2 February 2013

Research into the avian history of Staines Moor

It was back to the Darwin Centre in the Natural History Museum today for Pete and I, this time to the Angela Marmont Centre for UK Biodiversity library, to carry out some research into my patch, Staines Moor, in preparation for an article (Pete was attending a course on Diptera - see here). I concentrated on the London Bird Reports, which started in 1936 (and have remained almost unchanged in format ever since). There's a lot reports to get through and I only managed to read to 1951, nevertheless, I found some interesting records and trends.

Staines Moor once held large breeding and wintering populations of Tree Sparrows (up to 150 in winter), a breeding population of Corn Buntings, breeding Red-backed Shrikes, a few pairs of Whinchat, and good numbers of wintering waders such as counts of 200 Golden Plover! Notable records include a Kittiwake found dead on 21 February 1937, 2 Twite on 29 September 1948, a Temminck's Stint on 27 April 1949, a flock of 35 Ringed Plover on 20-28 May 1950, 60 White-fronted Geese on the deck on 20 December 1950 and a Knot on 26 March 1951. For a rarity-starved inland patch worker like me, these records are pure fantasy!

Patching is by no means a new concept, with the same initials appearing time and time again for the moor. Without the dedication of C. A. White in particular (who watched the moor both before and after WWII), there would be far less data on record for the moor and so I'm grateful for his many years of commitment. Some of the old English names also made interesting reading - White-breasted Barn Owl, British Willow Titmouse and Fire-crested Wren to name a few.

Cover of the first ever London Bird Report

The first illustration in a London Bird Report -
Great Grey Shrike in the 1946 report by the
legendary Richard A. Richardson - who used
to watch St James Park before moving to Norfolk

This Lesser Yellowlegs was one of two that visited Staines Moor and Perry
Oaks Sewage Farm in 1953 (photo by G. des Forges)

A female Sparrowhawk flying in front of the iconic Natural History Museum as we were queuing to get in was the only notable wildlife sighting of the day. I've got a lot more research to do so I'll be back to the library in due course. Looking forward to seeing what else has turned up at the moor in the past.

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