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