18 April 2014

Sand Martin movement

A late start at Staines Moor this morning cost me a Ring Ouzel! Although still present when I arrived late morning, I couldn't be bothered to join the crowd chasing after it. A noticeable movement of Sand Martin this afternoon with 77+ over in just a couple of hours, mainly NE (with another 11+ over King George VI Reservoir), and 16 Barn Swallow mixed in. The Grasshopper Warbler was still present, but I saw it only once briefly early evening.

Also logged: 1 ad. Peregrine over, 1 Red Kite, 1 Little Egret, 1 Common Snipe, 2H Lesser Whitethroat, 1H Cetti's Warbler at Butts Pond, 1+ Redshank, 13+ Northern Lapwing, 3 Shelduck (2W, 1NE), 2+ Common Buzzard (the local birds), 3 Mistle Thrush, 2+ Grey Heron, 6 Linnet, 6+ Reed Bunting, 5(3H) Chiffchaff (including a pair on territory along the old railway), 4(3H) Blackcap (no doubt there were a lot more warblers present but I neglected the bushes today), c.15 Stock Dove, and lots of Skylark, Meadow Pipit and Starling about.

One of a pair of Chiffchaff holding territory along the old railway today

17 April 2014

Warbler arrival at the patch

Some visible migration at Staines Moor today, with good numbers of warblers! A Grasshopper Warbler was heard singing and showed briefly three times mid afternoon in the swamp in the south-east corner, where it spent most of the time out of sight in Lesser Pond Sedge Carex acutiformis, 3 Lesser Whitethroat (2 NW corner, 1 NE corner), 2 Common Whitethroat and 1 Willow Warbler along Bonehead Ditch were my first of the year, and 2 Sedge Warbler (1 Butts Pond, 1 SE marsh), 22 Blackcap and 18 Chiffchaff were also logged, and the 2 Cetti's Warblers are still present (1 at Butts Pond, 1 Bonehead Ditch in NE corner).

Other migrants seen were 1 Common Tern over E, 2 (1m, 1f) Northern Wheatear around the anthills in the NE corner, 1 imm. Peregrine SE, 6 Sand Martin (inc. 3 lingering over the Colne mid afternoon), 8 Barn Swallow and 10 Goldfinch N (and 3 local birds). Also note: 1 Red Kite, 1+ Little Egret, 2 Shelduck W, 4 Egyptian Goose (3E and 1 on the deck briefly then S), 2 Redshank seen displaying beside the Colne, 11+ Northern Lapwing, 12+ Linnet, 1 Sparrowhawk, 2 Common Buzzard (the resident pair), 7 Reed Bunting, 12 Stock Dove, 2 Grey Heron, 4 Canada Goose over, c.70 Starling and lots of Skylark and Meadow Pipit.

A few more butterflies were on the wing today including 4m Orange-tip, 3 small tortoiseshell, 1+ Brimstone and lots of Peacocks. Finally, had a patch mammal tick early morning in the form of a Reeve's muntjac Muntiacus reevesi near the old railway.

Record shot of today's gropper at the swamp

Lots of Peacock butterflies flying at the moment

9 April 2014

Buzzard day at Staines Moor

With high pressure over much of western Europe and southern England bringing light south-westerlies and very little cloud cover, skywatching was the order of the day at the Moor today. A good movement of Common Buzzard with 12+ migrants over (excluding the resident pair also seen displaying), 4+ Red Kite over, 1f Eurasian Sparrowhawk, 2 House Martin NW, 21 Sand Martin mainly NW and 4 Barn Swallow mainly NW.

Unsurprisingly there were very few migrants on the ground, with just 1f Northern Wheatear around the anthills at the north end, 7 Blackcap and 9 Chiffchaff. Also seen: 2 Common Redshank along the Colne, 1-2 Common Snipe, 2(1H) Cetti's Warbler, 3+ Little Egret, 18 Linnet, 2-3 Pied Wagtail along the Colne, 5 Reed Bunting, 9+ Northern Lapwing, including several birds still on territory, and lots of Meadow Pipit and Skylark. Also, 3 Brimstone and 7 Peacock butterflies today.

On Stanwell Moor, 1 Sedge Warbler heard singing, 1H Cetti's Warbler by the boardwalk, 5 Barn Swallow and 1H Chiffchaff were noted.

Female Northern Wheatear - one of few grounded migrants today

5 April 2014

Snippets of Sedge Warbler subsong

A very slow day at the patch today. A Sedge Warbler heard in sub-song a couple of times on Stanwell Moor (just the other side of Bonehead Ditch) is my earliest patch record. Also on Stanwell Moor: 1 Red Kite N, 4 Shelduck SE, 1H Cetti's Warbler near the boardwalk, 1H Blackcap and 1H Chiffchaff.

On Staines Moor, 7 Sand Martin lingering around the Colne mid afternoon, 8(7H) Chiffchaff and 3(2H) Blackcap were the only migrants of note. Good to see 2+ Redshank back on site and c17 Northern Lapwing, including several territorial birds. Also logged: 2 Cetti's Warbler still (1 Butts Pond and 1 Bonehead Ditch), 3 Red Kite over, 2-3 Common Snipe, 1 Little Egret, 2 Shelduck on The Butts before heading off west, 2+ Common Buzzard (the local birds, seen perching up along the old railway), 1 Pied Wagtail along Colne, 7 Linnet, 5 Reed Bunting, 4 Coot, c19 Mallard, 4+ Greylag Goose over, 2 Canada Goose N, 2+ Grey Heron, lots of singing and displaying Skylark and Meadow Pipit, and 1m Common Pheasant.

A single Peacock was the only butterfly seen today in cold, dull and windy conditions, but I did find my first flowering Marsh Marigold Caltha palustris of the year.

Redshank beside the Colne this afternoon. Lets hope at least one pair breed successfully this year.

1 of 3 Red Kites over Staines Moor today. This one drifted very low overhead a couple times - eyeing me up as I started to tire
after a long day in the field!

30 March 2014

Spoonbill over Staines Moor: 30 March

A very pleasant afternoon at the patch today in hazy sun and a warm southerly wind, produced a really fantastic start to the spring. Even lady luck cracked a smile for once. Minutes after replacing my dead camera battery with a spare, an adult Eurasian Spoonbill flapped over the Moor heading east-south-east. I fired off a whole load of shots as it passed over, veering south slightly over the Moor before turning back east-south-east over KGVI. A few minutes after the bird had disappeared in the distance, the spare battery died! I'd often hoped for a fly-over Spoonbill so this bird has made my spring already! This is the third record for Staines Moor, following one from 27-28 September 1973 and one on 18 April 1997.

Eurasian Spoonbill over Staines Moor at 15:17, 30 March 2014 - the 3rd record for the Moor

Also recorded my first common summer migrants of the spring with 4 Sand Martin feeding over the Colne for an hour mid afternoon, 1 Green Sandpiper dropping onto the Colne early evening, 1 male Northern Wheatear around the anthills in the north-west corner this evening, 17(6H) Chiffchaff and 3(2H) Blackcap. Also logged were 1+ Redshank, 20 Northern Lapwing (including at least 4 displaying), 1+ Water Pipit (in summer plumage), 15-18 Common Snipe, 2 Red Kite (1 NE and 1 N), 2H Cetti's Warbler (1 Butts Pond, 1 NE corner), 7+ Linnet, 3 Reed Bunting, 1 Kingfisher along the Colne, 3 Little Egret, 1 Pied Wagtail, 1+ Grey Heron, lots of displaying Meadow Pipit, several Skylark, 3 Coot back on the Colne (they disappear from Staines Moor in the winter), 8 Stock Dove and lots of Mallard (up to 35).

Four Sand Martins around the Colne for an hour mid afternoon were my first of the year

Some lepidoptera now out - 3 Comma, 2 Small Tortoiseshell, 2-4 Peacock, and 1 Brindled Flat-body Agonopterix arenella. Also some Cuckoo Flower Cardamine pratensis is now flowering.

Also noted were 2 Shelduck west over Stanwell Moor.

18 March 2014

Lepidoptera walk at 'The Fragment', REGUA, Brazil: 18 March

Another post from REGUA. Today, Helen, Rachel, Andrew 'Hhhi' Proudfoot, Pete and I teamed up with REGUA's Research Co-ordinator Jorge Bizarro for a butterfly walk along the Onofre Cunha Trail. This trail runs through an area of good quality flat lowland Atlantic Forest, a very rare habitat indeed in the Atlantic Forest nowadays, located a couple of kilometres outside of the main part of the Reserve, and known at REGUA as simply 'The Fragment'.

Jorge's knowledge of Neotropical butterflies and their lifecycles is second to none, and he found many interesting species for us during the morning, both as adults and caterpillars. For anyone visiting REGUA I highly recommend a butterfly walk with him.

Highlights include a first for Rio de Janeiro state - a Little Banner Nica flavilla flavilla - a widespread Neotropical metalmark (Riodinidae) found from Mexico south to Bolivia, and apparently rather scarce in the south-east corner of the continent, and a second for Rio de Janeiro state - a Shining Groundstreak Calycopis demonassa (Jorge photographed the first for the state only yesterday on the Forest Trail), and a new species of butterfly for REGUA.

Little Banner Nica flavilla flavilla at Onofre Cunha today - a new butterfly for REGUA and Rio de Janeiro state!

A terrible out of focus photo of today's Shining Groundstreak Calycopis demonassa, grabbed before it flew off. This is the second
record for Rio de Janeiro state, after one on the Forest Trail yesterday also found by Jorge!

Another highlight was a very fresh White Witch Moth Thysania agrippina discovered resting characteristically side-on on the side of tree. This huge Noctuid has the largest wing-span of any moth or insect in the world, with a record wing-span of 280 mm! In flight they're even more bonkers!

White Witch Moth Thysania agrippina today

Other butterflies seen include Smooth-banded Sister Adelpha cytherea, Hemon Hairstreak Theritas hemon, and several Many-banded Daggerwing Marpesia chiron marius. Many thanks to Jorge for his help with the identifications.

Smooth-banded Sister Adelpha cytherea

Hemon Hairstreak Theritas hemon - a fairly common species at REGUA

The Fragment is also an excellent site for odonata. We didn't look specifically for them today but still managed to photograph a few Argia lilacina (apparently scarce at the Fragment) and a superb male Band-winged Dragonlet Erythrodiplax umbrata (many thanks to Tom Kompier for the identifications).

Male Band-winged Dragonlet Erythrodiplax umbrata

Female Argia lilacina

Birds took a back seat this morning, but without even trying I managed to see 1 Southern Caracara, 2m and 1f White-flanked Antwren, 1 Plain-winged Woodcreeper, 1 Streaked Xenops, 2m Flame-crested Tanager, 1 Fawn-breasted Tanager, 1m and 1f Blue Dacnis, 1m Yellow-backed Tanager and 1f Violaceous Euphonia along the trail.

This morning before the walk, 3 Scaly-headed Parrot flew over the conservation centre, and I spent some time photographing more moths at the moth wall, as well as this tiny, and unusually co-operative, young Tropical House Gecko Hemidactylus mabouia that even rested on my hand while I snapped it with the macro.

This Tropical House Gecko Hemidactylus mabouia resting on my finger, has no doubt also been enjoying the recent moth trapping

16 March 2014

REGUA, Atlantic Forest, Brazil: 16 March

Birded the Waldenoor area of REGUA this morning. Things were very quiet, no doubt at least partly due to the very hot and humid conditions. The journey along the dirt road from Matumbo to the trail-head was fairly productive, with the highlight being a female Giant Antshrike at very low altitude and in very atypical grass and scrub habitat. Also seen along the road: 1 White-cheeked Puffbird, 1 Yellow-bellied Elaenia, 2(1m, 1f) Brazilian Tanager, 2 Double-collared Seedeater, 1 Common Waxbill, 1 House Sparrow, 1(H) Ash-throated Crake, 1 Giant Cowbird, 3 Red-rumped Cacique, 4 Grey-breasted Martin, and a large flock of Blue-and-white Swallow (mainly juveniles) - probably a post-breeding gathering. A Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth was also seen.

Female Giant Antshrike along the dirt road to Waldenoor today. A very unusual record in atypical habitat.

Blue-and-white Swallows on the road to Waldenoor

The trails around Waldenoor itself were extremely quiet. Highlights: 1 Mantled Hawk overhead, 3 Yellow-fronted Woodpecker, 1 Cliff Flycatcher, 1 Sepia-capped Flycatcher, 1+ Olive-green Tanager, 1 very brief Black-goggled Tanager, 1 Golden-crowned Warbler, 1 Black-throated Trogon, 1 Surucua Trogon, 2 Violet-capped Woodnymph, lots of Biscutate Swift, 2 Chestnut-crowned Becard and 1(H) Rough-legged Tyrannulet.

A late afternoon scan over the wetland from the lodge tower produced a superb fly-by Aplomado Falcon, 5+ Channel-billed Toucan, 1 White-necked Heron, 5 Great Egret (a high site count), lots of Pale-vented Pigeon, several Black-bellied and White-faced Whistling-Ducks, and several hundred Cattle Egret coming in to roost.