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 of 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 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.

3 February 2015

Lamping by moonlight at the patch: 3 February

A visit to the patch this afternoon/evening produced the following at Staines Moor: 2+ Water Pipit, 1+ Little Egret, 1 Grey Wagtail and 4 Little Grebe all along the Colne, 2 Water Rail showing fairly well along Bonehead Ditch, 1 Cetti's Warbler along Bonehead Ditch, 5 (3m, 2f) Stonechat, 3 Common Snipe (including 1 along Bonehead Ditch), 9 Pied Wagtail (including 8 over N at dusk presumably heading to roost), 16 Meadow Pipit, 1 Eurasian Sparrowhawk failing to catch a Song Thrush, 2+ Kestrel, 1 Common Buzzard (landing on the moor), 6 Song Thrush, 8 Fieldfare, 2 (1 ad., 1 imm.) Grey Heron and 3 Common Teal that flew onto the moor at dusk.

A full moon after dark made night-birding very difficult with birds taking flight before any could be approached, but 2 Eurasian Woodcock were seen at the north end and 1 Little Owl was on the anthills in the NE corner.

Stanwell Moor added a Kingfisher in Stanwell Moor Village perched along the stream, 18 Song Thrush, 10 Blackbird, 1 Little Egret over N, 3+ Pied Wagtail, 21 Goldfinch, 5 (2m, 3f) Gadwall, 4 Common Teal, 2 Tufted Duck, 2 Coot, and 2 Mallard.

A full moon in the east shortly after dark did nothing to help the night-birding, although it made those hazardous anthills easier to see.
The night sky was made more spectacular this evening with Jupiter situated very close the moon, though with all the light pollution
from Heathrow and the M25, Staines Moor really isn't that good for astronomy.

Weather: Cloudy with sunny periods, becoming clearer after dark, light but cold northerly wind, moon phase: full.

27 January 2015

Half Snipes at Staines Moor: 27 January

A very long but worthwhile day at the patch today. The undoubted highlight was an extremely close encounter with a Jack Snipe on Staines Moor - watched for about half an hour at a range of approximately two metres. Frozen to the spot, the bird did its best pretending to be a part of the vegetation by crouching low to the ground, allowing a rare opportunity to study the plumage pattern and colours. The green and purple on the scapulars and mantle contrasting with the bright yellow stripes are really beautiful at such close range. Another 2 Jack Snipe were also seen around the Moor (sorry but the precise locations will remain undisclosed).

Staines Moor is a traditional wintering site for Jack Snipe. The first record was of 2 on 26 September 1937, and the highest site count is 8 on 20 March 2003. The earliest returning date is 1 in July 2002 and the latest departing record is 1 on 11 April 1951.

One of three Jack Snipe today - this bird was just two metres from me!

Spot the Jack Snipe (click to enlarge)!

Feather detail on Jack Snipe - stunning!

Other notables seen today were the Dartford Warbler glimpsed associating with a pair of Stonechat west of the Colne, 5+ Water Pipit (mainly along the Colne), 10 Little Grebe along the Colne (another new site record), a single Eurasian Woodcock in the NE corner an hour before dawn, 1 Water Rail swimming in the Colne (at the reeds by the northern footbridge), 9 (5m, 4f) Stonechat, 1 Peregrine and 4 Tufted Duck that flew off from the Colne at dawn.

Eurasian Woodcock shortly before dawn this morning

Still nine Stonechat on Staines Moor

More common species noted through the day include 1+ Common Buzzard, 1 Eurasian Sparrowhawk, 1 Common Snipe, 2 Little Egret, 1+ Grey Wagtail (Colne), 3 Kestrel, 7 Fieldfare, 3 Mistle Thrush, 5 Song Thrush, 1 Reed Bunting, 4+ Skylark, 24+ Meadow Pipit, 2+ Grey Heron, 8 Common Moorhen, 1m Common Pheasant (swamp), Overhead, 2 Egyptian Goose SE and 25 Woodpigeon NW were logged.

Stanwell Moor added a pair of Northern Shoveler and 1m Gadwall.

25 January 2015

Nocturnal waders at Staines Moor: 25 January

Another few hours night-birding at Staines Moor this evening revealed 7 Eurasian Woodcock (another site record - beating the record set just two nights ago), 3 Jack Snipe (1 West Pool, 1 Colne and 1 east side), 23(18H) Common Snipe and a Little Owl (NW corner). The birds didn't allow close approach this evening but I did manage a record shot of a Woodcock.

Spent much of the day at the London Wetland Centre for my third Wader Quest Trustees' meeting. Friends Rick and Elis Simpson have an excellent vision to raise funds and support small conservation groups and individuals that are working in the field to conserve and conduct research on the worlds waders. We've got an excellent team with a wide range of expertise and experience and today's meeting was the best yet. Please support us by donating £5 - 100% of all donations goes directly towards our various wader conservation projects.

Eurasian Woodcock on the West Pool this evening - one of seven birds seen and a new site record!

Weather: Weather: Mainly cloudy (7 oktas), moon phase: first quarter, light south-westerly wind, mild.