31 December 2014

Med Gull over Weybridge: 31 December

A quick notebook entry. Parking the car for work when an adult Mediterranean Gull flew low east over The Willows in Weybridge at 08:52 - probably the same adult seen at Walton Bridge over the last few days and possibly one of the two birds I found at Cowey Sale back in February returning? Nice end to the year!

21 December 2014

Review: Cluson ML8 Pro Spotter torch

With an advertised beam range of 350 m, a white CREE LED light and a good run time on high beam, the Cluson ML8 Pro Spotter torch looks ideal for night-birding. I could find no information on the luminous flux of the ML8, but being around half the price of many other LED torches on the market with a similar specification I decided to try it out and see how it compared to the LED Lenser M7R reviewed back in March?

Clockwise from top: the Cluson ML8 Pro Spotter; mains charger; vehicle charger

The build quality of the ML8 is just as good - constructed from aircraft grade aluminium with a black anodised finish, and sealed against the elements with rubber "O" rings. The torch is compact, at 160 mm in length and with a maximum diameter of 55 mm, and easily fits into a pocket, and at just 236 g is also light. Power comes from a rechargeable lithium-ion battery, and the two modes (high or low beam) are controlled by a single large button on the end of the barrel that also functions as the power switch.

The ML8 comes supplied with a lithium-ion battery, a mains charger, a vehicle charger and wrist strap. A filter set (including red, amber and yellow filters) are also available - useful for some wildlife observation. For recharging, the battery must be removed from the torch by unscrewing the tail cap, and charging takes about four hours from empty. Surprisingly, there is no charge indicator light on the charger (the red light is displayed simply when the battery is inserted), but charging stops automatically when the battery is fully charged.

Cluson ML8 Pro Spotter key technical details

Lumens Unknown
Run time 3.5 hrs high beam/20 hrs low beam
Beam range 250 m
Focus Fixed spot
Weight 236 g
Battery Lithium-ion
Body material Aluminium

For more technical details see the Cluson website.

On delivery I found the packaging stated a beam range of 250 m - 100 m less than advertised on the Cluson website. Cluson claim the maximum beam range is actually 350 m and that the 250 m beam range relates to maximum shooting distance achievable with ML8 when used with a rifle scope (although they are changing the packing to state a 300 m beam range for shooting). In the field, I estimated the maximum usable range to be around 200-250 m - comparable to the LED Lenser MR7 and was a little disappointed.

The single CREE LED produced a bright and fairly neutral white light, with very little of the blue hue traditionally associated with older LED torches. The beam range is similar to the LED Lenser MR7, however, the focus is fixed as a spot light, and although much more homogeneous than the light produced by a Maglite, the beam is not as uniform as the LED Lenser MR7 with some slightly darker circles noticeable. The light weight and compact size made it easy to use for long periods, and even allowed use of binoculars while scanning.

To conclude, the Cluson ML8 Pro Spotter is a good torch for looking for birds, mammals, insects and other animals at night. A beam range between 300-400 m as well as the ability to focus from spot to flood would make this an excellent torch, but at £66 it is very good value for money for the specification and so highly recommended.

12 December 2014

Woodcock back on the patch: 12 December

Met up with fellow patcher Keith Kerr for a few hours this evening to look for wintering Eurasian Woodcock. After searching for about an hour we found a very obliging bird by the Iris Channels in the NW corner of Staines Moor that showed extremely well. A look around the NE corner found at least another 2 birds running around the anthills.

Also noted on Staines Moor were a roosting Redwing in a tiny clump of sedge, a roosting Meadow Pipit in one of the Iris Channels, a Common Snipe (H) and 1 Red Fox. No sign of the Tawny Owl heard by Rob Innes on 29 November along Bonehead Ditch. On Stanwell Moor a couple of male Winter Moth Operophtera brumata were noted along the Colne Valley Way along with 9 other moths possible this species or Northern Winter Moth Operophtera fagata.

One of three Eurasian Woodcock seen this evening at Staines Moor

7 December 2014

Mining for moths: 6th - 7th December

Spent the last week visiting friends Kevin and Donna Cox at their place on the edge of Dartmoor in Devon - part holiday and part helping out planting a yew hedge in their newly built walled garden - part of much larger wildlife garden (or rather, grounds).

Yesterday and this morning, we explored one of the old copper mines on the Brook Estate looking for cave-dwelling animals. Copper was mined here from 1845 to 1885 and the main shaft at this particular mine, Pixton’s Shaft, drops vertically to an incredible 305 m! We looked at a short (c15 m) horizontal adit in the woods here.

Found quite a few Herald moths (counted 23 yesterday) as well as lots (c40 yesterday) of European Cave Spiders Meta menardi, including one guarding an egg cocoon suspended from the mine ceiling.

Two of the 23 Herald Scoliopteryx libatrix moths found hibernating in the mine, 6 December

Herald Scoliopteryx libatrix, 7 December

Spot the Heralds, 6 December

European Cave Spider Meta menardi, 6 December

Egg cocoon of European Cave Spider Meta menardi, 7 December

The only other noteworthy sighting from the week is a superb adult Goshawk low over the garden at Brook Manor being mobbed by 2 Common Raven on 3rd December.

30 November 2014

Pond clearance at Staines Moor: 30 November

Rachel and I spent a few hours today volunteering with Spelthorne Natural History Society and Egham and Staines Conservation Volunteers, clearing bulrush and other spreading plants from Butts Pond and nearby pools. Butts Pond supports a nationally scarce diving beetle, as well as other aquatic invertebrates and amphibians, therefore it is important to keep the ponds open.

During the work a Cetti's Warbler remained hidden around Butts Pond calling occasionally and a Linnet flew over south. A quick look around Staines Moor early afternoon produced 8 Stonechat, 40+ Fieldfare at the north end, a few Redwing, 1 Common Buzzard, 2+ Common Kestrel, and a Pied Wagtail. No sign of any Water Pipits in a brief search and we didn't try for the Dartford Warbler.

It was great to get my hands dirty helping to manage the habitat on Staines Moor, as well as meet Nick Orson, Peter Routley, Adrian Griffee and Shaun Ferguson. Will definitely be getting more involved with the habitat management on the Moor in the future.

Removing bulrush from one of the ponds on Staines Moor today (Photo by Shaun Ferguson)

28 November 2014

The patch: 28 November

A good early winter's day at the patch. After the recent rain the water table and the Colne are both very high and it's good to see the vernal pools so full. On Staines Moor, at least 6 (probably 8 and possibly 11) Water Pipits were noted, with 6 around the swamp and 2+ along the banks of the Colne. Also around the swamp, the female Dartford Warbler was still present and following a female Stonechat, and 8+ Pied Wagtail, and 9 Common Snipe.

Also logged on Staines Moor: 14 Stonechat (7m, 7f), 70+ Fieldfare, a few Redwing, 2+ Song Thrush, 1 Mistle Thrush, 1+ Grey Wagtail, 26 Stock Dove (including a flock 23 along Bonehead Ditch in the evening), 1m Reed Bunting, 4 Skylark, 13+ Meadow Pipit, 1 Little Egret, 3 Little Grebe, 2 Common Buzzard (1 ad. and the pale 1st yr), 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker high S, 2 Egyptian Goose over (NW then back E), 3+ Common Kestrel, just 13 Goldfinch, 1m Common Pheasant, and 1 Red Fox.

Stanwell Moor added 1H Cetti's Warbler, 4 Common Teal, 1 Fieldfare and 16 Redwing.

"I wish that darn Dartford Warbler would stop stalking me!"

23 of 26 Stock Dove seen today - the largest single flock at the patch for a long time

15 November 2014

Dartford Warbler at Staines Moor: 15 November

A really good late autumn day at the patch. The highlight was a female Dartford Warbler following 2 male and 2 female Stonechats around in the south-east corner of Staines Moor, and showing well on occasion. This is the sixth record for Staines Moor - the first was an immature from 14-19 October 2002 and the last was 1 present from 9-12 October and on 18 October 2009. Interestingly, three of the five previous records have involved birds associating with Stonechats, a curious relationship between the two species, and well documented here.

A large influx of winter thrushes was evident today, including 109+ Fieldfare (with at least 100 stripping the hawthorn berries in the NW corner), 48 Redwing, 10 Song Thrush, 1 Mistle Thrush and 9(2H) Blackbird.

Also noted on Staines Moor: 13 Stonechat still (6m, 7f), 3-4 Water Pipit (including 2 around the iris channels), 1H Cetti's Warbler along Bonehead Ditch near the south end (unusual here), 2(1H) Common Chiffchaff, 119 Goldfinch (including 84 along Bonehead Ditch), 1 Grey Wagtail (Colne), 1 Little Egret, the 1st yr pale Common Buzzard again (a locally bred bird?), 2 Little Grebe, 3 Stock Dove, 2+ Kestrel, 17+ Meadow Pipit, 7 Skylark, 3 Pied Wagtail, 2 Great Spotted Woodpecker, 2 Common Teal, 1m Common Pheasant and a Red Fox. Overhead, 2 alba wagtail flew south.

Female Dartford Warbler today - the sixth record for Staines Moor

Stanwell Moor added a female Eurasian Sparrowhawk with Red-legged Partridge kill, 2 Red-legged Partridge, another Common Buzzard, 1 Common Kestrel, 9 Common Teal, 11 Northern Shoveler, 4 Common Pheasant, and 1H Water Rail.

9 November 2014

South-east Devon: 8th - 9th November

Back from a very enjoyable weekend birding around Budleigh Salterton and Exmouth with my other half the RAW Baker and good friends the Cream Tea Birder and the Cream Tea Bird.

Strong southerlies and rain Saturday morning (8th) promised some good seawatching but unfortunately I missed out due to very painful headache. A look at the sea in much calmer conditions in the afternoon logged just 4+ Kittiwake W, several Northern Gannet, several Shag, a Common Gull and 3 Oystercatcher. A pleasant but equally quiet walk around the Otter Estuary late afternoon produced 1m Stonechat, 3 Black-tailed Godwit (scrape), several Curlew, 1m Shoveler, 134 Eurasian Wigeon, 3 Shelduck, lots of Eurasian Teal, 1 Little Egret and a Cetti's Warbler (H). A mumeration of 2,894 Starling gave a fantastic display over the reedbed north of the scrape at dusk, along with an immature Peregrine (that made a kill) and a Sparrowhawk (that didn't).

Very light south-westerlies, largely clear skies (4 oktas) and some sea mist this morning (9th) looked good for some late autumn vis mig, and dawn found us in our chosen east-facing position along the South West Coast Path on the west side of Budleigh Salterton. A two hour session produced 856 Woodpigeon W, 1 Stock Dove W, 1f Bullfinch W, 96 Chaffinch W, 42 Goldfinch W, 15 Meadow Pipit W, 6+ (4H) Skylark SW and 4 Linnet E. Robins were seemingly everywhere and 1+ Peregrine, a Eurasian Sparrowhawk and a Goldcrest were also noted. Nearby at Jubilee Park 2 Firecrest and 1 Goldcrest showed very well but proved too quick for photos, and a late Painted Lady shot past.

An afternoon walk along the Ex Estuary from Exmouth to Mudbank produced 1 Greenshank, several Little Egret, numerous Curlew, several Brent Geese, and a superb 1st winter male Black Redstart flycatching from a roof at Harbour Court, Exmouth (many thanks to Matt Knott).

A look at the Otter Estuary late evening added 1 Kingfisher and a single Northern Lapwing on the scrape, along with 1 Redshank, 3 Little Grebe, 3 Little Egret, 2 Eurasian Sparrowhawk, and 3 Rock Pipit and c40 Pied Wagtail on the beach. Curiously, no Starlings came in to roost at the reedbed this evening.

1st winter male Black Redstart at Harbour Court in Exmouth, 9 November 2014

European Robin, South West Coast Path, Budleigh Salterton, 9 November 2014 - almost trod on this chap

Common Starling, Otter Estuary, 8 November 2014

Common Starling, Otter Estuary, 8 November 2014

30 October 2014

Distant brents: 30 October

Spent a few hours at the patch this morning. Vis mig at Staines Moor produced 6 Brent Goose SW early morning (very distant - probably over Staines Reservoirs), 1 Shelduck E, 1 very pale Common Buzzard SW, 1 Red Kite NE, 17 Linnet S, 2 Chaffinch SW, 1 Reed Bunting SW, 4 Greenfinch S, 6 Pied Wagtail (3S, 1E, 1W) and 3 Stock Dove (NW, SW, W).

Also on Staines Moor, 1 Short-eared Owl flushed on the east side, 2 Water Pipit along the Colne, 10 Stonechat (7m, 3f), 1 1st winter Common Gull on the Colne (unusual here) with 50+ Black-headed Gull (also hawking over the moor), 3 Little Egret, 1 Common Snipe (east side), 1 Collared Dove in the NE corner along Bonehead Ditch (scarce here), 1+ Grey Wagtail, 2+ Pied Wagtail, 29+ Meadow Pipit, 2 Reed Bunting, 2 Little Grebe, 1+ Kingfisher, 2 Common Buzzard (perched up along Bonehead Ditch), 11 Goldfinch on the east side, 3 Kestrel (including a female eating a vole), 3-5 Mallard, 1+ Grey Heron and 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker.

Stanwell Moor added 1 Water Pipit S, 9 Northern Shoveler E and 1m Northern Shoveler on the lake, 2f Common Teal, and 3 Redwing SW at Stanwell Moor Village. Also, over King George VI Reservoir 5 Lapwing S.

Today's Brent Geese (honest they are!)

Short-eared Owl on the east side of Staines Moor today

Two very vocal Water Pipits showed well today along the Colne and flying around overhead

Weather: Cloudy (7 oktas) and slightly misty early morning, becoming brighter late morning, light SW wind, mild.

26 October 2014

Starlings and Chaffinches on the move: 26 October

Skywatching at Staines Moor today produced 1,578 Starling NW, 135 Chaffinch SW (mostly in one hour from 11:00), 2 Siskin S, 13 Linnet (mainly S), 2 Greenfinch (1N, 1S), 14 Goldfinch (12S, 2SW), 1 Reed Bunting S, 33 Redwing (mainly SW), 3 Song Thrush S, 2 Pied Wagtail (1S, 1W) 3 alba wagtail (1E, 1W, 1S), 6 Skylark NW, 65 Woodpigeon (mainly SW), 4 Stock Dove (3SW, 1E), 2 Collared Dove S, 4 Gadwall E and 3 Great Spotted Woodpecker (2W, 1E).

Also 3 Water Pipit along the Colne and around the iris channels in the NW corner, 1 Green Sandpiper flew off SW from the Colne early morning, 9 Stonechat (4m, 5f), 1 Little Egret, 3+ Grey Wagtail, 2 Little Grebe, 1 Kingfisher, 2 more Song Thrush, 2 more Pied Wagtail along the Colne, 6 more Greenfinch, c19 Meadow Pipit, 6 Skylark, 10 more Goldfinch, 5 more Reed Bunting, 1 Mistle Thrush (old railway), 1 Goldcrest (old railway), 3+ Common Buzzard, 1-2 Eurasian Sparrowhawk, 3+ Kestrel and a Water Rail heard from the reeds along the Colne.

Stanwell Moor added 14 more Chaffinch SW, 1 Common Snipe, 3m Teal, 2 Gadwall and 6 Mallard. Also another Chaffinch SW over Stanwell Moor Village.

135 Chaffinch logged today moving south-west in small quite loose flocks, mostly in one hour from 11:00

One of three Water Pipits at Staines Moor today

Weather: Cloudy (8 oktas) becoming slightly brighter in the afternoon (7 octas), very light SW wind becoming moderate late morning, cold.

24 October 2014

Another Ring Ouzel

Very little vis mig today but managed a few good sightings nevertheless. The highlight was a 1st winter female Ring Ouzel picked up circling high over the east side of Staines Moor at 13:34, and dropping down onto the top of the tallest bare tree along the north end of Bonehead Ditch. After reappearing in another bare tree the bird flew and wasn't seen again.

Other passage overhead included 1 Common Snipe S, 1 Mistle Thrush SW, 3 Reed Bunting S, 9 Linnet S, 1 Chaffinch S, 2 Skylark S, 17 Goldfinch (10S, 7N), 4 Stock Dove (2W, 2E), c80 Woodpigeon (mainly SW). Also a small fall of c12 Song Thrush in the hawthorns in the NW corner included 2+ Fieldfare, 5 Redwing and 7 Blackbird, before eventually moving off south.

Along the Colne, 1 Green Sandpiper flew off SW early morning, 1+ Water Pipit, 14 Canada Goose (unusual here nowadays) grazing along the bank of the Colne before being flushed by a dog walker, 2+ Grey Wagtail, 2+ Pied Wagtail, 3 Little Egret and 2 Little Grebe. Also noted: 9 (4m, 5f) Stonechat, 1 Chiffchaff, 1 Goldcrest, 1 Cetti's Warbler showed well along Bonehead Ditch, 2 Common Buzzard along Bonehead Ditch, 21 Skylark, 8 Greenfinch, and another 20 Goldfinch.

Stanwell Moor added 2m Tufted Duck W, 6 Northern Shoveler E, another Goldcrest and Chiffchaff, and a flock of 46 Goldfinch along the footpath beside King George VI Reservoir.

Today's 1st winter female Ring Ouzel

Weather: Cloudy (7-8 oktas), WSW wind.

22 October 2014

Woodpigeon passage over the patch: 22 October

Vis mig at Staines Moor today produced a fairly decent movement of Woodpigeon with 2,449 over SSW (a new record count for Staines Moor), but was otherwise quiet with 1 Collared Dove S (surprisingly scarce on the open moor), 2 Peregrine S then 1 perching on the pylons, 9 Stock Dove S, 1 Redwing SE, 1 Mistle Thrush S, 1 Northern Lapwing S, 1 Reed Bunting S, 1 Grey Wagtail S, 1 alba wagtail S, 5+ Common Buzzard, 1+ Red Kite, 2 Egyptian Goose E, 8 Goldfinch S, 1 Greenfinch N and 2 Skylark NE.

Noted on the ground were 1 Fieldfare in hawthorns on the west side, 1+ Water Pipit along the Colne, 9 (5m, 4f) Stonechat scattered around the moor, 2-4 Grey Wagtail, 2 Pied Wagtail, 3 Little Grebe and 1 Little Egret all along the Colne, 2 Reed Bunting, 1 Kingfisher on the northern footbridge, 1 Common Snipe on the east side, just c15 Meadow Pipit, a few Skylark, 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker, and 2+ Kestrel.

Also on Staines Moor 3 Red Admiral S, and a fantastic Dor Beetle Geotrupes stercorarius.

Stanwell Moor added another 165 Woodpigeon SSW, 41 Eurasian Wigeon W, 3 Northern Lapwing E, and 1 Red-legged Partridge in car field.

One of two Peregrines present today - with all the Columbidae going past it must have been being in YO! Sushi for these guys today.
I wonder if these birds are moving with them?

Few thrushes moving today, with just one Redwing and this Mistle Thrush noted overhead and a single Fieldfare in the bushes

At least one very vocal Water Pipit seen well today, on the ground and in flight

Weather: Clear skies early morning (3 oktas) becoming cloudy in the afternoon (8 oktas) with light rain, light to moderate W wind, cold.

15 October 2014

Thrush fall and vis mig at Staines Moor

With huge numbers of Ring Ouzels moving over coastal sites in the south-east yesterday and light SE winds and showers forecast for today, I decided on a dawn to dusk session at the patch today.

Rain overnight and at dawn grounded large numbers of thrushes, and the hawthorns in the NW corner were heaving with birds first thing. Total thrush counts are a conservative 100 Redwing, 1 Fieldfare, 9+ Song Thrush, 4+ Blackbird, and a frustratingly brief Ring Ouzel seen in very gloomy light before flying off NE and joined in flight by a second. Possibly a third bird with heavily moulting flight feathers was also seen flying off high west from the hawthorns at the north end in a mixed thrush flock, and appeared to drop down by the old railway embankment. By late morning the weather had lifted and almost all the thrushes had departed, mainly S or SW.

Mid morning a Short-eared Owl appeared over the east side of the moor, where it was mobbed by corvids and gulls before landing in the grass. It (or perhaps another bird) then departed high to the north-east before returning, where it remained for the rest of the day, showing well occasionally, and was joined by a second bird late afternoon.

Vis mig produced 1 1st winter Little Gull high W with Black-headed Gulls (the third record for Staines Moor and a patch tick), 83 Linnet (65S, 18N), 19 Skylark (mainly SE), c4 House Martin (c3SW, 1E), 7 Barn Swallow (mainly S), 6 Common Snipe (3S, 3N), 16 Northern Lapwing (mainly NW), 24 Eurasian Wigeon W, 1 Mistle Thrush S, 2 Pied Wagtail S, 4 'alba' wagtails S/SE, 3 Chaffinch S/SW, 2 Jay NE and 5 Egyptian Goose W. Also, 2 Red Admiral S.

2-3 Water Pipit along the Colne are my first of the winter, and 2+ Grey Wagtail, another 4 Pied Wagtail, 3 Little Egret, 1 Little Grebe and 1m Kingfisher were also on the Colne. The Whinchat was still present in the NW corner and 14 Stonechat, 1 Chiffchaff, another Common Snipe, c40 Meadow Pipit (mainly east side), 3+ Common Buzzard, 1+ Sparrowhawk, 3+ Kestrel (including an immature male eating prey on the ground), 4-7 Gadwall, 12 Mallard, c82 Goldfinch (including a flock of c40 on the east side), 4 Greenfinch and 2H Cetti's Warbler (1 Butts Pond, 1 Colne) and another 8+ Skylark, 1 Common Gull and 2 Lesser Black-backed Gull were also logged.

Record of one of today's Ring Ouzels

1st winter Little Gull west over Staines Moor today. This is the third site record (first autumn record), following 1 from 18-24 May 2001
and 2 dip-feeding along the Colne on 15 May 2004.

One of two, perhaps three, Short-eared Owls present today

A mini influx of Short-eared Owls into London and Surrey today, with 2 at Beddington Farmlands 1-2 at Richmond Park and singles
at Capel, Gallions Reach, Ingrebourne Valley Nature Reserve, Island Barn Reservoir (later QEII Res), Maida Vale, Queen Mary
Reservoir, Wanstead Flats, Waterworks Nature Reserve and Wimbledon Common.

Weather: Light SE wind, heavily overcast (7-8 oktas), fairly warm, light rain early morning and rain at dusk.

12 October 2014

Wigeon passage increases

More of the same at the patch today (12 October). Some good passage of Eurasian Wigeon (mainly over Stanwell Moor) in the morning after the fog cleared with a total of 218 E including one superb flock of 103. Over Staines Moor: 8 Gadwall (mainly E), 1m Tufted Duck SE, 1 Red Kite SE, 3 Northern Lapwing S, 2 Mistle Thrush NW, 18 Magpie purposely S in a single flock, 6 Stock Dove S, 3 Chaffinch (2 SW, 1 SE) and 76 Woodpigeon (the first movement of the autumn) logged overhead in a couple of hours.

On the ground at Staines Moor: 1m Whinchat in the NW corner associating with Stonechats, 10 (5m, 5f) Stonechat, 3+ Grey Wagtail, 2 Little Egret along the Colne, 1+ Kingfisher, 2+ Common Buzzard along the west side (local birds), 2 Chiffchaff in with a Long-tailed Tit flock, 2+ Reed Bunting, 24+ Meadow Pipit, c20 Skylark, 3 Song Thrush and 2+ Kestrel. Just 1 Red Admiral seen today and a Red Fox.

Also, a Common Snipe W over Stanwell Moor, and a Eurasian Sparrowhawk over Stanwell Moor Village.

103 of the 218 Eurasian Wigeon over east today

Today's Whinchat

Chaffinches are now moving. East coast watchpoints such as Filey and Spurn are reporting movements ranging from tens to 224
over Gibraltar Point over recent days, and even London sites have logged good counts with 53 over Beddington Farmlands, 50 over
Hampstead Heath, and 44 over Richmond Park in 30 minutes on 3rd October. This is one of just three overhead today though.

Weather: Light SW wind, fog early morning, light overcast (8 oktas), cold.

9 October 2014

A few autumn moths

Moth numbers have been pitifully low at the light over the last week or so, with several nights without a single moth! Despite some warm and sunny days, temperatures have been dropping sharply in the evenings. Best of a very sparse bunch have been:

Pine Carpet Thera firmata - 1 on 27/28 September
Red-green Carpet Chloroclysta siterata - 29/30 September
Diamond-back Moth Plutella xylostella - 1 on 27/28 September
Hoary Footman Eilema caniola - 1 on 29/30 September

Pine Carpet Thera firmata, 28 September 2014

Red-green Carpet Chloroclysta siterata, 30 September 2014

3 October 2014

Black Tern over Staines Moor - a site first

Despite unfavourable vis mig conditions skywatching produced a surprise first for Staines Moor - an adult Black Tern over west towards Wraysbury Reservoir. Frustratingly, I didn't notice it until was flying away from me and didn't get a photo. Black Tern becomes the 192nd bird species to be recorded at Staines Moor.

Light passage overhead this morning for an hour or so after the fog cleared included 2 White Wagtail S, 52 Eurasian Wigeon E (with at least some dropping down onto King George VI Reservoir), 4-5 Grey Wagtail (mainly S with 2 briefly dropping onto the northern footbridge over the Colne), 1 1st yr Hobby S, 5 Barn Swallow S, 28 Skylark (mainly S) and 2 Reed Bunting S.

Highlights on the ground: 1 Yellow Wagtail flying off W from the Colne, 9 (5m, 4f) Stonechat, c46 Meadow Pipit, 4(1H) Chiffchaff, several Blackbird and Song Thrush gorging on hawthorn berries, 2-3 Common Snipe, 4+ Linnet, 1 Kingfisher, another 2 Reed Bunting, 15+ Mallard on the Colne (a high count here nowadays), 4 Jackdaw (fairly scarce here) and 3 Grey Heron.

5 Kestrel, 2 Red Kite and 1-2 Eurasian Sparrowhawk were also logged, and also notable was a light southerly movement of Red Admirals Vanessa atalanta across the Moor from midday (with at least 11 seen), and a Red Fox.

Stanwell Moor added 1+ Common Buzzard and 1(H) Cetti's Warbler.

Some of the 52 Eurasian Wigeon moving over east today

Weather: Light SW wind, sunny, fairly warm, fog early morning.

27 September 2014

A harrier at the patch at last!

A really enjoyable autumn day at Staines Moor today (27 September) with a patch tick and a species count record! The highlight was a Marsh Harrier low west over the east side of the moor at 1543 before turning north then circling and gaining height over Wraysbury Reservoir and drifting off NE. A harrier over the moor has been a long time coming for me. An amazing 18+ Stonechat (11 in the NW corner, 2 in the SE corner and 5 in the SW corner, and including 6+ males) is a new site record - beating the previous highest count of 14 on 8 October 2008.

Some light passage overhead this morning including 3 Eurasian Wigeon E, 4 Barn Swallow S, 8 alba Wagtail S, 11 Skylark E, 5 Great Spotted Woodpecker (4NE, 1W) and 6 Jay (mainly SW). Migrants on the ground included 1 Grey Wagtail (flew off NE from the Colne), 55+ Meadow Pipit, 1 Common Whitethroat, 8+ Blackcap and a Chiffchaff. 1 Water Rail calling from the reeds in the middle of the Colne is probably a winter visitor.

Also 3 Linnet, 2+H Cetti's Warbler (1+ along the Colne and 1 Butts Pond), 1+ Kingfisher, 3+ Reed Bunting, 2+ Common Buzzard, 1 Eurasian Sparrowhawk, 3 Kestrel, a juvenile Song Thrush and quite a lot of Robin noted.

1 Clouded Yellow Colias croceus shot past in the NW corner and a Small Copper Lycaena phlaeas was on The Butts.

2nd yr or adult female Marsh Harrier, Staines Moor, 27 September 2014

Female Stonechat - one of at least 18 present at Staines Moor today - a new site record!

Juvenile Song Thrush moulting into 1st winter plumage at Staines Moor today

25 September 2014

The Sound Approach meeting at Beddington Farmlands

Pete Alfrey and I met up with Paul Morton from The Sound Approach for a short walk around Beddington Farmlands. I've recently built a new website for Beddington Farmlands, to build support for the creation of a nature reserve on this important London site for natural history. Conservation organisations, bird groups, local businesses and other groups have declared support for the reserve, and The Sound Approach are also keen to support us.

Passage migrants noted today included 2 Whinchat on the mound, 6 House Martin W (there was a large number moving this morning before our visit) and 5 Barn Swallow W. 1 Pintail dropped on the Northern Lake which also held 4 Pochard and 2 Eurasian Wigeon, and c50 Northern Shoveler moving between the Northern and Southern Lakes. Also noted were 1+ Peregrine, 8 Northern Lapwing and c28 Grey Heron.

Check out the Beddington Farmlands website. You can also follow us on Flickr and Twitter and like us on Facebook.

19 September 2014

More Whinchats at the patch

On Staines Moor today; another 3 Whinchat flycatching in the NW corner (its been an excellent autumn for Whinchat - see below), 3 Stonechat in the NW corner, 5 Yellow Wagtail by the Colne around the cattle, 1 Sedge Warbler along the Colne, 1 Chiffchaff, 2 Common Snipe on the east pool, 2 Little Grebe on the Colne (first of the winter), 1 Cetti's Warbler seen briefly in the NE corner along Bonehead Ditch, 1 Eurasian Sparrowhawk. 2+ Kestrel, 1 Reed Bunting. Overhead: c20 Eurasian Wigeon E, 3 Barn Swallow, 1+ Common Buzzard N and 1 Pied Wagtail NW. Lots of mating pairs of Common Darter Sympetrum striolatum ovipositing, and a male Common Blue Polyommatus icarus also noted.

Stanwell Moor produced 1 Reed Warbler, 2+ Willow Warbler, 2 Blackcap, 5+(1H) Chiffchaff and 1 Goldcrest in a tit flock.

Autumn 2014 has seen large numbers of Whinchat passing through both coastal and inland sites (yes, even in Surrey!). On 6
September Rob Innes had 11 on Staines Moor, equalling the highest site count of 11 on 10 September 2002, and an amazing
 14 were reported at Richmond Park, Surrey on 1 September.
(BirdTrack: http://blx1.bto.org/bt-dailyresults/results/s354-20-14.html (Accessed 19 September 2014))

17 September 2014

Still too cold for moths

Continuing low night-time temperatures and moonlit nights have kept moth numbers and diversity low at the light. Highlights from the last couple of weeks have been:

Lunar Underwing Omphaloscelis lunosa - 1 on 11/12 September
Orange Sallow Xanthia citrago - 1 on 10/11 September
Angle Shades Phlogophora meticulosa - 1 on 4/5 September
Copper Underwing Amphipyra pyramidea - 1 on 10/11 September
Cypress Pug Eupithecia phoeniceata - 1 on 9 September
Lesser Yellow Underwing Noctua comes - 1 on 11/12 September
Flounced Rustic Luperina testacea - 1 on 11/12 September
Meal Moth Pyralis farinalis - 1 on 11/12 September
Oak Hook-tip Watsonalla binaria - 3 on 4/5 September

Lunar Underwing Omphaloscelis lunosa, 12 September

Angle Shades Phlogophora meticulosa, 5 September

Copper Underwing Amphipyra pyramidea, 11 September - the orange restricted to the rear of the underside of the inner hindwing is
apparently a reliable feature to separate from the very similar Svensson's Copper Underwing Amphipyra berbera

Lesser Yellow Underwing Noctua comes, 12 September

Meal Moth Pyralis farinalis, 12 September

14 September 2014

More autumn migrants

With the north-easterlies continuing there was a little movement still in evidence at Staines Moor today (14 Sept). Migrants on the ground: 1 very showy 1st winter Spotted Flycatcher beside the Colne at the north end (associating with 2 Chiffchaff), 3 Whinchat, 4 Stonechat, 1+ Willow Warbler, 1 Common Whitethroat, 2+ Blackcap, c7 Chiffchaff, 52+ Meadow Pipit (mainly in the NW corner), Overhead: 2 Yellow Wagtail S, 2 Common Snipe (1S, 1N), 1 Sand Martin, c30 Barn Swallow, 26 Eurasian Wigeon E, 7 Northern Shoveler E and 1 Common Buzzard S.

Also on Staines Moor: 1 Red-legged Partridge on the west side (my forth patch record), 1 Little Egret, 3 Kestrel (including a 1st yr male), 2 Eurasian Sparrowhawk (including a ringed 1st yr male), 1 Red Kite, 4 Reed Bunting, c13 Linnet and 1H Cetti's Warbler. Lots of Migrant Hawkers Aeshna mixta around, a few Banded Demoiselles Calopteryx splendens still, and lots of Tasteless Water-pepper Persicaria mitis in flower on the west side, along with some Redshank Persicaria maculosa (thanks to Rob Innes for the info).

On Stanwell Moor 1 Red Kite was noted.

Today's 1st winter Spotted Flycatcher - nowadays the Surrey patcher's RB Fly!

1st winter Spotted Flycatcher at the north end today

13 September 2014

Light autumn passage at the patch

Grounded migrants today (13 September): 3 Stonechat in the NW corner (first of the autumn), 9+ Yellow Wagtail around the cattle and horses, 1 Whinchat in the SE corner, 1 1st winter Northern Wheatear around the fence along the Colne, 2 Sedge Warbler, 1 Blackcap and 2H Chiffchaff.

Overhead: 26 Eurasian Wigeon E (and 5 W later), 14 Northern Shoveler E, 1 Common Snipe, 2+ Sand Martin, 4+ House Martin, 37 Barn Swallow (mainly lingering over the Colne), 2-3 (inc. 2S) Common Buzzard and 5 Skylark N.

Also noted: 1 Lesser Whitethroat still in the hawthorns in the NW corner (a local breeder I think), 1+ Hobby still, 4 Little Egret along the Colne, 1+ Kingfisher, 2 Grey Heron, 17+ Linnet, 2 Eurasian Sparrowhawk (inc. 1 immature), 2 Kestrel and c200 Eurasian Starling in the NW corner around the livestock. A few butterflies about - 4 Speckled Wood, 3 Green-veined White, and several Small Heath.

Stanwell Moor produced 1 Red Kite E, 1H Cetti's Warbler and another 4(3H) Chiffchaff.

1st winter Northern Wheatear

26 Eurasian Wigeon heading east today

1 September 2014

Moth numbers fall as temperature drops

A sharp drop in temperature over the last couple of weeks producing cool nights, along with clear skies and a bright moon, have resulted in some poor moth trapping sessions at home. Just a few immigrants noted and very small numbers common moths. Best of a very sparse bunch have been:

Old Lady Mormo maura - 1 on 24/25 August
Turnip Moth Agrotis segetum - 1 on 24/25 August
Silver Y Autographa gamma - 1 on 30 August
Yellow Shell Camptogramma bilineata - 1 on 24/25 August, 30/31 August, 1 on 31 August
Beautiful Plume Amblyptilia acanthadactyla - 1 on 24 August
Large Yellow Underwing Noctua pronuba - 1 on 28/29 August, 2 on 30/31 August
Flounced Rustic Luperina testacea - 1 on 30/31 August
Square-spot Rustic Xestia xanthographa - 1 on 24/25 August, 1 on 28/29 August, 1 on 30 August
Setaceous Hebrew Character Xestia c-nigrum - 1 on 28/29 August
Willow Beauty Peribatodes rhomboidaria - 1 on 24/25 August, 1 on 30/31 August
Bird's-nest Moth Tinea trinotella - 1 on 28/29 August
Tachystola acroxantha - 1 on 27 August
Diamond-back Moth Plutella xylostella - 2 on 30/31 August
Also, several Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing Noctua janthe, Pale Mottled Willow Caradrina clavipalpis and Brimstone Moth Opisthograptis luteolata.

Old Lady Mormo maura, 25 August

Bird's-nest Moth Tinea trinotella, 29 August. Really liking the English names being given to micros now

A beautifully patterned Large Yellow Underwing Noctua pronuba, 29 August

Square-spot Rustic Xestia xanthographa, 25 August - quite similar to the one below (for a change)

Square-spot Rustic Xestia xanthographa, 29 August. Check out the huge variation shown by this species here.