 31 December 2016

Also noted were 2(1m, 1f) Common Stonechat in the same area, 1 Green Woodpecker and a Little Owl at Holly Lodge.

30 November 2016

Sedge Warbler recovery

Received some more ringing data, this time regarding the ringed Sedge Warbler at Staines Moor back in May. This bird was ringed as a 1st year (ring number confirmed as 3N46271) on 4 August 2013 (time unknown) at Ria de Villaviciosa, Asturias in north-west Spain (DMS 43.28.00N -5.-25.00W), by the Madrid (Icona) ringing scheme. Presumably the bird was on it's first southbound migration to west Africa at the time? The sex was unknown when it was ringed so it is good to have been able to establish that.

Many thanks to the BTO for providing the information.

Ringed male Sedge Warbler Acrocephalus schoenobaenus, Staines Moor, 22 May 2016. This bird was ringed 959 km away in
north-west Spain in 2013.


26 November 2016

Staines Moor fungus foray: 26 November

Spent a few hours at Staines Moor today on a fungi foray, checking the grassland for waxcaps. I was hoping that after the recent rain a few more species would be fruiting, but I think it is a little cold at the moment. I managed to find 3 Silky Pinkgill Entoloma sericeum, 11 Snowy Waxcap Cuphophyllus virgineus, several Snowy Inkcap Coprinopsis nivea, and a few other species I've yet to identify.

Silky Pinkgills Entoloma sericeum, Staines Moor, 26 November 2016 - I'm currently doing my first spore print from one of these.

Avian highlights were 1 Water Pipit (Iris Channels), 1 Short-eared Owl showed very well, hunting over the east side from 15:15, 46 Linnet - the largest flock I've seen on the moor for several years, a decent sized flock of Fieldfare and Redwing in the NW corner (100+ Fieldfare, 60+ Redwing), 1 Song Thrush, 6 Stonechat (3m, 2f, 1 too distant and brief to determine), 2-3 Common Snipe, 2 Little Egret, 1 Kingfisher (Colne), 3 Little Grebe (Colne), 7 Pied Wagtail (feeding on grass on west side), 1 Grey Wagtail (Colne), 1 Red Kite, 1m Reed Bunting, 7 Skylark, 10 Meadow Pipit, 2 Greenfinch, 1 Egyptian Goose SW. Also noted was 1-2 Red Fox.

Weather: Damp, sunny periods (5 oktas), light but cold NE wind.