24 February 2014

Mothing with Giants

Since September 2014 a small group of amateur entomologists have been conducting an inventory of the moth species found at REGUA - a rainforest reserve (and my foreign patch) located in the Atlantic Forest of south-east Brazil. With no guides to aid with identification and very limited references published online, building a sound species list has been a slow and difficult task.

In a short article published in the latest issue of Butterfly Conservation's Butterfly magazine (spring: 115), I summarise the work we've done at REGUA so far, highlight some of the distinctive and endemic species that have been identified at the Reserve, and show how guests at the REGUA lodge can get involved.

To get hold of a copy you'll need to join Butterfly Conservation - see their website for details: http://butterfly-conservation.org/.

22 February 2014

Bittern again

Made the most of the fine weather and spent a few hours thrashing the patch before meeting up with Sue, Wendy Marks and Peter Alfrey mid afternoon who I took on a short guided tour of Staines Moor. Unfortunately things were rather quiet, the Short-eared Owl failed to show, and we had no luck finding any Woodcock after dark either (have they migrated already?). The undoubted highlight was the Bittern seen very briefly flying into roost at 17:44, and 37+ Common Snipe (including 34 together in the south-east marsh) is my highest ever site count.

Other birds logged throughout the day include 2 Water Pipit, 8 (6m, 2f) Stonechat (including 4m and 2f together in the same bush at one point), 5 Little Egret, 1(H) Cetti's Warbler, 8 Northern Lapwing, 1 Red Kite over SE, 2 Little Grebe, 1f Kestrel, 10 Linnet, 8 Reed Bunting (1 singing), 5+ Skylark (several singing), 50+ Fieldfare, 29 Redwing, 2 Pied Wagtail, 12+ Meadow Pipit, 1+ Goldcrest (old railway), 4 Stock Dove, 1+ Mistle Thrush, 4 Canada Goose over S, and an adult Great Black-backed Gull over W.

The water levels have dropped quite a bit on the Moor, but the Wraysbury is still in flood. Continuing the bizarre fish encounters, I had a Northern Pike Esox lucius swimming around my feet in torch-light on the 'footpath' beside the flooded Wraysbury River while on the way back to the car (pan species patch tick!).

Many thanks to Sue, Wendy and Pete for being great company (for more on today's birding check out Wendy's blog here, and Pete's blog here).

One of five Little Egrets present today

Stonechats everywhere! Eight today, including six together (five in this pic).

A Northern Pike Esox lucius swimming around on the 'footpath' alongside the flooded Wraysbury River this evening - bonkers! I
guess some fish will find themselves stranded as the floods recede.

16 February 2014

Bittern on the patch!

A long but excellent day at the patch today in glorious weather for a change. The highlight was a very brief Bittern that flew in to roost at dusk (17:25). Patch tick! Unfortunately it didn't show again by dark but it's good to know there's one about. Also I could hear a Water Rail squealing away on Stanwell Moor.

On Staines Moor the water level has dropped a little but much of the Moor is still flooded, especially on the west side. The Wraysbury River is the highest I've seen it - ideal for christening the new hip waders. Sightings from Staines Moor today include 1 Short-eared Owl showing well in the north-east corner from 16:35, 1 Woodcock around the anthills in the north-east corner after dark, 1+ Water Pipit in the south-west corner, 1 Water Rail along the Colne in the large willow clump, 1(H) Cetti's Warbler in the north-east corner, 4 (2m, 2f) Stonechat, 1 Little Egret along the Colne, 9 Reed Bunting (mainly males, some singing), 2 Red Kite over, 2-4 Common Buzzard over, 8 Lapwing (5 over), 2 Common Snipe (1 heard at night), 22 Fieldfare, 1 Redwing, 2 Mistle Thrush, 20 Pied Wagtail, 8 Skylark (some singing), 20 Meadow Pipit, 1 Grey Heron, 9 Mute Swan, several Mallard (mostly coming into the pools at night), 4 Green Woodpecker and 4 (1H) Moorhen.

Also, 4 Chub Leuciscus cephalus swimming around my feet in floodwater under the railway bridge was a strange sight. Just outside the patch boundary 1 Sparrowhawk flew over along Moor Lane, and 4 Common Buzzard were noted at M25/M3 junction (with another probable nearby).

1 Short-eared Owl showed from about 16:35 this evening.

Water levels have dropped a little in recent days, although the River Colne is still extremely high - you can just make out the
highest water mark on the left of this photo (click to enlarge)

The River Colne at the southern end, looking north-west

The pool west of the Colne

Flooding around anthills of the Yellow Meadow Ant Lasius flavus in the north-west corner of Staines Moor. The ants live almost
entirely underground and survive flooding events by creating bubbles of air in their nests.

The channel in the south-west of Staines Moor

11 February 2014

Med Gull in the flood

Spent a couple of hours photographing the 2nd summer Mediterranean Gull at Cowey Sale, Walton-on-Thames this afternoon. No sign of the adult I also found last Wednesday, but there were not many gulls around on the Thames this afternoon so it could still be kicking about somewhere, perhaps at Thames Meadow across the river, where I could see gulls flying around in the distance? This bird showed very well at extremely close range - one of the closest Med Gull experiences I've ever had (one on the patch would be even better)!

2nd summer Mediterranean Gull

2nd summer Mediterranean Gull in the car park (honest!)

2nd summer Mediterranean Gull - hood very well developed

2nd summer Mediterranean Gull

2nd summer Mediterranean Gull

A couple of adult Black-headed Gulls had almost full hoods

A couple of Mute Swan spent much of the time trying to grab bread from the bag hanging from my waist

The new Walton Bridge across the Thames

Looking south along Walton Lane at Cowey Sale

Looking north along Walton Lane - there is indeed a new road layout ahead!

A few Common Gull were also noted, and Coot swimming around in the car park.

5 February 2014

Rush hour Med Gulls

Found 2 Med Gulls on way to work this morning - a very nice surprise. Just after turning into Walton Lane at Cowey Sale in Walton-on-Thames at 08:30, I noticed a 2nd summer Mediterranean Gull from the car flying over the Thames. I could find no sign of the bird after turning the car around, but noticed a large number of gulls flying around across Walton Bridge at Thames Meadow. Suspecting the field here was flooded I decided to check it out, soon relocating the bird along with an adult Mediterranean Gull in amongst c1500 Black-headed Gulls and a few Common Gulls. Both birds are attaining their summer hoods and I spent a while watching them preening and even displaying to each other, before later seeing them again coming to bread back at the Thames at Cowey Sale, where they allowed very close approach - down to about five metres! I can't wait to go back with the camera.

1 February 2014

South-east Devon: 1 February 2014

Down in Devon visiting friends Jaffa and Helen. A quick look around Jaffa's patch this morning, the Otter estuary, produced 2 Water Pipit, 8 Little Egret and 1 Common Snipe on the flooded fields north of White Bridge, 1+ Common Chiffchaff along the field edge, c100 Eurasian Wigeon, c100 Eurasian Teal 100, 2 Northern Lapwing, 2+ Pied Wagtail and 1 Roe Deer on the scrapes, and 1 Redshank, 2 Ringed Plover and 3 Dunlin on the estuary. An early evening visit to the Heath at Colaton Raleigh produced 1 Woodcock in flight, but unfortunately none posing for the camera.