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.

24 December 2015

Staines Moor Black Stork accepted

Heard today via Twitter that my Black Stork over Staines Moor on 18th September has been accepted by The 10 Rare Men. Just in time for Crimbo - super!

23 December 2015

Staines Moor: 23 December

A couple of hours spotlighting this evening proved very productive with 2 Barn Owl (NE corner), 1 Little Owl (north end), 1-2 Jack Snipe (east pool and south end), 2 Eurasian Woodcock (1 south end, 1 north end), 5+(4+H) Common Snipe (including 1 on the ground in the torch light for a change), 2 Red-legged Partridge (NE corner, a Water Rail heard (Bonehead Ditch in NE corner) and 1 Red Fox. An almost full moon prevented getting close enough for photos though.

Spent some time searching for fungi in the afternoon when the following also noted: 1 Golden Plover (flew off NE from the west side calling), 3 Water Pipit (Colne), 6 Little Grebe (Colne), 5 Stonechat (3m, 2f), 3 Goldcrest and 1+ Kestrel.

4 December 2015

Spelthorne Borough Council Staines Moor management meeting: 4 December

Met up with Steve Price, the Countryside and Commons Officer at Spelthorne Borough Council, local naturalist Nick Orson and ecologist Luke today on Staines Moor to discuss the management of the site.

Steve is producing a three year management plan that includes re-wetting the moor, management of invasive vegetation to encourage breeding and wintering waders and maintain the moor's important flora, and controlling non-native invasive species, while protecting the grazing rights of the Moormasters. However, there is a lot of red tape to deal with, especially for the re-wetting work.

Some clearance of bramble and younger hawthorn patches has already resumed, but birders will be pleased to learn that most of the larger hawthorns in the NW corner and along the west side will be left in place for breeding Linnet and Lesser Whitethtroat, passage migrants and winter thrushes.

More on the management to follow but suffice to say I am feeling very positive about the plans, and like his predicesor David Hicks, Steve is very open to advice, questions and offers of help. If you have any questions please contact me at lee.dingain@gmail.com or Steve Price at S.Price@spelthorne.gov.uk.

Birds noted today include 1 Treecreeper with Long-tailed Tits along the River Wraysbury beside the M25, 2+ Water Pipit, 1 Northern Lapwing, 2+ Little Grebe, 1 Little Egret and 1+ Grey Wagtail along the Colne, 1 Common Snipe (swamp), 6 (4m, 2f) Stonechat, 4 Red Kite, 3 Goldcrest, 1 Stock Dove 1 Common Buzzard (the regular pale bird), 1m Tufted Duck off from the lake at Moor Lane, 7(1H) Meadow Pipit, several Skylark, 1+ Kestrel, 1 Pied Wagtail E, 25+ Carrion Crow (numbers are now increasing for the winter) and 4 Egyptian Goose W. Also a Song Thrush in the grass on the east side is unusual here - an exhausted migrant? 1 Reed Bunting SSW, 2 Goldfinch SW, 1 Stock Dove SW, and 23 Woodpigeon SW were the only migrants noted moving overhead.

A couple of hours spotlighting after dark produced 1 flighty Eurasian Woodcock (south end), 1+H Tawny Owl (Bonehead Woodland), 2H Common Snipe, 3H Redwing, 1 Red Fox, and best of all, 1 superb Barn Owl hunting at close range over the rough grass on the east side of Moor Lane (by the closed railway crossing near the old Swan pub).

20 November 2015

Woodcock return: 20 November

A couple of hours spotlighting this evening at Staines Moor found at least 2 (perhaps as many as 6) Eurasian Woodcock at the north end - the first birds of the winter. However, a waxing gibbous moon was throwing out a heck of a lot of light and so the birds could not be approached close enough for photos. I'll try again in a week or so. Also noted after dark were a possible Jack Snipe (east pool), 5(4H) Common Snipe, a Short-eared Owl, 3f Eurasian Teal (east pool) and 3(H) Redwing over, as well as c15 Rabbits (including a couple of black animals) - a much higher site count than usual.

A walk along the old railway this afternoon logged 2-3 Coal Tit (2 at the feeders and 1 in a tit flock), 3 Blackcap (2m, 1f), 1 Common Chiffchaff, 15 Goldcrest, 7 Chaffinch (2m, 5f - feeders). The open moor produced 2+ Water Pipit, 3 Little Grebe, 1 Grey Wagtail, 1 Little Egret, 2 Grey Heron, and 1 Pied Wagtail all along the Colne, and 9 Stonechat (6m, 3f), 1 Short-eared Owl, 1 Redwing, 36 Fieldfare, 1 Reed Bunting, 2+ Kestrel and 2 Egyptian Goose W.

1 of 15 Goldcrest along the old railway alone today

Passage overhead amounted to just 1 redpoll sp. SSW, 1 Grey Wagtail W, 1 Greenfinch SW, 3 Chaffinch (SW-S), several Linnet SW, 1 Red Kite W, 1 Common Buzzard and a Grey Wagtail W. A steady eastward movement of gulls off to roost near dusk consisted of mainly Lesser Black-backed, Black-headed and a few Common Gulls.

Staines Moor today, looking north-east towards King George VI Reservoir

11 November 2015

Coal Tits at the patch: 11 November

Concentrated on birding the old railway and Bonehead Woodland at Staines Moor today. Finally caught up with the Coal Tit(s) that has been visiting the feeders for a few weeks. From photos there was actually 2 Coal Tits at the feeders today along with several each of Great Tit, Blue Tit, Long-tailed Tit and Ring-necked Parakeet, and 5+ (4f, 1m) Chaffinch.

Setting up a feeding station and keeping the feeders topped up on Staines Moor is no easy task and so Stephen Minhinnick must be thanked for his efforts as well as for getting me a patch tick.

Coal Tit - 1 of 3 birds present along the old railway today

Photos show 3 different Coal Tits on site today - the 2 right hand birds were visiting the feeders

Another Coal Tit a little further south along the old railway was my second record (identified as a third bird from photos), and a Eurasian Treecreeper around the feeders was my third patch record.

Eurasian Treecreeper along the old railway today - I love the white claws on these birds

Today's Eurasian Treecreeper

Other notables today were 1 Short-eared Owl at the north end at dusk that flew up from the grass and headed directly off north to Stanwell Moor, 2 (1f ,1m) Eurasian Bullfinch along the old railway, 26 Goldcrest, 1 Fieldfare (Bonehead Woodland), 1+ Water Pipit over the east side, 2 Little Egret, 3 (2m, 1f) Stonechat, 10 Stock Dove (over Bonehead Woodland) and 1+ Kestrel.

Vis mig was almost non-existent with 4 Fieldfare SW, 2(H) redpoll sp., 1 alba wagtail over W, and 1 pale Common Buzzard ENE (didn't look like the usual pale individual in a brief view) just south of the A30).

It's so mild still that Water Forget-me-not Myosotis scorpioides is still flowering along the Colne.

Weather: Overcast (8 oktas), mild, some very light drizzle at times, moderate SW wind.

1 November 2015

Birding the fog: 1 November

A few hours birding Staines Moor in the fog finally produced a Firecrest, albeit briefly, along Bonehead Woodland in the NE corner. The Goldcrest influx continues with 34 counted today setting another site record, but thrushes remain thin on the ground with just 1 Fieldfare, 5 Song Thrush and 7 Blackbird logged.

The fog didn't lift at all today so visibility remained poor. Vis mig amounted to just c.62 Woodpigeon SW, 11(1H) Linnet S and 9 Goldfinch S. On the ground, 1H Water Pipit, 1 Little Grebe (Colne), 2 (1m, 1f) Stonechat, 2 Grey Wagtail, 3+ Pied Wagtail, 2 Little Egret, 4 Skylark, 1 Meadow Pipit, 4H Cetti's Warbler (1 in the reeds along the Colne by the northern footbridge and 3 along Bonehead Ditch), 3(1H) Greenfinch, 1 Kestrel and a Common Snipe (heard overhead at dusk) were noted.

Goldcrest, Staines Moor, 1 November

28 October 2015

Staines Moor: 28 October

A long but rather unproductive day at the patch in terms of fresh migrants and overhead passage. 3 Water Pipit along the Colne is an increase, a site-wide count of 27 Goldcrest is a new patch record (but again no Firecrest or Yellow-browed Warbler amongst them) and 2 Short-eared Owl (first reported on 25 October) were hunting on and off throughout the day on the east side, and seen to catch a small mammal on two occasions. A slight increase in Blackbirds was noticeable with 11 noted, along with 5 Song Thrush but just a single Fieldfare (where are all the thrushes?) and Dunnocks seemed more noticeable than usual as well with 8 (1H) noted with no effort and Robins were everywhere. A flock of 18 Skylark on the east side was notable as was just 8 Meadow Pipit, 2 Grey Wagtail and 3 Pied Wagtail along the Colne, 8 (5m, 3f) Stonechat, and 2 Reed Bunting.

Vis mig amounted to nothing more than c.65 Eurasian Wigeon E, 3 Fieldfare SW, 2 Skylark (1 NW, 1 SE), 1 Linnet E and 1 Greenfinch E.

Regulars noted include 2 Little Egret, 1 Common Buzzard, 1 Eurasian Sparrowhawk, 2+ Kestrel, 45+ Black-headed Gull 'flycatching' over the grassland for much of the day, 4 more Greenfinch and 1H Cetti's Warbler (in reeds by the northern footbridge).

An hour spotlighting after dark on the west side produced just 1(H) Common Snipe and a Grey Heron flushed accidentally from roost along the River Wraysbury. It won't be long before the first Woodcock arrive for the winter I'm sure.

One of three Water Pipits along the Colne today. Darn camera wouldn't focus - how much is that 7D Mark II?

24 October 2015

A trickle of migrants overhead: 24 October

A few very quiet hours at Staines Moor today with a just a little vis mig overhead. 2 Golden Plover over W and 1f Brambling WSW then dropping down into the willows along the Colne (by the northern footbridge) were the highlights. Also noted overhead were 1 Water Pipit N, 8 Fieldfare WSW (the first of the winter, dropping down briefly in the hawthorns in the NW corner), 1 redpoll sp. W, 14 Chaffinch SW, 1 Linnet S, 1 Greenfinch N, 1 Goldfinch W, 1 Pied Wagtail W, 3 Mistle Thrush S and 1 Song Thrush S.

Rubbish pic of one of two Golden Plover over west today

Female Brambling heading WSW before dropping down into willows by the Colne where it stayed for about 15 minutes

On the ground, 1(H) Redwing, 10 Stonechat (7m, 3f), 4 Goldcrest, 2f/imm. Reed Bunting, 32 Meadow Pipit (east side), 1m Kingfisher (Colne), 1+ Little Egret (Colne), 1+m Pied Wagtail, c100 Goldfinch (mainly around the thistles at the south end), another 5 Greenfinch, 2 Kestrel and 2-3 Egyptian Goose (2W, 1E). A Red Fox (on the northern footbridge) and lots of huge Parasol Mushrooms Macrolepiota procera (on the west side) today.

Stanwell Moor added a Common Buzzard.

A good show of Parasol Mushrooms Macrolepiota procera on Staines Moor this year - many are huge!

Potted a Feathered Thorn on the kitchen window last night - photographed this morning.

Feathered Thorn Colotois pennaria, Worcester Park, 24 October

19 October 2015

Great Grey Shrike at the patch: 19 October

A quick visit to Staines Moor this afternoon soon located the Great Grey Shrike (found by Rob Innes yesterday) perched on the hawthorns on the west side, and occasionally wandering to the hawthorns in the NW corner. This is third Great Grey Shrike for Staines Moor - the first being one on 9 April 2000 and the second briefly on 13 October 2009.

1-2 Water Pipit in flight along the Colne are my first returning birds, as was a Jack Snipe flushed from the Colne by the southern footbridge. Also noted were 1 ad. Peregrine on the pylons, 9 Stonechat (6m, 3f), 1 Cetti's Warbler showing well in the reeds by the north entrance, 3+ Grey Wagtail (2+ 1st-W, 1 ad. m), 1m Kingfisher, 1 Goldcrest in a Long-tailed Tit flock, 2 Little Egret (Colne), 7 Greenfinch, 4 Pied Wagtail (Colne), 2 f/imm. Kestrel and just 6+ Meadow Pipit.

Overhead 1 Red Kite W, 18 Linnet (including 8 dropping down into the scrub on the west side at dusk), 3 Pied Wagtail SE-E and 6 Skylark N.

Stanwell Moor added 7 Eurasian Wigeon over E.

Great Grey Shrike, Staines Moor, 19 October - just a record shot as I felt too ill to try for better photos

1st winter male Stonechat, Staines Moor, 19 October. 9 present today - males have outnumbered females this autumn two to one.

13 October 2015

Goldcrest influx: 13 October

Another very quiet day at Staines Moor. No hoped-for Yellow-browed Warbler or Firecrest, but a noticeable increase in Goldcrests (no doubt birds arriving on the east coast filtering through) with at least 19 counted, by far the highest day count for the patch, including 5 together in a mixed Long-tailed/Great/Blue Tit flock along Bonehead Woodland.

Goldcrest, Staines Moor, 13 October

Goldcrest, Staines Moor, 13 October

Goldcrest, Staines Moor, 13 October

Goldcrest, Staines Moor, 13 October

Other migrants on the ground included 7 Stonechat (4m, 3f), 4 (2H) Chiffchaff, 4 Skylark, 16+ Meadow Pipit and 1-2 Grey Wagtail (that might be wintering birds rather than on passage).

Passage overhead was almost non-existent but for 1m Siskin (over NE then circling and dropping into the willows at the north end of the Colne after I mimicked its call!), 4 Chaffinch N, 2 Greenfinch (W and NE), 4 Linnet NE. At dusk, a few Linnet flocks totalling 33 birds moving over NE were noted dropping down to roost in the scrub on the west side.

Also noted: 1+ Little Egret, 2 Reed Bunting (1m, 1f), another 2 Greenfinch, 1-2 Eurasian Sparrowhawk, 2 Red Kite, 2 Common Buzzard (locals), 3 Kestrel, 1m Pied Wagtail, 1H Cetti's Warbler (reeds in Colne by northern footbridge), 1f Common Pheasant, a Stoat running across the Moor Lane footpath (patch tick) and a female Migrant Hawker.

Stanwell Moor added 8 (5m, 3f) Eurasian Wigeon over E.

9 October 2015

Staines Moor: 9 October

A quiet day at Staines Moor with few migrants. 8 Stonechat (5m, 3f), 1 Common Snipe (off N), 2 Goldcrest, 3 Common Chiffchaff, 5 Pied Wagtail, a few Skylark and c30 Meadow Pipit were the only migrants noted on the ground, and overhead 1 ad. Hobby (hunting the Goldfinch flock on the east side before heading off north), 2 redpoll sp. NW, 1 Linnet ENE, 3 Chaffinch E, 5 Goldfinch (S-SE), 1 Pied Wagtail N and 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker SW.

Others logged include a female Bullfinch along the old railway, 1-2 Little Grebe on the Colne (the first returning wintering birds), 3 Red Kite (with another south the other side of the M25), c200 Goldfinch feeding on thistles on the east side, 3 Reed Bunting, 2 Little Egret, 2-4 Common Buzzard (probably the local birds), 1H Cetti's Warbler (in the reeds along the Colne by the northern footbridge) and 4 Mistle Thrush (SW corner). 1 Speckled Wood, 1 Comma and a Red Fox were also noted.

Contender for bird of the day falls to, wait for it, a 1st winter Tufted Duck feeding on the Colne just south of the southern footbridge late afternoon. Tufted Duck are very scarce on the Colne and I've never seen one on the Colne that hasn't flown off as soon as anyone approached it.

21 Eurasian Wigeon E over Stanwell Moor dropped down onto King George VI Reservoir are the the first returning birds I've noted this autumn.

Tufted Duck, River Colne, Staines Moor, 9 October

6 October 2015

Autumn migration in north-east Poland: 26 September - 3 October

A mix of departing summer migrants and incoming winter visitors were on the move in Poland last week, with migration evident at both Białowieża Forest and Biebrza Marshes including visible passage overhead and plenty of common migrants on the ground. Overhead passage consisted mainly of noisy flocks of Common Cranes, small groups or singles of Eurasian Jays (with many present in Białowieża Forest), Yellowhammers, Siskins, Chaffinches, Tree Sparrows, White Wagtails and a few raptors, mostly heading in a south-east to south-west direction. On the ground, Common Chiffchaffs were seemingly everywhere, and Yellowhammers, Greenfinches, White Wagtails and Black Redstarts were not uncommon. A few notebook entries below.

An hour's skywatching from the hotel balcony at Hotel Białowieża on 27 September produced 24 Eurasian Jay mainly SE (plus 2 local birds), 3 Common Chiffchaff feeding then off SE, 9 Raven E, 3 Chaffinch SE, 1 Siskin and 1 Song Thrush SW. Also on the 27th, 176+ Common Crane were counted over Białowieża town throughout the day.

A ploughed field on the north side of Białowieża town by the police station attracted a number of passage migrants. On the 28 September, 7 1st-W/f Black Redstart, 30+ Yellowhammer, 7+ White Wagtail, 10 Chaffinch (4 over SE) and 1 Common Chiffchaff were present, as well as 18 Common Crane over SE and 12 White Stork SE. Just c6 Yellowhammer being hunted by 1 Eurasian Sparrowhawk (pic below) were present on 29th. On the 30th, 1 Great Grey Shrike, 1f Brambling, 1 Linnet, 1 1st-W/f Black Redstart, c13 Yellowhammer, 3 Chaffinch and 2 White Wagtail were noted, along with a Kestrel and a 1st-W m Eurasian Sparrowhawk over S.

Common Cranes, Kosy Most Bridge, Białowieża Forest, 28 September. V formations of Common Cranes were
frequently seen (and heard) throughout the day moving south-west over Białowieża Forest.

1st-W male Eurasian Sparrowhawk hunting Yellowhammers in a ploughed field at Białowieża town, 29 September

Around Biebrza Marshes notable migrants included: 21 Barn Swallow S over Fort 1 "Zarzeczny", just south of Osowiec (hirundines were very scarce throughout the trip) on 1 October, and 52+ Common Crane in fields east of Karwowo on 1st, and a similar number of Common Crane, 2 Fieldfare S, a small flock of Tree Sparrow, 7 White Wagtail (dropped down to the ground), 1 Siskin, 3 Reed Bunting, 1m Yellowhammer, 1 Greenfinch, 3 Chaffinch, and 2 Goldfinch at Bialy Grad (near the village of Mścichy) all on 1st.

Part of a 28 strong flock of Common Cranes east of the village of Radziłów, Biebrza Marshes, 1 October

Common Cranes, Bialy Grad, Biebrza Marshes, 1 October. Several large flocks were feeding in the fields around Biebrza Marshes,
as well as roosting out on the marshes.

On 2nd, fields east of Plochowo held 30+ Mistle Thrush, 6+ White Wagtail and 2 Chaffinch, with 7 Barn Swallow and 9 Chaffinch SE overhead. At Wólka Piaseczna 5+ Black Redstart (2 ad m, 1 1st-W m, 1 f and 1 1st-W f), 2 Yellowhammer, 5 Northern Lapwing, 1f Hen Harrier WSW, a 1st-W Nothern Goshawk WSW and 4 Jay over were noted, as well as 1 Honey Buzzard flushed from woodland at Brzeziny Kapickie and another 8 Mistle Thrush there.

Also on 2nd, a Peregrine went over SW at Grzedy and an hour late afternoon skywatching at the bridge over the River Jegrznia near Kuligi produced 2 Fieldfare S, 28 Siskin S (including several dropping down into the reeds by the river then heading off W), 2 Greenfinch S, 1 Mistle Thrush SE, 5 Chaffinch SW-WSW, several Yellowhammer SW, 3 Eurasian Jay SW, and 2 Common Chiffchaff in the reeds. At dusk 9 Tundra (rossicus) Bean Geese in a flock of 24 European (albifrons) White-fronted Geese (all adults except for a pair with 3 juveniles) in a stubble field east of Jezioro Tajno lake near Tajenko were also seen.

1st-W Black Redstart, Wólka Piaseczna, Biebrza Marshes, 2 October. Small numbers were present in the fields around Białowieża
Forest and Biebrza Marshes, mainly 1st-W/female types.

The cemetery and the surrounding fields at Osowiec was also attracting migrant passerines. An hour or so on the 3rd produced 2m Brambling in with c100 Yellowhammer, 102+ Greenfinch, 14 Linnet, 1 Goldfinch, 293 European Starling, 1 White Wagtail, 8 Tree Sparrow (2 S), 4 Skylark off W, 1 Fieldfare S, 8 Barn Swallow S, 1 Eurasian Jay S, 2 Chaffinch S and 1 Blackbird SW.

Small numbers of Yellowhammer were moving over and large numbers as well as feeding in the fields. This was one of a flock of
approximately 100 feeding around the cemetery on the edge of the village of Osowiec, Biebrza, on 3 October.

1st-W male Greenfinch, Osowiec cemetery, Biebrza Marshes, 3 October. One of a flock of at least 102 present here.

One of two male Brambling in with the Greenfinch flock at Osowiec cemetery, Biebrza Marshes, 3 October

5 October 2015

Poland highlights: 26 September - 3 October

Rachel and I have spent the last week in north-east Poland, visiting the ancient Białowieża Forest for a few days before heading further north to the Biebrza Marshes - one of the largest lowland wetlands remaining in Europe. Most the birds that these two localities are best known for are summer visitors and had already departed south for the winter, but this wasn't a birding trip and we spent most days hiking and exploring the ecosystems. We saw some interesting visible bird migration, and we were visiting at the prime time for fungi and found lots of beautiful and bizarre looking species. Separate blog posts on both to follow, but in the meantime here's a few of the trip highlights.

Białowieża Forest: 26 - 30 September

The undoubted highlight of the whole trip was a close encounter with a bull European Bison just before dusk on 29 September, watched feeding in the forest just 15 metres away along the Worobiowa Glade trail before crossing the trail in front of us, at which point it became aware of our presence and paused for several minutes trying to check us out before running off into the forest (and disappearing surprisingly quickly for such a large animal).

Bull European Bison Bison bonasus, Worobiowa Glade trail, Białowieża Forest, 29 September. European Bison became extinct in
Poland in 1919 and extinct in the wild in 1927, mainly due to hunting. Just 54 remained in captivity, but a successful breeding programme
allowed them to be reintroduced at Białowieża in 1952. With around 2,300 now in the wild in nine countries (and approximately 800 in
Białowieża Forest), European Bison is now categorised at Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.

Bull European Bison Bison bonasus, Worobiowa Glade trail, Białowieża Forest, 29 September

Other mammals seen include 1 Red Fox at Kosy Most Bridge on 28 September, 1 Red Squirrel along the Worobiowa Glade trail on 29 September, and 3 (1 stag, 2 female) Red Deer and 1-2 Roe Deer on the Bondówka trail near Teremiski on 29 September. Driving the nearby roads after dark looking for mammals produced 2 (1 ad with a juv) Wild Boar along the Białowieża to Narewka road near Kosy Most road junction on 28 September, 2f Red Deer near Pogorzelce on 28 September and another 2f Red Deer along the 689 near Batory Mount on 28 September.

Avian highlights were thin on the ground due to the time of year. 1 Middle Spotted Woodpecker at the car park on the Białowieża to Narewka road just south of the junction with the Narewkowska Road on 28 September, 4 Hawfinch and a Great Spotted Woodpecker at Kosy Most Bridge on 28 September, and an immature White-tailed Eagle over the end of the Browska Droga trail on 30 September near the Belarus border were the most notable.

Good to see some 'northern' races of common species including 1 chunky male (northern) Eurasian Bullfinch Pyrrhula pyrrhula pyrrhula (with quite a different 'trumpet-like' call compared to the European P. p. europoea) with a large flock of Long-tailed Tits of the nominate Aegithalos caudatus caudatus at Kosy Most Bridge on 28 September.

Long-tailed Tit, Kosy Most Bridge, 28 September

Biebrza Marshes: 30 September - 3 October

Mammal sightings include 2 European Badger and 2 Red Fox beside the Czar's Road (Carska Droga) between Osowiec Twierdza and Dobarz at night on 30 September, 2 very distant Elk (Moose) from the observation tower at Bialy Grad near the village of Mścichy on 1 October, 1 Red Fox at Grzedy on 2 October, 1f Red Deer and a superb stag Roe Deer just north of Grzedy on 2 October, 1 European Badger that ran out into the road in front of the car along the Carska Droga north of Goniadz on 2 October, 1 Red Squirrel and 1 Red Fox along the Czar's Road (Carska Droga) between Osowiec Twierdza and Grobla Honczarowska on 3 October, and 1 Wild Boar and 1 Red Squirrel along the trail at Grobla Honczarowska on 3 October.

Biebrza provided the only two lifers for me on this trip - a White-backed Woodpecker at Brzeziny Kapickie on the trail to Kapice on 2 October, and 1 Grey-headed Woodpecker along the trail at Grobla Honczarowska on 3 October - neither cooperating for the camera. Other notables include 1-2 ad. White-tailed Eagle over Brzeziny Kapickie on 2 October, 2 Hawfinch at Brzeziny Kapickie on 2 October, and a Black Woodpecker over the road east of Osowiec on 2nd October.

Record of White-backed Woodpecker, Brzeziny Kapickie, 2 October,

Grass Snakes were common. Many were seen along the Czar's Road (Carska Droga) between Osowiec Twierdza and Laskowiec 2 and 3 October, some of which had been killed by traffic. Managed to save one adult that almost got squashed by a car. Also found a nice juvenile on the track just north of Wólka Piaseczna on 2 October.

Juvenile Grass Snake Natrix natrix, Wólka Piaseczna, 2 October. This individual was being very aggressive - mock striking and
flattening its neck to display the yellow patches.

Grass Snake Natrix natrix, Czar's Road, 2 October

Grass Snake Natrix natrix, Czar's Road, 2 October, playing dead after I saved it from death

Also, plenty of Clouded Yellow Colias croceus butterflies around in the Brzeziny Kapickie and Osowiec area.

23 September 2015

Staines Moor: 23 September

Spent the afternoon birding and botanising at Staines Moor with Andrew Proudfoot. Migrant numbers were much reduced, but grounded migrants included a brief 1st-winter Spotted Flycatcher in the north-west corner, 6 Stonechat (2m, 1f, 3 juv) - 5 on the west side and 1m in the SE corner, 8+ Yellow Wagtail around the livestock, and c.40 Meadow Pipit on the west side. Overhead, 1 ad. Peregrine E, 1(H) redpoll sp., 1 Siskin SW (and another heard), 1 Linnet SW, 10 Meadow Pipit (8SW, 2N), 1+ Sand Martin, 30+ House Martin SW, c30 Barn Swallow (mostly SW but many lingering) and 1 Grey Heron high E.

Also noted were 2 Little Egret, 1+ 1st-W Hobby, 1 Eurasian Sparrowhawk, 3+ Common Buzzard (including the pale bird), 3 Red Kite, 1 Reed Bunting, 8+ Skylark and the Goldfinch flock (not counted today).

1st-W Spotted Flycatcher, Staines Moor, 23 September 2015

18 September 2015

Dream patch bird becomes a reality: 18 September

The birding on Staines Moor today was just bonkers! Good numbers of grounded migrants, a strong passage overhead, two previously found scarce migrants to look for, and a once in a lifetime BBRC-CAT A find and patch first.

At 15:08 I was searching the hawthorns and brambles near The Butts for the Wryneck when I noticed a large dark shape moving slowly west high over the center of the moor - "what the f*** is that?". Before I'd even raised my bins I knew from the size and shape that it was a stork and I had a strong suspicion which species - BLACK STORK!! The camera was already on my 'bird in flight' custom setting so I hurriedly took a few photos before running full speed southwards across the anthills, proper loon-style, with tripod, scope, camera, binoculars and rucksack flailing around while yelling Black Stork at the top of my voice to alert the two birders around the scrub nearby on the west side. The stork veered south-westwards away from me but I managed to get one birder onto it before it disappeared from sight.

This individual appears to be a juvenile - when I zoom in on the images the legs and bill appear to lack any bright red, and the neck (especially the base) seems to be brown rather than black. However, this could be an effect of distance and harsh sunlight? If accepted this will be the seventh record for London, following a juvenile at Sevenoaks Wildfowl Reserve on 4 August 20101, and the third for Surrey.

Black Stork over Staines Moor, 18 September 2015

Black Stork over Staines Moor heading off WSW over the pylons

This zoomed-in pixelated image shows the dark brownish bill, dark legs and brownish neck which ages this bird as a juvenile.

Grounded migrants noted today included the Wryneck (which I managed to see well near dusk in the NW corner), 3(2m, 1f) Stonechat, (NW corner), 7 Whinchat (NW corner), 1 1st-W Northern Wheatear (W side), 14 Yellow Wagtail around the livestock, 1 Lesser Whitethroat (NW corner), 3 Common Whitethroat (NW corner), 1m Blackcap (old railway), 4(1H) Common Chiffchaff, c47 Meadow Pipit, 9+ Skylark, and an influx of Robin, and I didn't even manage to look at the east side.

Stonechat passage peaks later than Whinchat. Three were present today including this female

A strong passage of hirundines, mostly in the morning, probably numbered in the thousands for Barn Swallow and House Martin, but I counted a minimum of 329 Barn Swallow (SWS), 125 House Martin SW and 31 Sand Martin SW, along with 12(1H) Siskin S, 1 Yellow Wagtail S (dropping down to the livestock), 2 1st-W Hobby, 2 Red Kite SW and 1 Common Buzzard W.

Also noted: 1 imm. Green Woodpecker (evidence of successful nesting), 1m Kingfisher near dusk (Colne), 1 Great Spotted Woodpecker (River Wraysbury), another Common Buzzard (probably one of the resident individuals), 2 Reed Bunting, 1 Little Egret (Colne), Grey Heron, 1+ Kestrel, and Goldfinch flock in the SW corner numbered at least 258. Invertebrates included 1 Comma, and 3 Small Heath. Lots of interesting fungi noted, but more about these another time.

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

15 September 2015

Staines Moor Wryneck twitch: 15 September

A late afternoon twitch to Staines Moor for the Wryneck resulted in the bird showing well, albeit briefly, soon after I arrived - flying around, perching on brambles and feeding around the anthills in the NW corner. A species I've longed dreamed of finding on the patch myself - perhaps another time? About bloody time those anthills pulled one in!

Rubbish record shot of the Wryneck, Staines Moor, 15 September

I didn't see the Barred Warbler today, but 4 Whinchat (NW corner), 2 Common Whitethroat, (1 Barn Owl (NE corner), 1 Chiffchaff and 1m Blackcap in a Long-tailed Tit flock, 2 Linnet, 1 Eurasian Sparrowhawk, 1+ Kestrel, and quite a few Robin were logged. Noted overhead were 4 Siskin SW, 2 Yellow Wagtail (1S, 1H), 10 House Martin, 19 Goldfinch SW and a nice movement of 37 Meadow Pipit S shortly before dusk.

A couple of hours spot-lighting after dark produced 4(1H) Common Snipe (east side), 2 roosting Moorhen along the Colne, 1H Tawny Owl (calling from the S side, possibly on the other side of the A30), and a large bat sp. over the east side.

Stanwell Moor added 1 ad. m Common Redstart in the first horse paddock and 30+ House Martin S.

One of two Moorhen roosting half way up bulrushes along the Colne this evening.

11 September 2015

Staines Moor Barred Warbler makes the press!

A short piece about the Barred Warbler at Staines Moor is on page 4 of today's Runnymede & Spelthorne edition of the Surrey Advertiser. My 15 seconds of fame!

The bird is still present today (its tenth day) and showing extremely well much of time.

To read the article, click on the image to enlarge, then right-click on the image and choose 'Open image in new tab'.

9 September 2015

Autumn Ladies-tresses on Epsom Downs: 9 September

A tweet from Steve Gale about 2,000 spikes of Autumn Ladies-tresses Spiranthes spiralis orchids on a roadside verge just 6.5 km from my home was too much for me to ignore, so Rachel and I drove along to take look this morning. I didn't bother counting them - there was a lot, and they were an amazing sight right beside a busy road.

Autumn Ladies-tresses is distributed throughout southern England, Wales and Ireland, though is most common in the south. A species of short grass, it has declined due to loss of habitat and and is now categorised as Near-threatened in Britain.

They are the latest flowering orchid in Britain and many were starting to go over, but a few were still fresh. Many thanks to Steve for the directions.

Autumn Ladies-tresses Spiranthes spiralis orchids, Epsom Downs, 9 September 2015

6 September 2015

Wasp vs. spider: 6 September

Witnessed a Common Wasp Vespula vulgaris attempt to steal the web-wrapped prey of a Garden Spider Araneus diadematus in the garden this afternoon. The spider didn't try and catch the wasp (though they are more than capable of doing so) but resorted to prodding the invader and raising its front legs in an aggressive display, until after a few minutes the wasp gave up and flew off. Pics below taken with the trusty Samsung Galaxy Note 4 smartphone.

Common Wasp Vespula vulgaris attemptng to steal the meal of a Garden Spider Araneus diadematus, Worcester Park,
6 September 2015

The Garden Spider Araneus diadematus relieved after saving its meal, Worcester Park, 6 September 2015

Moor Barred Warbler: 6 September

Twitched the Staines Moor Barred Warbler today with Peter Alfrey. The warbler, present for its fifth day, showed very well, sunbathing, catching caterpillars, munching on blackberries, and even flew out of the bushes and landed on the open grass a couple of times! The reddish-pink lower mandible was more vivid today - such a good bird! I didn't try very hard to get any photos today, but Pete managed a flight shot (here).

Other birds on Staines Moor included: 5-6 Yellow Wagtail (4 NW and 2 juv around the livestock), 5 Whinchat, 1 imm. m Stonechat, 2 Lesser Whitethroat, 3+ Common Whitethroat (all NW corner), 4(2H) Siskin over, 1 Sedge Warbler (Colne), 1+ juv. Hobby, 2 Sand Martin, 17 Barn Swallow (mainly S), 1 Red Kite W, 2 Common Buzzard S (including a pale individual), 1 Chiffchaff, 2 Little Egret, 1 Kingfisher, 3(1H) Meadow Pipit, 2 Skylark, 2 Kestrel, 7 Common Pheasant (2f, 5 juv - first evidence of breeding for a while), and 5 Mute Swan (2 ad. 3 juv) on the Colne.

Several Migrant Hawkers, 3m Banded Demoiselle, and several Small Heath were noted, and the Least Water-pepper by the round pond was seen again.

On Stanwell Moor, 2 Spotted Flycatcher and 3 Little Owl showed well in the first horse paddock (1 owl sunning itself on the ground with wings fully stretched), 1 juv Hobby over, 21 Northern Lapwing, 1 Chiffchaff, 1H Cetti's Warbler were noted, and over Stanwell Moor village 2 Sand Martin, 2 House Martin, and 1 Common Buzzard S.

Record of today's Spotted Flycatchers, Stanwell Moor, 6 September 2015

2 September 2015

Barred Warbler at Staines Moor: 2 September

What a day! After several hours thoroughly searching the patch for a Pied Flycatcher or Wryneck, it was mid afternoon before I reached the scrub in the north-west corner. Scanning from a distance, I noticed a large pale warbler crashing about in the hawthorns. Immediately an alarm went off - that really looks like a ******* Barred Warbler! But it can't be, this is Surrey! Approaching slowly, increasingly closer views eventually clinched it as Staines Moor's first Barred Warbler, and one of very few London records. A fantastic bird that showed very well eating blackberries and catching flies, and even sunbathing for about 15 minutes at close range! Many thanks to Peter Alfrey and Darryl Spittle for help with the ID and providing a much needed sanity check.

1st winter Barred Warbler, Staines Moor, 2 September 2015

1st winter Barred Warbler, Staines Moor, 2 September 2015

The bird spent a fair amount of time gorging itself on blackberries

A couple of videos - best watched in full screen with HD selected (click on the play icon and then the cog icon).

Other grounded migrants included 1m Whinchat (SE corner), 2 Northern Wheatear (east side), 1 Sedge Warbler (SE corner), 2 Common Whitethroat, 5 (2m, 3f) Blackcap, and 1 Willow Warbler and a Goldcrest in with a large Long-tailed Tit flock along the old railway. Noted overhead were 1 Grey Wagtail (over high W), 1H Yellow Wagtail, 9 Sand Martin (mainly S) and 33 Barn Swallow.

Also logged were 4 Hobby, 1 Eurasian Sparrowhawk, 2 Kestrel (including 1 catching dragonflies), 1-2 Common Buzzard, 1 Bullfinch (west side), 3 Little Egret, c300 Goldfinch (feeding on the thistles at the south end), 1 Grey Heron, 3 Reed Bunting, 40+ Eurasian Starling, and just 1 each of Skylark and Meadow Pipit. To top this lot off, 2 Barn Owl showed very well hunting over the east side at dusk.

Stanwell Moor added 2 Little Owl (first horse paddock from Stanwell Moor Village), 1 Kingfisher (over the first horse paddock), 1 Red Kite, 22 Northern Lapwing, 1 Kestrel, several Chiffchaff (H) and 1H Cetti's Warbler, and 1 Red Kite and 4 Barn Swallow were noted at Stanwell Moor village.

Other bits that made it into the notebook today were a small colony of Least (Small) Water-pepper Persicaria minor around the edge of the round pond in the NW corner (many thanks to Rob Innes for the heads-up), 1 Red Fox, 1m Banded Demoiselle, 2 Comma, 2 Speckled Wood, 1 Small Heath and a Meadow Brown on Staines Moor, and 1 Red Admiral and a Speckled Wood on Stanwell Moor.

Least (Small) Water-pepper Persicaria minor, Staines Moor, 2 September 2015

Good to see the bulrush clearance we carried out in this pond last November has paid off with a nice colony of Redshank Persicaria
maculosa growing in its place