22 May 2016

Staines Moor: 22 May

Not quite sure what happened to spring, but just like that it is now summer, with a few very quiet hours at Staines Moor today producing naff all passage migrants.

A Lesser Whitethroat flicking between bushes in the SE corner (my first ever on this part of the moor), 1 Red Kite over N, 1 Common Swift E and a Barn Swallow W could all have possibly be moving through rather than local birds, but no other movement was evident.

Other 'highlights' were 2 Gadwall (flew onto the Colne), c.200 Eurasian Starling (mainly adults but some juveniles in tow, with many towards the southern end of Bonehead woodland, around the livestock and in NW corner), 2 (1m, 1f) Common Shelduck E, 2 Egyptian Geese W, 2 Redshank (Colne and east pool), 1+ Hobby, 1 Common Buzzard (local bird), 3 Common Tern (Colne), 1+ Little Egret (Colne), 5 Sedge Warbler (2 pairs and a lone ringed male in the swamp - see below), 5H Common Whitethroat, 2H Common Chiffchaff, 2 (1m, 1H) Blackcap, c12 Common Pheasant (1 very tame male torquatus, and 1 female with c.10 very young chicks in the swamp, a couple of which I almost trod on!), 7 Reed Bunting (6m, 1f), 1 Grey Heron, several Linnet and lots of Meadow Pipit and Skylark.

No sign of the Grasshopper Warbler or the pair of Stonechat, and still no Common Cuckoo - the first year of absence that I can remember and I really hope we haven't lost them as a regular breeding species.

Ringed and unpaired male Sedge Warbler singing in the swamp today (coordinates/grid reference of recovery: 51.442805,
-0.512438/TQ 03482 72584). I think I've managed to piece together the ring number from photos - 3N46271, and the pic bottom
right seems to say MADRID and the word AVES above it, so perhaps this bird was ringed in Spain by the San Sebastian/Aranzadi
(Spain) ESA scheme. Hopefully I'll find out some history soon. Many thanks to the Lakes and Pennines, the BTO and Lee Barber
on Twitter for their feedback (right-click on image and open in a new tab to enlarge).

A Roe Deer spooked in Bonehead woodland was my first daylight sighting at the patch, 1 Downlooker Snipe-fly Rhagio scolopacea was my first this year, and plenty of Yellow Iris Iris pseudacorus are now in flower. 12 horses are now out to graze.

1 of about 10 Common Pheasant chicks with a hen, encountered in long grass in the swamp today. This bird and another were frozen
to the spot right by my feet.

Downlooker Snipe-fly Rhagio scolopacea in the swamp today (taken with a Samsung Note 4)

Weather: Sunny (2 oktas in morning) becoming cloudy early afternoon (4 oktas by 13:00 and 8 oktas by 14:00), very light SW wind, damp early morning.

12 May 2016

Staines Moor: 12 May

For me, birding is all about finding my own birds. I have little interest in seeing birds that others have found, even on the patch. This spring I've been determined to find a good bird at Staines Moor, especially as last spring was so piss poor on the patch. Over the last week alone I've been up before dawn three times and spent no fewer than 29 hours traipsing around covering every millimetre of the patch, with one eye fixed on the sky. While seemingly every other London site has been awash with Arctic Terns, Little Terns, Black Terns, Sanderlings, Wood Sandpipers, flocks of tundra Ringed Plovers, Grey Plovers and Wood Warblers, Staines Moor has yielded nothing!

But with a good passage of waders through London over the last few days I was hoping today would produce a Wood Sandpiper or some other wader along the Colne. Imagine then how I felt when soon after arriving on site this morning, another birder arrives, walks past me, then comes back a few minutes later and tells me there are two Bar-tailed Godwits along the Colne! Now maybe I am being greedy and ungrateful (and well done to the birder who found them as this is a great patch record), but really, FOR FUCK'S SAKE!

Staines Moor records today: 2 Bar-tailed Godwit ((1m and 1f in summer plumage, seen feeding and resting beside the Colne where they appeared to be catching a lot of food, and also on the east pool. The female was ringed and flagged - I'll try and find out where it was ringed), 20 Common Swift (mainly N), 2 Barn Swallow N, 1 Grasshopper Warbler (heard several times and probably glimpsed in flight), 3 Hobby (hunting together over the NW corner), 3 Redshank (2 Colne, 1 east pool), 1m Gadwall (Colne), 1+ Common Tern (Colne), 4 Common Whitethroat, 4 (1m, 3H) Blackcap, 4 (3H) Sedge Warbler, 3H Chiffchaff, 10 Reed Bunting (8m, 2f), 1 Little Egret (Colne), 4-7 Red Kite (1 high W and the others presumably local birds), 2 Stock Dove (Bonehead Ditch), 1m Kestrel, 1 Pied Wagtail W, 2 Common Buzzard (including 1 pale phase NW), 1+ Grey Heron, 1 juv. Robin, and plenty of Skylark, Meadow Pipit and Linnet. No sign of the Stonechats today in a brief search, and still no Cuckoos!

Today's pair of summer plumage Bar-tailed Godwit - check out the size different between the male and female. Still present
beside the Colne at 13:39 when I left.

The female was ringed as follows - left leg: pink flag top, yellow ring bottom; right leg: metal ring top, red ring bottom. Can't make out
much on the metal ring - perhaps 147..? I've reported it to the BTO so maybe they can shed some light.

Found some Yellow Meadow Ants Lasius flavus on an anthill on the west side - only my second ever sighting at Staines Moor (or anywhere for that matter) as the workers rarely stray above ground, and butterflies today included my first Green-veined White of the year and a Small Copper.

One of a few Yellow Meadow Ants Lasius flavus on my camera bag today. A terrible photo (I think I've found the limit of macro
photography with the trusty Samsung Note4), but you can see the hairless lower sections of the antennae and the tibiae,
which are diagnostic of this species

Stanwell Moor added 1 Reed Warbler and 1 Little Egret W.

So I think I am done with this spring and with the patch for a while - it's all far far far far far far far too much effort for little reward and I'm desperately trying to remember why I keep bothering. Who knows though, maybe I can muster enough energy and motivation for one more day this spring of finding bugger all?

Weather: Sunny with some thin cloud, freshening NE wind, rain previous night.

7 May 2016

Staines Moor: 7 May

Little change from two days ago with passage migrants again almost non-existent in the fine weather, presumably passing straight through high overhead. 2 Spotted Flycatchers together at the south end of Bonehead Ditch were the highlight, and 1 Reed Warbler (in scrub at the north end of the Colne), 4 Common Swift and 8 Barn Swallow (4S, 3N, 1W) were the only birds seemingly moving through.

1 of 2 Spotted Flycatchers at the south end of Bonehead Ditch today

Migrant Reed Warbler singing in scrub along the north end of the Colne today

Summering warblers were very much in evidence today. The Grasshopper Warbler showed briefly twice, and 1m Garden Warbler (singing in the west hawthorns), and 1 Reed Warbler (bridge to Stanwell Moor), 9 (1H) Sedge Warbler, 13 (2H) Common Whitethroat, 1H Lesser Whitethroat (west hawthorns), 6 (4H) Chiffchaff, 9 (3H) Blackcap (inc. 4m, 2f), and 3 (2H) Cetti's Warbler (Butts Pond, bridge to Stanwell Moor) were also logged.

Other summer visitors noted include 3 Hobby (hunting insects over the two wooden bridges late afternoon), 1+ Common Tern (Colne), 2+ Redshank (Colne), 2 Common Shelduck E, 10 Reed Bunting (6m, 3f) and plenty of Skylark and Meadow Pipit. Found a Long-tailed Tit building a nest close to the predated nest and another pair nest buiding in a hawthorn in the NE corner, though I couldn't get close enough to find it. Also found a Carrion Crow sitting on a nest in the Bonehead woodland. Worryingly, where are our Cuckoos?

Long-tailed Tit nest in the early stages of being built in the NW corner today

Also noted were 1m Stonechat with what was probably the female, but very distant (SE corner), 2m Goldcrest (both singing in Bonehead woodland), 3+ Little Egret, 6 Red Kite, 1f Kestrel, 1-2 Eurasian Sparrowhawk, 2 (1m, 1f) Pied Wagtail (Colne), 1 Coot (Colne), 1 Mistle Thrush, 2 Canada Geese S, and 1 Grey Heron.

3m Banded Demoiselle Calopteryx splendens along Bonehead Ditch were my first of the year, and butterflies seen include 1 Speckled Wood, many Orange-tip (including 1f), several m Brimstone, and 2 Peacock. Finally, found a dead Grass Snake beside the Colne at the north end today - only my second record for Staines Moor (thankfully my first record was a live one).

5 May 2016

Staines Moor: 5 May

With high pressure over central Europe and a low situated just north-west of Britain, the airflow over southern England finally switched to a southerly today. But with warm temperatures and bright clear skies there was little hope of grounded migrants at Staines Moor today.

2 singing male Garden Warblers (1 NE corner, 1 west hawthorns) were the first of the year and not on the usual territories so presumably migrants. A very secretive Grasshopper Warbler was reeling intermittently and showed only very fleetingly, and Sedge Warblers have now arrived in force with at least 9 (1H) counted, with 3 in the Lesser Pond Sedge in the swamp, including 2 birds paired up (although this is not a site-wide count and many more must be present).

Lots of singing Sedge Warblers on site today, including this one in the swamp

Record of today's Grasshopper Warbler - extremely elusive, even by gropper standards

I had higher hopes that the sky would produce something, but 5 Red Kite (1 purposely high N and 4 presumed locals), 1 Common Swift high N, 2 Sand Martin NE and 12 Barn Swallow (mainly N) was all I could pick up. 2+ Eurasian Hobby were probably our local birds returned.

Also noted were 1 Reed Warbler (reeds by bridge to Stanwell Moor), 2(1H) Lesser Whitethroat, 4(1H) Common Whitethroat, 2(1H) Chiffchaff, 2 (1m, 1f) Stonechat still in the SE corner (though no sign of any nesting activity), 4 Common Shelduck (1m, 1f on The Butts, and 2 south, landing on the Colne briefly), 4 Redshank (Colne and east pool), 3+ Little Egret (Colne), 2+ Common Tern (Colne), 1 Northern Lapwing over W (probably a Stanwell Moor bird), 25+ Linnet, 5 (4m, 1f) Reed Bunting, 1 Eurasian Sparrowhawk, 2 (1m, 1f) Kestrel, 1 Pied Wagtail (Colne), 9 Eurasian Starling (around the cattle), 1 Common Buzzard (presumed local), 2H Cetti's Warbler (Butts Pond and north end of Colne), and lots of Skylark and Meadow Pipit.

Quite a few butterflies flying today at Staines Moor including 1 Small Copper, 1 Red Admiral, lots of Orange-tip, 2m Brimstone, 1 Peacock, 3 Small Tortoiseshell and 1m Small White. Sadly the Long-tailed Tit nest I found on my last visit looked like it had been predated and pulled apart.

Stanwell Moor added 3 Northern Lapwing, 2 Barn Swallow N, 1 Common Buzzard and 4 Common Shelduck E.

Weather: Calm early morning then light S-SE wind developing, warm, sunny with some hazy cloud at times.

24 April 2016

Devon weekend highlights: 23rd - 24th April

Rachel and I spent the weekend visiting our good friends Jaffa and Helen in Budleigh Salterton in south-east Devon. Walked the coast path through the Otter Estuary, across White Bridge and eastwards around Otterton Point on Saturday, and on Sunday we walked northwards along the River Otter from Otterton Mill. No sign of the European Otters on Saturday evening that have been showing very well along the River Otter near Otterton Mill over the last month, and very little in terms of bird migration noted over the weekend either, but a few records made it into the notebook.

23rd: 1m Northern Wheatear (Otterton Point), 1H Common Sandpiper (River Otter at Otterton Mill), 1-2 Kingfisher (River Otter), 1 Cetti's Warbler (showed well by White Bridge - take note Staines Moor birds), and 2 Barn Swallow (White Bridge). Also, 1f Black Oil Beetle Meloe proscarabaeus found on Otterton Point and 1 Stoat Mustela erminea seen briefly from the car near Otterton (at the junction of Frogmore Road and Fore Street).

24th: 3 House Martin, 6 Sand Martin and 3 Barn Swallow (all near Otterton), and 1m Black Oil Beetle Meloe proscarabaeus and 2 Bloody-noded Beetle Timarcha tenebricosa along footpath beside the River Otter just north of Otterton.

Female Black Oil Beetle Meloe proscarabaeus, Otterton Point, 23 April 2016

Male Black Oil Beetle Meloe proscarabaeus, River Otter near Otterton, 24 April 2016

Bloody-nosed Beetle Timarcha tenebricosa, River Otter just north of Otterton, 24 April 2014

All photos and the (shakey) video above taken with a Samsung Galaxy Note 4. Good guides to oil beetle identification can be found on John Walter's website and also from Buglife. Take part in the Buglife survey here.

21 April 2016

Staines Moor: 21 April

A full day at the patch today produced some good spring passage but also proved very frustrating for photography, with few birds cooperating. A female Ring Ouzel in the NW corner briefly soon after dawn was a great start but unfortunately was only seen for a few seconds as it flew from the hawthorns near the Butts north onto Stanwell Moor. While trying to relocate it, 3 Barnacle Geese flew over south - probably feral birds.

A smart male Whinchat in the NW corner was the first patch record of the year, and other passage migrants included 2 Short-eared Owls, 2 Yellow Wagtail (1m around the horses and 1 over N), 1 Common Swift E, 1 Reed Warbler (Butts Pond), 1 Sedge Warbler (hawthorns NW corner), 3 (1H) Common Whitethroat, 4m Lesser Whitethroat, 7+ Common Tern (5E, 2+ fishing in the Colne), 3 House Martin (2N, 1 Colne), 11 Barn Swallow (mainly NE/N), 21+ Sand Martin (mainly NE/N), 11 Blackcap (8m, 2f, 1H), and 7 (3H) Common Chiffchaff.

Male Whinchat in the NW corner today - the first record on the patch this year

Presumed feral Barnacle Geese south over Staines Moor this morning

Also noted were 3 Shelduck E (2m, 1f), 2 Gadwall (1m, 1f), 1m Stonechat still at the south end (female incubating perhaps?), 5 Redshank (2 pairs and a single along the Colne), 2 Northern Lapwing (1N, 1SW), 3 Common Buzzard (including 1 pale phase), 5 Red Kite, 1f Eurasian Sparrowhawk, 1 Goldcrest, 1 Little Egret (Colne), 1-2 Coot (Colne), 26+ Linnet, lots of Skylark and Meadow Pipit, 8 Reed Bunting (6m , 2f), 1H Cett's Warbler (hedge east of Butts Pond), and a pair of Long-tailed Tit building a nest. Also plenty of Yellow Dung Flies Scathophaga stercorariasaw around today and saw my first Speckled Wood of the year.

1 of 5 Redshank on site today

A pair of Long-tailed Tits had almost finished this nest in one of the hawthorns in the NW corner today

3 horses and 34 cattle have now been put out to graze - I'd like to order a male Black-headed Wagtail please.

17 April 2016

London Wetland Centre: 17 April

A notebook entry this post. Had a Wader Quest trustee meeting at the WWT London Wetland Centre today. Before the meeting, Twitched the male Ring Ouzel feeding out in the open near the visitor centre, and also managed to see it again from the window of the meeting room. The kind of trustee meetings I like!

Become a Friend of Wader Quest for just £5 a year.