7 February 2016

Staines Moor: 7 February

Spent late morning to dusk on the patch trying out my new kit - Canon EOS 7D Mark II, Canon EF 100-400mm Mark II lens, Lowepro Flipside 400 bag and Manfrotto 190 GO! Carbon Fibre tripod - all of which are superb. The camera/lens combo has lightening-fast auto-focus, and I can at last use my extender. Doesn't mean the photos will get any better though!

Fairly quiet today in blustery conditions - highlights: 3 Water Pipit (Colne), 1 Little Egret (Colne), 4 Little Grebe (Colne), 1 Common Snipe (west pool), 8 (3m, 5f) Stonechat, 1 Coot (Colne), 15 Fieldfare (old railway), 4 Goldcrest (old railway), 7 Skylark, 4+ Meadow Pipit, 1 Pied Wagtail (Colne), 3 Chaffinch, 1+ Kestrel, 1 Grey Heron, 1 Red Kite E and 1 Eurasian Sparrowhawk NE.

1 of 3 Water Pipit along the Colne today

16 January 2016

Staines Moor: 16 January

Today is the first time this winter I've seen the pools and channels at Staines Moor frozen over. With the drop in temperature over the last few days to around freezing and snow further north, I was hoping for some cold weather movement today, but it was very much business as usual.

Best I could muster was 1+ Jack Snipe, 7 Water Pipit (inc. 6 around the frozen swamp), 8 Pied Wagtail (swamp), 2+ Little Egret, 13 Stonechat (7m, 6f), 1 Chiffchaff (old railway), 5 Goldcrest (old railway), 1m Reed Bunting, 11 Skylark (east side), 2 Mistle Thrush (SW corner), 1 Fieldfare, 1 Eurasian Sparrowhawk N at dusk, 1 Common Buzzard, 1 Kestrel, 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker (old railway) and 73 Carrion Crow into roost in Bonehead woodland at dusk. 

13 January 2016

Mild winter moths

Had the moth trap on at home over the last few weeks hoping to attract some of the very unseasonal migrant moths that have been appearing in southern Britain during this record mild spell. The trap attracted a total of zero moths. Zero! The porch light however pulled in a Winter Moth on 11 December 2015 and a Double-striped Pug on 28 December 2015 (the later usually flying between April and August). I might put up a white sheet behind the porch light and sell the trap.

Winter Moth Operophtera brumata, 11 December 2015, Worcester Park

Double-striped Pug Gymnoscelis rufifasciata, 28 December 2015, Worcester Park

10 January 2016

First patch visit of 2016: 10 January

An afternoon at Staines Moor concentrating on the SE corner. The pools are now filling up after the recent rain. Highlights were 7+ Water Pipit (including 6 in the air together around the swamp), 1 Short-eared Owl (hunting over the east side from about 15:30), 1 Peregrine, 14 Stonechat (10m, 4f), 49 Fieldfare, 3 Redwing, 2 Goldcrest (the later three all in Bonehead woodland), 1m Reed Bunting, 1+f Kestrel (including 1 catching a small mammal), a few Meadow Pipit, 2 Pied Wagtail (swamp), 4 Skylark and 23 Greylag Geese over W at dusk.

Staines Moor shortly before dusk this evening

6 January 2016

Patch highlights of 2015

2015 will be remembered as a vintage year for ornithology at Staines Moor. A lacklustre spring migration and quiet summer was followed by the best autumn passage Staines Moor has seen for many years, that produced a BBRC-CAT A rarity, a first for west London, several excellent patch records and good numbers of common migrants. Over the year five species occurred that are potential additions to the Staines Moor bird list.

All reports below refer to Staines Moor unless otherwise stated, and include unauthenticated records pending acceptance by the London Bird Club rarities recorder.

Barred Warbler, Staines Moor, 2 September 2015 - I thought inland patch birding couldn't get any better... then it did.

The year kicked off with some excellent night-birding on Staines Moor. A count of 5-6 Eurasian Woodcock on 23rd January proved a short-lived site record with 7 seen on the evening of 25th January. 3 Jack Snipe and 23 Common Snipe were also logged on 25th January, and further spot-lighting sessions produced 1-2 Tawny Owl (unfortunately heard only) on 14th February (the forth record for Staines Moor), up to 2 Little Owls hunting around the anthills at the north end on several nights, and 3 Roe Deer on 20th March.

January and February also produced some excellent close encounters with Jack Snipe during daylight hours. Several were seen at a range of just metre or so, and 7 on 14th February is just one shy of the equally the highest ever count on Staines Moor.

Jack Snipe, Staines Moor, 14 February 2015 - 1 of 7 seen that day

The Dartford Warbler present since last November showed on and off throughout January and was last seen on the 27th. Sightings from other observers in January include 55 Eurasian Wigeon on the Colne on 4th21 (unusual on the Colne nowadays), 4 Goosander on 11th21, a peak count of 8 Water Pipits on 19th5 and a Short-eared Owl present on several dates in January was last seen on the 31st22.

The start of spring passage was heralded by Staines Moor's second Knot (and first since 1951) over on 14th March7, followed on 20th March by a third for Staines Moor - a summer plumage Scandinavian Rock Pipit Anthus petrosus littoralis. Other spring passage highlights include a Ring Ouzel on 9th April3 and a Grasshopper Warbler on 25th April2.

Spring weather arrived late this year, seemingly delaying the arrival of Sand Martin and Northern Wheatear, though the adverse conditions didn't seem to affect the arrival dates of most common summer migrants, many of which arrived several days earlier than last year. However, numbers of common migrants appeared much lower than usual, especially in early spring.

First arrival dates of common summer migrants at Staines Moor or Stanwell Moor for 2015:

Species Arrival date Location Observer
Northern Wheatear 19 Mar Staines Moor Tony Cummings
Common Whitethroat 4 Apr Staines Moor Mark Elsoffer
Willow Warbler 4 Apr Staines Moor Mark Elsoffer
House Martin 6 Apr Staines Moor Samuel Perfect
Barn Swallow 11 Apr Staines Moor Richard Woolley
Yellow Wagtail 17 Apr Staines Moor Stephen Minhinnick
Eurasian Hobby 21 Apr Staines Moor Lee Dingain
Common Tern 21 Apr Staines Moor Lee Dingain
Sand Martin 21 Apr Staines Moor Lee Dingain
Sedge Warbler 21 Apr Stanwell Moor Jim Sweetland
Garden Warbler 21 Apr Staines Moor Euan Tapper
Common Cuckoo 24 Apr Staines Moor Lee Dingain
Common Swift 24 Apr Stanwell Moor Lee Dingain
Whinchat 24 Apr Staines Moor Lee Dingain
Reed Warbler 24 Apr Staines Moor Lee Dingain
Lesser Whitethroat 24 Apr Staines Moor Lee Dingain

A Coal Tit heard along the old railway on 4th April6, 18, finally allowed Staines Moor's bogey bird to be added to the site bird list. 5 Bullfinch at Stanwell Moor on 16th March21 and 9 Little Egret at Staines Moor on 10th April# are both notable high patch counts, and 2 Water Pipits on 20th April9 were the last of the winter.

The first Redshank returned to Staines Moor on 10th March16, but they just about held on as a breeding species with a single territorial pair present on Staines Moor June. Similarly, only a single Northern Lapwing was present during the summer this year, reflecting the current unfavourable conditions here for nesting waders. On a positive note, a singing Grasshopper Warbler took up territory in the same area as last year's birds.

A very showy Great White Egret on 16th August was the forth record for Staines Moor but the second in the last three years, reflecting increasing records nationally. In contrast, a Yellow-legged Gull on 29th August# is, perhaps surprisingly, only the second site record.

Staines Moor's forth Great White Egret was present on 16th August pretending to the be a Cattle Egret

Things then went completely bonkers, with a string of fantastic inland records and one of the best purple patches that Staines Moor has seen in years.

On 2nd September a 1st-winter Barred Warbler began a 16 day residence in the hawthorns in the north-west corner. Just the tenth record within the London Recording Area and the first for west London*, this bird proved extremely popular with many people coming to see it. Fortunately it responded by showing uncharacteristically well on occasions - gorging itself on blackberries, sunbathing and even flying about out in the open.

Staines Moor's second Wryneck (and first since 1976) was found in the same hawthorns on 12th September11. Last seen on 19th September, the Wryneck proved equally popular despite remaining hidden for long periods.

As if a Barred Warbler and Wryneck together wasn't enough, incredibly, London's seventh* Black Stork flew south-west across Staines Moor on 18th September. By this point it felt as if the patch had been picked up and moved to eastern Europe!

London's seventh Black Stork - a juvenile over Staines Moor on 18th September

Further additions to the Staines Moor list came in the form of a Eurasian Nightjar seen over the southern edge of the moor from a moving car on the A30 on 11th September1, and a long overdue male Yellowhammer perched behind The Butts on 25th September17.

September also produced good numbers of common migrants. Spotted Flycatchers were seen on three dates and Common Redstarts on eight, with a minimum of 4 of the later recorded (an excellent site tally) including a peak of 3 on 13th September6, 18. Whinchat passage peaked with 7 on 18th September, and the livestock on Staines Moor attracted some large Yellow Wagtail flocks including 45 on 7th September4, 13 and 31 on 18th September10. An early passage Short-eared Owl went through on 9th September15, 18.

On Stanwell Moor 3 Little Owl showed very well to many observers throughout the month.

3 Little Owls showed very well from the Colne Valley Way on Stanwell Moor during September (Photo by Kevin Campbell)

October continued where September left off, with Staines Moor's forth Hen Harrier (and first male) stopping for a few hours on the 6th to hunt Goldfinches before heading off north-west15.

A Coal Tit at The Butts on 8th October19 was not only the first sight record for Staines Moor but the beginning of a run of sightings. 1 visited the feeders along the old railway set up by Stephen Minhinnick on 11th October18, a Continental race (Periparus ater ater) individual was along Bonehead woodland on 25th October14, and at least 3 of the British subspecies (P. a. britannicus) were seen along the old railway on a few dates in November and December.

Easterly winds from the second week of October brought spectacular falls of Goldcrests to the east coast, along with an influx of Great Great Shrikes and Short-eared Owls, and it didn't take long for birds to filter inland. A site count of 19 Goldcrest on 13th October set a new patch record, which was then smashed by 34 on 1st November.

Goldcrest, 20 November - part of an unprecedented influx at Staines Moor in the autumn

On 18th October Staines Moor's third Great Grey Shrike was discovered and was still present on 19th catching insects from the hawthorns14.

Staines Moor's third Great Great Shrike was present from 18-19 October (Photos by Andrew Moon)

The first returning Water Pipit and Jack Snipe and last departing Northern Wheatear15 were also noted on 19th October, 2 Golden Plover and a Brambling flew over on 24th and a Firecrest put in an appearance in a tit flock on 25th12.

More Short-eared Owls reached Staines Moor on 25th with 2 in from the north14. Up to 3 were seen almost daily by many observers from then until 5th November hunting over the east side, and fellow patch birder Keith Kerr even managed to find a pellet and work out what they were eating - see Keith's blog. Single Short-eared Owls were also seen on 11th and 20th November.

Up to 3 Short-eared Owls showed well along the east side from late October to early November (Photo by Kevin Campbell)

November and December were exceptionally mild, with December being the warmest on record in Britain. Winter thrushes were notable for their relative absence, and spotlighting sessions revealed a maximum count of just 2 Eurasian Woodcock, suggesting conditions on the continent were too mild to push them across the North Sea in large numbers. Another Firecrest on seen on 1st November, and on Stanwell Moor a female Marsh Harrier was seen feeding on a Common Moorhen on 6th.

Another Marsh Harrier was seen over Staines Moor on 2nd December and other notables in December were 1 Jack Snipe on 6th20, a Golden Plover on the ground on the 23rd, and 6 Goosander over on the 29th14. Reasonable numbers of Water Pipits were present along the Colne with 7 on the 6th December20 being the highest count. 3 Bullfinches seen along the old railway on 24th is a notable count and wintering Stonechats peaked at 12+ on 28th December8.

Really looking forward to seeing what 2016 brings.

Acknowledgements

Many thanks to the following observers for reporting their records: 1Kit Britten, 2Peter Carlill, 3Graeme Charles, 4Andy Culshaw, Tony Cummings, 5John Edwards, 6Mark Elsoffer, 7Deacon Frost, 8Thomas Gibson, 9Sue Giddens, 10Dick Haydon, 11Harringay Birder, 12Ben Hollands, 13David Howdon, 14Rob Innes, 15Keith Kerr, 16Chris Lamsdell, 17Robert Martin, 18Stephen Minhinnick, 19Andrew Moon, 20Samuel and Ephraim Perfect, 21Dominic Pia, 22Ian Strickland, Jim Sweetland, Euan Tapper and Richard Woolley.

Also, a special thanks to Kevin Campbell and Andrew Moon for their excellent photos.

References

* Self, A. (2014) The Birds of London. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.

29 December 2015

Final patch visit of 2015: 29 December

A very uneventful final patch visit of 2015 today. Highlights on Staines Moor were 4 Water Pipit (Colne), 1 Treecreeper (old railway), 11 Stonechat (6m, 5f), 3 (1H) Common Chiffchaff, 15 Goldcrest (including 1 in subsong), 5 Little Grebe (Colne), 1 Coot (Colne - first of the winter), 2f Reed Bunting, 1 Little Egret, 1 Redwing, 17+ Fieldfare (Bonehead Woodland), 1H Siskin over, 15+ Goldfinch, 4 Meadow Pipit, 2+ Skylark, 2-5 Red Kite, 1 Common Buzzard, 3 Stock Dove and a Great Spotted Woodpecker seen entering a roost hole along Bonehead Woodland at dusk.

Also, plenty of birds heard singing today in the extremely mild conditions including Song Thrush, Common Chiffchaff, Wren, Robin and Great Tit.

Stanwell Moor added 39 Northern Lapwing, 4m Northern Shoveler E and 1m Sparrowhawk.

1 of 4 Water Pipits along the Colne today. Unfortunately I couldn't get close enough for any better photos.

Weather: Mild, sunny, 2 oktas, light but cool S wind.

28 December 2015

River Mole LNR, Leatherhead: 28 December

Rachel and went for a walk along the River Mole at Leatherhead today that proved surprisingly productive for birds. Highlights were 2m Goosander that showed very well, a pair of Kingfisher that appeared to be excavating a nest (this is the most messed up winter I've ever known!) with perhaps another 2 birds further upstream, 1 Little Egret over NW, 1+ Common Chiffchaff and several Redwing.