24 February 2013

Sightings from the week

The last week has been very busy with little time for birding, however, I've had a few noteworthy (just) sightings. From the car, I had 2 Mandarin over Walton-on-Thames on 20th, and a large flock (c.40, maybe more) Waxwings briefly in Victoria Road, Surbiton on 22nd. The garden has been busy. 2 (1 ad. male and 1 1st yr male) Blackcap are visiting the suet blocks (23rd and today), and Stock Doves have increased to 3 (21st and 22nd) and then 4 (23rd), with males now "singing" and one seen displaying to a female (well, presumably?) yesterday. Also 2 Great Spotted Woodpeckers are now coming in along with 6+ Ring-necked Parakeets and up to c.8 Chaffinches. This morning a Carrion Crow hoovering up crushed fat balls on the lawn was the first time I've seen one actually in the garden, but a Mistle Thrush passed through ignoring the feeders. Magpies are now carrying nest material.

Adult male Blackcap, 24 February

1st yr male Blackcap, 24 February - note the brown forehead feathers
(click to enlarge)

Stock Dove, 22 February

1 of 4 Stock Doves visiting the garden, 23 February

Adult male Ring-necked Parakeet, 23 February

Adult female Ring-necked Parakeet, 23 February

Adult female Ring-necked Parakeet, 23 February

23 February 2013

Late winter at the patch

A dawn visit to the moor this morning failed to find any Goosander on the Colne (there's been at least 3 birds frequenting but I've not managed to connect with any this winter). 2-4 Water Pipit, 1 Water Rail (beneath the willows south of the northern footbridge), 1 Grey Wagtail, 5 Mute Swan, 2 Little Grebe, 6 Mallard and 43 Black-headed Gull (several with partial hoods and 1 with a full hood) were along the Colne. Overhead; 1 Red Kite flew low west, a Mistle Thrush flew off high east, 2 Canada Geese north (scarce here nowadays) and 2 Stock Dove north. 10 Common Snipe were on the flashes and 2 Fieldfare, 10 Song Thrush, 2 Blackbird, 1 Reed Bunting, 5 Skylark, 1m Pheasant and 1+ Grey Heron were also noted. No sign of any Short-eared Owls despite a thorough search.

Red Kite

Red Kite

One of today's Black-headed Gulls. Full hood but still moulting the inner primaries.

Black-headed Gulls often feed on the Colne. Someday there's going to be a
Med Gull here.

Common Snipe tracks in mud along the Colne

On Stanwell Moor, 2 Fieldfare, 2 Redwing, 2 Song Thrush, 9 Blackbird, 2 Mallard, 3 Common Teal and 3 Coot were noted. Overhead 3 Skylark and c.6 Meadow Pipit flew towards King George VI Reservoir. Spent some time looking for the Bittern. Did I see it? Did I f...

On the journey home, 1 Common Buzzard was seen perched on a lamp post along the M25 just north of the A30 junction.

Weather: Cloudy in morning (8 oktas) brightening slightly early afternoon (7 oktas), cold light NE wind, frequent light snow flurries.

11 February 2013

Siskin recovery

Got some recovery data back from the BTO today about the ringed male Siskin I photographed last Friday. Although I didn't manage to record the complete ring number (there was one digit is missing), the BTO found just three Siskins that have ring numbers that could be a match. Two of these are females, leaving just one male - ringed on 6 October 2012 at Easter Inch Moss in Lothian, Scotland. The BTO don't have all the data in their system yet and could be missing some birds, so I need to check again in April to be certain. Many thanks to Lee Barber from the BTO for searching the database.

Ringed adult male Siskin, Stanwell Moor Village, 7 February 2012

Metal ring number: Y68875 (one digit missing, probably between the Y and 6)
Location: Stanwell Moor Village
Coordinates/grid reference: 51°27'29.37"N,0°30'16.20"W
Date: 07/02/2013

7 February 2013

Stanwell Moor Siskins

Very quiet at the patch this morning, but the sun did give a spring-like feel and a few birds are now singing, notably Song Thrush and Great Tit. Highlights were 1 Short-eared Owl hunting distantly first thing, 8 Common Snipe on the southern flood, 3 (2m, 1f) Stonechat, 1 Grey Wagtail on the Colne, 1-2 Little Egret (along the Colne and River Wraysbury), 1 Cetti's Warbler H (same part of the Colne as last time), 4 Song Thrush feeding along the Colne, 2 Skylark N, 4 Little Grebe and 8 Mute Swan (4 on the Colne and 4 over), 18+ Black-headed Gull on the Colne and 1 Cormorant on the Colne early morning.

Little Egret shortly after dawn

On Stanwell Moor 1m Reed Bunting, 2-3 Goldcrest, a pair of Tufted Duck, c15 Common Teal, 2 Pied Wagtail N and 2 Great Spotted Woodpecker (1 over N) were noted. Spent a bit of time watching a flock of c.20 Siskins on Stanwell Moor that showed well feeding in Alders with a few Goldfinches along the Colne Valley Way and in Stanwell Moor Village. The light was rather poor but I did manage a few half decent images. Rob Innes has reported at least 80 in the area. I might try for some better pics if they hang around. Also had 2 Red Kites over the M25 just north of M3 junction at 13:40.

Adult male


Male feeding on Alder Alnus glutinosa seeds

Check out how much this bird has twisted its head to get at the seeds

This bird is ringed - see below

I think the ring number is Y68875. I'll report this to the BTO to see if they can
shed some light on where this bird was ringed.

Weather: Sunny (2 oktas in morning) becoming cloudy early afternoon (7 oktas), very light but cold W wind.

6 February 2013

Waxwings at work

Had a nice surprise to start to the day today. After parking my car in the usual spot in Weybridge I was walking to the office at about 08:45 when I heard the unmistakable trilling of Waxwings! I stopped and looked around but couldn't see any, and then almost immediately one flew to the top of a small tree in a back garden. Within seconds a total of 8 birds flew out of the garden right over my head and headed off north-west! Hurrying into work, I grabbed a friend's iPhone (for the camera) and after sorting out a few IT problems, went back to the spot to try a get a record shot.

After walking around the roads for 20 minutes I eventually relocated them feeding on crab apples in the high street. They were surprisingly settled (probably because I didn't have my DSLR with me) and often even dropped to the ground right beside me to drink from puddles (almost getting hit by traffic in the process)! I left them at 10:10 and despite checking the trees a couple of times later in the day I didn't see them again.

Fantastic iPhone5 record shot of one of the Waxwings

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.